"There is an intellectual desire, an eros of the mind. Without it there would arise no questioning, no inquiry, no wonder." Bernard Lonergan

"It seems clear that humans cannot significantly reduce or mitigate the dangers inherent in their use of life by ccumulating more information or better theories or by achieving greater predictability or more caution in their scientific and industrial work. To treat life as less than a miracle is to give up on it." Wendell Berry

"Do not be afraid, my little flock, for it is the Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." Luke 12:32

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

World Communion of Reformed Churches - An Inspiring Trip to Geneva

I am blogging from Geneva.  The birthplace of the Presbyterian Church.  It has been a privilege to have toured this city and seen where Calvin taught and preached.  It has done me well to fix my gaze upon the very streets where those first Christians who wanted to express their faith in new ways gathered to pray about the church they wanted to build.

St. Pierre's - the church where Calvin preached and taught.  It is at the top of the hill in old town Geneva.  I went to services there on Sunday in French, German, and English.

The view from the top of the bell tower at St. Pierre's, looking across Geneva onto Lake Geneva/Lake Leman. 

One other thing happened while I was here.  I learned more about the Reformed church around the world -- more than I had ever known and more than I had ever expected to know.  I have met with South Africans, Hungarians, Ghanians, Cubans, and Canadians.  This was not just a trip into the past.  It was a tour  of the present.

Frans (South Africa), Martin (South Africa), Jerry Pillay, President of the World Communion Reformed Churches (South Africa), Setri Nyomi, General Secretary World Communion Reformed Churches (Ghana), Steve (USA), and Tom Taylor, President of the Presbyterian Foundation (USA).

I often say that grace abounds, and grace abounds around the world through the churches I learned and heard about.  The big global perspective is that there are 80 million people in our tradition, working hard, preaching grace, teaching faith, and working for justice.  Some of them where it is illegal to gather a church.  Some of them in communities where there are people who are starving.  Some of them in cathedrals.  Some of them on street corners.  The tour through the present was revealing and beautiful.

Take time to learn a little more about the World Communion of Reformed Churches (www.wcrc.ch/) and the Presbyterian Foundation (www.presbyterianfoundation.org).  They are partnering together to give us, in North America, and in North Carolina a view into how the church is moving and growing in the world.  

God caught my attention in a new way this week.  It was view into the past.  It was a view into the present.  And in them perhaps there is a formulation for the future?

God caught my attention this week with stories I had never heard.  I plan on paying better attention and listening a little more closely.

Last thing...I was told Switzerland was beautiful.  Yep, it really is.


Monday, August 12, 2013



I was ten years old.  My friend Bob recently sent me and several of us the video from YouTube which you will find below.

My boys are 11 and 9 respectively.  Basically they are about 10.  I watched them playing a game yesterday, each on their mobile Android devices, connected via internet to each other.  The thought of what their children will be doing 32 years from now, the technology, its potential to empower and distract.  The thought of that -- what they will have access to 32 years from now?

I boggles my mind.

Can there be any doubt that much is changing all around us?

The choice we have is to choose how we will live within the changes.  What witness will we make?  What confession will we share?

Thanks Bob.  This really set my mind to racing.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Mainline Moment?

There is an article that absolutely seized my attention.  Here it is:

Apparently there is a growing scholarly interest in us.  The mainline churches.  Presbyterians.  Episcopalians. Methodists.

I am not sure what to make of this.  What do you make of it?

There are many reasons why mainline churches declined over the past 4 decades.  But we still, even in an age of fading influence, are offering a credible and at-times courageous witness to the world.  I am glad that scholars are starting to pay attention.

The operative question - the one I ask over and over and over again is: what do we do now?  What do we do next?  What do we seek to offer the world which is to come?

Whatever it is, I hope we don't abdicate space to those whose view of the gospel is narrower than ours.

What do you think our religious legacy is?

Friday, July 19, 2013

ASP Day 5 - Turning toward Home

Each of our 4 groups did various work projects.  That is how ASP works.  Our projects were to finish a bathroomup fitting, to repair damaged siding in a carport, and to place sufficient flooring in a second house.  It was hot, hard, and challenging work for our group.  Each group has a story in pictures to tell,  but here is ours... in parts....

Tomorrow we turn for home.  We'll be back in Raleigh.  LIfe to its normal pacing and routine.

In meeting our family I have banked several lessons -- of love and patience with your relatives.  Of appreciation for the helping hands which helps without expectation of reciprocity.  Of the incredible stories and lives which are being told in the houses we casually drive right by.

So tomorrow we turn for home.  But not after turning our families' home -- and really homes, their old and new homes -- into a safer, warmer home.   We did our part in turning the family for home.  others did theirs before us.  New people will come Sunday.  Thank God.  There is much to do.  Many homes yet to turn.

Final pics from the week....

Playing games.

Mustache day.

A horse in the middle of Yellow Creek Road, Sassafras, KY

Morning devotions.

Door frames in our families' newer home.  Previous groups have signed them.  Our names are now there, too.

Getting ready for nightly devotions.

Strongest member of the team.

Jennifer and Charlotte, ASP Camp Director, map out some next steps on the painting and repairs.

One of A.'s 143 gospel and faith based songs.

