Eastern Washington

40501026_341212819785571_3961651286883517682_nWe were only back for a week.  Our time on vacation had stoked my longings for a little more elbow room to roam.  I turned my attention toward Eastern Washington.  I had not spent much time there, but it was hotter in the summer, colder in the winter, and a lot roomier than the area of Western Washington where we lived.

I wasn’t completely unfamiliar with the western part of the state.  Land and home prices there were a fraction of what they are in the areas we have lived on the west side.  I had sent my wife link after link to so sites with houses and land near towns with names like, Tonasket, Wakunda, Republic and Kettle Falls.  I told her I would love to at least have some vacation land there.  Her reply was always an encouraging, “Look me up when you get back.”

Before our vacation to Colorado and Utah, we had begun to explore more of Washington than we had before.  It had been nearly 9 years since we had done any real adventuring.  We started by going to the Olympic Peninsula.  I had lived in Washington nearly 30 years and had never been to the rain forest.  My wife grew up here and she hadn’t either.  So we went.  It was great.  It was sort of the primer to our next trip. The long one.

After a day or two of resting up from our vacation in Colorado, I suggested that we continue to explore Washington by going to Winthrop and Republic.  These were both well known as old western type towns, set in the wide open of Eastern Washington along Hwy 20.  Hwy 20 was well known as a lovely drive through the high Cascades, and was also known for being closed half the year due to snowfall. Instead of her usually dismissal of all things eastern, my lovely bride agreed with an almost disturbing amount of enthusiasm.  What was going on here? Such a turn around from one known for being quite consistent can chill the blood.

Whether it was her unsuspected survival of the desert heat in Utah and Colorado, or something else, Angie was as interested in our trip east as I was. We both had the spirit of adventure coursing through our veins.  We also had this shared sense that we were still in the process of following some Divine cookie crumbs that were leading to somewhere we hadn’t even imagined.

The following weekend we headed east on Hwy 20 from our rental home on Whidbey Island.  We stopped in the town of Newhalem, just at the western base of the Cascade Mountain Range.  They had a small park with an old steam train engine in it.  It was amazing and refreshing that this engine was open to the public to climb on, in, and over.  All the levers and valves still moved and the bell could still be rung from the cab.  Rather than allowing the fear of liability to keep people away, the local government let the warmth of personal responsibility free people to touch and experience this rare artifact of a bygone age up close and personal.  The boys loved it.

The drive over the Cascades was breathtaking.  There were lakes and waterfalls everywhere.  One could easily see why the road was closed for much of the year.  There were steep sides and rock avalanches all along the roadway.  At one point there was a pull out on the side of the road littered with rocks and a few small boulders that had recently fallen from the hillside above the road.

The road wound down the steep mountain range into a valley much like the ones I had grown up in.  There was a bit of hazy smoke from wildfires in the Canadian wilderness, and a large firefighter camp on the side of the road.  The road ran along a swiftly flowing crystal clear river and into the town of Winthrop.  Winthrop is what everyone sees in their mind when they think of Old West.  The sidewalks were wooden and most of the buildings constructed back in the mid 1800s.  We had coffee and the boys had their lunch sitting on stools made from real horseback saddles.  Old west style.

We left Winthrop and went to the town of Omak, where we rented a motel room.  In Omak was an amazing western store. It was like a farm and ranch, tractor supply and sporting goods store all rolled into one giant supermarket of cowboy coolness. I am not a store person, or a shopper, but even I enjoyed being in there.

We drove over to Republic.  We only had a few hours to spend before we needed to head back west.  It was odd. It wasn’t as old westey as Winthrop, but it was definitely from the same mold.  The entire downtown was 1890s.  While hot and desert like the surrounding hills and up to the edge of town was thick with Ponderosa pines.  The highway went right through the center of town. It was wide with plenty of parking on each side.  Being Sunday, it was nearly deserted, which was a big change from the west side where everything is expected to be available 24 X 7.

Republic in the year 2018 reminded me of a town I had lived in growing up in the 1960s, called Rifle Colorado.  Rifle is now much bigger and quite modernized.  Republic, not so much.  Oddly I felt like I was coming home.  Everyone we met was friendly, welcoming, and very hospitable.

When we stopped to eat, Angie was using her phone and some local publications to see what house and land prices were like in the area.  I was excited to see her looking with great interest and joy at the seemingly affordable land prices.  While I still had a bit of a longing to own some land, I had felt the imperative for the last couple of years to buy a home.  While not quite ready to be put out to pasture, I am getting a little long in the tooth to be renting.  Social Security and my small pension would never be enough as a renter, but as home owners we could live quite comfortably if I got to the place where I couldn’t work.

We had been turned down in all of our recent attempts to get financing to buy a home.  I really didn’t want he to get her hopes up, but I was so very pleased that I wouldn’t be alone if one day I was able to acquire land east of the Cascades. It would take a miracle to be able to get a home, but it was a miracle that my Norwegian descended wife actually liked it here, 85 degrees and all.

Finding the Dinosaurs

It was an epic journey, in so many different ways.

When we finally escaped the gravitational pull that had kept us in orbit around our business for 8 years straight, we headed due east.  We pulled out of the driveway at 8 AM and I was so enraptured by the escape that I drove through the night while my family slept.

