It's 7am and I've already been up for an hour. Deep in prayer, drawing into the heart of my Dad. I am reeling! Let's just discuss.
Reclaiming the morning is such a beautiful thing. I got to thinking about how important it was for Jesus to commune with the Father early in the morning. Then I thought about how Odysseus always got his day started "as soon as Dawn arrived, fresh and rosy-fingered." Odysseus did some pretty awesome things. And, you know, there's Jesus. They found it significant to be up at the break of dawn...
I'm making this a new pattern in my life, to be awake and in prayer as Dawn arrives. To be up at 6am.
Do you have any idea how difficult this is? I've always chalked it up to not being "a morning person." But I see now that it was always just an excuse. It wasn't character that I lacked, but discipline - to drag myself out of bed in the morning, to seek after God and abide in God's love, to order my prayer life, to pray, to manage my time efficiently, to be a good steward of my physical body (particularly in the ways I feed it and allow it to rest), to practice self-control throughout the day, to get to bed in the evening (on time!), and finally to pray for prophetic dreams (lol, but seriously).
This is so much harder than any "work" I've ever done or probably will ever do. Look at the paragraph above! Can you imagine a job that would require someone to exercise that kind of discipline? No, it would be untenable. But that's precisely what Jesus calls us into when he says, "come, follow me." This is just a part of what discipleship looks like.
To reclaim the morning will mean for me and God to completely break the foundation of my life. For me to surrender and abdicate to God: my schedule, diet, the times that I sleep and wake, my dreams in the day and night; and then to allow him to work me into a new being altogether, that I might be a better vessel for the Kingdom.
The cost for me will ultimately be my freedom. After all, what meaning does "free time" have when one's schedule is under the domain and command of almighty God?
To be continued =D
I participated in a conference today about faith-rooted organizing. We were given some time to reflect on our dreams for our selves and our communities. I wrote the following:
Myself My dreams are to move to Chicago and plant a church there. To become financially secure. To do what I love, even if it's music, teaching, activism - even if it doesn't pay well... or at all. To rest in the father's goodness, love, and provision, so that I can work and give towards the Kingdom without distraction, anxiety, or fear.
Community Money is not the central motivator in life. People give and share freely, open-handedly, without price tags. All people are treated with dignity and respect, nobody is homeless or with need. We are propelled primarily by love.
I never thought that I could manage to pray meaningfully and powerfully for an entire hour... and certainly not EVERY DAY; but one practice that has helped a great deal is ordering my prayer life.
The basic idea is that God grants each of His people a certain level of authority over those nouns (people, places, things) which they mutually affect - one's body, family, home, relationships, workplace, etc. One is then empowered to powerfully intercede on behalf of those nouns; but if said someone doesn't fully acknowledge their spheres of influence and authority and then properly order them, it can be very difficult to remember and keep track of them.
So this has helped a lot. Also, some of the gems that Jon has dropped on us in the past couple sermons at TGC:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.
Now. This is all great and good, don't get me wrong - but it's not the sum total that I am after. If it was, then a 24/7 house of prayer and worship in NYC or Chicago would be sufficient. My heart and mind would be guarded by the peace of God and I might be on my way to uprising against the disorder of the world. My only problem with this (typical) understanding of prayer is that it falls just short of dispatching us. We are guarded, ready for the uprising... but just when does this uprising begin?!
I don't pretend to know the answers, though I have some ideas. Here's a satirical (though honest) poem I wrote today which might help to point us in the right direction:
I pray for peace in my life;
I'm always busy, hurried, anxious.
I pray for peace in my family;
I rarely call my mother.
I pray for peace in my relationships;
I hope to avoid confrontation.
I pray for peace in my home;
I hardly make the time to keep it.
I pray for peace in my building;
I've yet to meet my neighbors.
I pray for peace in my neighborhood;
I don't support local businesses.
I pray for peace in my city;
I refuse to confront the injustice in it.
I pray for peace in my country;
I prefer the cheap goods produced in others.
I pray for peace in my world;
I won't be the change I pray for.
Goddammit, He never answers my prayers.
As mentioned in the previous post, the first part of my threefold vision is a 24/7 house of prayer and worship. I learned a bit about what these are when living in Orlando. My D12 discipleship group caught wind of a powerful little book called Red Moon Rising, by Greig and Roberts, which spoke of a world-wide 24/7 prayer movement. Some members of the group read the book (I was admittedly not one of them) and were instantly inspired.
