a common conversation during day camp:

"wait, you mean ya'll live here?"

"yeah upstairs."

"you live in the church?"


i have this conversation with many of the kids, and several of them already knew it because they live across the street or around the neighborhood and have seen us around. but still, the concept of living in a church just baffles them. it seems like the absolute most strangest thing. and i guess in a way it sort of is. but in another way...it's not at all.

then i had this conversation with a group of girls one day:

"hey what's that thing on your neck? is that a bird?"

"well yeah, it's a dove. but it's also a cross. sort of both. do you know why it's a dove?"


"cause a dove is a symbol for the Holy Spirit."


"will it break?" another girl added.

"no it won't break. it's pottery. it's made by people in a monastery over in france."

blank stares.

"do you know what a monastery is?"

shaking heads.

"do you know what a monk is?"

shaking heads.

"well you know what a nun is right? with the dresses and the thing on their heads." i made very effective hand gestures here. "nuns live in convents and a monastery is sort of like the same thing but for men."

"just men? aren't they married?"

"no they choose to live 'married to God' in a sense."

"that's weird!"

"well not like a marriage like we think of it. but more like just sort of deciding to dedicate, or, to commit to living their lives for God alone and live together to help each other do that."

"that's sort of what you guys are doing upstairs, right?"

i paused. "yeah. yeah it is. though some of us up there are married and some of us aren't."

they lost interest after that and continued to argue about some petty drama. but in that brief instant i felt like that one little girl somehow understood more about what we are trying to do than so many of the people i've tried to explain it to. "trying" would be the key word there of course.


hey harry, wanna hear the most annoying sound in the world?

moving to the inner city there were certain things that i knew to expect, and then there were other things that i didn't quite see coming. for the most part i feel like i have made the adjustment ok so far and haven't been surprised by too much.

one of the things i knew was that it was going to be much louder. there would be lots of noise, especially late at night. my room has windows that face 43rd street, which is surprisingly busy. fortunately i am a heavy sleeper and the churning ac unit drowns out a lot of noise itself. the sound hasn't really been to much of a problem. well, for the most part. sirens just sort of fade to the background and i don't really notice them any more. but there is one sound that already i am growing to hate.

the ice cream truck.

da da du du du da da daw daw daw da da daw daw doo doo doo du da da da.... and over and over and over.

the little chiming tune you can whistle without even thinking about. the calling anthem from your youth to rush out the front door with spare change before it drove away. the excitement that ensued with gum drop eyes and sticky fingers to follow. it was a delight. then slowly the ice cream trucks all disappeared. was it just that you were getting older? no, they abandoned the increasingly desolate suburban streets. where did they all go? the city!

yes it's true. and i hear that infernal noise more times a day than i care to count. and they're all the same! mix it up a little! come on! ok i'm sure i sound like a scrooge hating the ice cream truck noise. but seriously, you try listening to that stupid tune over and over and see how quickly your fond childhood memories become hellish nightmares with overloads of ice cream and a scary truck driver named herb. in fact, forget water-boarding, just play the ice cream truck song on repeat for about a week in a guys cell and watch him crack by day three.

in high school i used to have secret destructive fantasies where i would blow up the boxes that controlled the stop lights that i really hated. then they would have to repair them and reset the timing so that the lights would not be so incredibly stupid. maybe a little weird i know, but i thought of all sorts of ways to get past that hard metal outer casing. suffice it to say that now i have new plottings running through my head....


a little more: synthar

so i post songs on here quite a bit, and i'm never quite sure if people like them or listen to them or anything. usually a song doesn't elicit comments, so i'm not sure. but that's ok. i post them usually because they have some particular meaning to me, or i just happen to really like that song at that particular point in time. i really love sharing things that i enjoy, and i really enjoy music and it's easy to share. so i hope you enjoy at least some of it.

and then every now and then there is a band that i just get obsessed with. it doesn't happen too often. but when it does i feel limited by one song, so maybe i post two, or maybe i do several posts over a period of time. well i want to maybe perhaps start a series of writing a little more about a particular artist or album, of which this will be the first one. i am no music critic and i don't quite know how to objectify it, so don't expect too much of that. no instead it will probably just be a few songs along with why i really enjoy it all. here's who i'm enjoying right now--


synthar is a band that isn't really a band. you probably won't ever see them on tour. it's composed of 4 guys from all over: mississippi, new york, california, and china. it's a sort of postal service story i suppose, though they played together in the past growing up. the band definitely goes along with its name, in that it has a lot of synthesizers throughout, as well as various other instruments. if you don't dig the synth you may not like them, but i think they are worth a listen, even if you don't. don't let one instrument (sort of thing) define the band! that or embrace your inner 80s child and groove to the electro-tune.

