Monday, July 30, 2007

The view from 10,000 feet.

I have spent some time now asking Jesus what he sees from Heaven as he looks at 5 stones community church. I will try to awkwardly communicate this vision as best I can in the following paragraphs. I believe this letter is the first sketch of our blueprint of restoration, revival, and revolution.

Restoration: means God healing us of the wounds we have experienced both inflicted by others as well as self inflicted.

Revival: means getting back to deep connection with God where we feel truly alive and know we are loved without conditions.

Revolution: means we are fully engaged in God’s mission and Gospel going out into our culture to rescue it.

As a pastor and as an anointed apostle sent here as a messenger from God:

First of all I wish to express God’s appreciation and my own as a pastor for the incredible sacrifice, wisdom, and leadership that Jaime Parsons, Aaron Wardle, the board, the staff, and various other people have given to the church in the months since the previous pastor left and in the gap before my arrival. There is no way I could name all the right names, but rest assured God has seen what everyone has done for the sake of His church here. I cannot communicate the warmth, love, and pride God wants to show to you. I can only say as he has said “well done, my good and faithful servants.” In particular as the last full-time staff member I wish to communicate how much God, myself, and I am sure the whole body appreciates what Jaime has done to lead and serve in this time of awkward transition. Many of you will never know the burden she has carried, alone at times, in serving this body. Again, thank you to everyone in leadership and followership for being the strong army of Gideon over the last two years. [God used Gideon to take a large army and make it smaller so that they would understand when the war was won it wasn’t won because of size but because of God’s presence with them despite their lack of numbers] God picked you for this season, and your character, commitment, and creativity amazes me and brings a broad smile to the face of God. And a special thanks to Terry, Gene, Dan, Glen, John and others who have filled the pulpit and brought both the Word and the Spirit through some tough times. The right thing is often the tough thing; and the great thing is often the hardest. Someone needs to tell you how proud God is of you, as your pastor I say again “well done!”

Secondly I wish to say thanks for those courageous enough in this season to follow God even though that has meant leaving 5 stones, either for a season, or for a new calling. This is normal and natural, it is a good thing. God is always training people for ministry at one church, and then launching them into new ministries with the skills he has equipped them with at the former church. 5 stones has, and will continue to launch people out as missionaries, apostles, and leaders in other churches. This is something to celebrate, even in the midst of grieving. And for those who have needed a Sabbath rest to regroup we always as a church family want to make sure you know that we have saved a place at the table for you. Some will leave for other reasons, and in those grace allows us to agree to disagree in love.

Thirdly, I understand this. My own grieving over leaving my Fort Worth ministries behind is being healed by God through you. The dinners, the prayers, the words of encouragement that you have offered me have made some hard days bearable, and made other days positively triumphant. I am well aware of the limitations of my humanity, but I am even more aware at the unlimited resources of Christ’s divinity. And as He is healing me and rebuilding my walls in my spiritual heart, mind, and temple I am attempting to rebuild each of yours as well. This I am doing directly, indirectly through leaders, through the preaching of His word, and praying in the Spirit over all of you and this community. This place I am growing to love and understand as my new home away from home [which is heaven]. I, as you are, am inadequate for the task, but am made adequate and more through the power of God which lives in us. We can do ALL things through him!

Finally the fog is lifting. I can say with full assuredness that nothing has happened in vain. God has done and allowed everything that has happened to happen with a purpose and a plan of providence. This church has a birthright and a destiny. This church has been held together by God through your obedience, character, and sacrifice. And for that again, I say thank you. Things are coming together: new board members; new teachers; new people stepping up to leadership; a spiritual oversight team; new vision; new blogs and websites; and a renewed passion for the mission. As Nehemiah stood, so I stand and I fully see the wall that must be built and all of our places in it. Little stones that only small fingers can move; large stones that only teams can move; prayer watchmen on the wall; guards who protect; and a million other things. Each of you have a stone to move…in fact you could call us 150 stones community church right now and that would be true. Each of us as living stones, fitted together through relationships, as the temple of God in Ashland. We are becoming the city of refuge for the lost and hurting, we are becoming a sanctuary, and we are becoming a missionary training school to create spiritual marines that will topple the gates of Hell. What does it mean to rebuild the wall? It simply means to ask God how to use you and your unique gifts to impact those around you with God’s love. It is risky to actually engage and it is riskier still to be disengaged. But God asks us to risk with the same reckless abandon that he did…He risked it all, even His son, for you! I can only say go ahead and feel the full weight of all those emotions that are heading at us as tidal waves and undertows. God is real, and we can surf in His momentum and power; and Satan is real and seeks to drag us under. But God and His Kingdom and His church are an UNSTOPPABLE force that will have to be reckoned with here in Ashland. This I believe with my whole heart. And I am prepared to face the consequences of this epic story with all I have. I am not going anywhere. If money is tight I will become a tent-maker somehow and my wife and I will figure out what it takes to lead with whatever creativity and grit we will have to acquire from the strength of God’s spirit. And if God is for us, who can be against us? Christianity has survived and triumphed through 2000 years of persecution, and has spread across the globe like a revolutionary wildfire of love and grace. And hard times always come, leaving a remnant, that is reborn stronger and tougher than the refugees they once were. That is our heritage, and we stand with the prophets and saints, who poured out their lives and blood on the battlefields of culture for the sake of the gospel and the kingdom. That is our story as well, and it is epic and real. And so like William Wallace I can ask “which of you this day would trade all your tomorrows to come back and fight…right here right now” not for our freedom but for the freedom of those chained and blinded by Satan.

Having thus faced all these things let us stand, with the fortress of Gods strength as our foundation…let us run, as those with wings like eagles lifted by angels…and let us burn with light like a lighthouse and a city on a hill for those trapped in the dark waves…and let our lives show them the way home.

May the Spirit fill all of us with passion and power; and may all of us be open to hearing, following, and flowing to all the Spirit has for this church family.

Humbly, and with great deep passion. For “not all who wander are lost.”