The sun came up over Idaho.  We stopped for a while to buy a pillow and seek out the mandatory Starbucks, then headed out with Utah in our sights.  We stopped in Ogden for lunch an

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d saw a sign, “Dinosaur Park”. Well, we came to Utah to see dinosaurs. Not these, but some others. Since there was a sign and since we were already stopped, why not?

The Dinosaur Park in Ogden is on a winding drive up an attractive desert canyon.  While it was wasn’t exactly what we expected, it was pretty awesome.  Inside the building were exhibits and castings of fossils.  There were mineral and rock displays as well as animatronics.

Outside was a grassy, well treed park with life size replicas of the most well known dinosaur species.  We even fed Jurassic sized rainbow trout in the stream that led through the park.

That night, after checking into one hotel and promptly checking out (with some stressful moments in between) we ended up in Salt Lake City. We swam in the chilly indoor pool and I slept for the first time in 38 hours.

The next morning we ate breakfast at the hotel.  It was somewhat difficult to find food that Angie and I could eat, as we are committed to eating on the ketogenic plan.  I will write more about that in another blog.

We left Salt Lake and headed toward Vernal Utah and Dinosaur National Monument.  DNM is a location I had visited as a little boy and as a grown man. When I visited about 25 years ago it seemed like the first time I saw it as a wide eyed 7 year old.  I wanted to see if it held the same magic 51 years later and to see if my two youngest, 8 and 3, would feel like I did.  I was also very interested in seeing if my lovely bride, an avowed enemy of the desert heat, would enjoy it as well.

We headed into the mountains past Park City and the Olympic village.  I remember when I used to drive truck over that road and all that we there were a few fences and a scattered cow or two.  It was so impressive we had to stop and find some espresso there as well.

We got to Vernal in the early afternoon.  It was hot, but not desert hot.  Even the lovely Angie of The North seemed OK in the dry 86 degree heat.  I was surprised at the town.  Vernal was far larger than I remembered it to be, but it seemed that half of it was abandoned.  Being on a road that really leads nowhere of much importance to the masses, it was like many other towns we were to pass through and at the mercy and whim of a fickle energy industry.

When we got to the Monument it took my breath away.  Not just the magnitude of what it is, but that I saw my family stare in amazement at the stone cliff, littered with hundreds of dinosaur bones, fossilized and immortalized in stone for us to see.  Even Kian, only three years old, seemed to be transfixed in looking at the display before him.  Perhaps he didn’t fully understand what he was seeing, but it was like entering a massive cathedral for the first time.  The feeling that it is so much bigger than just its size is overwhelming as well as uplifting.

The visitor center, the building that protects visitors from the elements (as well as the bones, I imagine) had been rebuilt since I had last visited.  The new design allowed visitors to actually step up to the wall and lay hands upon the real fossilized remains of an animal that had died there 145 million years earlier.

Never, until this moment, had I ever experienced a first time feeling on second visit.  This was actually my 6th visit and each time, especially this last one, was as good or better than the first.

We spent the evening splashing in the pool at the hotel in Vernal.  We had dinner, a great steak and salad, in town and spent the night full of what we had experienced.  I am taking my kids back.  I  hope that they do the same.

The next day we drove into Colorado and over Douglas Pass.  Just outside of Rangely we saw a badger.  I never saw one outside of a zoo so we turned around and came back to see him again.  He looked a bit annoyed at that, bared his teeth, and took off into the bush at high speed.

We stopped at a lone Douglas fir, all adorned with Christmas ornaments, near the summit. We gathered some rocks for painting back home (see yondesea rocks on Facebook) and headed to Fruita Colorado.

9 years earlier, Angie and I had passed by the Dinosaur Museum in Fruita and had opted not to stop.  This time we took the boys and had a great time inside.  Most of the exhibits were cast, but inside you could see an actual lab where fossilized dinosaur remains, mostly from the Rabbit Valley dig, were being classified and labeled.  I think our little guys were so dino crazed that they ate it up.  It was a bit of a step down from the last two dino sites, but it was fun anyway.

For the rest of the day I took the family around the town of Grand Junction.  It was where I had spent most of my youth.  I took pictures of Cavan in front of the house we lived in as well as my Grandparents home.  We had dinner and spent the evening visiting with my highschool friend, Mike.

The next day was a bit tough.  I took the family for a drive over the Colorado National Monument.  Its a place a bit like the Grand Canyon on a much smaller, but in my opinion much more colorful scale.  Everyone was road weary and I don’t think anyone really enjoyed the trip.  That was too bad.

We spent a second night in Grand Junction, making full use of the swimming pool at the hotel.  It also gave us a second evening to spend with Mike.

The following morning we headed to Rifle Colorado.  I had lived there for a time when I was growing up as well.  We went to Rifle Falls and had an amazing time exploring the falls and the limestone caves.  As a side note, as a result of our ketogenic way of eating, my wife led us on a hike.  Not just a walk around the falls and pools, but up steep and winding trails leading to the top of the falls and around the rim of the canyon.  The boys were huffing and puffing, but Angie led out with the grace of mountain goat.

We reluctantly left Rifle Falls and headed north through Meeker and Craig, stopping for a while in Meeker at the old original Cavalry garrison which was now a museum.  I have never seen a more impressive collection of Americana and I got to sit with the boys inside the original Rifle to Meeker Stage Coach.