So we got involved with some churches in our city that were experimenting with the idea, including Church in the Son and a venue called The Porch. We learned a bit about what round-the-clock prayer and worship could look like: singing, playing musical instruments, flag-waving, eating or sleeping alongside the homeless, painting, dancing... and any number of other uncomfortably pentecostal expressions of worship. Some of us also visited the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Atlanta.
That was five years ago. I have not participated much in that sort of thing since. But I believe that God has laid exactly "that sort of thing" on my heart - to be implemented in Chicago and, to a certain extent, manifested during my time in NYC.
I'm not sure what that will mean ultimately; but there have been a lot of developments as of late, giving me some idea what it means for the time being.
Jon Tyson, the head pastor of Trinity Grace Church has spoken the past two weeks about prayer, particularly the Lord's Prayer as outlined by Jesus in Matt 6:9-13
. He encouraged us to pray through it for one hour each day. He also called us to pray together on Wednesdays at noon for an hour.
Seeing how this call reflected my vision for a prayer movement, I offered to make a map for the congregation to offer or find prayer locations around the city. I am hosting a prayer meeting myself at my home in Hamilton Heights.
had also resolved to pray during my lunch hour each day, but at my discipleship group meeting on Monday we all agreed to wake up together at 6am to pray. So I've had to shuffle my schedule around, but I'm really making this happen! An hour of prayer each day at 6am. And Wednesdays at noon to boot!I've also gotten involved with the TGC worship team and poetry group. I know that these group will teach me much more about prayer and worship. I will be leading with the band on tamborine and/or bass at the Upper West Side services, Sundays at 11am.
I will also be leading the poetry group and my missional community in worship periodically.It's already beginning to sound like 24/7, isn't it? Lol. Bring it on!To hear those sermons by Jon Tyson, click HERE! The sermons about prayer were Feb 20, 27.
I've had this cork board hanging on my wall(s) since I moved to Orlando in Fall 2004. I've moved about seven times since then; still there are certain papers, photographs, lists, and notes that have stayed with me and weathered all these years!
One of them is a small slip that reads:
I always kept that little slip of paper because the words on it, though written back in 2006, always seemed to carry so much weight. I knew they would periodically remind me of something God might desire for my life, something I might have an important role in. I could not have imagined then what S/he had in store for me.
Five years later I am living in NYC, working full time as a songwriter, busker, performance artist, and writer. I'm also a Christian, anarchist, and peace-maker; committed to my church, city, and a DIY ethic (respectively). I also happen to love the homeless.
God has combined all these existential hues to stamp a rather vague image in my mind, heart, and spirit: the vision God has for me in Chicago, which I affectionately and expectantly call my "Kitchen Sink".
There are three parts to this vision:
- 24/7 house of prayer and worship
- Homeless kitchen and resource center
- Art community center and DIY showspace
I anticipate that my years in NYC will help me to further develop my vision and prepare me to materialize and plant it in Chicago. In all its facets. At some point in the not-too-distant future.That being said, I am actively seeking out opportunities in NYC to increase in knowledge and experience in all three facets...
By February 2010, I'd lived in NYC for about six months. I was feeling a bit jaded about my lack of direction; I strove to be a better disciple of Jesus; I desired intimacy with God; and I considered what steps (if any) I'd taken toward moving to Chicago.
I asked myself the question:
How will the next six months be different from the last?
This was my answer:
The whole reason I moved to NYC was that I want to plant a church in Chicago... YET. I haven't really been doing so much thinking, praying, talking, or writing about Chicago! This was even something that Caleb from TGC BK called me out on when we first met - I had the passion, desire, will; but no VISION. Interestingly, Seth called me out on the same thing back when Emily and I were talking about getting married and moving to NYC. So this time I hope to be a bit more proactive - engaging in thought and prayer on what I hope to happen in Chicago. The main theme of these six months will still be SURVIVAL. But I need to start working in some forethought for Chicago. I'm taking a trip there in late April. That'll probably help jog the process =)
Interestingly enough, I received my vision for Chicago at the end of those next six months. I had not been actively seeking. It all came to me in a sudden spurt of inspiration. God works in mysterious ways.
I'm working on a new song, here's the first verse:
Everyone wants a revolution
but nobody claims responsibility
for the dirty dishes that pile up
when living in community.
Emma Goldman said a revolution
is none at all without a bit of dancing,
So I invite you all to this epic event,
the Dance Party at the Kitchen Sink.
On a marginally related note, I think I've decided upon the name for the endeavors I plan to undertake in Chicago =D
Thank you God for this vision! It took a whole year, but now I've got it. Time to seek the resources to implement this rather grandiose vision. But nothing is impossible with you - NOTHING. And I know you have put this vision on my heart. Thank you also for putting Chicago on my heart. Clear the path for me so that I might implement this vision to the glory of your name and kingdom!
