The Best Don’t Know They Are

I am patriotic. I am a veteran and I know my experience as such was eclipsed by the experience of so many others who served.  That is part of the fun being a barber, being able to serve those who have served and every now and then getting a glimpse into their experience through their own perspectives.

When I have time I prefer to cut older gentlemen’s the old way, shears, comb and razor.  No clippers, even though the electric clipper was invented by Leo Wahl in 1919.  I am not sure why, but it seems to connect me to a time before I was and I like the way that feels.

I was snip-snipping away at one of those pates of billowy white hair.  Little bits of white hair slowly drifted down to finally rest on the cape covered shoulders, shoulders seemingly bowed underneath the weight of history.  I recognize the history as the foundation of my own, but not mine.  They bare it alone but in the company of others who walked their way all at once.

Noticing some of my wall paraphernalia, most likely my dress blue jumper hung alongside my white dixie cup cover, he asked simply, “You serve?”  I told him I had and asked if he had.  “Yep” was all he said.  I was interested. I asked what he did and He told me he was a nose gunner on the B-17 during WWII.

Heroes are heroes and I honor them all, but most really don’t think that they are.  I had, right here, in my chair and under my care, a piece of living history.  I wanted to know more, but the baggage these guys and gals carry around is sometimes best left alone.  I simply said, “That must have been scary.”  He said, “No, not really.”  I couldn’t imagine being in the front of all the action looking out at a deadly enemy and it not being scary and I told him so.  He said, “Naw.  We got shot down 4 times.” Then it went silent.  Not wanting to stir things up but wanting to hear more, I said”Well being shot down had to be a little bit scary/” I persisted.  He said, “No, not really.  Well, there was that time we were shot down behind the lines.  Seemed like everyone in the world wanted to kill us, but it all worked out.”  More silence.  I finished the cut and the nape shave.  I used my very best bay rum after shave and dusted his neck as though I were handling a priceless and fragile treasure, and thanked him.

Only in the barber shop…

Relative Things

I was cutting hair in one of our shops.  It was a smallish place with three chairs, seven waiting chairs, and a door that opened on to the main street in town.  The place was steeped in three quarters of a century of barbering tradition.  You could feel it when you came in.

On this particular day, for no particular reason, I was giving a cut and a shave to an older gent. By older I mean visibly older than myself. He was enjoying the experience as was I when another older gent walked in, followed within a minute by another.  I greeted both immediately and made the assessment that gent number two was not a talker.  Gent number three was, and he shot back cheer when he was greeted.

Finding a waiting seat he said, “it must be old geezer day at the barber shop!” I smiled, gent one just lay there letting the hot towel do its work. Gent two said, “Humph”. Gent 3 didn’t seem to be satisfied with the non-verbal communication going on.  He locked his gaze on Gent 2 intently and said, “I’m 83 ya know”. Gent 2 repeated his “humph” followed by, “Your just a kid. I’m 87.”  Silence.

I guess everything is a matter of perspective.


The Pen

The pen.  It is an elegant instrument, though not oft used of late.  It is also a euphemism. I use it instead of saying writing.  Writing is a discipline. Pens are just, you know, things.    It works well.  For instance, “My pen is broken” serves to express that my words simply are not working, or they are failing to convey the meaning and color of what I am trying to say.

As of late I seem to have lost my pen.  It has been missing for a couple of years.  I haven’t even looked for it for a while.  Lately I have had a longing to find my pen.  I have looked for it.  I have found a pen.  It looks like mine.  I hope it is mine.  Only time and words will tell if it is indeed my pen.

So once again I am venturing into relearning how to use my pen.  Every time I am poised to use it there is a new distraction.  A reason why I should be doing something besides wielding my old trusty instrument and putting images to paper.  Sigh. That is the problem with my pen.  It is important, like many things are, but it isn’t always as urgent as most things become.

My goals in this season with this particular pen is to learn to write well with fewer words.  To capture a moments magic and turn these words into images that transport you from here to there in a moment.  Perhaps to a yonder sea?  Another euphemism that I shall unpack another time.

The Missional


The Missional started out as simply a blog and a Facebook page. I found myself on a particular path and was consistently resonating with some common themes, all centered around the idea of being a sent person alongside other sent people being sent to the people who are all around us. I needed a place to gather my references, notes, and process my thoughts.  I decided to share it with others and it turned into a social media page.

The Missional is now what we call the small group of believers, and those curious enough to hang around, that gather together a couple of times each month in our barbershop in Bellingham Washington.

The reason people gather together in a group is clear. We gather with people whom we share a commonality with. Some of our areas of commonality are

  1.  We are all somewhere in a journey towards Christ
  2. We are interested at some level in being Christ’s Apprentices
  3. We like each other and enjoy doing life together.

We gather together to be encouraged, equipped, and empowered in cooperating with the Missio Dei, or God Mission, through all aspects of our lives, our work, our homes and our relationships

We gather on the first and third Sunday of the month at four in the afternoon for a community potluck style dinner. Near the end of dinner we have our dinner time chat, which consists of a prepared or spontaneously shared presentation pertaining to Missional living and then a lingering discussion afterward.

