Friday, December 22, 2006

PJ'S WISH by Keith Giles

Over the last year, my wife and I have been stepping out of our comfort zone to live missionally in our new neighborhood. One of the main expressions of this has been towards the children who come over and play with our two sons on a regular basis.

This last summer we hosted a five week "Kids Club" and invited all of the elementary age children in our cul-de-sac to join us on Sunday Mornings in our den to learn about who Jesus was, and is.

Because all of the kids showed up and participated, we knew that their parents were not attending church anywhere else on a regular basis. Based on the feeback we received from the children directly, we realized that there wasn't a big faith influence in their lives at home either.

After those five weeks ended, the missional aspect of our ministry to these families continued. In fact, it was beyond the more programmatic format where we discovered the real nitty-gritty ministry was really at.

A few weeks ago, after our regular Sunday Morning House Church was over, several of the neighborhood children ran into our house to play with our boys. One little girl ran over to me and begged me to play those "Jesus Songs" on the guitar for her. As my friend Tod and I began to play "Lord I Lift Your Name On High" and "Every Move I Make", she began to do the hand motions as best as she could and sang along at the top of her lungs. It was sweet.

As we played "Undignified" (which usually degenerates into a mosh-pit of flailing, giggling bodies) several other children ran in and joined us in song.

One of the boys, (we'll call him "PJ"), sat down in front of me and pushed my Bible in front me. "Read to us the story about David when he killed that Giant!" he said. I started to tell them the story in my own words and PJ opened my Bible and repeated his request for me to read the words to all of them. So, I did and all of them listened intently, asked questions and marvelled at how God helped a little boy no bigger than they were to defeat an evil Giant.

PJ made me read a few other adventures from the Bible to them and then he suddenly looked up at me and said, "Do you know what I would wish for if I ever saw a shooting star?" It was an out-of-place question and it made all of us pause to consider what he could be driving at. PJ is probably in First Grade, maybe Kindergarten. From the very day we moved into this house, just over a year ago, he was comfortable in our presence. He always asks the most pointed and direct questions, with little or no inhibitions about anything or any subject. I love it when he comes over and I always have fun talking with him.

I decided to play along with PJ and I asked him what he would wish for if he ever saw a shooting star, assuming he was about to tell me he'd like to fly or shoot lasers out of his eyes or something. He looked up at me with his big brown eyes and said, "I'd wish that my Dad would be home so he could play with me more. He's never home. He's always working".

Tod and I looked at each other, touched by PJ's honesty. I had a moment of clarity and said, "PJ, you know you don't have to wait until you see a shooting star. You can pray right now and ask God to help your Dad stay home more often and play with you." PJ looked up at me and said, "OK!", so Tod and I bowed our heads along with PJ and I asked that God would help his Dad to not work so much, and that PJ would be able to see his Dad more and get to play with him more. When I said,"Amen", PJ looked up at me and instantly asked me, "Do you think it will come true?"

My heart skipped a beat. I realized that for PJ this was serious business, not some cute "Kodak Moment" in time. I took a breath and I said, "Well PJ, I think if you will keep asking God about this, when you say your prayers, that God will help your Dad to see that he needs to spend more time with you. I will pray for you too, PJ, and I think if we both keep praying that it really will come true."
That seemed to be enough for PJ and he was suddenly running off to chase my sons with a plastic claw.

Tod and I talked a little afterward. It made me realize that our missional life in this community was more subtle, and ongoing, than an hour and a half program. Our interactions here with these children are making a difference in ways that will have a lasting, even an eternal, impact.

For the first time in our lives, my family is intentionally living a life of faith in full view of our neighbors. We're sharing life with people, no matter who they are and what they call faith or truth, or home.
At the same time, we know we don't always have it all together. We're not perfect, by any means, and the good news is we're not called to be. We're simply called to love others as we love ourselves. It's up to God to do the rest, unless He directs us otherwise.

So, the next time you say your prayers, I'm sure PJ would appreciate it if you would remember to ask if his father would realize how much his son needs him to play with him more often. Say a prayer for us too, that we would have the love of Jesus for the families on our street.

Peas on Earth!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Almost over....

The year of 2006 is nearly complete, soon to be a faded memory in the chapbook of our minds as we awaken to the first wee hours of 2007.

What did you accomplish? What did God teach you? What is it you still hope to discover about Him in the year ahead?

For us, we learned that God really was calling us to leave the traditional church to start a house church. He has blessed our "Mission" gatherings each Thursday to overflowing. Soon we'll have to consider splitting off into a second group, possibly one in Long Beach as several from that city make the trek each week to gather with us.

Our addition of a Sunday morning Mission House Church meeting was a welcome blessing. I always intended for us to meet on a Sunday morning, but honestly wasn't prepared for it coming so quickly.

Now we have two groups meeting each week in our home, with some overlap, but two distinct groups none-the-less. It is still the best thing I have ever done with the word "Church" on it!

The year of 2006 also saw my exit from Soul Survivor Ministries and into the world of temporary contract employee job seeker. Since the end of June I've been working various temporary assignments and searching for a full-time position.

As hard as it's been, I know God has been so gracious to us. In fact, the crazy thing is, we have more peace and financial security now than we did the first half of this year when we had a full-time job! God is that good!

I've had several good job ops which didn't develop the way I had hoped, but I still know that God has something for us, in His time. We have heard Him clearly say "Wait" and not much else. So, as He continues to bless us and provide, we will keep seeking His face, putting out resumes and praying for a new job...soon!

I have personally learned a lot about pastoring through our close community at The Mission. Very intense but also very rewarding experiences. I wish I could more fully explain all that God has taught me about myself, about ministry, about His Church through our Mission House Church experience. Maybe I'll write a book?

Speaking of which, I started out this year with the goal of finishing the text for one complete book project. As of today I have two book projects, one of which is about 98% complete ("The Gospel: For Here Or To Go?") and one which is about 85% complete ("The Power Of Weakness"). My goal for 2007 is to publish at least one of them into an honest-to-goodness paperback book!

One of my proudest accomplishments this year has been the [SUBVERSIVE UNDERGROUND] newsletter which started almost exactly one year ago at about 30 people and is now just about 100 subscribers! I'm very proud of the weekly articles that have come out of this experiment and I know that without this weekly e-newsletter responsibility I would not have written most of those (which was why I started the thing in the first force me to write something substantial each and every week of this year).

The new year is wide open to me. I have no sense of what it might hold. Wendy and I are praying that 2007 will be more about stability and gainful full-time employment. We'd love to have things like medical insurance, a savings account, maybe a car that was built in the last ten know, frivolous stuff.

But, whatever 2007 brings, we know that God is good and we place all our hope in Him alone.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006


by Keith Giles

What does it mean to be a Pastor?

Well, honestly, it's about helping people to follow Jesus. The truth is, it's a lot harder than you think.

Most of us, when we think of the word "Pastor" get a mental image of a guy in a suit who stands up on the big stage each Sunday and gives a long, power-pointed speech right after the offering plate is passed. That is not what pastoring is about at all.

In fact, guess how many times the word "Pastor" appears in the Bible....go ahead, guess.

Once. That's it.

(Bonus points if you can tell me what book, chapter and verse)

Yet, we've made the office of "Pastor" the single most important position within the Body of Christ. Yes, it is a very important, and difficult office to work at effectively. However, our mental pictures are way off base. We picture a CEO in a power tie, but the Scriptures suggest a simple man who knows how to wash feet.

The word "Minister" implies one who serves, and yet in our society we've made the position into a professional office where all authority and power, prestige and wisdom flow down from on high.

Jesus modelled something so much greater for us when he put on the robes of a slave and knelt down to wash the feet of his disciples. He served them. The scriptures say that, He expressed the "fullness of his love" to them in this simple act of service and humility.

What's more, when he was finished he sat down and asked them, "Do you know what I have done for you?" He wanted them to understand the importance of serving one another, not "Lording it over" their subjects as the Pharisees were known to do.

If we're honest, most of what passes for Pastoral leadership today looks a whole lot more like the "Lording it over" process modelled by the Pharisees than it does like the "putting on the robe of a servant" like Jesus.

Honestly, the office of Pastor is one gifted to a person by the Holy Spirit. He is the One who calls people and then gives them the spiritual gift of pastor. This means that you could go to seminary and get a degree, but still not have the spiritual gift of "pastor".

It also means you could be a twelve year old girl and have a greater spiritual gift to pastor than the guy who is standing behind the pulpit in the suit and tie with the seminary degree on the wall.

My experience as a pastor has involved a lot of private meetings with people where I have to perform the un-rewarding task of helping people to repent for things, or to help them understand pain, or to speak truth to them even though I know that they will probably hate me for it when I am done.

This is what it means to be a pastor. It means to serve, to minister to others, to shepherd people, and to love them so much that you're willing to do what's best for them, even if it kills you.

So...who wants to be a pastor?


Monday, November 13, 2006


My life is stuck in the mud these days.

I feel like I can't manage to accomplish anything with my writing because of my new life as a temporary employee.

At work I cannot access the internet (no, not even on a break or during my lunch) so my creative muse has to sit quietly from 8:30am to 5:00pm, Monday through Friday.

When I get home I'm too tired to write, and I need to sit down and eat dinner with my family. So, after the boys are in bed all I feel like doing is sitting in front of the television and letting my brain relax.