i already posted one song from this group. it is a fun sort of love song that has a lot of playfulness to it. a combination of lots of instruments makes for a good introduction until it quiets to let the story unfold. the little details in the descriptions make the story come to life. and then the chorus brings on a greater self-reflection, almost a commentary on the rest of the story of the song. does a delightful little falling in love in an instant last? i love even the way it is asked--"will you still cling so tight to me?"

it's funny i watched the movie "dan in real life" last night and it made me think of this song. the proverbial movie always seems to stop with the wedding. but i like that this song looks to the future, and asks those questions. because there are a great many who lack the certainty that comes from the 3 day romance and its life implications. and while it's fun to think about in reality i can't imagine something like that without asking those questions. but that's just me.

"stabbed by an unseen blade"

this is another fun song, though i feel like it has a little pedro the lion in it for sure. it's the other side of the story from the previous song, but it's a strange sort of lament. it is upbeat musically, but the story is much more of a downer. but there is again a sort of playfulness in the words, and it makes the music work. the details again are great: "Lord, Lord, I'm on my knees for you, she took the furniture too," and "I need a revival, cause all she left was her bible." these clever lines make the song because it keeps a certain lightness while at the same time adding a new depth to the response to loss and betrayal. and let's be honest, it's got a good beat.

"the phone call"

this is a bit of a sadder song, though the bands playfulness again comes through at the beginning with the piano sounding like a telephone ringing. if you can't tell i really like the playfulness of this group, even when in this case it is in a more serious sort of way. the story to this song is a little mysterious, as i can't quite figure out just what the relationship is between the narrator and the deceased. mother maybe? ex-wife or girlfriend? the song ends with a numbing sort of repetition, which i think fits the situation well. i am finding myself drawn a lot to songs that seem to do this, because it takes you to a deeper level somehow. it's almost chant-like, and when used in the right way it is profound.

i also seem to find myself drawn to songs about death at times too. no not crazy death metal--silly people for thinking that. no more like the laments that come after losing someone. i have never really experienced a death of someone really close to me, and maybe that's why i have some sort of fascination with it. the depth of feeling, the grieving process. i'm sure listening to those songs would be very different in the midst of that experience. i wonder if songs like this one would be helpful, or perhaps too hard to listen to.

so anyway there it is. they have a lot of other great songs too, even though they just have the one album. these are just the ones i have been drawn to. hope you enjoy them!


the horror that is...

...day camp.

this last week we had a vbs/day camp here at the church. 9 hours a day--which is longer than any vbs in their right mind. 75 inner-city kids who are awesome but not super well-behaved. probably something like 4 1/2 volunteers who actually do something. a poorly planned schedule and awful curriculum makes for too much time and not enough to do. there is much more that could go on this list, but i'll stop there. and the best part is--it goes for another week! that's right, we have a whole nother week of this utterly exhausting "camp."

first of all, let me just say that i am not much of a camp person. i never have been. it's probably the introvert in me that gags at the thought of 168 hours constantly surrounded by other people that made me hate kanakuk and other similar experiences. that and all the strict rules and uniformity and strange chants and songs and all around weird behavior. camp is weird folks. whatever gives us the excuse to act all strange just because we have so much time together was not constituted in my makeup.

sure this camp is not quite that extreme. let me just thank the Lord right now that this is not an overnight camp. but then again those sorts of camps usually have fun activities like pools and campfires and all sorts of things to entertain the kids. we have a basketball court, which is admittedly really great but not for all that long.

anyway i don't need to go on ranting about how draining the whole thing is and how difficult it is. especially because it's not really the kids. i love kids. i love meeting these kids and hanging out with them--so many of them are from around the neighborhood. it's just the poor planning and the lack of help that makes it so hard. so if you're free to help come stop by! seriously.



things down here at the church are rarely calm, at least so far. there is always a lot of work to be done, things to be figured out, stuff breaking or the never-ending complications arising from most everything already being broken. we were supposed to have a nice time for a meeting the other night, but our shower urgently needed to be fixed. so the night pushed late and we weren't able to really do anything together. after the progression of showers most people headed off to bed. but bobby asked if i wanted to play a game of chess. i said sure.

