Becoming Chris Kamalski

"There's a Writer outside ourselves, plotting a better story for us" ~Don Miller

Christmastide (Advent has come).

Spicy, sweet coffee roasting = The smell of Christmas!

 Download the Christmas +Advent meditations here.

As sent ones, how do we extend this welcome of Christ to our neighbors that God has placed in our world?

 Download the Christmas + Advent meditations here.

CHRISTMAS DAY {25.12}: THE S[c]ENT OF CHRISTMAS

Texts: Isaiah 9:2-7; Psalm 98; Titus 2:11-14, 3:4-7; Luke 2:1-20; John 1:1-14

Mediation: The scent of Christmas: Spicy cinnamon cider, mingling with the promise of a new morning through that first glorious cup of coffee. The smells of Christmas lunch invading the entire house, promising a meal worthy of a King. Again, a metaphor much deeper than simple food and drink: Instead, an invitation to welcome the (gentle) invasion of Jesus into our world, a promise through an infant that reaches far greater than we can imagine or conceive. For it is “in Advent that we celebrate the beginning and ending of Christ’s victory over the powers of evil, and we call upon God to accomplish that victory in our own lives, to break in on us, to be born in our hearts, and to create us anew. This is the message of Isaiah to us: a Savior is coming not only to Israel but to the whole world” (Robert Webber). As sent ones, how do we extend this welcome of Christ to our neighbors that God has placed in our world?

Response: Join the world in a chorus that Charles Wesley first penned in 1745:

Come, Thou long expected Jesus Born to set Thy people free; From our fears and sins release us, Let us find our rest in Thee. Israel’s Strength and Consolation, Hope of all the earth Thou art; Dear Desire of every nation, Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver, Born a child and yet a King, Born to reign in us forever, Now Thy gracious kingdom bring. By Thine own eternal Spirit, Rule in all our hearts alone; By Thine all sufficient merit, Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal proces- sion and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of Him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are…an aroma that brings life” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16, NIV)

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Eves Are Better (For Now).

Maxie's First Tree Day (The most important of Kamalski/Gerdts/Lagier holidays!).

Merry Christmas Eve!

I found myself reflecting on the nature of ‘eves’ a year ago, and thought this summed up my feelings as the culmination of the Advent & Christmas season is upon us. Enjoy:

I awake this cold Christmas Eve with a building sense of anticipation and hope (Is joy creeping in?), still chewing on what I posted yesterday:

Anticipation is a joy, and at Christmas the Eve is often better than the indulgence of the Day. Our preparation is for a guest.

A thought emerging out of the fog of my tired mind (It is the end of the year, after all) is this:Does growing maturity (which I would directly correlate with a parallel sense of willingness to embrace change) move one towards the process of enjoying anticipation, as opposed to consuming the end result? As I look back on significant moments in my life, I realize that even my memories are strewn with moments leading up to the ‘Big Events,’ as opposed to the actual experience itself. Rather, it is the process which is burned into my recollections, as opposed to the destination. This is simple when you think about it: My family honors Tree Day (the annual ritual of cutting down a fresh Douglas Fir) more than Christmas, the ingredients of Christmas Dinner more than the actual meal itself, the obscene pile of presents overflowing underneath the tree more than the actual gifts contained within.

The parallel journey of our own lives is striking to the point of chills, if you let yourself actually connect the dots. God seems to be more concerned about the preparation, than the Day itself. Could He be more interested in what happens along the way, as opposed to where we actually end up (Knowing in fact, that as we are present in opening up to Him and ourselves along the way, where we end up will be exactly right anyways!)?

And so, I offer a simple thought this Christmas Eve: Maybe this day is more significant as we mature.  Maybe ‘the Eves’ in our lives are a deep gift to be embraced whole-heartedly, in whatever Eve or darkness or light you are found within.

Eves are better (For Now).

Love (Advent Week 4).

The unconscious dogs are so awesome!

Download the Advent 2011 meditations here.

As sent ones, what is more selfless than forsaking one’s life as a mother to allow the growth and flourishing of a child?

Download the Advent 2011 meditations here.