I hope that this gathering becomes a catalyst of encouragement that energizes those who gather to become fully and faithfully present with the people in their neighborhood and workplaces as a missionary of Christ. I hope that our gathering provides knowledge, resource and practice at engaging others for Christ through living them in practical ways. I also hope that it becomes a place to go when living on mission leaves wounds and deep scars as living on mission will often do. I want it to be a hospital community that knows how and is willing to respond in a moment’s notice to cleanse, bind up, and sooth battle weary souls.

How to turn your home into a base for missions

If you want, please get your smartphones out and open your text app. My cell number is ……., that way you can text the moment you have a question or a comment, so you don’t forget it, and I can decide whether to address it on the spot or wait and use your text as a reminder for the discussion in a few minutes.

Looking at the community of church in the west I think that everyone on the Outside thinks that everyone one on the inside measures Christianity by how often we meet in that little box with the cross on top and our list of things that we don’t do. If you were to ask what outsiders think the insiders considered the most important thing to God it would likely be something to do with something people do with their clothes off.

The bible tells me that God came, He moved into the neighborhood, to find and save lost people. Over and over again He invited those found ones who LOVE him to participate in that process.
I even think that what we do, or often what we fail to do, is far more important than ore list of ourwhat we don’t do.

Is there any doubt that our neighborhood, our workplaces, and our communities need more than anything a community of Christ apprentices who are willing to live on mission?

If we are to be on mission, Christ’s mission, in our communities it is always nice to have a base of operations. The logical place for that is in our own homes. We see that described in the second chapter of acts.

It is surprising how many of us don’t really know the people who live the closest. John the apostle said that the living Word, Jesus, became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood. That’s our neighborhood. To be apprentices in The Way of Jesus we need to do what He did. It all starts with baby steps.

What do we need to do to be on mission and what do we need to do for our homes to become a missions base?

Let’s watch the video.

Some of these are from the video clip, others are not.

  • An understanding of what the mission is; The first Great Commission from God to Adam and Eve. To be a sent people like Abraham who was sent to be a blessing. To Be like Jesus who moved into the neighborhood and looks for lost things (people)
  • A commitment to mission; At some point recognizing our place inside the mission of Christ.  It is being overused a bit, but the Missio Dei,
    Missio Dei is a Latin theological term that can be translated as “Mission of God”, it refers to the work of the church as being part of God’s work. So the church’s (both individuals and corporate) mission is a subset of a larger whole mission that is it is part of God’s mission.
  • The presence of Jesus;  Some ideas
    • Identifying and participating in the home as a sacred space
    • Praying over the rooms, the corners and the entries
    • Christian or God focused media
  • Hospitality
    • Lifestyle of hospitality
    • Preparations for hospitality (how clean do you need to be? Maintaining a level that you are comfortable with)
    • Levels of access:Starting points (you gotta start somewhere) Based on your/their comfort level.
      • Yard and garage hospitality
      • Front porch hosipitality
      • Kitchen and living room hospitality
      • Guest room hospitaltiy
  • Allies
    • Participants that are committed to The Mission
    • Participants that are committed to you
  • External pastoral resources (network)  When doing life with others things sometimes come up, uncomfortable things, sometimes even hurtful things.  It happens. When it does you will need the perspective of someone who is not directly involved in your community and it needs to be someone who you can access safely, easily, and quickly.
    • Your Church: not only do I think that we need to be connected to a larger gathering by attending church, I am completely convinced that our church or larger gathering needs us to remind their hearts toward mission as well.
    • This Gathering: Our family is committed to encouraging, supporting and resourcing you as you pursue mission both with us and in your own homes.  If you don’t have me on speed dial, please do so


  • What Am I Thinking Here?


    I had an idea to follow up, What Am I Doing Here with something of equal importance, what am I thinking here.  Anyone interested?

    So, here is just the warning.  I am a verbal processor.  I talk in order to figure things out.  It also works when I write too.  As the words fall out onto the keyboard, sometimes in a random fashion, I get insight into what is going on inside of me, get to look at what is there for the very first time in some kind of ordered fashion, then I either get to make sense of it all or decide there really is no sense to it all.  Anyway, the words to follow are not words that I have thought out before.  I am going to be just as surprised as both of my readers will be if they both read this blog.

