Learning about Rebirth & Resurrection through our Community Garden Rebuild

The history and vision of Jacob’s Well Community Garden:

Here are some pictures of the current season’s restoration and rebuild of our garden. We experienced a significant vandalism event two years ago and some volunteer problems that knocked the wind out of our sails and caused us to put the garden on hold for two seasons.

Work in struggling, yet rising communities can be challenging and just like learning that types of death, disease, pests and uncontrollable circumstances are part of gardening, so is it with community development.

But we’ve also learned that rebirth and resurrection are also part of this journey!

These pictures highlight that reality through new relationships and partnerships in the community, reinvigorated garden leadership and the generosity and hard work of many hands and hearts.

We’ve been gardening on this backlot behind our church for over a decade. The vision for the work was born out of the desire to reclaim neglected land and cultivate a garden for beauty, healthy food and meaningful relationships.

Another part of our vision is connected to our friendships and service with the socially marginalized or forgotten, immigrants and refugees in our neighborhood.

We’ve discovered gardening to be another way to build relationships, understanding and joy.

Anyone, rich or poor, can plant a seed and doing it together is an act of hope which is a powerful force for good in the hood!

The Odyssey and the Markers of Masculinity

The Odyssey: “A man—track his tale for me, Muse, the twisty one who wandered widely, once he’d sacked Troy’s holy citadel; he saw the cities of many men and knew their minds, and suffered deeply in his soul upon the sea try as he might to protect his life and the day of his men’s return; but he could not save his men, although he longed to; for they perished through their wanton recklessness, fools who ate of the cattle of Hyperion, the Sun; and so they lost the day of their return. From some point or another, Daughter of Zeus, tell us the tale. 

Now all the others—those who’d fled steep death— were home at last, safe from war and sea; but he alone, yearning for home and wife, was detained—by the Lady Calypso, most heavenly of goddesses, in her hollow caves: she longed to marry him. But then the time came in the course of the whirling years when the gods devised a way to bring him home to Ithaca; but even there he was hardly free of woe, even when he was back among his people. All the gods felt pity for him except Poseidon, who raged hotly against Odysseus, that godlike man, until he reached his homeland.”

This ancient proem (a preface or preamble to a book or speech) in Homer’s ‘The Odyssey’ packs a lot of masculine journey markers into its narrative. If you slow down and contemplate the overview of the story of the man Odysseus, you start to grasp that there is way-wisdom for the man looking for help navigating the life journey he is traversing. 

In an era when the reality of masculine distinctives is being ignored, neutered, redefined, edited and expunged by the cultural overlords, it’s critical to listen to the ‘dead who still speak’ (Hebrews 11:4). 

One of my passions in life is engaging men to face their souls, their roles and relationships, their Gods and their philosophy and duties of life. One of the ways I do this is through stories. 

“Zeus can present us times of joy and times of grief in turn: all lies within his power. So come, let’s sit back in the palace now, dine and warm our hearts with the old stories.” -The Odyssey, IV

These “Old stories” be they sacred or secular become the catalyst for our group discussions meant to provoke thoughtful dialogue and manageable action steps to move men’s lives towards greater meaning, mastery and maturity. 

Last night we discussed the masculine markers within these opening paragraphs. Pulling on the literary threads of lines and ideas mentioned that resonate with men and give voice to the various seasons and challenges they face day to day.

Here’s an example of some of the topics we discussed:

Wandering Wildly: how men often end up in places they never imagined and how this is often the way of manhood, even when you plan, set goals and aim for a certain port. 

The Cities and Thoughts of man: the value of the impact of the cities and philosophies of men. 

Suffering deeply in the soul: All of life is suffering in some degree.

-Men who perish through wanton recklessness.

Being alone, even when like Odesseus, we are ‘back among our people’.

-Having a “home” that is our goal and facing the moments when all men will be “detained” or face opposing Poseidons who rage against us. 

These are the type of conversations we have at ManClan Meet-ups. I hope and pray that such things might resonate with you and that you would join us or find or found your own men’s gatherings for evenings around Tables & Tales.

Come & See: the Joy of Grandparenting

“Papa can Kinleigh have a chicken?”

My granddaughter said this as I was holding her in my arms before securing her into the car seat for her ride home.

