Crossing the Law

I haven’t broken the law lately.

And apart from occasional speeding on the highway and a couple of shoplifted candy bars in my teens, I’ve been a pretty law abiding citizen. As a child I was that kid. You know, the one who cozied up to the teachers, put her hand up to answer the questions in class, and not only obeyed all the rules, but made sure that you all obeyed them as well. I loved the law, and I loved being on the right side of it.

However, I find Jesus the law breaker, a compelling figure.

The laws of the ruling religious elite of his day created inequity of power and the exclusion and marginalization of the vulnerable.

Jesus broke the law when he touched the leper.

When he fraternized with sinners and tax collectors.

When he permitted women of ill repute to anoint and to kiss him.

When he healed on the Sabbath.

When he confronted the big business of organized religion and literally turned the tables on it in the temple.

These infractions of the law were so grievous to the ruling class that they engineered his arrest, trial, and execution.

What does it look like for us to follow in His steps? To adopt His preferential treatment of those on the margins? To address the systems of the elite that rob the vulnerable of their voice and their power? To stand in the face of consumerism, productivity, classism and insularism? How can we live in resistance to the empire? How can we embrace Jesus’ path of nonviolent suffering love?

I love the irony at the end of the story.

Jesus is executed for breaking the law.

And, breathtakingly, in one final act of lawlessness, He breaks the law of the universe and rises from the grave in resurrection power.

Philippians 3:10-11
I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.


The Hobbit and Spiritual Warfare

Like many others, I watched part one of the Hobbit this weekend, in preparation for seeing the Desolation of Smaug in theatres next weekend (a belated birthday celebration).

Here’s some wisdom from Gandalf (aka Tolkien) that I have found to be true in the world of urban missions and new monasticism. Like the saint Therese of Liseux, who knew she couldn’t do great things, but could do little things with great love, we can all be heroes in God’s epic story.


Strangers at my Door By Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove

Yesterday I read “Strangers at my Door”, by Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove.

The whole book.

In one day.

It was just too good to put down. I knew it was coming, and had pre-ordered it prior to its release, and eagerly awaited it’s arrival. It did not disappoint.

I love Jonathan’s writing, and his commitment to being a practitioner rather than a theorist. Jonathan founded Rutba House, an intentional community that creates home and family for homeless people. He lives the message, and tells the stories.

Here’s Jonathan’s story in his own words.

And here are a couple teasers, but really, anyone interested in intentional community, radical hospitality, and incarnating the love of Jesus should read it.

Something deep in each of us cries out against the injustice of poverty and homelessness, of prison and addiction. The repulsion is visceral when we confront any one of these realities not as an issue but as the pain in the heart of a friend’s life.

You are learning that Jesus is risen and he’s coming again. he’s coming for supper tonight, and he’s not alone…he’s standing at your door with someone whose name you don’t yet know. They are sitting now at your dinner table-a peculiar family, for sure – ready to pass the butter and tell you a story about what happened today….heaven is a banquet! You know not only because John saw it two thousand years ago but also because you see it at your dinner table.

I’m done reading, and you can come borrow it if you wish, but you will have to stay for dinner…


Warning and Disclaimer! This is a Dangerous Prayer! Pray at Your own Risk…

I’ve got a Lazy Boy chair.  I love it!  Nothing better than putting up my feet after a day’s work and settling into it’s comfy goodness.

It’s a family tradition.  My dad has one too, and more often than not he can be found wrapped in it’s leathery embrace as he reads, meditates or watches his favorite programs.

I associate my Grandfather so strongly with his Lazy Boy, that after he passed away,  instead of going to the cemetery to visit his gravesite, I would just lovingly rub the arm of his Lazy Boy chair in his memory and say “Hi Grandpa”.

I love Lazy Boys!  They’re sooo comfortable!

However, Paul likely didn’t have Lazy Boys in mind when he wrote of “the God of all comfort.”

I believe the spiritual boredom many of us struggle with here in the West finds it’s roots in the Cult of (worship of) Comfort.  And as we nestle into a safe, insulated expression and exploration of our comfy faith we miss the blessing of joining God’s grand adventure.