    I think a lot about travel.  I’ve been around.  Most of it I would like to go around again, only this time I really have a couple of real cool kids and a cute looking  mommy that I want to take around with me.  Some of the places I want to travel to;

    • Hawaii, I would love the warm and the view, but my son Cavan would really get it. In fact he would likely refuse to board the plane back, he would love it so.  I remember a couple years back, after my solo trip to the islands, I had taken Cavan to the park to find ammo for our sling shots and shoot them into the water.  I was bent over picking up some rocks and I looked up and saw my son waist deep in the water.  Mind you, this is Washington State where the summer time water temp is four degrees warmer than the winter time at a whopping 57 degrees.  It was not summer.  I hollered, “Get out of the water, you’ll freeze to death!” to which he replied with equal enthusiasm, “It’s OK Daddy, I have my raincoat on!” Yep, my boy would love the bathtub warm waters of Hawaii and I love his smile.  Besides, his mommy doesn’t like getting too hot and she would wear less clothing, which is always OK with me too.  The youngest is just the youngest.  He likes what we like, unless it is spinach, and in that case it’s a bust.
    • Colorado.  Cavan said that he wanted to see where I went to school.  I liked that. It sort of made me feel important, so I want to take him there.  The last time we went my wife was 5 months pregnant with him.  I caught the swine flu and gave it to her.  We spent 6 days in the most expensive hotel in Durango, the one we could only afford for a single night, staring at the ceiling. At first we were afraid we were going to die, then we began to be afraid that we wouldn’t.  Angie and I want to go back to prove that Colorado can’t kill us after all.  Early on in our marriage I had thoughts of moving back to Colorado, but living on the coast I have become quite accustomed to having some actual oxygen content in the air that I am breathing.
    • Florida.  Again, its warm.  I could use some warm.  My joints hurt and I get the blues in cold or dark.  Angie worries that an alligator will eat our kids.  Whenever I see something on TV or online that shows something pretty in Florida I show her, tag her, or share it on her timeline. Sometimes I don’t watch it first. That usually doesn’t go so well.  In those short clips there is the inevitable alligator.  I think locals make sure they make it into film to keep people from migrating there.  Me, I always thought that there was some sort of magical feel to the air in Florida. Sure it is unreasonably hot and humid for three to four months out of the year, but here in the Northwest it is unreasonably cold and dark for 7 months out of the year.  Of course Angie says it is temperate and nice in Hawaii for 11 months out of the year.  Can’t argue with logic like that.
    • New Mexico.  Not sure quite why.  I have traveled through New Mexico a lot, never lingering. OK, that’s not completely true. I have spent a few weeks in Farmington, but really that is more like Colorado than a lot of Colorado is like Colorado, and not so much like New Mexico.  I started wanting to go to New Mexico as I was reading on one of its cities, Las Vegas.  Yes, Virginia, there is a Las Vegas ,New Mexico.  Someone in the barber shop once mentioned buying an old brick building in downtown Las Vegas.  He said that the whole town was practically on the historic register for old buildings.  I checked it out, and it looked like.  I also thought about Carlsbad Caverns and the Earth Ships of Taos.  Those would be nice to see too. Did I mention that it is only cold in most of New Mexico for 3 months of the year?  Did I mention that I could do with some warm? OK, next place
    • The Olympic Peninsula. Only in the summer because it is like too dark and too cold in Washington for all but three months out of the year.  Did I say that already?
    • OK, not place else really. I mean, I would love to see the Islands of the Bahamas and the Caribbean, but mostly for the same reason that I would love to go to Hawaii and I can actually work and make a living in Hawaii, not so much the Caribbean.

    So, I think a lot about haircuts.  I know that is what I do for a living, but there is something that intrigues me about doing it.

    • I watch haircut videos.I didn’t start this gig until I was almost 50. All these young cats on the internet are doing some amazing haircuts, but not too many of the local cutters seem to be getting it. Maybe they don’t know how to use Youtube. Anyway, I really want to be the rock star barber and since the bar is so low in Northwest Washington I like to keep up with the skills.  4 years ago no one was doing the kind of haircuts I do and I made a name and reputation among the young guys at the college for the amazing cuts I did.  Two years ago I started seeing the kind of cuts I do on other guys, but they weren’t really done that good.  This year I am seeing some great cuts I didn’t do, so I have to keep researching and learning and trying and doing in order to keep my rock star status.
    • I watch haircuts in real life.  I have a few barbers that work for me. I like to watch what they are doing so I can hopefully find something I can help them improve on, or tease them about, or both.  Mostly I like watching them work because they are a happy lot.  It is kind of contagious.
    • I criticize virtually everyone’s haircut no matter who its on or who did it. My wife won’t let me sit in the back row at church because I look and sometimes remark, “I could do that” or “I could fix that” or “who the hell did that?”  I sometimes cut the pastors hair.  If I find something that I could have done better I loose the whole point of going to church, unless the point is hair. Then I get it.

    I think a lot about my family.  I’ve messed up my life considerable and I’ve done so a number of times. The people closest to me have endured the worst of the fallout from that.  My family is amazing, my children, both the young ones at home and the grown ones with their own homes are my life.  Mmy wife is anything good I can think of all rolled up into one amazing girl, and she is awfully cute too.  I want to be the best I can be for them.  I struggle with how to balance work, recovery from work, with actual time away from work and repair to devote completely to the art of just being and just being family.  It takes a certain amount of work in order to achieve the ability to not be involved in work or work repair and I am never sure if I have met the water mark or not.  I also think about my age in relation to their age and how would they do if I were to not be here (death). Of course I don’t want to loose being fully present while still here physically in a fury of preparation for a departure that is unpredictable.  Funny, when I was younger I knew men my age who thought about these things. I used to think they were kind of strange. Now I think I am kind of strange for not thinking about these things when I was younger.