Your pastor,

David Sherwood

PS: Our mission, should you be wondering what it is…is very simple. “Go everywhere; tell the gospel story to everyone; make disciples…repeat as needed till everyone has heard and experienced Christ’s love through us.” We will probably frame it a little different in the future, but that is the meat of it.

PPS: Rebuilding the wall simply means fixing anything that is outside of God’s perfect will and attempting to bring it back into conformity with what God wants.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

big faith mood

I'm in a big faith mood right now, so here goes.

these are a few things we need at the church, and we have a spending freeze right now so we can't even consider getting them. Thus, I will just make this list available to the community and congregation and see what God does.

This list is in order of priority:

  1. A new laptop for the worship services. The old one is 8 years old. We need it to have the newest version of Vista and MS office. It also needs a cd/dvd driver-burner

  2. I need a new headset for sunday morning preaching. The one I have is making me crazy and doesn't fit which is a huge distraction to me on sunday mornings

  3. A good digital camcorder for Vodcasting the sermons on the new website and google

  4. A color lazer printer

  5. A good digital camera [8 pixels]

  6. Adobe photoshop software

  7. Someone to pay for some banners and good signage for outside of a/u chapel, also we need good posters made to hang up in community and college

  8. Someone to pay for good glossy printed visitor invitation cards for us to give out in the community

  9. A portable digital projector and screen

  10. Any gifts of appreciation for the staff [they all work here pretty much for free!]

living the life [of faith]

e-mail if you feel led to address these needs

Saturday, July 28, 2007

debris and smooth stones

I had a friend over tonight to talk and think about a lot of things. One of those things was surviving ministry. So many expectations, responsibilities, opportunities...

The Church has brought out the best in me, and left me more bloody and wounded than anything else on Earth. If any pastor were honest, they would tell you the same thing.

But tonight I felt a little trapped by some of my wounds. As if they were so big that I would never rest, or laugh, or feel joy again. What was really weird was realizing that I was more on-top of stuff when I was thirty than I am now.

But after my friend left, I felt like God said this.

You were more on-top because you had less responsibility. Now you are being attacked more, damaged more, and haven't learned how to process it.

so I asked if I would be healed

and I heard

Of some things yes, of others no. But even though you felt like you used to flow better with me I have a surprise for you. The river of flow is straight and easy when you are young, but as you grow older there will be rock-slides and debris. But my Spirit will remove some rocks, and smooth out others over time. And THIS is what makes the river beautiful. It is not the gushing torrent, but the winding waterfalls that are truly majestic. So let time have her way with you, this is a new thing.

Which makes me feel a lot better, because I thought I was failing at something.

So I pray for you. That yes you would gush and rush forward in the Spirit of God. But also, that God would remove and smooth stones. That the winding river of your life journey would be the beauty of the redemption of pain.

for by his stripes [of pain] we are healed.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

In the singles culture it's called speed-dating. You go to a pre-arranged location and date several people for about 10-15 minutes. After this you can decide if you want a second date or not.

then again,

There is a long series of historical precidents for pre-arranged marriages. Two families, usually led by patriarchs make the decision for you.

I guess I did both. I sent out resumes and did some speed dating, and then accepted what I discerned was the pre-arranged marriage of my Father in heaven in coming to 5 stones.

And 5 stones, is the first church I did not get hired from within in. So usually it was a pre-arranged fact that I was already functioning as a churches pastor.

but this is different.

Every time I preach or go to someones house for dinner it feels like a speed-date again.

  • What if I say the wrong thing?

  • How real can I really be?

  • Should my guard be up or down?

  • Are they safe or not?

  • What do they need or want me to be?

  • Is there a hidden agenda?

  • What if they reject my sense of humor?

  • What if I trip over a wound, passion, or perspective they tightly hold to?

Can you "feel" that? I have a title but have not earned any trust, and that, for me, is awkward as heck.

But God says. Just be yourself, as best you can and see what happens. Which I suppose brings up our darkest fear. "What if who I am, is worthy of rejection and abandonment?"

And yet, God who truly knows us doesn't reject us, and naturally His church should act like Him. So I suppose that is part of my mission here. To accept and love without conditions, agendas, judgment, etc. And in such a place of empathy, to teach my church family to do the same. Not that love doesn't come with the responsibility to confront, it does; but always in the context of speaking the truth in the garments and with the motivation of pure love.

and I do feel loved. Here I am a stranger, invited by hospitality into peoples homes almost every night. It makes me so proud of this church, because if they know how to love me...a stranger...they can love everyone here in Ashland.

"So, dear God. Make 5 stones a place and a people who make everyone in Ashland feel loved. Help us make them all feel welcomed and wanted. Help us to love people as you do, not because of titles or any other reason; but to love purely because we-like you-ARE love."


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The wasteland
Apologies to T S Elliot