The rest of the trip back toward home was more of a chore than a joy.  There is a lot of nothing out there.  I was being renewed by the nothing, but the family was just tired of hours in the car.  We spent a night again in Vernal, then Next in Nampa Idaho, and then finally back home to Whidbey Island.

When we left, Angie and I had the feeling that we were actually being led by the Spirit.  We made no plans and set no agendas.  We just went. We came back feeling that simply going was all that was needed.  I felt renewed, somehow.  The wide expanses of desert and mountains, rocks and canyons, healed some raw spots on my soul.  The boys had a grand adventure and a few tokens to remember it by.  Angie and I felt even closer, if that were at all possible.  We somehow didn’t feel like the adventure was over, even though we were back.  All the joys and pains of owning a couple of barber shops, the intricate relationships, and the unpredictability of humankind reminded us we weren’t on vacation any more.  Even so, we both felt it.  We felt like the adventure wasn’t over.  Guess what.  It wasn’t!

Neighborhoods. Not Small Groups

The church I attend is attractional.  It is consumer. Finally, it is Mega.  They don’t seem to bham commbe satisfied with those limitations. That is one of the reasons that it is the church I attend. They aren’t satisfied.

Even if they aren’t satisfied, most of the decisions, effort and money go into perpetuating the attractional model.  It works and people get saved and some of them grow into functioning Christians who reproduce, usually after the atractional model.

We are really big on the small group thing.  Good idea, in my opinion.  One of the leadership types said, “We don’t want to be a church with small groups. We want to be a church of small groups!”  Props and kudos on all of that.  Still, it is based upon the attractional model which, like I said, is not bad and it works.

We hired a small group pastor. Some churches have a couple of full time, a few part time, and a few volunteers who try to recruit, train, equip and empower small groups to start.  The common model is to identify leaders inside the church, develop the concept of that  small group  to appeal to those inside the church, and then present the group to the church for attendance.  Again, this is all working.

I like the attractional model of church. I like going there and I like being there.  My church, like many others, have cool teachers who are exceptionally well equipped for teaching.  The music is great and the coffee is good. My kids love being in the well done kids programs.  Do you get it? I like attractional churches. I am a consumer at that level.

I also like the whole Jesus story a lot too.  I like it even more than I like church. I loved the way The Message has the phrase, “The Word became flesh and moved into the neighborhood.”  That is what Jesus did. He became a flesh and blood man and moved into the neighborhood. That is what my attractional church is wanting to do too, but mostly they aren’t.  They hope that the small group model will do that, but mostly they don’t.  They want to move into the neighborhood but it eludes them. There is some success, some impact. They have enough success to feel like they are making progress but the overall impact on the neighborhood is minimal.  Of course they can’t do everything, but to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results is the definition of insanity. OK, that is way cliche and I apologize.

I don’t have the answer, or at least an answer that I have tried and proven.  Actually I have some grass roots success at being in and part of a neighborhood, but I already wrote that  blog. I am not talking about me, but I think that there are a lot of me out there who could be more if there was a different way to thinking about how we get into the neighborhood and what success in ministry means.  Read my blog, Unintentional Discipleship or The Community Phenomena if you want.  No worries. I am amazed that someone even read this one. Before I forget; thank you!

I have a suggestion that I would like to drop into the ears of a few of the movers and shakers that I know that lead from clear hearts and conscienceless from inside the attractional church.  I do so from time to time when they lend me their ears as well as their hair in a fifteen minute segment or two.  I ask, “Why don’t we make the next couple of pastoral hires into neighborhood pastors?”  Each church that attracts is made up of people from multiple neighborhoods and the only way for our pastors to make a difference in our current model is for them to come to us.  Why not draw up a plan, scheme plot and pray, develop a job description and a hiring criteria that would send a pastor into the neighborhood. The rubric of success would be impact in that geographical community.  Perhaps rather than convening small groups from inside the church to draw people inside the church, this staffer could draw people inside the church into the community in which they live.  Perhaps they would spread community, Christ community, into a place where there has been a void, and find that small group attending the big church for the great things that it has to offer. Small groups of neighbors, who would walk to each others house to get together rather than drive across town or across counties.   Get neighbors together who live inside the dynamics of a neighborhood.

I really don’t have an answer, but I do wonder about this.  Our city of Bellingham has several identifiable communities who actually self identify as well. They have names like the Lettered Streets, The Colombia Neighborhood and so on.  Perhaps instead of a small group pastor we could hire a Lettered Streets pastor.  The resources of the attractional church would be an incredible asset to an old fashioned, parish minded individual.  I think that the capitol C church would grow. I think the neighborhood church would grow, and I am certain that the attractional church would grow.  All their work would be done within walking distance.

This isn’t all my idea. There are others who are very local ministry, parish ministry minded. They usually seem to be at odds with the attractional church.  They don’t enjoy it like I do.  They only see what they see as bad in that model, not the good and even great value there. I would like to see a combination of the two ideas.  The influence of the church is waning.  That is because with too many people there is only a superficial relationship.  Rather than hiring the best and brightest to stand in the picture window of our church and beckon, “Come hither.” we could go there and point the way. If we want to invest in community then our traditional view of small groups is not the answer.  Neighborhoods are.  Just my opinion/

 

Community or Competition

vintage-photo-of-minneapolis-farmers-marketI did one of those Facebook games that revealed your most used words on Facebook. Fortunately for my wife, who is also a friend on Facebook, her name was one of the top used words, as was the word love and the names of my children. Whew, I was sweating that one!

