Father Joe

A couple years back, I read Englishman Tony Hendra’s autobiographical story of his long, formative relationship with Father Joe. The book (creatively titled Father Joe) commenced with fourteen-year-old Hendra’s affair with a married women. When the women’s husband discovered his wife and the neighborhood kid mid-passion, it was obvious to pretty much everyone that Hendra needed guidance.

Whisked away to Quarr Abbey (a Benedectine monastery on the Isle of Wright), Tony Hendra met and began a life-changing relationship with the elder, flat-footed, knobby-kneed priest, Joseph Warrilow. Warrilow was kind and firm and wise; and when Tony first met him, he said he “felt on the brink of learning an entirely new set of possible responses to the world.” Hendra’s days and conversations with Warrilow changed who he was and guided him through a tumultuous life. In fact, their relationship spanned nearly fifty years.

I was mesmerized by the story. It was more than the story, though; it was how this tale spoke to my own longing for elder spiritual guides. I believe we all long for our own Father Joe. We long for women or men who will see who we are – as well as who we are not. We long for wiser guides to point the way, older friends who are unflustered by our angst and chaos, entirely unimpressed with our masks and our pretenses and our false selves. We want assurance that we are not alone and that the world does not ultimately depend on us – we know we are too small for that.

Sunday is Father’s day, and when I think about what I want to give my sons – it is the sort of things Father Joe gave Hendra. Over the years (many years), Father Joe walked alongside. He told Tony the truth, even when it was tough. He surprised Tony with his easy forgiveness and generous grace (one thing Father Joe never did was shame or condemn, even when Tony was way out of line). Father Joe helped Tony become more of himself, his alive, free self.

That’s the kind of dad I want to be.


In the morning, we are taking the boys for their first adventure to Disney World. It will be a hoot. You may not hear from me next week, though. I’m going to be plugged in with the family.

The Book Club {June.08}

Here we gather for the first round of our book club. A few of us locals met up at Jittery Joes for first thoughts before we brought the discussion to the blog. The faithful present were Liz Rand, Jeromie Rand, Juli Kalbaugh and myself – quite a funky crew, if I may say so (and I may – it’s my blog).

Mainly I want to hear your thoughts. So, my question is – simply: Where do you go as you read? What did you like /not like?

Here are a few first thoughts from me:

The Man Who Was Thursday While this is on Miska’s list of all-time favorites, I will say it didn’t quite carry that level of sparkle for me. I did enjoy it, though. After I got in sync with G.K’s rhythm and tone and got to know Gabriel Syme a bit, I found his wit and sarchasm downright hilarious. One of my favorite sections was the opening dialogue of chapter ten where he spars with his companions about how he planned to introduce himself to the deadly Marquis.

Chesterton’s ability to connect to the human emotions and essence in all of us is, I think, one of his strong suits. I particularly connected with his line here: Through all this ordeal his root horror had been isolation, and there are no words to express the abyss between isolation and having one ally.

Early on, I fell prey to the temptation to attempt to find Chesterton’s asserted point of view (his political philosophy, his moral philosophy, his vision of the world) embedded in the convoluted twists and turns of the plot and characters. I was chagrined as I read his letter that was included as an appendix reminding readers that we ought read titles as well as we read text. This was a nightmare, after all. Much of this story was neither the world as it was nor the world as Chesterton presumed it should be.

Have any of you read C.S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength? Did anyone else make any aesthetic or emotive connections between these two novels?

Surprised by Hope Now, this book captured me. It offered a convergence of multiple convictions that have been growing in me for the last year or two – only it took them further and encouraged them toward coherence.

Wright’s central thesis rejecting the notion of Heaven as our final home (particularly with the fuzzy assumption that heaven means some kind of ethereal state in a realm totally separated from the world God placed us in) is, in my opinion, right on target (for those who didn’t read the book: the Biblical vision is that after waiting in Heaven for resurrection, a new earth that has been joined to heaven is the good place all the redeemed will finally arrive). But I found his next point even more on target – the idea that God’s intention has never been to evacuate as many people as possible from this world but is, quite the opposite, to redeem and restore this creation that he named good at the beginning.

In other words – and contrary to much popularized theology and to a whole franchise of Christian fiction – God has precisely not said, “Scrap this planet and my intention for my image bearers (humans) to fill the earth with my glory. The Fall ruined it all.” Rather, God has said, “Satan and his lies and evil will not take what is mine, what I have named good. I will redeem it, every stitch of it. I will re-create it.” And, in the person of Jesus, in his resurrection from death, that is precisely what God began to do. The physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus is the prototype (the “first fruits,” Paul would say) of what God is going to do to all creation, all the earth, every human who will surrender to God’s intent to “make all things new.”

So, as Wright would say, “the Church has work to do.” Every place where sin and ruin has left its mark (which is to say, everywhere) is a place where the people of God should, in the name of Jesus, join God’s work of redemption. Every place of poverty. Every place of ugliness. Every smidgen of shame and abuse. All of these places are places where God’s redemption intends to break free. And this new creation is what we invite those far from God to receive, to enter. We invite them to be united to Jesus, to his death and resurrection. We invite them to be made new and then, in turn, to become themselves agents of God’s newness.

These lines will get much play from me: The church, because it is the family that believes in hope for new creation, should be the place in every town and village where new creativity bursts forth for the whole community, pointing to the hope that, like all beauty, always comes as a surprise.

