So Long

I have spent the better part of a decade chasing my call to ministry. First with the Presbyterian Church (USA) where I was “under care” for three years. I wrestled to articulate my call within the particular understanding of what it means to be a minister. I did not fair well and could not clothe myself with the offered roles of Minister of Word and Sacrament. I departed to pursue social work.

When the social work did not pan out I found myself in minister as a part of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). I discovered a loose collective of rebel rousing yahoos. They liked me and offered me a place at the table. I jumped through hoops, forged new ministries, and fought to offer another way to be “minister” to the world.

These efforts got me ordained after two years of service to a Disciples congregation and service to the church catholic. I had arrived; Jan 23, 2011 I got my stole. It was an amazing time. It marked a long journey for me. It was beautiful to have family, friends (old and new), mentors, admirers, and my partner there to witness the public proclamation of my call to serve the church as a Minister of Christian Witness.

I was very hopeful and encouraged by this event and by the world of possibilities that seemed to beacon me to dare to dream. The church was ready to embrace me and my crazy vision of what church is. The crazy vision of what church could be.

Then some stuff happened. I needed to find another church to serve. I put my profile “out there” to see if anyone would bite. I have been in the Call & Search process for over a year. I have not received any viable offers to use my gifts to serve the church. Having searched high and low my wife and I made a decision we moved. She received a call to serve a church in OKC.

I am an unemployed, rebel rousing, pastor of disaster, social justice warrior, advocate for equality, and lover of most. I have reframed and redefined my call to serve the church. I am certain that I am not done being the heart and hands of God. God has something in store for me.

I am certain that I am done with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). I have pondered the dissolution of my relationship with the denomination that ordained me. I have called upon the counsel of the amazing colleagues I have gained from this denomination. I have prayed over it and discerned the voice of God. I think the silence of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) speaks the greatest volume in my choice.

Is there geography for me to serve in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)? It does not look that way. The last time I checked there is not one position listed on the national Search & Call system. We are fighting to be eligible to be listed in an ineffective system. A system that is at best a dog and pony show.

This past summer I was part of the “Missional” Learning Track at General Assembly in Nashville. We had a great time and had some wonderful conversations. I had some great connections made. I had a couple of interviews. I heard, “I love your ideas but I have no money.”  When will you get it?

Unless you let go of leadership and equip and bless the ministries of younger leaders you will have no legacy to protect. Our fear and obsession with maintaining the traditions and ideas of yesterday have sanitized the gospel we wield and act as a disinfectant to any creativity that might engage new light.

The bottom line is we are not dying, we are dead. There are exceptions to this in a few areas. Those exceptions either have a wealth of financial resources or a wealth of engaging leadership that equips and invests in developing new leaders.

I can no longer hope that the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) will get their act together. I am done investing in dead systems. I am captured by Luke 9:60, “Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” There are countless ministers that are willing and hoping to bury the dead and dying. It is not my call. I am called to proclaim the Kingdom of God.

I bid the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) farewell. I do not leave with anger. I depart with sorrow and longing in my heart. Thank you for the affirmation and the introduction to many wonderful people. I had hoped it would have turned out differently. I pray that God bless you and keep you and that the Holy Spirit inspire you to not fear death but get excited about the resurrection waiting for you.

Death Wears a Faith Colored Hat

This Thursday many faithful Christians will be solemnly pondering their hearts and seeking a deeper connection with God through various Penitential ways. Some will give up meat, chocolate, masturbation, sex, alcohol, sugar, or any other slightly fun or addictive habit they have brought in to Lent. All of us seeking a new start. All of us hoping to be drawn nearer unto our Beloved Creator.

The day following Ash Wednesday is especially somber. Many of us have a grand hope, a dream to be better when Easter morning arrives than we are when Lent begins. It is our “Alt+Ctr+Del” that resets us and renews our life. It is that spiritual “spring break” in which we let our religious freak flag fly and conjure up a way forward that celebrates the hope we have deep inside to embrace the teachings of our childhoods and perhaps witness a miracle and be made well.

This year Ash Wednesday holds a different meaning for me. Ash Wednesday marks the four-month anniversary of my departure from ministry. A departure that has been far more destructive to my being than I had ever imagined it could be.