I pray for the city of Chicago - that the city itself AND I will be ready for this big change. This HUGE addition to Chicago. Continue to mature this vision in my mind and heart as the time nears for me and my crew of fellow Christ-followers and Kingdom-bearers to launch this project in [downtown?] Chicago!
This is very exciting, Lord. Temper my idealism with some realism and pragmatism. Let this not be fleeting - may this be to the renewal of the city and the revival of your Church there! Help me to better connect with my brothers there - be they Christian, anarchists, homeless, artists, musicians, what have you. Lord, I know you will bring this to fruition in due time. I know also that you will lead me. Grant me the faith, courage, and discernment to follow.
Your humble servant,
West! I live in NYC, after all. There's no use in determining a direction if I don't have my bearings first, right?
And I would be remiss to forget where I've come from, to be where I am now, and the myriad reasons. Right now I am geographically in Chicago (visiting). But my heart - my community, church, friends, my life is in NYC. I wasn't sure I'd ever get to that place - where in my heart and soul, in the very core of my being, I would be fully devoted and dedicated to NYC. To God's vision, Kingdom work in that place. After all, the primary reason for moving there, the biggest motivation, was to "learn the ropes," to get to a place spiritually and existentially where I was "ready" to plant a church... anywhere, but my desire was to do so here - in Chicago.
In the process, over these close to eight months, I've learned that church-planting needs to be so much more substantive than just starry-eyed young adults pursuing pipes' dreams of the Kingdom. Indeed, as Tolstoy so aptly said, "the Kingdom of God is within you." Perhaps more accurately, it starts within you - within me. It can spread from there for sure, but that's where it must start. And if it isn't there, if I can't find the Kingdom within me, then I can do nothing. I have no power, no authority. Faith? Obedience? Love? Peace? Any other fruits of the spirit...
Before I could ever think of planting His Church - indeed, planting His Kingdom - don't I first need to have all these and more within me? Don't I first need that relationship, discipleship, grace, wisdom, discernment which can only come by the power of the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus? Lord, help me to believe it! And then to pursue it in full obedience.
So my time in NYC is not merely transitory. I am pursuing God's Kingdom within me, that I might then transfer that love, shalom, redemption, righteousness, etc to the city - be it NYC, Chicago, Bangkok.
My direction, then, is towards the Kingdom - being heavenly-minded, in pursuit of God's Kingdom, that I might bring (live, teach, preach, breathe, eat, drink, pray) shalom to the city. Then, as a church, that we would continue to plant the Kingdom, not just generally in the city but also in the lives of individuals and in the life of our community.
For thine is the Kingdom, the glory, and power forever and ever. Amen.
Rabbi, I want to see you!
What a lofty dream, what a vision for a blind man - the gift of sight. And his faith heals him... AND... he becomes a disciple, he follows Jesus along the road.
It really is an interesting question that Jesus asks him -
"what can I do for you?"
So I have to ask myself: if it was me, what would I say? Granted, I don't believe that Jesus asks this only to the blind or the afflicted with the sole intent of healing them by their faith - but rather to call people afflicted by sin into a life of discipleship, following Jesus "on the road". They need only respond to Jesus in faith, desiring to see his face.
But what does that mean, even now? Today? Jesus no longer roams the earth in our midst. But the holy spirit yet moves. What does the face of the holy spirit look like? How can we see it that we might then follow - in discipleship, in power, authority, humility, peace, and love?
"Gio, what do you want me to do for you?.. think BIG!"
The blind man asked for sight, after all - a pretty lofty prayer. As for me, I want to pray - in faith - for the shalom of this city (Jer 29:7). More than anything I want to see shalom in this place - in your church, in all the people... gay, lesbians, the depressed and lonely, the poor and homeless, police and all other "principalities and powers"... and Jesus I see now that it must start with me. How can I expect there to be shalom in this place when I, just like the rest of the world, do violence to my environment, my friends, my wife, my self, and my God. Yes, even to you. To me. Something's gotta give. Lord, I seek after your righteousness. I need you to invade my heart and command it by your mighty, merciful, and just hands. Only you can take this sick, fallen heart and provide the grace and healing power to make it new.
Help me to understand that you are my God. I want to be obedient. I want to be pure. Blameless. Righteous like you. Then I want to be an agent of peace - of shalom - in this city and the next. Lord, you are great. I am small . Continue to work in and through me. Help me to remove the barriers keeping me from bringing your Kingdom. In the name of your son Jesus. Amen.