I was trying to convince her that she would be able to come back to our house soon and see the new baby chicks again. I don’t think she thought my promises were sufficient to satisfy her deep and almost uncontrollable glee that she experienced holding one of those fluffy little chirpers.

In fact, she had such a death grip on that poor little cluck, I am sure he thought he was a goner! She wanted to take one home and add it to her collection of “friends”.

This little question reflected one of the joys of parenthood that returns to us in second coming glory as grandparenthood.

Being present as guide and doorway to the joys of light in life is one of the most meaningful gifts of being with those born anew to the world. It is true in all the realms of life, body and spirit, Jesus touched on this joy when he said:

“I am the light that shines through the cosmos; if you walk with Me, you will thrive in the nourishing light that gives life and will not know darkness.” -Jesus (Jn 8:12)

Thriving in the nourishing light, does give life. To be present with someone when that moment occurs is magical. It’s a sacred duty for the one who knows what is true, good and beautiful, to share together with the one who has yet to come to know, taste, see, hear or touch.

This is the joy I have known in the work of pastoring that I have done since I was a young man, it’s the spark of eternal fire that I miss the most these days. It seems joy has been replaced with far too much contention, debate, betrayal, dismissiveness, absence, abandonment and familiarity.

“Come and See” used to be one of the most alluring Gospel invitations, but today, it seems too many are deaf, defensive or distracted.

When Kinleigh takes my hand, it’s an act of trust and expectation. It’s a gesture of safe anticipation that we are going somewhere good or I am leading her away from something bad.

It’s a surrender of gentle love.

Sure there are moments when she has something she is convinced is better to do than obey the instructions of guidance that hand holding secures, but in most moments it’s an act of togetherness that promises a small joy of some kind.

It seems this is often our greatest challenge in walking with God and with one another too. Becoming like little Children was an absolute truth that Jesus said was needed to ‘enter’ the Kingdom (Matt. 18:3).

I understand this more and more as I grow older and see the joy of life returning in some…and fading in others.

When is the last time you took the Lord’s hand in some form or another?

Overcoming the Fear of Doing Something Wrong

“The pioneers cleared the forests from Jamestown to the Mississippi with fewer tools than are stored in the modern garage.” -unknown; but attributed to Dwayne Laws

One of my goals in buying a home and some land out in the woods and hills was to become more competent at the type of skills needed to improve, sustain and repair such a place.

A ‘homestead’ is the goal but it’s pretty pretentious to call what we have anything near such a word. In my mind ‘homestead’ implies a level of sustainability, competency and productivity, right now, it’s a vision but there’s a big learning curve in it all and that takes time and action.

But there’s one element that has been a surprising crucible for me. This whole endeavor challenges a certain type of mindset that I think is cultivated within our culture: It’s the fear of doing something wrong.

The ‘analysis paralysis’ can keep me stuck in neutral. It comes from many things but too much knowledge is part of it for sure. Things like Youtube are amazing tools to learn almost anything but it can also overwhelm one with conflicting concerns of doing it just right.

I am all for wanting to do something correctly but you don’t need to do something perfectly. There was life before YouTube. It’s the process that develops skills, not the acquisition or assumption of qualifying competencies before doing anything.

Thankfully we have access to information in an age when many of these skills are not passed down. Not many people need to know how to do much in a world where you pay people to do what everyone used to have to do for themselves.

Don’t get punked by the Instagramation of everything out there. If you get stuck in comparing or being concerned by the looks of everything, you will never start or finish

Just figure it out.

Don’t worry if it isn’t perfect.

Stop getting hung up in the anxiety of it all.

Just do something.

Learn from your mistakes.

Accept that you don’t know how and learn it.

One other thing that has been surprising to me is just how many times the phrase I used to bark out in math classes comes back to whack me on the head.

“How will I ever use this in the real world?”

Things like math, algebra and geometry are directly linked to homesteading and homemaking skills.

Numbers and Nature go hand in hand, you can’t do anything without these skills, especially in woodworking. There’s a whole conceptualization skill that has to do with seeing the way things connect that baffles me at times. Woodworking is a step into a multi-dimensional world of digits, lines, circumferences and angles it’s fascinating and frustrating, it’s pure wizardry.

Listen to the pathetic prophet: “Math Matters”.

