No, not by might, nor even power...

(Francis Chan on the Out of Ur blog: if you didn't read it from the sidebar link, make sure you click on the title link!)

Corrie ten Boom

Corrie ten Boom and her sister were sent to Nazi concentration camps for giving help to Jewish people during the holocaust.

Corrie stood naked with her older sister Betsie, watching a concentration camp matron beating a prisoner. "Oh, the poor woman," Corrie cried. "Yes, may God forgive her," Betsie replied. And, once again, Corrie realized that it was for the souls of the brutal Nazi guards that her sister prayed.


Practical Theology?

"The doctrine of the Trinity is ultimately a practical doctrine with radical consequences for Christian life."

Catherine LaCugna


An Open Table with No Menu

"My point is this: More important than “getting right” the practice of the Eucharist on Sunday is our willingness to dine with sinful and marginalized people on Monday. I heard someone say recently that our celebration of the Lord’s Table on Sunday is practice for the openness of our own tables on Monday. In those radical acts of hospitality, our plain, store-bought dinner tables mysteriously transubstantiate into a Jesus Table, and our meal into the Lord’s Supper."

(Click on the title link for the whole article)

There is a certain tension to the Lord's Supper.

It really is something that needs to be held in esteem. Paul is clear that it is not something to take lightly. There is a holiness that pervades it, and it is not open to tinkering. The early church was very strict in who they allowed to participate in the ritual meal, and withholding access to the Table was considered a form of significant discipline.

Yet, it is also in keeping with the nature of the church to invite sinners to participate in the very life of God. We are not to prevent the little children from playing with Jesus, nor are we to prevent the dogs from eating the leftovers from the King's Table.


Both of these impulses go back to our earliest Christian memories...

There was a unique quality about meals with Jesus, sharing bread with the Rabbi. It was a special occasion to eat with him, but even more so when he spoke those words over the broken bread and poured wine. A sense of depth and purpose was there at that final meal...

At the same time, Jesus was famous for eating with all of the wrong sorts of people. This is in a culture where eating with a person was a sign of solidarity and companionship. His accusers called him a friend of sinners, a drunk, and a glutton.

It is almost as though Jesus intended these meals as a way of inviting unholy people to come and share in holiness...


With this in mind, we try to make our weekly time of communion a recognition of both the holiness of the presence of Jesus, and an openness to all who would wish to participate. We tell people, "If you want this, it is for you. No matter who you are or what you have done, you can eat what is on this table. But, don't eat what is on the table if you don't want to. If you committed horrific sins last night, come and eat; if you are planning on committing sins tomorrow, then wait."

So perhaps a way to approach the table is to think of it as a table where all are welcome, but only Jesus gets to chose what is being served. If you want to eat what He is cooking, then come and get it!



Tell them coming in, "This probably isn't the church you are looking for, but it could be with your help. You can create whatever it is you feel is missing."


The burden of 'making the church something special' falls on the members of the church, not on the leaders.

However, church leaders often short-circuit that reality by taking the burden upon themselves; attempting to 'create an experience' for church members, instead of leading the church into a common life with God, each other, and the wider culture.

As leaders, the onus is on us to explain, to nurture, to illuminate, to guide, to equip, to empower... but the onus of 'doing church' is on the community as a whole, and on the individual christian specifically.


We must welcome new people into our communities, not with attempts at assuaging their consumer interests, but with opportunities to participate in God's Project. As leaders we should not be thinking of the tools we might use to minister to our congregation, but rather of the tools we might hand our congregations with which they can get to work.


Willard on Knowledge

Liturgy or Lifestyle

"We are going to do things differently."

This is deep in the marrow of our bones. Not just my own, but many of my dearest friends. We long to see the church become what God intends, and fiercely believe that she must change her ways...

I find, however, that this is often conceived in terms of different liturgy.

When we first moved to Buffalo, I had a conversation with a young 'postmodern' type. She was talking about doing church in a different way. She divulged her frustration with the way church fails to conform to God's desire. When I asked her what she meant; what her ideal church would be like, she began to describe her ideal worship service.


