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Monday, April 27, 2009

So They Were Going to Launch When?

As many of you are aware, imagine/northampton has been up here in Northampton, MA since the middle of August, 2008. Prior to coming here, the Senior Leadership Team set the date for our official launch as Easter weekend, 2009. As we moved into the year we were still headed in that direction . . . then I jumped from the truck. It ended up throwing quite a wrench in our timing. After praying about it, talking and deliberating we thought April would work . . . wrong again, cowboy.

In February and March, we held the Strategic Prayer Huddles. During that time it became very apparent that we were not ready to launch. So after more work, we decided to launch the 3rd week in September -- even if it means doing so in one of our cars! No postponing this time, period.

The reality was that beyond my exquisitely timed injury, there were other reasons for the delay:

  • God had not given a definitive "OK for take off, yet."
  • Our financial base is modest and that's inflating it a bit.
  • We really do not have the depth of relationships we want with people here yet to have a Launch Team formed. My getting hurt set us back substantially there.
  • We are not set on the right place for worship.
  • Jim and Karin, Brad and Catherine, and Matt and Karen are not up here. Houses still need to be sold, and bought or rented, a job needs to be found for one of us.
If you have been following this blog you know that we have faced a substantial amount of adversity, and the frequency of it has been remarkable, sometimes astonishing. I mention it to point out how unprepared we were for such persistent resistance. Being in ministry as we have for 20 years did not give us "rose-colored glasses" when planning to come up here, we have known wounding attack before, but not to the degree of the sheer relentlessness we have experienced here. This place is not for the faint of heart or self-assured, believe me.

Having said that, we are in no way turning back or slinking to an easier path. We're in until we receive other orders. So, here's what we are doing to trudge forward through the rest of the spring, and through the summer until the launch:

Starting next Sunday at our house in Sunderland, we will be hosting a gathering of folks who have shown some interest in what we have been talking about through the Conversations and with them privately. Over great food and conversation we will relax together, and then fill in everyone on what we will do together before September, if they so desire to press on with us.

The plan is to have a gathering or activity together every week. The gathering will be at our house and may have a meal, but it will have a study of the Book of Acts with Jim leading including a response session. We will also have a Spiritual Formation interaction or "exercise" to help us get to know how each of us actually relates to God in real time. We want it to open all of us to one another and to what God is calling imagine/northampton toward.

Once per month we will do a fun thing together, both for families with kids or just for adults. It might be physical like hiking, having a picnic, rafting, going to a ballgame or Sumo wrestling (just seeing if you are paying attention!). Or we might do an art thing like the Paradise City Crafts Festival, or the MoCCA 2009 Festival in NYC. We might just have dinner together at a new restaurant or somebody's house.The point is to chill together and keep getting to know one another.

Then, once a month we also want to do a service project in Northampton like Habitat for Humanity or The Northampton Survival Center. Catherine is presently looking into all of that. In this simple way, we want to be serving together because imagine/northampton will be missional to the core from the git.

Our ultimate hope is that a group God is calling will coalesce by September and be ready to "incarnate" the mission as God directs.At the same time if it doesn't or is a small group we will go forward anyway.

If you feel enticed by the Holy Spirit, we could really use your prayer:

  1. God will coalesce a loving community in unity around the vision he has given.
  2. The SLT will be sustained in strength and courage, made ready to follow as God directs.
  3. The Bayne's and LaMontagne's will be able to relocate up here this summer.
  4. Protection for Brad, Catherine, Matt and Karen's job's; Jim will find a new job that fits what they need.
  5. Protection for all our children from illness, injury and harrassment.
  6. The McDermott's counseling ministry will build in Northampton.
  7. We will locate the right place for worship in the city.
  8. God will increase donors as it fits his purposes and what we need.
  9. A worship team will gather; (some are already here).
  10. We will have everything we need to do a first worship experience that will move and captivate people with the sheer beauty and glory of Jesus. Everyone will be inspired.
  11. Protection and direction for 4 folks who are on board.
I will finish with thanking everyone who has continued to support us financially and in prayer. You need to know how grateful we are to your faithful service to Christ as we have walked through a very challenging first 8 months up here. You have helped sustain this little ragtag bunch of Kingdom imaginarios. Please never forget that.

And please tell us how you are doing so we might pray for you as well. We love you all.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Why I Am a Redemptive Subversive: An Unfolding Manifesto of Sorts.

1. The world suffers pain and travail, always in desperate need of this God it knows dimly or not at all. People live their lives never imagining this God lives desiring to be discovered and known through what he has already revealed in Jesus and what he has made.


Be an instrument of his redemptive revealing in the remaining days I have been given.

Reflect him in thought, attitude, word and action.

Graciously subvert people's fears and skepticism about this God without wounding or oppressing them in any way.

Free the captive so they can discover him to be a liberator beyond their imagining.

Help the poor so they can discover his care and generosity
beyond their imagining.

Open the eyes of the blind so they can discover his beauty, truth and power
beyond their imagining.

Heal the broken-hearted so they can discover his compassion and affection
beyond their imagining.

Refresh the weary so they can discover his rest and gentle empowering
beyond their imagining.