    I think about humanity.  My desire to do good for those around me, to somehow make a way for someone who is struggling to find a way often times overpowers any other plans I may have.  I like that it makes me generous. I don’t like that I feel so much of their sorrow and pain personally, especially babies and children.  My wife edits things for me so that I don’t see news of children or babies being hurt or betrayed. I loose sleep. She protects me whenever she can. There are so many people out there that are so really like lost sheep. Some of them are lost but caught up in a false bravado. Others are fearful but not really sure what they are afraid of.  Some are actually enjoying being lost.  I know someone who is looking for them.  I like to point the way.  Used to try to carry them. Ever try to carry a sheep?  It usually does not end that well.   I really want people to be kind.  It doesn’t cost anything at all to be kind, but so few people are willing to do it as a lifestyle.  OK, so most people aren’t nonstop mean, but the damage is far reaching that can be achieved in a few moments of malice.  I try to help pick up the pieces and tie back up the wounds left in the aftermath.  I think and am thinking about those I know who are broken, bleeding and sore in their spirits.  I think and am thinking about what I can do to bring comfort, or to point in the right direction.

    I think about the church, small  c.  I wonder why they are often either too quick or to reluctant to embrace change.  Of course my real issue with the church is that they don’t listen and do everything I suggest. I pretty bright about such things. Intuitive too.   (if you feel you need to send me a note and correct this thinking, don’t bother. I already get it and I wrote that in a sarcastic tone) I guess I struggle because what the small c church does works for who it works for, but there is a lost and dying world out here that it doesn’t work for.  I wish they would resource The Church, big C, that is outside the little box with the cross on top so that they would be equipped to reach those that the little c doesn’t work for.

    I think about Christ. I think about Him a lot.  Often times I think about Him in the context of the other things I think about.  I don’t always think about Him in the context of small c church because I don’t think that He was or would be much interested in our small c world.  I think about who I am, who I was, what I do and what I’ve done.  Then I think about Christ.  I have made a wreckage out of my life and a few others along this way.  I am pretty well deserving of being discarded like so much human refuse. I would actually be ok with that and it would make perfect sense. Then I think about Christ.  I love God, I really do and have for some time now, but I screw up.  Put me in the corner and let me love until the end.  I made a big pile of ashes of my life, my testimony, my resume and was pretty well resigned to leave it at that. Then I think about Christ. Christ seems to have other plans.  He kind of started rebuilding me, making me better.  I didn’t ask Him to.  I was OK just being allowed to love and accept Him. Before I knew it He gave me a better hope, a better present, and presents a better future than I ever knew possible.  He started making a way for me to be of value again.  I really do get it when He does that for other people. I don’t so much get why He would do that for me.  I knew the truth and settled for a lie anyway. How does that qualify anyone for anything?  It doesn’t and He doesn’t seem to care.  He uses my story.  I gave Him permission.  He uses it as a warning. He also uses it as a lifeline of hope. He restores, better than factory fresh.  I have become more of the man I always wanted to be after being reduced to an unusable junk heap of a man.  Now I like walking around inside of my skin (though I wish it walked around more in Hawaii) and I am at peace with all the things I think.

    I think I pray a lot. It doesn’t sound like a prayer, but it is a prayer just the same. I remember all the things that I like, all the people that I love, all the needs that I see, and in that same moment I remember the one who cares even more deeply about these things than I ever could, and then I say, “You got this?”  And He usually says, “I got this!” Once in a while I say, “Amen” just to make it sound official inside of my head.

    I didn’t know where any of this would end up, but I think I will end it up right here.  Hope you enjoyed your tour of today’s version of what I have been thinking.

    What am I doing here?

    There is always this little discontent that gnaws away in some deep recess of my psyche. I’m never quite sure why I always feel like I am somehow missing a deeper point, I just do.

    I try to live in the moment. I do that mostly because I really don’t do well with planning. With plans come expectations and expectations seldom make reality. Besides, my expectations are almost always bigger inside than what I say. It’s a lie, a little lie, but my expectations are ridiculously grand. So I use creative expression while my heart is making grand speculation.

    So what am I doing here. You choose which context for here you prefer. There is some stuff going on now. After some negotiation with what I believe is the Holy Spirit, I have accepted the role and challenge of being a pastor in the new parish. We will see if the label sticks. I am more of a Missional entrepreneur. This means I deliberately started a business in order to further Christ’s Kingdom mission. On the surface I cut hair. Sub level I am a clandestine agent surreptitiously planting seeds of longing in the imagination of my unsuspecting guest. That seems to be working out quite well.

    Of course I am a father. I have young children at home, grown one’s that have their own homes, and surrogate ones for whom I provide a father’s gift when their own is unavailable.