My Pastor, after seeing a video poking fun of contemporary mega-church worship services, once said:

"I really like these types of parodies but I also find that it can often times keep me from at least attempting something. Because no matter what kind of “liturgy” makes up our contemporary churches its never the lack or style of liturgy that needs to be our focus. More importantly, whatever liturgy we use (and we all have one) must be infused with power of God and His Holy Spirit in such a way that it produces men and women who are learning to trust God more and more everyday as disciples who are forever learning to live in his kingdom. "


Differences in liturgy can be important, and we should be reflective in our liturgies, but the issue of primary importance is not liturgy, but lifestyle! It is here that the church truly needs to "do things differently!"


Broken Tomato Cages pt IV

I met another Vineyard pastor at a conference a few months back. In sharing some of the excitements and disappointments of planting a new church, I became a little impassioned. I began to talk about the brokenness in the City, and the diversity, and the presence of cultures from every continent, and the desire to live communally, and plant churches all over the city, and my frustration over consumeristic visions of the church, and our hope to engage some of the ignored segments of our society. It was at this point that he made a short, but oh so sweet remark. He told me that what we were doing was 'very important work.'

I began to cry.

I have dear friends who support me. Not only support, but they 'get' me, they believe in me, and they regularly affirm me. But they are my family, they are supposed to tell me I'm the greatest! This, on the other hand, was a stranger affirming me. I have been so used to hearing the opposite of what he told me. I am so used to being force-fed models of success that have no slot for any of the values that I hold dear. I am so used to wrestling with the tension of seeing real fruit, but not being able to point to the hundreds of people who flock to our building every week, and so feeling a sense of failure.

It was amazing to have someone essentially say: I see you! I see your dream! I see what you are trying to accomplish, and it is beautiful! Don't give up, and certainly don't trade it for someone else's vision of success! What you are doing is vital, it is pioneering work. It isn't easy, you may labor long before you see the fruit you hope for, but if the work isn't done, then the fruit will not come!

I felt like someone finally understood why I don't use tomato cages...


Broken Tomato Cages pt III

I have a dear friend, (they are actually stereotypical of many) who's spiritual formation has been inhibited by the very Institution that was supposed to foster it. They are an herb someone has treated like a tomato plant. This has inhibited their ability to grow, so now they are outside of the Church. They haven't abandoned Jesus, but they have left behind much of His plans and purposes, because they are sick of tomato cages, and the gardeners won't stop using them!

Admittedly, this person has chosen to walk away from things they know to be crucial; they are partly culpable in their own circumstances. However, we too, share in the culpability...

When the structures of the Institutuional Church are broken, we might actually begin to reimagine the true purposes of Church...

And so we smash the cages! Then we aren't tempted to use them! Throw off the old structures, experiment, try new ways, dream new dreams.


But at the same time, trying to learn how to garden without tomato cages is frustrating when everyone coming to you for food only wants tomatoes! I give them carrots, lettuce, basil, peppers, potatoes, but they aren't interested, and keep talking about how my garden doesn't look like what they were expecting.

"Where are those metal structures? Isn't a real garden supposed to have those?"

The Intended Result

"Your system is perfectly designed to produce the results you are getting."

This is a popular axiom within the business world.


It is a challenge to the way we do church. It is an even bigger challenge to the way we live our lives!

Am I satisfied with what I have? What I currently experience is a direct result of the style of life I have chosen for myself.


The Wyoming Sky

(I just recently came across this, from a college assignment at the University of Wyoming)

