Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I have been wandering all my adult life. From atheism to repentance, the university and Intervarsity, the International House of Prayer, my History degree, moving to Tallahassee--I've been making reactive decisions. Not one of these choices began with my initiative or of "seeking the Lord." It's a miracle I've come this far. Through these years I've flirted with the gospel yet never fully embraced the path of death to life, the cost of discipleship.

Trinity marks the first time I have followed clear direction from God. Perhaps it is not that I have gone "into the wild" (see my second August post), but rather that I have discovered YHWH's "way in the wilderness" (Isaiah 43). It is the years of wandering that have the character of wilderness, not this most recent venture. Though risky, this step of following has begun to bring order to my personal chaos.

This past Sunday an intercessor at Ascension shared an image she had while praying for me after Eucharist: sheep being scattered in the absence of a shepherd, cared for in one's presence. She told me to stay close to the shepherd's heart. Given the busyness of the previous week, she was speaking to where I was at. It suggests I must keep the habit that led me here: listen, obey.*

Psalm 95 offers jubilant praise of YHWH's supremacy and genuflected reverence before his humble shepherding as training for the heart to listen and obey. Its audience: the stubborn-hearted people of God. In a word, us. Me. After time spent analyzing it in class yesterday and contemplating its personal implications during our quiet day today, I feel drawn to learn its lesson.

*or, summarizing the shema, "Hear... love."

Monday, September 28, 2009

Off Schedule

I am up too late and staring with trepidation at the "Submit Order" button on the HP Direct website. I am nervous about using my loan funds to purchase a new laptop, but my old one is falling apart (after 7 years of loyal service, I don't blame it) and I do need a computer for school.

This past week was my first week of combined work and education responsibilities. Disaster. Turns out that the guy I've been assigned to work with four days per week lives 25 miles away--fifty miles roundtrip each workday on top of whatever driving I do taking him around. I can't complain at all about him--he's sharp, funny, happy, energetic--but the extra time spent driving and the wear on my tired car are killer. The compensation is simply to meager to account for the driving and inconvenience to my school schedule, so I've decided to quit; end of story.

You can maybe see why I wrote no new posts last week; I'm taking this next week off as well. I really want to keep this twice-weekly habit; both so my curious friends and family can keep up with my happenings and so my penchant for theological soapboxing can have a release valve.

Today was my second time attending Shepherd's Heart church, an Anglican, charismatic congregation of mostly homeless people in downtown Pittsburgh (which is different from the church I am regularly attending on Sunday mornings. SH meets @ 5:15 Sunday afternoons). All of my spirit-filled friends in Florida who love the poor (you know who you are), I have found a reason for you not to live so far away from me any more. I am excited about somehow being a part of what they're doing, even if my part is trivial at first.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


"Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me." ~ Mark 9:37

One of the quirks of attending Anglican seminary during the week and Anglican worship on Sunday morning is the probability of hearing the same text preached on at least twice a week. I heard two sermons on Mark 9:30-37 this week (as did many of my fellow students, I assume), both of which exegeted the passage capably and reached the same conclusion: greatness in God's eyes comes from serving those neither celebrated nor important to society proper.

Rector Jonathan Millard of Church of the Ascension (where I have begun to attend) exhorted us starkly: "Be ambitious and serve God!" I take this as a framework for my current endeavor: I need ambition in order to have the energy to accomplish the task before me with excellence. But the task I'm undertaking ought to be done in complete service to God and neighbor, not for my own benefit. It is not their desire for greatness Jesus criticizes, but their definition of what it means to be great.

That this lectionary passage should coincide with the start of my new job is God's provision for me. At the end of last week, the obligations of employment rudely intruded upon my school schedule--the temptation to resent my job present at its beginning. The two sermons--Grant LeMarquand's at Trinity and Jonathan's at Ascension--sobered me, challenged me, reminded me that working with the developmentally disabled means an opportunity for greatness. They also challenged me not to shy away at all from my predisposition towards urban and homeless ministry.

I suppose the challenge at seminary, then, is to do this without allowing "[my] left hand [to] know what [my] right hand is doing" (Mt. 6:3). One thing at a time, Jesus!

Thursday, September 17, 2009


I turned 26 Monday. The day was obstinately Monday-ish, marked by beginning of week obligations; I stayed up until 11:4o reading for school. We celebrated last night, though, with dinner, a movie and bowling (the local alley has $1 games on Wed nights). I am thankful for all my friends and new acquaintances and their contributions of food, drinks and laughter last night.

