A Reflection on the Kairos Annual Summer Conference, 2009 Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada

Some time ago, when I was in a very questioning stage of my spiritual journey, a man who I believe is very close to the Lord, once prayed over me and said that someday God would not only show me the what but the why. The why of my life, the why of why things are the way they are.

Interestingly, this happened on the extended weekend I spent in Canada at the Kairos Summer Conference.

Leading up to this conference was my first board meeting in Atlanta, GA, in the winter of 2008. A new proposal was simply being aired, not for a vote, but for reflection, and the meeting ended with tremendous acrimony. Distrust abounded between members of what is one of the most Spirit breathed and humble ministries – to prisoners and their families. I volunteered to be a member of an ad hoc committee to help resolve the crisis and find a way forward for the ministry to grow and yet maintain trust among its members, and between the volunteers and their own elected leadership. I love this ministry, and it has changed my life in so many ways, and I could not bear to see it in such a broken state; so I was glad to volunteer. As the lawyer of the group, I would be tasked to put into legal language the solutions that committee came up with. I also contributed to finding balance between various constituencies in the ministries – large states vs. small; representation of women’s ministries, and so on. As one of my dearest friends calls me the master negotiator, some of that was a part of my work in this committee.

Getting to the Kairos summer conference this year was marked by spiritual warfare, including work concerns and the delay of my passport for no apparent reason and without any actual explanation from the Department of State. The irony of it all is that I finally received my passport in time to make a 6 a.m. flight to Buffalo, N.Y., which SHOULD have gotten me there on time for the vote on the by-laws, having missed the prior day where the by-laws were discussed. Of course, this means I was not able to be there to lobby for the by-laws or advocate for them on the floor of the board meeting. However, I wasn’t even there for the vote. My flight from Atlanta was delayed, the ground radar at Jackson-Hartsfield being knocked out by a minor thunderstorm, my plane’s secondary generator failing immediately prior to take off, and a hatch malfunction. It suffices to say that, as the van from the airport pulled up to Brock University, the board meeting had just broken up.

The by-laws had passed unanimously, after perhaps a year and a half of the most difficult time for Kairos in discerning a way forward. People who had been vehemently opposed to the original proposals at the Atlanta meeting spoke in favor of the by-laws and the work of the ad hoc committee.

I was surprised and blessed to receive the Building the Kingdom Award at the banquet Saturday night for my work on the committee. I was stunned and blown away.

On Sunday, after the conference had concluded, I was able to really reflect on these events, and what they all meant. God spoke to me to simply say I had done my work, and that I had to let him do his, without my help, to get the by-laws passed to usher in a new time of growth for Kairos. He wasn’t too sure I would do that, so I was delayed in arriving.

But, there was so much more to it than that. He said to me, I have shown you the why. Why you do what you do. Why you are put in the situations you are put in. He showed me a large part of the why of my life.

When I was in college, I loved my fraternity, Beta Theta Pi, and my brothers. I wanted to see our fellowship grow and succeed, probably more than I wanted myself to grow and succeed in my studies, and I would have loved to have had a leadership role when the fraternity was doing well. Instead, I was rush chairman immediately after the fraternity had a split and was elected President the following semester. It was not to be; I was a leader not at a good time but a time of crisis.

When I first became involved in Cursillo, I was put on the secretariat after only having served on one team, and that being in the same year I made my Cursillo. My time on the secretariat was spent not growing that movement or enjoying the fruits of the ministry, but re-creating its by-laws, its manuals, and dealing with other controversial subjects. I was never President, and after the drudge work was done, it was time for me to rotate off rather than stay on because of the by-laws I drafted. I was a leader, but never was given position for my leadership, only work to fix past problems.

When General Convention 2003 happened in the Episcopal Church, I was elected deputy and became an Anglican blogger, helping people to vent and later come to grips with what happened during this tumultuous time. While not all the answers are apparent for the church, I do know that it was critical I attend GC2006 and do the follow up reconciliation work in the Diocese of Western Louisiana to help hold the Diocese together, but I’ve done what I can do and God is doing what He wills. I was elected and served in a time of crisis.