ADVENT WEEK 4 {18.12-24.12}: THE S[c]ENT OF LOVE

  • Love |ləv| noun: deep affection or attachment to someone.

Texts: 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16; Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38

Meditation: The scent of love: The blending of dirty diapers and baby pow- der, selflessly applied to a newborn infant. The warm embrace of mother and child, lingering under a shady tree, enjoying a few stolen moments of rest, experiencing an intimacy that the Father longs for us to know through Christ. As Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” As sent ones, what is more selfless than forsaking one’s life as a mother to allow the growth and flourishing of a child?

Response: Deliberately serve family and friends in areas that you know they will experience the scent of love the greatest, regardless of what you receive through this act of service.

What NieuCommunities Lives.

Maxie and I spent much of last week with our extended NieuCommunities family in Golden Hill, a neighborhood in San Diego. An inspiring, filling time watching their community multiply and birth fresh expressions of mission!

Rob Yackley, Director of NieuCommunties, is helping Jon Huckins write a book describing the postures of mission that form the common rhythm that make up the heartbeat of missional community together. It’s called Thin Places and is supposed to be out early this coming year! As a part of the story-telling process, they are gathering feedback about NieuCommunities’ impact around the globe. I thought John Hayes’ words were especially powerful, and accurate in describing what we were about:

“There is a ‘come and see’ authenticity about NieuCommunities that is so reminiscent of Jesus calling the disciples out of fishing boats on the shore of Lake Galilee I can almost taste the salt air. At the same time, the “come and see” community is balanced by a “go and do” mission that gives me hope for inside-out change in neighborhoods in the global city. At a time when many are talking about missional communities, NieuCommunities quietly and expertly goes about doing it—forming young men and women and transforming neighborhoods. The vitality of NieuCommunities is less about what is being said than what is being lived.”

[John Hayes, founder of innerCHANGE and author of Submerge, Living Deep in a Shallow World.]

If you are able, will you prayerfully consider partnering with us financially as we end 2011? Our potential transition to Vancouver has caused our financial needs to grow dramatically.

Reteaching One’s Loveliness.

“Sometimes it’s necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness.”

[Galway Kinnell]

Peace + Joy.

Love the wood-fire pizza oven!

As sent ones, do we carry the aroma of peace--the weight of peace--into the lives of our family and friends, or does chaos and discord reign?

DOWNLOAD THE ADVENT 2011 READING GUIDE I WROTE FOR 3rd PLACE HERE.

ADVENT WEEK 2 {04.12-10.12}: THE S[c]ENT OF PEACE

  • Peace |pēs| noun: freedom from disturbance; mental calm; serenity.

Texts: Isaiah 40:1-11; Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13; 2 Peter 3:8-15a; Mark 1:1-8

Meditation: The scent of peace: Knuckles calmly kneading dough into for- mation, spreading yeast throughout a fresh loaf of bread. The smell of rising dough baking in the oven, wafting throughout the house, filling one’s home (and one’s soul) with a calmness sorely needed. The pace of bread-making demands a rhythm through which peace can only descend: Collecting ingre- dients, measuring correct amounts, stirring, kneading, softening, adding a spicy surprise. Again, are we speaking of baking bread or a sense of calm that we all wish would descend upon our lives? As sent ones, do we carry the aroma of peace–the weight of peace–into the lives of our family and friends, or does chaos and discord reign?

Response: Take a gracious, yet honest look at your relationships this week. Are you a person of peace to those around you, or do you wear down those whom you are in relationship with? Invite the Spirit to calm your spirit, and breathe a fresh scent into you soul.

Random really large knife in an idyllic scene. Maybe a sunbathing pirate?

As sent ones, do we invite others into this experience of the profound pleasures of life, or do we linger in the disappointments of what should have been? Isn’t it time for letting go?

DOWNLOAD THE ADVENT 2011 READING GUIDE I WROTE FOR 3rd PLACE HERE.