August is the darkest month, bleeding the last green out of the dead land, mixing dry heat and yellowing death, stirring sullen leaves with autumn encroaching. Summer kept us warm, covering Earth in oven waves, feeding small fires with dried grasses. Texas surrounded us, inescapable Alamo’s With a hail of bullets; I stopped the destruction, And went on into execution, into the wasteland And drank coffee, and talked and typed for a thousand hours and endlessly spoke out shadowy prayers,
Curving and dissipating as smoke,
Ashen remembrance in the wind.
To you.
And when I look at the children, ribald under my tickling fingers, My laughter and hopes, I know I cannot leave them, to cry confused, before gray stones in the fall. Mikey, hold on tight. And I swung her in the air. Madison, danced as light. My mermaid hurricane.and Chip looked up with questions, that I can’t answer today…and so I must stay
Till the times merge,
There is a time for everything under the sun,
Even this.
What are the roots this malaise, what cancer grows In the darkness of this story? Son of man, You cannot say, or guess, for you know only A heap of broken images, where the sun beats, And the dead tree gives no shelter, the night no relief, And the dry stone no sound of water. Only There is shadow under this red cross, And I will show you something different from either Your shadow at morning striding behind you Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you; I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
I will show you the gears of your heart and mind,
Washed in tears, and turned to rust.
we who have fallen are falling
'You gave me hope and vision first a year ago; 'They called me pastor'
And so I was
-- Yet when it was over, late, from the strange roads, You fell silent, and I no longer asked,
And we sat at dinner in silence,
With a long table…separated by inches and miles and now I send smoke signals, up internet plumes
To invisible skies and eyes of strangers
Begging for home
Orphaned…unadopted…abandoned…alone Living nor dead, and I know nothing, Looking into the heart of light, the silence.
An empty bubble on the sea of nothingness
Craig, famous man, Had no need to speak to me, and so another brother Told me to feed my children,
In another field,
I cannot find.With an apology and no answers. Here, said he, Is your card, the drowned Phoenician Sailor, the fate sealed, the bills pile up, and I ‘took it well.’
That’s what I do.
I take one for the team…get cut…then cut from the minors,
I understand Costner’s all those roles,
My biography has framed them all,
In the hallways of memory of The Hanged Man. Fear death by water. I see crowds of people, walking round in a ring. Thank you. If you see the dead man walking, Tell him I bring the predestination myself: I understand these days.
Unreal house Under the rain, I already know we are leaving. Cutting grass whose spring I won’t see, again, I had not thought death had undone so many. Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled, And each thought fixed his eyes before his memories. Flowed up to flood levels, and submerged my world.To where Saint Francis kept the hours With a dead sound on the final stroke of midnight. There I saw one I knew, and stopped him, crying 'Jesus! 'You who were with me! 'That corpse you planted last year in your garden, 'Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year? 'Or has the sudden frost disturbed its bed?
Is it dead?
'Oh keep the promises to yourself, that's no friend to me, 'darkness and silence are my Psalms and requiems! 'and I will apologize for all and more!'

But the inevitable is unstoppable,
And the wasteland is real,
And all I can feel.

Eating ashes,
Like a Turkish delight,
From Hell.

I live in ash-land as the last ash-man.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Becky Belfast

As you may have seen in another blog entry [2nd blog entry on worship, about a week ago] Bono came to Christ in the middle of the troubles between protestants and catholics and somehow rose above all that mess to still see Jesus as the most compelling figure in the world.

Jesus. That name which was supposed to unifyy and reconcile the world to God and one another in a brotherhood of hope and the dawn a revolutionary love.

and yet...that name has too often been leveraged for war and so many atrocities there is not time or tears enough to list them.

But other things have happened in that name.

In that name St Patrick returned to ireland, to a country that had kidnapped him and made him a slave. He returned to those who had abused him and he told them a story of epic forgiveness.

Becky does that as well.

She is our missionary to Belfast Ireland.

And we support her as individuals and as a church..I'm just reminding you of that. She and Aaron Wardle also partnered together for the CD "simply" to be used as a means to get the support she needs to go to Ireland and show them the story of forgiveness and love that Jesus started and is continuing to this day.

Please pray about:

  • buying a cd of simply
  • giving to her personally through 5 stones [you can do this on sundays]
  • praying for her
  • buying a cd for someone else

You and I may never know what it means to face to loneliness, culture-shock, and awkwardness of being a missionary in a country that has literally been scorched by the miss-use of Jesus name.

Please enter into her sacrifice through prayer and spend a few bucks to get her back to tell others the amazing story of Jesus and his love

Friday, July 20, 2007

God 3.0

Dear Tech Support:Last year I upgraded from Autonomy 1.0 to God 3.0. I soon noticed that the new program began unexpected cognitive, financial and emotive processing that took up a lot of space and valuable resources. In addition, God 3.0 installed itself into all other programs and now monitors all other system activity. Applications such as Pornography 10.3, Materialism 5.0, Selfishness 7.5, and Freedom 3.6I can't seem to keep God 3.0 in the background while attempting to run my favorite applications. I'm thinking about going back to Autonomy 1.0, but the uninstall doesn't work on God 3.0.

Please help!Thanks, A Troubled User. (KEEP READING) ______________________________________

REPLY:Dear Troubled User:This is a very common problem that people complain about.Many people upgrade from Autonomy 1.0 to God 3.0, thinking that it is just a Firewall application. God 3.0 is an OPERATING SYSTEM and is designed by its Creator to run EVERYTHING!!! It is also impossible to delete God 3.0 and to return to Autonomy 1.0. It is impossible to uninstall, or purge the program files from the system once installed.You cannot go back to Autonomy 1.0 because God 3.0 is designed to not allow this. Look in your God 3.0 manual under Warnings-Hell-Consequences-Judas. I recommend that you keep God 3.0 and work on improving the situation. I suggest installing the background application "Obedience" to alleviate software augmentation.The best course of action is to enter the command C:\Confession because ultimately you will have to give the Confession command before the system will return to normal anyway. As awkward as this sounds we also suggest you build this as a desktop shortcut as you will be using it quite often to avoid a system crash and reboot.God 3.0 is a great program, but it tends to be very high maintenance. God 3.0 comes with several support programs, such as Forgiveness 3.0, Wisdom 1.5 and Hope and Meaning 4.2.However, be very careful how you use these programs. Improper use will cause the system to launch the program Conscience and Conviction 9.5. Once this happens, the only way to improve the performance of God 3.0 is to purchase additional software. I recommend Church 5.0 and Accountability 3.0! God 3.0 also has a ton of great spam blockers, and will help you manage some of the worst pop-ups and hacks out there, but you will have to manually put them in the virus vault, after inspecting them with the code available in the helps section under Scripture 1.0WARNING!!! DO NOT, under any circumstances, install, Compromise 7.5 This application is not supported by God 3.0 and will cause irreversible damage to the operating system. Once this happens you operating system will be vulnerable to the Trojan horse Judas 2.0 and Beelzebubba 6.66 in such a scenario you will need a new hardrive as the system will be canabalized by these viruses.
Finally make sure you have an authentic version that is registered in their books. There is no tech support or helps section available in counterfeits or pirated copies. The code is built in such a way that pirated copies simply slow down memory and performance; they are usually formatted on older platforms like Religion 9.9, Morality 10.0, Feel-good-about-yourself 8.0, and Legalism 1.7. These systems don’t work, and actually trying to use the applications without the processors available only in God 3.0 will create a fatal error collapse.