Also yesterday I met one of the individuals I will be working with as part of my job. His name is Josh, he is 21 years old and has a job and a driver's license. Apparently we will mostly be spending casual time together. I think it will be positive. This morning I had to drive up to the office to watch nearly 3 hours worth of training videos. One was particularly bad: poor image quality, garbled sound, rambling lecture, all in attempt to convince me of something I already thought (i.e. the developmentally disabled should be afforded the same dignity and respect as anyone else. Who would want this job if they didn't already think that?).

As job responsibilities are picking up, I already feel the onset of weariness. To be fair, I had a long day (compounded yesterday by an abundance of meetings I was obligated to by the school yesterday from 8:30 AM to 1 PM) and a late night (the aforementioned celebration). I've taken this job in order to minimize my debts (say I rely on loan $ for 10-20% of my expenses instead of 100%); the thought of forgetting it and scrounging by has definitely occurred to me. But I'm convinced that would not be good stewardship. I believe I'm called to be here, so God will either get me through this or he won't. But I'm not going to take out loans and attribute them to Yahweh my shepherd.

Please don't hear triumphant preachiness in that. I feel as though I only half believe it. I covet any and all prayers for encouragement, joy, discipline, peace--especially that I won't view this job as an intruding burden and thereby become resentful towards its obligations (as I did today).

There is a limited selection of scriptures usually read from as the conclusion to morning and evening prayer; I have been especially posturing myself to receive from God when this one is read/prayed:

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." ~ Romans 15:13

Monday, September 14, 2009

Soaking in God's Metanarrative

A friend and I were discussing sermons on Saturday night. I said I considered a "C" sermon (as in A, B, C, D, F) to be one that acknowledges the content of a given biblical text, interprets it with a sound and humble hermeneutic and applies the interpretation to its audience's situation. I added that I had become grateful for "C" sermons since I have become accustomed to hearing ones that fail to meet this basic rubric of preaching competence.

She agreed and mentioned some preachers she likes and acknowledged that they tended to meet this basic standard. Then she added that some preachers, like John Wesley, seemed to be able to go off topic or ramble yet deliver an invigorating and enlightening sermon. I thought for a second and then asked whether or not this might be due to a deep internalization of the gospel metanarrative; she concurred.

I deduced this because of my exposure to two sermon givers in particular, one sermon producing community in general, and my personal devotional experience. The two sermon givers are John Calvin and N.T. Wright. Both have a grand sense of God's story from Genesis to Revelation, and the writings of each are littered with rhetorical fluorishes to their respective metanarrative structures (Calvin: "In the psalmist's praise our Lord's election is most surely demonstrated, in that so depraved a man might know the grace of our sovereign Lord..." or Wright: "What Paul has in view here is the now-and-not-yet of God's future rushing into our present of Christ's past: new creation, new humanity..."--I made both of these up, but they both sound right). The sermon producing community is the International House of Prayer, where Mike Bickle and team intentionally labor to reshape the metanarratives of intercessors and preachers-in-training to emphasize prayer, judgment, eschatology, and the church/believer as bride to Jesus ("He's our husband, beloved! And we're on our knees, with him, in intimacy--but he's the one who will judge the nations at the end of the age! The bridegroom is the judge!").

Which narrative, then? Its up to us to judge which grand story makes the best sense of our canon. I'm partial to some combination of Wright and Bickle (weird, right?), where Yahweh has been relating to his people covenantally since Abraham, has anointed and inaugurated Jesus of Nazareth as his king, and we wait in eager, prayerful, missional expectation of his return when he will judge the nations and make every wrong thing right--finally "in [Abram] all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 12:3).

I just want to soak in that. Let that awesome story--of God's faithfulness, his power, his mercy, his justice, his out-and-out greatness--inform my reading of Scripture, my prayers, the hope of my calling, my praxis, my mission. Getting God's big picture infuses me with excitement. It contextualizes the work of the Spirit which I know experientially--whereas before I knew his power, now I'm enthralled by what he intends to do with it. And hopefully, when it comes time for me to take the stage, I will accomplish some level of exegetical competence seasoned with fluorishes of metanarratival grandeur, infused all by holy life indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Early In The Morning, My Song Shall Rise To Thee

Yesterday I woke up around 5:45 AM. I knew it was early because the room was dark. I lifted my head groggily to check the time but couldn't make out the clock: the green digits were blurry. So I squinted, trying to adjust my tired eyes, but the digits' contrast did not sharpen. Then I realized that my alarm clock was obscured by a drinking glass set before it on my dresser. I could not perceive the hour at which I woke because I was looking through a glass darkly.


Classes are going well. I was busting at the seams with intellectual fuel on Tuesday; having been away from the classroom so long I was ready to attack every question and concept with rapid, multifaceted argument and insight. Needless to say I had to restrain myself.