    I am grandpa too. Oldest grandchild is seven years older than youngest child, if that offers any kind of perspective.

    I’m a husband also. I failed at that before. I think I am doing it ok now. I love my wife more each day! It helps that she gets prettier each day. I tell her too. It’s mushy to watch and too steamy to write about here.

    Here on earth I’ve traveled most of it. I’ve walked the halls of the Vatican, visited ruins on the islands of Greece, and walked the real Via Dolorosa inside the walled city of old Jerusalem. Oh, I saw the pyramids at Giza too.

    I’ve stood on the bridge over the Corinthian Canal, traversed the Panama Canal and I even swam over the Marianas Trench.
    I’ve been to all fifty states, four provinces of Canada and three Mexican states.

    For a living I have worked on boats, repaired ships, carried a badge and gun, sold any number of things and played guitar. I’ve driven trucks, forklifts and excavators, worked with troubled youth, troubled adults and worked at overcoming my own troubles from time to time.

    I’m sure I’ve left stuff out. Point is that I’ve done stuff and lots of it. Still, though maybe all that is the reason I feel it, still the feeling of it remains. I feel like I’m missing out. Maybe missing it. That’s ok. It sort of drives me to find the adventure in the now and look for the next epic moment. I might just find it and will be satisfied, deeply satisfied, for a moment or two.

    St Patrick

    Irish_cloverI think that it is kind of fitting that today we would meet around the story of Saint Patrick.  His story and other stories like it have informed my world view and my Christian view since I first began to learn about his life, his call, and his legacy.

    It is the Jesus story that led me in to this chapter of history.  Without the Jesus story and how his early disciples chose to act on the things that He taught them, the Patrick story would have no context to draw from and his accomplishments would have likely been local and quickly forgotten

    The goal here is not a history lesson or an exercise in scholarly learning.  My goal is simply to share with you a story that captured my imagination and informed many of the values that I have today regarding the application of Christian teaching and Kingdom values in my own life.

    What I really hope is going to happen is that it will also capture your imagination and will direct a conversation later on how we can possibly increase our effectiveness at spreading the work, the news, and the love of the Kingdom of God through Jesus Christ, to the hurting and lost world around us.

    Patrick, or Patricus, was born in the early 400s in what is present day England.  His parents were Roman citizens, but that does not mean that they were necessarily Italian or Roman.  Patrick grew up in his early years as a privileged child of well to do parents. As privilege often does, Patrick’s life was afforded opportunity to spend time on more than just survival.  It would seem that Patrick, though brought up in the Christian faith, was much more inclined to mock the faith than he was to promote it.  He was scornful of clergy and openly defied the relatively tame lifestyle associated with Christianity.

    At the age of just 16, Patric’s life was dramatically changed.  Any plans that he had for his life were interrupted by what externally seemed to be a tragedy.  A warring band of Celtic pirates raided his village and took Patrick captive.  They kidnapped him and forced him onto a boat.  He was taken across the sea to Ireland and there, in this foreign and savage place he was sold as a slave.  Where he had once lived a life of choice and freedom, his life was now subject to someone else’s choice and his freedoms now only those that his earthly master, a tribal leader named Miliuk, would

    It’s easy for us, knowing that there is likely to be happy ending to this story to loose the hugeness, the sheer magnitude of this event in Patrick’s life.This wasn’t just a bump in the road or a blip on the radar. This was life altering, dream killing tragedy of the first order. .

    As a slave Patrick was given a task of herding cattle and sheep in the high country.  It was a dark time for Patrick. His life and lifestyle as well as just some plain bad luck had collided at once, resulting in the destruction of any plans he had once had for himself. His lifes resume was all burned up with nothing but a pile of ashes remaining. With little left to look forward to, his dreams laid waste, and any illusions of tracking his own trajectory through life shattered, he found that quiet place that so many of us avoid.  Without his family, his boisterous friends, or the constant chatter of civilization all around, Patrick’s world suddenly fell silent. It was in the middle of the quiet, boring mundane of what had become the everyday life of a servant slave, Patrick found that place that most of us try desperately to avoid. It was in that quiet place, with only the sounds of nature and cattle around him, Patrick began to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit.

    Just like with most of us, the voice probably didn’t start out sounding all that Holy or all that spiritual.  It might have sounded at first like his own voice echoing around inside the empty spaces of his own noggin. It might have been just small memories of little things he had heard said about Jesus.  It might have been the story he had often heard of the death, burial and resurrection of the one they called Messiah.  In that type of quiet place, accented by stillness of the nighttime air, a million thoughts may have raced through his mind in a moment.  Those thoughts had one common theme, the truth of Jesus and his redemptive love. The truth that this same Jesus he had once heard of loved even a broken slave, bound to the cattle in the Celtic countryside.

    It was in this wilderness setting that Patrick himself said that he finally converted, surrendering his heart and his life to Jesus Christ.  With nothing else to hold onto, he held on to faith in The One who held tightly to him in his darkest moments.  He was spiritually reborn and he grew in his faith out there in the highlands, with only the smelly animals and that inward voice to keep him company. He was still a slave, but far freer than ever before.