Four months ago I left my job as a minister at a church. I left with the hope and promise of collecting myself and enjoying a sabbatical. An opportunity for me to be still and hear what God was calling me to next. In all honesty, I was holding on with dear life to that call.

I was burned out when I left and had been for close to a year. The idea of leaving the church, leaving ministry was what kept me going. I desperately wanted to escape the self-selected prison of tradition, expectation, miscommunication, and hopelessness that I found myself in.

I wanted to do right by those people that took a chance on me and called me to lead them to the vision of a church outside of the traditional model and in to something that got dirty with the people as it lived an inclusive theology. I got burned. My departure from this community, which I served, was stained with the breaking of my trust. This further inspired anger in me. I was burned out. Banished. Alone. I had no idea. I had no hope. I was in Sheol.

In these four months I have contemplated many things. I have sat under my tree daring God to strike me dead and cursing the day I was born. I have experienced the deepest despair that I have ever known. I visited with God in my “dark night.” I have witnessed beauty. I have smiled and laughed. I have smiled and cried. I have sought God through it all.

God has been silent. God has been vocal. God has been invisible. God had been visible. God has been with me, sitting next to me listening to my pleas. God has held me, mourned with me, and wiped the tears from my cheeks. I have not doubted Gods presence as much as I have begged and pleaded for God to deliver me from this place. I have offered to trade and barter what I have left in order to entice God to reveal these waiting secrets to me.

This Thursday will be 123 days since I left ministry. 123 days of weeping and mourning. 123 days of reframing my understanding of call. 123 days of hoping for hope. 123 days of searching for peace. 123 days praying for eyes to see. 123 days waiting for a sign.

I am not sure if I will ever return to ministry. “They” say that there are fewer and fewer pulpits to fill. I believe this to be true. I wonder if I ever was called to fill a pulpit. Not all ministers are called to a pulpit.

I am hoping that with Ash Wednesday that I might renew my hopes. That God might not forget me. That I may find the courage, strength, and endurance to wait on God. I am not patient by nature.

I trust that God has a blessing for me. I just need to hold on for that blessing. I pray that this Lent I let go of my bitterness, my anger. At the very least I pray that the bitterness depart and that anger get a tinge of righteousness. That I am moved in my righteous anger to act, to serve where ever that might be.

I am weary and weak. I am in need of an extra portion. I can no longer function away from the wellspring of truth. I am in need of that healing balm from that forgotten land.

This Lent I pray that I might give up control of me and trust God to tend to my soul. I pray for death this Lenten season. I want to die to myself. I want to die to you. I want to let go of the image and status I hold in being a minister. I want to embrace the sackcloth and ashes and don the mourner’s cloak. I want to be better when Easter comes. I want to heal from these wounds, so I can dance in the streets at the joyful arrival of the gift of Jesus the Christ.

123 days will have passed, bringing me closer to death. 123 days of hardships and pain. 123 days of joys and smiles. 123 days preparing me for Thursday. Lord willing and the creek don’t rise Thursday is coming and with it I pray death it shall bring.

Three Things of the Church: Easy, Tradition, and Desperate

I was driving around my newly acquired home of Oklahoma City the other day admiring the landscape. It is dotted with what looks like 1960’s Soviet Era architecture. This is a lesson in urban sprawl. This somewhat flat landscape is littered with the beckoning lights of consumer America.

Corners filled with chain gas stations, chain pharmacies, chain fast food restaurants, and the occasional car dealer, all of them vying for your attention and the right to fill your needs. They tell you that you are going to be better if you consume their products. The signs of progress read, “2 for $2.99!”, “Value Menu”, and “Special!”

They drown out the competition with noise and promises of a making a better you or at least aiding you in the quest towards a better you. Theses national and international corporate giants strangle the local “mom and pop” stores. They leave behind in their wake a bland, tasteless message of uniformity and industrial ingenuity. They strip the creativity from our cities and our neighborhoods. Quite literally, they dumb down the required process to pictures and prefabbed projects that simply require someone to put A in to B.