I fondly remember those days when I was posting articles and columns here on my blog, publishing weekly e-newsletters (which I still do, and hopefully will get this week's edition out tomorrow), and writing columns at SeedStories and every other week. Those were the days....

Now it's all I can do to post here every other week, and then it's just the typical, boring, "Here's what I did today, blah, blah" blog entry (which I apologize for even now).

It's not that I don't have a long list (two whole pages worth) of really great article and column ideas. It's not that I don't have motivation to write (I have a weekly newsletter. I have a new monthly column over at I know people are reading this blog...or at least they were a few days ago..before my brain got stuck in the creative mud of temporary assignment hell.)

Hopefully this week I'll get hired somewhere full-time again and I can take back my lunch-time blogging habit.

Plus, I could use a new full-time job to pay those bills too.

Yeah...there's that.


Monday, November 06, 2006


Yes, this Thursday, November the 9th, I will turn 40 years old. That's simply unreal.

Wendy threw a surprise party for me on Saturday. We had a house full of dear friends, and I am again reminded about how blessed I really am.

For old times sake, here's a little birthday poem I wrote last year. It's work a re-post I think (with a slight edit).


Yes, forty years ago this very week the fabric of space and time pulled back to reveal this fragile and yet strangely troubled soul.

It was a day of wonder and tears.

Cigarettes were burned. Laughter echoed down the hallway. A mother's heart slid into gear.

The angel's sighed, and one of them farted, but no one knew which one it was so they pretended not to hear.

It was a day of love so great it hurt to breathe.

Glad to be here, friend.

Hope to be here a bit longer before I join the flatulent angels.



Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Since the end of June I haven't had a regular, full-time job. I've been doing temporary work for half what I was making at Soul Survivor and Wendy has been teaching at Spirit Academy twice a week, but still we're far short of my previous take-home pay.

How have we made it this long? Simply by the Grace of God. I wish I had been keeping a record of every gift from a friend, or check from a family member, or random check we've received throughout this time frame. It's truly astounding to me how God has been our provider all this time.

I was thinking about how good God is. We kind of lucked out on that one, as a created race of people. The Supreme Ruler of the Universe could very easily have been harsh and demanding, or even evil and sadistic, yet He is Good. He is kind. He is faithful. He is loving. He is forgiving. He is willing to sacrifice his own position and even His life to save us.

God is Good...and aren't we blessed?


Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Daily Faith by Keith Giles

I'm learning a very valuable lesson these days.

Jesus seems to spend a lot of his teaching ministry trying to get his followers to take things one day at a time.

He talks about praying for "daily bread", he tells his disciples that they cannot follow him unless they die to themselves and "take up their cross, daily", and he urges them not to worry about tomorrow but to trust God for all you need each day.

As for me, I'd prefer to have God provide me with "Weekly Bread", or better yet, "Yearly Bread". You know, where He would provide everything I need all at once so I could rest in comfort and avoid the anxieties of wondering where the next day's bread is coming from.

Of course, if this were the case I'd also have no need for faith. I wouldn't really need to trust God for anything because I'd already have it.

Chances are, in time, I'd also begin to forget just where my bread was coming from. Maybe I'd start to think that it was I who had actually provided all this bread. Maybe then God would become my buddy and my pal, not my Lord whom I desperately cling to for dear life.

Maybe that's why the Scriptures tell us that God's mercies are new every morning? So that we'll know that we can face each day in His strength, and not our own.

Jesus is always trying to get us to live in the here and now, not in the security of our life or the "what if?" of tomorrow.

As you may have heard before, God's name is "I Am" and He wants us to wake up each day and walk with Him, one day at a time. With our faith firmly placed in Him and our minds focused on today, not on yesterday, and not on tomorrow.

Today is all we have.

Seize the faith.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

My New Column

So, after my six-part series (The Gospel: For Here Or To Go?) concludes over at "" my new column will replace it in the same spot at the upper left of the main page.

I think we're calling it "Subversive" (kinda catchy, eh?) and it will be yet another place you can read my rambling articles on issues of social justice, spiritual formation, and the Kingdom of God.

I've also been extended administrative privleges over at "" too. That means I can help edit other submitted articles and, of course, publish my own at will.

So, other than here and my weekly [SUBVERSIVE UNDERGROUND] newsletter, you can now read articles at and SeedStories on a regular basis.

I will probably continue to submit articles to places like and at Next-Wave Magazine, and anywhere else that will publish my stuff, but these are good places to start.

I've still got about a half dozen good articles in my head that I have yet to find time to sit down and write. Our lives our a bit crazy these days, with me temping and my wife teaching First Grade.

Now I need to start thinking about my first article to launch the column at Ginkworld. Hmm....what shall it be?

At least I've got a few weeks before I need to loose sleep over it.

More later...


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

de la soul

“de la Soul” by Keith Giles

Wedged between the high-end cars that surround your car at a stoplight on Newport Boulevard, a drive through "the O.C." might seem like something out of a popular television show. With the beach only a mile away, the sunny sky of Southern California above, and the sunlight bending to kiss the horizon just right, it's almost like you’re living in a dream world.

For many in Orange County, California, life really is a dream. Bills are always paid, cupboards are always full of food, and it seems that the only real danger might be the possibility of a bad sunburn. But for a growing number of people in this part of Southern California, this dream is only that; a dream. A quick turn onto 18th street does well to remind us that there are others who are living in a different reality, yet not in a different city.

Not further than a few side streets from beautiful Newport Boulevard is the neighborhood of Shalimar, a close-knit series of streets blocked off by the Costa Mesa Police Department a few years ago in an effort to crack down on the growing criminal activity there. Today, only one street is open into Shalimar by automobile. All other streets have been sealed shut by concrete dividers, preventing drug dealers and gang-bangers from escaping should police cruisers need to roll in on them. Now a single police car can block the only exit and entrance to Shalimar all by itself, making drug busts easier, and escape impossible.

For many of the children growing up in Shalimar, those concrete dividers do suggest an impossible escape from the harsh realities of this community. But Shalimar is also the central location for MIKA’s youth development program, run by Crissy Brooks and Lindsy Pike. This non-profit community development ministry provides holistic youth programs for the children who find themselves living within those invisible walls.

A few years ago, Soul Survivor’s congregation partnered with MIKA to co-host a youth group which has since become known as “de la Soul”. An extension of MIKA's youth development program, “de la Soul” serves as a youth group for the teenagers of Shalimar and other similar Costa Mesa neighborhoods.

Jarred Rowland works a full week at Soul Survivor Ministries as their Youth Pastor liaison, but every Tuesday night he’s leading thirty Jr. High and High Schools kids at “de la Soul” in a Bible Study.

Many of the teens in “de la Soul” have come to regard Rowland as more than just a youth leader or volunteer. To many he’s become a mentor, and a friend. “My job,” says Rowland, “Is to let my kids know they have a friend in Jesus who loves them, who’s concerned about them, and who will always be there for them. I am also here to show these kids some good, clean, crazy fun.”

Rowland often calls up some of the teenage boys in his youth group to see how they’re doing, or just to hang out with them during the week. Although getting the kids to trust him took some time. “I had volunteered within the community for about a year before starting ‘de la Soul’,” explains Rowland. “So when we started the youth group, I wasn’t just some random guy. So often these kids have been victims of the ‘One-week White Evangelists’, you know, the one’s who come to the street just to save souls, and then leave after they have saved enough kids to merit their next Christian badge,” he says. “These kids have been accustomed to people like that and they recognize who is legit or who is not. Therefore it took some time for me to gain the trust of the community.”

When Rowland initially began volunteering he stuck out like a sore thumb, being that he is very white, six foot four inches tall, with blond hair, and blue eyes. “On occasion I even had racial slurs spewed at me. But now when I roll up to the neighborhood, people recognize me and there is a shared feeling of respect between myself and the community,” says Rowland, “And people know I am not there to exploit them, but to learn and to share with them about the love of Christ.”

Since the beginning of this year, Rowland has begun to recruit small group leaders and incorporate a stronger relationship within the community. “It is the example and the fervency of my small group leaders that have affected these kids the most", says Rowland. "This is the first year to incorporate small groups. We want to do our best to disciple these kids, and within the small group format, our kids have a chance to tell us what they really think about the issues."

Rowland has seen some great progress over the last two years. “When I was the same age as these kids, my parents made me go to church, there wasn’t a choice,” he says. “These parents don’t make them come, and yet the kids still choose to come week after week, and that is a direct result of my small group leaders’ influence.”

Rowland isn’t alone in his passion and dedication to the kids in Shalimar. Just over a year ago, Crissy Brooks and Lindsy Pike decided to move into the neighborhood itself, rather than just commute to and from their duties at MIKA. “Ever since I started working at the learning center I had wanted to move into that community,” says Pike. “Crissy and I had been working in the neighborhood at the Shalimar learning center together for a couple of years. We had both had previous experience in community development and we had both expressed a desire to go deeper into the community at Shalimar.”

After about two years working at the learning center, Pike and Brooks began praying together about how they could make a deeper connection to the families in Shalimar. “That was in the summer of 2003,” says Pike. “By January of 2004, we had rented a house on the corner of Wallace and Shalimar streets which is dead in the center of the neighborhood.”

