Friday, December 5, 2008

out of focus

tuesday this week, Colin and I did the pick-me-up run in our neighborhood, returning neighbors garbage cans and recycle bins from the road to their garages. bundled in hats and gloves and coats, for the first 20 minutes or so we made quick work of the first couple of blocks, keeping our blood pumping and body temps up. about half-way through, I dropped a couple of big garbage cans at the side of house, and turned back to look for Colin. he was standing in the middle of the driveway, a recycling bin hanging limply from his hands, his eyes staring blankly ahead.

"hey, you o.k.? what's going on.?"

sluggishly, his head swiveled to look at me. then a spark returned to his eyes, a certain animation reinhabited his body, and he was fully alive and present again.

"I guess I was daydreaming, Dad." a pause. "I think I just got out of focus."

laughing, we finished up with that house, and continued our project. we were cold and tired when we were done half an hour later, but as usual, invigorated by the experience of being preoccupied with bearing (admittedly humble) blessing.

couldn't help thinking, recounting Colin's turn of phrase to Ronni later, how easily I get out of focus. and how something like hanging out with Colin, running from house to house, breathless and breathful and the same time, always seems to bring me a little more back into focus. gives me a little more clarity. about myself. about others. about God.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Musings about Jesus

just wanted to suggest to you, on the off chance that you are a reader of my blog but not of my dad's, that you check out his most recent post on final authority: church, bible, Jesus...

it's a topic, I think, that will be getting more and more attention in the coming decades.  Phyllis Tickle's latest book, The Great Emergence, (which is, as usual, brilliant) suggests that we are in the midst of a once every 500 years reformation in the church, and along with every reformation over the past two centuries, there comes some serious wrestling with the question of authority.

anyway, I really resonated with the post, and thought you might find it thought (and maybe even heart) provoking.

Friday, November 21, 2008

scripture project - Joshua

been working on collage for our front hall wall.  a set of scripture passages and words arranged in a large frame.  scanning them and messing around a little with photoshop.    trying to pick ones that have a place of more meaningful meaning in my/our lives. 

here's one the the first passages I worked on.

Joshua 1

a good friend paraphrased this one for me in a note of encouragement when I first began to serve as a senior pastor.  packs a punch.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

welcome to the new home of "breathing room"

welcome to the new address for this blog - new posts will be added here from here on out.  should give me a little more updating flexibility, given my limited knowledge of html, plus a few cool new features.  enjoy!  and don't forget to update your feed readers, bookmarks, etc.  shortly, and should forward to the new address as well.  cheerio.

stillness prayer / settling self before God

mentioned during the message on Sunday that I'd post about a helpful prayer tip I'd received from my dad. useful especially for me when trying to still myself before God, but probably useful as a discipline in and of itself.

so much of me is buzzing, vibrating, clanging when I sit down to pray during the course of a normal day.  and not necessarily with a kind of regular musical frequency; more like when a guitar is starting a feedback loop.

so after a deep breath or two, I've been working through body, mind, heart, soul and presenting myself to God as I am, or at least as much I am aware of myself.

starting with my body, I'll take note (usually cataloging from head to toe) of what I feel, temperature, energy, aches, pains, hunger, thirst, etc  and simply offer (for lack of a better word) it to him.  sort of a, hey, my head hurts a little, stiff neck, I'm hungry, knees ache.  I surrender my concern for my body to you here now as I begin to pray. 

then on to my mind.  I'll briefly consider the things I've been thinking about the day - the sermon coming up this week, so and so's email I have to reply to, this or that problem that needs solving, some idea I've been reading about, a decision that needs making, etc.   just the stuff that pops up on first consideration.  and similarly, offer it.  Lord, thinking about this and that right now; I'm setting those thoughts aside to think on you - my mind's yours.  something like that at least.  some sort of acknowledgment and letting go.