The big box stores buy in a massive volume and take great care to offer the same experience regardless of your location. The fast food restaurants fight each other to offer you the cheapest meals possible with exciting names and a veiled effort to be more nutritious.

Upon the holy trinity of fat, sugar, and salt these restaurants draw you in with the offer of affordable meals and capture you in to a web of addiction. You get processed proportions of fat, sugar, and salt that allows you to function, if just barely. There is a hidden cost to these big box and fast foot endeavors. The consumer pays the hidden cost of any short cut.

I offer this not as a scathing critique of fast food and big box stores. I offer this as a parallel of the church and warning to the church. Be careful of stripping the creative force from your communities and taking short cuts. The consumer (disciple) pays the hidden cost of any short cut.

We are guilty of this big box, fast food plague. Over the last fifteen years I have witnessed local churches strip away the surrounding creativity and replace it with a purpose-driven, prosperity-laced, righteously-imbued processes of being church. In the process local identity vanished in hopes of attracting more people to consume our products.

We have slapped those cheep labels upon our communities that read, “Value Meal!”, “Confessing”, and “Open and Affirming.” We advertise an inferior product with an unholy trinity of Easy, Traditional, and Desperate. We seek to draw people in to this mess. We want to believe that Jesus the Christ is moving us to offer a product that we hope for, but do not consume ourselves. We are like the saboteur offering poisoned wine to our guests and pretending to drink as to cover our dastardly plans.

I do not accuse the church of being anything other than afraid. The church seems to be grasping at straws looking for an answer to this crisis of faith we have found ourselves in. We have forgotten the reason we are here any way. We are here to glorify God and enjoy God forever.

We glorify God in accordance to the Word of God. The Word of God informs, inspires, and enriches the life of those that chose to live a path that should glorify God. God is a, being a spirit, eternal, unchangeable, just, good, wise, truth, and beyond our full understanding. How are we to market this in this dying economy? Have we lost our sense of awe or subsistence upon grace?

In our efforts to stave off death we have become ineffective. We have replaced the resurrection with promises and hopes that death shall not visit us. We offer a steady diet of Easy, Traditional, and Desperate. When God is calling us to a diet of Discipleship, Community, and Death. We are to die to ourselves. The church dies and is reborn over and over again.

The church is not the same as it was over 2,000 years ago as the church is not the same as it was 500 years ago. The church changes. Those that live in to it transform it. The church dies and resurrects.

The problem is not that we die or that the church shall die. The difficulty lies in the resurrection. We shall surely die. We might have an affect upon that in accordance to the choices we make in this life. We surely do not have any effect upon how or to what we shall resurrect to. This is the fear of the church.

The church can only trust unto God that the resurrection of its hard work and dedication be what God needs it to be for the coming generations. God has a vision beyond our own. God is a being, a spirit, eternal, unchangeable, just, good, wise, truth, and beyond our full understanding. How can we die to ourselves and fertilize what is emerging from the good work that so many good people have offered before us? Will we drink of the cup to which we offer our guests?

Go down Moses

This earth is a little less damn bright and a little more bastardly this Lords day.  The Lord has called home Charlton Heston.  I liked Heston.  I love him in the “Apes” movies.  Blessings and prayer of comfort, peace, and joy to his family as they mourn today.

We will see you later.  I leave you with a quote I like.

“I’m a seeker too. But my dreams aren’t like yours. I can’t help thinking that somewhere in the universe there has to be something better than man. Has to be.”

George (Planet of the Apes)

God speed Stan, God speed…

This morning God called Stan Hall home…

My heart aches in a strange way. I will surely miss this great man. I admired Stan greatly. You could say I admired him and hoped to one day fill shoes like his. I admire the faith and passion he encountered liturgy.

It was Stan that filled my heart with thoughts of “how can we educate the congregation via the sacraments and act of worship?” Stan showed me how liturgy is foundational to all doings in the church.

I had the pleasure of getting to know Stan over the last two years in seminary. I would corner him in his office and grill him on what I thought about postmodern liturgy. He helped me configure my thoughts and refine my questions. Stan always had time for me. If you asked him a question he would respond in details and with delightful humor.