We have morning prayer four days a week, evening prayer three, and a eucharistic service on Wednesday mornings. These times have, so far, been rich with contemplation and touches of the Holy Spirit; I believe God is blessing me for heeding his call and submitting to the liturgical structure. I simply treat the Scripture, the hymns, the prayers, the recitations as opportunities for theological reflection, contemplation and otherwise turning my heart towards God.

Psalm 27:4 provides a concise philosophy of worship:

One thing I asked of Yahweh, that will I seek after:
to live in the house of Yahweh all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of Yahweh, and
to inquire in his temple.

Regardless of feeling, service structure, music style, even quality of execution, one may choose "to [dwell]... to behold... to inquire." God honors such worship.


I had a physical yesterday; turns out I'm in good health.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


If God has invested his creative energy and delight in fashioning me, then I have value, unity, identity. The disparate parts--the evangelical, the intellectual, the charismatic, the liberal, the goofball, the sober contemplative, the sinner, etc.--are fit together in the knowledge, worship and service of Yahweh as creator and of Jesus of Nazareth as lord and friend. He, by mercy and with joy, integrates me and infuses me with cosmic significance.

I consider a woman, 24, a refugee of Darfur, a mother, a Muslim, a rape victim, survivor to a murdered family, starving, dehydrated. I see only chaos: random, grandiose, socio-historical forces as diverse as post-colonialism and sub-Saharan geography all acting upon her blindly in a cruel amalgamation of time and place. And thus, given that such a woman probably exists, I question the God-givenness of my own time and place. Might I not be more than the causal product of those very forces which wreak suffering upon her--the suffering of billions? A product of a product of a product.

In the chaos of injustice, "I" am nothing.

I refuse to solve this problem with the retort, "God is in control." To do so one must be resigned to Candide's "best of all possible worlds"--the one we see with waking eyes. No! I say no! And no again!

This cruelly put upon woman is made in God's image as I am. Jesus cares for her well-being at least as much as the survival of my identity and sanity. The Christian response, then, is not of resignation to the merely apparent injustice of the creator's implacable will, but of moral outrage and divinely oriented empathy. Our God loves that woman--something must be done!!

Those grand, cruel forces at work blaspheme and dishonor the glory of god which fills and will fill the whole earth. They do not constitute basic reality, nor do they have any agreement with the intentions, desires, designs or actions of our creator god.

Thus global and historical injustice does not undo my identity and story. Rather, it pushes me headlong towards the worship of Jesus and participation in his victorious mission over and against the forces of darkness. They are the wilderness into which the Spirit drives us, and no status-quo-baptizing, justice-perverting theology can be allowed to quench that charisma.

"You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people and nation; you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God and they will reign on the earth."
~Revelation 5:9, 10

Friday, September 4, 2009

Questioning My Orientation

This afternoon marked the end of the Fall 2009 orientation for incoming students at Trinity. We sat through hours of information, played games, ate meals together, hung out at night, familiarized ourselves with the school's inner-workings, filled out paperwork and terrorized the dean of students with myriad plastic flamingos and one frozen announcement bell (our students-vs-faculty comedy could be titled Revenge of the Birds).

I found out yesterday that I officially have a job with Life Management Consultants, the aforementioned company that works with the developmentally disabled. I have to complete a criminal history check (ha) and undergo a physical before I start; day one should be in a couple of weeks. Additionally, I decided to take out some loan money since I qualified for a subsidy of all interest--I'll be utilizing the funds on a need-only basis. There are great benefits to longer being a dependent.

My roommates and I are getting along great. Ben is 23 and Bryan is 22; both attended school together at Grove City College, an hour north of Ambridge. All three of us love Jesus, learning and chilling. We've got a great 3 bedroom apartment immediately across the street from campus and just to the left of the chapel (I look at its front door from my bedroom window). Our kitchen has an awesome retro stove that could have easily been made by Rosie the Riveter, and the counter-top surrounding the sink is all stainless steel--drying dishes drip directly down the drain.

The faculty and staff at the school have made it clear that they work not only to educate our minds but also to shepherd our hearts and spirits and form "Christian leaders for mission." Everyone with the school seems concerned for our communal and individual well-being--body, soul and spirit. It is a great blessing to know there are so many seasoned ministers on hand concerned about my growth and future.

I am looking for a home church. I actually need to be on the lookout for two churches, since I need both a local church through which I undergo the discernment process as well as another church which I will do mentored ministry in. So I have to find a place for community and growth and on top of that I place I think I will learn a lot from. Please pray for God's guidance and favor as I do.