Another word that was used a lot is the word community.  I have a lot of investment into the idea of community. It can be micro defined to indicate smaller subsections.  I want to use it in macro, to describe an entire way of thinking, of letting the thought of community influence and even dictate an approach to every day life.

On the other side of the spectrum is the word competition.  It didn’t show up at all on the Facebook game I played.  It can have several meanings, but the one I am looking at is the market way of thinking. Marketing, acquisition, competition!  Marketing operates under the assumption that there is a limited amount of resource available.  It assumes scarcity and uses fear of privation* to manipulate acquisition. Ruled by the marketing mindset one must compete, do whatever one is capable of to gather and store up this finite resource for yourself otherwise you will not have enough.  My abilities to gather and store make me better than someone who is not able to do the same. It takes no mind of what it takes away, only that it is yours by way of possession. It means that if I do not win then I lose, but for me to win then you must lose.

In a community mindset the assumption is that there is an abundance. There is enough to go around. Rather than scrambling to gather all that you can for yourself you are more inclined to share, help others gather, make sure that everyone has what they need.  Its OK, tomorrow there will be more. In the community way of thinking life slows down a bit. There seems to be more time to smell, to taste, and to savor living.  Our existence is no longer a race to some unseen finish line, but a tasty, meandering journey to be enjoyed for what it is.

Trying to live community in a market world takes work, intentionality, and determination.  A community minded person cannot force the market minded world to LOGO_BUYNOW_BLACKchange. They can only change their little corner of influence.  Sometimes community will be directly opposed by market, and often times market will win the battle, but the overall victor is still undecided.

I run my life internally under the principles of community.  My family and I invest ourselves into hospitality, extending the walls of our home out into the world, opening our lives to others.  We try to be generous givers, both of love and of substance.  We want to be even more generous. I understand that doing business in the market place has with it the inevitable contractual obligation.  It is what I have to do to pay my bills and enjoy the services of heat, lights, and others.

I run my business internally under the principles of community.  Rather than contracts, which state specific actions and restricts actions, we work under the idea of covenant.  Covenant is freedom and commitment all rolled into one big burrito!  As a community we covenant to work toward the good of the whole community. We share the resources rather than hoard them.  We do what we do to gather and know that there will always be enough and that there will be more tomorrow.

It isn’t that hard to do once there is some buy into the idea.  After all, that is what we all want. That is the kind of life Christ and the Apostles pointed to when they spoke of Kingdom.  It is hard to resist the temptation to assume scarcity.  It takes trust to believe that there will always be enough.  It makes us vulnerable. It takes a little while to begin to see that the heart really does resonate with being in and a part of a real community.

It is never easy, but sometimes people who buy into scarcity will attempt to take away from those who buy into abundance.  When that happens the temptation is to let them convince you that there really is a scarcity. Fear of loss can drive us away from love and community. That is why Jesus said to give to those who ask and not withhold.  His goal wasn’t to take away what we have,  but to show that your Heavenly Father cares and provides. All we have to do is believe enough to go and gather.

If you are able, we welcome you to explore living in community, both macro and micro, along side of us.  It is an experiment in being vulnerable and loving lavishly.  It is a reflection of what Kingdom living and Christ Following is all about.  It is also a great deal of fun, otherwise I probably wouldn’t be doing it.

 

pri·va·tion
prīˈvāSH(ə)n/
noun
noun: privation; plural noun: privations
  1. a state in which things that are essential for human well-being such as food and warmth are scarce or lacking.
    “years of rationing and privation”
    synonyms: deprivation, hardship, destitution, impoverishment, want, need, neediness, austerity

    “years of rationing and privation”
    antonyms: plenty, luxury
    • formal
      the loss or absence of a quality or attribute that is normally present.
      “cold is the privation of heat”

What is a Barbershop?

barber pole ferndaleWhat is a barbershop? Mind you, I am not referring to the little unisex hair place that hung a barber pole outside its door hoping to lure in a few men to round out their daily payroll, or a local salon.  I am talking about a barbershop. I am talking about the kind of place your grandpa went.  Hopefully your dad was lucky enough to spend time there as well. What is it that makes it that place special. What makes it a barbershop?

As intangible as it might seem there are qualities that make up a barbershop. For those who’s senses are attuned authenticity can be apparent in an instant.  You can often tell the moment you walk inside and are greeted by the smell of bay rum aftershave, barbicide and talc. Pause a moment , let your senses drink in the sound of conversations, some whispered some loud, and even some laughter. Clippers buzz, shears snip with their gentle click clicking and the pop of the drape shaken out as a new guest ascends the manly throne of tonsorial supremacy.

Each barbershop is different. While there may be replication there is always revelation. A barbershop, a real barbershop, cannot be duplicated. It is as different as  many children of the same parents. They may look similar, but each is a treasure chest of personality, special ability, strengths and weaknesses. They may sound similar, smell similar and look similar, but like snowflakes and faces, no two are exactly alike.