Renting a prominent house on the corner, these two single Caucasian women became more than just volunteers, they became friends, neighbors, even family to those in Shalimar. “It's been great,” says Pike, “I’ve gained a whole new understanding of the community and the culture, things I never would’ve learned, even by working there for 50 hours a week. We’ve become more accepted by the community and they respect us more and they see us differently. They know we're there to stay and that makes what we do that much more powerful.”

Of course, living in the heart of Shalimar has also provided the two girls with a measure of challenge, as well as reward. “Sometimes,” says Pike, “I just need to get away from the community. Finding alone time and privacy has been a challenge. Plus, it's not like living by the beach, it is a sacrifice,” she says, “but I'm very glad about our decision”.

“Their problems have become our problems, we experience it all along with them. If we come home and there are police cars blocking the street, we know about it on the spot, we don’t have to find out about it on Monday morning,” says Pike. “The kids know they can always drop by our house and they know they can find us whenever they need us.”

The structure of MIKA is geared toward transforming communities from the inside out. Instead of bringing foreign programs into communities, volunteers take the time to better understand the needs of the people. “MIKA exists to help families move from a relief mentality to a mindset of personal and community responsibility,” explains Pike. “Meaning, we don't come in and give them five programs that are going to change their life. We allow them to tell us what their problems are, and then we help them to solve those problems on their own”.

MIKA focuses on community organization and youth development. “It's not about outsiders coming in with the solution, it's about the neighbors themselves understanding these things,” says Pike. “We work with partner churches to assist the community. We're not looking for churches to come in and do charity but to help the community meet the needs that they've identified, using the plan of action they’ve determined for themselves.”

Pike and Brooks are also working very closely with the youngest members of the Shalimar community. “We try to develop indigenous leadership from within the community, and that's done through our youth development programs. We get the kids enrolled in mentoring groups, such as “de la Soul” and the “ExpressYourself” Urban Arts Program,” she says, “And we also have various sports programs”.

“de la Soul” is already having a huge impact on the lives of the young people in Shalimar. Not long ago, Rowland had a chance to influence the life of Armando, an 8th grader who was facing some very challenging decisions. Having grown up in Shalimar, Armando has become accustomed to the reality of drive-by shootings, drug deals, and gangs. Armando is also a natural leader, which makes him the perfect target for gang recruitment.

About the time Armando began spending time with the gang leader in the neighborhood; Rowland began to teach Armando how to play the guitar and began spending more time with him. Rowland even went so far as to introduce himself to the gang leader just because he was becoming Armando’s friend too.

Armando began to share with Jarred about his interest in becoming a leader within the local gang, mostly for the status it could afford him to others within the community.

Several weeks later, Armando had a decision to make. He had been officially asked to join the gang. To Rowland’s delight, Armando denied the offer. Rowland’s years of investment in him began to pay off. Armando believed that he was the kind of leader that everyone had been telling him he was and he realized that if he joined the gang, so would his friends. He realized that he would not only destroy his own life, but also the lives of those around him.

Without the influence that Rowland and others within “de la Soul” were providing, Armando’s choices would have been severely limited. Now, because there were people like Rowland involved in his life in such a significant way, Armando realized he could choose a different path than the one being offered him by the local gang leader.

“I’m committed to being there for Armando,” says Rowland, “Through Junior High and into High School, and beyond. I really want to see him make it. My heart is to encourage my kids to dream, and to help them to see past their current situations.”

The lives of these students in “de la Soul” are quite different when compared to those of other students who live in better neighborhoods down the street. The kids in “de la Soul” come from homes where the living room couch might serve as a bed for the night, or where several families squeeze into a two bedroom apartment, and older siblings default to caretaking while the parents work their second, or third, job to make ends meet.

Because of initiatives like “de la Soul”, because of volunteers like Rowland, Pike and Brooks, a handful of students, like Armando, have expressed an interest in something beyond their ordinary life; a desire to go to church and to learn about God.

Today, as the kids in Shalimar ride their bikes or shoot basketball on these troubled streets, many of them now have eyes that are able to look beyond the invisible walls and to believe in a better tomorrow.

*previously published in "The Noise" magazine, 2005

Saturday, October 07, 2006

My Name Is Love...

My Name Is Keith Giles

Last night I was treated to a wonderful gift from my friend Jarred Rowland who invited me to join him and a friend as they went to see a live, solo performance by Rob Dickinson.

Rob Dickinson is the former lead vocalist for a band that should have been huge but never quite caught on here in America called "The Catherine Wheel". Rob has now put out a solo record called "Fresh Wine For The Horses" with a killer single called "My Name Is Love".

Anyway, on the ride out to Hollywood to see the show, Jarred and his friend Brett (also a huge Catherine Wheel fan), and I talked about culture, about the Church, about serving the homeless, about living the Gospel, etc. It was exhilerating. I always love talking with Jarred about this sort of stuff. He's got a brilliant mind for these things and a genuine heart for people that I wish I had when I was his age. (He's just 21, I'm nearly month..)

Jarred shared an idea with us that I won't mention in detail here (unless he gives me permission to later on), but it was one of those ideas that could make the network news if he can pull it off. Basically it would bring the conversation about what it means to be a follower of Jesus to the top of the network news broadcast and the topic of every water cooler conversation at your work. I would love to see it succeed, if just for the opportunity to bring this conversation between the Church, the media and political activists into being.

At any rate, after fighting traffic and getting turned around (twice) we finally found the Hotel Cafe off of Sunset blvd and walked into the tiny club, just about ten minutes before Rob hit the stage.

Jarred paid my way in, (the whole trip was his gift to me), and the three of us fumbled our way in the dark towards the bar, and the bathroom (which smelled like a nursing home).

After Jarred and Brett got a drink (I stayed clean and sober), we walked towards the tiny, intimate stage in time for the opening acts final song. In a moment, Rob Dickinson took the stage.

He was phenomenal. He wowed the audience with his clear, emotive vocals and an acoustic guitar. The gorgeous power of his voice is found in the tension between one note and the opening syllable of the next. His command of the audience, and the dynamic range of emotion within the chords, was mesmerizing and beautiful.

I was struck by the simple power of music. He played several new songs off his solo record (which I've never heard) but the assemblage of chords played on his guitar alone was music enough to evoke a pervasive, resonate, air of wistful abandon. It was truly a remarkable experience being in the same room with this artist, listening to his soul screaming out, whispering pain, soaring over the top of our heads and into the night.

He played "Crank" off of the CW Cd "Chrome" (my favorite), and a brand new song ("still newborn") about the end of the world that left the audience in appreciative awe.

The highlight of the evening was when Rob played his song, "My Name Is Love" which lyrically is one of the best things he's ever written.

After the show we drove home and talked about the power of music, about how great talent, fused with humility and confidence, can make any performance amazing. Whether you hit every note or not, the sincerity of true art is undeniable.

I came home at about 11:30pm. My family was sleeping quietly when I walked into the house but I wasn't sleepy. I poured myself a ginger ale and went into our den and sat down on the floor next to the fireplace. I pulled out my old guitar and started strumming it. I accidently found a few new chords and just sat silently strumming the chords, stringing them together and feeling more than thinking about the day, the evening, my friends, my family, how I'm so loved, and how blessed my life really is.

After playing a few worship songs, playing with a few songs I'm writing and going back to those first experimental chords, I put down the guitar and just sat quietly in my den for about twenty minutes. I had no words for my feelings. I still can't quite describe it. It was like peace, but peace feels heavy somehow and this was much lighter. It wasn't melancholy because there was no trace of sadness in the moment, only freedom, joy tempered with acceptance and contentment.

I thought about several issues in my life now which had earlier been causing me sadness and frustration. As I mentally cycled through the various problems and challenges in my life right now, I had no anxiety about any of them. I felt a simple contentment about my life in every way.

I felt like God had given me a gift, through music, through my friend Jarred, even through an admitted pagan like Rob Dickinson and his songs of yearning and hope.

"My name is love I can't be"


Monday, October 02, 2006

PATTERNS OF EVANGELISM (from part 5 of 6)

(from part 5 of "The Gospel: For Here Or To Go?", a six-part series running over at

One thing that’s also helpful to me is to realize that, contrary to popular opinion, there is not a formula to evangelism found in the New Testament. Several times in the Gospels we see various people who come to Jesus and ask point blank, “What must I do to be saved?” One of the most shocking things is that Jesus never gives the answer that all of us have been trained to give. Not once. Jesus never says, “Confess your sins, believe in me and repeat this prayer after me.”

What we see is that Jesus gave a different answer to this question every single time. He never gave the same answer twice. It’s as if Jesus goes out of his way to demonstrate to us that evangelism needs to be done in cooperation with the Holy Spirit, being sensitive to the specific heart of the one person we are speaking to, and not applying the cookie cutter approach to preaching the Gospel.

Let’s look briefly at the various answers Jesus gives to those who approached him asking about what must be done to inherit eternal life and see what we can learn from Him.

To Zaccheus Jesus simply acknowledges him in the crowd, invites himself to dinner and when Zaccheus repents of skimming from the taxes he’s collected, Jesus proclaims that salvation has come to his household. In the case of the Rich Young Ruler, Jesus commands him to sell everything he has, give it to the poor and become a disciple under Jesus. The man refuses and is allowed to walk away, seemingly unconverted. Nicodemus, a Pharisee, is told he must be born a second time. This confuses him and Jesus does little to explain what he means, leaving the teacher of the Law to work it out on his own time. The Woman at the Well is boldly confronted with the promiscuous lifestyle she’s been living and yet never feels offended or condemned by Jesus throughout the conversation. Finally, the Thief on the Cross is converted and welcomed into Paradise simply for realizing that Jesus was the promised Messiah. His only part in the process seems to be the amazing good fortune of being crucified for his crimes on the same day as the Son of God.