heart for me usually is a two-part process.  first my emotions.  identifying and offering whichever emotions are currently insistent enough for me to have been aware of in the last hour or so, sometimes asking for the Spirit's help in being aware of emotions that might be under the surface.  after emotions, it's stuff that has to do with my will.  identifying current conflicts between my will and my sense of his will for me.  the prayer goes something along the lines of  Lord, here's the stuff that my heart seems to be desiring, lusting after, pursuing that I feel like you want to replace with different desires, some better kingdom pursuit.  as I come to you now, I confess this to be the state of my heart.  it's not like a thorough-going process of working through these things with God, more like just telling him I don't want to hide from him while I'm spending time with him, and if he wants to show up with me in this current state of brokenness, that I'm open to him being here.

soul for me has to do (at least in this context) my relational connections.  with him, with others.  so I just think of each person or group of people that I'm most connected with or have responsibility for, and acknowledge to God that he has primary relationship with each of them.  for example,  Lord, while I'm praying here now, I give my relationship to Ronni, and Colin, and Elle, and Micah to you.  pretty simple.  I don't dwell on this part of the prayer very long, unless I have some specific concern about the relationship, in which case I offer that concern, too.

that's it.  usually then, I'm in a much more settled place of peace for prayer.

any things you've learned, grown in, been frustrated by that you can share in this discipline?  comments are open.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Megas Phobos

What follows are the notes for the sermon this weekend. We've been in a series on the book of Acts, and last week experimented with a time of discussion after the message, before communion. This week we ran out of time (a euphemism for "I rambled on too long"), so I'm posting my speaking notes for any who want to comment, discuss, share perspectives, etc. I think the last few weeks are available for listening online, too, for anyone interested... Here goes:

(Oh, and by the way, if anyone knows how to truncate a post in blogger, and extend it on another page with a "more" link, please let me know)

Acts 4&5 – Holy Fear
Vineyard Church of Milan

Once in a while, you’re traveling through an exciting and invigorating book like the book of Acts, and then boom, you hit a speed bump and your beverage of choice spills all over the steering wheel and the windshield and your freshly pressed Dockers. Making it hard to concentrate on driving for one, and putting a damper on your good mood for two.

That's what the start of chapter 5 is like, at least for me, and probably the rest of us, unless you’re Phil Jackson and you’ve achieved some kind of inner Zen state that takes everything in stride. It's about this couple who sell some land to give some money to the church, but keep some to themselves while making themselves out be giving the whole kit and caboodle to the church. And then they keel over, dead as doornails. One after the other. That'll teach 'em, eh?

As a generally “up with people” type of person who is enamored with the grace and mercy of God, the tendency is to gloss right over a story like this, maybe skip it altogether. Unless you happen to be ticked off about something, of course, in which case you use it like a bludgeon and hit unsuspecting congregants over the head with it. See, if you don't stop _______ (fill in the blank), this might be the fate that awaits you, too!

But I so enjoy Luke's way of telling stories, and his expert authorship, that I can't help but think he included the beginning of chapter 5 on purpose. And I can't imagine his purpose was to scare the living daylights out of us - at least not first and foremost. But it sure as shootin' is perplexing. Perplexing as all get out. Not the kind of passage you tape to your refrigerator, that's for sure. Or embroider on a quilt or whatever.

Which brings me to N.T. Wright. He's a bishop and historical theologian in the Church of England who has a way of understanding the Scriptures that helps apprehend its vitality and makes way for its clear and compelling voice to resonate. His commentary on the book of Acts, called Acts for Everyone - which has been the well from which I've drawn most of my insight for this series - suggests a way of coming at this story that made me go, oh, right. Yeah, that makes some sense. I'm not any more comfortable with the idea that God has set this particular precedent, mind you, and I don't plan on naming any of my kids Ananias. But I do think the Spirit has life giving words this morning for us from Jesus as we proceed through this section of Acts.

Are you ready? We'll ease into it, picking up where we left off last week, after Peter and John healed the cripple outside the temple, got thrown in jail by the Temple authorities, and then were finally released due to popular demand.

Acts 4:23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them...Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.

Notice how their prayer isn't against those who are acting like enemies. They say very simply, essentially, Lord, you know what's happening. Help us to persevere in sharing your good news in spite of it all. Keep healing. Keep demonstrating the arrival of your kingdom and the freedom and hope that comes with it. Let the empty threats pale in comparison to the powerful name of Jesus.