Recently I spoke at a local church about how to overcome spiritual boredom and reclaim a sense of adventure in our walk with God.  You can listen to it if you like at the link below:

Defeating Spiritual Boredom

During the sermon I shared a link that I love from the movie Wall-ee that provides some wonderful social commentary.

I ended with a prayer of repentance and renunciation of the Cult of Comfort.  Warning and Disclaimer!  This is a dangerous prayer, so pray at your own risk….

Heavenly Father,

We renounce the Cult of Comfort in all of it’s guises.

Forgive us for our consumerist approach to church, where we shop around to find a community of faith that meets our needs, and move on to another when we feel uncomfortable.

Forgive us for creating a circle around us of people who are like us, for gathering in homogenous groupings and excluding those who are different than us or who make us feel uncomfortable.

Forgive us for the individualization of our religious experience, for making our relationship with you all about us and not about the larger covenant community of the church and our communities where we live.

Forgive us for our adherence to false doctrines of safety, where we believe that nothing bad should happen to us if we are following and obeying you.

Forgive us for our over commitment to bricks and mortar and the creation of a comfy space to gather and our under commitment to sharing our resources with those in need.

Forgive us for our spiritual immaturity, for our dislike of being challenged, stretched and made uncomfortable by Biblical teaching designed for our growth.

Forgive us for our demandingness and entitlement, for the way we believe that the church owes us, the pastor owes us, and God, you owe us …… (fill in your own blank).

Forgive us for the ways we have confused the American/Canadian Dream with the Kingdom of God, and for the ways we have exported that confusion abroad to other nations.

Lord, may we have the courage to shed our cultural idolatry.  Father you comfort the afflicted and You afflict the comfortable.  We welcome you to afflict us where You see fit, knowing that you discipline the ones you love, the sons (and daughters) in whom You delight.  Conform us into Your image and give us the courage to carry our cross daily and to live lives where we give ourselves away, the way that Your Son did.

In the name of your Son Jesus, who we proclaim not only as Saviour, but Lord of our lives.


***this blog was written from the comfort of my Lazy Boy chair (grin)

What does an Urban Monastery Look Like?

People have been asking.

And we’re trying to sort it out ourselves.  GOHOP is morphing and in motion.  We’re not sure what the destination is going to look like but hey, the journey is the thing, right?

Here’s a map of our Prayer Spaces what life at the UM looks like this week. Zoom it out to see all our Prayer Spaces:

Monday:  The most exciting and exhilarating part of our job!


Administration.  Working at our new office graciously donated to us by Hughson St. Baptist Church and True City.  We share a collaborative office space with True City, Micah House, and others.  In the afternoon, we put the finishing touches on the quiet prayer space we’ve created in the office, papering the walls so we can write our prayers.   “Let’s just start with the cross and resurrection, and see what grows from there.”

Monday night:  Family night at the Community house – the residents and guests of the house eat together and laugh a lot.  Bert our parrot laughs more than everyone, chuckling his way through the meal.  After dinner we worship and pray together, then everyone does their chores in the house.  I wanted to call doing our jobs “house blessing”, but the boys thought that was cheezy, so chores it is.

Tuesday:  Phyllis manning the prayer watch in our Waterdown Prayer Space in the morning.  Jill prayerwalking in the community.  In the afternoon, at the 500 James St. Prayer Space, we gather for worship and meditation on the psalms, prayer for pastors and leaders in the city.  At three, a young businessman shows up for his prayer appointment and we pray for him for an hour.  The Lord is kind, and helps us pray into his heart with love and accuracy.

Tuesday night: Spaghetti Tuesday – Community Dinner at the Community House.  Friends and strangers gather around the table.  Conversation is fun and fiesty.  Kirk cooks up a splendid spaghetti sauce.  Sometimes we bake together after dinner for friends.