Best of luck, Paul Paraclete, Tech Support

Thursday, July 19, 2007

why I went to church

I didn't get "converted," by some method, experience, or preacher.

but that story is for another day...

I did however, come to the place where Jesus was really compelling to me. Like the 90%+ of americans who agree in polls that they believe in God and pray. But less than 50% go to church, and in Ashland it is a little over 30%.


Same reason I didn't go I suppose. Who wants to:

  1. get up early Sunday morning and face the aftermath of last nights events, their hangover, etc.
  2. the lake looks like a lot more fun
  3. large angry men in suits yelling at me is what I experience all week at my job / school...thanks but no thanks
  4. the twilight zone trip to 1950 complete with pipe organ etc, is just too chessy to bother with
  5. they are after my time and money...yikes! That is why I have spam blockers and caller-id...why would I LOOK for these people
  6. look in the paper at what the last preacher-man did!
  7. etc...

All of those are fun, real, cynical, and sarcastic reasons not to go. That's why I didn't go.

But why did I go...anyways?

  1. spirituality can be done solo, but finding a mentor might help with all these questions I have
  2. maybe...just maybe...there is a community that will act like Jesus and love me unconditionally
  3. I think this stuff is real, but I need a little teaching to get a handle on the whole system. It feels organic and holistic as a lifestyle, I just need some help
  4. there is an outside shot that there is some great dream [Like JFK's, or Martin Luther King, or Ghandi] that is bigger than me that I can throw my life into. Not a silly institution...but a revolution of love
  5. jesus hung out with normal, even freaky people. maybe he loves me, just as I am. and maybe there is a normal jesus [not stuck in 1950] who has disciples / followers who talk like real people, laugh, have fun, serve the lonely and poor...I really want to find those people
  6. my cynicism, while fun...isn't very satisfying. instead of tearing down everything I think is false and pretentious, I want to be a part of building something real and authentic. It may stumble around [like I do] but somebody at least trying to live the dreams of God in this world

And so I stumbled in one day [mildly hungover]...and yes it was freaky and far from perfect. But I found some real people and some real answers in the midst of weird religion. And YES I found a real relationship with God along the way [despite the strange religious nutjobs all around me] And later on I found some other churches, ones that really were what I could handle.


how about you?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

I drove and got lost,

lost in prayer.

a Habakkuk prayer. The watchman on the wall looking at things the way they are, and wrestling with God over the way things should be. Trying to be the midwife and the mother of God's promises coming to life...screaming, and crying hot tears and pounding my steering wheel with the wind racing over my face.

Passing cornfields, and barns...buggies and farmers. Praying for God's fields white unto harvest, praying for those few workers to catch fire, and praying for that remnant that are trying to rebuild the wall. Passing strangers that God knows by name, and he has counted every hair on their head, and he is calling out them them through everything.

Praying for the pain people have felt, the lies that have trapped them and led them away from their true selves. Praying for the emptiness, the lost dreams, the narcotics of distraction, and the rationalizations that rip them out from their destinies.

Simply praying.

Raw and unfiltered prayers. The sort that ought to bring lightning down on the roads I am racing down. Audacious prayers like Nehemiah before the king...prayers for the impossible and improbable. Prayers to make angels move, providence to attack, and Gods hand to move in power. Demanding prayers that risk the edges of relationship with God, prayers that bite with blood and agony, prayers that dare to challenge the gates of Hell. Authentic, transparent, prayers from the gut...unmeasured...without flowers...raw.


And returning from the prayer wheels of driving I listened to Aaron sing. Worship done simply, unvarnished, and full of the sort of blues-melancholy-hope-and longing that Robert Cray and BB King would be proud of. Bob Dylan and John Mark Mcmillan...and maybe even shades of Marc Cohn. With pictures of Belfast rising on the screens beside him...songs of hope with a background of mission calling and longing flickering like lost kingdoms all around him.

it was almost like synchronicity I suppose. My banshee wailing around ashland, and his gentle voice seducing belfast from 10,000 miles away. And for me I suppose, that is the magic of the kingdom of God. So many deep things going on that so few know about. The hours I have spent begging for God with and in him on the streets of Moscow, a place I will never go...and yet even if they don't know it own songs echo and glow on those streets a million miles away.

I don't even know why I am telling you this, except that somehow these things lead us home. Those out-of-body spiritual moments of prayer and worship that transcend the moment, and unzip heaven and we are flooded with a grace so fulfilling we can't help but wish that others could have a glimpse...a sip...and a whisper of the echoes of the richness of Gods heart for people.

and still, though I am deeply resting in God tonight, in a moment that is centered and heart breaks. It breaks for the man I know will read this an still remains aloof from crashing through the barricades and finally surrendering to faith. His head game is so sad, selfish, and enslaving. His excuses so pitiful and frail. He has never tasted what I KNOW to be realer than real...and I pray for the day he will finally be strong enough to break and surrender. And I pray for others. From Belfast to Buffalo...on Smith avenue and Sandusky. For all those who have too much pride, too much pain, too much rejection, too be able to find their way.