Here’s a few books I plan on adding to my library to develop and improve some of these skills:

-Practical Shop Math: Simple Solutions to Workshop Fractions, Formulas + Geometric Shapes Paperback by Tom Begnal https://amzn.to/2N4A6Nr

-Woodworking: The Complete Step-by-Step Guide to Skills, Techniques, and Projects (Fox Chapel Publishing) Over 1,200 Photos & Illustrations, 41 Complete Plans, Easy-to-Follow Diagrams & Expert Guidance Paperback by Tom Carpenter https://amzn.to/2X2bb1o

-Essential Guide to the Steel Square: How to Figure Everything Out with One Simple Tool, No Batteries Required (Fox Chapel Publishing) Unlock the Secrets of This Invaluable, Time-Honored Hand ToolPaperback by Ken Horner https://amzn.to/2Y8P3Px

The Artisan life is a Godly & Manly path.

The Artisan life is a godly & manly path.

2 Chronicles 2:14

“The son of a woman of the daughters of Dan, and his father was a man of Tyre. He is trained to work in gold, silver, bronze, iron, stone, and wood, and in purple, blue, and crimson fabrics and fine linen, and to do all sorts of engraving and execute any design that may be assigned him, with your craftsmen, the craftsmen of my lord, David your father.”

Exodus 31:1-5

Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts”

Artisan Prayer by eric blauer

Father of inspiration,

Resuscitate my inner world,

Grant me the steady plod of training,

Mystical Muse,

Spark desire from duty.

All Seeing One,

Author of creative sight,

Open me to the wonder of all about me,

New worlds hidden within the old.

Image bearer am I,

Flesh of flesh, bone of bone,

Womb dweller, water breather,

Son of hearts and hands,

Willing witness, born to work.

Divine Palette,

origin of all,

My hands hold chaos and void,

Brooding order,

Bring life from the elements

of Earth again,

and again and again

and again.

Is Instant Anything ever as Good as Slow-Cooked?

I was reading a post from a friend who shared a prickly interaction with someone, this was her comment:

“A little while ago I had a weird confrontation with someone I barely know who called out my armor, and even though this felt like an unhealthy interaction with an inappropriate use of power, this person wasn’t wrong about the guarded, defensive posture of my heart.”

She continued to write about how she took the comment and turned it around to help her do some self-reflection in her life in a positive way, of course, this is a good and mature way to take criticism or attacks and use them for one’s own growth. Everyone needs to learn how to do this to navigate the world as it is, but one issue stuck in my craw and I want to yank on it a bit.

What place do we really need to give to the types of people who “call out your armor” that hardly know us? Is it really some type of gift, to undress someone’s soul? Is real and meaningful life gained through such ways of being with each other?

Confrontational engagements almost always reveal something more about the other person than the one they are exposing. I’ve found that envy and jealousy are often at the root of most encounters. Crafting a life that is deep and nourishing is a work that involves all the roots, fruits & refuse of life. We all need help tending our land but that work should be granted to those who love us but not to those who want to see us fail.

We can all learn from fan or fiend but the education our culture is getting about relationships via the Internet is destructive more than constructive. It’s taught people to handle one another in a manner that’s uncivil, harsh, curt, persnickety and pushy.

People think a comment section or email address is somehow an invitation to a level of interpersonal interaction that used to be the sole gift of time and trust. Instant access isn’t authority. We’ve created a borderless interpersonal existence that Friend or Fiend can invade.

The whole idea is summed up in the phrase “Instant Message”. What a profound assumption it is that anyone thinks they should have 100% access and place to speak whatever and whenever they want. It’s a dangerous illusion that empowers much of the ugliness going on these days.

“You set all the boundaries of the earth.” -Psalm 74:17

This truth extends to our relational lives as well, everyone is a guest and how they use that access determines the level of place they are given.

We need to recapture the art of the slow-cooked life, one that honors the specific elements of purpose, attention, space, limits, levels, amounts, temperatures and time. God has given boundaries for a reason and there is a generous grace in submitting to the limitations of our lives. Let’s return to the place where we invite and respond to invitations in a manner that honors each other and celebrates the gift of relational hospitality.

Marriage, Sex & Age

I pastor many people of many different ages. One of the realities of age is the changes it brings in our bodies on spiritual, mental, physical and hormonal levels. Everyone is affected in some way, some more than others.