Wednesday:  Staff meeting in the morning.  Checking in, dreaming, planning, praying.  Then off to Living Rock where we minister to the youth there after their Gathering, and then spend the afternoon worshiping and interceding for the next Generation in the city at the Living Rock Prayer Space.

Wednesday night:  Moving Mountains Prayer Group  – this week we are dedicating and praying through the Perkins Centre, and celebrating Abraham’s birthday with the community of young men and women that he has gathered and trained in prayer over the years.  Let them eat cake!

Thursday:  Phyllis on the wall in Waterdown again.  Jill out and about prayerwalking and at various pastors and leaders groups.  Abraham doing hospital visitation or developing young leaders.  Building relationships in the city and exploring how GOHOP can help increase prayer capacities in churches and in the city.

Thursday night:  Practicing the Way Group – meeting with a group of young leaders in the city and exploring together a new approach to Spiritual Formation (actually a really old approach, but needing to be refeshed in our lives).  We eat together, enjoy our children together, and set our hearts to following the Master.

Friday:  Team dispersed in various places – prayer for healing, meeting with friends we have made in the city through the Prayer Truck, prayerwalking.  In the afternoon we gather at the Community House, worship and mediate on the Psalms again, and pray for the ministry

Saturday:  Sabbath!

Sunday:  Ministering in various churches – preaching, leading worship.  At 4 pm we join with the Mission Services Chapel, and are looking at ways we can grow in our friendships with those on the margins in our city.    Community Dinner at Mission Services, then back to the Community House for our Book Study on Hospitality.

Our Hamilton staff of urban monastics (we miss u Tim!)

It’s a lovely season for us right now – feasting on the abundance of the Lord’s house and feeling very rich in our relationships.  Building relationships and people, rather then building structures and trying to populate them.  Desiring to be the loving presence of a people of prayer in the city.  We’re always looking to expand our circle of friends and to grow our staff of prayer missionaries, so email if you want to join the fun!

Practicing the Way of Jesus – Exercise in Celebrating Abundance

“I’m a pragmatist,” I tell people.  “Not a theologian.”

And after twenty five years of trying to figure out how to be a follower of Jesus and His Way, I find I’m getting even more practical in my old(er) age.

I find I’m not alone.  Many of us are kicking back at how the information age has created a glut of theological theory.  We want to be doers of the Word, not just hearers!  On Thursday nights I gather with a group of young leaders from different churches in the city.  We have dinner together.  We worship.  We share communion.  And we craft and perform experiments.  Thursday night has become our learning lab as we wrestle with Jesus’ teachings and how we can put them into practice.

We are inspired by, well, Jesus, of course, but also another guy named Mark Scandrette who wrote a book called “Practicing the Way of Jesus – Life together in the Kingdom of Love.”

His book and his website challenge and guide us in our journey.

Here was the experiment of the last two weeks.  First we meditated upon some of Jesus’ teachings about security and provision, and decided to celebrate as a group how God has blessed us with abundance.  Each day we created a list of things we were grateful for.

Then we took an offering in the group, and shocked ourselves as we came up with over $1000!  With the money, we decided to shower abundance on someone that God had been putting on our hearts.  One of us is friends with a single mum who has three teenage girls, two of whom have significant health challenges.  The family needs to move, but lacks the resources.

We purchased gift certificates for Ikea and Home Sense.  We got the mom some spa gift certificates and got each of the girls a mall gift certificate.  We put together a gift basket of their favorite foods.  We spent the night before delivery praying for the family, and writing messages of love and hope on cards for each family member.  We made a video of us sending our love, greetings and blessing to them.  And then we delivered it all to their home, along with a commitment to take care of their move for them – the packing, the cleaning, the truck acquisition, and the move itself.

Delivering the basket to the family was like Christmas morning, except with more tears.  Gotta be the most fun thing we’ve done in a loooooooong time… and we can’t wait to meet next week and reflect on our practice together!

In Jesus’ days, making disciples was learning from teaching AND learning by doing.  We are excited about our new Practice, and encourage you to create some experiments of your own!

Click on the link below and hear some of Mark’s thoughts about Practicing the Way of Jesus