God, dear God. Open a door for all of them...or send me to open the door and show them the way. Because what I feel this night is far beyond myth or medication; beyond delusion or illusion; it is the brief moment when spirit and flesh function as one and perceive you with full attention through every sense and pore of my body.

you are everything. and no amount of prayer or worship could ever do justice to this moment...right now

and I wish this for all of you


can you guess who wrote this introduction to the Psalms, before it becomes obvious:

Explaining belief has always been difficult. How do you explain a love and logic at the heart of the universe when the world is so out of kilter with this? Has free will got us crucified? And what about the dodgy characters who inhabit the tome known as the Bible, who hear the voice of God? Explaining faith is impossible: vision over visibility; instinct over intellect. A songwriter plays a chord with the faith that he will hear the next one in his head. One of the writers of the psalms was a musician, a harp-player whose talents were required at "the palace" as the only medicine that would still the demons of the moody and insecure King Saul of Israel. It is a thought that still inspires: Marilyn sang for Kennedy, the Spice Girls for Prince Charles. At the age of 12, I was a fan of David. He felt familiar, like a pop star could feel familiar. The words of the psalms were as poetic as they were religious, and he was a star. Before David could fulfil the prophecy and become the king of Israel, he had to take quite a beating. He was forced into exile and ended up in a cave in some no-name border town facing the collapse of his ego and abandonment by God. But this is where the soap opera got interesting. This is where David was said to have composed his first psalm -- a blues. That's what a lot of the psalms feel like to me, the blues. Man shouting at God -- "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me?" (Psalm 22). I hear echoes of this holy row when un-holy bluesman Robert Johnson howls, "There's a hellhound on my trail" or Van Morrison sings, "Sometimes, I feel like a motherless child." Texas Alexander mimics the psalms in "Justice Blues": "I cried Lord my father, Lord kingdom come. Send me back my woman, then thy will be done." Humorous, sometimes blasphemous, the blues was backslidin' music but, by its very opposition, it flattered the subject of its perfect cousin, gospel. Abandonment and displacement are the stuff of my favourite psalms. The Psalter may be a font of gospel music, but for me it's despair that the psalmist really reveals and the nature of his special relationship with God. Honesty, even to the point of anger. "How long, Lord? Wilt thou hide thyself forever?" (Psalm 89), or "Answer me when I call" (Psalm 5). Psalms and hymns were my first taste of inspirational music. I liked the words, but I wasn't sure about the tunes -- with the exception of Psalm 23, "The Lord is my Shepherd." I remember them as droned and chanted rather than sung. But they prepared me for the honesty of John Lennon, the baroque language of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, the open throat of Al Green and Stevie Wonder. When I hear these singers, I am reconnected to a part of me I have no explanation for -- my "soul" I guess. Words and music did for me what solid, even rigorous, religious argument could never do -- they introduced me to God, not belief in God, more an experiential sense of GOD. Over art, literature, girls, my mates, the way in to my spirit was a combination of words and music. As a result, the Book of Psalms always felt open to me and led me to the poetry of Ecclesiastes, the Song of Solomon, the book of John...My religion could not be fiction, but it had to transcend facts. It could be mystical, but not mythical. My mother was Protestant, my father Catholic. Anywhere other than Ireland that would be unremarkable. The "Prods" at that time had the better tunes and the Catholics had the better stage-gear. My mate Gavin Friday used to say: "Roman Catholicism is the Glamrock of religion" with its candles and psychedelic colours -- cardinal blues, scarlets and purples -- smoke bombs of incense and the ring of the little bell. The Prods were better at the bigger bells, they could afford them. In Ireland, wealth and Protestantism went together. To have either was to have collaborated with the enemy -- that is, Britain. This did not fly in our house. After going to Mass at the top of the hill, in Finglas on the north side of Dublin, my father waited outside the little Church of Ireland chapel at the bottom of the hill, where my mother had brought her two sons. I kept myself awake thinking of the clergyman's daughter and let my eyes dive into the cinema of the stained glass. These Christian artists had invented the movies. Light projected through colour to tell their story. In the Seventies the story was "the Troubles," and the Troubles came through the stained glass, with rocks thrown more in mischief than in anger. But the message was the same: the country was to be divided along sectarian lines. I had a foot in both camps, so my Goliath became religion itself: I began to see religion as the perversion of faith. I began to see God everywhere else. In girls, fun, music, justice and still -- despite the lofty King James translation -- the Scriptures. I loved these stories for the basest reasons. These were action movies, with some hardcore men and women, the car chases, the casualties, the blood and guts. There was very little kissing. David was a star, the Elvis of the Bible, if we can believe the chiselling of Michelangelo. And unusually for such a "rock star," with his lust for power, lust for women, lust for life, he had the humility of one who knew his gift worked harder than he ever would. He even danced naked in front of his troops -- the biblical equivalent of the royal walkabout. David was definitely more performance artist than politician. Anyway, I stopped going to churches and got into a different kind of religion. Don't laugh. That's what being in a rock 'n' roll band is. Showbiz is shamanism, music is worship. Whether it's worship of women or their designer, the world or its destroyer, whether it comes from that ancient place we call soul or simply the spinal cortex, whether the prayers are on fire with a dumb rage or dove-like desire, the smoke goes upwards, to God or something you replace God with -- usually yourself. Years ago, lost for words and with 40 minutes of recording time left before the end of our studio time, we were still looking for a song to close our third album, War. We wanted to put something explicitly spiritual on the record to balance the politics and romance of it; like Bob Marley or Marvin Gaye would. We thought about the psalms -- Psalm 40. There was some squirming. We were a very "white" rock group, and such plundering of the scriptures was taboo for a white rock group unless it was in the "service of Satan." Psalm 40 is interesting in that it suggests a time in which grace will replace karma, and love will replace the very strict laws of Moses (in other words, fulfil them). I love that thought. David, who committed some of the most selfish as well as selfless acts, was depending on it. That the scriptures are brim full of hustlers, murderers, cowards, adulterers and mercenaries used to shock me. Now it is a source of great comfort. "40" became the closing song at U2 shows, and on hundreds of occasions, literally hundreds of thousands of people of every size and shape of T-shirt have shouted back the refrain, pinched from Psalm 6: "How long (to sing this song)." I had thought of it as a nagging question, pulling at the hem of an invisible deity whose presence we glimpse only when we act in love. How long hunger? How long hatred? How long until creation grows up and the chaos of its precocious, hell-bent adolescence has been discarded? I thought it odd that the vocalising of such questions could bring such comfort -- to me, too. But to get back to David, it is not clear how many of these psalms David or his son Solomon really wrote. Some scholars suggest that the royals never dampened their nibs and that there was a host of Holy Ghost writers. Who cares? I didn't buy Leiber and Stoller -- they were just his songwriters. I bought Elvis.