    That could have been the end of the story and it would have been a story that ended well.  After all, God’s highest priority is to seek out and find the lost one.  He sweeps the entire house looking for one lost coin and he leaves the 99 to look for the one lost sheep.  Patrick the skeptic was finally and gloriously saved. It was a victory, a win, and a triumph.  But God didn’t leave it there.  Oh no, It seems that God likes to use broken things, lost causes, destroyed lives in order to show how good He is at putting things back together better than every before.

    Years later, when Patrick was in his early 20s, while doing his job as the captive herdsman, that he heard a voice inside his head that said, “Hurry, your ship is waiting!” The voice inside his head that used to sound just like his own, Patrick now recognized as the voice of the Holy Spirit. Unbelievably and against the odds, Patrick obeyed. Leaving the cattle where they were he walked about two hundred miles to the coast of Ireland. Once there, just like the Voice said, he saw a ship. This penniless escaped slave, smelling of sheep and wilderness, somehow convinced the captain to allow him to board, and he made his way back to England.

    There are other amazing details in this story that I am passing up for the sake of time, but eventually he makes it home. This wasn’t the same boisterous spoiled brat that was known for harassing the clergy and poking fun at faith.  It also wasn’t some victim with a grudge at having been treated unjustly. The Patrick that came back was someone different, someone crazy and seriously in love with Jesus. This new Patrick, disciplined by time in the quiet presence of the Living God, now found the greatest worth in loving God and loving the people God undeniably loved.

    Patrick the scornful skeptic now became Patrick the Priest, dedicating his whole life to serving God.  His compassionate love for the ones that Jesus loved led him to devote his life to ministry.  He did what he knew how to do and became a pastor in the traditional church where he had grown up.  He performed the sacraments. led the worship and taught in the church buildings where people came and gathered together.  He did ministry the same way and in the same setting that generations before him had done ministry.  He likely thought that he had it all figured out as he served inside the little box with the cross on top of it. He likely felt that he was being successful in ministry and undoubtedly could point to examples in his ministry that would have supported that claim.  But God, as God often does, seemed to have something entirely different in mind.

    At this point in time, Patrick has gone through three major changes;

    1.  A change from his own plan for his life apart from Christ
    2. A change from lost skeptic to beloved of Christ
    3. A change from slave of Miliuc, his Irish master, to a servant of Jesus Christ, his new master.

    Upon his return, Patrick followed the course of ministry that seemed obvious to him.  He went through the traditional education of the Roman church and became a priest after the Roman tradition.  In the Roman church tradition, inclusion in Christianity followed a certain path,

    1.  First you must be civilized.  Being civilized in that context usually meant being Romanized.  In order to be fully included you had to speak the Roman language or an accepted language of Rome.  There were also standards of dress and behavior that were expected.  So the very first step to inclusion was behavior.
    2. The second step was that you had to believe the same way.  There was a long list of things that you had to believe, or at least say that you believed.  This list of beliefes were taught in the catechism regarding what you had to believe about Christ, the Church, forgiveness and the sacrements.  Once you checked off all the boxes in the belief column, you were then invited to
    3. thirdly, belong.  Christianity was like a club with its own clubhouse.  It consisted of a bunch of little boxes with the cross on top of it, presided over by a trained and approved professional who had gone through the process of behaving in a civilized enough manner, who believed all the right things, and who supposedly held the key to deeper understanding of spiritual matters, to be released only to those who knew the secret password, who had gone through the steps of the church’s approval.  Church was something that you went to participate in.  The boxes they met in were ornate and as elaborate so that people would want to come in.

    While working inside of this structure, this traditional way of doing church, Patrick had his life changed all over again.  He had a vision where the people of Ireland, the ones that had kidnapped him as a boy and sold him into slavery.  The same Irish people who sent him to work in the fields without any freedom of choice on his part.  They called out to him in this vision.  They begged him to come and share Christ with the pagan people of the beautiful emerald Island.

    Patrick answered the call of the vision.  It took some time, convincing, and a lot of preparation, but Patrick secured permission to lead a missionary team and  return to the Island of his former captivity.  That in itself was a miracle in that the Roman church would not have considered the Irish to be civilized enough to actually be converted.  They had their own language which was considered as crude. They were not culturally romanized  and were known for being a passionate and emotional people.  They had their own pagan religion that considered nature as sacred more so than ornate buildings.

    Patrick knew their differences too. He also knew that the traditional way of doing church would never work with the Irish.  But he went anyway.  Patrick knew that the civilized church was not there. But he went anyway.  Patrick knew their language, their customs, their whole outlook on life and living was different than his, but he went anyway.