Many other examples of salvation in the New Testament reflect this same lack of pattern and tailor-made response to the Gospel message.

How does your personal conversion experience compare to these found in the New Testament? Do you see a common pattern in your own story?

When I look at this amazing variety of conversion experiences in Scripture it really puzzles me as to why we’ve made evangelism so predictable and uninteresting.



Wednesday, September 27, 2006


This week I've been home waiting for the phone to ring with a new job opportunity or a temporary work assignment.

Monday I had an interview with another temp service. This one specialized in "Creatives" like writers, editors, graphic designers,etc. Still, the outlook was not so promising. We'll see if they can round up any jobs for me or not.

Yesterday I went with the family to Disneyland. It was nice to get my mind off the lack of work and to relax with my wife and our two sons.

Today my wife and sons went to school together and I stayed home to catch up on some writing for the book-in-progress "The Power Of Weakness". I also spent time alone singing worship songs and praying for wisdom and guidance.

A few friends called me to check up on us and to let me know they're praying for us. That was very encouraging.

Still, I know even less now than I knew before. All I've gotten back are letters of rejection, or just silence, leaving me to wonder about whether or not a new job is just around the corner or if I need to keep on looking and hoping and praying.

So far I know that God has us in His hand. I've experienced His daily bread. Our family is sustained by the goodness of God, I know. Especially since the money I'm earning at the temp assignment is less than half what I was making before, and we've made it since the end of June on this...and the generosity of family and friends.

God has faithfully provided us with daily bread. Today I need nothing. We are blessed with all the things we need...and honestly we're blessed with a lot of things we don't need too.

In two weeks Wendy and I will celebrate our seventeenth anniversary as husband and wife. We will most likely spend it together praying and wondering about what God has next for us as a family and seeking God for direction in my employment.

Still, I know that God is good. I know that He will carry us. I know that He has a plan to provide for us and to bless us.

Thank you all for your prayers for us during this time. We really couldn't make it without your support!

Blessings to you all!


Tuesday, September 26, 2006


How would you like to hear one of most lyrically potent and spiritually challenging set of songs put to record this year?

How would you like to download the complete CD, every single song, totally free?

What if it were 100% legal? What if the copyright holder, the artist himself, was giving his songs away, on purpose, so that as many people as possible could hear his songs, download them to their computer or Ipod, and not pay a strings attached?

Starting now, Derek Webb is giving away his entire "Mockingbird" Cd online totally free. Go to "" now and download the entire Cd, every single song, totally free. Burn it to a Cd, copy it for your friends, tell them to copy it and hand it to their friends. It's all good!

Seriously, the "Mockingbird" Cd is one amazing work of musical genius worth listening to and talking about with your friends.

Go to "" now and get your free copy of "Mockingbird". (Offer good from now until November).

Who loves ya, baby?

Monday, September 18, 2006


A few years ago, my friend Scott Laumann and I were scheming with a guy named Bill Burgess to create a subversive arts underground thing like nothing you've ever seen before.

Out of this series of late-night discussions and prayer sessions came several projects, some of which never got off the page, or out of our heads, but some of it did. Like this blog/website for example, and the Parabolic Journal (

I don't know if we were out of our minds or simply too far ahead of our time, but I ran across these old notes and emails the other day and thought it might be worth sharing it with everyone.

Who knows? Maybe you and a friend are just crazy enough to take these ideas and run with them?

After meeting together we determined that was NOT an Arts Ministry, it was a subversive communications ministry.

It's sort of like taking the Gospel and using a revolutionary
method of communicating it that employs elements of Fight Club, Global Frequency, The Blair Witch and Matrix marketing campaigns and Guerilla-Tactics as a delivery system to reach the Culture we live in with the Truth. (Bonus points if you know what "Global Frequency" is).

This is like being a covert agent in a communist country trying to
subversively round up revolutionaries against the oppressive

If this thing had a soundtrack it would be Rage Against The
Machine and POD.

Here's the Manifesto:


OUR VISION is to be a revolutionary-minded group of Christians who are dedicated to communicating the Truth by using the most covert, subversive and creative means possible.

OUR PURPOSE is to facilitate a profound shift in the culture at large and in the Body of Christ to embrace and accept the calling of Jesus.

To this end, we will shock, shake and awaken those within the Body of Christ who are blind to the needs of the lost around us. We will disturb, intrigue and provoke our world with the reality of God’s Truth. We will challenge, question and inspire other Christian artists and thinkers to pursue a life that is surrendered to Christ.

OUR GOAL is to be as radical in the culture we live in, as Christ Jesus was to those He came in contact with.



We will not use our God-given talent to create a "Christian version" of anything.

People need to discover their own faith, not have it spelled out for them.

The mysteries of God cannot be reduced to a bumper sticker.

There is no box.

This is not about one person or any group of people. It is, and always will be, about Jesus.

The Parables of Jesus are the most effective model for how we should approach evangelism.

Dialog is good. Thoughtful, inspired dialog is better.

Today's ecclesia must create spaces of opportunity for meditation, thinking, and safe discussion on matters of Faith.

Art has the power, and the responsibility, to frustrate, confound, and challenge the culture.

It’s often more effective to ask the right questions than to give the right answers.

The Church today needs to wake up and start doing the things that Jesus instructed.

The Body of Christ needs to abandon its empty pursuits and self-serving programs.

We want to emulate Jesus’ model for confronting the Church and the Culture.

OUR VALUES are to be set apart from the world around us, to confront the status quo inside and outside the Church, and to effectively communicate the gospel in unexpected ways.


1-We will employ Guerilla Evangelism tactics through flyers, stickers, websites, magazines, books, articles, etc. that provoke inspire and challenge those who are thirsty for Truth to dig deeper and encounter the living Christ.

2-We will meet in small groups, pray together, and plan creative outreach tactics on a regular basis.

3-We will create various tools designed to awaken the average Christian to the urgency of Christ’s call and the seriousness of His message.

4-We will attempt to contact, identify, inspire and challenge other Christians who have a heart for a radical change in the Body of Christ and the world at large.

5-We will create avenues of dialog with the Culture around us to expose the Truth about God’s character as revealed in the design of the Universe.

6-We will confront the lies of moral relativism in fresh, creative ways.

(Including, but not limited to)
1-Publish short, eye-catching booklets that ask questions and demand serious thought. Then direct readers to a website that also inspires and challenges, but witholds the punchline in favor of asking difficult questions and demanding consideration of logical concepts that align with the Gospel of Christ.

2-Guerilla Evangelism Campaign involving flyers, stickers, posters, t-shirts, websites, graphic design, art, film, etc., utilizing a consistent logo on all materials.

3-Create short, one minute video presentations designed to disturb and challenge Christians, allowing God’s Spirit to trouble and motivate them to action.

4-Publish one-sheet documents that introduce radical ideas of Truth through a dialog.

1-A website presence
2-A name for this crazy thing. (SUBVERSIVE, 42, LATRONIS, PARABOLIC, ETC.)
3-More agents of change to join us.
4-A place to meet and pray, strategize, interact and reach out.


My friend Bill Burgess (see link at left) is a genius. One day I'll have to tell the story of how we met but he is the first true subversive I ever met in person.

One day he sent me this email about a dream he had concerning my writing and the subversive plan to change the culture with the arts.

Here it is:

"Keith I don’t know where this fits into the scheme but the night we met I dreamt about you for most of the night it seemed. it is. (or..“Hit Me” as James Brown would say).

The setting was as if it was the next day after our meeting. In the dream you were somewhat discouraged and I sensed it. The more I started looking at you, (you were standing next to a wall with hands in pockets), the more I could see what you were. It was so clear to me that your WORDS, written words, were like the mortar that held the artwork together. As if each of the contributed pieces (Like Parabolic, but that wasn’t even in the dream) were separate bricks. So I began to excitedly tell you what you were and as I spoke, man did the revelation come. I kept encouraging you over and over and you were beginning to emerge. Kind of a huge sense of self disqualification was heavy over you, like you were struggling to know your part in the very things you had started. The last I saw of you, you had taken on a look in your eyes like, can this really be true? At that point I could see even more clearly that your WORDS were like a steel structure that goes up first, and then the artwork was literally hung like concrete panels on a building, except the building was your WORDS.

I woke up around this point and as I was thinking about the dream and some of that revelation was still with me, although not as intense. I began reflecting on how early 20th century artists like DuChamp and Man Ray and those kinds of guys were big with manifestos and how the statements in their manifestos were the lighting rod for getting their art noticed. Then I thought how as Christians literally our whole lives hang on the superstructure of Christ's words, and creation and alpha and omega hang upon Gods words.

I got up and made coffee and Journaled some video ideas with words I had been thinking of and that was it. I forgot all about it until tonight.. So God speed my friend. I don’t care if you want to forward this to Scott, I didn’t want to do it for you. I think it’s pretty clear. Let me know how your prayer time went this eve and I hope that this is useful to your thinking and your soul.

