Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Beginning of Something New

Over the past 7 months, I've been journeying with a group that has been attempting to live missionally and intentionally in the East side of Austin. It's been a challenging 7 months, but has had its share of beautiful God encounters and enough learning moments to write a dissertation.

Come June 1st, we plan on taking what we've learned over these past few months and begin something new. Starting June 1st, we are beginning something called the 297 Collective. It's not anything fancy, snazzy or innovative, but an attempt to be community together, as well as engaging and intentional with our neighbors. We intend to embark on a journey that will bring people from different life stages together for the desire of caring for one another through intentional community, as well as extending this care to our neighbors through a missional lifestyle.

With all new things comes a need for vision and shared values, and this is what we came up with.

Whether it be with our time, finances or grace, we want to live generously. In the world that bombards us with commercials about retirement and 401K’s, we want to live a life whose gravitational pull is not ourselves. We want to accomplish this by:

Financial Generosity
With the amount that is collected every month, our desire is to have at least 50% turned right back out to be reinvested and redistributed into the community. It may take a few years to see this happen, we will remain faithful to living generously.

Kairotic Generosity
‘Kairos’ is the Greek word for ‘time’ and has the connotation of a time which is not necessarily measurable or quantitative, but qualitative in nature. Although our minds and schedules are more used to a more rigid, or Kronos, type of time in terms of weeks, days, hours and minutes, it is in the Kairotic moments that we experience life and community changing encounters. As we live communally and intentionally, we want to be mindful of our Kairos and to share it generously.

Patient and Graceful Generosity
Much like death and taxes, pains, misunderstanding and worldview challenges are all certainties when it comes to communal and intentional missionality. But instead of like-kind retaliation or emotional forfeiture, we want to be generous with our grace so we can wisely work through our challenges, misunderstanding and hurts with the mindset that it may take longer than we want, but it is in this process of being distributors of grace that healing and transformation will take place.

We do not want to be caught in the cycle of consumption, nor found reliantly suckling at the teat of consumerism. With the value of simplicity influencing our lifestyle choices, we are intentionally denying ourselves that which the voices of the world say that we cannot survive without. Or as Tyler Durden once said, “Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need.” In pursuing this lifestyle, we are standing in solidarity with the belief that there is more to life than spending our time, energy and resources to romance the “American Dream”.

We are not products of chance encounters and random developments, but byproducts of intentional creation and mindful choices. As we live in community, we too want to have our decisions and actions be intentional and not left up to mere circumstance or dumb luck. From the relationships we foster to the activities we participate in to the daily rhythms we develop, we want to be purposeful in the choices we make and fight the natural desire to be inactive observers where we simply let life unfold around us.

One thing we learn from life in the suburbs is that you can be surrounded by the people living in your subdivision, but loneliness and disconnection seems to be the normative way of life. As communal beings who were designed for community and require human interaction for survival, we want to buck the status quo of individualism. We desire a passionate pursuit of a communal existence with our housemates, with our immediate neighbors, and with those who share the same zip code. Although bumps, snags and seemingly insurmountable obstacles are guaranteed, we are willing to face these challenges together than to merely exist alone.

We must maintain the mindset that we are not a program, but are hopefully allowing our missional and intentional lifestyles be the catalyst for influence and change. Because of this, our mindset must be one that doesn’t necessarily see an end date or parameters of conclusion regarding our involvement with the 297 Collective. Obviously, we will probably see turn over in terms of those who are involved, but our desire is to reduce that to the lowest amount possible so as to maintain and foster relationships with the community, especially since the community primarily consists of families that have been living in their respective homes for generations.


It's one thing to have vision and a common value set, but the challenge is to take these words and give them form. So often, vision can amount to mere pillow talk, but we hope to flush these values out and allow the voices of the collective shape the way in which we communally live out Generosity, Simplicity, Intentionality, Community and Longevity.

If you could, please pray for us as we begin this dialogue to be the Church to one another, and to our neighbor.

Friday, February 15, 2008


In my last post, I talked about our house being broken into. Last week, Jim, my housemate and the owner of the home, met with the detective who was assigned our case. What we learned was that all 3 of the people arrested are under the age of 20. 2 of them are brothers, and they both live around the corner from us with their grandparents. For the eldest one, this was his second offense. To make the brothers' situation even harder, their father is currently incarcerated.

I found myself throwing out the idea of inviting the boys over for dinner. This gesture is not to rub in the fact that they got arrested, nor is it to show them what they could have stolen, but to make an attempt in getting to know them and developing a relationship. Unfortunately, this idea was not received very favorably, as it still seems to early to face these kids in hopes to usher grace and forgiveness into this situation.

Please continue to pray for us as we navigate through these tough and life defining times.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Newfound Appreciation

I spent the day with 4 boys. I prepared their breakfast, helped get them ready for school, pick them up from school, entertain the one who's too young for school with Wii, food and a trip to the park. I prepared their afternoon snacks, attempt to help them with their homework, made dinner, and washed dishes.

