Wednesday, April 30, 2008


I have a friend going through a rough time...another friend sent me this poem today. Reading the email was the highlight of my day; I sensed God's love and care for my friend, his family, the whole situation...the friend who sent the email is not a Christian, I wonder if she knows how much God has blessed me (and others) through her.

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— Wendell Berry

evil and suffering

Got this in a forwarded email from an old friend. I often cringe when I get these. I'd love to hear some other reactions and perspectives before I share my own. Anyone?

Explanation for Evil and Suffering
A man went to a barbershop to have his hair cut and his beard trimmed. As the barber began to work, they began to have a good conversation. 
They talked about so many things and various subjects. 
When they eventually touched on the subject of God, the barber said:
"I don't believe that God exists." 
"Why do you say that?" asked the customer. 

"Well, you just have to go out in the street to realize that God doesn't exist. 
Tell me, if God exists, would there be so many sick people? 
Would there be abandoned children? 

If God existed, there would be neither suffering nor pain. 
I can't imagine a loving God who would allow all of these things." 

The customer thought for a moment, but didn't respond because he didn't want to start an argument. 
The barber finished his job and the customer left the shop. 
Just after he left the barbershop, he saw a man in the street with long, stringy, dirty hair and an untrimmed beard. 
He looked dirty and unkempt. The customer turned back and entered the barber shop again and he said to the barber: 
"You know what? Barbers do not exist." 
"How can you say that?" asked the surprised barber. 
"I am here, and I am a barber. And I just worked on you!" 
"No!" the customer exclaimed. "Barbers don't exist because 
if they did, there would be no people with dirty long hair and untrimmed beards, like that man outside." 
"Ah, but barbers DO exist! That's what happens when people do not come to me." 
"Exactly!" affirmed the customer. "That's the point! God, too, DOES exist! 
That's what happens when people do not go to Him and don't look to Him for help. 
That's why there's so much pain and suffering in the world." 

Monday, April 28, 2008

six degrees of convergence

last Thursday I attended a lecture given by N.T. Wright, at Columbia Baptist Church, sponsored by Leland, my school. It was amazing; I have read a little of Wright; now I want to read it all. He talked about "Life after Life After Death," sharing thoughts from his recent book Surprised By Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church.

After the lecture, the president and dean of Leland presented Bishop Wright with an honorary doctorate from Leland. It was cool to be a part of that.

I saw a lot of people I know, from different churches and contexts--it's been fascinating seeing how many people I know who know each other; and how many people connected to Convergence know other people connected to Convergence from other contexts and communities. More than ever, I really feel like a part of something big God is doing.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

My friend Jay, one of our musicians at Convergence, has great insights into the good and not so good in churches. Here are some thoughts he recently shared in an email conversation about building community:

"I have kind of been learning lately that people typically build friendships around commonalities. They know people that have kids, they work in the same place, they have the same hobbies, etc. These kind of relationships are focused on the subject rather than the person. These kinds of relationships typically end when the subject is no longer shared.
I think it would be very easy for our relationships to be built around Convergence or even Christianity rather than the person.
This sort of exposes one of my biggest issues when typically dealing with Christians. You are pressured to build the relationship 'on Christ,' but this can be deceiving because we can end up building on the subject of Christ, which is essentially lifeless. What I really think the bible wants from us are true relationships that are built on the principles of Christ which direct us to have deep and real relationships. This is the actual act of building a relationship 'on Christ.' I think if we don't do this than we my not be building the true body of Christ that the bible talks about."

Friday, April 18, 2008

goodbye Danny Federici

If you're not a Bruce Springsteen fan, you probably don't know who Danny is...but for past 40 years he was a member of (IMHO) the greatest band ever--the E Street Band.

Danny died yesterday of melanoma. He was 58. You can read about it here.

This hits me hard. I love Springsteen and the E Street Band. I've seen them in concert 10 times over the last 24 years, and their music has been a major part of the soundtrack of my life.

But it also hits me hard because I thought about this yesterday--not a vision or anything like that, just a thought. I was driving home last night, listening to Springsteen, thinking about how this band has been together for most of my lifetime, and wondering what it will feel like when one of them is gone. 

Danny had died a few hours earlier, but I didn't know it yet. Freaky...that stuff almost never happens to me (unlike my mother-in-law; who has known several times when her daughters were pregnant, even before they did).