There are those who have tried, but once exact duplication takes place the intangible magic that is the barbershop disappears, the salon slowly creeps in. It covers, smothers, and takes over its host. What started as a living breathing example of classic Americana is quickly transformed into a franchises. No heart. No soul. Simply a gathering of automatons cutting off men’s hair to the end of payment, driven by volume, preying upon the next pour soul who is doomed to this purgatory or even hell only because no one has told them the good news;  man-topia is real, accessible, and they are welcome there.

What is a barbershop? It is like the old Celtic Monasteries. It is people gathered around mission. It is a reflection of the community around and in, presided over by a loving Abbot and cared for by tonsiary monks, apprentices and masters.  It is a gathering of all the folk from as far as the news will spread. It is nobleman and proletarian equal, as the floor is always level in the barbershop.  It is at its core hospitality, a depository of thought, and a dispensary of good will as well as good looks. What a barbershop really is, is community.

What is a barbershop? It is you. It is the sum total of all those who come in. Some  may take away more than they leave, and others may deposit extravagantly, but it is a mixture of all the men who come and engage, granting others a fifteen minute audience of their own unique value, allowing that to be blended into the pot of humanity that is The Barbershop.

What Makes it a Missional Outpost

Our little corner of the world, Yondersea Men’s Grooming and our cozy little apartment above we call the Sea Loft are more than just spaces for living and working.  To us they are an expression of our faith as Christ Followers and extensions of our desire to live life ‘on mission.’  We call them Missional Outposts.  I sort of stole the term and modified it from denominational history.  ;;

Since I hung that title and displayed it for everyone who cares to look, I thought I should explain what I think a missional outpost is or should be.  I am not an authority and this isn’t the ultimate truth. This is just what we experience.  The one thing I have to make perfectly clear; I did not plan this out.  It happened.  Maybe more believer stuff should just happen. Maybe it does.  That is the sort of stuff I like to be around.  Its cozy, warm, and human.  I have tried to do stuff in the past.  Good stuff motivated by good intentions.  Never really worked for me, so this organic, home grown type of believer stuff will have to do anyway.

To Be Missional meant we had to have a mission

Well duh?  OK, ours started out with a personal mission of being fiercely committed to loving God and loving folks (Mark 12:30-31) Believing that I was disqualified from ever serving in “a ministry” I was still committed to granting God full access to my life to use “in ministering” however He would choose.  Since recent events had eliminated all distractions like a house, a car, or a job, it was easy to change things up.  I chose to align my work life in such a way as it would allow maximum availability.  I chose a career path that was accessible, scalable, and portable. The training and licensing requirements were accessible.  It was something that I reasonable thought that I could do, and there was a universal demand for those services.

To be missional meant we needed to position ourselves on the frontier

One thing I struggled with for years is the thought that the best place for me to exercise my ministry gifts is inside the church, both the organization and the building.  Since that no longer seemed a possibility I took my gifts to the edge of the world of unbelief.  I applied my trade and allowed my gifts to flow through that to the people that trade brought into my presence.  I like the mission statement of Christ The King Community Church; To create an authentic Christian community that effectively reaches out to unchurched people with love, acceptance and forgiveness so that they may experience the joy of salvation and a purposeful life of discipleship.  They do that by attracting the unchurched to their place of doing ministry, and it is working.  We do that by going out into the marketplace and going to them and that seems to be working as well.

To be missional meant we needed to be self sustaining

Our mission is not something done in addition to our trade, our mission is the reason behind it.  No one was particularly interested in hiring a failed and divorced pastor to work in their church, nor was there any great clamor to throw money at the idea of being a missionary to America.  Not that I asked, I just assumed. Still, it worked out just fine being self supporting.  The results often take a long time to bring about.  All the while we still want to continue eating semi regular meals and sleeping indoors.    Our trade supports those habits and allows us to continue using our lives in service to Christ and leaves us to try whatever means we come up with to accomplish mission.

To be missional means we keep everything on the ground level.

Even in the most welcoming of churches there is a visible hierarchy.  Even the unchurched can see that pastors seem to occupy the higher seats, progressing down through the various servants, the regular to casual members, with the unchurched visitor being on the bottom.  Some churches do such a great job of hospitality and negate the negative perception of the hierarchy, but it is still there and obvious.  I think being missional takes away the hierarchy. Everyone who enters our missional outpost is on equal footing with those of us who provide our services. It feels safer that way.

Being missional means being committed to community.

Community is both relational as well as geographical.  Community consists of people in relationship, doing life together.  Being missional requires relationship.  It is not optional.  Access to lives is not assumed, it is earned.  Relationship grants us access to speak into hearts when the time is right.  We don;;t ever feel like we have to check off the “witnessing” box.  Relationship allows the time for hearts to open and allows events to unfold to speak Spirit words into.

Being missional, living life on mission and surrendering your life completely to mission is a hard choice in most cases. Like I  said, I had nothing left to loose.  It took that much for me to give myself over to this thing.  Like the Children of Israel in the wilderness we looked to God’s pillar of fire or smoke to lead us and we looked outside our tent and gathered enough manna just for the day. The flaps of our tents are open and welcoming to the wanderer. Our model is hospitality and our guiding principles are loving God and loving people.  It is working.

The Community Phenomenon

img10How this became, what it is, and how it fits into God’s plan.