and this from another interview

“"I'm asked, 'Why doesn't your music proclaim Christ?'" he said. His answer: "It does." He went on, describing how he believes the Bible's assertions that "creation has its own proclamation" of God. "I'd like to think our music had the same qualities to it," he said.”And this one: “Asked about his own past criticism of contemporary gospel music, Bono admitted he was referring to what he saw as "happy clappy" songs that lacked "grit." He said such music doesn't mean anything to him "without a truth telling of where you are and where you live in your life." But he was quick to add that he has recently built new friendships with several evangelical musicians who have joined his advocacy campaign.And he was also quick to draw a distinction between contemporary gospel music and worship music, something he said he loves very much. He said some of his favorite music includes hymns by Charles Wesley, Handel's "Messiah," and Jewish liturgical chanting.With spontaneous eloquence, he said being a worship leader must be "the highest of all art forms, to worship and call people into the presence of God."”

bono of u2

Sunday, July 15, 2007

sermon video on google

This is week 2 of Nehemiah series

series Nehemiah: God's blueprint for rebuilding life

week 2: "show me the money"

1st week has been viewed 126 times!

send link to your unchurched friends, or watch if you missed [slept through] srvc last week

Friday, July 13, 2007

HANDY LITTLE CHART God has a positive answer:


You say: "It's impossible"
God says: All things are possible
(Luke 18:27)
You say: "I'm too tired"
God says: I will give you rest
(Matthew 11:28-30)
You say: "Nobody really loves me"
God says: I love you
(John 3:1 6 & John 3:34 )
You say: "I can't go on" !
God says: My grace is sufficient
(II Corinthians 12:9 & Psalm 91:15)
You say: "I can't figure things out"
God says: I will direct your steps
(Proverbs 3:5- 6)
You say: "I can't do it"
God says: You can do all things
(Philippians 4:13)
You say: "I'm not able"
God says: I am able
(II Corinthians 9:8)
You say: "It's not worth it"
God says: It will be worth it
(Roman 8:28 )
You say: "I can't forgive myself"
God says: I Forgive you
(I John 1:9 & Romans 8:1)
You say: "I can't manage"
God says: I will supply all your needs
(Philippians 4:19)
You say: "I'm afraid"
God says: I have not given you a spirit of fear
(II Timothy 1:7)
You say: "I'm always worried and frustrated"
God says: Cast all your cares on ME
(I Peter 5:7)
You say: "I'm not smart enough"
God says: I give you wisdom
(I Corinthians 1:30)
You say: "I feel all alone"
God says: I will never leave you or forsake you
(Hebrews 13:5)

Thursday, July 12, 2007


react to this statement:

More than a third of children born in the United States are born to unmarried parents, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

what is our reaction, the quick one from the gut.

  • is it compassion and sadness.
  • or judgment and condemnation.

the article I pulled this from was full of Christian holier-than-you, condemning, cruelty. Once again, expecting people who are lost to act like those who are found. And when they get bored with that...they turn on each other.

react to this story:

23-25"The kingdom of God is like a king who decided to square accounts with his servants. As he got under way, one servant was brought before him who had run up a debt of a hundred thousand dollars. He couldn't pay up, so the king ordered the man, along with his wife, children, and goods, to be auctioned off at the slave market.
26-27"The poor wretch threw himself at the king's feet and begged, 'Give me a chance and I'll pay it all back.' Touched by his plea, the king let him off, erasing the debt.
28"The servant was no sooner out of the room when he came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him ten dollars. He seized him by the throat and demanded, 'Pay up. Now!'
29-31"The poor wretch threw himself down and begged, 'Give me a chance and I'll pay it all back.' But he wouldn't do it. He had him arrested and put in jail until the debt was paid. When the other servants saw this going on, they were outraged and brought a detailed report to the king.
32-35"The king summoned the man and said, 'You evil servant! I forgave your entire debt when you begged me for mercy. Shouldn't you be compelled to be merciful to your fellow servant who asked for mercy?' The king was furious and put the screws to the man until he paid back his entire debt. And that's exactly what my Father in heaven is going to do to each one of you who doesn't forgive unconditionally anyone who asks for mercy."

it's a warning that shouldn't be needed. How could those who have been cleansed and washed of their scarlet sins, seen and invisible, act in such cruel ways?

The church is to be a sanctuary of grace. a continuation of the ministry of Jesus...and yes he will judge...but even that is not his primary mission

John 12:46-48 I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness. "If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.

it seems to me tonight that we all have plenty to work on ourselves. We know our secret sins and that should be plenty to keep us humble. Our mission isn't one of judgment but of rescue, and our attitude and approach should be the same as Jesus.

there are 2 people however who get to enjoy judgment:

  • the Pharisee's: Jesus primary human enemy on earth, and judgmental religious freaks extraordinaire.
  • and the accuser: Satan

so next time you react to the foibles and failures of others, double check and make sure you know who's side you are REALLY on.

quote: "the pursuit of holiness in self, produces humility; and the pursuit of holiness in others produces pride. Humility serves, and pride condemns. When Christians stop being slaughtered in the roman coliseums and start being the spectators of others being devoured...we know that something quite terrible has happened. The enemy of love is almost always pseudo-holiness that has lost it's way, and blindfolded to truth and love now runs about like a bull in a street gouging everyone in it's path. How my dear brothers and sisters how have we who have been saved, become such monsters."

Priest killed in the Spanish inquisition

so if you ever have the itch to tee off on someone in gleeful fun, start with the person in the mirror, I'm sure they need plenty of fixing.

i know i do

ok. Been here 2 weeks. This is what I know so far.


  1. July-Sept is pray and listen time, while doing some organizational "tweaking" and puting things in order. door 1

  2. Oct-Dec is teams collaberatively fixing, elliminating, and building new systems. door 2

  3. Jan 1 we should have a beta version of a new and improved 5 stones. door 3


  1. 5 stones is to serve the seminary, college, and community.

  2. 5 stones is to function as a collaberative learning community.

  3. 5 stones is to balance the word and the spirit in all things.


  1. the church needs to simplify programming.

  2. the church needs to have a healthier financial stewardship.

