Musings on being a bad inspector…and a quick update

This is the third time it’s happened in a little over a month. Every two weeks seems to be the rate. In literally an instant* I can go from feeling great to being admitted to the ER. Each time I’ve ended up in the ER it’s happened because my body has turned on me in about one to two hours. I’ll go from having lots of energy (please don’t forget it’s all relative!) and feeling really well to having an unmanageable debilitating headache, vomiting, and all those fun aches that go along with feeling sick. And strangely enough it only happens on the weekend where our only recourse is the dreaded hospital! Fun times. (fun times especially when a weekend ER visit usually necessitates canceling our Sunday community meal. Boo)

It’s the same routine every time we go there too. They very quickly get me my own room in the back so as to protect me and my low immune system from all the germs/bacteria/etc. Then we wait and wait for the specialized people to come and “access my port” or in other words to get my IV hooked up to my chest. This usually takes longer than it should, upwards of an hour most nights. Once the port is accessed they get me lots of fluids, anti-nausea meds, and begin the pain killer dance. Eventually they get me a CT scan, have me cath so they can test for a UTI, and then try to kick me out before my headache is gone.

In the end there’s never a legit reason as to why I get so sick so quickly. Is it from all the different meds I’m on? Maybe. Dehydration? Probably. Jacked up nerves? Always. Tense muscles? Most likely. UTI? At times. Flu? Maybe. In the end I go home and at times feel completely better by the very next day. Other times it takes days to recover.

Jesus once cautioned us to “[not] worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” I like and hate that. It’s a statement that’s more true than I’d ever want to believe; it’s a statement that used to sound comforting but today feels more dangerous than anything else. It feels dangerous because I’m seeing how true it really is, no matter what happens today I have absolutely no idea what tomorrow may bring. The fact that it worries me more than brings me comfort shows the reality of where I’m at right now emotionally and physically–because those words warn me that no matter how good I feel today tomorrow may bring incredible sickness! In my more optimistic moments (not to invalidate either side-the optimistic one and the pessimistic both have a place in the grief process!) this might bring more encouragement because it helps me remember that no matter how bad I feel today tomorrow could be better.

Regardless, here I sit. Sitting in that tension. Luckily I sit with an amazing supporting cast of my wife and kids. Jess has never left my side in all of this and continues to be an overwhelmingly beautiful support in all of this. If it weren’t for her do you realize how confused I’d be? I’d be like Inspector Gadget without the cool gadgets. I’d just be a bad inspector.


* I’m using the phrase “literally an instant” more metaphorically for “really quick”

The Boring Ways of Jesus

Boooorrrrrriiiinnnngggg (is that how you spell it?)! It is so so boring. Incredibly boring. At the very least it’s plain ol’ boring. It is. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Yet we churchy people think it’s cool (we do). There are books upon books (many of which I own and continue to purchase) written about it, there are whole conferences dedicated to it (of which I wish to attend), there are whole movements predicated on it (Grassroots Conspiracy anyone?), and yet it’s the most ordinary thing in the world. Some might say it is even a bit boring.

Christians call it missional living. Other people probably call it something more along the lines of being a nice person. I call it ordinary. (ok, I called it boring, but that was more just for sensationalism…feeling sensational anyone?)

Let me explain my thoughts a bit.

The idea of living missionally is very exciting to most Christians because it invites us into a way of life, a way of doing church, a way of following Jesus that’s not weird or creepy feeling. Evangelism, as we’ve understood it for many years, has felt weird and a bit creepy. At the very least it’s felt coercive–and most of us don’t want to be salespeople (even for something that we believe very strongly in). Living missionally, as I think it is understood, is all about the Great Commission’s phrase “…go and make disciples” which more rightly is translated “…as you are going make disciples…” or in other words: go about your business and live in such a way so that people see Jesus, fall in love with him, and see reason to dedicate their existence to his love movement (there’s some interpretation happening here obviously). That’s my off the cuff definition of missional living–and I think it’ll work well for us here. As a way of life I think most of us would agree that it sounds quite appealing. As a matter of fact it is essentially the underpinning idea that the Grassroots Conspiracy movement is built on. We dig that way of life and think that a movement founded on it in radical ways just might be an exciting experiment to create. And so we have. (or we are in the process of it…creating it, that is.)

