Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Caitlin's Redemption

Caitlin Upton, Ms. South Carolina, has been viewed on Youtube a gazillion times in the last four days for completely blowing it with a "Dah" question." Even though I found myself laughing at her complete blunder, I also cringed inside because I know that this kid could never have become Ms. South Carolina without being a bright articulate kid. While laughing and shaking my head in disbeleif, I also felt really bad for her. She totally froze and made a fool of herself. Since I have done this in public as a young man, I found myself empathising with her. Anyway, here is a really cool clip of her on a morning show, facing the blunder, trying again, and intelligently answering the question in front of millions, after making the mistake. You gotta feel sorry for this young woman and, I personally, applaud her for redeeming a very regretful minute of her life.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Katie and Des

Thanks Katie K for sending some love and letting me know how you are. Here are some pics from The Slocum's Goodbye Party Slash Picnic from July 1st that Katie sent in. If anyone else has Church of the Cross pics they want to share, please send them to jayslocum411@gmail.com.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Ministry Update: Church of the Ascension!

As of September 1st, I will begin working as the Church Planter-Priest, in residence, at The Church of the Ascension in the City of Pittsburgh. Ascension is a Biblical Evangelical Parish with a strong congregation that is clearly other-centered in their approach to Worship, Evangelism, Fellowship, Discipleship, and Ministry.

In order for the plant to be strong and healthy, I will be partnering with Ascension and The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. Initially, I will spend the rest of 2007 working to establish relationships, share vision, educate the parish about how to live as missionaries to the city, and to begin raising funds so that this God-given vision will be able to become a reality.

This area of the city (Oakland) is in the heart of Pittsburgh's East End and is surrounded by Carnegie Mellon, The University of Pittsburgh, and Chatham College. We will be beginning the work of starting a new service-congregation using The Church of the Ascension's existing space. This church plant will begin as a new service and will grow into a full fledged church plant. It will be geared to reach post modern unbelievers and disaffected young people, and young families, in their twenties and thirties.

I am very excited to be able to step out in faith to do this work because I am confident that God will allow this new church the privelege of introducing Jesus to the thousands in this city who presently live without their Savior. Pray that God will bring this work to life and that we will listen closely to his voice as it all unfolds.

Icons of Prayer

My friend Ed Yescott introduced me to the joy of shaving with a Gillette Mach 3 razor and shaving soap. I have been using shaving soap and really good razors since the late 80's. Funny, that gift of knowledge that Ed gave me links me to him in a powerful way. Everyday, when I shave, I think of Ed. he doesn't know it, but I have prayed for him thousands of times because everytime I shave, I pick up that razor and think of him.
We are physical to our core and unable to disembody or disconnect from this made-from-the-dust-ed-ness that God has fashined in us. Stuff takes on meaning so often. I have this wedding ring. It reminds me of my vows and my beautiful wife. I have scars that remind me of events and failures and risks and adventure. Things become Icons for us when they are attached to events that are attached to people. I think that is so cool. I have this sword hanging on my wall. I made a special sword hanger for it. It hangs in my study. The great men from The Church ofthe Cross in Bluffton gave me this sword as an icon of the bond we have as brothers, men, sons of the Great King JEHOVAH, and warriors in this fading world. It's funny, so many men get prayed for in my new study because everytime I walk in, there they are hanging on my wall. Stuff wears out, people last forver. But, stuff has an amazing ability to bind us to the ones we love. Thank, Ed, for the shaving tips. Thanks brothers for the sword.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A Theology of Restoration

God is teaching me a lot about who He is this summer. I have not had the priveledge of being in the pulpit now for over a month. I must say that it has been difficult. It is amazing how well a man can be fed by feeding others the Words of God.

I have had to look to other means of study and reflection this summer. Two things have been tremendous helps to me.

First, I am reading and studying the book of Nehemiah this summer. It is a book that focuses on the restoration of Israel after their exile (400 after David in the 500's BC). Through Nehemiah's leadership and listenning to the Spirit of God, the people of Israel rise above their dismal circumstances and rebuild the walls that their parents watched tumble as they were dragged off to Babylon due to their stubborn refusal to worship the Living God. In this book, we see them rediscover God through using their hands to make Jerusalem a place that is set apart and holy. In the midst of this work, they also rediscover the Word of God and the beauty of the laws that God established for them that allow them to be a people set apart. As they rebuild the walls and make Jerusalem holy again, they have their own hearts rebuilt and holy again. As a result, they bring honor to God and become, for a time at least, a people who are a light to the world. I greatly recommend this book. It is a book about hope and restoration in the midst of trial and discomfort and brokeness.