This is a whole new way of responding, isn't it? It's exactly the opposite of what the Temple authorities are doing in the face of threat. It's a sign that Jesus really is their Lord. Their King. There is something for us to learn here, when we face adversity in our lives. Not to fix our eyes on the adversity or the enemy, but on what God wants to do in us and through us. Lord, you know what I face. Help me to keep my eyes fixed on your kingdom, and to act with faith and clarity as your servant. Keep up the good work, God, and let me be a part of it!

Acts 4:31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

All the believers were one in heart and mind... And God's grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them.

Luke is reiterating here what he's said before at the end of chapter 2, and which we've spoken about at some length. But he's doing it in a very particular way to call to mind Exodus 15, where God speaks to his people about the covenant community he intends to set up. It has to do with Jubilee and the cancellation of debts and such (which Don Bromley from Ann Arbor spoke about last month). When Luke writes that God's grace was so powerfully among this new community of Jesus that there were no needy persons among them, he's saying this is it! It's really happening! What God has long promised with regard to establishing a people who love him and obey his commandments and whom he dwells with and through whom the whole world will be blessed - here it is!

Acts 4:36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means "son of encouragement"), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostle's feet.

This isn't the last we'll hear about Barnabas, a man noteworthy for the courage he imparts to others. What he's doing here is significant in the story Luke is telling us about what this new community is becoming. Barnabas is a Levite - the priestly tribe. The tribe that was charged with responsibility for the temple, and who were provided for in God's law by the tithes of the other tribes, which would be brought to the Temple. Here the normal pattern is flipped on it's head, and Luke is shining a spotlight on it for us. The Levite isn't receiving the gift; he's giving it. May those who have eyes to see, see. The Temple and the temple system have given way to the new dwelling place of God on earth - this learning, sharing, praying, bread-breaking community we call the church.

And now the music changes keys.

Acts 5:1 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife, Sapphira, also sold a piece of property...Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.

As my 15 year old sister would say, Oh, snap! Harsh, huh? Anybody else squirming a little bit? Not that we shouldn't be. After all, great fear seized not only the whole church, but all who heard about these events. I like the way Eugene Peterson paraphrases this last sentence in the Message translation: "They knew God was not to be trifled with." Even that may be understating it a bit.

Caveat - we're not given any information about the state of Ananias and Sapphira’s souls. The Lord surely knew their hearts, and had all the information he needed to make the right call here. Ananias and Sapphira are not ultimately Luke’s concern, nor should they be ours. They are in the Lord’s hands. Luke’s concern, and our concern, is we - you and me. The concerns we have for Ananias and his wife are usually, if we’re honest, just roundabout ways of getting at our real question, the one bouncing around in our souls like a hyperactive ping pong ball with the mass of a bowling ball: oh, no, could I be next?

A common misconception is that this sort of thing is common in the Bible. Not so. We don't see it again in the whole of the New Testament, in fact. Most of the time, people and nations get away with being bad for longer than most of us are comfortable with. That's why so many psalmists and prophets are regularly crying out for justice. Injustice tends to linger, and God's timing for sorting it all out seems inscrutable to us in our longing. Through the example and ministry of Jesus, we've come to know God as a God who goes to great pains to bring us to a place of repentance. So much so that later the apostle Paul writes that God uses kindness to lead us to repentance.

Which is why most of us don’t see this coming, especially when it comes to something as run of the mill as lying. I mean, hey, they actually sold some land - that they didn't have to sell, mind you - in order to give a good chunk of the profits to the church. We're shocked that they don't seem to have a chance to turn away from their lie, make it up, be forgiven. [Charles Spurgeon story...]

No, no heartwarming hallmark ending here. Justice is stunningly swift and horribly final. Which we love in our summer blockbusters when it’s the bad guys to whom it is served. Real life is another story. When it happens to people who could be we. Could be me. We can’t get it out of our heads; it makes an indelible impression. And that's part of the clue to what's going on. Something like this has happened before. And if you've heard of the stories, they probably made an indelible impression as well. Leviticus 10, Nadab and Abinhu in the Tabernacle, the precursor of the Temple.

Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Moses then said to Aaron, "This is what the Lord spoke of when he said: 'Among those who approach me I will be proved holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored." Aaron remained silent.

There are two other similar stories, and they also involve the holy dwelling place of God - one, the Ark of the Covenant, and the other, the Temple.

It's no coincidence. Luke wants us to see, through this awful example, that God has chosen to dwell with his Holy presence in the church. The same Holy presence that dwelled in the Tabernacle, that dwelt in the ark of the covenant, in the Holy of Holies in the temple in Jerusalem. The Holy fire that was poured out on the church on Pentecost is the same fire that came out from the presence of the Lord shortly after the giving of the law. There is no mistaking it now. The Holy One of Israel is present among these rag tag but beautifully sharing followers of Jesus in the same way, and with the same potency and power, that he was previously present in the Temple.

That kind of holiness is the most concentrated form of truth and goodness and reality in the universe, and the Holy God isn’t pleased by petty selfish lies that parade around pretending to be nobility and generosity and godliness. Because the lie is a distortion of truth and an absence of goodness and fundamentally separated from reality. The end result in this particular case is the account we have here.

I don’t know that we’ll ever get our minds and hearts around the theology of it all; I know I certainly haven’t. Luke isn’t giving us much theology. He’s just telling us what happened, one human being to another human being. So that we can wrestle with it together with him and with the church and with all who heard about it.

Here are the fruits of my wrestling so far, for your consideration. Not that you shouldn’t do your own. But maybe to encourage you do to your own.

The kind of holy fear this produces is the healthiest kind of fear. It’s the fear of the Lord. Not the kind of fear that cripples you, like the fears we so often experience in life. Where we freeze up, panic, run, hide. Not the kind of fear that gnaws at you, gives birth to worry, anxiety, ulcers. Where we slowly shrink and waste and become less fully human. No, that’s the fear of everything and anything but the Lord. Fear of the Lord is, as the book of proverbs says, the beginning of wisdom. It sets us on the path to life, not death.

The fear of the Lord is fear that wakes you up, stands your whole self at attention – body, soul, mind and heart – and makes you ready to respond with clarity and decisiveness. [like driving too fast in bad conditions…]

The fear of the Lord is fear that reorders your priorities, reveals where things have gotten, or are going, out of whack and quickly shuffles them back into place. [again, back to driving: when you’re jamming to the tunes, lost in a conversation on your cell phone, and someone gets pulled over right next to you…]

In a counterintuitive way, the fear of the Lord is like a love calibrator. When we start to let anyone or anything other than the living God (career, money, achievement, success, popularity, even spouses and children) occupy the no. 1 position in our heart, we are susceptible to fears that can destroy us. Fears of losing our career, not having enough money, failure, disappointing people, a variety of expressions of fear of losing people that we love.

But fear of the Lord can reverse all of that, and quickly. Because it fixes our eyes on him. Initially in fear – but that quickly gives way to love. And we recognize in seeing him that he is the one who we can love above all things, without destructive fears. Without fear of losing him, or not having enough of him, or failing him, or disappointing him, or getting jealous or nervous or worried about him. And then those other destructive fears lose their power. Sure, any of those things may happen. But I have put my love and trust in the LORD. And he will one day set all things right.

The church needed to be fully awake in the midst of the persecution that was coming her way. She needed to be fully awake to join with the Lord in the healing and the harvest that was coming. The church needed to be afraid only of the Lord, so that she would not be afraid of the Temple authorities, or the Romans, or the hardships that were coming her way. So that she would have the Lord in the first position in her heart, so that she could love and be nourished by and trust wholeheartedly the Lord even if everything else were taken away from her.

Don’t we need the same thing? Isn’t it easy today to get caught up in fears that ultimately cripple us, gnaw at us, destroy us? Fears of job losses or housing losses or lifestyle losses or relationship losses. Fears of what others think of us or say about us? Fears that cause us to let go of the priorities the Lord would have for us and hold tight to things that can never, at the end of the day, be under our control anyway? And so we come away empty handed?

