Free Wifi - Boston Stoker

We are in Dayton, Ohio for Part II of our Christmas Vacation adventure. I am working remotely the next 2 days, so that Kelly and Halle can hang with the family a little longer and I can enjoy their company in the evenings. After a humorous attempt to work from BW3's last night (they were the only place I could find with free Wi-Fi in the area) I went on a search for a new work spot today. I drove all over Dayton's Northside and downtown until I found a Boston Stoker right downtown. Boston Stoker is a Dayton based coffee chain, that intends to stay in the greater Dayton area only and has snappy, humorous and condescending slogans objecting to national chains like Starbucks written on their bathroom walls. I used up someone's last 38 minutes of downtown parking at the Boston Stoker to look for one closer to the inlaws house, where I wouldn't have to pay $4 an hour for parking. I found one that looked close, called and confirmed they had free Wifi and took off. It turns out this trendy and comfortable little coffee shop is only about 5 minutes from the inlaws abode, and I wasted close to 2 hours (via internet search and driving) looking for some place to connect to the world wide web. Oh, if only one of the 20 people I asked on the street last night would have known. So... if you are looking for free Wifi in Dayton, Ohio now you know where to go. There are only about 25 of these places in town.

I would love to tell you more about the BW3 endeavor last night. Let's just say I was there from 9-1, invited some folks to sit with me since it was packed out and enjoyed some Karaoke, in lieu of my headphones, as the background music for my work toils.

Herb and Chuck... it was nice meeting you.
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Merry Christmas

I snuck onto Kelly’s computer while she was sleeping and had a little fun. I know a lot of people have been doing his and sending these out, but I found it quite humorous myself to select and adapt these pictures of Kelly!

Check it out by clicking the link below:

It is our little way of saying Merry Christmas Kelly style!

Love you all!
James (and Kelly and Halle, even though they don’t know it)
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Coffee Amici

Findlay does not have a Starbucks... or a Caribou Cofee, or a Seattle's Best, or even a Cup O' Joe... the closest thing we get to cardboard cutout coffee shops is our newly built Tim Hortons, which is honestly just your average, inexpensive Canadian java, accompanied by delicious donuts! If you don't know what Timbits are I grieve for you.

What we do have are three fantastic and unique locally owned Coffee shops:

Tonight my family went to hear one of my friends from work sing at open mic night at Coffee Amici. Coffee Amici is celebrating their 5 year anniversary on Monday with .99 anything you want on the menu drinks. They are a self proclaimed "fine arts coffeehouse" nestled in our very active downtown, close to the courthouse on Main Street. The seats are not as comfortable as other places, and then ambiance is not as restful as some, but the entertainment/music is unparalleled in this county of 90K! The coffee is strong when black, and favored by many strong coffee drinkers.

George House has been around these part for much longer than I have. It is conveniently located across from the University of Findlay on Main Street. It is bustling from morning to night with college kids, seminary students, pastors, a few older regulars and a lot of teens at certain times of the day. The walls are lined with books and protruding book shelves break up the space into nice little cubies for fellowship. Their coffee is typical, but their hot tea selection is unmatched... in Findlay. They also sell many organically grown spices, herbs and other items that have a longer shelf life. I used to study here a lot, but when the teens take over, I take off, cause it gets loud! Lots of art on the walls and a good ambiance, but a little louder than many coffee shops.
Morey's is the newbie. The store had been around as a downtown corner newspaper/book store for years, but they recently decided to reinvent themselves. They bought a building across Main Street, gutted it and built it to suit. It is awesome inside. Definitely has a more business class feel to it, which includes a much quieter atmosphere, with softly played and well selected music. Their close earlier for now unfortunately. If I want to get something done during the day I go there, as do many others who need a break from the office. The coffee is good, but rather similar to other shops as well. They do offer any paper, which they have a ton of, for .25 when you buy a cup of coffee. This is my favorite feature if I get there before the Plain Dealer is gone. Man, I love that newspaper! They also have the largest selection of magazines in town and quite a few books in the back, along with a small child's play area to distract the kids while mom catches up with her friends over coffee. The nice thing is that it is a long shop, so it is far enough back that you don't really hear any kids up front. They actually just opened a second shop in town, but I haven't been there yet, so I am not sure what it is like.