I'm wasted.

I mention all this not to brag about my accomplishments(there's actually not much to brag about...I probably broke more rules and laws than I care to divulge), but to say that mothers all around the world do this every single day, and getting a break is more often than not a luxury.

So whether your children are grown, still growing up, or yet to be born, if you're a mother and you happen to read this, the following is for you:


It totally baffles me how so many amazing women can do all of this day in and day out, not to mention trying to do this in a culture that takes mothers for granted. My attempt at being a parent for a day has made my appreciation for you grow exponentially. I thank you all for your tremendous love and selfless energy, and apologize for all the unappreciative people out there who thinks that what you do is "easy". And what now seems like a slap in the face is how culture has marginalized "Mother's Day" to be a 24-hour period of time where we get to tell our mothers how important they are to us. Pardon my coarse language, but that's horse shit.

Mothers, you deserve more than flowers, chocolates, neutered hallmark cards and long distance phone calls once a year.

And to my own mother, I can only look back at the pain, torture and patience she embodied while trying to raise us 3 punks, all the while keeping sanity, order and grace within the home.

"Mom, you're truly the best. It is because of your love that I am who I am today, and I owe you absolutely everything."


Unappreciative Punk-Ass Child #2.

Friday, January 25, 2008


In September, while being an extra on a film set, my brand new phone was stolen. At first, I thought it was misplaced, but it wasn't long until I realized that this wasn't the case. When the reality of being a victim of theft, a feeling of disgust overwhelmed me. My phone being stolen wasn't what bothered me, as I would have gladly surrendered it to someone who needed it. It was the fact that someone felt stealing was their only option to get what they needed. To add insult to injury, the friends I shared company with began to make whispered accusations and started pointing a judgmental fingers at someone based on their ethnic and socio-economic background. To be honest, I think the stereotyping made me more sick than the actual disappearance of my phone.

Yesterday, I encountered the same feeling of being violated. Allow me to set the scene:

I was on my was back from the grocery store, but instead of going straight home, I stopped at a friend's house to drop something off. As I was pulling up, I saw the cars that belonged to my two house mates parked in front of the residence. I enter the house, deliver the goods, and engage is some side splitting conversation. Several minutes later, house mate one's phone rings, but is ignored. Immediately after, house mate two's phone rings and displays the same caller ID, but is subsequently ignored as well. Not 5 seconds after the final ring on house mate 2's phone, my friend's phone rings. She picks up, but discovers that the caller is actually looking for my house mates. On the other line is the alarm company who says:

"There has been a breach in the house."

At first, we all look at each other with confusion and begin to mentally process the situation. If everyone who lives in the house is in the same place, who could have entered the house that didn't know the security code?

My heart sank as a chill ran up my spine.

My house mates and I hop into our cars and drive straight home. I go tearing through the sub division and find myself the first to arrive home. I run to the front door and look through the glass and to my horror, I find the back door wide open. I insert the key, unlock the door, and brace myself for whatever, or whoever decided to let themselves in. I gingerly step into the house, peek into each of the rooms, with both my fists clenched, ready to swing at anything that didn't belong. But after a couple minutes, I see and hear nothing except the pounding of my own heart. I walk towards the back door to look into the backyard.

"Could they still be in the yard?"

Several turns of the head confirms that the only person in the yard was me. Upon this realization, I turn my attention to the door. The combination of the shoe print on the door, an unrecessed dead bolt, a broken door frame and pieces of blinds on the floor, it was obvious that whoever caused the alarm to sound did not have a key, and the only thing they took was our illusion of safety.

Several minutes later, the police arrive, but instead of coming into the house, begin to look around the premises. We later discover that it was not the alarm that made the police arrive as quickly as they did, but a 911 call from our neighbor. If it was not for their awareness, the police would not have received a description of the 3 young men running from the house after the alarm sounded. If it was not for our neighbor, the police would probably not have arrested the 3 suspects that they did.

But the issue that currently haunts me is this: What is to happen to these three young men. One of the suspects in custody is a 17 year old KID. Have the futures of these three been ruined by this stupid mistake? Will the fact that we decided to press charges mean a future of uncertain promise? As a person who lives with the promise of grace and forgiveness from God, how can I extend the same grace and forgiveness to these 3 boys? Is there a redemptive story that can emerge from this unfortunate incident?

I know that I will continue to wrestle with these questions for a long time, and pray that God will impart wisdom to my house mates and I so we can be a reflection of the love and forgiveness that allows us to be called Christ followers. I will also be praying that we will continue to love this neighborhood unconditionally amidst this unfortunate encounter.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Holiday Videos and Images

Some of the things I've done and people I've seen these past few weeks.