ADVENT WEEK 3 {11.12-17.12}: THE S[c]ENT OF JOY

Joy |joi| noun: great pleasure and happiness. Texts: Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11; Psalm 126; Luke 1:47-55; 1 Thessalonians

5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28

Meditation: The scent of joy: A soft, salty breeze drifts over your body as you lay upon your towel at the beach, mingling with your fifth layer of coco- nut sunscreen applied today. The sound of children splashing in the water, running away from a year of struggle, hard growth, and transformation, leaving behind all that weighs us down. The sight of bright swimsuits clash- ing gloriously with beach umbrellas, rugby balls, and a new summer book. Doesn’t joy smell like the simple pleasures of a holiday on the coast? As sent ones, do we invite others into this experience of the profound pleasures of life, or do we linger in the disappointments of what should have been? Isn’t it time for letting go?

Response: Joy is best expressed at a loud volume. Invite a friend to laugh, sing, or talk LOUDLY, enjoying the simple pleasures that life can bring. You’ll be amazed at how quickly joy will join the conversation.

ADVENT WEEK 3 {11.12-17.12}: THE S[c]ENT OF JOY

  • Joy |joi| noun: great pleasure and happiness.

Texts: Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11; Psalm 126; Luke 1:47-55; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28

Meditation: The scent of joy: A soft, salty breeze drifts over your body as you lay upon your towel at the beach, mingling with your fifth layer of coco- nut sunscreen applied today. The sound of children splashing in the water, running away from a year of struggle, hard growth, and transformation, leaving behind all that weighs us down. The sight of bright swimsuits clash- ing gloriously with beach umbrellas, rugby balls, and a new summer book. Doesn’t joy smell like the simple pleasures of a holiday on the coast? As sent ones, do we invite others into this experience of the profound pleasures of life, or do we linger in the disappointments of what should have been? Isn’t it time for letting go?

Response: Joy is best expressed at a loud volume. Invite a friend to laugh, sing, or talk LOUDLY, enjoying the simple pleasures that life can bring. You’ll be amazed at how quickly joy will join the conversation.

DOWNLOAD THE ADVENT 2011 READING GUIDE I WROTE FOR 3rd PLACE HERE.

A Playground In Vancouver.

‘Vancouver is a playground awaiting your leadership + vision.’

Rob Yackley’s words continued to ring around our ears as we processed all that we had just dialogued about.

Had Maxie and I been invited into a process of discernment and dialogue or was it just our imagination? Barely a month removed from our honeymoon, we had the clear sense the the later half of 2011 would bring not only a fresh season (the Kamalski’s as newlyweds!) but also a fresh invitation into a listening posture, seeking to understand if God was having us explore a new environment where our visions, personalities, and presence could birth something fresh within the Kingdom story within our world. We knew a few things were clear as we began to wait, ears to the ground:

  • Chris’s two-year commitment to walking alongside NieuCommunities South Africa, helping our missional community transition from a neighborhood in a subhurb far removed from the life of the city, as well as begin to discern how to best apprentice South African leaders into sustainable mission, was well underway as 2011 ‘turned towards home plate.’
  • Maxie was likely ending a long 5-year season in the birth, growth, and launch of her non-profit organization, Pure Hope, a gap-year ministry for students that exposed South Africans to issues of poverty and injustice all throughout their city, and invited the wider church to become educated and engaged in the reality most South Africans live within, as Pure Hope entered into a new season of strategic planning and involvement with Moreleta Park Church, its launchpad.
  • We sensed something missional, globally-focused, and utilizing our shared gifts in partnership and mutual life was likely beginning to unfold before us.

Enter Vancouver, a NieuCommunities missional community that had been ‘on ice’ (pardon the pun) for several years now due to staff transition throughout our larger mission organization, CRM, as well as natural growth within families serving in the wider Vancouver area (babies!) and the need to transition this NC site away from the hosting of a traditional 10-month missional apprenticeship into a fresh season of asking how best to serve, empower, and apprentice Canadians (and all Vancouverites) into the stories God is inviting them to author with their lives. Beginning the morning before our wedding, we begin listening to God together with many within our organization, repeatedly returning to the idea that a fresh set of eyes, ears, and hearts was needed within a strong leadership couple that would help to rebirth and give central leadership to a well-networked area of East Vancouver. To quote Rob’s thoughts after one of our many conversations:

  • “I keep thinking about you guys in Vancouver. I remember what you said about a sense of connection there, and I think you and Maxie are just what Amy needs to help rebirth that community. I know you want to be part of something new, and I think a rebirth of a new kind of NC in Vancouver would give you that kind of experience. That community’s historical integration with local churches and with the poor also seem to be in line with your and Maxie’s bent. I think the chance for you to play a significant leadership role alongside the collective director could be really cool. And the idea of you being in the same city as Tim Warkentin-two potential global gardeners living in the same neighborhood–could be really significant too.”