Here’s the interesting thing: lots of Christians from outside our circle are intrigued by what we’re doing at Grassroots. They want to be a part in some way, they want to send their youth group to do a mission trip with us, they want to partner with us in ways that will get their church people excited and living on mission, they want to be involved!

But (isn’t there always a but?) the Grassroots movement is really pretty boring. Right? Isn’t it? And so is living missionally. Right? Do you realize what it means to live missionally? I mean, seriously, in reality have you caught the implications of what missional living demands from you? Practically speaking think about what it would look like for someone from outside your world to come and participate in your “missional living”!*

Missional living demands that you listen to people (and actually remember what they said to you!), it demands that you show hospitality, that you’re willing to receive hospitality, that you slow your life down enough to borrow a cup of sugar from a neighbor, that you go to the same restaurants repeatedly so you can get to know people, it means you sit on your front porch and drink coffee, it means you’re home more nights than you’re gone (how else will you be available to neighbors?), it means that you take your dog for walks, it means that you attend people’s parties, essentially it means that you live a life of availability to others. IF you ever get to do something seemingly spectacular: organize a food drive, throw a block party, volunteer at a soup kitchen, etc. it is usually BECAUSE of your willingness to listen people around you into free speech. And THROUGH your listening you and your friend discover needs that should to be responded to. It is that posture of responsiveness that gives missional living it’s more exciting bent at times, but it usually follows the boring process of availability. Right?

Did you notice how boring all of that is? If you send your youth group to work with us do you realize what they’d be doing? They’d be doing my dishes (you’ve got to do something as you’re slowing your life down, being a good parent/spouse, and being available to neighbors), or they’d be sipping coffee with me at Mon Ami (’cause that’s where me, my friends, and my neighbors hang out!), or they’d be walking my dog down the street around the same time every day. Here’s the trick: it is in the ordinary things of life that God does the extraordinary. God thrives in ordinary, I mean come on(!) the guy was born in a feeding trough and raised by a poor teenage mom! Talk about extraordinary things emerging from the ordinary! Jesus was a carpenter…shoot, even the idea that Jesus had a nine to five is incredibly ordinary! And yet JC was anything but ordinary.

Extraordinary emerging from the ordinary–that’s what missional living is all about–the spectacular emerging from the routine of every day life. If I defined missional living as: going about your business and living in such a way so that people see Jesus, fall in love with him, and see reason to dedicate their existence to his love movement. Then a working description of what it looks like would be just that: the spectacular emerging from the routine of everyday life.

And by “spectacular” or “extraordinary” what I am referring to are those simple and beautiful stories of people falling in love with Jesus and the Jesus way. They are stories of the “gospel” that Christians speak of actually becoming good news to those around them. ‘Cause if it’s not news that is tangibly good then what is it?

So get ready to be bored. Do what you’ve got to do to slow down a bit, be available, listen, show hospitality, be a recipient of other’s hospitality, respond, dialog, remember, be a learner, be a lover, show compassion–read the stories of Jesus and be fascinated by the Jesus way. Study him and allow his radically (often times ordinary) existence to inform your ordinary (hopefully becoming more radical) existence. At Grassroots Conspiracy we are a developing collection of partners who are committing to a way of life together that is marked by the Jesus way. In virtually every aspect we are ordinary boring people but we are attempting to live out an existence that is marked by the simply radical ways of Jesus. What happens after or around that is beyond us, it’s beyond me. But I do know that there is something tangibly beautiful about a collection of people who are wholly sold out to practicing the ways of Jesus together. Many people call it the church. We’re calling it a movement (though we anticipate a church one day emerging). My friends probably call it being nice. I’ve been accused of calling it boring (or did I say boooooorrrrriiiinnnnggg?). Call it what you want, but give it a chance and I bet it’ll blow your mind.


* I hesitate to even talk about it like this because it begins to make it weird. I fear that it makes my friends feel weird when I talk about it like this. Am I loving them because I’m simply trying to “live missionally”? When I have them over for dinner am I just trying to “missionalize them” (yes, I made that word up)? The reality is that it gets weird anytime you talk openly about things, about motivations, etc. So, yes, this is a bit awkward. But please know (friends) that what this means is that I’m just trying to follow the ways of Jesus through the (sadly) radical practices of hospitality, listening, responsiveness, compassion, etc. I put words like “missional” to it so that we can have communication and invite others into this way of life. Sorry that it makes it weird. Just know that I’m the weird one…you’re not.