Press On
-Bill Burgess
August 12th, 2003"

“One role of the artist is to provoke and even disturb us so that we can see in new ways. As the ancient prophets did, art frequently condemns the values and concerns of its surrounding culture-often in a loud, harsh voice. In consequence, the artist is often outcast, rejected, or unpopular.”-- Steve Turner in Image: Journal of the Arts and Religion

“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves”. –Jesus, Matthew 10:16

“(Christian subculture) is a bad Xerox of the mainstream, not a truly distinctive or separate achievement. Without the courage to lead, it numbly follows picking up the major media’s scraps and gluing them back together with a cross on top.” (GQ MAGAZINE- “What Would Jesus Do?” by Walter Kirn, September 2002).

SO...anyone interested?


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

"DAWN TO DAWN" - Art in Orange


All last week there was an amazing show here in Orange called "Dawn To Dawn" hosted by St. John's Lutheran and presented by Seeds Arts Ministries.

My dear friend Heather Wright provided two exceptional pieces, one of which was painted outside on the street during the annual street fair on opening night.

Here's a glimpse of those two pieces:

*If you want to get a better look at these and a few others, go to her website (linked at the left-hand side under "Art of Heather Wright")

Karen Scmidt also had two bronze sculptures in the show. One was Jacob wrestling the angel and the other was a stunning piece showing Joseph holding the baby Jesus as his arms are held out in a cross. Mary looks up at him with wonder in her eyes. It's powerful stuff...

Some other favorite images were...

*This one was about Thomas and Jesus. The distance between them is the focal point.

*The story behind this one had me in tears. The artist's father is the subject. The night before he died he said he dreamt he was an astronaut on a rocketship.

This was a seriously amazing show. The exhibit is traveling throughout SoCal over the next few months, and then it's on to Nebraska.

Cal-Baptist University is one stop, along with Concordia University and Coast Hills Community Church...not in that order. Not sure of the dates. But it's worth digging it up to catch up with this show.

More posts on The Arts and cultural subversion coming soon...


Sunday, September 10, 2006


Raging Against Your Own Machine by Keith Giles

It was nearly 15 years ago that Shepard Fairey began his subversive, counter-cultural sticker campaign based on the face of Andre the Giant and a single word, "Obey".

The original vision he had was to create an underground movement designed to provide a counterpoint to the thousands of corporate advertising images assaulting us on a daily basis.

Fairey wanted to create a logo for a company that didn't exist and plaster it all over the city (and eventually the Nation and now the World).

Essentially, Fairey wanted to help people see advertising and media as propoganda aimed at our pocketbooks. He made his image imposing, like "Big Brother" looking down on society and commanding everyone to "Obey" the messages on billboards and in the media.

His message was meant to be ironic. His hope was that when people saw the overt command to "Obey" there would rise up within them a sense of individualism and personal identity that might make them say, "No. I will NOT obey!" and perhaps people would begin to think for themselves.

In a recent issue of PRINT Magazine (Jul/Aug, 2006), there is an article about Fairey and other street artists who have a desire to send a counter-cultural message via stickers and posters posted illegally on the sides of buildings and the back of street signs.

One book, "The Design Of Dissent" by Milton Glaser, makes the observation that today's society is immune to outrage. We read the newspaper, we watch atrocities on television and we move on with our lives.

This social apathy, in the opinion of Glaser, calls for an escalation of social protest " overcome the endless assault on our sensibilities by the official voices of the government." In Glaser's mind, what is needed is "..100 times more dissent that appeals to people's intelligence."

This may be true, or it may not be true. What I find interesting about this theory is that most modern advertising appeals to the lowest common denominator of intelligence, at best. At worst, the overall tone of advertising seems to pander to, and even to encourage, the ignorant majority.

Even more ironic to me is that Fairey's creation, "Obey", has now evolved into a full-blown corporation. The Obey logo can now be found on t-shirts, hats, skateboards and toys. Recently a $60 coffee-table book of Fairey's art was published to chronicle his exploits and rise to fame and fortune.

Here is a lesson for us. A single person has a vision to subvert the system, and in time his success lures him to join the enemy and to become exactly what he was raging against in the first place.

Now the Obey Giant logo is trademarked and used to sell products, not to make a commentary on the media-saturation of our times and the consumer-oriented society we have become. Now the symbol is used to promote consumerism, not to rebel against it.

I wonder if the Church has fallen into the same trap?

Have we been lured into thinking that, to be effective in society we must become exactly like the world around us?

The Church began with a single vision. Our founder, Jesus, was a revolutionary with a subversive message that we could all begin to live in The Kingdom of God today. His message was a threat to the Pharisess and the Roman Government. It threatened their authority structures. It called into question their defintions of righteousness, equality and holiness. It was a message that got our founder arrested, tortured and ultimately put to death.

From the earliest days, the followers of The Way continued this subversive, counter-cultural movement. They met quietly in homes. They re-defined family. They called one another brother and sister and loved and cared for one another as if they truly were of one family.

The early Church was persecuted for such counter-cultural behavior. People saw them as strange and treated them with disdain. Yet even though followers of Jesus were met with harsh persecution, hundreds of people continued to join their ranks. The radical lifestyle of these "Jesus People" caused people to wonder, "How can they give so much to strangers?", "What makes them so different?", and they wanted to know more.

Even the message preached by these people, that their founder Jesus had actually come back to life, seemed to be proven true by the radically changed lives of His followers.

In time, the followers of The Way actually did "turn the world upside down" (Acts 17:6-KJV). They endured horrific persecution and preserved the teachings of Jesus by living them out and sharing them with their new spiritual family for over three hundred years. That's longer than America has been a Nation.

Today, the Church looks an awful lot like the world around it. We do not stand out from the crowd. We are not known for our acts of kindness, love or compassion. We have aligned ourselves with a politcal platform and allowed figures in the media to speak for us.

In many ways, we have become the machine we intended to rage against. We have joined the system we were created to subvert and overthrow.

How this happened is another issue (and another article), but the solution for us is not to justify our slow transition into a more palatable option. The solution is to return to the way of life modeled by our founder, Jesus. The solution is to embrace, once more, the loving, yet counter-cultural, way of life modeled by the early Church.

Maybe the place we need to begin is to repent of our blindness and to return to the teachings of Jesus Himself.

"If you love me, you will obey what I command" - JESUS (John 14:15)


Saturday, September 02, 2006


Last night we took the family out to the Orange Street Fair just a few blocks from our house.

Our friend, and fellow "Mission House Church" member, Heather Wright was painting outside on the grass as hundreds (probably thousands) of people walked by on their way to enjoy the street fair.

Heather (pictured above) has done some incredible work lately. Some of which was on display in the gallery behind her as part of the Seeds Fine Art "Dawn To Dawn" exhibit.

That exhibit, which we saw for the first time last night, will be running through Sept. 12th at St. John's Lutheran on Chapman and is free.

I have to say, I've seen a lot of "christian" art and, let's be honest here...most of it is lame and cheesy. However, I am proud to recommend this exhibit as something exceptional and beyond expectation.

The "Dawn To Dawn" show is full of some of the most powerful, poignant, skillful and simply gorgeous art I have ever seen assembled in one place at one time. I am not exaggerating here.

This exhibit had some works which took my breath away and moved me emotionally. The quality of the work is exceptional. The sculptures, paintings, and mixed media pieces are all outstanding.

My friend Karen Schmidt also has two bronze sculptures in the exhibit.

If you live in Orange County and you want to see a large collection of outstanding art, be sure to drop by and check it out. They'll have an artist reception on Sunday, September 10th from 12pm to 3:30pm and I'll be there too. Look me up and we'll hang out over the art and talk!

*BTW- I wanted to update everyone that I have a temporary postion at The Healthcare Foundation For Orange County as an administrative assistant/office manager. It's not too stressful, and there's a chance I could end up taking this on as a full-time position (I'm praying about this now).

I also interviewed at Biola University yesterday for a marketing specialist position, but honestly, I don't think I want it. Still, we'll see what God brings us in the next few weeks.

Thanks to everyone who has been praying for my job situation. Please KEEP PRAYING!! I'll update everyone when I know something new.


Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Out Of The Blue by Keith Giles

The other day I received a very unexpected, but very necessary, word of encouragement from God by way of a friend.

I was at home, trying to stay busy while my wife and two sons were away on vacation, and searching desperately for a new job in the meantime, when my cell phone rang.

It was my friend Susan, who I had not spoken to in just about a year. Years earlier, when I had gone to work for Vineyard Music Group to launch their brand-new wholesale department, Susan had been the first sales rep to join the team. Over the next three years we would work closely together and become good friends.

Still, I was shocked to get a call from her, especially on my cell phone since I wasn’t sure how she’d gotten the number. Wendy and I had moved recently from Tustin to Orange and our home phone number had been changed. My cell number was one I’d had for only a year or so, so getting a call from Susan was a surprise.

After a brief time of small-talk, Susan told me why she was calling. She said she had been praying that God would make her an encouragement to someone. As she was reading her Bible, she came across Deuteronomy 8:7-10 and immediately thought of me, so she began to search around to see if she could find my phone number.

As I listened to Susan, she began to read this verse out loud to me. “For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land- a land with streams and pools of water…a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing…”

It wasn’t until I told Susan what we were going through that she even had any idea how appropriate her verse was to our situation. I told her about how I’d been out of work since the end of June. I told her how Wendy and the boys were away on vacation, leaving me alone in the house for two and a half weeks, to search for a new full-time job.