"O Lord in your mercy - hear our prayers...that their home will be warm, loving, and caring.  That their lives can grow strong, and their faith be increased.  May our work be for your glory, and may the group to come next week take our labor and improve upon it.  By your grace may all families be strengthened and by your love may all people know your love.... For this family, O Lord, we pray now this our prayer... Amen."


Thursday, July 18, 2013

ASP Day 4 - Lake

Fog greeted us this morning in the hills of Kentucky.  We had a great day, all four groups.  What made it great is that dedicated to service we were able to begin to share a sense of accomplishment.  The Youth in my group, "Denver the Guilty Dog" finished installing flooring in one room.

They also completed half of another room.

What we are offering is our time and our dedication to a family who has no one else to help them but us.  A. (see blog 2) and her mom and her brother need all the help they can get.  Last winter cold air streamed through multiple holes and cracks in their carport.  Tomorrow we'll put the finishing touches on reinstalling new insulation, plugging the holes and "resealing" the house.  Tomorrow the Youth will finish the flooring in all but one room.  Making the house that much more livable.

So why do we do it?  

Because loving neighbors, developing relationships truly matters.  We share a common commitment with one another to try and exhibit the kingdom to the world through helping our neighbors.  To live like Matthew 25 Christians.  And we share a common faith with this family.

I was reminded of this tonight at the lake.  ASP usually has a Thursday night picnic with volunteers and families.  We went to this lake nearby - Carr Creek Reservoir (I think it is also a state park).

It is beautiful.

A. told me her favorite Bible verse:  Psalm 139: 10 -- 

"even there your hand shall lead me,
   and your right hand shall hold me fast."

She told me when she last had a surgery that she prayed that Jesus would keep her safe.  She said she felt him holding her hand through her entire hospital stay and that experience had helped her picked that verse from the Psalm.

Some things are beautiful in their simplicity.

Like a job well done.

A floor nearly completed.

A home nearly winterized.

A single lake.

A single Psalm.

A single verse.

A singular faith that God holds us in our deepest moments of need.

We spend a lot of time trying to explain the complexities of faith and life.  What if A., once again, can see something in her house by the road in Sassafras, Kentucky -- something which I easily overlook and miss?

That true faith might be measured in the trust that God is holding our right hands.

Near the simple beauty of one single lake, A. showed me her favorite verse.  And in that act she reminded me a again to get out of my own way.  To not overcomplicate my expressions of faithfulness and simply allow the Savior to take my hand.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

ASP Day 3 - Fun

As I write I can hear the Youth from our church down the hall playing a game.  They are laughing, smiling and having fun.  Mind you -- none of the trappings of their normal lives are here.  It is not their normal den, normal TV, normal entertaining diversions.  Their normal social circles are nowhere near.

Yet they are having fun.  A lot of fun.

Even in the midst of long, hot, labor-filled days fun is happening.

Getting ready to work, wondering why he is holding a cat?

Running down the road after saving a turtle.  Our group is leading the pack in turtle saves.  3 in 3 days.

Laughing near uncontrollably as we "dusted" off one of the youth with a shop vac.  Very dusty day for group 4.  Very dusty.  So dusty that sneezes and laughter abounded.

One of our youth got a makeover by the 8 year old girl who lives at the house where she is working.  

"It's all about attitude."  Ask her about mixing paint with a drill.  Trust me it was fun and funny.

Bluegrass dancing.

Getting ready for bluegrass singing.  When you see the videos you'll see - we rocked the room with song and fun.  Even the bass player joined in.

Fun. Could it be that the Holy Spirit is ever present, and we remove our other concerns we are allowed to see the joy in others and that is inherently fun.

So hard work leads to fun?  Service leads to joy-filled laughter?

Culture teaches that the only fun to have is in indulging ourselves and entertainment.  Culture says the more you spend the more fun you can expect to have.

I beg to differ.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

ASP Day Two - A Song from A.

Here are some photos from today with our group, "Denver the Guilty Dog" (which is still a really good Youtube offering).

Jennifer speaks to Charlotte, our site coordinator about the next repairs we will attempt.  You can see in the background that the painting has been all but completed.

Two of our youth taking a moment to cool off indoors (it was really hot in East Kentucky today).  And of course, kittens.  Yay!  Kittens!

We are moving items out to begin installing a vinyl floor.

There are many more photos I could share.  For example tonight we went to a bluegrass show and most of our Youth danced with one another, other ASP kids, and even some local members of the community.

It was really glorious.

I even played guitar joined by a real blue grass bass player.  Our Grace Like Rain folks led the crowd in Wagon Wheel.  Again, really glorious.

But here was the best part of my day.  The woman we are primarily working for is named A.  A. is a disabled lady.  Her life is limited by her disability.  Her life is limited by her circumstance.  But her soul?

Her soul is not limited in the least.  The most beautiful moment of my day was when A. shared the songs she had written with me.  Here is one of them, her hands holding the song.

If you can zoom in, please do.  It is worth it.

What would your love song to God read like, sound like, be like?  Could you write it if your circumstances were as difficult as A.'s?  

God is doing amazing things in those homes and lives we are whizzing by in our cars and busyness.  Let's pay attention.  And do likewise.

Bonus picture:  here is the view looking up from the Cordia School