  3. the church needs to exit a poverty mentality, a woundedness festering, and function as a unified whole again.

  4. the church needs to be outwardly focused.

  5. the church needs to learn the fun of diversity and deference in the context of unity.


  1. change. Everything from budget to facilities, to staff, and everything else.

  2. new leaders to emerge.

  3. old leaders to face the challenge of reinventing themselves in some areas.

  4. some people will leave, and some will come.


  1. God!!!

  2. Loyal people committed to the vision and each other who have shown tremendous tenacity and character in a tough season.

  3. a great location and calling at the A/U chapel.

  4. A mildly insane pastor; great staff; wonderful board; team leaders; servants...etc. You!

So: we will see some change in the first 3 months; then some more; and some more and some stabilizing by next March where we will probably have a pretty good handle on most of this.

you should

  1. pray.

  2. commit to tithing; small group; and finding your place to give your gift.

  3. forgive others, defer, and focus on bringing out the best in those around you.

  4. work on your list of 10 people you know who are unchurched and what you need to do to love them, serve them, and get them to 5 stones.

  5. have a teachable attitude, roll with it, and let go of offences and any bitter roots.

  6. have Fun!!! enjoy God and work hard as we rebuild our walls.

this isn't rocket science

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I was worshipping tonight in an ancient sort of way [hymns] And something made me want to modernize this one from Luther. It was a gift to his church to encourage them in a time of fear about where the reformation was going to go, and if was going to cost all of them thier lives.

As we band together as brothers [and sisters] to face the future of 5 stones adjustments and rebirth, this is what popped out of me.

1. Is there a fortress in our God?
Mothers womb protecting;
our rescue she amid the waves
this earthly dark prevaling.
relentless ancient foe
grasping us in undertow;
drowning leaves in autumns fate,
shadows seduction hate,
and earth is Eden in flames.

2. Did we in vain reason confide,
our striving evolves losing,
Science and society the riptide,
And everything is bluing.
Ask where can I be?
Polaris, we look to thee;
Lord Sabbaoth, his name,
from ancient faith the same,
lights compass points us home.

3. souls where angels and demons war,
and vampires seduce us,
culture priests, and misplaced whores
lies erotic triumph through us.
The Prince of Darkness grim,
we lay no more for him;
his attack we can endure,
for yes, his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.

4. Logos Jesus eternal flame,
Anchoring my wayward soul;
the Spirit Son and Father names,
internal phoenix made whole.
Slaves chain now lies shattered,
Darkle sparkle scattered;
the body they may kill;
undying I am still;
my lover merged forever.

5. there is a fortress in our God,
Fathers fist protecting;
our rescue he amid the waves
this earthly dark assailing.
relentless ancient foe
drowns in his undertow;
chrysalis rebirth in fire,
adrenaline pure desire,
my earth is Reborn in love.

Monday, July 9, 2007

make some space on your calenders and support aaron and his new cd.

from his website:

Simply: July 1, 2007Today the final CD master and graphics of Simply was sent off to DiscMakers for replication. Hallelujah!!! The last few days I have driven everyone and myself nuts trying to get every little detail squared away so it could be as perfect as possible and shipped out. I have checked and re-checked and re-checked the re-check. Marshall Green (recording engineer) and Paul Stoffer (graphic artist) have endured my constant changes and finishing touches with patients and grace; they are incredibly talented men and have high “Aaron’s craziness” tolerance levels. I am really pleased with this project. So many people worked really hard to make it happen and the fact that it is a collision of worship music and global missions is the most exciting. All profits from Simply go to support our friend Beckie Fulmer, a missionary in Northren Ireland. Becki is sharing the radical love of Christ through teaching forgiveness to individuals and people groups of all ages, nationalities, and religions who have grown up in places with a history of conflict. This CD is for all intents and purposes live, just Jillian and I in the AU chapel recording vocals, acoustic guitar and grand piano at the same time. We added a few background vocals and some gorgeous cello parts by Caitlin Eger and that’s it. I think the songs come alive with the live and unpolished feel. The goal was to be simple. But it is funny how much work it is to make something simple. My tendency is to make things busy and complex, so it actually took more time to make it less. The songs on this album reflect an interesting time in my journey. They are all prayers and come from a pretty deep place. As I listened over and over looking for mistakes and wrong notes, the true theme of the CD and my heart for that matter became more apparent. God please hear me and please help me hear you: communication and communion with the Living, speaking, not hard of hearing God. With all that being said Simply will be back from DiscMakers around July 11th, just in time for Brethren Conference and the CD release night on Wednesday July 18th. More information will come for how to buy a copy of Simply and support global missions.

it's scary being a pastor.

to be this holy, this sure of the vision, and this relentless and fearless...

i'm kidding

I have doubts, fears, like everyone. About me, us, and our mission.

Sunday morning my back was killing me [from an old wound], my feart was full of fear, and Satan was running amok in a variety of details you don't need to know about. I kept thinking about the fact we are a 1,000 short every week, and can't stay on budget without massive reductions. In was hellish [figurtively...literally...whatever]

And then God said rest in him, and I leaned way back into His arms and he took over.

But what about...I asked God

what about it...he said back, and nothing else

we all look for signs don't we. And Jesus said "a crooked and deprayed generation looks for signs." So instead of looking for signs...I have been waiting for some confirmations I am on the right path in some areas.

2 haved showed up.

  1. The estimate from Mayflower for moving us was over 10,000.00 dollars. Will G informed me yesterday that "someone" is going to do it for 3,000.00. Which means, the King of the universe has told one of his servants in the kingdom to give 5-stones and my family 7,000.00!!! When was the last time a stranger you never met, walked up to you and handed you 7 grand in cash, and winked at you like an angel and said "God's in this kiddo!"

  2. We haven't figured out our housing situation yet and our old house hasn't sold. And "someone" has offered to rent us a house for 400 bucks a month up here. Are you kidding me!!!!!!!!!!

oh God...and about that Mustand convertable I have always wanted

stop. and enter into the hushed silence of awe and worship for a moment. I don't know if these things will happen exactly perfectly or not. I do know what God was / is trying to say through them.