God had spoken to me, through a friend, and through His word, at a time when I really needed to hear some encouragement. Over the last few weeks, I have returned to this verse again and again to remind myself that God is near and that His intention is to bless me and to lead me to a better place.

So far, I’ve submitted applications and sent resumes to countless organizations. I’ve contacted friends, acquaintances, and total strangers seeking leads on new jobs. I’ve registered with two different temporary agencies (and neither one has called me back about an assignment).

I’ve posted my resume at, searched for jobs on two different Non-Profit Job Search Engines, and sent out my resume to jobs I found listed on Craig’s List.

Yesterday, for the first time in my life, I applied for Unemployment.

I am officially out of ideas. I have done everything I know how to do and so far I have nothing to go on.

What is it that God is trying to say to me? What am I supposed to do next? I have no idea.

Wendy and I have been through something similar to this once before when I was laid off from Vineyard Music after three and a half years. I was out of work for over a year and a half. I pray that this time around the time spent searching for employment is much shorter.

Until we discover the will of God in all of this, I will continue to seek God’s face. I will continue to trust in Him alone. I will hold on to the promise that He intends to bless me and to bring me into “…a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing..”

He is our only hope. In Him will we trust.

Conversatio Morem!

Monday, August 28, 2006


“The House of Eleven Windows” by Keith Giles

A few months ago, long before anyone really knew that Wendy and I were planning to leave our staff positions at a local church and start a crazy house church, we were guests in the home of an elderly couple who had once been missionaries themselves in Mexico many years ago.

The wife’s name was Ethel. She was someone who had a reputation for having a prophetic gift. Meaning that, rather tell the future, she would often have words of encouragement for people that referred to a specific situation or event. This evening we were having dinner in their home because she had informed us that she had something important to share with us.

After dinner she began to tell us about something that had happened months earlier during the Sunday morning service when Wendy and I had come and sat down in front of her and her husband during worship. She began to tell us how, during the worship, she kept seeing a large, three-story house with eleven windows all over it. She kept seeing it in her mind every time she closed her eyes and so she started to pray and ask God what this picture meant. God spoke to her heart and said that it was because Wendy and I were going to be leaving and that we were going to start a house church.

Sitting there at her dinner table, Wendy and I slowly turned to look at each other in amazement. No one at our church was aware that we were leaving to start a house church at this point in time. This was quite an on-target word of encouragement to us.

She wasn’t finished. She said that she then asked God why there were eleven windows on the house. God spoke to her heart again, as we were standing in front of her worshipping, that the eleven windows stood for eleven windows of opportunity that He was about to open up for us in this new ministry.

At the time, Wendy and I didn’t know where we would end up living. The news had come only weeks earlier from our landlord that the house we’d been renting for over 3 years would be up for sale and that we had to move out. This word encouraged us because it meant that we’d have a house church where God would bless us in many ways.

Soon enough we moved out of our old house, stored our belongings in a storage unit, and began searching for a new house. In a few weeks we moved into our new house in Orange, a few miles away from our old house. After a few more months we began our first house church meetings and called it “The Mission”.

It was only a few months ago that we started a “Kids Club” in our new home for the kids in our neighborhood, sharing the Gospel with these four elementary-age children as part of our calling to be missionaries in our culture.

One night, I couldn’t sleep and I got up to pray. It was about three o’clock in the morning. I went into the den where we normally host our house church gatherings and have since started our “Kids Club” services. As I prayed, God revealed something very practical to me. I began to pray about that word He gave us through Ethel months earlier, about the eleven windows of opportunity. I prayed and asked God to show me more about what this really meant. Then I realized something amazing. I started to mentally count how many windows there were in this new house we were now living in. There were eleven windows here. I mentally did the count in my head again, adding up the windows in each room one more time to be sure. Again, the number was the same. Eleven windows.

The simplicity of this realization washed over me like a flood of emotion. I sat on my couch, in the dark and began to shake my head in wonder and disbelief. All those months ago, long before anyone knew we were even thinking of starting a house church, long before we ourselves even knew where we’d end up living next, long before we’d ever started to walk out our calling to be missionaries in our city, God had this house in mind. God held this place for us. He intended for us specifically to be in this neighborhood, to minister to these children, to lead the house church in this very place. He even counted the windows and told us about it months in advance so that we’d know we were in the right place at the right time.

Today I am searching for a new full-time job. I have no idea where we’ll get the funds to cover rent and groceries in the next few weeks. I have done all I know how to do in order to find a new job, any job, that could cover our bills and provide our needs. As I sit here writing this, in the house with eleven windows, I do not know what God is about to do next. I do not know how God will provide. But I do know that God has us in the right place. I do know that God has seen the end from the beginning and I know that He will carry us in His arms, as He always has before.

Just this morning, I got up to pray again. I went into the den and knelt in front of the same sofa to pray. I again remembered the word about the eleven windows. Then I started to count the doors in our house, just out of curiosity.

Can you guess how many doors there are in this house?

God is faithful and He speaks to us and reveals His faithfulness to us in mysterious ways.

Conversatio Morem!


Saturday, August 26, 2006



I just read an interesting article the other day about how Jesus avoided the religious and political agenda of His day in favor of a radical system called "The Kingdom of God", which was intended to transcend religion and politics and drive straight to the heart of the individual person. His revolution was about personal "regime change", not political reformation or even religious. Jesus was concerned with how you and I, how everyday people, needed to experience an internal revolution where they surrendered their kingdom to His.

I've already written about the difference between political agenda/parties/candidates and the sort of social system that Jesus was interested in - The Kingdom of God. This was not a political party or system, but a way of life that transcended culture, social systems, politics, religious affiliation or any other form of human sociology.

The Kingdom of God is God's Way of life, not our own. We must conform to the Kingdom, we must NOT conform the Kingdom to fit our ideology or system.

This is why I disagree with Jim Wallis when he takes his message of social justice and alligns himself with the Democratic Party (all the while claiming that "The Right doesn't get it and the Left gets it wrong"). Because when Jim Wallis makes the issue a political issue, and not a moral, ethical, or Christian issue, he gives people permission to dismiss him as a Liberal and therefore, dismiss the overtly Biblical Mandate from God Almighty to care for the poor.

To be clear, I love Jim Wallis. I've interviewed him twice and I love what he has to say to the Church about their Biblical mandate to care for the poor. When he's on that soapbox I'm cheering all the way. It's when he turns political that I leave the scene.

At the same time, I disagree with people like James Dobson and Pat Robertson (and all the rest) who try to make the Republican Party equal to the Kingdom of God. Their message seems to be that, to be a good Christian is to be a good Republican. I disagree. Very much.

Again, just so I don't get a lot of hate mail on this, I love Focus On The Family. I love what they do for families and for encouraging Moms and Dads to parent in a more loving and intentional way. What I take issue with is when their founder steps into the media spotlight, shares the stage with political leaders, and makes declarative statements as if he were speaking for all of Christendom. I disagree with the idea that all good Christians are Republicans.

Many Christians in America will be shocked to discover so many Democrats (and even, "gasp", Green Party Members) living next door to their mansions in Heaven. Heck, we'll even see Socialists and Communists there too! Oh my...

First and foremost, I am a follower of Jesus. My only allegiance is to Him and to His Word and to His Kingdom. I am a citizen of this Kingdom and all that it stands for. I am a stranger here. This world is not my home. (You know the songs).

I care for the poor because God commands me to, and because when I exercise compassion to others, I am following in the footsteps of Jesus Himself. It is not about a political system or party. It's about Jesus.

I do think it's a good thing to be involved with politics when appropriate. Call your Congressman, ask them to vote for the right House Bill and to deny the wrong agenda. Yes. Do that. But do not get confused about where the real solutions lie. Do not allow your mind to get blurred between that and what it really means to follow Jesus.

If you vote for the Green Party, but you never personally care for the environment in your real life...(ie.- you don't recycle your paper and plastics) are not actually someone who practices what you preach.

If you vote for the Democratic Candidate who wants to improve the welfare system and up the minimum wage, but you yourself never get in your car and spend any time with the poor, you are not someone who cares about social justice.

If you vote for the Republican Party because they support an anti-Abortion platform, but you never even pray for unwed mothers, or take the opportunity to show compassion to an actual under-age pregnant girl, you are not someone who values an unborn life.

Our actions, our everyday, actual actions, are what really determine what we believe and what we value. Our votes, our political affiliations, our bumper stickers, do not communicate anything more than an opinion or a position.

Furthermore, as far as our faith, if we say we love Jesus and we hate our brother (or any other human being), we are liars. Are we practicing love? Are we actually working to show kindness and compassion to the poor, to our neighbors next door, to our own, irritating family members? If not, we are not really "Believing" in Jesus, because the word "Believe", as Jesus (and Paul, Peter, etc.) uses it refers to listening and then putting into practice.

"Now that you KNOW these things, you will be blessed, if you DO THEM" - Jesus (JOHN 13:17 - emphasis mine)


Thursday, August 24, 2006


Some of you know I've been out of work since the end of June.

We made it through last month due to the great genorosity of our Mission House Church members and also because we cashed out an old 401k account that had about $2,800 in it. This is how we covered rent and bills up to this point.

