Announcing Drawn In

I'm thrilled to announce the release of my upcoming spiritual & creative leaders book, Drawn In.  Its designed for artists, activist, and Jesus followers looking for ways beyond the Right-Brain drain and culture wars of modern Christianity. I walk readers through emerging design thought and ancient practices using biblical and pop culture imagery. While utilizing design models its more poetic than didactic in its approach. It is my most exciting work yet toward expressing my passion that beauty and creativity can draw both the church and artists into deeper collaboration with God and God's kingdom!

Here's what folks are saying:

 DI_front_cover

“...A book that combines the passion of the Wild Goose Festival and the creative insights of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, with a dash of “new monastic” spirituality and a pinch of Brueggemannian theological sensibility... Great exercises. Excellent for small group discussion.”

– David O. Taylor, editor of For the Beauty of the Church

“This fresh vision of God and ourselves draws us (rather than drives us) into a new way of being. Drawn In will introduce many to a gifted writer, reflective artist, and practical theologian sure to contribute much to the life of the church for decades to come.”

– Brian D. McLaren, author of New Kind of Christian

“This is one of the finest books on art, creativity, and the nature of God to date. It is no less than a manifesto: a call to co-create life at the grandest and most humble of scales. To make and remake the world with passionate and tangible love. Stunning, from start to finish.”

– Sally Morgenthaler, author or Worship Evangelism

“Troy Bronsink is deeply rooted in a seriousness about Gospel faith. He explores the recognition that faith cannot be held in the familiar categories of concept, proposition, rule or cliché, but is always moving toward new possibilities.”

– Walter Brueggemann, author of Prophetic Imagination

You can "look inside" it at Amazon, Paraclete Press, and soon it will be available on the redesign of my website.  Thanks everyone who helped bring this book to life!!!

Streaming music all memorial day weekend

So the entire list of tracks is streaming from now until monday night. 16 songs from the live show and rehearsal. We'd love your help on getting the set down to the best 10-11 songs for the debut LP. click on the "music" link above or, better yet, goto soundcloud and open an account and "heart" the songs you love the best. I'd love to hear what you think.

Thanks!

Every day stations of the cross

Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law had reached a decision. But they had run out of coffee beans and so they waited for someone to make a quick run to Starbucks before making any public statements.

A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of two boys, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they dragged him out of his car and forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. Next they dragged Jesus to The Place of the Skull. And the police search helicopters were circling overhead.

The people stood watching, and the politicians and business leaders even sneered at him. They said, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he indeed the Chosen One.’ The soldiers (with M-16s over their shoulders) also came up and mocked him. They offered him blackmarket painkillers and said, "If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself." Meanwhile a lady’s iPhone kept going off. The ring tone was catchy Katie Perry tune from about two years ago, the one where she was riding on a long swing.

One guy next to Jesus yelled, "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!" Another yelled back at him, "Don't you fear God?" Jesus interrupted the argument, saying "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." And as I pulled out of the driveway our neighbors’ ragged belongings were thrown out on the lawn, the marshal was just doing his job because the bank was foreclosing on their slumlord even though the he was still taking rent from them and sitting at home, no where to be seen.

Jesus yelled, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." And from that time on, John took Mary into his house, as if she were his own mom.

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three-ish, for the sun stopped shining. And then the special curtain was torn in two. When I plugged my portable hard drive into the Pro Tools last night there was this pop and smoke came out of it; my friend and I looked at each other, both afraid of the worst.

Then Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last.

I remember sitting with my wife's grandpa in his last days while he was gasping for air. A tube blocked up his laboring throat so that he couldn’t talk. But his eyes, they spoke volumes.

the vultures

(a poem for my sister, Kendra)

I want you to be free to know, one day at a time, your life as it shall become.

Trust your eyes and the scent of things and give your feet over to that lit-path alone, one step at a time.

Don’t take;

not my advise, another’s advise or anything else born from outside your discovery.

Instead, eat what bread falls around us all.

‘Just enough to last from breakfast and to stretch into a dinner with unexpected guests when necessary. 

When we pulled away from the house this afternoon there were vultures circling overhead.

Ready to take what was to become theirs.

But the life is gone from that.

Wake

My friends Mike Stavlund and Michael Toy have challenged me to join them for  National Poetry Writing Month (aka NaPoWriMo), a challenge/experiment to write one poem each day for the month of April.  "It is a way to give oneself permission to write poorly; a way to embrace quantity over quality.  But also, to revel in the mystery that somehow, sometimes, quantity begets quality" (says Mike.)  Serendipitously, I'm on vacation for the next few days, a good time to start a new habit... So here's my first:

Wake

The ocean’s hand is long. Or is it wide? Or is it her entire reach?