Next Reads:

So, if you want to join the next round, we have two choices for you. Pick one or both:

[Fiction] So Brave, Young and Handsome, Leif Enger

Enger wrote Peace Like a River, one of my top ten novels. This should be great.

[Theology] The Jesus Way: A Conversation on the Ways That Jesus is the Way, Eugene Peterson

It’s Eugene Peterson. For me, nothing more need be said. Eugene is probably the writer/pastor/theologian who has influenced me most. This is the third volume in his intended 5 volume spiritual theology series.

The Book Club for Locals

So, for us locals who have joined in on the revelry with the book club, this Sunday @ 2 @ Jittery Joes will be our time to chat. Then, we’ll post our thoughts here for the rest of the club to join in the fray. How does that sound? A little coffee. A little Chesterton. And for those who got ambitious and did both, a little Wright. Should be fun.

Also, I just posted a random assortment of Things I Didn’t Know over at Relevant. (I know, I know, how does Relevant have the bandwidth to store such a huge list? You’re funny, you got me…)

Kind Words for Holy Curiosity

What??? Three days, three posts? I’m getting a little carried away.

Lots happening, though.

Recently, I received a gracious endorsement for Holy Curiosity from Phyllis Tickle, a woman I immensely admire. She is a wise, artistic voice who, in addition to her own profound writing, has offered the church a great gift with her collection of The Divine Hours.

Winn Collier has once more produced a very loving, gentle, enticing book of practical, but substantial theology. That is a rare feat, and in this case, also a very grace-filled one. {Phyllis Tickle}

I’m humbled and a little giddy that Phyllis and a few others would endorse and encourage my writing. I’ll pass others along as they come, so you can share in my joy.

One more thing – if you do Facebook, I recently started a new group for the book. Just jump into the groups section and search for “Holy Curiosity” (creative, I know).

Miska on Women in the Church

Miska is amazing, but you probably already know that. Recently, a good friend asked us both about our views on the egalitarian/complementarian debate (gender roles, etc.). Miska’s response was so much better than mine. I shared it on my Relevant blog. Give it a look.

Am I a Dinosaur?

I don’t do Twitter. I don’t get it. (I’m open for explanations that cause me to see the light)

Text messaging – I don’t really dig that either. I don’t know; do I really need to be that connected, all the time, forever, at every instant? (maybe if I had an iPhone, I would see the world differently)

Does this make me a technological dinosaur? Have I now finally become my mom who is still holding out to see if email becomes more than a fad?

{More} Things I Love About My Church

DCF is a beautiful place, a beautiful community. Over the past 6.5 years, this place, these people, have worked their way deep into our hearts. It’s strange and surreal to think that this summer, we will part.

There is so much I love about our church. But I want to mention two simple things here.

The first is a practice that has become embedded into our way of life. Once a year, we transform our Sunday space into an art gallery. We invite artists of every sort to offer us their work. We have all the usual suspects: photography, ceramics, painting, pottery, sketching, mixed medias. Then we have artisan baked goods, original music and original poetry sprinkled in.

This year, we had a live pottery demonstration. Curt Hoffman had quite a crowd gathered around him most of the time. During one moment, I was enjoying Erik Pearson’s original guitar piece while watching Curt sculpt, and it was pure joy. There was another moment when I caught a first glimpse of Juli’s painting, and tears surprised me. I can’t even say for sure what captured me, but the art and the beauty spoke to me.

At DCF, we have The Gallery for one simple reason: because we believe our God is making his world beautiful again, restoring the brokenness and the ugliness. We are merely reflecting his creativity, his beauty-making.

Then, I do love the plain fact that my church is funky. I love that we have a bunch of free spirits who just do their own thing.

Our band put together a revival, dcf-style, on a recent Friday night. The evening was full of life and hope and truth. But my favorite part might have been the handbill Andy Heck created for the event.

If you can get past the star-eyed doll picture that, frankly, just looks creepy, you will find some pretty hilarious text: Come on Down. Join us for some ol fashioned sangin and bible thumpin. Bring a tamborine and pack a lunch, cause beatin on the devil may take all day.

Words from the Diamond

I’ve mentioned I’m an assistant coach for Wyatt and Seth’s t-ball team, the fightin’ Tarheels. That means I get to be on the field during the game, coaching the tikes. It’s quite a privilege. When they are batting, I might be at first base. When they are fielding, I might stand near second. I couldn’t possibly tell you every off-the-wall thing said to me by these kindergarten ruffians between pitches, proof positive that their mind is absolutely in a different orbit. Merely a sampling:

“I want a mustache.”

“I got five dollars for my teeth.” (with wide, toothless grin)

“I have an imaginary friend: Dennis.”

“You’re scary.”

“Mrrmmmppph…..Elephant” (with glove covering face, apparently to serve as an elephant’s trunk)

The Folly of Being a Savior

I’m tempted to believe that I would make a good Savior. I’m not so brazen as to actually suggest myself a replacement for the true redeemer of the world. However, if my actions belie my convictions, then on most days, I fancy that if Jesus wanted to take a long weekend and leave the world in my hands, I could pretty much keep it together without much of a hitch… {this is a post on my Relevant Blog. If you want to view the rest, you can find it here}

Monday’s Prayer

God, you are with us, in our comings and our goings. We need you today. We needed you yesterday. We will need you tomorrow. The future is before us. It energizes us, and it terrifies us. Move ahead of us. Propel us by your Gospel mission. Make your name great. Amen