Enliven the crushed in spirit so they can discover his promise for the future that gives them meaning
beyond their imagining.

Love the unlovely so they can discover
his delight in them beyond their imagining.

Free the embittered so they can discover his invitation to forgiveness and peace
beyond their imagining.

Encourage the humiliated so they can discover his gentle ability to "lift their heads"
beyond their imagining.

Befriend the
critical so they can discover his truth and find felicity beyond their imagining.

Give a voice to the voiceless so they can discover this God who helps them find their unique place beyond their imagining.

Defend the oppressed so they can discover his justice on their behalf beyond their imagining.

Live the Good News so they can discover he is the seductive joy of hope
beyond their imagining.

This Trinitarian God is the most spectacular Being without parallel in the entire universe, utterly transcendent and fully immanent. There are no other gods before him or after him. He is breath-taking in all his attributes and deserves to be shown as so.


Never present in my thoughts, words, actions or attitudes a God who is puny, boring, tamable or worthy of ignoring.

Point to his unfathomable power and incomparable greatness as the Creator and LORD of the universe along side his profound humility and saving graciousness in Jesus.

Guide people to the unbounded magnificence of His Being in what he has made in Creation, and how he has ennobled men and women with the ability to create culture in all its multitude of forms.

Never knowingly contribute to the "binding" of God through man-made systems of thought, tradition or innovation whether from within the Church or without.

Ignite the stunningly creative love of God which subverts hatreds of all kinds, heals severed human relationships, turns horrific wounds of the heart into the means by which others are healed, and gives true life to people who have lived blindly under the thrall of death their entire lives.

3. This wildly unfettered God who is infinitely more than we can imagine does not rule over the world as a capricious tyrant, but as the wise Creator, Servant/Savior/Redeemer and Benevolent Lord (the Good King) who voluntarily withholds his rightful power to judge and punish in favor of redemptively subverting the obdurate human heart through grace-filled love which will ultimately set everything to rights. He is under no compunction to do so beyond his own freedom and joy.


Recognize and move toward my constant need to be redemptively subverted by God's grace-filled love so I can be free to not use or dehumanize others for my security or gain, even those who wish to do me harm.

Reflect the intention and character of God, by how I treat others, always working to subvert what
wounds and demeans them (even of their own making), and turns them toward true life and relationship.

Glorify this God by being transparent toward him and real toward others such that he is discovered.

Find ways of celebrating the beauty, mystery, and dignity of all people, including those who do everything they can to destroy those qualities in themselves.

Spend my days redemptively subverting anything that turns people away from this God toward impotent idols and counterfeit gods no matter how much they seem to glitter.

Spend my days trying to open others to the Triune One who is far more more than they can imagine and wants to reveal his heart to them, each one.

POSTSCRIPT: I know none of the above is even remotely possible for me without his help every minute of every day. I am utterly dependent on him to "unlock" me. But, I can see no other way of life that makes sense or offers the kind of real joy and freedom my unruly heart has always longed for and believed was possible. In fact, I no longer look for any other option. As it is, I hope I can spend the rest of my days living as I have described. If I can, I think it will have been a life well lived for me, my wife and family, and the people God has brought across my path to receive from, give to, and work with.


Monday, April 6, 2009

Re-Gifting and the Kingdom of God: Some First Thoughts.

A little over a week ago, Tricia and I helped celebrate our grandson, Conor's 4th birthday. After the birthday party at a local horse farm, we went back to Dan and Lindsay's house to open his gifts. In the course of so doing the concept of re-gifting came up. You know, receiving a gift from someone you really don't want or need, then turning around later and giving it as a gift to someone else --hoping, by the way, it is not a gift they initially gave you earlier! I've heard those moments happen and are quite awkward.

Anyway, later in the week I got to thinking about how the idea of re-gifting is actually God's idea, not in the form just described, but in terms of how the Kingdom of God is seems to operate. Here are some of my first thoughts about the matter:

1. God the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit existed in pure, loving community of joy, and complete communion. However, they did not keep it to themselves because it is the very nature of love to give to the other, so they created us. Love withheld dies. We were created to share in the love and communion of the Trinity.

2. God created the world and gave it to those he also created, that they in turn would cultivate it and ultimately share its fruits with others, especially those in need or want. God gave the world and its fruits not to be hoarded but to be shared freely. Hoarding in creation creates division and inequity of resources or worse: aggression fueled by greed.

3. God gave Jesus, his son for the ransom of humankind so they in gratitude would give themselves (love and sacrificial service) in a way that others would come to know him and do the same (replication). If we live a "just Jesus and me spirituality" we become myopic, and spiritually self-absorbed.

4. God gave natural and spiritual gifts to each person desiring that they would give them in service to the world and to the benefit of others. Talents and gifts are to be given or they atrophy.

5. God gave the Church to teach revealed Truth, and create life-long, missional Christ-followers who exhibit in the world his living Presence, justice, healing and freeing love. A church that hasn't learned to do so is slowly suffocating and dying.

6. Jesus said that if we hold onto our lives we will lose them and if we give away our lives for his sake, we will find them. Re-gifting vivifies all of Creation.