My toddling son stands facing her for his first time, smiling as if at a bath that knows no end. Then balance falls away from him. Rather, she takes it and then hands it back and then takes it again

wave af- ter wave.

I’m holding his hand and so much more this year.

And there’s that vast ocean again handing to me and taking back and handing yet again.

Two Christmas Poems

This Christmas here are two poems I'm returning to: "The Invisible Seen" —St. Athanasios (c. 298-373, trans by Scott Cairns)

When our dull wits had so declined as to set us mid the squalor of the merely sensible creation, the Very God consented to become a body of His own, that He as one among us might gather our dim senses to Himself, and manifest through such incommensurate occasion that He is not simply man, but also God, the Word and Wisdom of the One.

Thereafter, He remained His body, and thus allowed Himself to be observed. his becoming joined to us performed two appalling works in our behalf: He banished death from these our tender frames, and made of them something new and (take note here) renewing.

“Nativity” —John O’Donohue (1956-2008)

No man reaches where the moon touches a woman. Even the moon leaves her when she opens Deeper into the ripple in her womb That encircles dark, to become flesh and bone.

Someone is coming ashore inside her, A face deciphers itself from water, And she curves around the gathering wave, Opening to offer the life it craves.

In a corner stall of pilgrim strangers, She falls and heaves, holding a tide of tears. A red wire of pain feeds through every vein, Until night unweaves and the child reaches dawn. Outside each other now, she sees him first, Flesh of her flesh, her dreamt son safe on earth.

we are already lit

I posted this back in 2007, while I was still serving a church in North Atlanta as designated pastor.  The poem came to mind recently as I've been working on my first full length book, Getting Drawn In. Its striking how we learn and re-learn things.  The allusions to Moses and Pentecost seem as important a reminder for me today as when I was writing them 4 years ago:

wicks -Church of St. Andrew, Christmas, 2006

1. Until pews are dandelions –sprig leggy levers– catapulting young minds into kingdomcome; sweeping elderminds like dreamseeds of evervision.

Until songs take wing stretching strong like the arrows of migrating Juncos lending lift, everloft, and standard. Tail feathers slicing tomorrow unto tomorrow.

Until prayers shovelset us into the red Georgia clay sinking our toes like the magnolia’s roots breaking open bone-earth’s chapped tongue making our hope particular and rooty tangling us here, now, to daily bread

2. Until our aviary, a loose canopy tabernacling for us, meets the winds of intrastators and price-per-acre and towers catch-and-releasing invisible information; until the long carving frenchdrains spoon away at its stature (walk humbly with your God) until the pieces of our umbrella –the very stones and mortar of this sanctuary– must join their sister elements that groan and clap to the song that sang  us all into

existence.

3. Until then, inhale; receive Spirit here. Spirit who practices this all like Moshe’s bush on Horeb who sings that song to which our ears belong. Take the cup, raise her, exhale the gratitude of carbon dioxide and moisturedrip for the forest, lick your lips and dig your teeth in to heaven’s sweet ‘what-is-it.’

4. Today is a Tuesday, December’s light is late as usual. Slipping past the commute into this morning’s eye, I sit in my study, a place of words, walls, and a solid oak desk that all precede me and I watch this candle devour the cold room and flicker hotter than any coal placed on my lips. And I remember,

we are already lit. Burning but not consumed. Set to flight. Racing but not exhausted. And this building already sings and breathes and joins creation. And the dead are raised in Christ, worship already working,

and the old and the future are part of today’s firelight.

Keep Singing!

I know I've been MIA, here's the latest and some of what is brewing in me... We're preparing our house and family life for our second kid, due September 28. I'm cultivating the early years of Neighbors Abbey's work in SW Atlanta and the emerging church planting that is a part of it.  Joshua Case and I have been teaming up on some Church as Art emerging worship coaching projects for this fall. I'm still working with the Village Counsel of Emergent Village as we live into our being a Village green. And I'm in the middle of curating worship for Clayfire, writing a chapter for an upcoming festschrift by Ryan Bolger about hyphenated emerging projects, curating music for City Church Eastside, and writing my first full length book for Paraclete Press about the intersection the Aesthetics and God's Mission. This book (provisionally titled, "Getting Drawn In") is about the creative nature of God's mission, and our own awakening to God's calling as we step into creative and intentional lives. In researching all this I came across an old book of poems called The Singer by Calvin Miller referred or given to me by my friend Ty Saltsgiver in the 90s. In it I found this chapter XII entitled"In hell there is no music—an agonizing night that never ends as songless as a shattered violin":

"Sing the Hillside Song" they cried. There were so many of them. He wasn't even sure he could be heard above the din of all their voices. He walked among them and looked them over. In his mind he knew that the Father's Spirit wanted each of them to learn his song.