Don’t we need our whole selves to come awake instead to the presence of the Lord among us? To his Holy power that rules over even the most fearful things in our lives. So that our priorities get rearranged, set back in order. So that we fix our eyes on him, and discover in loving him the satisfaction for our real and deepest thirsts. So that every other love in our lives flows from that love, and stays pure as a mountain stream, unpolluted by the fear factories in our world. So that we can join with him as he unleashes his healing and readies a kingdom harvest.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Micah Timothy Wilson

what a whirlwind!  speeding to the hospital with Ronni and Eva (good friend and birthing helper), honking at cars inconsiderately in the way until they gave way, watching lights turn green almost on command, and ignoring the ones that didn't, arriving 6:36 p.m. to a waiting wheelchair and team of nurses who whisked us upstairs into a prepped labor and delivery room. 
Ronni - simply phenomenal amidst the hubbub and intensity of the moment. grace under pressure until Micah arrived at 6:54p.m.   wow.  that was fast.  wow.  a holy moment; he's amazing.  we're overwhelmed, thankful, still taking him and it all in. 
all is well, and all are well.  well, well, well. thanks for the many prayers and the many helpers helping in so many ways.
1:24 a.m., and I'm hitting the sack.  Don Bromley from the Ann Arbor Vineyard is preaching at church in the morning, so I can rest easy.

go time

well, the time has come.  we're off to the hospital.  yeah!

Friday, May 30, 2008

holding pattern

image for those of you wondering about the status of our newest son's arrival, nothing significant to report yet.  we're still at home, waiting.  progress is definitely being made by the labor Ronni is doing.   she saw the doctor today and he says all the lights are green and all the signs are still pointing one way.  4 and 1 for those in the know.   could be today.  could be tomorrow. could be the next. 

we feel a little like an airplane that's nearly arrived at it's destination but hasn't been given landing clearance, so we're just circling the airport in a holding pattern.

using up fuel.  passengers getting antsy. 

on the other hand, we've got no connecting flights to catch, and there's plenty of free peanuts and apple juice (this is one of those flights in the old days when you didn't have to pay extra for the goodies).

both Colin and Elle were born on Saturdays, if I remember rightly.  maybe this one got the memo, too.

in the meantime, I'm just trying to orient my otherwise focused brain to write a sermon that I probably won't be preaching this weekend.  or maybe I will.  what do I know?

I like "the cry of the church" from the midday office of prayers today.  an invitation for an even longer awaited one to come:

Even so, come Lord Jesus.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


well, Jesus Brand Spirituality (my dad's new book) is on the bookshelves today, and seems to be making a bit of a splash.  here's a couple of early reviews that might whet your appetite:

Anne Jackson's blog,

Hearts and Minds "more than a bookstore"

David Crumm's Read the Spirit

this weekend, my sisters Judy and Amy and my brother-in-law Ben were in town for the book release party.  we got to hang out on friday night, which was much fun, and simultaneously encourage and embarrass Dad on sunday at the book release party, which was fun as well.

it's funny, I never realized what a privilege it is to have parents that I'm so dang proud of.  by the grace of God, may I be that kind of dad to my own kids. 

oh and speaking of kids, I just got a call from Ronni indicating that the third one may be wanting to make his presence and personality known to the world here very shortly... I'd better stop blogging now.  stay tuned.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday - with us, to us, for us

each year, the congregations in Milan gather to observe Good Friday together.  this year, the Milan Free Methodist Church is our host.  in fact, I'm heading out in just a couple of minutes to pray with my fellow pastors before the service. 

each of us was asked to share a 5 minute or shorter meditation on some aspect of Jesus' words on the cross; Luke 23:46 fell to me.  for those who are unable to attend, I've posted my notes below...

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

Luke 23:46

Luke writes this verse in compelling, poetic Greek, full of alliterative sounds and ideas, rhymes and echoes. Luke wants our eyes to linger on this text, on this moment, wants our ears to resonate with these last pregnant breaths of Jesus. Indeed, the Greek words for “called out with a loud voice” are the same words from which we get our word, “mega phone.” In other words, when we most want to look away from this awful sight, out of sadness, out of horror, out of respect even for the dignity of this dying man, when we most want to cover our ears and wish it all away, Jesus wants us to hear. Why? What is the meaning, the message in these final words?