My wife and I have the privilege of presiding over a wonderful expression of community located in the old downtown area of a mid sized city in the Northwest.  It is nearly everything that I ever had a vision for in all the years that I have given myself over to visions.  It is rewarding on personal, professional, and spiritual levels. I want to write a book, sell a million copies and spend winters in Hawaii, but I really cannot take credit for any of this.  If anyone had given me instructional steps in order to arrive at this destination I would likely have never followed them.  I am pretty sure that this wonderful place and community that has risen up has been orchestrated, without much help from me, by the loving and creative hand of the living and loving God.

To start with, my early experiences as a Christ Follower were in and through expressions of community. More specifically, I first became a Christ Follower when I spent time with a group of crazy in love with Jesus types who chose to live in the same place, sharing their lives with each other and the people they came in contact with.  They loved me, lived out their faith openly, and eventually invited me to live with them.  That is where I accepted Jesus and first learned what it meant to be His disciple. That experience is indelibly etched into every part of my mind.

While community is a major part of my spiritual DNA, I have not always cooperated with it.  For years I allowed myself to be controlled by others desires.  I wanted approval and acceptance.  I had experienced it through community even before I became a part of community and I was hungry for that.  Outside of community, and I suppose inside some, acceptance was based upon a level of performance.  Rather than being a part of a living and vibrant community I allowed myself to be led through phase after phase of hoop jumping in order to receive what I craved. I had some success but it felt like I was performing rather than living inside the real.  I left my barbarian  roots and became domesticated, like a tiger trained to perform in the circus.

It has been said that a person cannot consistently behave in a manner inconsistent with who they are.  I paced back and forth inside the cage of my domesticated Christian life and longed for the wild. Eventually I blew up my life. Nearly every person close enough to be in the blast zone chose to remove themselves to a safe distance.  I stood willingly at ground zero and allowed myself, the person that I had become, to be blown to bits. With no one left to influence I embarked on a season of healing.  My own toxicity was exposed and I was slowly being nursed back to health.  I made some choices in the early days that were deliberately crafted to allow myself to be fully engaged and fully compliant to whatever God might have in store for my future. I gave up my commercial driving career and trained in the simple craft of cutting hair. After a couple of years of recovery, one in which I stayed mostly hidden from anyone I may have known before, my core DNA, my hunger for community that could only be sated by meaningful connection, began to emerge.

After a bit of time working with other barbers I opened my first barber shop. I opened it inside a sporting goods store appropriately named Mayberry, after the small town in the 60s TV sitcom, The Andy Griffith Show.  It was the owner’s desire to create the same small town atmosphere that he grew up with.  He sold a variety of goods from clothing to sportswear and from toys to fishing poles. He even had a soda fountain inside with inexpensive old fashioned milkshakes.  With the addition of my barber shop his vision was complete. Now all that was needed was the community to begin to show up.

Inside my little corner shop I kept my head low and worked hard at becoming the best barber I could possibly be.  Over time my old, affable personality began to surface.  People began to come into the shop just to enjoy a visit as well as to get a haircut. My overhead was low, graciously low, so I was able to charge less than most of my competitors.  That helped get the word out but there was something more that seemed to be drawing folk in.  We were doing well inside the shop, outside, not so much.  The store was big and open with high ceilings and a concrete floor.  There were other places nearby that sold virtually everything that was offered and because of their longevity were often able to offer them for less money.  The soda fountain was intended to be a break even business to draw people inside to shop, as was the barber shop, but people would come to the barber shop or sit at the soda fountain and often times did not purchase any store items.  Things were tight for the store owners and their vision wasn’t panning out like they had hoped.

Things were going so well for us that we decided to expand our business.  Since the store was unwilling to rent us any img12more space we ended up signing a five year lease on a 1200 square foot building in an old part of town.  We moved in and decorated, added some additional rooms for treatment options and opened up a salon.  It was a disastrous move.  From the very beginning the people that we hired took advantage of our divided attention between the two business.  Our staff began not showing up for appointments, helping themselves to products we purchased and using them to earn money at home, and simply pocketing cash payment and writing those appointment as no shows.  It was my first time ever having to fire someone.  I didn’t like it.  It wasn’t fun, but it was necessary.  Now I had a commercial building with a lease and no one to work inside.  We closed the doors to the business and contemplated our next steps.

After having the new location closed for over a month I decided to reopen it as a second barber shop.  I had a barber that had been working for me since the previous year and my stepson had graduated from beauty school and was working in the shop doing a great job. Since it seemed that everything was in place I did a little bit of redecorating and began to cut hair in the new place.

Things in the new place were painfully slow.  I barely made overhead for the first couple of months.  I was open four days per week and worked the other three days of the week in the old shop so that I could continue to pay rent and food at home.  It was during a lull in the action at the old shop when the owner of the store took me aside.  He told me their business was loosing too much money and that they would be closing the doors.  I asked how much time did had before they closed the doors and he told me, “Three weeks”.  In any other setting that would have been a death sentence for our business.  Three weeks was not enough time to even find a suitable location, let alone set up, furnish, and let your clientele know about the move.  Providentially we didn’t have to worry about that. What seemed to be an anchor on our moving forward now turned out to be a lifeboat!