Someone in the sprawling crowd stood and handed him a lyre. "Sing for us please Singer—the Hillside Song!"

"Yes, yes," they called, "the Hillside Song"

He looked down at the lyre and held it close. He turned each thumb-set till the string knew how to sound, then he began:

"Blessed are the musical," he said, "for their's shall be never-ending song."

"Blessed are those who know the difference between their loving and their lusting, for they shall be pure in heart and understand the reason."

"Blessed are those who die for reasons that are real, for they themselves are real."

"Blessed are all those who yet can sing when all the theater is empty annd the orchestra is gone."

"Blessed is the man who stands before the cruelest king and only fears his God."

"Blessed is the mighty king who sits behind the weakest man and thinks of all their similarities."

"Earthmaker is love. He has send his only Troubadour to close the Canyon of the Damned."

Then they broke his song and cried one with one voice, "Tell us Singer, have you any hope for us? can we be saved?"

"You may if you will sing Earth- makers's Song!"

"Is there another way to cheat the Canyon of the Damned?"

"None but the Song!"

The beauty of Miller's language here, to me, is that there is a song that wants to be played. There is a way out of loneliness and despair, that comes with willfully listening to the song within...  And that you can't short cut that listening pathway with some kind of formula or group membership.  We have to keep listening, and singing.

Lyrics for songs

I just finished a great weekend at the Montreat College Conference playing with Rea Rea (Clemson) on Bass and Jason Peckman (Athens) on drums.  They put up with a lot of seat-of-the-pants direction from me, and made it a far better weekend than it would have been were I just a guy with his acoustic guitar.  Ellen and Audry (from Emory) were great vocalists, Donnie (Athens) a mad soprano saxophonist, and Jefferson (Northern Alabama) with some sick chops on the piano. We taught a lot of new songs as well as new arrangements I've been working on.  Here are lead sheets for three of those songs.  More to come.  Oh and if you were at the conf and wanna hear some of my singer-songwriter stuff check out the music link to iLike. Wildest Imagination (Bass)

Wildest Imagination (Guitar Capo2)

Oh Blessed God

Bring Forth

GENERATE magazine

I'm excited to be collaborating with Paul Soupiset, Tim Snyder, and Makeesha Fisher, among others, on this long awaited project. I will be editor of visual and performing arts.

HERE'S THE SCOOP...

GENERATE Magazine has been an open, collaborative project in the works for more than six years now. And after many casual conversations — and the 2009 convening of an editorial team — we are ready and eager to involve you, the larger community, in helping realize this dream with us.

The seeds for GENERATE Magazine were sown sitting around a fountain in San Diego in 2004 — a few writers, poets, artists and designers explored and dreamed about launching a print publication that would embody the ethos and tell the stories of the growing, generative conversation that some have called the emerging church conversation.

Again at the 2007 Emergent Gathering, another planning group was convened to discuss logistics, bring some leadership to the dream, and get things rolling. GENERATE Magazine is the fruit of many months of their planning.

VISUAL AND PERFORMING ARTS?

Art provides resistance and lift to what the Spirit of New Creation is generating. The beauty that artisans fashion, sing, and perform can testify to what is possible and evoke imagination for what is yet to come. We are drawn to paintings and songs that put us "in play." GENERATE aims to fashion a synthesis of such works of art, and to celebrate the lives of their creators, in order to put our readers in play as well.

WHY GENERATE?

GENERATE exists as a forum to retell the stories of the grassroots communities and individuals who are finding emergent and alternative means to follow God in the Way of Jesus. We hope to create an artifact of this historical conversation. These stories will be transmitted through narrative, works of visual art, documented performances, verse, fiction, non-fiction, essays, and interviews.

We/you are the conversation; our art, our lives, our hopes and failures all meet up with God’s approaching dreams for creation. We converse and in doing so spread the news that we are not alone — that joy is found in our generative friendship.