Dear Finger Pointing Christians…and everyone else for that matter

On May 24th a discussion broke out on my Facebook wall that continues to leave a bitter taste in my mouth. It stemmed from what I thought was a fairly safe question: “Is there any other issue besides homosexuality where Christians feel the need to clarify that we ‘hate the sin but love the sinner’? I mean, do you feel a need to make sure I know that while you love me you hate the way I spend my money? ‘Hey Bill, I want you to know that I love you but I absolutely hate your eating habits. It’s wrong, God hates it, and it’s important you hear this from me. I still love you, but your lifestyle utterly separates you from God. Sorry dude its important you’re aware I’m not condoning your lifestyle.'” Few actually ever addressed the question at hand and it eventually lead to me writing this blog that attempted to bring a different perspective to how we approach potential issues of right and wrong.

Today my mother shared with me a song that I found particularly poignant to the May 24th discussion.* I’ve posted the lyrics below:

Jesus, friend of sinners
We have strayed so far away
We cut down people in Your name
But the sword was never ours to swing
Jesus, friend of sinners
The truth’s become so hard to see
The world is on their way to You
But they’re tripping over me

Always looking around but never looking up
I’m so double minded
A plank-eyed saint with dirty hands
And a heart divided

Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Open our eyes to the world
At the end our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Break our hearts for what breaks Yours

Jesus, friend of sinners
The One whose writing in the sand
Made the righteous turn away
And the stones fall from their hands
Help us to remember
We are all the least of these
Let the memory of Your mercy
Bring Your people to their knees

Nobody knows what we’re for
Only what we’re against
When we judge the wounded
What if we put down our signs
Crossed over the lines
And loved like You did

Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Open our eyes to the world
At the end our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Break our hearts for what breaks Yours

You love every lost cause
You reach for the outcast
For the leper and the lame
They’re the reason that You came
Lord, I was that lost cause
And I was the outcast
But You died for sinners just like me
A grateful leper at Your feet

Cause You are good
You are good
And Your love endures forever

Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Open our eyes to the world
At the end our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Break our hearts for what breaks Yours

And I was the lost cause
And I was the outcast
You died for sinners just like me
A grateful leper at Your feet

I don’t necessarily like the “us” and “them” mentality that most Contemporary Christian songs speak out of–including this song. There is, however, a reality that a Christ-follower has made a specific type of commitment to a certain story (namely the Jesus-story from the Bible) that invites them into a certain way of living. A certain way of living that suggests a certain level of accountability.**


Dear Christian brothers and sisters my prayer is that you are moved by the words in this song. May all our hearts break for what breaks Jesus’, may we all be called out by our own pointed fingers, may all our hearts be lead by mercy, may we all be a “friend of sinners” not because they are so evil and different from us–no, for exactly the opposite reason–because they are exactly like us! Because we are all sinners, we’re all effed up, broken, and distorted images of our original created beings. We’re also, every single one of us, on a journey. So please, I beg you, don’t impede one persons journey because of your need to be right over and above being merciful–because in no way does that reflect our savior and the story that you have committed to live out.

If Jesus was willing to befriend you–and he has–then please be willing to befriend others regardless of their life choices, without demanding that they know whether you think they’re going to hell or not (your opinion does not matter!), and please please please extend the same gift Jesus has extended you: love, grace, and mercy regardless of your sinfulness and even…wait for it… preceding your repentance.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners Christ died for us” Romans 5:8

* If you would like to dig into my Facebook wall you can read the 103 comments. What was  hurtful to me was to see some Christians in this discussion and in a few others that sprouted on friends Facebook walls value proving themselves right over and above being people of grace and mercy. It was heartbreaking and I saw their need to be right hurt some that I care deeply about.

** Eww eww eww. I just used the word “accountability”. Please everybody take a moment and go throw up in a waste basket with me. That word has so lost valuable meaning for me as it’s come to denote a scene where everyone is miserable and feels like they should share their deepest darkest secrets in some sort of serious and grim fashion. The word just seems to fit here…so please forgive me for what I have done.