Then, I became involved in Kairos. A brother, Neil Crick, told me that Kairos had a fast-track leadership program. He was right; I went from first time volunteer to member of the International Board of Directors in a space of 8 years. So much of my Kairos experience has been positive. However, I was brought on as chairman of the Louisiana Chapter in 2005, after somewhat of a leadership crisis that left the state disjointed; the ministries in the southern part of the state didn’t trust the folks in the northern part of the state; the Kairos manuals were sometimes not followed, a new set of financial guidelines came out that required a complete re-working of our accounting, a new manual came out that changed how we handled the three day weekends. When I came on as chair, my dream was to grow the ministry, and even start a Kairos on death row at Angola. Instead, I traveled and served a weekend at every men’s institution in Louisiana that Kairos served to restore trust, I planned workshops on finance and the new manual, and even had to travel to local advisory council meetings to convince these councils of the need for compliance with these new policies when they wouldn’t attend the workshops. Then, my time as chair was over. The crisis was more or less weathered, and the new chair ably took over.

The state chapter then elected me to serve on the International Board of Directors. Then, the first meeting marked by acrimony, and the events I’ve outlined above.

I am a business bankruptcy lawyer and commercial litigator. Everything I do involved crisis, a short fuse, heavy emotions, livelihoods on the line. I’ve joked at times that I am not a lawyer but a janitor or a grief mop.

So many things I get pulled into are in crisis. This has probably been a big large “why” question in my life.

Yesterday, I was on the Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls. After I quit taking pictures and just looked at the falls as I was being soaked by mist and water and blown by wind as close as the boat would dare go, and I looked at my fellow passengers, I realized how I had this strange comfort of being somewhat in the center of the storm that perhaps they just didn’t have. Of course, I opted for a place right on the front of the ship facing the brunt of the falls, because I wanted to get wet and to really feel the force of the falls. Not a lot of folks at the front of the boat with me, while other parts were more crowded.

All of this, and sermons I heard at the conference, workshops I attended, people I met, conversation I had, led me to reflect as I was packing to leave on all of the above and on the why of my life.

The why of my life is simply this, the Lord told me:

“I made you for the storms of life, for the crises. You will never sail calm seas, you will never work for easy clients, you will never lead in my church during the easy times but I will call on you often in the hard times for all of my children. Neither did my only begotten Son, who sailed rougher seas, who had tougher clients, and who birthed the Church in much tougher times than these. You may not understand this, but I made you for these times. You may not understand why I chose you for these times, but if you even look at your own frame and how broad your shoulders are, your shoulders are not just broad physically, but in your heart and soul. They are broad to carry the burdens of crisis for others. These times of crisis are not fun times, but they are times you were born to handle. You are solver, you are negotiator, you are reconciler. You are to stand in the breach – in the courtroom, the board room, the prison, with your friends and family, with the least of these. Know that I always stand with you, you are never alone. Know I will always take care of you and your house; I ask not for your success, but your faithfulness.

Why? These times were coming anyway. Someone had to be able to handle them. Sometimes building the Kingdom is to just try to hold things together when things threaten to break them apart, to put out the fires, to fight the floods. Sometimes you can’t move forward and you do well to just hold the ground you’ve got. Your service is not lesser than those who build great new things in the cause of my Kingdom, and last night’s affirmation by Kairos for your work has told you that.

When you were a little boy, you always wanted to a fireman, and your favorite show was Emergency. While I made you a lawyer and a dedicated lay servant in my church, you are My little fireman, ready for the emergency. As you know, my Church is not bricks and mortar, but the people, and I need my fireman to take care of my people in an emergency.”

I have a feeling of most profound peace about my life, who I am, and what I am about, the Lord having shown me the why.

Why I Am Glad To Not Be At General Convention

In large measure, as I read the reports coming out, it is good that I am not there. While I am a bible believing Christian I have always loved the breadth and acceptance of the Episcopal Church. In my own recent experience, it allows families with divergent theological viewpoints to continue to worship together. I have seen how the Episcopal Church has been able to reach out and attract intellectuals who would have a difficult time in other churches. As a father of three girls, I am glad women are valued in the Episcopal Church, not just with honor, but with an opportunity to vote and to exercise ministry. I am glad the Episcopal Church is a place where gays and lesbians are welcomed as anyone else. A church that used to, and still does in most places, treats sin and theological disagreement as a pastoral matter and not a bludgeon, knowing that we all agreed to pray from this same prayer book, in the hopes that God would bind the church together in unity. A very beautiful and simple expression of Christianity, that, in its purest form approaches God very humbly.