GENERATE Magazine is a grassroots-organized, independent publication affiliated as a friend of Emergent Village, but not affiliated with any publishing house. We are currently exploring ways to distribute GENERATE Magazine via the Emergent Village Cohorts and wider friendships. More on that in the days to come.

the best incompleteness of love

This weekend I am hosting up marriage covenants between two friends of Kelley and mine. Its at a vineyard in Dahlonega, GA. It should be a blast. So, Kelley and I have been married ten years as of June. And each time I do a wedding it is a chance to remember how much it meant for our friends to participate (grooms men, bride's maids, Ty Saltzgiver- my Young Life trainer who married us, Ryan Long- the singer-songwriters who played for nothing but a hotel room). The premarital counseling, service design, and the prep for whatever homily I offer- they all give me a chance to revisit the compelling thoughts of love shared by everyone in God's World.

I was struck this time around by Paul's choice to place the theme of "incompleteness" inside his ode to love in 1 Corinthians 13. Peterson's paraphrase puts it this way:

We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled…

We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing God directly just as God knows us!

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.

And the best of the three is love

Ten years ago I didn't know half of what I know about love now. Because love requires locating ourselves in the unknown. It requires mystery and unfinished-ness. People are naturally relational- we understand ourselves in relationship to others and our contexts, and have a consciousness about that relationship. Love requires us to leave that consciousness open for edits. We leave ourselves vulnerable, accessible. Love edits our memories (forgiveness) and our dreams for the future (hope).

Love of God, and our beloved-ness as children of God... does a similar thing. True knowledge of God-is-love-ness requires receptiveness, and it "softens" us. True participation in this Love-of-God-ness casts out fear (memories) and makes all things new (future).

So asking having strong enough 'faith' to be featured on CBN, or being the greatest political orator of our time, or making poverty history... without love is nothing, gets us no further along, and starts to sound like a creaky gate or a bent cymbal.

no bad news

I think Daley turned me on to Patti first

I don't need none of your bad news today You're a sad little boy, anyone can see you're just a sad little boy That's why you're carrying on that way Why don't you burn it all down, burn your own house down, burn your own house down Try to kill your own disease And leave the rest of us, there's a lot of us, leave the rest of us Who wanna live in peace to live in peace

I'm gonna find me a man, love him so well, love him so strong, love him so slow We're gonna go way beyond the walls of this fortress And we won't be afraid, we won't be afraid, and though the darkness may come our way We won't be afraid to be alive anymore And we'll grow kindness in our hearts for all the strangers among us Till there are no strangers anymore

Don't bring me bad news, no bad news I don't need none of your bad news today You can't have my fear, I've got nothing to lose, can't have my fear I'm not getting out of here alive anyway And I don't need none of these things, I don't need none of these things I've been handed And the bird of peace is flying over, she's flying over and Coming in for a landing

love and silence

I've subscribed to Image journal for several years and don't always get to read the whole thing. But I love the work of Image's chief editor, Gregory Wolfe. So I recently picked up the book, Intruding Upon the Timeless, with selections of his contributions to the journal between its beginning in 89 until 2003. So I'll drop snippets of my readings as we go...

I'll be speaking in October at an Atlanta event organized by Progressive Christian Cooperative, called The Beloved Community: From Formation to Action. I met Kimberly, the inventor behind this, through the Emergent Cohort and have begun to learn from her passion to bring innovative practice of spiritual formation into the human right advocacy circles as well as advocacy into spiritual formation circles. So, though the event is in October our conversations this summer and my talk are simmering on one of my back burners along with what I've been reading by Wolfe.

In Wolfe's article "Silence Cunning and Exile" (quoting James Joyce) I was stuck by the fellowship between beauty and suffering. Almost in a vin diagram sense, these two vivid themes, beauty and suffering, overlap in the costs to access them and the effect the evoke. They have an admission and an affect. They both beg a question that is never answered until the spirit/body s t o p s and in silence hears/feels/knows LOVE. Eyes to see and ears to hear...

And so beauty and suffering, the teleological signpost of the artists and the prophet, are met in silence. These are not "the ends" they are the signs. But signs are how we see, they are the things that compel us when we see through glass dimly, when we only have a lamp for our feet and light on our path, while death valley's shadows remain. No activist can afford to stay plugged in at every movement to her iPhone, and the ticker at the bottom of CNN, and the moving messages of injustice and need outside the MARTA window. No artist can afford to stay transfixed as a doer, maker, striver. Artists and activists both require love. Their trades, sans love, will CLANG worse than a bad drum track. The access to an inner rhythm, to beauty that does not tare you away from humanity in endless pursuit of nirvana, to a righteousness that rolls down mountains in liquid inevitability–the access to this ineffability requires us to s t o p and listen to...