Now things are getting scary. I've been searching for a job, preferably in the non-profit/ministry side of things, but the way things are looking, I'd be happy to wash dishes if it meant I could cover our bills.

As a favor, a friend of mine recommended me to his boss as a potential telephone sales rep. I've done this sort of work before, so it didn't seem that difficult. Plus, the pay was very good and we certainly had no other options open, so I took the chance.

The owner met with me and informed me that, the way they handle new hires is to give them 3 days to produce using a purchased phone list of potential clients and see how they do on the phones. We call this "Cold Calling" in the sales biz. It's the worst kind of sales you can do, in my opinion.

Still, it didn't look that difficult so I took the challenge. Three days to prove myself. No problem.

The first day I hit the phones hard. I made around 55 phone calls and never sold a single item. It was grueling work actually. The psychological and emotional stress it takes to pick up the phone again, and again, and to call total strangers and rip through a pitch (all the while making it sound very conversational and "non-sales-like"), is very hard on the ego. But, oh well, I thought. Maybe I just had a bad day. The next day was sure to improve.

But the second day, after 77 phone calls, I had a blank sales sheet. Not one single person had taken our product. Of course, more than 40% of my calls had gone to voice mail, or been wrong numbers, but of the 15 or 16 people I actually spoke to, most were uninterested or already had a source for what we were offering. I was frustrated. I felt like a failure. Worse, I was partially angry at my employer-to-be for handing me a crap list of prospective clients and expecting me to turn lead into gold. I felt as if I was set up to fail.

At the end of the second day, my friend Greg, (who helped get me in the door at this place), called me at home to inform me that his boss had mentioed that he expected me to sell six or seven items on the third day if I had any hope of being hired on full-time.

I wanted to spit. At the rate I was going, using their garbage phone lists, I was convinced that even Harry Houdini couldn't pull a sale out of that hat, much less six!

I told my friend that I'd rather have a root canal than to return to another day of non-stop calls and empty results at that place.

Then, that next morning I woke up around 5:30am and started wrestling with God over it. I thought of the Children of Israel who refused to enter the Promised Land just because there were Giants. I told God it would take a miracle for me to get 6 sales in a single day when, after 2 days, I couldn’t even do a single one.

Then I told God how much I really, really, really, hated this job. How it was like pulling my soul through a cheese grater. I thought about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, how he asked if the cup could pass from him, yet nevertheless, he did as God commanded.

I remembered that I’m writing a book on the power of weaknesss; about how when we are weak, God is strong. I thought that if I didn’t at least give God an opportunity, I’d never know what could have happened.

I also thought about the fact that rent is coming due, along with a lot of bills, at the end of this month and the first of next. I know we’ll need cash and at least I’d get paid around $100 just for coming in and taking one last swing at the phones.

I got up. I got dressed. I made coffee. I prayed some more. I asked God for the strength to get back on the phones and I confessed my weakness.

Maybe this was another way for me to learn to die to myself, to take up my cross and to follow Jesus? Maybe this is how real faith works, I thought.

I also thought about how I would have to tell my sons that I quit the job I was doing just because it was too hard. I also thought about how a failure is really only someone who doesn’t try.

So, I got in the car and drove to work.

On the way, I prayed. I sang worship songs. I cried. I asked God for strength.

I realized that this was an opportunity for me, to let go of what I wanted in order to be a good provider for my children, my wife, my family.

I walked into the office and headed for my desk, and that phone, facing possible humiliation at a third day of zero results.

I took a deep breath, gathered my courage and whispered a prayer to God for help. Then I picked up the phone and started to make my first call.

After about 3 hours I made about 30 calls. All zippo. Not a single sale.

My boss came over eventually asked me if I just wanted to call it quits and I said, “Yes”.

So, I got a check for about $260 and said goodbye to my friend Greg and walked out to the car.

Strangely, I felt invigorated. I had faced my dread in God's strength. I had failed to produce results, but at least I discovered what I was made of. At least I didn't take the easy way out and quit.

Now, I'm back on the job trail. Seeking God's face and listening for His voice, which, I believe, is really what God wants most of all; to hear my voice calling out to Him and to know that I am putting all my hope and trust in Him alone.


Thursday, August 17, 2006


Through Ken Eastburn I met Bob Sears, the author of this article. He's leading a highly-missional group in Long Beach and here he gives us a snapshot of what one of those meetings looks like. I can't wait to visit one day and see for myself.

Here ya go...

Second Reformation by Bob Sears

Nine, then ten of us, stuffed into a tiny, second-story Long Beach apartment or an “open discussion” of spiritual issues; Five Christians and five “non”.

After getting acquainted, I transitioned with this hopeful firestarter- “If you could ask God a question that you knew He would answer right way, what would it be?” The skeptic’s replies were pretty diverse:

*”I’d ask her if she was real.”- Leanna, 24, our hostess and our original contact
*”Is there a right way to believe?”- Mark, 25, the host who lives with Leanna
*”Are there aliens on other planets?”- John, 33, the heavily tattoed, non-pot-smoking Rastafarian who hasn’t cut or combed his dreadlocks for 14 years
*”Why? Why did you start the world? Why are things the way they are? Why?!”- Drew, mid 20’s, outspokenly agnostic.
*Why did you create this whole thing that just dies over and over?”- Brendon, who showed up near the end of our evening

How I would up with these people is an object lesson in the power of prayer. When 50 Christian friends and supporters joined me for dinner on March 26 (which delighted me, by the way), I asked everyone to please pray for my ministry during the last ten minutes of our time together. The next day I kept an appointment with Ken Eastburn, a Southern Baptist pastor who recently led his church of 90 to sell their building in Brea and start meeting as seven house churches. I had been referred to him by a mutual acquaintance several weeks before.

Ken and I hit it off. Especially when he mentioned that his goal was to start 100 small house churches in Orange County, the exact same goal I had publicly declared to our group the night before.

We met several weeks in a row and decided to start following-up on some of his leads. Leanna in Long Beach was one of those leads. Ken and I had dinner later on with her and her room-mate Mark to share our ideas for an open discussion of spiritual seekers and agreed to meet in this way with those they invited two weeks from that time. That all occurred on June 4th.

On June 11th we tackled the question of why God created everything when he knew in advance how messed-up things would get. I gave everyone a (slightly paraphrased) copy of Colossians 1:15-22 to use as a reference during our interaction. Paul highlights two answers in that passage:

#1 – God has always planned to establish Jesus as supreme head over all creation and all of history is the outworking of that plan.

#2 – God’s actions to reconcile people to himself through Christ reveals his eternal desire for a vital relationship with us. That’s what he made us for.

I didn’t offer these two insights until the last few minutes of our group discussion, but they listened intently, then expressed readiness to give the next topic a shot after Father’s Day.

Two Sundays later, we had a rousing discussion about whether or not there is a “right way” to believe. Most in our group began by answering, “No, there is no right or wrong way to believe. Everyone is equally right and all opinions are equally valid.” But, of course that belief/opinion claims to be more right than other beliefs/opinions, so it reveals itself as ridiculous after just a little probing. (A good book on this is “Relativism: Feet Planted Firmly In Mid-Air” by Beckwith and Koukl). Most of our group quickly caught on and saw their problem. In fact, Leanna dismayed herself by wanting to be tolerant of all views, then realizing she simply can’t be and remain logical. Some things are just obviously right and wrong. Her conclusion: Human morality must have been imparted to us by a Creator.

A lesbian newcomer named Yvonne also admitted to inconsistent beliefs, but she loved how “carefully listened to” she felt as she discovered that fact. (She also commented that our discussion had been so deep that she might fare better next time if she comes “high”. Yeah. That’s help.)

But not everyone was impressed. Drew is much brighter and better trained as a philosopher than I; the kind who can make you doubt if even “you” exist! He asked me to read part of a book he loves by Friedrich Nietzsche so I could better understand his take on the issue. My conclusion, after reading it, is that Satan also attends our meetings and has a firm grip on some of their minds there (see 2 Cor 4:3-4). There’s no chance of my influencing them unless Jesus is present in power and supplies my responses.

On Sunday, July 2nd, after discussing why each of us do-or-don’t believe that God exists; we analyzed Jesus’ reply to Philip’s hare-brained request to see the Father. “Don’t you yet recognize me, Philip, even after I have been with you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking to see Him? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?” (John 14:9-10).

I can’t tell you how much impact the scriptures I choose for this group are having, but I can tell you that God is giving me favor with them. They like what we’re doing and now want to continue meeting at least through July (a month longer than originally committed to). So, please pray that God will open their hearts to receive His Truth, and that He’ll give me Christ-like clarity and wisdom so I can milk this opportunity for all it’s worth. I’d give an arm to see a new church birthed with some of these folks, and it’s not too much to ask.
Still stirred up about all this,
Bob Sears


Friday, August 11, 2006


I forgot to mention that, the other night at "The Mission", my friend Jason saw another person at the same stoplight as Tommy a few months back. This time it was a woman so, when he got to our meeting he quietly grabbed a plate of hot food and went off, with his wife Heather, to share with this woman.

While they were talking and praying with her, Jason asked her about Tommy. She knew him and said that he was out of the wheelchair now, on crutches, and was living in an RV or Motor Home now.

Praise God!

It's awesome to hear that he's not living on the streets, or by the riverbank, anymore.