My problem is that the Episcopal Church, as an extension of so much that is good in her, has taken a good idea to its apparently logical conclusion and made it an absurdity. In so doing, she has turned the Bible on its head, and has become arrogant because of her alleged theological genius.

Someone I know recently became interim rector of a parish and this person was shocked to find that, in this small parish, they had quit saying the creeds but were saying their own made up statement of faith. Some of the resolutions at this General Convention seek to authorize that which is already happening.

What is the sound of one hand clapping? Well, when I read and listen to video and audio in Anahiem, that’s all I am hearing.

A very good friend of mine recently pointed out to me that God’s call on our lives changes, and that mine has most certainly changed. I know that my service as GC deputy and later in the Diocesan reconciliation initiatives was something I was called to do. As I sit here, I know I did not mess up or make a mistake in not going to General Convention. I know that God’s call on my life has brought me to focusing on family and work right now, and still doing work with Kairos.

But, I also think that over the years since GC2003, when my ministry in Kairos was really heavy duty and I became at deputy, blogger, one of the usual suspects in the Vast Conservative Anglican Conspiracy, or what have you, I flat got burned out. It took an emotional toll on my life. I feel like, in the last few months since I resigned, I started getting some of that life back. I really needed to get that life back; it is pretty wonderful.

Maybe someday I might once again become involved in national church politics. But I seriously doubt it. General Convention is not the church. It is a legislative body combined with a dysfunctional family reunion. I don’t particularly mind either one of those. Doing both at the same time is insanity when the subject matter is the heart of your life – God.

Thanks to everyone for the encouragement

Emails and phone calls today reminded me of the following verse from Isaiah:

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Passing thought before the Western LA Deputies Meeting Tomorrow

Likely to be said as I announce my withdrawal as deputy – the liberals have it right. If our relationship is now to be defined by covenant rather than affinity, it is no relationship at all. I make the tiny leap of logic from that that the relationship is long since been dissolved, and will not waste a week and a half of my life debating it on continuing dialogue about the Anglican Covenant which will not be voted on at GC2009.

My 2006 Easter Vigil Meditation

Readings are here.

The Resurrection. The thing this Good Friday Christian loathes the most. I most understand and identify with the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ for my sins. I am so at home with it. It is my own being that realizes that I flung my sins at Jesus as he marched down the dirty streets of Jerusalem, as I shouted at him and cursed his name, a sin for which the Bible portends no redemption. This is not Patton’s theory of divine reincarnation, as reincarnation is antithetical to my faith. Yet, in the Greek sense of “Do this in remembrance of me” as regards the Eucharist, my soul takes me beyond merely sitting at table with Jesus, but to being a member of the vulgar crowd abusing Jesus on his way to Golgatha. Or maybe Peter, who denied Jesus three times, when I have denied him three thousand times, and three million times I just don’t even recognize. Or maybe Judas, who surrendered his own soul and his Lord and Savior for thirty pieces of silver.

I cannot fully comprehend the Resurrection. After the experience of my own life since I found Jesus Christ, I’ve learned to account for miracles, even raising the dead. This barely scratches the surface of the meaning of Christ’s Resurrection.

I cannot fully comprehend the idea that the bearer of my sins, the Lamb of God, can have new life despite the fact that he bore my sins, and even bore everyone else’s at the same time. The idea of being a lamb for sacrifice can be traced to animal husbandry and sheep. If you have an orphan sheep, you can get another sheep to adopt this one as her own if you but kill her own kid and drip the blood of her kid on this orphan sheep. I am that orphan sheep. Jesus gave his life for me. The Lord could not recognize me as his own without this sacrifice. How could Jesus have been resurrected, as my soul had so much sin from which to be purged. How could God know me, recognize me, place a ring on my finger to allow me to transact his business for him, and kill the fatted calf for me, as in the parable of the prodigal Son, but for someone else having to die in my place. My sins are grevious unto me, and the burden of them is intolerable. Satan, the accuser of the brethren, would try to convince me that Jesus sacrifice wasn’t enough to save my sins. Indeed, it is enough. But, to believe that the person who gave this sacrifice for me would yet live despite his sacrifice?