The norm for anyone has to be walked through with grace, wisdom and whatever help one can find to deal with whatever their new issues the seasons of life may bring. Injuries, health challenges of disease, sickness etc can impact the whole person.

Our sex lives are obviously impacted, altered or injured by all these realities. One’s psychological life impacts one’s sex life too. All kinds of life events, abuses or stages can influence this part of ourselves and our marriages.

So even in our attempts to foster healthy and fruitful marriages, we also know that it looks different for each person or couple.

What doesn’t change is the fact that every person in a marriage is supposed to attend to the needs of their spouses.

How you figure that out has to be navigated with love, understanding, intentionality and selfless care for one another.

If you run into dead ends, difficult issues, problems of heart, mind or body, that is where reaching out to professionals that focus on your mental, physical, sexual or relational health can be the next step. Doing nothing and not attending to one’s self or the other, is not caring for each other in a loving way.

We live in an amazing time where one can find a lot of help for things that used to be hidden in silence, shame, stubbornness or sin.

Open and honest communication in a gentle and helpful way can ease the embarrassment, release the tension of unexplained actions or patterns, bring light to lonely darkness, attend to unmet needs, reorient sexuality back into togetherness; instead of unhealthy or unsatisfying alternatives and bring the couple back together in heart, body and soul.

Answering one of the Hardest Questions my Son has asked about life.

“How does it feel to be at an age when you are losing everything that matters to you?”

That question was asked of me by one of my sons. 
Not the easiest question to answer on a day that you find out your grandfather died, but I understand the question.

I often fume about how it feels midlife so quickly turns from incoming tide to outgoing tide more quickly than you ever imagine. Sometimes the sand under my feet is moving in a manner that funks with my inner equilibrium.

C.S. Lewis wrote in Letters to Malcolm:
“Of course I pray for the dead. The action is so spontaneous, so all but inevitable, that only the most compulsive theological case against it would deter me. And I hardly know how the rest of my prayers would survive if those for the dead were forbidden. At our age the majority of those we love best are dead. What sort of intercourse with God could I have if what I love best were unmentionable to Him?”

I understand those prayers now way more than I ever did in earlier days.

There has been a lot of goodbyes in this season and I know that only increases. But what also increases is the ability to see and hear things you couldn’t before in life, even when your natural sight and hearing lessen.

Life is full of loss but it’s also full of receiving, even from what you lose. All that passes through your hands, head and heart leave you different. I have found that age and faith have a transformative power in life. So much so, one can keep growing even among the battering of winds. It may be a twisted growth but all that bears down on it shapes it in a manner that leaves it more beautiful.

Just as the body enhances or compensates for parts that may be injured or lost, so our soul expands and deepens in such a manner that we grow younger even in our aging.

That renewed youth is very experiential.

-You soften, even as life gets harder in many ways and you feel it more profoundly.

-Your delight in small things amplifies.

-Pleasure becomes more broad and accessible.

-Joy becomes a surprise again instead of pursuit.

-People matter but not in a way that is just utilitarian.

-Memory increases in animating power, like incense, even if accuracy diminishes.

-Silence expands and that can be mournful in many ways but it also enhances one’s ability to truly treasure what is said or heard in a manner that a previous loud life couldn’t.

-Meditation and prayer are no longer an act of survival or duty but a movement of desire from a smaller and calmer life.

-When others leave, the ones who stay become more full of glory.

It may appear that midlife starts to become an undertow but it actually just becomes a more strong tide that can seem to withdraw way more than we want but then comes rushing back in with unforeseen ecstasy and revelation.

The wonder of new marriages. 
The birth of grandchildren. 
The loss of concern over everyone’s opinions and demands. 
The freedom of thought and living that wisdom brings. 
The grace of boundaries that purpose, pain, and age bring. 
The immovable strength that conviction and time build. 
The power of prayer that builds over the years. 
The delight of simple things. 
The gift of quiet. 
The surprises of discovery that slowing down gives. 
The freedom of wealth from living responsibly.

Yes, loss is real, but not all the tears are those of sorrow, many are the result of seeing what is most meaningful, true, good and beautiful…like never before.