Thanks to everyone who was praying for Tommy. Everytime I drive by that intersection I look for him and say a prayer for him. Now I know that he's not around because God has blessed him and taken him out of that lifestyle.

Isn't God good?


Last night at "The Mission" (our weekly house church gathering) we were blessed with first-time visitors Brent and Clara from Fullerton. (Brent discovered our house church listing over at "").

During our meal we had a wonderful discussion about something that I've been meaning to write about for a while now and this is a good time to do so.

What we began discussing was the tendency in our traditional churches to centralize certain people as leaders and, in turn, we disqualify everyone else from participating.

For example, most pastors and on-staff ministers can relate to the fact that only a handful of people do all the work and ministry in the Body while 80% to 90% sit back and do nothing. This creates frustration, burn-out and, honestly, a large group of underdeveloped disciples.

Brent's comment was that he realized in his church that it was like a classroom of people from various levels of maturity who would never graduate. So, the First Graders and the Twelfth Graders (and everyone in between) must sit through the same lecture each week and there is no homework (so the pastor/professor cannot ever really tell who is listening or putting things into practice or not) and the fact is that no one ever graduates from this "Class" and becomes an instructor themselves.

Here's a great solution: Teach your people to become teachers. If you are in the habit of training others to become trainers of others (this is a very basic principle of discipleship), you will eventually end up with a church full of teachers and trainers who are training others to also be teachers and trainers. Over time your church will become so full of mature ("Graduated") leaders and disciple-makers that your small staff will act mostly as facilitators and not the one's who must always be "hands-on" for every single event/class/lesson/bible study, etc.

I have personally been shocked to see a lack of basic trust among most lead pastors to "give away the ministry" in this way. Many pastors are too afraid to actually empower and release others to do their job. Why? Well, it's pretty obvious that this threatens their authority and job security. But, it doesn't have to. I believe any pastor who actually put this into practice would quickly become the envy of other pastors in their community. They'd get phone calls from other pastors asking, "How do you do it?" and "Can you show me how to do this?"

Here's a quick reference of how to empower others contrasted with how to expoit others. See where your church fits in this matrix:

*Give them something to do / *Give them something to attend
*Believe in them / *Make them believe in you
*Delegate authority / *Require submission to your authority
*Further God's plan for their life / *Make them part of your plans
*Invest in them / * Use them
*Love them and show it / *Love the task more than the people
*Give them what you have / *Take what they have
*Provide resources for growth / *Harvest their resources for your own use
*Discuss with them / * Preach at them
*Spend time freely with them / *Require appointments
*Give them the keys now / *Hold back until you retire
*Serve them / *Get them to serve you
*Praise them / *Accept their praise graciously
*Transfer masterhood to them / *Demonstrate your masterhood to them

**Modified from Wolfgang Simson

Brent and I also discussed a bit about Barna's book "Revolution" and how, in the next 20 years, he predicts that the traditional church will decline and "organic" or "house" churches will flourish. I agree with Barna, however, I think as this begins to gather momentum many "smart" pastors will begin to look around and say, "Hold the phone! Why are all these people leaving the church? What is it they are hungry for? How can we modify what we do to provide the same opportunity?"

Most of those "smart" pastors will shift from an "Exploit Others" methodology to an "Empower Others" methodology. Many of the smart ones already have...

Brent and I both shared testimonials of how we've seen requests from church members to start Bible Studies or Prayer Meetings in their homes have been told "No" by their lead pastors because there wasn't a recognized pastoral figure who could oversee such a meeting. So, this means pastors are actually discouraging their members from meeting and praying and studing the Word of God together because they're not qualified to do so.


What happened to the Priesthood of the Believer? What happened to opening the Word of God and trusting the Holy Spirit to lead you into all truth?

Sadly, our practice betrays our heritage of The Reformation and the liberty offered to us by God to empower every believer to become a committed and devoted disciple who, then in turn, goes and creates other committed and devoted disciples.

I've mentioned it here before, but the goal of an apple tree is not to produce more apples. It's to produce more apple trees. This is the organic purpose found in nature, and it's the organic purpose of the Body of Christ as well.

Let's go and make disciples. Let's empower every follower of Christ to go and exponentially create as many Bible Studies, Prayer Groups, Spiritual Discussion Groups, etc. as the Holy Spirit desires.

It's time to unleash the untapped potential of the Priesthood of Believers, empowered and released to "be the Church" and not just "attend the Church".

It's time to start the act of service and stop going to a service.

"Let it fly!"


Tuesday, August 08, 2006



In the last few years, God has been speaking to me about the connection between loving and serving God and loving and serving others, especially the poor.

I've learned a lot from spending time with the poor. They've taught me about humility and about courage. I've known the joy of bringing hope to someone who felt forgotten and alone. I've seen Jesus in the face of the elderly, the poor, in children who are hungry and dirty. I've discovered the truth that the Gospel is about being "Good News to the poor" as Jesus said it was.

In all my passion for serving the poor, I've hosted conferences designed to educate other Christians about the connection between how we love God and how we love the poor among us. I've written dozens of articles all over the internet and in print magazines about how God is calling each and every one of us to express His genuine compassion for the poor in our everyday life. I've taught workshops on this. I've preached sermons on this. I even have several t-shirts which loudly proclaim my passion and my concern for the poor.

But lately I've begun to learn something else about caring for the poor which goes beyond advocacy and activism. It goes beyond giving a hug or befriending the lonely. It's called "The Discipline of Secrecy".

A quick search through Richard Foster's great classic, "Celebration of Discipline" provides a few short paragraphs about this concept, but I think it's a lost art and worthy of more attention.

This little-known, or practiced, discipline is found simply in the teachings of our Lord Jesus, Himself.

In Matthew chapter 6, verses 1 through 4, Jesus urges His followers to practice an uncommon discipline of secret charity. In verse 2 of chapter 6, Jesus says, "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." - Matt 6:1-4

Recently this passage has come to convict me of my previous attitude and behavior towards the issue of poverty and my (very public) response to it. On the one hand, my talent is to write. I've made an intentional choice to surrender my writing ability to God so that the Kingdom may be advanced and so that the Truth of the Gospel might be proclaimed. That's what I've been focusing on these last few years of my life with this website, my newsletter, and the various book projects I've got going on at the moment.

But, as I read this verse in Matthew, I begin to question my motives a bit more seriously. When I write my articles giving testimony about how God has revealed Himself to me through my service to the poor, don't I take a bit of pride in my state of enlightenment? Well...honestly, yes...maybe just a little bit. And as I wear my t-shirts which proudly shout "Actions Speak Louder" or "You Have One Life, Do Something", aren't I basically saying, "Hey! Look at me! I care about the poor and if you don't you're not as smart/holy as I am!"? Perhaps...

In my defense, I think my earlier passion to write down what I was discovering along these lines, was mostly sincere excitement and an honest desire to share with others about what I was learning. I wanted, and still want, to inspire others to get out of their comfort zones and to begin to love the poor that God has put in their path. It has made a serious difference in my life and I know it will make a serious difference in the lives of others who also decide to follow Jesus in this way.

But now I am discovering a new facet of caring for the poor; The Discipline of Secrecy.

After reading this passage in Matthew, and after having the Holy Spirit roll me around in the dirt about my attitude in this area, I decided to change my behavior and to modify my acts of compassion.

For example, in the past, I would learn something great or experience something awesome in the process of serving another person and I would immediately craft an article about it and post it online somewhere for all the world to see. Again, in my heart my hope was to inspire others to get out of their comfort zones and to express the love of God to the poor in tangible ways. That's a good thing. However, I've begun to imagine what it might be like to spend an hour of time with a homeless person, buy them a meal and pray for them, without ever saying a word about it to anyone.

At first I was curious about whether or not I could actually do this. I mean, could I really stop and spend time with someone who was in need and could I serve them and then never talk about it in public? Better yet, would I do this if I knew that no one would ever know about the details of my benevolence?

These are the hard questions that Jesus asks of us in Matthew chapter 6. This is the hard question that the Holy Spirit is asking me now. Maybe He's asking you the same thing?

Could I actually develop an ongoing ministry to the poor where every week I am actively involved in providing compassionate response to someone in need, and yet never write or talk about it to anyone?

Honestly, the idea of doing this excites me. I'm eager to start a ministry of secret charity to whomever God puts in my path. I can't imagine that such a habit could do anything less than draw me closer to the heart of Jesus and begin to change my heart for others in ways I have yet to even begin to understand.

So, does this mean I won't be writing any more about the importance of caring for the poor? Probably not. Does it mean that I'll not be leading any further conferences or workshops where I educate and train others to see the poor around them and to respond in the way that Jesus commands us? No, it does not mean that. I will continue to devote my time, talent and energy into caring for the poor and for preaching about God's heart for the poor.

But, what will change is that I will begin to develop an area of my life where I spend time with the homeless, and I care for the poor God puts in my path, and I will purposely guard the details of that service from everyone except God...and my wife.

There is joy and freedom in knowing that only you and God are aware of your acts of service to others. It clarifies whom we are trying to please and it glorifies only the One who deserves any glory.

I can hardly wait to begin on this adventure of secret service, and I wish I could report back to everyone about how it's going and what I'm sure to learn...but I can't. You'll just have to start your own secret service time and experience the joy for yourself, I guess.