So, there you have it. Coffee Shops in Findlay. If you are in town try one of them out and if Starbucks decides to come to town to appease all of our abundantly wealthy citizens, please don't get off the interstate for it. Main Street is only 2 minutes away and there are 3 coffee shops on it that deserve your attention.

(Ok, there are a couple others. There is a coffee shop in the hospital that 2 of my friends work at and it makes the entire lobby smell great, and there is small one called Java Station where Sarah used to work, that mainly stays alive because the Marathon Building is right around the corner. It is get it an go place for the most part and only has 4-5 seats in it.)
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Our dear friends the Hunsakers checked into the hospital last night for the birth of their 2nd child and are still going. 39+ hours of labor so far, but Heidi is determined to have a natural birth this time. The doctors are supporting her. Pray for speed and safety if you read this soon. Speed and Safety.

I can't believe that one of us is going to be a two child family tomorrow. Wow. We were just getting used to everyone having 1 kid.
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Our house church decided to move our gathering from Saturdays to Thursdays, starting this week. We are meeting at our house this Thursday for dinner at 6:15pm and teaching/discussion and 7pm. We have decided that folks can show up earlier to help cook or just hang, and we may eat 10 minutes earlier or later, but the 7pm time is set. Sometimes teaching has gotten squeezed out or pushed back to that special time just before the kids loose it, so we have decided that we will read/review the weekly Scripture together at 7 and our teachers will take turns teaching, as they desire. The weekends became too hard and we often had to move it around. We have a desire for consistency in when we gather and perhaps even how we gather. I think we will all be more consistent with this new day/time and it seems like it can only be good for us. So, here we go to the next chapter of our young life as a body. If you are around Findlay this Thursday feel free to stop by... but don't forget to bring the dessert :-) ... I'm serious about the dessert.
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The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

I watched this "chick flick" tonight. About 1/3 of the way through JP had enough and was compelled to go read about theology at George House (which is noble JP). When he left I moved over on the loveseat and seated myself next to my love and said, "You can tell JP isn't in a serious relationship, because he can't see the beauty in chick flicks yet." When you are in a relationships you begin to enjoy those things a little, or at least you should.

In all honesty the movie did some things well.
  • It made me want to make a LARGER difference in the world, a feeling that most movies with any amount of depth stir up in me. Sure, it accomplished this through pulling on some emotional heartstrings concerning the fraility of life, but I enjoyed the little tug.
  • It made me miss my friends. It is movie about meaningful relationships and it caused me to miss those who are far, so I have spent the last 2+ hours catching up on all of your blogs.
  • It made me appreciate what we have here... amazing friends... a wonderful body of believers surrounding us... honesty, vulnerability, intimacy, depth, knownness.
I love good movies that stir something, anything in me... I realize that they are a compliation of moments (high and low) and leave out the mundane and ordinary (the majority of life), but some movies leave you challenged, ready, charged and passionate... or in a daze... all are good. I want a movie to impact me and leave me with something and these are some that do (by no means is this exhaustive):
Pay It Forward
Elizabeth Town
Big Fish
Dead Poet's Society
Good Will Hunting
Shawshank - duh!
Mr. Holland's Opus
Mr. and Mrs. Smith :-)
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Any Thoughts?

“But the family has changed. It is now a dependent social unit of consumption, rather than an independent unit of production.”

- Living the Faith Community, John H. Westerhoff III
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We currently have a full house. JP moved back in with us at the end of June and it has become increasingly permanent every since. He is working on staff in BG at the church that I am serving at as the interim youth pastor/family ministry consultant. My friend Joel (a former fellow youth pastor) is the pastor and he asked me to come on staff part-time to transition them from an "entertainment-based" youth ministry to a family focused ministry, which is in line with my passion. After much deliberation, questions, community discussions here in Findlay and some clarifications, I signed on part-time and temporary. I cut my hours back at work and have been working there 2 half days a week, plus Sunday nights since April. It has been a good balance for me, to remain in the work force, and yet have time to minister to teens and their families. I have spent a lot of time with parents, talking to them, asking tough questions, giving encouragement and helping them develop a vision and heart for their family. The transition is moving slowly, but surely, and quickly in certain areas. There are some great parents and amazing teen in the group. This past week we decided to cut one day off of my weekly routine, as I commited to stay on through the fall, so I will now be going up there 1 half day a week and Sunday nights. I am very excited about that decision, as it frees me up to be more present in our community here in Findlay, and with our house church.