Personally, God has been working in me through the building of a table. I recently met some new friends who moved into an apartment together. They are all in their twenties and are sharing rent. I went to help them set up their place and in doing so noticed that they had a beautiful dining room, but no dining room table. Before I left, I vowed to my friend that I would do my best to help them find a table. It was funny to me because by the time I got home, I had this burning conviction that I needed to really do something about getting them a table.

Within 24 hours, I had come up with a plan. I found two old pine doors and some old pine planks. After cutting the doors, stripping the paint, and cleaning and staining all the wood, I had enough material to make a table that would seat six. The more I worked on the wood, the more I realized that it would have been easier to have just bought some inexpensive pine boards and some table legs. However, the act of scrubbing the old dirty planks and stripping away 75 years of layered paint had an amazing affect on my heart. In this act of love for my new friends God began to really speak to me about the cost that he had to pay in order to make us right- to restore us to become useful as his sons and daughters. It was like the wood that I was working with had become an icon of me and the whole lot of humanity throughout the ages. I began to connect things. Wouldn't it have been so much easier for God to have abandoned us and just to have started all over again with something new. I mean, he is God right? He could have done that. But he didn't.

As I worked the wood, scrubbed the planks, sanded, stained, and assembled these old boards into a new table for my friends, I learned more about the incarnation of God. God did not take the easy route. He took an excruciatingly painful route to rescue us because he valued the "material" that he was working with and he valued to relationship that he had with HIS creation. So, God became one of us, a man. No, a little baby born in a smelly manger in the middle east. God came down. God labored. God sweat. God cried. God got splintered. God worked to scrub away the dirt and grime of human brokeness and he made everything right. When I just take time to think about the incarnation (God becoming man in Jesus) I am astounded at the level of love that he has for us and the costliness of that love.

I am pretty excited that my new frinds have a table that they can eat on in their new dining room. I am also glad that God invited us to His table by sending Jesus to be born as one of us to live as one of us and to die and rise from death for us. It was not an easy route. It was a hard way. It was the way of restoration and incarnation. God has been teaching me these things this summer and even though these things have been very meaningful and have grown me, I still miss preaching God's Word. I am looking forward to getting back to preaching.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A Wonderful Goodbye

After four years of laboring alongside the people of Bluffton, South Carolina, Catherine and I said our final goodbyes on July 1st and rolled out of town on July fifth. We have spent the last three weeks unraveling, sorting, seperating and getting our on line services turned on and finally have a moment to breathe and reflect and to miss greatly the folks that we have left behind in Bluffton. Our final days in the Low Country were a gift from God and we thank our friends and family for helping us to follow God's call on our lives as we have transitioned from South Carolina to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. Below is a brief reflection:

My last day of work was July 1st. It was an amazing day. Catherine and Emma and I tearfully attended our last service. The baby we birthed has grown so much and we have had such an amazing time handing off to Mike and Linda Clarkson. It has always been my prayer that whatever the Lord has allowed me to “grow” will not go to waste. Thus, I have always prayed that we would be able to hand over the keys to the person(s) following us knowing that we left the place better than we found it and allowing our successors to be able to have full charge and complete permission to go on with the work of loving the lost and the found through preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So, our work in Bluffton is over. Not only did we have a wonderful final service but we also had an incredible goodbye party. So many people that we have had the priveledge of loving came out to say goodbye, to celebrate and to help pass the proverbial baton to Mike and Linda.

Thank you to everyone’s kind words, gifts, support, tears and the incredible scrap book chronicling the love and hope that everyone at The Church of the Cross shared with us through words, picture, drawings and special memories. Warren and Lisa Alston, Rick and Rebecca Weathers, Chris and Christy Long, and Elizabeth Overby- you all poured your hearts on making sure that our goodbye was a beautiful time and we appreciate it so much. Of course, there are hundreds of more people to thank. But, I know the work that you all put into the event and it means the world to us.
If anyone has pictures of the going away party, we would be very pleased to receive pictures.

Special thanks goes to the men from the Band of Brothers who delivered to me an amazing replica of the William Wallace Broadsword. It now hangs in my study here in the City of Pittsburgh and is a constant reminded to me of the love and bond that we men share even though we are now separated by five states.

Anyway, thanks to everyone in Bluffton for helping me and my family leave with grace and style. You are loved and missed and in our prayers daily.