Sunday, July 31, 2005

every breath you take...

This week our “Safer Neighbourhood PC” asked to meet with me. Evidently my details were passed on to her through the police department, probably after this last incident across the street. During the course of our conversation, in between my telling her all of the things I’d like to see her do, she asked me if I would be willing to start a Neighbourhood Watch programme here in my community. Sigh. Don’t you hate it when you’re asked to put your money where your mouth is? Evidently they’ve been trying to get one started since April but no one has been willing to take it on. I tried to explain to her that I am a very busy man with responsibilities all over the city, here in my local community, and that I am about to be a new father, but the look in her eyes told me that she was buying it. So I said yes.

I’m not excited about taking on this new responsibility but wouldn’t it be interesting if, through leading this Neighbourhood Watch programme, I learned how to truly impact a community? My hope is that I’ll one day point to this as a turning point in my life and ministry.

This picture was taken during a rain storm in the middle of the night this past week. It’s also been doctored. You’ll see that my wife and I are now watching over the bus stop rather than the typical movie posters and soap advertisements. A little freaky, I know, but I kind of like it.

Click on any of my photos for a larger view.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

conspiracy theories

Need a little help here (tommy boy)!

I’m working on a sermon about a conspiracy theory that suggests that modern day Christianity has successfully dethroned Jesus as Lord, relegating him to simply Saviour, and replacing him with Paul as teacher, and possibly Lord. The point I’m trying to get across is that, when we read and preach from the gospels, we seem to mainly focus on Jesus’ death and resurrection, setting aside all of the stuff he taught before that (feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive, etc.).

Anyway, I’d like to start off by sharing some of the craziest conspiracy theories out there and wondered if you all might know of any. If your response is going to be a long one, feel free to email it to me at, or just post your comment here. Either way, it’s appreciated.

Drew, I’m counting on you for a whopper. Surely you must have an email or two on this that you could forward to me. : ) And the answer is “no”, I’m never going to let it go!

violent crime number 5

Last night, the fifth violent crime that I’ve witnessed in front of my house in the past year and half, took place. Ask me if it’s getting old. As me if I’m happy about gun laws. Ask me if I’m feeling like Jonah. Ask me if I lie awake at night, thinking about what I’d like to do to these guys, rather than how much Jesus loves them. Ask me if I’m, in any way, feeling like a relevant missionary or a protective husband/soon to be father. Ask me how impressed I am with the British 999 (911) system. Ask me how much I’d be willing to pay for a canister of mace or pepper spray (and that’s being kind). Ask me if I can see them through God’s eyes? Ask me if I love them. Ask me if I have any idea what to do. I don’t.

It’s easy to get on here and chat about theology. Living it is an entirely different matter. I’ve been studying the prophets lately. Specifically studying the prophets whose messages related to mission and social action (quite a few if not, arguably, all of them). I truly am feeling like Jonah right now. The Ninevites were a violent people known for the brutal torture and murder of their enemies. Jonah felt no mercy for these people and saw no reason why they deserved God’s love and grace. He didn’t want to offer it to them and, for all I know, feared for his life in going at all. I’m feeling a lot like Jonah right now.

I would appreciate it if anybody would point out any proverbial large fish or boats nearby.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

traditions vs. tradition

It has struck me lately that, in the debate over whether or not we’re going to get rid of “all these traditions”, it might be helpful to redefine the word by taking the S off the end. The difference?

Brian McLauren, in his book A Generous Orthodoxy, defines “tradition” as “a whole way of practice or way of life that includes systems of apprenticeship, a body of knowledge (of terms, history, lore), a wide range of know-how (skills, technique, ability), and something else—a kind of ‘unknown knowledge’ that philosopher Michael Polanyi calls personal knowledge: levels of knowledge that one has and knows but doesn’t even know one has and knows.”

Maybe, in the last fifty years or so, we as The Salvation Army have become too wrapped up in our traditions, rather than our tradition. Our traditions, of course, include things like uniforms, and brass bands, but our tradition describes a commitment to the vulnerable in the name of Jesus. That’s who we’s our tradition...and without it our traditions are kind of pointless.

Does my time show more of a committment to our traditions, or our tradition?

I captured this photo in my neighborhood today. It was on the side of a building. It could have come from Mexico but the graffiti makes it distinctly English.

smells like hispanic teen spirit

You want to hear the most interesting version of this Nirvana classic that you'll ever hear in your life? Check out this guy's blog:

Why is it that when I click on "next blog" I'm automatically taken to Spanish blogs?

Friday, July 22, 2005

a theology to hang my hopes on

Ok, I admit it, the bombings are getting old.

The first time around you expected it. C’mon. The UK jumped on the American bandwagon and pretty much signed a petition saying “come bomb us too!” which the terrorists were happy to oblige. You expected it. You knew it was coming. And when it did, you almost sighed a sigh of relief that it was finally over. You could move on with your life, you thought, the worst had come and finally gone. No more worrying. No more sitting on the tube and wondering if today might be the day. They had done it, and now we could all move on.

Two weeks later and life is very different. I remember that feeling after 9-11 that anything was possible and we would never be safe again. Today feels much like that time. Two sets of bombings in two weeks? So evidently you can just walk into any tube station, carrying a bomb, and pull the trigger. It’s very frustrating and I’m not feeling very relevant or tolerant today.

It’s strange, the difference between knowledge and belief. My head knows that God is in control but sometimes my heart has a hard time believing it. I see His hand at work, on the streets. But I also see the enemy’s work, and it often seems terrifying.