Art, Tolstoy & Murder

“Art should cause violence to be set aside. And it is only art that can accomplish this.” -Leo Tolstoy

Hosting a multi-racial, trans-generational, inter-denominational evening of music, visual arts, crafts, poetry and culinary cuisine one block from where a murder and another attempted murder took place a few weeks prior, is a radical act of intentional defiance.

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

– Romans 12:21

When people ask me if the art has to be “religious” at these events, I always say no. I do so because I know that general question is arising from a type of ideology (known or unknown)that often misunderstands or misses some of the most meaningful power and purposes of art.

If someone asked me if the art being considered for the show had to bring people together and that’s what they meant by “religious” than I’d heartily agree. But too often these days, art divides, denounces, denigrates, demands and despairs and that’s true, even of much “religious” art.

Our ARTattack event was striking at the core of our community’s cultural and moral cancer by bring people together around the shared values of truth, goodness and beauty.

We celebrated life together, on the same sidewalk where death sought to tear us asunder.

But…we will persist, because there is greatness in Americans and together, we can overcome.

Below are some selections from: ‘What is Art’ by Leo Tolstoy that express this vision.

“The task of art is enormous. Through the influence of real art, aided by science guided by religion, that peaceful coöperation of man which is now obtained by external means—by our law-courts, police, charitable institutions, factory inspection, etc.—should be obtained by man’s free and joyous activity. Art should cause violence to be set aside. And it is only art that can accomplish this.”

“The task for art to accomplish is to make that feeling of brotherhood and love of one’s neighbor, now attained only by the best members of society, the customary feeling and the instinct of all men. By evoking, under imaginary conditions, the feeling of brotherhood and love, religious art will train men to experience those same feelings under similar circumstances in actual life; it will lay in the souls of men the rails along which the actions of those whom art thus educates will naturally pass. And universal art, by uniting the most different people in one common feeling, by destroying separation, will educate people to union, will show them, not by reason, but by life itself, the joy of universal union reaching beyond the bounds set by life.”

“The task for Christian art is to establish brotherly union among men.”

“A real work of art destroys, in the consciousness of the receiver, the separation between himself and the artist.”

“…thanks to man’s capacity to be infected with the feelings of others by means of art, all that is being lived through by his contemporaries is accessible to him, as well as the feelings experienced by men thousands of years ago, and he has also the possibility of transmitting his own feelings to others.

If people lacked this capacity to receive the thoughts conceived by the men who preceded them and to pass on to others their own thoughts, men would be like wild beasts… And if men lacked this other capacity of being infected by art, people might be almost more savage still, and, above all, more separated from, and more hostile to, one another.”



There is something profoundly provoking, powerful and perilous about a naked human body. Its unclothed reality is something that is mesmerizingly earthy and otherworldly. Its beauty is an icon that often reveals more about the person witnessing it, than the person displaying it.

It’s often the bane of the pious and the pulpit, the altar of the pornographer, chain of the prisoner and dream of the lover.

We enter this world and leave it naked and in between, we wrestle and worship it. Some see it in shame, others with disdain, others bewail its inability to live up to one’s demands or desires and others have set the world’s armies against one another to hold it close.

In studying the gospel of Mark there are moments of short narrative that are easily moved past that capture the attention of the curious.

Why mention seemingly insignificant observations?

What is behind Mark’s storytelling?

What is it about us and our nakedness that finds a place in the final moments of redemptions zenith?

At the dusk of the Old Creation, we read of naked humanity fleeing from God’s presence. 
At the dawn of the New Creation we see humanity fleeing in nakedness.

At the cross Christ is stripped of His robe.
On the cross Christ hangs naked. 
In the tomb He is clothed in a linen burial cloth.
At the empty tomb, in another garden…the garment is left on the ground.

Nakedness redeemed…?

Genesis 2:25 
“Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.”

Genesis 3:8-11 
“And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked?

Mark 14:34-35
“And He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch.” And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by.”

Mark 14:51-52
“A young man was following Him, wearing nothing but a linen sheet over his naked body; and they seized him. But he pulled free of the linen sheet and escaped naked.”

Mark 15:46
“Joseph bought a linen cloth, took Him down, wrapped Him in the linen cloth and laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.”

Mark 16:5
“Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed.”

(Artist: Italian painter Roberto Ferri)