Maxie and I kept exploring Vancouver, flipping through websites, looking at potential programs for Maxie to possibly begin to study at for a season, and we kept returning to this simple reality:

We need to listen on the ground. Thus, as you scan this email, we are stepping foot onto Canadian soil as winter descends, beginning a process of prayer, vision-casting, and conversation with a number of people, all seeking to discern the same reality: Is God inviting Chris and Maxie to give central leadership in helping to rebirth a fresh expression of mission and God’s Kingdom in the heart of Vancouver?

We are not certain–but we are certain of this: Will you please journey with us as we walk the streets through December 19th? Please pray for:

  • Clarity and confidence as we discern the Spirit’s direction for our next steps
  • Potential alignment with the people, potential community and leadership, and city of Vancouver
  • Growing awareness and conviction to engage our lives with the needs of a large, multi-cultural, largely post-Christian city
  • Peace and passion as we begin to dialogue towards a decision sometime around Christmas.

If you are interested in partnering with our work, please go here.

If you feel led to prayerfully listen on our behalf, and feel led to share that with us, please email Chris at ckamalski@gmail.com.

We love and need you more than ever! ~Chraxie

Life Compass With Oasis ZA (September 2011).

Yup! This sums up the wonderful chaos of our week spent facilitating Life Compass with Oasis ZA in Cosmo City (a suburb of Johannesburg)!

The Unfolding Story:

  • 18 Oasis ZA First-Year Change Agents (primarily college-age South African youth from local townships) spending an entire week (September 19th-23rd, 2011) developing a vision of their preferred future in the context of a creative community development organization birthing fresh stories of transformation and change all through Cosmo City, a suburb of Johannesburg an hour south of where we live and work in Pretoria. Oasis ZA have been long-time friends of NieuCommunities South Africa, and have even modeled their rhythm after the missional postures that we walk through as we pursue the way of Jesus as a missional community. Maxie and I were honored to stay at our dear friend Adri-Marie’s house all week long, and deeply enjoyed the energy, questions, and clear-eyed impact that these young South Africans were committed to living with. Driving home exhausted that Friday evening, Maxie remarked, “I’m confident in South Africa’s future because of youth like these. We’re going to be ok!” An apt description of our week spent helping fellow South Africans begin to find their voice, and start writing the stories God is inviting them to tell with their lives.

The hope in empowering South African youth to develop visions for their lives.

My Storyline: The scenes that have already played in the story that is your life. A wonderful way to make sense of the mess that can be our past!

Maxie and I spent 3-4 hours each morning facilitating dialogue, self-discovery, all leading to the development of a preferred future vision.

Sharing our storylines with each other.

Love the sentiment expressed here.

Our Life Compass experience emphasizes the central role that one's personality plays in not only the development of a self, but the vision one is to speak to life. Our personalities are not accidental in the mind of God.

Dialogue is a central part of our training. (Can you see Maxie giving the 2-minute warning?)

A powerful organization creating fresh movements of the Kingdom in Joburg. We consider them dear friends!

A (filtered) sunset from Adri-Marie's backyard. Stunning!

S[c]ENT//Advent 2011.

What if the Church throughout the world pressed ‘restart’ each year in an effort to awake once again to the fragrance of Christ within us, and throughout every corner of the world?

DOWNLOAD THE ADVENT 2011 READING GUIDE I WROTE FOR 3rd PLACE HERE.

S[c]ENT//ADVENT 2011

  • Scent |sent| noun: a distinctive smell, esp. one that is pleasant. From Old French sentir, meaning to ‘perceive or smell.’
  • Sent |sent| verb: cause to go or be taken to a particular destination; affect with powerful emotion; put into ecstasy.