it was a daring match. i think it's safe to say that we will make good playing partners for one another, as it was very evenly matched. about halfway into our match we hear sirens, nothing really all that out of the ordinary around here. it is really surprising how used to them i have already become. but then we see the police helicopter out our window. it is flying just a couple blocks away, shining a light down that is scanning a lot of different area. we watched for awhile. some of the neighbors came out of their houses and were looking down the street, which we didn't think was the best idea since the helicopter light seemed to have not found whatever it was looking for. later on they sealed off the street for a block or so. after a bit we returned to our game, which i won by a narrow margin. after which bobby proclaimed "whatever!" and we went to bed.

the next morning i spent some time sitting out in front of the church with pastor howard. i had heard via text that there had been a stabbing just two blocks east of us, hence the helicopter and everything. witnesses were uncooperative with the police according to reports. but as pastor and i sat out there we talked to some of the neighborhood guys. one of them mowed the lawn for a small fee, then was telling us about how was there the night before, how he left when the two guys started getting mad at each other, how he should have taken one of them with him, how they were arguing over a game of chess. a game of chess, and a guy gets stabbed. a game of chess, at the exact time i was playing one only a few blocks away. i hadn't played chess in years.

in one sense it sort of de-mystifies the violence. not just a random stabbing to any passerby or robbery, but two guys getting into an argument. they probably knew each other, at least a little. it really could have happened anywhere. but it didn't. it happened down here. and that is the other sense--that people's level of constant anger is just so much higher in this inner city culture. it takes only the smallest thing to set people off. of course not always to that extreme, but still often with much less control than is healthy and safe.

i have a lot to learn about this culture. but i am glad to be here. glad to be a part of it. it has been and is swept under the rug so often by the rest of popular american culture. why do we ignore it? do we just assume that it is normal and expected to have some sort of violent, crime-filled ghetto somewhere? it is accepted, but should it be?

one of the things that we don't want to do as a community down here is to just continue to perpetuate the system of dependency and handouts. we want to seek to learn how to love people, but to do it in such a way that is long-lasting, that really truly helps them and their children with more permanence. it is a journey to learn how to aide community development, finding our role in the holistic restoration of the children of God. so often i have no idea where to begin, or how to do it, or what the next move should be. sort of like a chess game. it all can seem so overwhelming with so many pieces, and they all affect the whole landscape so differently. you can really only learn by playing over and over, usually losing a lot at first.

perhaps the most important lesson i learned in chess is that you have to constantly keep attacking. i use to try to set up these elaborate defenses to stop the other player. but the only way you can win is to put the other person in checkmate. and against good players you can't just sit back and wait for them to make a mistake so you'll have the advantage. you have to continue to put on the pressure and make them do the things they don't want to do, eventually trapping them into choices they don't want to make. i don't know if this is an apt metaphor really, but i know that the kingdom of God is an advancing force. for the scripture says that the gates of hell will not overcome you. that's their gates, not ours. and we have been on the defensive as Christians for far too long.

now we just need to learn once again how to build up our attack. positioning is vital and having all the right pieces in play is a must. what piece will you be? will you stay back behind the pawns? will you charge out too quick? most importantly though we must all realize that this all isn't just a game--this life thing. it's not for our own amusement. and are we willing to accept sacrifice for victory, so that the kingdom can break in and hopefully some day we will see people stop killing each other over silly games. do you believe it is possible?


it's fixed

as you've probably gathered if you've read this blog much, we are now moved into the church we've been working on and such. it's been a few weeks now and things are finally starting to settle, at least a little bit. that is until day camp the next 2 weeks for 11 hours a day. i'm going to die. if you have any suggestions for games etc. feel free to share!

anyway, i just wanted to post our address so you all can stop by or send us something! looking forward to it!

church address:
2701 E. 43rd St.
Kansas City, MO 64130

mailing address:
PO Box 300225
Kansas City, MO 64130


great lake swimmers

this is another band i just can't stop listening to recently. their new album is outstanding. check them out more, seriously.