JP came to visit a week or two after his graduation and stayed for a night. We talked about a lot of things and a lot of options and enjoyed one another's company for a night. He took off to head back to Oklahoma a couple days later and give it a shot for a few weeks/months. He was back quicker than expected and I happened to call him as he was heading home. I reminded him that Kelly and I would love to have him come live with us on a more permanent basis and told him about a potential opportunity at the church I was working at. He came up and met with Joel and Jennifer (the pastor's wife/PT children's pastor) and it was a match. They brought him on to lead their worship band, plan intentional worship experience and to lead the church into conversations and actions in the arena of social justice. So, JP has been here for over two months now and every day seems more real. We love it, Halle really loves "JTee" (as she calls him) and I think JP loves it as well. He is really gifted at what he does and it is such a blessing to serve alongside and live life with one of my first teens. He is truly an amazing young man and friend. He feels more and more like family to us every day.

Two families from our house church decided that we should all move into a mobile home park and commit to living in closer proximity to one another. The one family, the Brewers, decided not to renew their lease, which was up two Monday's ago. They weren't able to get a trailer in that time, so we moved all of their possessions into our garage. They stayed with the Stemen's last week and have moved into the Smith Abode for this week. It is so much fun having them here, as they are VERY easy to live with. Their matress is set up in our family room, behind the couch (we have a very large family room 20x25) and their 9 month old daughter is in the pantry/future study. The house is lively, and I am so excited that we are using it to its full potential right now. It is fulfilling for me, and Kelly is enjoying it as well. I like when we can use our home in a way the encourages and helps others. I hope that we can continue to find ways to do so (thanks for the link Eric, I signed up!).

So, things are good. I will try to write more about the house church aspect of things another time. In short, we are enjoying our community. We are enjoying our housemate. We are enjoying life. We'll see what tomorrow holds.
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one conversation at a time

I study for my Master's every Monday, from after work until midnight. Studying consists of reading articles and books to finish the thesis for my Master's. I have hit about 23 walls while working on this project, but am currently making some progress and feeling a little better. I want to be done with it in December. I really want to be done with it in December.

Tonight I cheated. Instead of going to the library after work, I went to the Hunsaker's for dinner. I missed Kelly. I missed Halle. I missed the Ballmers and Hunsaker and Stemens and Brewers and JP. It has been such a busy week with all the destruction and restoration going on. It was such a nice time of being with one another. It was refreshing, and then I went and got a solid 3.5 hours in on my project, so it worked out fine.

I picked a book off the shelves of the library called, "Making Disciples - one conversation at a time". I breezed through most of the book, not seeing much to glean, but found a very helpful section on the "one another" statements of the New Testament and how they guide life in Christian community. Then, I found a fantastic page and a half at the end that I have to share with you. There is some church language he uses that I wouldn't use, but I love the application of this Scripture. It may not be a new thought for you, but it is for me and I love the application of it to my life, your life and the way we ought to live. If you have time... please read it.

-- From Making Disciples - one conversation at a time

"One denominational leader lamented, "... What are we doing wrong?"

I asked, "How straight can you take it?"

He responded, "I'm desperate to know the truth. Our church is dying."

Here's what I told him: "The efforts of your denomination remind me of that story in the reign of King David, when God put it in his heart to bring the ark up to Jerusalem and set it in the Tabernacle (2 Sam. 6; 1 Chron. 13). He place the ark on a cart, drawn by oxen, and headed for Jerusalem. Along the way the oxen stumbled, and the two sons of Abinadab, Uzzah and Ahio, reached up to steady it. When Uzzah touched the ark he was struck down dead, and the whole enterprise came to a halt. David became angry with God that his friend had been killed.... So here's my questions: Where did David get the idea of carrying the ark on a wagon?