  1. Hang in there, I'm in this. This is the right path.

  2. I'm behind you and ahead of you protecting your family and providing for your future. Don't freak out...put your head down, and pull the sled.

  3. I love you, and I will never leave or forsake you.

Why do I tell you all this? Because faith stories help all of us. In the world it is called the spiritual world it is called annointing-in-motion.

God is in this. Get your game face on 5-stones, Satan is gonna mess with us, and God is going to fight for us. And we are gonna lead people to Christ...grow strong...produce missionaries everywhere...and in general wreck havoc on everything Satan has tried to lie about-cheat us out of-and stolen from us...and we are gonna take his land and strongholds one by one and tear them down and set the prisoners free.

Oh God...set Ashland free...set Ashland ablaze for your glory. you are great God...GREAT!


Thursday, July 5, 2007

I remember going to an 'amber rose' worship conference years ago with my son chip. He was like 4 years old then. It was great.

But I sometimes find conferences challenging, and my cynicism can get away from me. But Chip was my accountability partner, because he just kept dancing, and trying to sing, and in general just whirling around like a cherubim who has had 1 too many espresso's before worshipping.

So I sat there just sort of realizing that God wasn't calling me to be cynical, or wounded, or intellectual...he was calling me to be a child.

A child knows how to use their imagination as a playground for God to work in. Adults eventually shut down the playground, distrust their imagination [or pollute it], and become obnoxious stuffy adults who are disconnected from God, themselves, and their imaginations.

And just as I was starting to let go of my weird attitude problems I saw something I will never forget.

There was this angry and aloof teenager in the back of the room. Sitting against the wall, refusing to engage...suffering from all the bad attitudes I have just talked about. They had that look we all have sometimes when we are mad at God. The look that says "I'm wounded and it's your fault...I'll teach you...I won't worship...that'll hurt you back and I'll feel better." Or some other insanity akin to this. It was like there was this huge dark anchor, holding them back, that they were willingly chained to.

But Chip would have none of it.

He just danced over and around this teenager and then stopped. He stopped and looked at him like he was the stupidest [forgive my use of this word if it offends you] person he had ever seen. So he just went over and grabbed them by the hand and urged them to get up and dance with him. The teenager wanted to fight him off, but what can you do to a grinning, dancing, worship midget who is trying to dance with you. And then they started dancing, it was forced at first, but then the teenager just started dancing full-tilt and was crying and singing and....[now I'm crying, just remembering it]

And then I saw them a little later. Chip curled up on this teenagers lap [who was a total stranger to both of us] smiling and content. Sort of like a mischievous angel who had finished their mission of worship mischief.

And so...

We worship. Sometimes we have to fight our bad attitudes; sometimes we have to let go of our grudges against God; sometimes we need a little help from a child-like faith; sometimes we watch other worship and find ourselves worshipping as well.

and sometimes we come to worship starving and empty, and leave the same.

Choice. That precious and dangerous gift he has given us. The choice to enter into the wildest imaginations of intimacy with God through faith...or...choice to have another grey rainy day of dull stagnation and emptiness.

I pray for us all this Sunday. I pray we would come with our little worship spoons and that God would hose us down with a super-soaker of His spirit. But I realize, I can only lead you to the have to walk in.

Walk in to wonderland, take the red pill, and dance with the angels. For this my friends is what we were made for, this is our hearts truest home, this is healing-hope-and hilarity, this is what Sunday mornings are all about.

Don't let anyone steal or starve you out of this...especially yourself. Cut the free. Amen.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

In light of the fact that this Sundays sermon is titled "Show me the money!" and is our second week in Nehemiah; I thought this link might be appropriate.

But be very careful!

This is where the rubber hits the road!

and as we all know where the rubber hits the road, there is usually some rubber left on the road. So if you want to hang on to YOUR rubber...don't take this road.

july 4th is a difficult day for me. It's a weird and quirky thing. I guess I just realized one day that I would have been a tory [english loyalist] and probably not a rebel [the patriots of the revolution], and that just doesn't sound very patriotic. But it is the strength of submission.

Submission is such a lost word. For many it means being a wimp, or giving-up, or being someone who gets walked on.

For is very different.

For me it means sub-mission. I choose to substitute my mission [my agenda, perspectives, passions, idealism, whims, etc.] for the mission of those in authority above me.

for me...this is TRUE liberty!

I no longer have to always be right.

I no longer have to fight for myself.

I no longer have to be enslaved to my wounds, ego, or even idealism.

I can rest in the fact that God has put people in my life to be submissive to, even if they are far from perfect.

Thus I have learned to:

Give my opinion, advice, and perspective without manipulation, and simply give my gift to my leaders and trust the holy spirit with it.

I can focus on bringing out the best in those above me without worrying about changing, fixing, or tweaking them.

These are positions of strength, love, faith, and confidence. Thus through the years I have been able to follow boards, elders, and pastors with a huge amount of joy, liberty, humility, and courage. As such I have also been able to make them strong, feel respected and protected, and bring out the best in them. Every leader I have nagged hasn't moved much...but the ones I served have always stepped up to the next level of leadership [even if I still disagreed with them about particulars, thier character and Christ-likeness increased]

Humility is a wonderful thing, it really is. It's not that I think I am humble, but when I do get it right it just feels fantastic and I can feel God's presence filling me with peace and joy.

Final note: sometime I'll tell you my "breakthrough" story about all this, but for now let's just say that being centered and focused on Jesus and others is BY FAR the best mental, spiritual and emotional outlook in the world. Watching Jesus say to his father...not my will...but your be to me the strongest thing any man has ever dared to do. I highly recommend it.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Jon is the man!!!

I asked for some help with getting us aimed at podcasting so here it is!!! The sermon on video and on google. We will need to tweak things but's just plain fun!
Picture is about getting Jesus and his message out on the streets! And that my friends is the mission!

7-1-07.MOV37 min 28 sec - Jul 1, 2007Description: Dave Sherwood sermon at 5 Stones Community Church on July 1, 2007


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