I went out and sat on the large pile of rock facing towards the setting sun. Sunsets are beautiful here (we don’t have them like this back home) and this one is no exception. The colors give way to a sense of majesty and distance and magnitude. Although I think I feel a sense of insignificance more from the colors and the beauty than from the realization of the immense size of creation.
Walking around in nature, especially when alone, always brings me to thoughts of God and His divine power. I am always awe-struck by, not only the power evident in creation, but also the beauty of it. I think I know where the term “God’s country” originated. I am constantly reminded of Romans 1:20 “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.”
I move from awe of nature to awe of my own creation, for I am “fearfully and wonderfully made.” My Creator has imbued within me remarkable qualities and abilities. I have been granted a body, which is both a phenomenal work of art and mechanics. I find it completely untenable the proposition that I am merely the culmination of mutations and random radiation. “For You have formed my inward parts; You have covered me in my mother’s womb.”
I begin to think of the foolishness of humanity as we attempt to explain away He who “laid the foundations of the earth” who said “let there be light” and there was! I am reminded of Job 38. Who are we to darken counsel by words without knowledge? Do we dare?
The power within creation answers this question for me (even as it brought it up). The Lord, my Lord, who controls all of creation, is awesome and incomprehensible to me. I will never understand His ways (certainly not this side of Heaven leastwise) but I am filled with wonder at what He has made for me to enjoy.


Slowly, slowly, grows the Olive Tree

(Click the title link for an interesting article)

My Pastor encouraged me once that planting a church is like planting an olive tree. It is often 50-70 years before that tree is ready to be harvested, but once mature, it may produce harvests for thousands of years.

Planting a church has been a crazy thing. It has not been what we thought it would be. We have encountered setbacks, frustrations, and incredibly slow going.

...but it is glorious!

There is a church where once there was not! A group of faithful, faithful people love each other, and love the city, with the heart of Jesus. I am so blessed to be a part of this community.


I am still in LOVE with Steve!!!!

Well to start this, in case anyone was wondering this is Tamy!!! hahaha

So tonight my husband was going to take my kiddos to a graduation ceremony without me as I am working. So after all the face and hand scurbbing, redressing, finding all the shoes and socks and coats 3 kids are at the door ready to go....My youngest decides to stand on his dad's guitar case (which he knows he is not supposed to) so Dad takes his foot and bops him on the butt. Which happened to catch Aidan off balance and landed him on his face, and he started crying. So I then take the opportunity to scold my husband in front of the kids and a friend. After the kids and the friend go to the car and Steve says " you are riding me, that was accident." I am still a little miffed and so I tell him my side then end up saying I am sorry, and go and apologize to the friend for scolding Steve in front of him, then they all drive off......

So I start to reflect and realize that I can really point out all of his wrongs and I can't remember him doing that to me. He is a easy-going man who really has patience with a wife that can be..Yes a NAG!!! I hate to say it but there are times when I really can just NAG him, and I am confessing it cause I need to stop it.

So I love Steve because :

He is patient and kind

He genuinely loves people with a nonjudgemental and complete kind of love

He is truly follows Jesus, I live closer to him than anyone and I still respect his character and feel blessed to call him husband

He plays with his kids, and everyone elses too!

He looks at me like I am 20 years old and just recently stole his heart...but it has been 11 years, 3 kids, a cross country move (with children), a church plant, and definately some great and some hard times...

He is a man with little to prove and great desire to learn

I have seen him put other men at ease no matter where they are from or what they are doing....he is relatable and genuine

So Steve I love ya and I'll be trying not to nag ya!!! thanks for all your patience....



We might think that God wanted simply obedience to a set of rules: whereas He really wants people of a particular sort.


What to do?

A prostitute came to me in wretched straits, homeless, sick, unable to buy food for her two-year-old daughter. Through her sobs and tears, she told me she had been renting out her daughter–two years old!–to men interested in kinky sex. She made more renting out her daughter for an hour than she could earn on her own in a night. She had to do it, she said, to support her own drug habbit. I could hardly bear hearing her sordid story. For one thing, it made me legally liable–I’m required to report cases of child abuse. I had no idea what to say to this woman.
At last I asked if she had ever thought of going to a church for help. I will never forget the look of pure, naive shock that crossed her face. “Church!” she cried. “Why would I ever go there? I was already feeling terrible about myself. They’d just make me feel worse.”

Philip Yancey


Sense and Sensibility

I just watched this with my wife...

My children and I had purchased it (along with Ever After and some smelly candles) for Mother's Day.

After we finished the movie, I turned to my wife and facetiously said, "we can never let our daughter watch this until well after she is married!"

As we were getting ready for bed we talked about our daughter and her romantic sensibilities. She is incurable. She has already had her first brush with heartbreak.