What if the Church throughout the world pressed ‘restart’ each year in an effort to awake once again to the fragrance of Christ within us, and throughout every corner of the world? What if a season in the life of the Church preceded the arrival of a fresh calendar year as a means by which to prepare for the arrival of Christ into our world at the end of days? What if we grew in everyday awareness of God’s fragrance in the world, and began to see anew our calling as sent ones carrying the sweet aroma of Christ to all whom we meet?

This is the season of Advent, a season which anticipates Christ’s final arrival through the lens of celebrating the birth of Jesus as God’s entrance into our world. Welcoming the scent of Christ through the sending of Christ. A pleasing fragrance wafting through our world. Welcome, 3rd Place, to S[c]ENT, the season of Advent.

“In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, He brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation–an aroma redolent with life.” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16, The Message)

Advent is a season of expectant anticipation, of anticipatory joy. It is also a season of repentant preparation for a future that is yet to come.

WHAT IS THE SEASON OF ADVENT?

“Christmas is about the coming in the present of the Lord who came long ago in the past. Jesus comes again each Christmas. This is the central purpose of the season of the church year known as Advent, the four Sundays + four weeks before Christmas. Each Advent, Christians relive ancient Israel’s yearning + hope, and each Christmas Christians celebrate the fulfillment of the yearning: ‘Joy to the world, the Lord is come.’ The purpose of Advent + Christmas is to bring the past into the present.”

“The Latin root of Advent is a word that means ‘coming’ or ‘arrival.’ Advent thus means, ‘toward the coming.’ Advent is preparation for the coming of Jesus to the world-then, in the past; now, in the present, and as we will see later, in the future. Advent + Christmas bring the coming of Jesus, the birth of Jesus with all of its associations, into the present. Past, present, and future are brought together in Advent. It is a season of expectant anticipation, of anticipatory joy. It is also a season of repentant preparation for a future that is yet to come.

On the personal level, Christmas is about light coming into the darkness of our individual lives, about our return from exile, about inner peace. Indeed, it is about the birth of Christ within us” (Excerpted from Marcus Borg + John Dominic Crossan, The First Christmas).

INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE SEASON OF ADVENT

At the beginning of each week in Advent, light an incense stick as a welcome re- minder that the exquisite fragrance of God’s Spirit dwells as a sweet aroma within us and throughout every corner of our world. Ask the Spirit to open your spirit to the presence of God in your life & during these moments of meditation. Select one of the weekly Advent texts & practice the discipline of Lectio Divina as a means of opening up to God’s active word. Once finished, return to the Advent themed meditation for the week. Again, let the words read you. What is God saying? Engage in action that responds to God’s living word in you.

Gerhard Van Wyk is a genius. View his work here--> http://thispencil.co.za/

As sent ones, carrying the fragrance of Christ into our world begs the question, how are you inviting others to imagine a fresh start filled with newfound expectation?

ADVENT WEEK 1 {27.11-03.12}: THE S[c]ENT OF HOPE

  • Hope |hōp| noun: expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.

Texts: Isaiah 64:1-9; Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:24-37

Meditation: The scent of hope: a cool shower, a fresh bar of soap, the cleansing rinse of shampoo running down the drain. Toweling off, naked with the possibility of a brand new start. The metaphor writes itself, does it not? It recalls to mind the fact that God’s heart beats perpetually in desire for His creation to return to Himself, finding life where life was first imagined. As sent ones, carrying the fragrance of Christ into our world begs the question, how are you inviting others to imagine a fresh start filled with newfound expectation?

Response: Invite a friend to recover something they have lost hope in: A sense of future possibilities, a fresh start, a different path than they are currently walking. How can your presence inspire new life?

DOWNLOAD THE ADVENT 2011 READING GUIDE I WROTE FOR 3rd PLACE HERE.

Supertubes, Abstract (Project 365, Day 263).

Aperture: f/22     Focal Length: 50 mm     ISO: 100     Shutter Speed: 2/5′