Things began to pick up pretty soon after we moved full time into our new location.  We had five times the room that we had previously and we moved around and tried different variations.  Our goal and vision wasn’t just for a barber shop.  That longing for community stuck deep inside my wife’s spirit and mine as well.  We talked out and vision cast various ways in which to be missional in our community.  We thought of ways to empower small group ministry using our facility. We thought of giving the open space over to youth ministry.  We thought about opening a coffee shop and using that to reach out missionally to our community.  All the time I was shifting and moving things around trying to find ways to best practices for reaching out and creating community.  All the time I was trying to find the right thing to do, God was busy just doing.

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Within one year of opening the new shop as a full time barber shop things were starting to pop.  We never spent a dime on advertising.  We just didn’t have it.  Even without a marketing budget or strategy, people began to talk about our shop. People were giving us kind and encouraging reviews on the internet, making us the top reviewed shop on Yelp, Tripadvisor and Google.  King 5, a Seattle TV news organization rated us number 5 in all of Western Washington the first year and number 8 the second.  That was competing with shops in cities like Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia and Everett.  One after another guys would come in to get their haircut for the first time.  When asked how they heard about us they would often tell us that a friend, or a room mate, or a coworker had sent them.  People talked about us in the community.  Guys would notice other guys haircuts and ask where they got theirs done and they would send them our way.  Business was growing.

I am not a businessman, I am a doer.  My wife and I both love showing hospitality and I also love cutting hair.  The craft as well as the interaction fires all the right neurons in my brain making it the most rewarding activity I had ever participated in.  I am energized by the conversation and the connection between myself, the barbers that work with me, and the wonderful array of diverse men, and a few gals, who come and sit in our 100 year old barber chairs for some tonsorial ministry.  It seems to be working.  People come in and more come in each week.  Now that talk isn’t just about the quality haircut, it is about the feel, the vibe, the sense of community they feel.  Our latest configuration of the shop puts the barbering in a 300 square foot area in the back and makes about 800 square feet available for common areas.  It is becoming a place where people like to be, a place where people connect with us and with each other.  Somehow, in spite of my best efforts, community began to happen and it happens daily.

Back before I blew up my life, back when I was following what I knew was the call of God to become a pastor, I had a pretty clear vision of what being a pastor meant.  It meant that you were the guy that stood in the front of the little box with the cross on top and taught people from the Bible.  You met with them, listened to their problems and offered some Jesus ways to health and wholeness.  It all looked pretty much like every other pastor I had ever seen.  After the “big bang” I felt, and was told, that I was not longer qualified to be a pastor.  That was ok with me.  I loved Jesus a whole lot, but I was pretty well ticked off at his fiance and didn’t want much to do with her.  Barbering was fine with me.  The hours were more predictable, the customers much more agreeable, and the pay was better too.

Had you asked me at any given point while I was an official pastor what I wanted to accomplish, I would have given you the following list;

  1.  I wanted to be a friend to sinners, perhaps influencing them to consider Christ for the first time
  2. I wanted to engage the newly converted, influencing them to become full on, crazy in love disciples of Christ
  3. I wanted to influence disciples to consider giving their lives over to the mission of Christ outside of the box
  4. I wanted to be influence by and influence the movers and shakers out doing the work.

During any given week I will spend 15 quality minutes with those who haven’t surrendered to Jesus. We talk about everything under the sun, establishing a base of trust.  When the time is right, when the need is there, when the heart is soft, I point them toward Christ.  I have prayed for the terminally ill in my barber chair.  I held the weeping and grieving as they cried out their despair in that same chair.  I have offered advices, direction, and a hundred different stories to the newly converted and seriously committed disciples of Christ.  Interns and beginning vocational types have sat in my chair to receive prayer, encouragement, and perhaps an insidious thought or two sparking a hunger to perhaps think outside the box.  I also get to spend the time with the leaders of more than a dozen churches ranging from 50 to 5,000 members.  I make their hair look great and share what is on my heart.  They share back and we are both encouraged or challenged.  In all I would have to say that my regular congregation and visitors are so numerous that I have become more of a success as a pastor behind the chair than I ever had behind the pulpit.  Church happens, ministry happens, and I don’t have to make it happen.  I simply pick up my clippers and my comb and I jump right in to whatever God is doing on a given day.  It is an amazing thing to take part in.

I used to tell people that no matter how far you stray, the center of God’s will is one decision away.  I think about Israel in the desert. The followed the pillar of smoke or fire that was the Presence of God whenever and wherever it moved.  Each and every day they walked outside of their tents and there was enough food for the day.  It didn’t matter how much they gathered our how little, it was always enough and it spoiled if you tried to save any for the next day.  Each day was a matter of trust.  One decision, the decision to follow.  I don’t know what the future holds for my family.  An old neck injury has caused loss of feeling in my right hand and a great deal of pain on those busy days.  My volume is down, but my spirits are up.  We may look outside the tent one morning and see that the presence of God is moving.  We are committed to follow this adventure until the chapter closes on our individual adventures and opens to the adventures of our children.  We have had two precious little boys during our journey into this life we now live.  We also have two grown children as well as a number of surrogate children who we offer love and share our lives with.  We want to remain passionate about following God wherever He leads and joyful in wherever He stops.  There are people out there to love.  For now we have a community.  It didn’t really seem possible to me at the beginning this is what was going to become, but it is an amazing thing to be a part of.  I have great company on this journey.  My wife, Angela, is the first one to make me believe I didn’t have to live my life they way others thought I should.  She hitched up her wagon for the ride and makes sure that I am always looking beyond what is and into what might become.  My boys are full of life and personality.  They are both growing up in the barber shop, surrounded by the community of creation that is all around us.  I hope that they will become to love God and love the people that God loved so much that He gave His one and only Son.  I believe for them to be a gift to their generation.  I will keep you posted as the journey continues.