"she comes to me in dreams"


last night

i was already doing a couple things wrong. i was driving on my way back to the church after a meeting that had gone much later than i was expecting. it was now 11:30 at night. we had decided that we would all usually try to make it home before 11 most nights, simply because it just isn't safe to be out too late. a short walk from the lot to the front door awaited me, though i would also have to take the time to slide shut the parking gate and lock up since i would be the last one home.

as i drove along the highway the fear began to grow in me. everyone else is going to be asleep already. i started to imagine a mugging scenario. i had my bag with my computer with me. should i take my credit cards out of my wallet? i felt my toes wiggling. i was wearing flip-flops, not the best for running to be sure. we had also talked about not walking around in sandals too much as a safety precaution. i thought about how i could slide them off and run barefoot. too much broken glass around. i just hoped they would let me live if i handed over all my stuff. dying right now would be sort of inconvenient.

maybe the fear wasn't quite that strong, but i really considered driving to my mom's house and crashing the night there. i could just come back in the morning. stop being silly; you'll be fine. besides, i had to lock up the gate or else it would be open all night. a car could get stolen. or people would keep dumping more in our already overflowing dumpster. i drove on, saying a few prayers as i got closer and the streets became smaller and emptier.

i didn't see anyone walking around as i pulled into the parking lot. i threw my bag over my shoulder and got the key out for the gate padlock. as i came to the opening i saw someone walking down the sidewalk towards me. they were holding a bag of some sort. as i started to pull the sliding gate i gave a peak and saw that it was a woman, probably just a little older than me. she was not far away now. i stuck the padlock on and turned around.

"hi," she said.

"how you doing," i responded with a smile.

as she passed me my fears were relieved and i turned to walk toward the front door. she continued on but had a slight hesitation in her next step. then she stopped and turned back.

"would you pray for me?" she asked. "my mom just had another heart attack and she's back in the hospital."

"yeah, for sure. what's your name?"

"and pray for my sister too, she's twelve and her uncle has started messing with her and i just can't do nothin about it." we both shook our heads for a moment.

"absolutely i will pray. and what's your name?"

"A--, and my mom's B-- and my daughter's S--. A--, B--, S--."

i repeated the names and wished her a good night. then she kept on walking.

after i was inside i smiled at the irony of the experience. perhaps God was smiling too. my fears were so preoccupied with myself. and i remembered why i was there in the first place.

maybe it was just because i was walking out of the church parking lot. maybe it was because i was one of the white kids and the word is getting out that we are living in this church now. but for whatever reason this woman knew that she could ask me to pray for her. not really for her, but for those closest to her who are hurting. there was a gravity in the way she asked too, in the way she stood. in the quiet anonymity of the dark there were no walls. through the streetlight's soft accents i could see the depth in her in that brief moment--a rare and sincere candor with no pride nor shame in it. i can't even express in words the significance and meaning this meeting had for me. it was a divine encounter. a kairiotic moment.

sometimes i tell people i will pray for them and then i forget about it. i will not forget about A--. and how great is it that this is exactly what we've come here to do, to pray, to talk to people, to relate, to love? she didn't ask for money, for food. no, for prayer. and pray we will.

maybe we need to think about being out and about late at night more often :).


yay america

the 4th of july is my least favorite holiday. i don't quite get it really, to be honest. sure it's fun to just sort of hang out and grill some food, but you really could do that any saturday if you set out to do it. i think part of what i don't understand is that we decide to celebrate by tapping into that inner destructive part of ourselves--we're free! let's blow stuff up! or at least once that is a little more subdued we find delight in watching lights in the sky. and i just don't get the delight in that--they look the same every year. sure there are lots of colors but it just seems so underwhelming. if i want to see colors moving in special directions my screen-saver is about the same level of engagement for me. we could even hook up the computer to a projector if it's not big enough for you. cause we need big and explosions to celebrate our country.

i'm not writing this to try to steal your joy if you love this holiday. i hope it's a blast for you. in fact, to help me understand how about you tell me why you love this holiday--or if you really want why i should love it.



That God reveals the fullness of divine love first of all in community [at pentecost], and that the proclamation of the good news finds its main source there has radical consequences for our lives. Because now the question is no longer: How can I best develop my spiritual life and share it with others? but Where do we find the community of faith to which the Spirit of God descends and from which God's message of hope and love can be brought as a light into the world? Once this question becomes our main concern we can no longer separate the spiritual life from life in community, belonging to God from belonging to each other and seeing Christ from seeing one another in him.