It is in silence that we hear our belovedness. And silence, like white space, is also a place, it is the spacial environment where our imaginations are taught/shapes/formed. Silence, though, is not a commodity to be traded. Like manna it will turn to worms should you return to it apart from an open receptive posture (maybe this is why acquisitiveness, self-aggrandizement, or scarcity rarely characterize true artists and activists). Artists and activists are shapers, whether pragmatic or romantic, we move real things into new places and lop off the corner of one thing fastening something to its other side until a new thing emerges. We are shapers, and it is in silence the we let go of our brother's heel, and unbuckle our holster, and lay down our birth-rite as shaper... and we climb up onto the easel, the wheel, into the kiln, and place our necks under the callused fingers to be shaped by...

Love.

Here are a few of Wolfe's lines and citations that have shaped me today...

There is nothing behind [silence] to which it can be related, except the Creator Himself (sic.) -Max Pickard, The World of Silence.

Out of silence emerges the creative act, both in the 'sub-creation' of the artist and in the creation of God. but there is also a sense in which the created artifact itself is something set into silence...

The space that Christ gives us to respond to him is similar to the space the the artist must give to us to respond to his or her work...

The art that emerges out of silence–the art the experiences human life and our fallen world as a place of exile–forces us to ask the question "why." -Gregory Wolfe

There can be no answer to the 'Why?' of the afflicted... The only things the compel us tot ask the question are affliction, and also beauty; for the beautiful gives us such a vivid sence of the presence of something good that we love for purpose there, without even finding one. Like affliction, beauty compels us to ask: Why? Why is this thing beautiful? But rare are those who are capable of asking this question for as long as a few hours at a time...

He who is capable not only of crying out but also of listening will hear the answer. Silence it the answer.

The speech of created beings is with sounds. The word of God is silence. God's secret word of love can be nothing else but silence. Christ is the silence of God." -Simone Weil

The Beloved Community is the nexus of action and formation. We are formed in the silent act love. And we act as ones (in)formed into lovers. This mutuality between God and creation begats mutuality between humanity in our creative ventures, in response to both beauty and suffering.

songs to know

I'm going to start posting about songs and albums and songwriters that I love. The first is a CD that Kelley has been chomping at the bit for us to get for months now:

Raising Sand: a duet album of Robert Plant and Alison Krauss produced by T-Bone Burnett

In a very short review: the album needs to be played loud. Its one you need to listen to more than twice and then it will haunt you. At first, Plant sounded less Zeppeliny than i expected but after a while you recognize the violins of Krauss, her haunting shrills and Plant's mood building swells as part of the old Zepplin greatness. And Krauss' willingness ot bring her whole self into rock-feeling songs like Let Your Love Be Your Lesson, is unmistakably what makes the album work. Two unlikely paired together to remind us why we love them both and to host an entirely different project. But the real flair is Burnett's ability to pull the best repertories for these two.

Here's some lyrics from my favorite song writers who's songs are covered by these two legends:

Passing the hat in church It never stops going round

You never pay just once To get the job done

What I done to me, I done to you, What happened to the trampled rose?"

from trampled Rose by iconoclastic jazz great, Tom Waits. Waits can make anything haunting, but who would have guessed that sweat Alison's voice could be mixed to match Wait's bowed saw and rake.

Standing in my broken heart all night long Darkness held me like a friend when love wore off Looking for the lamb that’s hidden in the cross The finder’s lost…”

from Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us by California female songwriter Sam Phillips (also known in old CCM circles as Leslie Phillips).

Being born is going blind And bowin’ down a thousand times To echos strung on pure temptation

Sorrow and Solitude these are the precious things And the only words worth remembering…”

from Nothin’ by Texas songwriter, Townes Van Zandt

if you have not heard it yet you need to! And if you don't know these two great songwriters, stay tuned I'll post more of their stuff.

how to avoid getting a window in your head

Four strangers sat on our couch. They were joined by six other neighbors whom I already knew. "Five to thirty is the federal minimum and maximum sentence," we heard as we all sat in my living room last night to listen to Stank's attorney tell us what he was looking at, time wise, and what how we could help. It was Monday night, Eve had just started her second week of Kindergarten and wanted to show everyone her homework. It was clearly a pause in each of our days.

There is, we discover late and often, an arresting quality about your word to us. We do not want to be arrested or even pause, for our days are planned out…

Minister to us in our cowardice and timidity. Set us to be as bold as you are true, to meet the authorities who resist and arrest . . . our ancient mothers, our old convictions, powerful ordaining communities and last, even, city hall.