Evolving Missionality

I never really got the whole being “called” thing.  I got the part about the longings and the barberleanings toward vocational ministry, I just never connected preaching the gospel with living the gospel until much later in life.  I had a “called” experience when I was around ten years old.  It was clear, it was supernatural, and it was completely foreign to my life experience.  I had lived my young life neck deep in a typical, non-religious, red neck sort of way which disregarded sin and consequences.  Since it was what I knew it was what I lived.  The church, at least at that time, didn’t communicate well how to embrace the alternative life of living for Jesus, they just said to do it.

Upbringing and wiring sort of worked against me getting the whole thing of living and looking like someone who was called to pastoral ministry.  Still, whenever I was asked anything about what I wanted to do or to be I would usually reply that I wanted to be a pastor.  The response was most often a snicker or two, but that really didn’t matter.  I knew somehow deep inside of me that God had at one point in time communicated directly with my spirit and told me that I was to become a pastor.  When I finally began to connect that the Christian lifestyle was decidedly different from the one that I was leading I began to attempt to live like a Christian was supposed to live. I went to church, wore a tie, spoke more like the King James version of the Bible than some hick from the Colorado high country.  I was successful for extended periods of time, but most often it seemed that living correctly didn’t fit well.   Not only didn’t it fit but it also didn’t feel like the real thing.  From time to time in total frustration I would take off my Jesus suit and kick around in my regular clothes.  After a while I would feel guilt and shame and I would reluctantly put on my Jesus suit again and try to appear, at least from the outside, like someone who belonged in ministry.

A few years back I was looking over my life and was frustrated at the lack of mentorship in my life   No one really wanted to come along side of me and help me find the way.  Most of what I thought was acceptance was generally using me for what I had to offer with the promise of mentorship, but those promises never really materialized.  Once my usefulness was used up or there were other useful options I was discarded.  I resented that until I realized that my Jesus suit never really gave anyone access to the real me.

I finally, painfully, became a church pastor.  I had struck up a truce with my Jesus suit and even though it was obviously not a good fit I still wore it well enough to be accepted, at least in some circles.   I was trying to fit in with the religious crowd.  First and foremost I needed to find acceptance in the higher circles of denominational dominion, then I had to find religious folk who would allow me to be their pastor.  I managed to squeak through after several years of hard work.  My pastoral ministry hardly lasted a decade before I flamed out at high altitude, spinning out of control into the earth.  I shattered my dreams of fulfilling the “call” and effectively burned up my Jesus suit.  Now what to do with the rest of my life.

The religious folk that I had put so much trust in never even showed up at the crash site.  I staggered away and tried to piece together a life.  In that process I took up the simple art of barbering.  That was followed by owning my own shop, expanding into two that finally morphed back down into one.  I managed to do this wearing my own clothes.   I recognized Jesus suits when other people wore them and I kept that whole crew at a distance.  I loved Jesus a whole lot, but I really didn’t care much for His girlfriend.

Early into owning my own barber shop I found out that hurting people actually came to barber shops more than they came to churches.  I found myself just being there for so many broken men.  I comforted some after the loss of a wife, congratulated them on the birth of their babies.  We celebrated holidays while I gave some their very first haircut, and others their very last.  I even started praying from time to time over the men who sat in my 1940s era barber chair.

Life became simpler.  I was fathering a step son who eventually followed me into barbering and raising a toddler who thought (and thinks) his daddy is pretty cool.  I was learning for the first time in my life that I could trust my wife and that I didn’t have to be threatened by her.  I fell in love!  We shared meals with people we met, lifted a pint or two, and we shared how blessed we are to be allowed this life and how Jesus makes it all work for us.  Now my wife and I are awaiting our second child together and our entire goal is to raise that child to love Jesus with a crazy kind of love.

I have been following Chris Morton.  He doesn’t know me, but I read his stuff.  It isn’t polished super blog stuff.  It is gritty and real.  He isn’t a pastor of a big church, at least not the last time I checked.  He is working and living and leading a small group of Christ Followers.  He taught me recently that I have found my call.  I am now “missional”.  I guess what that means is that I live a real life, wear real clothes, am crazy in love with Jesus and I actually do care about the condition of the people around me; people that Christ died to save.  If you had asked me early on if I was “missional” I would have said yes, but my mission was to build church, not be Church.  I now realize that God isn’t looking so much for more super preachers, but is looking for barbers, bartenders, mechanics, roofers, and you, to live life simply with two (actually three) goals in mind;

1.  To love God with everything you’ve got

2. To love yourself

3.  To love your neighbor (think all of humanity) with the same sort of love

I don’t know if a more formal role is in my future.  I want to teach again in some fashion.  I want to help people discover vision, not just give them mine.   Perhaps there will be a congregation or maybe not.  I am sure that whatever I do with my future it will look a lot more casual than it used to.  I sent my Jesus suit out to the cleaners and never went back to pick it up.  I like being me, and I really like being me crazy in love with Jesus.  Yes, I even like being me and loving you like I love me.  It’s hard sometimes, but always worth the effort.