"From the Philistines, " He answered correctly. "It had cause so much trouble back in their country that they loaded it on a wagon and sent it back to Israel."

"Exactly!" I told him. "David's bungled project is a pefect picture of your denominations: you are cretainly God's dear people, and you are sincerely trying to accomplish what you belive to be God's will. But you have borrowed your methods from the Philistines. God have explicit insturctiona bout how the ark was to be carried so this very thing woudld not happen. But when you use Philistine methods to do God's work, people get hurt and the whole enterprise breaks down.'

Listen... Why don't we just do what Jesus told us to do: make disciples. And why don't we do it like He did: Daily conversations about the kingdom of God with a few close personal friends -- right in the context of every day life."

Michael D. Henderson
Making Disciples - one conversation at a time
pgs. 172-173
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We Survived

So... we survived the great flood of Findlay.

It is so strange to live in a town that has endured a natural diaster. It is strange because I have always been the one watching the news from afar, not knowing how to help. It is strange because I live on the north end, and many north enders never even saw the flood other than on their tv screens. It is strange because some of our friends actually had to desert their house and stay with us until the flood waters receded. It is strange because there are mounds of rubbish on every street south of the river, throughout the downtown area and alongside any creek... very eerie and sad.

JP and I helped friends clean up their downtown restaurant today. They are within 2 blocks of the river but have never been breached in previous floods. This time 5 inches of poopy water filled their shop from front to back. 5 inches of poopy water is a big deal for a restaurant, but not as bad as it could have been and is for others. We are hoping they can reopen this source of income for their family on Monday AM, after the health inspector visit. From there we drove around to friends homes and businesses to assess the damage and see how we can help in the upcoming days. One family had 3-4 FEET of water in both of their businesses, their only source of income and another 5 feet in their basement at home, all located downtown. Another family stored many family memorabilla in the crawl space of their small house and couldn't do a thing when the waters rose multiple feet in 30 minutes. Now, there is a muddy, soaked pile of belongings stuck in their crawl space waiting to be disposed of. A family from work had their main source of income literally get swept down the river. The river came in one wall of windows, swept up all of his tools and and pushed them out the other windows and down the river. Another friend's entire church is a total loss. Everything, all sound equipment, all chairs, all computers, everything they had. Gone.

People's homes are destroyed. Other's primary source of income has been eliminated, or at least made inoperable for an unknown amount of time. As we drove around and talked to people I saw varying degrees of disbelief and dismay. Many are not sure where to turn. Insurance was either not sufficient, doesn't cover certain things or has a high deductible ($5K for one friend). We discussed this at length at house church tonight. We have been active and plan to be active. We created a list of projects we want to help with, from friends and family we have talked to. My friend Tracy is bringing a crew down from his church in Oregon, Ohio tomorrow, which will help put a dent in our list.

Thanks for your prayers, calls, e-mails and texts.
We appreciate it.
We are fine, but there are many who are not. They are broken.
Pray that we will come in contact with those people and can extend a hand or lend an ear as needed.
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Its True

I don't miss fantasy sports.
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Searching For God Knows What: Part 1

I finished Searching For God Knows What today.
I have been reading it for a year.

I started reading it and got to page 130 or so. Then I got distracted by life, a new career, focusing on my MA, etc. I finally picked it back up about two months ago and started over. I read slowly when I really like a book and I really liked this one. I underlined many things and marked significant pages. I shared from it along the way with friends. The last two weeks or so it has really dominated me though. This struggle I have been in, the noise I have been hearing, had a lot to do with life circumstances clashing with thoughts this book had been stirring. The past couple of weeks I began to see how all the pieces of the book were moving toward a crescendo. I had recognized the obvious threads of thought he maintained throughout the book, but as I began to see where we were headed I was struck by it and challenged in a deep part of my being. I am working through it, thinking through it and honestly praying through it, in an attempt to understand the extent of the implications this will have on my life.