The Great Homosexual Lover

This video is terrible for two reasons. Reason number one: the man is a very poor communicator. Reason number two: the man is absolutely filled with hate and misrepresents both what the church and Jesus is supposed to be about.

At one point he references Obama and says “I’m not going to vote for a baby killer and a homosexual lover!” Umm…I’m not sure if he realizes that Jesus was and and is a homosexual lover. No, I’m not going to write about whether or not I think Jesus is okay with a homosexual lifestyle because I think that this is arguable from both sides and from different angles…and that’s just not what this blog post is about. What IS NOT arguable is that Jesus loves all people, even and especially those who have been marginalized in society (which clearly includes the GLBTQ community). Those who have been forced to the fringes are those who early on were most drawn to the church, they were the ones who filled the crowds who followed Jesus, they felt drawn to Jesus and Jesus people.

I see no need to spend time calling out the people in this video because obviously the preacher and the backwards people who were cheering and clapping his hate-filled speech are not accurate representations of what Jesus people should be like. It would be like spending time and energy trying to argue against the Westboro Baptist folk–it’s both a waste of time and a waste of argument because there’s not really anyone in their right mind who needs to be swayed to disagree with them in the first place! So to spend time arguing against Pastor Charles Worley feels wasteful.

I do, however, think there’s reason to pause and remind us Jesus followers (and those who question what Jesus followers look like) that Jesus was and is a lover of all peoples regardless of race, sexual orientation, moral compass, sex, or economic status and that we are invited to do the same. It is so often easy write people off, to find reasons to be unkind, or–more likely–to find pretty sounding ways of treating people who are different from us with less dignity and respect. The whole “hate the sin love the sinner” phrase is one example of what I believe is a “pretty” way to treat people with less dignity. To look me in the eyes and tell me glibly that you hate what I do but are willing to still love me comes off patronizing and does not in any way feel like an act of love. I’m not suggesting you must like all people’s behaviors, but that phrase has an arrogant superiority to it that I believe is hurtful. It is especially hurtful because it usually emerges outside the context of relationship. Had Jesus’ first words to Zacchaeus been “Hey little man, I hate the way you live your life and your probably going to hell…but because I’m nice and loving I’m still willing to go out for coffee later with you. What do you say?” Zacc probably wouldn’t have hung out with him as he did. Instead Jesus not only treated him with respect and dignity but also showed and received hospitality from him. While Jesus did later invite Zacchaues into a new way of living, Jesus didn’t really live into that phrase “hate the sin love the sinner”. I just don’t see a reason to even use it. It feels arrogant, invasive, hurtful, assumptive, and just plain ol’ not nice. But I digress from the point…

Plain and simply: Jesus loves people. If you don’t vote for “homosexual lovers” then you’d find yourself not voting for Jesus. If you’re someone who wants to lock people up and drop food off via an airplane you’d probably not be in the same voting block as Jesus. If you’re someone who uses a stage, microphone, or pulpit to invite people into hateful living then I’m certain you’d be worshiping at a different church than Jesus. Jesus loves all people…

…now if only I were able to master doing the same…


It’s Not About the Money

It’s not about the money–it’s about the story being told. As with everything since May of last year when I was diagnosed with a tumor in my spine it has always been about a fascinating and wild story that is unfolding from moment to moment.

Today we were overwhelmed by our neighbors again. Three Main Street staples (Vancouver Pizza Co., Compass Church, and Yogurt Time) graciously opened up their doors to gather people together and fund raise to help care for our family. I, in the meantime, hid in my home because I was not feeling good, because I was tired, and because my son was sick. Every Sunday we host the Arnada Community meal where anywhere from fifteen to forty people from the hood come over for lunch–so as the fundraiser was happening many of our community meal folk got their slice and just brought it on down. It was so good to be with them, to be with my people, and to have the freedom to do so in a less-than-healthy and functioning fashion. In the end, however, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to go down to Main street to say hello and to get a little froyo action…and, again, we were overwhelmed by the love and support of our neighbors! There’s no good words to say it but y’all are amazing.