Anyway, my bizarre hunch or thought isn't really the point. We have lost a great musician, and from what I've read, a pretty great guy. My prayers are with his family and friends, and Bruce and the band.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

fantastic book

just finished reading Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry. You have got to read this guy. His writing is amazing, beautiful, powerful, full of meaning and life. I hear that Berry is a Christian; and this comes through in his work, not forcefully--but with subtlety and beauty.

In my limited experience, most of the "Christian" fiction out there is not very good--very little of it is true literature; usually just a cleaned up form of bestselling mystery, adventure, horror, or romance.

Sadly, I've never seen Berry's work in a Christian bookstore or heard it discussed in Christian circles (until recently, with radical, weird Christians like Josh :-))

Jayber Crow is a novel told as an autobiography. The title character is an orphan; later a man who thinks he is called to preach, then realizes he's not, becomes a barber, and settles down in the small town where he grew up. The bulk of the story is about the lives of the people in this town, and how Jayber relates to them, and the lessons he learns along the way.

Hard to explain, just a beautiful picture of life, death, love, community, and connection with God's creation.

There have been few books that moved me like Jayber Crow--I highly recommend it! Rather than try to review it, I'm going to post some excerpts over the next few days.

transforming culture

haven't said much (ok, anything really) about the symposiusm we attended in Austin, TX, a couple weeks ago on Transforming Culture: A Vision for the Church and the Arts--just been busy with the State of Convergence Address and catching up...

It was amazing, and incredibley affirming--as Lisa has said on her blog, we see more and more how what we are doing is just a piece (but an important piece) of this incredible movement God is leading. 

While there are a lot of people talking and working in this movement; there are not a lot doing these things on a local church level--especially to the degree we are--where artists and their work informs and shapes worship and our identity. Very exciting!

One highlight for me was hearing David Taylor, the man behind the whole event, share his perspective on the four primary needs of artists in the church. The four needs he shared matched the four resources that Convergence offers in Lisa's vision: space, community, professional development, and spiritual support. It was obvious God is speaking and working!

My goal this week is to complete two big projects--the worship plan for rest of 2008, and a strategy based on the 10-year vision I presented at State of Convergence.

Monday, April 14, 2008

monday, day-off, non-church post

I was watching sports center, and got the answer to a question that's been in the back of my mind for years. ok, you know when you're watching the Super Bowl, and as soon as the game ends the winning team has hats and t-shirts proclaiming them champions?Obviously, they make items for both teams...I always wondered, what happens to the stuff for the team that lost? 

Well, seems the NFL gives all those items to people in third world countries who need clothes. This year, there are a bunch of kids in Nicaragua running around with hats that say "New England Patriots, 19-0, Super Bowl Champions."

Cool that that stuff gets used, instead of trashed. That's my trivial news for today!

Friday, April 11, 2008

who is God?

Random thoughts from the week...

Today was great; a few of us worshiped at Church of the Common Table at Jammin' Java in Vienna; Jay and Amy played and sang; along with Pete, who has been jamming with our musicians. They put together some great stuff.

The service was primarily a reading from the book of Romans, done very intimately--it was really powerful. I'm looking forward to collaborating with the Common Table folks--we're going to worship together at Convergence on May 11--Pentecost Sunday, along with friends from Fairlington Presbyterian.

Some highlights: Amy sitting to my right belting it out--singing lyrics directly from her Bible as Pete and Jay played...serving and receiving communion around a circle--especially beautiful was the little boy having communion with his dad...

A few of the Common Table folks joined us at Convergence this evening, as well as some friends from Fairlington Pres. I'm really excited about joining together with other communities!

Thursday Lisa and I went to an exhibit opening for our friend Bud. Bud is vice-president of the Arlington Artists Alliance, a great home brewer, and a big Convergence supporter. I was moved to see that one of his paintings in the exhibit was titled Convergence.

Also Thursday, we hosted the first in a discussion series on "Who is God?" led by Jeff Willetts, academic dean at Leland. Based on a class at the seminary, we began examining the idea of God--without falling into the trap of using "church" language. It was a great start; looking forward to more this week.