I am thankful for Donald Miller. I connect with his writing. I connect with his perspective. I connect with his theology. I connect with the same God who longs to show us how much He loves us and longs to see that love reciprocated in our lives.
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I tried to sit silently tonight, but was overwhelmed with NOISE. Too many thoughts. Too many ideas. Too many options. Too may to-dos. I tried to pray. I prayed for peace. I prayed for silence. I prayed for peace... inside.
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Questioning from SoCal

We left for vacation last Friday, the day after my 30th b-day. My b-day was amazing. I got off work early and went to lunch with Kelly and Halle, we then returned home to put Halle down for a nap while we waited on the babysitter to show up. While we were waiting we played bocce ball in the back yard (a favorite of mine) and then moved inside to play some game together. After a couple minutes I looked out our sliding glass doors and a man appeared. I was taken back for a moment and realized it was Eric S. and 3 other guys were with him. As my mind began to perceive what was happening I realized the other guys were Mark, Kevin and Dave B. Someone these four great friends, who all live thorughout central ohio had found their way to my back porch in NW Ohio at the same time. The short of it is that my amazing wife surprised me with a night with the guys and told me it was a surprise date with her. I was shocked... literally shocked. I opened my card from her and there were five tickets to the Indians/Tigers game in CLEVELAND!!! 2.5ish hours later we were sitting in our seats and Jacob's field enjoying our refreshments and I was soaking in the company of these four amazing friends of mine. A little bonus after the game was that the Q (cav's arena) was open and people were flooding in. They were showing the Cavs/Pistons game (which was in Detroit) on the huge screens. We followed the crowd in and watched the last quarter and both overtimes of Lebron James' greatest game ever in the Q with 12-15K other Cavs Fans. It was packed and we were going crazy. I reverted back to the college days and simply LET LOOSE! To top it off, Mark and Eric came back to our house to spend the night and the next day (till 3) with us. It was probably the most amazing surprise 30th b-day celebration I could have ever received. Wow! Please now adorn my wife with your mental praises... she knows how to work it!

So we have been in San Diego for a week. We are staying in a 2 bedroom apartment unit at PLNU. It has been a great week! We have spent time with friends who came to stay with us, and others who live in town. We have spent time with family. My parents came to stay the entire week with us. We have gone to beaches, the zoo, the Midway, a house church, Wenchel's, lots of other good restaurants and so much more. I have loved every moment of it, but there has definitely been some major things on my mind.

Before we left Findlay, our friend, who began the "official" house church we are a part of, came over to talk for and hour and a half or so while we packed. It wasn't ideal, but it was pressing, and the conversation needed to happen face to face before we flew out. In short, they have decided to go on staff at a church in Illinois with a family member and are moving ASAP. It is a complete and total shock. It has knocked me off my rocker. I have only known this family for a year and a half, but it clearly feels like longer. I was not expecting this at all. I feel like I need more time with them, more conversations, more tears, more stories. I have many, many thoughts that don't need to be shared, but here is what I will share... THIS HAS MADE EVERYTHING SEEM SO FRAGILE TO ME. My perception and reality of community, that we have been intimately living for four years, seems made of paper right now. This family isn't one of the four we eat with on a nightly basis, but are with them a ton, it had been increasing as of late, and I feel very close to them.

It is really making me question a lot of things and I can't begin to explain the extent of it. I feel like I need something from you friends. Perhaps a prayer. Perhaps a quick thought via e-mail. Perhaps a voice mail with some of your thoughts about community/transition/vocation/call/etc. Perhaps I just needed you to know this journey my mind is on right now.

I can't even begin to express how this has dominated my thoughts the past week. My friend Melanie kept saying, "Are you here? Are you present with us?", reminding me to set it aside and enjoy the moment, which I would, but I kept drifting back. I know I am not expressing this well, but it is primarily because I have much to discuss with our community when I get home before I can discuss it here. I will fill in the blanks as I can.

We will be traveling home tomorrow. I hope to read, sleep and journal... we will see what Halle thinks about that. Thanks.
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One last post for my twenties

I know I haven't been on here for a while. Thanks for the wake up call K. Actually, I have been on here quite a few times, but every time I begin to post I feel like it is too long or too brief, too thick or too simple, too serious or too silly... so I decline to post and save my thoughts elsewhere.