    According to author and church planting coach, Doug Murren, Patrick instructed those who went on this missionary journey with him to not build churches.  They were instructed to go into a village and meet people.  They were to live in the same houses, engage in agriculture, animal husbandry and building of the infrastructure, all the while developing deep relationships.  They were to live their Christianity on display, immersed in the local culture not apart from it. They met together and with the community to teach the Way in homes and taverns, in barns and in fields.  It was only after a period of five  years, if there was enough interest, they would then be allowed to build a structure where they could gather together. By that time it would be clear that they didn’t go and meet at the church, The Church went to meet together and celebrate as a family.

    At the same time that Christianity was influencing the Irish culture, Patrick allowed the Irish culture to influence the practices of Christianity.  The Irish people’s great love for nature was adopted into the practices and the teaching of Patrick and those who ministered with him.  suddenly the everyday shamrock Clive became a real life illustration of the trinity of Faster, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Irish great love of story influenced the homily, or the way that the Good News of Jesus Christ was presented. The Bible became a story book rather than a rule book as they followed the epic story of God’s redemptive love from creation to the very end. Story took prominence over liturgy, capturing the Celtic imagination and transporting them into those thin places where heaven and earth would meet. The story was told in the local language, not the language of Rome.

    In the Gospel account written by John the Apostle, friend to Jesus,  he says it this way,

    The Word became flesh and blood,
        and moved into the neighborhood

    I am not sure if Patrick figured it out as he went or if he had planned it from the very beginning.  Patrick,  following in the way of Jesus the Living Word, in order to reach the people he had been called to reach did just that, he moved into the neighborhood.

    Within a decade of Patrick and his followers choosing to move into the neighborhood of the Irish, monastic communities began to form.  Traditionally the monastic community was a place that was separate from the everyday reality of the world.  It was a place of devotion where only those who truly believed were allowed to reside. There were walls and doors that kept out the distractions of the world so that those inside could devote themselves to Christ without interruption.

    In the Celtic model of monastic community there were no doors.  Within the community there were clergy and craftsman living and laboring side by side.  Farmers and friars shared the same table at community meals.  Each and every neighbor had the interests of their neighbor at hears.  Hospitality was the rule and the level of hospitality was the standard by which they compared themselves with.  The best homes in the community were set aside to welcome in visitors who could stay as long as they chose with no requirement of believing the right things or even behaving the right way.  Instead of going to church, the community became the church.

    The other day I took my son to the children’s ministry at one of the large churches we attend. We went in just as the main service was getting ready to start so I felt a little bit of urgency to get him off to his kids group. There was a program going on and most everyone besides us were in a costume. The children’s ministry was held in a large room and there were small clusters of kids chatting in various groups randomly spread around the room, all in costume.  There were a couple of adults off to the side who were deeply engaged in conversation with each other. I felt a little uncomfortable, but told my son to go ahead and go inside. He turned to face me then grabbed ahold of my legs with both hands in the universal language of kids saying, dad, don’t make me go. It sort of stuck in my mind and thought about it after we both made our way back to the main service. What was it that made me and my son so uncomfortable?Irish_clover He had wanted to go before we got there. He was actually excited to go. Then it hit me that what bothered me and scared him was that there was no clear path into the group. We were obviously on the Outside of something that we wanted to be a part of, but the posture of those already there communicated that we weren’t a part and our own insecurities communicated one word, unwelcome.

    What Patrick did, what I hope his story inspires in us, is to make clear the path to being a part, to remove the barriers to community. To fling wide the welcoming doors of our hearts so that others might experience the joy we have found in serving Christ
    What captures me and draws my heart toward the story of Patrick

    1.  How when all the distractions are taken away, in the boredom of the mundane, God often takes advantage of those moments to speak to us, changing our lives dramatically.
    2. How Patrick responded to the call of God on his life in the only way he knew how, by becoming a priest in the common church structure of his day.  He did what people typically did who wanted to obey the ministerial call, and yet he was able to see beyond what was always done and imagine a different way of reaching out to the lost folk of Ireland
    3. How rather than an attraction based approach to preaching the Gospel, he chose an immersion based approach.  Instead of inviting them to church, he brought church to them. Rather closing the doors to all but the most devout he flung them wide open to welcome in everyone.
    4. How he allowed hospitality and community to instruct and direct the practices of The Church in Ireland and how we can do the same.

    From the Outside In

    “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein

    When I was trying to create a “box with a cross on top” kind of church in the church centric model, I came up with the slogan, Real People, Real Community, Real Jesus, Doing Life Together.  I still thought of the church gathering as the best vehicle for creating community.  In all honesty, the numbers of people in any given church who actually connect (and there are many) actually represent such a small percentage of our attendant congregation as to be deemed an organizational failure (again, it is not a failure to the ones for whom it is working).  We had an “Arrows Out” mindset and it had a great effect at gathering, but connecting was less than stellar.  The goal was to use the the church gathering as the launchpad for doing life together.   These days I am seeing and thinking from a different perspective.  I see doing life together as the launchpad for doing church together. 

    I just shared a blog by Derek Archer addressing the relational isolation and loneliness of pastoral ministry. I wonder if that is because most who we identify as pastors use church as the basis for doing life, rather than doing life as the basis for church.  Doing life is relational, independent and interdependent.  It is where the cast is set for being real and identifying what is real.  There are no preconceived rolls for a person to fall into while doing life. You are who you are and relate based upon that. When you start at life and move toward church you are changing the way you think about virtually everything.