Ethan The Tiger Part 1

Ethan The Tiger Part 2

Ethan Laughing Up A Storm

Sister in-law Wii Boxing Match

My First Beard Papa Experience

Places I've been since the 18th of December:
Detroit, MI
Toronto, ON
San Francisco, CA

Current location: Hamilton, ON. So happy to be back.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


As of this past Tuesday, I started working at a new job. I've been looking for something for a while now, but nothing has worked out...until now. I have to say that this has to be one of the most fun jobs I have ever done. I work for a company called Amplifier. Many different online companies outsource their shipping and customer service needs to Amplifier, one of which is their sister company, Despair, Inc. What is Despair, you ask? Well if you can imagine a company that specializes in motivational posters, pictures and other gadgets and doohickeys, Despair is the antithesis of these companies. They specialize in DEmotivational posters, pictures, clothing and other gadgets and doohickeys.

I'm working in their customer service department answering emails, responding to complaints, sending replacements, and all the stuff a customer service person gets to do. The only difference between the Despair way of customer service and how customer service is executed at a company like Rogers, Walmart or Target, is I am encouraged to be sarcastic, rude and borderline insulting. Can you say 'DREAM JOB'?!?!?! Actually, I think she would have a blast doing what I do. To give you a few examples of how I go about "serving the customer" at Despair, here are a few questions from customers, along with my responses. (Just so you know, the names have been changed or removed)

"Do you have any guidelines for suggestions for posters? I have several, but don't see anywhere on your web site to submit the ideas. I'm sure this isn't intentional. I really don't want to overwork anyone since you seem so "busy"; however, I'm (unfortunately?) one of your favorite customers and I won't go away.

"Oh man!! These are the emails that I LOVE responding to!!! It's awesome when customers go beyond the realm of being a customer and actually become part of the Despair team. If you follow this link, you will be taken to the page where you can submit your spectacular ideas. Who know? Maybe your design will be found on our next calendar, mug or t-shirt!! Crossing my fingers, man!!"

"I am trying to save some trees, so I will shop in the future on your website. Please stop sending the catalog. Thanks."
Thanks for loving the environment, but hating our catalog. Don't worry, we don't take things personally. Thought I would let you know that instead of printing our catalog on paper, we are currently in the process of having the catalogs printed on cow manure. As soon as they're completed, I'll be sure to send one of our pies your way.

Just kidding.

No worries. You've been taken off our mailing list. Our apologies for any inconvenience we've caused.


Kevin C.

"I would like to get on the mailing list to receive a catalog. How do I do that?"
Thanks for your inquiry into a catalog!! Let me give you the proper steps for obtaining a catalog.

Step 1: Stop bothering us.
Step 2: Stop bothering us.
Step 3: Stop bothering us.
Step 4: Leave hope at the door.
Step 5: Stop bothering us.

When you have completed these 5 easy steps, you will find your catalog magically appear in the same dresser drawer you keep you socks and undergarments.

Just kidding.

Thanks for requesting a catalog!! We will be adding you to our mailing list, upon which time you will be all set up to receive one of our catalogs. Thanks for your interest in Despair, and we hope you enjoyed your stay.

Seriously, I love this job.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Compassion, Justice and the Christian Life

I'm reading a book by Robert Lupton entitled 'Compassion, Justice and the Christian Life: Rethinking Ministry to the Poor'. So far, it's an amazing read that seems to be touching on many of the issues we are currently wrestling with as a community at Vox, as well as making me rethink some decisions that were made when it comes to living life here on the East side. In fact, I feel that this book is slightly prophetic in some ways because several of the issues the author discusses are ones he has trudged through in his 30+ years in Atlanta, but are current issues that seem to be blooming here in the city of Austin. Issues like gentrification, yuppies marginalizing the poor by gobbling up low income real estate and people with doing more harm than good, even if they have good intentions.

I came across this portion of his book and found it to be spectacular and full of wisdom.

Ancient Hebrew wisdom describes four levels of charity. the highest level is to provide a job for one in need without his knowledge that you provided it. The next, lower level is to provide work that the needy one knows you provided. The third level is to give an anonymous gift to meet an immediate need. the lowest level of charity, to be avoided if at all possible, is to give a poor person a gift with his full knowledge that you are the donor.

Perhaps the deepest poverty of all is to have nothing of value to offer in exchange. Charity that fosters such poverty must be challenged. We know from 40 years of failed social policy that welfare depletes self-esteem while honorable work produces dignity. We know that reciprocity builds mutual respect while one-way giving brews contempt. Yet we continue to run clothes closets and free food pantries and give-away benevolence accounts and wonder why the joy is missing.

Perhaps it is our time and place in history to re-implement the wisdom of the ages and to fashion our contemporary models of thoughtful compassion. Our donated clothes could create thrift store and job training. Our benevolence dollars could develop mini-economies within the economy - daycare, janitorial, fix-the-widow's-roof services that would employ the jobless in esteem-building work. "Your work is your calling," declares the reformer, Martin Luther. Does not the role of the Church in our day include the enabling of the poor to find their calling?

This book has sent me into a vortex of wondering if everything that I've learned, and much of what I practice when it comes to loving your neighbor was built on the what ancient Hebrew wisdom considers to be lowest level of charity that should be avoided if at all possible.