Here Jesus, the word made flesh, speaks with us. Here Jesus, the Son of God, speaks to us. Here Jesus, the Son of Man, speaks for us. May we who have ears to hear, hear.

These words – into your hands I commit my spiritcome from the songbook of Israel, the 31st psalm, the 5th verse. They were first the words of King David under daunting duress and distress. “Into your hands I commit my spirit; redeem me, Lord, my faithful God.” Over time, countless other human beings have prayed this psalm when it seems all hope is fading. Using David’s prayer as a lifeline when we seem to have come to the end of the line. Now Jesus, the word made flesh, joins with us in these words. He doesn’t make up new or better or more effective words. And if what has been given to us is enough for him in his darkest hour, than surely we have been given a great treasure indeed. And we can know that as we pray those same psalms in our distress, our prayers are rounding out echoes of his in the heavens.

Jesus, the Son who first calls that faithful God Father, is also saying something to us. Just as your prayers are my prayers, my Father is your Father. And he hears our prayers. Jesus’ words may sound like a resignation, an end, but he trusts that somehow, someway, his Father will come through. He chooses just one line from the psalm, perhaps because that is all the breath he has left, but he wants us to hear the whole psalm and take heart from it. Because the psalm ends, in part, like this: In my alarm I said, “I am cut off from your sight!” Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help…Be strong and take heart, all you hope in the Lord.

And what kind of hope is it that we are to have, that Jesus has, that Luke wants us to see in this final moment? It is the hope of new creation, the hope that through Jesus’ death on the cross, God is setting everything right that has gone wrong. The hope that this rest that Jesus will enter as the Sabbath draws near will be the final Sabbath of the old and dying creation, and that he will rise on the first day of a new creation that cannot be corrupted, that cannot fall subject to sin and death and strife.

Because in the first creation, God formed humanity out of the earth and breathed breath – the same word used for spirit – into the first Adam. And the first Adam took that breath, and as all of us who have come after him have done as well, he used that breath for his own purposes, and not God’s.

Now Jesus, the Son of Man on the cross, is speaking for all of us, as our representative, on our behalf, and committing back to God the spirit that we had taken for ourselves. Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit. If only any of us could pray that truly, wholeheartedly, without any reservation. We can’t, but Jesus can. And he does. And as he breathes his last the Father receives his offer.

And as Luke will tell us a couple of chapters later, in the book we call Acts, the spirit of Jesus is poured out once again on humanity, the Holy Spirit of a new creation, a breath from heaven that is incorruptible, that transforms us from the inside out into a new creation for the glory of God. Oh what a Savior, that he would give his last dying breath so that we might receive a first new and living breath.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

dance back from the grave

well, we survived the bitter cold tuesday night, thanks to some heroics from Ross and Matt.  the propane ran out at about 1 a.m. and the temperatures were plummeting in the tent.  our breath was condensing on the roof of the tent and dripping back down on our heads.  at 2:00, Ross and Matt went outside, found a new propane tank, hooked it up, and somehow got the heater running again in the dark.  Matt almost lost his eyebrows when it finally roared to life, but we couldn't tease him about it too much given the fact that we owed him big time.  (below is a picture of the tent we slept in, with an entrance in the middle - guys on the near side and women on the far side.  the big building in the background is the Kenner Vineyard Church.)


the rest of the week was awesome. the weather warmed a bit, and we hit our groove with the work.  finished up the demolition at Colleen's and installed insulation.  helped out at Anthony's (87 year old world war II vet who has stuck around in part so that he can keep teaching chess to local youth), which is almost finished.  beautifully designed interior, way beyond his best expectations. put up blinds and installed doors and door hardware with Sam (pictured in the entrance way).  Anthony is a big fan of vibrant colors, as you can probably see.  not pictured is his hot pink bathroom.



on friday, got to help a guy named Justin move everything out of his home so demolition could begin in preparation for reconstruction.  he and his mom have been living in a flood damaged home for over 2 years now.


had tons of fun all the way through.  here's a picture of Ross 12 feet up on top of the newly built levies in the lower ninth ward (he stood on Colin's shoulders and then Gray and I helped push him up).