I looked forward to eating lunch with Stan in the dining hall. I think it should be called the Hall dining hall. I sat and listened to his brilliance paint the picture of a progressive and transforming liturgy. A liturgy that left none unaffected and uncomfortable.

Stan believed in me. He challenged me to be better and equipped me to be that man. He told me that he liked what I was doing with liturgy and the emerging church conversation. He encouraged me to make connections to my past and seek the beauty in the reformed traditions and stop being afraid of being Catholic.

Stan was a hero to me. He was an everyman that had a deep passion for loving and worshiping God. Stan’s faith drove him to educate pastors and leaders in tomorrows church using yesterday joys and today’s passion.

Stan is the blue collar version of a theologian. He packed his lunch box with practical movements absent of waste. He drank the water of life and spit on the thought of bullshit and grabassy liturgy. Stan was honest and loved conversations. Stan was a giant of a man here at Austin Seminary. Stan will not soon be forgotten. His legacy breaths today, he has blessed many with his knowledge and humor.

Stan will be missed. I will miss seeing his grizzly self roaming the halls. I will miss his wit and charm. I pray that his family be touched with the Spirit of comfort in these days. Nothing we say can help. I pray we can do…I am reminded of something he once said, “Jesus does matter! If he does not then the rest is all shit. Shit does not found churches.”

Blessing beloved servant of God, faith friend. You have been called home. In our hurt and mourning heaven rejoices at its gain. Thanks be to God. Thanks be to God.

When does a human become human?

I posed this question to my friend Kendra the other day. I am sharing with y’all my answer.

I like Malamud’s engagement of what it means to be human. One must seek to endure in the suffering of others. To suffer as others suffer and seek to walk together makes humanity in my book. Perhaps this is what we are fearful of these days.

I am knee deep in a postmodern paper that is no more than a glorified summer essay. It should be titled, “What I did in seminary this fall 2007.”

What do y’all think? When does a human become human?

Inspired by MF Dees, When does a human cease to be human?

Please leave your comments in the Qamets area. Thank you.

These times are a changing…

Today November 02 is “ALL SAINTS DAY”! It is shared with the coronation of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, King of Kings of Ethiopia and Elect of God.

JAH, RASTAFARI!

I have wondered of the last few years why protestants do not celebrate Day of the Dead or All Saints Day? We seem to be terrified of death and seek to anesthetize it.

There is this great scene from the film “The Darjeeling Limited.” This father losses a young son in an accident via drowning. This father in the scene is washing his son in preparation for the funeral. All the while the father laments and caresses his son.

It is a powerful moment n the film. It captivated me and scared the shite out of me.

We have funeral homes that care for everything. We interim our dead away from our homes and are so transient that there is no real home to collect the ancestors. o wonder we are scared of death and all the trimmings. We do not do a very good job in dealing with this issue of life.

We can learn a lot about our faith in observation of others practicing their faith.

In other news Dog drops the n-bomb and is sorry. Is he sorry for getting caught or sorry that he may loss income?

Please pray for those caught by the “worst natural disaster in Mexican history.” 300,000 people impacted in this tragedy.

Today I hold great joy…I just want to welcome Joe to the Westside! I pray he does with the Dodgers that which he did with the Yanks.

Prayer for Saddam Hussein

Baba…Forgive our thirst for blood. Comfort the call for revenge and justice. Bring peace to our hearts. Bring wisdom to our minds. Bring your grace to our actions. Forgive us for using your name to enact pain, suffering, and bring hell to many. Have mercy on us. Thank you for loving us regardless of our love for you. Have mercy on your son Saddam. Bring peace to his country and comfort to his family. In the mighty, loving, Holy, and transforming name of Jesus Christ. Amen

Prayer for Saddam Hussein

Baba…Forgive our thirst for blood. Comfort the call for revenge and justice. Bring peace to our hearts. Bring wisdom to our minds. Bring your grace to our actions. Forgive us for using your name to enact pain, suffering, and bring hell to many. Have mercy on us. Thank you for loving us regardless of our love for you. Have mercy on your son Saddam. Bring peace to his country and comfort to his family. In the mighty, loving, Holy, and transforming name of Jesus Christ. Amen