(from “We do not want to be arrested” by Walter Bruggemann, Awed to Heaven Rooted to Earth)

Stank is in his early fifties, and except for his balding head and pachy beard you'd think he was late twenties. Dark black, chiseled muscular physique, and tattooed by the sun that follows him every day as he works odd jobs for cash. And a contagious grin- always smelling like the cheap Black-and-Mild cigar that he is almost always smoking. He helped me build my deck, effortlessly lifting by him himself the 14 foot long 2 X 8 that I needed help lifting.

Stank has lived with his mom and nephews in this neighborhood for over 30 years. He is annoying, at times, with his inconvenient knocks on the door looking for a quick job or errand he could run for a few bucks. And then impossible to find when you do need help. But he’s also the very guy you want watching your house. The guy who can give you the scoop on trouble in the neighborhood.

‘Turns out he got close enough to the trouble a little while back that he is facing 5-30 years. Drugs and drug related burglaries and assaults are a problem in our neighborhood. And so the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) and the Atlanta Police Department (APD) and the District Attorney’s Office got together to build a plan. GBI and APD investigators would set up a series of drug purchases and deals, record them on tape, and build up cases on the dealers and users in our neighborhood. This covert operation would help them get to the real kingpins bringing the drugs in, catch the kids before they are caught in cycles of using, and clean up the streets of those habitual users who are nearly always the thieves and perpetrators of domestic abuse and assault. One officer told me that the whole thing is like a season of The Wire. The cases were built for as long as four months and then near memorial day they were all brought to a grand jury and bench warrants were issued for over 100 of our neighbors. The APD set up a road block a few weekends around memorial day and they would grab the suspects, over 70 of them we know for sure.

This detective work and police enforcement was met by a second judicial process designed by the DA’s office called Project Turnaround. The DA’s office appointed a community prosecutor to each of the police zones involved and that prosecutor gave the men (its all ‘men’ that we know of) under 25 an option of a year long rehab program and expungement of their record. And those who did not choose this deal or any born before 1983 would be recomend for the maximum sentence and banishment for the neighborhood.

Banishment, totally medieval, huh? It has been used in limitted courses in Georgia, and though it simply shuffles our problems on to another place and another neighborhood’s problems over to ours, it does have some benefits in the case of repeat offenders like house robers and drug dealers. But the community prosecutor is asking for banishment with every defendant over 25, including Stank.

And then add to all that what the court system in Fulton County has set up called the “non-complex” system. With all non-violent arrests the defendant is scheduled to go through hearning, arraignments, pleas, or go to trial in under 9 weeks from the arrest. Well this system has gotten bottle necked with the influx of the pick ups done by APD and GBI. This bottle-neck has also been worsened by the decision to eliminate 16 attorney positions in the PD’s office. So Stank and those picked up with him do not stand a chance, if they are over 25.

Stank got in trouble when he was supposedly doing work for a neighbor a few streets down (the 10 of us in my house were among Stank’s many landscaping/odd jobs clients). This client of his allegedly asked Stank if he knew where to get him $30 of cocaine. As the story goes, Stank obliged, took the man’s money, and returned with $30 of cocaine. They supposedly have it all on tape and are charging him with possession and selling cocaine. Now depending on the tapes and other court details this may be exposed as some sort of entrapment, but the short of it is that Stank may have a chance becasue we found him a good defense attourney.

So this is the background of what was going on in our house last night, learning about the justice system, learning about authorities, and saying to our neighbors, brown and beige, young and old, that we belong together with Stank in this issue. We had to determine that, though the District Attorney’s office and the federal justice system does not have good local ways for us to advocate for Stank, and though his age excludes him from access to any type of social support, we would be his representatives and we would be his suport. Some of his elders were able to nod and look him in the eye as one neighbor said, “We want to help you Stank, but you have to lean into this and stay away from that stuff.”

But, overall, it was a huge act of imagination- to collectively risk being for a neighbor who was being mistreated by the authorities. To join in Jesus’ Isaiah-inspired vocation “to proclaim freedom to the captive, and release to the prisoners.”

Because of the readings of Wendell Berry that I have been doing I was reminded of the importaince of such intentionallity. Many in our neighborhood might not have know about this. You might not have know about this. And instead of learning about the unfair systems we would receive them blindly. The resurrection of the crucified lamb reversed this. It placed the authorities in check. This kind of neighborliness requires the risk and hope and forgiveness and imagination of communities.  These kind of practices keep your head from opening into a future-less passive window.