one day while we were working, a Marc Cohn song came on that really hit the spot.  "Dance Back from the Grave"  great tune.  captures something of what we got to be part of in New Orleans.  something of what God's up to there.  what God's up to here.  in me, too.  here's the opening lyrics of the song... (you can watch him perform it just below)

I used to wake up every morning saying I must be getting away with something here
Every day was like parole before the levies overflowed; I refuse to think it could all just disappear (I refuse to think)
How long before the street car rattles down St. Charles Avenue and beads swing from two hundred year old trees
How long before they walk down long Lake Pontratrain with the smell of just magnolia on the breeze
Yeah I’ve seen people laughing all the way down to the cemeteries just to send another soul off on its way
Yeah I’ve seen them dance right up to the edge of it
But this time their gonna dance back from the grave

Dance back
Dance back
Dance back
Dance back from the grave


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

52 degrees and dropping

the wind's blustering tonight, the tent's rippling and slapping against itself, the temperature's dropping to the high 30's, and the heater isn't working. yet. yet spirit's are high, no doubt about it.

worked on Angeline's home yesterday. learned to mud and tape dry wall (sheet rock they call it down here, and maybe everywhere, for all I know; shows what I know, eh?), courtesy of Jeff, who knows what he's doing. 10 of us, mudding and taping and hammering away. Angeline lives in Gentilly, where the flood waters were head high and counting. getting close to moving back in, talking about what colors she's gonig to paint the walls. sweet woman - others who've come on previous trips have spread good stories about her and her courage and joy.

today Ken (happy anniversary, Ken and Eva!) and Dave and John and I did demolition on Colleen's house. Colleen and her 2 high school age daughters have been living in a FEMA trailer in the front yard for 2 and a half years. we pulled off the old drywall and insulation. hard work. fun work. dusty, dirty, itchy uncomfortable work. going to sleep well tonight if the tent doesn't blow away work. well worth it work. especially when we saw Colleen again at the Alpha course at the church tonight.

what a great church. people who stuck around when the going got tough, dug deep, and just started helping. feeding. fixing. now hosting volunteers.

26 this week. and a similar number next week. a waiting list of people from around the country wanting to help. not to mention all the people who stay home taking on an extra load, helping to make it possible for all those people to come (thanks Ronni, Eva, Stephanie, Karen, Sue, Ben, Dina, Mary, Mark, Brad, & Jon!). 2 1/2 years later. when love comes to town, people just want to catch that train.

Monday, February 25, 2008

morning fog

made it in around dinner time last night, and went down to the French Quarter to eat some cajun and listen to "Steamboat Willie", a jazz trio with trumpet, bass, and keys.

fell asleep here in the tent to the symphonic sounds of snoring, showered up this morning, and heading off to breakfast. more later...

Oh, and yes, Steve, we're at the Kenner Vineyard, helping with Vineyard's Mercy Response. A great crew, and a great church.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Easing in to the Big Easy

Heading off with a team from the church (20+ strong) to New Orleans.  Some are already there, and others will be arriving over the next couple of days.  Not sure exactly what's in store, but I hope to be able to give an update on the blog if the network Ross has set up in the tent works.  Prayers appreciated, especially for our families who are holding down the fort here in Michigan.  Go Saints!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Thursday, February 14, 2008



she swiftly so softly slips
joy afire in
and lips


lilting lively limpid land
we clamber sure


happy valentine's day, sweetheart.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

snow shovels and toilet brushes

2008 02 09_0003

pictured above is the team that went out serving on Saturday, armed with snow shovels and toilet brushes.  notice how energized and enthused everyone looks?  it was taken when we gathered back in the church office afterwards to pray for the people we served. 

always seems to be the case that the "after" pictures of a servant evangelism team are more "life-full" than the "before" pictures.  you never know what you're getting into when you set out to serve people in practical ways, with love in the name of Jesus. will there be driveways to shovel?  will people let us wash their restrooms?  will the love of God come through and be received?  will these chore-like activities be any fun?  invariably, what you end up getting into is a sort of love groove,or love loop.  love flowing on the team.  love flowing towards the people you get to bless.  love flowing from God, present in the service itself.  and that love tends to be experienced as life itself, overflowing.  same deal with serving the poor, too, often times. 