It wasn’t until 300 years ago, or so, that the church began to take on this theological view that the world was getting worse, and that it would continue to get worse until Christ finally returned to “take us home” (dispensationalism). Until that time the church widely believed that God intended to build His kingdom here on earth and that, with this in mind, the world would only get better (post millennialism). Today many people believe that the world is getting worse, pointing to terrorism, crime, and even aids as evidence. But many philosophers, historians and even Biblical scholars agree that the world is, in fact, getting better, pointing to advances in medicine, aid sent from one country to another, and many other “proofs”. I cling to this hope, but sometimes only by a thread.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

a glimpse of Christianity in the making

It’s been a strange couple of weeks. Spiritually speaking, we seem to be in the middle of a battle ground. And I don’t say that lightly.

Violence is all around us. Out on the street we’ve seen muggings, attempted rapes, brawls, and more muggings. Usually by gangs. And when I say “seen” I mean “seen”, not “heard about”. And there have been the bombings.

So last week, in a moment of desperation, we decided to prayer walk. Prayer walking is not something I’ve done much. It’s a bit churchy and, for whatever reason, I’ve just not been much a part of that culture. But our cell group was doing it, so I didn’t really have a choice. We headed out and up the street, starting at our project (old Corps building converted into a youth club) and worked our way around the community to flats where we knew we had young people living. For most of the time it went very well and was surprisingly encouraging. I was truly getting motivated and some of my fears were beginning to subside. Then we decided to make one last stop at the projects right across the street from my house. An area where much violent crime takes place. So the four of us circled up and hadn’t been praying for more than a few seconds when a group of teenagers rounded the corner and started questioning our presence there. They assumed very quickly that we were Christians and made it very clear that we were on their turf and that they weren’t afraid to use force if necessary. They even claimed to be Muslims and celebrated and cheered on Al Quaida, all in an attempt to rattle us. We didn’t know what to do. After all, we were invading their turf, though that was not our intent. We went away gutted, down, and once again fearful for our own safety in this neighbourhood.

What do you do after that? Personally I contacted a security company to come out and give us an estimate on an upgrade of our system. I was thinking of something on the CCTV level. Jamie, however, was on a different level. As we stayed up late that night talking about it, she asked me if I thought we might have invaded some spiritual turf. Freaking charismatics! But, of course, she was right. The enemy has more than a foothold over there and it was no coincidence that those boys came around that corner within seconds of us beginning to pray.

I wasn’t sure where to go from there. It wasn’t my desire to make enemies of people in this neighbourhood. Not just for our safety, but also just because I don’t believe in it. I can deal with enemies in the church hierarchy. In fact, it sometimes feels very Jesus like. But being enemies with lost people is not something I’m interested in. Yet walking away from the situation didn’t seem like the answer either. So. What to do?

Tonight, as part of our cell group, we decided to dawn some Salvation Army badges and go and pick up trash at those apartments. We weren’t there for group prayer, and we certainly weren’t there to preach. We were just there to serve. I don’t share this out of pride. We are not geniuses and we are not evangelists. We’re just desperate and unclear as to what to say. Some people, when desperate enough, resort to praying. We were desperate enough, and at such a loss for the words to say, that we just began picking up trash. And we prayed as we went. Not out loud. Not even as a group. Just to ourselves individually. And sure enough, some boys came out. Different boys, but with the same attitude. They mocked us just as before, but this time they weren’t violent about it.

I continued to pick up trash, praying for our safety and our witness the whole time. Praying that God would use our actions to speak louder than words. Then, when I was nearing the end of the flats, a young man came walking across the street from the shop next door. He was carrying two Diet Cokes. One for me and one of the person I was with. He said that the manager of the shop had sent them over as “a thanks for cleaning up the neighbourhood.” And, as I reached for that Diet Coke, I realized that some of the most significant relationships we were praying for were actually growing. The people who run this shop are Turkish, and are not Christian. They’re probably also not really Muslim but, coming from a Muslim country, they’re sort of honorary Muslims. Kind of like Americans and Christianity. We’ve been praying for these people for some time now and have been intentional in our efforts to build relationships with them. And here they were, seeing us picking up trash and sending us a couple of Cokes. Jamie had gotten the chance to share with them, only two weeks ago, that we worked with The Salvation Army. And, after getting over the initial confusion that The Salvation Army was not the military (don’t even get me started), they were very surprised to find out that we worked with and for a church. I don’t think what they know about Christians is all that great.

This could easily get cheesy and I could go into some long boring dissertation on how all things work together for good. But I think I’ll simply say that God just keeps working. Even when we get distracted, and down, and scared to death, He just keeps working. And, gracious as He is, He keeps working with one hand and reaches over with the other and hands us a Coke. He’s good that way. He’s gracious that way.

I don’t know where we go from here, and I’m still not claiming that my fears have subsided. It’s funny what paranoia’s get stirred up when you’re about to become a new father. But I do want to at least say that I recognize God’s hand at work, very clearly, on my street. It’s evident and I thank him for that.

And thank you too “Jim” for reading this. You have no idea how that simple action is speaking to me.


Monday, July 18, 2005

voice through the noise

I was reading a friend’s thoughts tonight on how God speaks to her in the stillness. Of how she took a walk along the beach, skipping stones into the water and feeling the warmth of the sand on her feet. Of how the mist hovered gently over the trees and of how the rain pitter pattered in the water on the lake all around her. And I wondered if God still spoke to me, in the noise of the city, in the cry of the siren, in the shouts of the people on the street, in the staggering of the drunk, in the solicitation of the prostitute, in the threat of the mugger, and through my locked doors. I'm sure He does, but sometimes it's hard to hear.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

A new friend...

I took this picture of Joshua Harding who, during a hike, decided to make a new friend, showing all of us how easy community can be when you get out of the building and onto common ground.

All the pictures on this site are originals.

West Green Road...not too bad from this angle.

I took this photo in front of my house just a few nights ago. It's of a double decker bus flying by.

All the photos on this sight are originals.