Love the quick profit, the annual raise, vacation with pay. Want more of everything ready-made. Be afraid to know your neighbors and to die. And you will have a window in your head. Not even your future will be a mystery any more. Your mind will be punched in a card and shut away in a little drawer. When they want you to buy something they will call you. When they want you to die for profit they will let you know…

So, friends, every day do something that won’t compute. Love the Lord. Love the world. Work for nothing. Take all that you have and be poor. Love someone who does not deserve it. Denounce the government and embrace the flag. Hope to live in that free republic for which it stands. Give your approval to all you cannot understand. Praise ignorance, for what man has not encountered he has not destroyed…

As soon as the generals and the politicos can predict the motions of your mind, lose it. Leave it as a sign to mark the false trail, the way you didn’t go. Be like the fox who makes more tracks than necessary, some in the wrong direction. Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry, Manifesto: Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Everyday Liturgy interview about city, emergence, and Wendel Berry

I was interviewed by Thomas Turner of Everyday Liturgy, an quarterly journal, about the impact of Wendell Berry on my work as a pastor, community organizer, and artist. I can't believe he used as much of the interview as he did. I'm by no means a literurature critic or expert on Berry. Thanks Thomas for the chance to share my story!

The interview is entitled: The Art of Being in Atlanta

This issue includes other book reviews, several more articles about Berry and great reflection for folks looking to see the beautiful and divine in the everyday. And the previous isue includes interviews with Brian McLaren and a beautiful artful piece by Paul Soupiset.

Aperture and Wendell Berry's "Sonata at Payne Hollow"

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/99/286251424_f86a9a3a36.jpg?v=0 In Wendell Berry’s "Sonata at Payne Hollow," Harlan and Anna are deceased lovers speaking to eachother in the present as ghosts. Anna comments to Harlan about the river that he’s “never seen enough of,” he keeps gazing upon it even after generations have come and gone. Harlan replies:

It never does anything twice. It needs forever to be in all its times and aspects and acts. To know it in time is only to begin to know it. To paint it, you must show it as less than it is. That is why

as a painter I never was at rest. Now I look and do not paint. This is the heaven of a painter––only to look, to see

without limit. It’s as if a poet finally were free to say only the simplest things.

Wendell Berry: from Given Poems, "Sonata at Payne Hollow" (pg 43)

http://johnwmacdonald.com/8005l_night_lights.jpg

Writing “perfectly clear” theology, as with all other arts, is like stopping the river of God’s work. Comprehensiveness and clarity are always in tension. Theology likes to be comprehensive. otherwise theology requires a slow shutter speed letting in light from all sort of angles. Theologians must choose between the benefits of darker swirling light “night shots,”like the one above ove the Ottowa River Parkway by John C. McDonald or the benefits of those surreal smoky looking shots of rivers in motion like the shot above of the Rupert River By Ian Diamond. Theology is to be done along the way, utilizing the material on the ground, fraught with its own weakness, leaving the imperfections that make each experience unique, it is to be a transitory prayer- a song of assent. Consider the evangelist John’s long, loose, time-lapsed takes:

What has come into being in [the Word] was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

To choose a pretend “captured” portrayal of God, as a snap shot, with 400 speed film and quick shutter speed, and small aperture is to avoid the exposure to the scorching-brilliant glory of God. ‘To be like the children of Israel sending someone else up to Sinai. To cover our eyes, to resist light is to attempt mastery of it, to contain it, to domesticate it. To choose a pretend “still life” portrayal of God’s creativity is to make life what it is not. Such a choice explains away life’s rhythm: death and resurrection caught up in the baptism of the Holy Spirit, awaiting the revelation of the Children of God. To theologize is, as Wendell Berry describes painting, to “show it as less than it is.” In this case we can learn that both the personal nature of God and the created nature of God’s work is like the Word of God, it is dynamic or “living and active,” as the writer of Hebrews has sketched.

be(come)ing

I had a conversation today with a friend who helps me lead at our church.  She is facing the growing pains of our congregatoin with some sadness, because the old future and its people are gone.  I'm facing the same pains, many of my former dreams are put in jeopordy to step into this next dream, my old futures are also slipping away.  I'm not sure how much of this is the building of new communities/families and how much is the loss of individualism... or both.  It reminded me of a poem I wrote last Christmas...

wicks
    -Church of St. Andrew, Christmas, 2006

    1.
Until pews are dandelions
–sprig leggy levers–
catapulting young minds into kingdomcome;
sweeping elderminds like dreamseeds of evervision.

Until songs take wing
stretching strong like the arrows of migrating Juncos
lending lift, everloft, and standard.
Tail feathers slicing
tomorrow unto tomorrow.