In the movie is a character, John Willoughby, who romances one of the leading characters named Marianne. He is romantic, dashing, and handsome. His passion and wit are exactly what she is hoping for, and her passion burns bright alongside his. It is then revealed that he has an illegitimate child from another woman, and has set aside his feelings for Marianne for the money he will receive if he marries another woman.

Marriane is crushed.

But she then discovers another, a man who has been there all along, who loves her deeply and constantly. The heartbreak of her first romance allows her to reflect on her own foolishness in judgment, and to see more clearly those attributes in a man that are truly worthy of love and admiration.


After talking through the movie with my wife, I realized that this is the perfect movie to show my daughter, (perhaps in another few years!) to open the door to deeper reflection.

I pray that my daughter can learn enough from watching the fictional Willoughby action, such that she will never fall into the hands of a flesh and blood Willoughby...


Satan Pacifying the Church

A few years back I heard a pastor comment “The Church is sleeping, and when she stirs from her slumber, Satan pulls the covers back over her, tucks her in, and eases her back to sleep.”

The image stuck with me...

Another pastor at that same event proclaimed 'the church (God's people pursuing God's purposes) is the hope of the world!' But he went on to show how the average Christian is unaware of the real meaning of life, the real source of joy and purpose. We confuse things; we think God wants to be a part of our lives. We think God wants to be a part of our family, bless our career, show us how to live a good and moral life.

God wants to invite us to be a part of His life.

The Church has become a place to receive goods and services, a place to learn how to live a blessed life, a place to leave when it ceases to meet our desires. The Church has been pacified by the American Dream. We are asleep on with our head on a pillow called 'comfort,' tucked into a blanket called 'success,' dreaming fantastic consumer dreams.

The Healthy Church Planter

"10. Am I healthy?

Physically, emotionally, financially, spiritually, relationally, maritally
Most church planters get fatter, fussier, angrier, lonelier, poorer and at odds more with their mate and their Lord during the first two years of a church plant. Don't think that having a church baby will solve your deficiencies any more than a baby will solve the problems of a troubled marriage."

From the Acts 29 Network

(Click on the title link)


The Future of the Church

(Click the title link)

"In our organic church movement, we see our entire leadership farm system as starting with lost and broken people, not already saved and committed folks. We believe that many of our greatest heroes of the future woke up this morning with a hangover in the wrong person’s bed. That broken life, transformed by the power of the gospel, actually will become the energy of a movement when released to affect others. To try and coral that energy and consume it with Bible study lessons by older Christians who are far removed from a changed life is to lose all the inertia of a movement. We need mentors who will release and empower rather than hold people back and create dependency."

5 churches - One Church

175 Patomic 1st Draft from Wes Dean on Vimeo.


A. W. Tozer

"One of the greatest hindrances to internal peace which the Christian encounters is the common habit of dividing our lives into two areas-the sacred and the secular."

A. W. Tozer

Urban Farming

(Check the title link)


Church Revisited

I had yet another wonderful opportunity to post some reflections on Jason Clark's blog, Deep Church. Click on the title link to read them. I also added the links below to previous (hopefully relevant) thoughts here at damascus.

New Metaphors

Apples pt I

Apples pt II

Dandelions pt I

Dandelions pt II

Horse Manure pt I

Horse Manure pt II


A Broken System

"But I do grieve for the people within the church who are suffering—especially the pastors and their families. They are suffering because much of North America and Europe has bought into a version of Christianity that does not include life in the kingdom of God as a disciple of Jesus Christ. They are trying to work a system that doesn't work. Without transformation within the church, pastors are the ones who get beat up. That is why there is a constant flood of them out of the pastorate. But they are not the only ones. New people are entering the church, but a lot are also leaving. Disappointed Christians fill the landscape because we've not taken discipleship seriously."

Dallas Willard

(Click on the title link)


The Nature of Evil

"…badness consists in pursuing [good things] by the wrong method, or in the wrong way, or too much. …wickedness, when you examine it, turns out to be the pursuit of some good in the wrong way."

C. S. Lewis