Yet, there is the Resurrection. I’ve often argued to those who blithely claim that whether Jesus’ physical resurrection physically happened or not is irrelevant, and that what is relevant is what effect that idea has on your life, that belief in the physical resurrection is essential for Christian belief, and that anything less is not Christian, yet I sit here and question the resurrection, not for scientific reasons, but spiritual ones.

We should never underestimate what it cost God to redeem us, through his Son, Jesus Christ. However, we will never be able to overestimate the depth of God’s love for us. The simple truth is that it cost God his only Son, all of himself, to redeem us. He would have paid more for us if God had it. Interestingly, He didn’t have any more to give. Yet, there is resurrection.

All of creation pales before this. The number of Abraham’s progeny are nothing in light of this. Leading a nation out of Egypt and having them walk through a sea on dry land is nothing. Promised a Messiah in the words of the Prophet Isaiah and we are given God himself, in human form, who meets every prophetic word ever spoken in Israel, and yet is so much more. Dry bones living – just an analogy to the resurrected spirit of Israel? Hardly, it is my dry bones that live. Dry bones living is the sinner made not just forgiven, but free. Free, with a nagging feeling I have the freedom to make, not the same, but a similar same sacrifice Jesus made for me, for someone else. This sacrifice will be the best thing I’ve ever done. I will live, just as my Savior lives. I just don’t really understand. Words fail. When words fail, for the Anglican, that prayer book thingy comes in quite handy:

“It is truly right and good, always and everywhere, with our whole heart and mind and voice, to praise you, the invisible, almighty and eternal God, and your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ our Lord; for he is the true Paschal Lamb, who, at the feast of the Passover paid for us the debt of Adam’s sin, and by his blood delivered your faithful people.

This is the night, when you brought our fathers, the children of Israel, out of bondage in Egypt, and led them through the Red Sea on dry land.

This is the night, when all who believe in Christ are delivered from the gloom of sin, and restored to grace and holiness of life.

This is the night, when Christ broke the bonds of death and hell, and rose victorious from the grave.

How wonderful and beyond our knowing, O God, is your mercy and loving kindness to us, that to redeem a slave, you gave a Son.

How holy is this night, when wickedness is put to flight, and sin is washed away. It restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to those who mourn. It casts out pride and hatred, and brings peace and concord.

How blessed is this night, when earth and heaven are joined and man is reconciled to God.”

BCP, Easter Vigil, pp. 286-287.

Ides of March: State of the Church

As a follow up to the previous post, I felt I needed to at least say something about the Church, Anglicanism, and that failing institution, TEC. Frankly, at this point TEC is ecclesiologically analogous to a failed state in political terms. The Presiding Bishop has taken on authority never granted to her under the Constitution or Canons, the General Convention is at a point where folks within the church obey or disobey its edicts at a whim (whether on the left or the right), TEC can no longer interact normally with other churches in Christendom or in Anglicanism, and it is failing economically.

Oh, and as to the latest controversy of the Buddhist bishop of Northern Michigan, I’ve been a party to much discussion, solely listening and not saying anything, about Kevin Thew Forrester.

I just haven’t had much to say.

The reason I don’t have much to say is that when I said the church was going in the wrong direction over an openly homosexual bishop or a twice divorced thrice married bishop, the church didn’t heed the warning. Now we are worried about a buddhist bishop?

If TEC is a city, I hate to inform everyone but TEC isn’t burning anymore. It’s burnt.

Sure, I’m going to show up at Standing Committee and vote no on Forrester. But, it just doesn’t matter anymore. Nothing will happen internationally over this, no higher moral or ecclesiastical authority will be able to do anything about it. The House of Bishops will vote yes, a majority of the standing committees will vote yes, there will be much gnashing of the teeth over this, but nothing will ever happen.

Yes, there will be much debate over whether Forrester is a Christian, what is his take on the Trinity, and so on. For me, friends, the debate is over. I’m done with wishful thinking. If a member of TEC clergy couldn’t find enough to do and embrace within the Christian tradition to deepen his relationship with Jesus Christ that he has to embrace Buddhist practices (and forget even theology for a moment), then he doesn’t know the Jesus I know, who continually challenges me. I’m glad Forrester knows how to sit now. Jesus calls us to pick up our cross and follow him. Don’t recall him saying anything about sitting.