Until prayers shovelset us into the red Georgia clay
sinking our toes like the magnolia’s roots
breaking open bone-earth’s chapped tongue
making our hope particular and rooty
tangling us here, now, to daily bread

    2.
Until our aviary,
a loose canopy tabernacling for us,
meets the winds of intrastators
and price-per-acre
and towers catch-and-releasing invisible information;
until the long carving frenchdrains spoon away at its stature
(walk humbly with your God)
until the pieces of our umbrella
–the very stones and mortar of this sanctuary–
must join their sister elements
that groan and clap to the song that sang  us all into

existence.

    3.
Until then,
inhale;
receive Spirit here.
Spirit who practices this all like Moshe’s bush on Horeb
who sings that song to which our ears belong. 
Take the cup,
raise her,
exhale the gratitude of
carbon dioxide and moisturedrip for the forest,
lick your lips and dig your teeth in
to heaven’s sweet ‘what-is-it.’

    4.
Today is a Tuesday,
December’s light is late as usual.
Slipping past the commute
into this morning’s eye,
I sit in my study,
a place of words, walls, and a solid oak desk that all precede me
and I watch this candle devour the cold room
and flicker
hotter than any coal placed on my lips.
And I remember,

we are already lit. Burning
but not consumed.
Set to flight.
Racing but not exhausted.
And this building already sings
and breathes
and joins creation.
And the dead are raised in Christ,
worship already working,

and the old and the future are part of today’s
firelight.

Ordaining Mary

I saw this entry today from a journal of mine, dated July 24, a day after my ordination.  Now, that word "ordination" brings a great deal of baggage with it, I know.  So, let me drop this quote for you first:

Nothing ontological changed.  I still perspire and regret and fear and hate to shave.  I’ve been reverend according to the traditional language of the church reforming for almost 20 hours now and I think the same thoughts and like the same things.  But yesterday during my ordination service some things new were planted and some old soil was given rest.

I’m sitting in a warehouse loft with large pieces of fine art and pop found art on the walls.  My friend Fred has spent several years on a painting he entitles the Call of St. Mathew,  it sits on the floor here in the lofts where I've managed a coffee shop.  Soon it will be brought back to him, I'm still not buying art like I hope to be one day.  Soon, the other art work will be picked up my the friends who donated it for the extended Eucharist that we celebrated here, turn tables, wine, cigars, bread left over from the worship gathering... all picked up, nothing really changed about this warehouse or the building we met in for prayer and charges.

I'm sitting here reflecting on the fact that we never really transform either. We keep being us.  After marriage.  After childbirth.  After divorse. After baptism.  After ordination.  But the names, and definitions and the dictionary change as we go.  New creation doesn't leave behind only an ex-creation.  What is born again does die like a seed, but it is not oblitherated like an atom split leaving only afterlife.... 

I was blessed yesterday, by old and new friends, playful mentors, and deep galvanic tradition. But that blessing is all around us.   In the beauty of the party, in the green of the summer fescue, in the pavers of the sidewalk and the lead paint of the old warehouse.  Blessing is waiting, everything is being anointed.  What is changed in the ordaining is our eyes, our ears, our imagination.

It's Advent and my imagination wanders to Mary.  And then to all the crazy theological gymnastics (artfully, no less) that were created to insure that what is pure is pure.  to insure that what is holy is holy... But whether the Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant theologians have this right or not it can't have unfolded that way to her.  To Mary blessing must have been an interruption of the mundane, a new set of eyes concerning her "state."  Advent, waiting for hope to be born, must have something to do with these new pair of eyes.  Yesterday,I read It Gives Me Hope, a poem by Cheryl linked from Johnny Baker:

it gives me hope

It gives me hope to believe that Mary did not always want to be pregnant.
Not at first. Not really.

It gives me hope to believe that Mary’s ‘yes’
was not always wholehearted.
That even though her body embraced this promise -
every cell of it -
her mind simply couldn’t.

It gives me hope to believe that maybe those first days or weeks
were coloured with despair and confusion
hopelessness and fear
too sharp and raw and private to ever be told.

It gives me hope to believe that one day
Mary woke
disconcerted
not quite knowing herself without the familiar feeling of dread

and found herself
instead
inexplicably bathed
in irrational
incomprehensible
delight.

And so, the mundane life, all that is disconcerting, the terror and regret, every cell in me is ordained, like it was in Mary.  A life spoken into and an utterance received.  Mary's apophatic practice of having ears to hear...

Hear the blessing
when its time, respect the yes in you (wholehearted and otherwise),
and consider what is ordained

The title of my journal was crops rotating, and i never finished it. 

But, I think this is the waiting.  As i think about it, now, six months later, I realize that our crops are being rotated as we name, as the dictionary changes, as we are "inexplicably bathed in irrational incomprehensable delight."