THANKS FOR LETTING US SERVE cards2008 02 09_0009

all in all, a great time had by all.  the pizza box came from a pizza place whose bathroom we cleaned.  at first, the workers at Cottage Inn wanted us to wait for a manager to come in to give us permission.  then, when we assured them that we were there to clean their toilet for free, no strings attached (see the card we used as backup, to demonstrate that we weren't just weirdos, but rather, sanctioned weirdos), they were delighted to have us get to work.  when we got done, they had a pizza waiting for us.  "Seriously, no donations desired. We just want to bless you," we protested.  They told us they had messed up an order, so they were just going to throw it out.  I could see in their eyes that turning down the pizza would feel like a disappointment to them.  And also maybe to Mike and Cody, the guys who were on my bathroom cleaning team.  So we happily accepted, and brought it back to share with the rest of the crew. 

Back at the church office, everyone signed the box.  Maybe we'll get it framed.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

preach it, big brother

a big week for our son Colin. 

on Friday, he wrote his first sermon.  it was snow day, so he spent a good chunk of the day learning how to use microsoft word.  various things kept spitting out of the printer as I worked on my sermon upstairs in my home office. "I Love You Mom and Dad."  spit.  "I Love You Elle." spit.  and so on.  He didn't tell me until he'd finished, but apparently he decided since I was working on a sermon, he'd write one too.  He's at that age, you know.

Here's what he wrote. Page 1 (spacing and spelling as authored):

There    is    no    one    like    him


Jesus      ctrist        my   Lord.      And          for

ever       and        ever.         And      for     give

us        as      we       for      give      those    ho

Sin   ugenst    us

Page 2:



couldn't have said it better myself.

then, he found out yesterday that his newest sibling is a boy, making Colin the first paternal line male Wilson (i.e., son of a Wilson son, if that makes any sense) in several generations to have a brother.  My grandfather had no brothers, my dad has two sisters, and I have four sisters.  Not to mention the fact that neither Ronni nor my mom has any brothers, either. 

Needless to say, Colin is thrilled with the idea of having a little brother. Which has absolutely nothing to do with the historical context, of course.  Must be a hardwired desire in boys.  I know I sure had it.  Even though now I'm thrilled to have so many sisters.  Do girls have a similar desire, I wonder?  I can't imagine why not.  Weigh in in the comments, if you don't have a y chromosome.

Thursday, January 3, 2008


one step closer is my dad's new blog...its address is pretty easy to remember, if you know my dad's name:

so far, in the course of about 10 days, he's been both prolific and interesting, so I'm sure you'll find something worthwhile if you check it out.  I'm not entirely sure if he's figured out how to moderate comments yet, but leave him one anyway, and we'll see if they start showing up :)

here's a bite sized chunk to give you a taste:

Today, parking on “desire” in the second verse of the first psalm.  Happy is the person who sustains a choice of negation–not pursuing the path of the wicked, the offenders, the scoffers. But instead attaches desire to the Lord’s teaching is the sense of the first two verses.  Attaches desire. A raw word-experience.  Came to me in prayer, John Lennon’s song (white album, i think): I want you.  I want you so bad.  I want you. I want you so bad, it’s driving me mad, driving me mad.   That’s some kind primal of fixation, mediated by what, the amygdala, part of the emotion system in the brain, a deeper in structure of the brain–not the part we do math with, either.  Lennon wrote that, I guess, about his desire for Yoko Ono.  Which was so strong it was in the process of breaking up the Beatles, if I understand it right.  What did he see in Yoko Ono?  No one really knew.  People around him didn’t see what he saw.  Desire. This morning, parking the brain’s awareness on desire, which I have known.  Not for Yoko, obviously.  Affixing that raw human energy-intention-feeling on the Lord’s teaching.  I don’t know how that happens, but it does, or can.  God grabs your attention-desire like Yoko Ono grabbed John Lennnon’s.  This morning, mainly parked there with an awareness of that.  Not fancy, I know.  Lectio.