In all honesty I have so much running through my head lately, that a consistent record of my thoughts would contain a vast array of random topics and thought processes that have consumed my mind, and it would clearly reveal the insanity that lies therein. Many new "things" have begun and ended, but I will wait until another day to share some of that... perhaps.

Today I am writing simply because this is the last post of my twenties. I turn 30 tomorrow morn, and I feel a bit awkward about it. My college buddies who have preceded me into this 30 something realm have appeared unintimidated and unaffected by it, but I am not in that camp. I think it sucks that my 20s are over. I really enjoyed them and I feel old. I feel like I should have accomplished something great by now. I feel like I should have "made my mark" by now... in what, I don't really know, but in something. I have always had these grandiose dreams of doing great things or making a difference on some large scale, but I am not sure what that is really all about.

The past 6 months of transition have made me less sure and less confident about most questions concerning career, vocation, call and ministry. At the same time it has made me more sure and more confident about what those things don't look like. I am more aware of what are some of the non-negotiables in my life and the life of my family; elements of our life together and our life with others that we can not and will not live without from here on.

I am content in many ways, even more fulfilled that I have ever been before, and yet I am restless in others. I am asking a lot of questions to myself and of myself. I am seeking answers... passively at times and aggressively in moments. I am growing... as a person. I am learning some new things; about myself, about my marriage, about others, about being a Christ follower. I like our new pace of life; slower, more intentional, more communal, less hectic, less demanding, more available.

At some point I was rather clear about what my future would look like, but that vision is very blurry now. I am ok with that... I think. I just wish I were 5 years younger asking the questions that we are asking now and taking the actions in our lives that we are now pursuing. I have sought to encourage this in others, especially a few friends who recently graduated from college, and it has been very rewarding. I am happy with where we are at in the process... most days... and other days I simply don't know where we are at or where we are headed.

I enjoy our community. I enjoy our endeavor to discover community and mission. I enjoy discovering more about who I am. I enjoy conversations. I enjoy my daughter... so, so, so much (I feel so bad for those of you who don't know her, because she can make your day with one look... even if you aren't her father). I enjoy my wife... more each day (I feel so bad for those of you who don't get to see her often, because her presence is life giving. She is honest and sincere and real and funny and knows how to throw a great dance party for our family). I enjoy this place in my life, so 30 really isn't bad, it is just weird, because something is seemingly ending, even if it is an imaginary line. I hope to write more, but time will tell. I miss you all and hope to catch up on some of you through blogs and e-mails soon. peace.
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Repentance and Confession

I taught at a gathering of believers in New Albany, Ohio on Saturday night (Dave/Jen Bs and crews), which is why I was absent from our local gathering. They follow the lectionary and also use a traditional liturgy at their gatherings. This altered the way I prepared for this time with them, as they typically teach from the Gospel Lesson during the Lenten season. Last week's gospel lesson was Luke 13:1-9, so we traveled through this passage and the teaching time became even more discussion oriented that I had originally planned. My main focus was Jesus' call for THE FAITHFUL to repent in verses 1-5. In this story,when those gathered around pointed an accusatory finger, Jesus basically said, "Do you think that you are any better than they are? I say, Repent or you will surely perish as they did." He reminds us that none of us are more deserving than others of forgiveness and all of us are in need of repentance, the same kind of daily repentance he demonstrates in the Lord's prayer.

I challenged this body of believers to live lives of daily repentance to God and of regular confession to one another. I challenged them to be vulnerable and real. I challenged them to stop hiding behind false self-righteousness. I played the first 2 minutes of Derek Webb's intro to "I Repent" on the "House Show" album, where he says things like, "I get so tired of trying to hide my sins" and "The best thing that could happen would be if your sins were broadcast on the 5 o'clock news" and "Take joy in the fact not that your sins are not real, but that they are real,and that your Savior's real". Then I played the song, where Webb reveals so many of the "lesser sins" (or so we seem to deem them) that many of us struggle with every day.The discussion was incredible for me.