Ok, back to what I was going to say…

Yes, we heard rumors that people gave generously and that lots of pizza and yogurt were purchased…but it’s not about the money! It can’t be. It’s not a good enough story for it to just be about that. The story has grown larger than that. Time and time again the medical bills have been paid. Somehow or another our regular bills and our medical bills get taken care of because we are a part of such a loving, compassionate, and generous community of people. So I can honestly say that I’m not worried about the money. Don’t get me wrong, the money is important and it is a great story and it is a part of the story and I should be using commas in this sentence. But my story the story that is unfolding through us in our neighborhood is larger than this! Let me see if I can explain it a bit…

The Grassroots Conspiracy movement is defined by experimentally living into a handful of rhythms that we think are transformational for the individual, the family, and the neighborhood. One of these rhythms can be summarized by saying that we try to engage within three circles of activity: inclusive community, worshipful life, and being a blessing.*

Blessing and Responsiveness

Being a blessing can be seen when we mow our neighbors yard, when we volunteer at the soup kitchen, when we scrub graffiti off the local shops walls, when we care for single moms, etc. But being a blessing is not actually about activity–it is all about responsiveness. It is about responding to those around you, which requires listening, which requires showing hospitality, which requires creating space in your life, which requires a posture of openness to others. We can fill our schedule with doing nice things, with volunteerism (which is a good thing), with activity. But this doesn’t mean that we’re truly being a blessing. Responsiveness is all about the other person whereas activity can often become about me. The opportunity to respond rarely happens when we want it to, it happens in the middle of life, in the middle of chaos. Activity happens on my own terms, within my planned schedule, and in a context that I’ve chosen. Responsiveness demands that we’re willing to stop what we’re doing to be present for someone or something else. Being responsive kind of sucks. It’s hard. It requires much.

It’s Happening

It’s my belief that we are seeing a movement of responsiveness develop in our downtown neighborhoods. It gets me excited more than you know. I think that what we witnessed today was a community of people who responded quickly, without much fan fare, without much warning, and without much pushiness to a felt need that they observed. It’s not about the money that was fund raised (though we are incredibly grateful in more ways that I can express!!), no, it’s about the developing story of responsiveness that is being told. We, and our neighbors, are learning to be a blessing to others. We are learning to respond to needs when they arise. That’s pretty frickin’ amazing, pretty frickin’ beautiful, and it makes me want to sob like a little baby. Those who follow the ways of Jesus refer to this as gospel living. Jesus referred to this kind of stuff as the kingdom of God breaking into the world. Some just say that we’re learning to be nice. Whatever verbiage you use, the idea is that these moments remind us of how we are intended to live, of who we are intended to be, of what life together is supposed to be like. We get glimpses of it in these kind of Sunday afternoon moments, but in general we live in anticipation of how things should, could, and will one day be!

I personally live in a painful tension. On one side I’m pissed that potentially I won’t be around to see this movement develop. This is what I’ve lived my life for and to think that it could emerge without me makes me incredibly jealous! I want to watch! I want to participate! I want to be a part! While on the other hand, however, I have an incredible sense of peace (and I even feel a bit bad) because while y’all are seeking to live into a reality that will never fully and completely be realized this side of eternity** I will be basking in it fully. I’ll be done waiting, I’ll be done living in anticipation, I’ll be living it up as God originally planned.***

So it’s not about the money–it’s about a new story that is being told. A story that is marked by a way of life that seeks to bless others as we live close enough with them to hear their needs and respond appropriately. It requires much and it might not last, but it’s moments like today where our imaginations no longer need to dream but where we are actually able to see and experience what life together can be like. That’s something to be excited about.


* I won’t ever try to pretend that most everything good is stolen from someone else! We’ve borrowed and adapted this from a book called Tangible Kingdom. Good stuff.

** This blog’s too long already to attempt to flesh out this idea further. The idea here is that the world is broken and messed up (hard to argue with that) but that at different moments we get glimpses of life as God intended for it to be: loving relationships, selfless sacrifice, choosing peace over violence, etc. Those things (and we could list off so many more) are not the norm but Christians believe that when God restores all things to his original purpose and intended beauty those things will become the norm. Until then we keep trying to “usher in” life as it one day will be while knowing that it won’t be a full reality until God does his ultimate restoration thing.

*** I could be way off here. I’m not going to be foolish enough to claim that I’m fully aware of what life after death is going to be like immediately. You may be more aware than I. But I do think that whatever happens post death for me it’s going to be some sort of equivalent to sipping mai tai’s by the beach with a body that doesn’t suck.