    Church centric thinking has created a whole mess of problems and many of the Christ followers I know recognize those, but try to address those from a church centric way of thinking.  Perhaps a life, relationship, community centric way of thinking can help us reach out and connect people together first, then draw them toward corporate centers of Biblical teaching, worship and thought.

    I am not sure that what I am saying makes sense outside of my own head. I can see the difference quite clearly.  I hope I am painting with contrasting color here so that you can share in the thought, then add your critique, agreement, or resonate additional thoughts.  My friend list is actually full of real friends. I welcome you to wade in, friend.

    Our Yondersea Family

    Family as community;
    The reality we live in is that we are part of a community. We work around other providers in close proximity. That’s community. We have a steady stream of guests who come into our sphere of influence every time we walk into Yondersea. That is also community. Even when we leave this place we are still a part of that community and what we say, what we do, how we say it and how we do it lingers on in the thoughts of other people even after they leave.

    It is possible to divide communities into two varieties, cooperative communities and competitive communities. If you draw out a scale and put competitive at one and and cooperative at the other, most communities will land somewhere in between the two ends of the scale.

    In community you are in a relationship with others. That is unavoidable. How you choose to interact in that community is a matter of choice, you’re choice. It doesn’t work to be cooperative in a competitive community, nor does it work to be competitive in a cooperative community.

    Most of us have more experience in competitive community than cooperative. School and work trend to lean heavily toward competitive. In work, the higher the pay the fewer are those who get those positions, hence competitive. In school only do many A’s, hence competition.

    Many of us only experience cooperative community in our homes, though home communities can also range all over the scale.

    Our culture is tuned in to competitive community, but a large part of our core being craves and longs for being in cooperative community. We seek out places where we can just be, without the stress of having to constantly compete. We vacation mostly in places where able to pursue what makes us happy without risk of someone faster than us taking away our share.

    While there is no way to completely separate the two, our desire for Yondersea is that we lean heavily toward the cooperative side of the scale. We weigh our decisions and our practices whenever possible to tip the scale in favor of cooperative. In doing so, we have created a rare environment at Yondersea for both provider and guest.

    In the Yondersea community, you are not a number, an asset, or a commodity. You are a part of the whole thing. You are not a party to a contract, you are partners in covenant. Our covenant is to take care of and benefit the community and all its members. Each and every one of us influences the community.

    Our guests are part of our community. Since they only spend about fifteen minutes, once a month, in our community we want to leverage all of our best practices to make their experiences with us extraordinarily pleasant. That includes the service and the environment. They get a quality haircut at a modest price, and we work a little harder at giving away a little bit of happy with each cut. Each person who is invited to be a regular provider at Yondersea has been brought in on this little secret way we have of being and doing Yondersea.

    Happy, skilled and informed providers make for happy, pleased and loyal guests. That is the functional mandate that we run this business on. We want long term, even lifetime providers to be a part of our provider community. We are regularly brainstorming ways to make it both challenging in a positive way, and rewarding to be here. This is only possible if we are in agreement regarding the covenant of community. When our actions line up with our covenant, our guest community will continue to grow and will be a positive influence around them as well

    Your actions and words effect the whole thing, whether good or bad. As part of our covenant to community we intentionally spread happy around us. The reality is that sometimes things come up, outside our control, that aren’t necessarily happy generators. Sometimes we need our trajectory adjusted, actions discussed, or other things, like grumpy customers or broken equipment. How we relate to those things in the moment effects the entire community, provider, vendor, or guest.

    When we have things that seem to be beyond our control, effecting our happy in community it is on us to find an appropriate time and place and discuss with the appropriate person a constructive resolution. Being short, snippy, or sarcastic effectively communicates that you are not happy, but it destroys the fabric of community. Occasionally we all slip up in those areas, but let me be clear; that is unacceptable behavior at Yondersea.

    We all come into Yondersea with a relational bank. You have so many credits in your bank that were granted just because you made it through the initial conversations and screening to become a part of the family. You accumulate credits by being part of the community and contributing. Not caring for the community covenants by not doing you’re part(positive communication, cleanliness, quality services) take away from you’re bank. Because this is all subjective language, there is no way to measure with any degree of accuracy(like you would for a contract). Our assumption is that if you are happy here your relational bank account will grow. If you are not then it will dwindle away. We will do all we can through training and equipping to help you turn from a downward to an upward trend.  If we are unsuccessful and you use up all of your credits  then we will try to help you find another place to be successful and happy.

    Angela and I had a vision for community when we started this business. It reflects our faith and beliefs and shapes all of our best practices. As a couple we own the Yondersea brand and we share our good fortune with independent contractors who share our vision and the wonderful guests who trust us with their looks, their time, and their whole sense of well being. When you come to work at Yondersea we are welcoming you into family. Our family.