Forty years from now, TEC will likely reclaim being a Christian Church in a huge effort to regain its identity. It will affirm the thirty-nine articles, the Nicene Creed, the authority of the Bible, its relationships with other Christian churches. It will affirm Jesus as Lord and Savior. It will have to hit rock bottom in order to do this. Until then, and until all the garbage is out of the system, it won’t have any clue that anything is wrong. Many folks have said lately the TEC has already hit rock bottom. I say they are wrong; there is still dirt flying from the hole, TEC is still digging. When the shovel shatters on a diamond, then TEC might wake up and realize that something might be wrong.

It took the jewish prodigal son feeding pigs and want to eat what the pigs eat to go back to his Father’s house. Jesus knows us pretty well.

Moreover, TEC will be unable to rebuild until it becomes irrelevant to the political left. Hey, it may be burnt, but it belongs to them. Its gay bishop speaks at the Presidential inauguration, its national cathedral calls on the new President to come to church as if he’s someone new in the neighborhood, well, you get the drift.

Much like the economy, things have to get a whole lot worse before they get better.

The question before me is whether I leave the economic ER to go to General Convention this summer. The covenant will not be considered, according to the PB, and so this will largely be a waste of time. I’m seriously thinking not, but feel a serious obligation to the people of Western Louisiana to do what they asked me to do. I’m praying about it.

Ides of March: State of the Economy

After having received a few emails and even verbal inquiries about my ceasing blogging, I decided to take a spare moment to make a post on the blog on the state of things.

My uniform response to those inquiries has been that I am a business bankruptcy lawyer in this economy. What do you think I have been doing?

Over the last two months, my life has been legally what an ER doc’s life would be medically after an atomic bomb goes off. Yes, the economy is precisely that bad. There has been exactly that much need for my services; I have to triage clients on the first phone contact – has anyone filed suit yet, is there a foreclosure pending, is the tax man at the door, has an involuntary bankruptcy petition been filed? Short of that, let’s set our appointment a week or so from now since it appears you won’t “die” between now and then.

As my regular readers know, I have a flair for the overly dramatic. The only thing I have to back up my story is that generally I have been logging the same amount of billable hours each week that I would normally log in a week and a half. There haven’t been any sprints to get ready for long trials, either – with the exception of a short day trial last Thursday out of town, it has been putting out fires, period.

A lot of people ask me where I think all this is going, economically speaking. They ask when we will come out of this, will things get better or worse, and so on. Frankly, things will get worse before they get better, despite stock market rallies, etc. Even when the garbage is taken out of the banking system, credit will not be as available, banks and other institutions will look a lot harder at both old and new deals. It will take two years or better to get all the garbage out of the economic system and get the assets and people back in service, and another three after that to deal with the aftermath of litigation.

In short, my life for the last two months is going to be this way for the next two years, and then will get a little better for the next three, before things return to normal in my law practice.

I’ve now become a keen watcher of the financial news, and I find the latest proclamations of peace and prosperity by talking heads in the economy by talking heads and our President to be interesting. Reminds me of the movie the Killing Fields when Phenom Penh celebrates the end of the war between the government and the Khmer Rouge, yet one trip over to the hospital where the wounded and dying are tells a different story. And then things really get worse, sort of like the economic pogrom against Capitalism Obama and his administration has in store for us.

God created this world of plenty and famine, of economic boom and bust. They are cycles, they are here to teach us something, about faith, about values, and about ourselves. You can study it in the Bible, you can see it in our history. Moreover, socialism is doomed to failure due to human nature. As long as someone else has something someone else wants or needs, you will end up with either capitalism or violence. Rules and regulations will not make people ethical, much less Christian. People are always trying to find a way around the rules, especially where the rules are unjust and deny freedom. Rules are there for those that have no ethics; too many rules makes everyone unethical and corrupt. We get rid of our Christian moorings as a society, and, well, look what happens – we become corrupt, so we make more rules, and ultimately become more corrupt.

In any event, this will be the first week I am not staring at a calendar for the week wherein I’ll be out of town for two or three days. Hopefully, I’ll get caught up. I find myself praying for those who still have the time to fight the good fight for Christianity in these times. For right now, I am tending to the economically wounded and dying. God made me for these times, and I feel his pleasure in what I am doing, despite being exhausted.



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