One line we really wrestled with was, "i repent of trading truth for false unity". This is the life of "church as we have each known it"...false unity... and this is the life I see our local gathering seeking desperately to escape (and yet still falling to at times). We seek a true unity, a deep unity, a real, honest, intimate unity. We are tired of hiding our sins, our struggles, our inward and outward battles of the heart, soul and mind. As I spoke with this group I realized they had the desire for this as well, which is part of what makes us kindred. It also struck me that our group has actually begun to live this. One of the guys wrote a letter on our church's on-line discussion board (a tool we use to share thoughts throughout the week with the larger group) demonstrating the place we find ourselves.

I read his entry and he shared the type of things that I think each of us longs to share and each of us are GRATEFUL TO HEAR.We are grateful that he invited us to join him in that place he found himself. We are grateful that he trusted us to embrace him in his struggle. We are grateful that he trusted us to embrace him in the raw. We are grateful that he opened up a window to the room of his mind he was trapped in, and we see that as an invitation. What HE can be grateful for is that the window is now open and I am climbing through it, and I known I am not coming alone. our whole crew is waiting for their turn. We are coming into that room and if nothing else we will sit with him. We will sit. We will listen. We will pray. We will smile. We will cry... even when he can't. We will sit with each other. Through times that we don't cry and times that we do. Through times that we can't breath and times that we can't think. Through times that we can't see and times that we can't talk. And we will stand with each other and we will celebrate. We will celebrate birthdays and anniversaries and new births and date nights and dance parties and nice weather and great Frisbee sessions and gardens and first fruits and new friends and renewed lives.

I honestly think this all starts with repentance to God and confession to one another of where we are at... and when we need folks to sit with us or celebrate with us or simply listen to us.Transformational community springs to life from this kind of raw honesty and true unity of the spirit and mind is formed.

"i repent judging by a law that even i can't keep
of wearing righteousness like a disguise
to see through the planks in my own eyes"
-Derek Webb wrote this about me
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We were so poor...

(disclaimer: for all of you wise guys I know we weren't poor compared to 97.4 % of the world, but work with me here because this is a fond memory and I learned a lot from the "lean times" of my family's life... a.k.a. my first 10 years)

that the neighbors would often look outside and wonder what those poor Smith kids were doing spraying each other with Windex, Pinesol, Shampoo and lotion. I guess we couldn't afford water guns, or else my parents were simply frugal, but we always saved any plastic bottle from around the house. Cleaning products, shower products, pump hair spray bottles... you name it, we saved it, cleaned it out repeatedly with hot water and soap and VOILA!

Water guns!!!!!!! Sort of.

I was taking out the trash and saw Kelly's enormous shampoo bottle in the bathroom trash. I thought, "that doesn't seem right seeing that in the trash." I remember how excited I would get when I saw the shampoo bottle getting a little low, or if I was doing chores and finished off the windex... NEW SQUIRT GUN!

My sister and I each fill up a few bottles and have at it. Shampoo bottles were good for a quick blast if the enemy was in close range, pump hair spray bottles were good for around the house and cooling down when we were hot, but the best of all were the bottles with the turning nozzles. FLEXIBILITY! We didn't get many of those, but when we did, it was priceless. One moment you were misting the person, conserving your water, the next you were shooting 'em down with the spray feature.

Oh, the memories. Thanks mom and dad! I am so grateful that we didn't grow up with lots of things, because I am now relearning that you don't need lots of things to live.
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I just got finished watching Crash for the very first time, and then the last 45 minutes a second time.

Oh my.

This is the best movie I watched in such a long time.

I feel so powerless.
I feel so powerless right now.
I feel so powerless to make any difference.

I know I am a bit behind on the times, but this moive caught me at the perfect time.
This movie makes my heart ache and leaves me searching for answers... and questions... and peace.
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Background Music

I finally entered the world of the MP3 player this past week. I loaded up some Damien Rice, Derek Webb, Shawn McDonald, CFNI, Tracy Chapman and some Rob Bell sermons for my initial playlist. I stopped by Radio Shack somewhere in Indiana and purchased the wire to connect it to our car stereo and I was set.