Monday, April 07, 2008

more vision

thoughts about our facility and ways we care for others:

I see our facility filled with people...
-commuters in the morning stopping by for a cup of coffee
-people walking through the gallery, looking at art, enjoying the beauty of our lawn.
-people meeting for conversation
-using our wireless internet to work in an environment that is more inviting than the office
-people using our library to read and learn and expand their minds

I see various teams forming to carry out the work of the church:
-hospitality teams that provide refreshments, conversation, and encouragement to artists using the facility.
(along those lines, I see a beautiful lawn with flowers and plants and bences for people to sit. I see a prayer garden and a labyrinth where people can connect with God in the beauty of His creation.)

I see teams that coordinate meeting the needs of people and groups who are part of or partner with Convergence. I see a day when each group that partners with Convergence has a Church at Convergence liaison who serves as a sort of chaplain with each group.

I see a counseling center--a place for people to come for emotional and spiritual healing.

I see the Church at Convergence hosting seminars and discussions about life and faith and art, in conjunction with local churches, seminaries and colleges.

I see Convergence leaders and artists serving as consultants with other churches on how to support artists and foster creativity in church.

I see the Church at Convergence serving as a catalyst for people's passions and desires.

I see us giving artists opportunities to make those dreams become reality.

I see people learning to better love God and other people; looking for opportunities to get together and talk, listen, play, learn, work, eat, and drink.

I see a community that utilizes technology; with online discussions and blogs and creative communication among members, collaborators, and friends.

If our goal is to get people into church, we’re thinking too small. God doesn’t just want to influence people in church; he wants to influence all people. He wants to radically impact people’s lives, and He calls us to be a part of that!

God has called the Church to do this work; and while many churches are making a difference, we believe we can do more.

We believe that God is still changing the world. God isn’t limited to our decision of whether or not to carry out his mission. God isn’t waiting for us. The world around us is challenging God’s people to listen, speak and engage.

God is working in creative ways here, in and among us, as well as with other individuals and communities around the world. He is inviting us to join with him in changing our world, by finding ways to live out the Kingdom of God on earth.

We believe that He is using this church, especially as we open up and live out His love in creative and imaginative ways.

By working together to build a church that reflects the things I’ve described, we will see God change individual lives, and transform the culture itself.

As creators, artists reflect the creativity of God. They influence culture. We believe God speaks through artists, mirroring - exposing God’s heart, will, and dreams.

And as we explore this connection between faith and art, as we build a church that is totally committed to this, we are seeing God do amazing things.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

convergence blogs

on the right you can see the heading "convergence blogs." These are blogs of people connected to Convergence and/or the Church at Convergence (probably didn't need to explain that, did I?)

We'd love to get more conversation going among us (and invite others to join us!)

If you're at all connected to Convergence, and have a blog, please let me know; and include links to the others on your blog, if you're willing.


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

more state of convergence

Monday I talked about different gatherings I’d love to see at The Church at Convergence. Today I’ll touch on people and groups I see in this vision…

I see a church where all are welcome, where we celebrate our differences and learn from one another, rather than try to make people conform.

I see a church where our agenda is not to convert people, but to create a community that values freedom and conversation, interaction and collaboration, exploration and imagination, through it all giving God room to work in unique and creative ways.

A church like this will impact the community and culture around it. A church like this will help people see a God that loves and values them and wants a relationship with them.

I see people coming in and out of the sanctuary throughout the day to pray and meditate and spend time in silence with God.

I see people gathering in all kinds of groups:

Artists way groups where artists gather to encourage and support each other

Groups gathering to pray for each other, our community, and our world.

Spiritual formation groups where people dig into the Bible and strive to live out their faith in practical ways.

Community service groups; where people get out into our local community meeting the needs of people—feeding the hungry, cleaning our neighborhoods, tutoring kids, teaching music and art to those who can’t afford it…

Groups where people gather to read books, watch films, listen to music, then discuss the spiritual dimensions of the art they are experiencing.

I see groups led by artists that help people connect their art with spiritual practices.

I see groups meeting at pubs to drink and talk and engage people where they naturally gather.

I see people gathering for food and fellowship:

Sunday morning breakfast gatherings

Lunches throughout the week

Dinner parties



I see people working together to bring about change. I believe that God cares about the issues that people care about—poverty, hunger, illness, justice, peace, the environment. The church should be leading the way in addressing these issues in a way that honors God and loves people.

I see our people effecting change in our world, speaking out on these issures and others, supporting causes that positively impact our world.

more tomorrow--and please leave your comments, reactions, questions, ideas...