Playing at Relationships

October 31, 2007

The other day I heard Leonard Sweet say something like this:

You don’t work at a marriage. You play at a marriage.

Yet another thought-provoking metaphor from Sweet. When you start thinking about relationships – marriages or otherwise – as something that you work at, you’ve already lost.

Work is difficult. You do it because you have to – because it is a responsibility in life. It is serious business. Ask anyone who is working at a relationship, and you will discover they aren’t finding much joy in it.

Relationships are acts of creation. We don’t analyze and manipulate them until they provide us with the appropriate functions and rewards. We infuse them with creativity, make them into beautiful things, and then find joy in that beauty.

Becca, my 8 year-old gets this. Working on a relationship is a completely foreign concept to her. She plays at her relationships.

So…who do you make music with in your day-to-day life? What does your favorite relational dance look like? What are your favorite conversational brush strokes?

And if you don’t know how to answer those questions, then take Sweet’s advice.

Stop working. Start playing.


Please! Fire me!

October 30, 2007

…especially if I’ve got perks like this.

Another sign…

October 28, 2007

…that evangelicalism will soon have run its course can be found here.

The Wonder of Worship

October 22, 2007

Last Friday, I had a chance to attend Great Vespers at the local Antiochian Orthodox church. For one hour, I became lost in a liturgy that (I’m guessing) traces its origins back to the early centuries of the first millennium. And I sensed the presence of God’s spirit more than I have in weeks, if not months.

I know, I know. Some of you wouldn’t have shared that experience. It would have seemed forced, stale, even boring. And I’ve been thinking about that a lot since Friday.

People meet God in a dizzying array of places. Some in liturgies, some in silence, some in acapella music, some through the stylings of modern rock. Some of us have a sense that he is present, speaking to us. Others never "hear" a thing. Still others come to know God when they serve the oppressed.

For the most part, these experiences will resonate with some of us, and they will be totally lost on others.

Is there something wrong with this?

I don’t think so. Instead, I think that God "comes at" us in many ways. I’ve come to appreciate beautiful things about God through the rigorous, systematic study of scripture. Others haven’t. But unlike me, someone else may touch the heart of God as a result of fervent prayer and worship in a Charismatic church.

The key, I think, is not to criticize each other, but to savor the richness of God’s revelation. We should celebrate each others’ experiences, even when we do not share them.

God’s spirit is present in any place where he is sought. The prayer of the moment and the centuries-old liturgy are both gifts from the Spirit. And we should not be surprised to find him present in either case.

Solitude and Community

October 18, 2007

From Parker Palmer (via Fajita):

But most of us in our daily lives exist neither in solitude nor in community, but somewhere in between. We sacrifice both form and content of truth. Seldom are we truly alone, and seldom are we truly in relationship to others. This is the vacuousness of mass society and mass education: our lives alternate between collective busyness and individual isolation, but rarely allow for an authentically solitary or corporate experience. In this half-lived middle ground, our solitude is loneliness and our attempts at community are fleeting and defeating. We are alone in the crowd, unable to touch the heart of love in ourselves or to touch others in ways that draw out the heart.

How true. To thrive, our spirits need both solitude and community. Yet, ironically, most of us find neither. We find ourselves in the middle of crowded cities, houses, buildings, and churches, yet alone – because we are not truly known by (nor do we truly know) those who are around us. And even when no one is physically near, an email or cell phone call is never more than a moment away.

What a tragedy.

God, grant us the peace that comes from deep solitude and the intimacy of authentic community.

If it Ain’t Broke, it Ain’t Getting Fixed

October 16, 2007

Lately, I’ve been wondering whether being “broken” – in an emotional or spiritual sense – is such a bad thing.

The biggest tragedies in life don’t arise because people have emotional and spiritual baggage. Everyone is screwed up in one way or another. The biggest tragedies occur because people are never willing to admit to, own, and deal with their baggage. They go for years and years, carrying it around, until it finally wears them down and causes an emotional breakdown or spiritual crisis.

Ironically, the first steps in being “broken” may seem like a step away from a spiritual or emotional health. But taking those backward steps may be the very thing that give us potential for long-term growth. (Richard – if you’re reading, feel free to insert a J-curve comment here!). The woman who quits going to church because she realizes she is a hypocrite is probably – at that moment – closer to realizing authentic faith than she has been at any other point in her life. The man who quits his anxiety-inducing, high income job to pursue his dream of sculpting may create a short-term financial crisis. However, he is probably – in the long run – going to be a better father and husband once he releases his burden of meeting other people’s expectations.

What we desperately need from our spouses, our small groups, our friends – possibly more than anything else – is “permission” to be our imperfect, true selves. In fact, for parents, it may be the single most important gift that we can give to our children.

After all, it is only after we are free to be broken that can healing begin.

Stand or Go?

October 13, 2007

burgess_hikers_lg I’ve been listening to an audio book of Leonard Sweet’s Soul Tsunami during my runs this week. In that book he poses a question that goes something like this:

Which is more important for the Church in the 21st Century? To say…

– "HERE is where we should take a STAND?" or…

– "THERE is where we should GO?"

It strikes me that every spiritual community in USAmerica, small or large, will have to answer this question. And our answers will determine whether we slowly fade away and die or whether we thrive.