Throughout the week I would put my ear plugs in while walking from class to meals, or wandering around campus. I quickly realized that I wish all of life had background music to it. There were so many times that a song would kick in, I would slow my pace, take in my surroundings and breathe a bit more intentionally. Everything is so much more peaceful when Damien Rice is strummin along in the background. I know it is rude to walk around with headphones on, but it is hard to resist if you have the right music downloaded on your MP3. Life just seems a little more relaxed then.
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There is Plenty of Time

I am sitting in a freshman dorm room in Kankakee, Illinois at Olivet Nazarene University. I have been in class every day from 8:30am-5pm for the last four days and have one session left tomorrow. The class I am taking is with Tony Jones, author and leader of Emergent. I honestly beleive that if it were not for an 8 hour seminar I attended with Tony Jones 4.5 years ago I would probably be unhappily settled into a megachurch at this point in my life, wondering why I was unhappy, but missing the answer. That day in Nashville Tony tore apart my preconceptions about ministry, the church and life. He helped me form words to express what I was perceiving in the culture around me and at the core of my own soul. It was eye opening. It was refreshing. It was releasing. It was life-changing. It was good.

I haven't really heard Tony speak much since that day, some but not much. My journey has obviously continued, but it has included other voices and other books. Some of those voices belong to many of you. I am glad it has worked out that way. I truly feel I have been shaped by my immediate community, and it seems like that is how it should be. It seems that those who have the most profound impact on our lives should not be those with distant voices, but those who know us, love us and embrace us.

Nonetheless, it has been an ideal and eye-opening week; sitting and listening to Tony each day, eating meals with him and other classmates, chatting with him at breaks, sharing the story of my tribe in Findlay and hearing more of his. I usually disengage a lot in classes, but every time I start to I remember where I am and who is up front teaching, and it is quite easy to re-engage. A lot of churches today are planting new churches to "reach the next generation", but Tony has continually clarified the difference for the church he is a part of. He says (this is not a quote, but roughly what he says), "We didn't start Solomon's Porch to reach young people, or the next generation. We started Solomon's Porch because it was our last shot. We were done with church. We were done with the institution. We knew that this thing had to work, because it was the last hope... for us." I have heard a similar cry in many of my tribe's hearts over the past few months.

The timing has been perfect. I have been settled into this new job, wondering and wandering about "my call" for a few weeks now. This week has reminded me how real it is in my life, and helped form what that could/might look like, fleshed out. More importantly, as our community has entered into this discussion about who we are as a body and what that might look like, the past 2-3 gatherings, it has stirred my mind and forced me to dwell on it quite extensively and somewhat constantly, and Tony has dwelt in the arena of our questions all week.

As I have read the assigned books and listened to Tony tell the stories, about churches who value what we value, whose passions are similar with ours, and whose heartbeat seems similar to ours, I feel comforted in our new journey and emboldened concerning our future. I am reminded that our body is not nearly as alone as it sometimes seems, especially when others reject us, doubt us and question us. There are many on this journey. There are many seeking the person of Christ and "to know Him". There are many seeking to Be The People Of God in their communities. There are many who have been on this path for much longer than we have. There are many... of which my gathering is one. An infant one.

Being an infant is exciting because we have a long way to grow. There are many undecided details of what "we" will look like, how "we" will move, how "we" will gather and live life with one another.
There is plenty of time for mistakes... and learning from them,
for victories... and celebrating them,
for hurt feelings... and recovering from them,
for (re)discovered gifts... and using them,
for tears... and sharing them,
for new friends... and embracing them.

I truly am excited for our little house church, and I am a bit emotional as I write this. I really miss my family right now (Kelly and Halle) and I really miss my Findlay family as well. I have absolutely loved learning so much this week; about what others are doing, questions they are asking, and ways they are journeying that we can all learn from, but I anticipate returning to join thejourney with my people tomorrow.

Peace and love my brothers and sisters.
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A little distracted

I have been a bit distracted and haven't been on here at all for over a month. I miss you guys. I miss reading about your lives and sharing mine. I will be setting aside some time to read and share more once again. It has been a fun transistion in our lives, but not one that has left me with ample free time. I am still trying to learn a new flow. I'll share more soon. Peace brothers and sisters.
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