There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability;
there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community. - M. Scott Peck

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Last night’s small group meeting made me realize in a fresh way the powerful influence that our background story has on our lives. For good or ill, it seems we either continually try to avoid something painful from our past, or we continually try to retain or restore something from our past that we valued. This gets pretty complex, since most of us are oblivious to the force of these influences, but any good therapist (at least those I’ve encountered) will confirm that awareness of this dynamic can bring a certain amount of power over it. The danger is when that desire is completely under the radar; we can become almost defenseless against its force, unable to resist.

For me, and due to various reasons, I know that my striving consists of seeking approval. Often to a very unhealthy degree. Many of us have this general inclination, but I will even allow the people closest to me to experience disadvantage or even hurt because I don’t want to upset the equilibrium of approval from others who aren't so close. Funny that I care more about approval from those at a distance. I suppose we tend to take more liberties with people who cannot easily detach from us.

All this makes me think that I need to be more conscious of it. I developed my own game about this recently: after a typical conversation with a friend or acquaintance, I ask myself if I would have responded and acted the same way if everyone I knew was actually present, watching the conversation. This does seem to work. It’s an uncomfortable exercise for me, but it makes things much more obvious.

What are you running from that you don’t want to experience again? What are you clinging to that you can’t stand to loose?

God In A Circle

God shows up in a lot of places for me. Even when I'm playing poorly at Pine Ridge, God is everywhere on the course (God must be a golfer because God has created amazing places that only golfers get to see and Pine Ridge is one of them). Anywhere with Ellen. At home on my back porch. At the 5:30pm liturgy at Nativity. Sitting on the beach in Duck. Playing with Annabel, Sawyer and Elijah. God really does show up in my life.
But often the most amazing place God shows up for me is when I sit in the circle with my brothers in our small group. Awesome and amazing! Last night another one of our guys told his story. Wow. This is always a powerful experience for all of us. Last night was so far the only "to be continued" story in our group. I'm looking forward to next week to hear the rest.
Powerful and more. It is humbling to hear the stories. As tough as I sometimes think I've had it, I admire how the guys in our group made it to where they are given what they had to deal with. It's encouraging to hear the stories. No self pity, no poor me. Just here is who I am and how I got here.
It's spiritual. God really does show up in a special way in the small group circle. Powerful, peaceful, healing, challenging, supporting. It's great to be reading Acts and know God still shows up.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Being Bold

"Boldness is speaking up when the opportunity shows up." Pastor Michael White

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Feeling Like a 6

"How personal does Jesus seem to you on a scale of 1-10?"
This would have been a more comfortable question to answer last night in our group before we started reading Acts. My relationship with Jesus has become more personal (even though it was always pretty personal) and more pervasive in my life. The difference is largely due to Nativity and my small group. But reading Acts puts a "personal relationship" with Jesus in a whole new context. Bold? Dangerous? Fearless? Not so much. Guitar Hero is still resonating.
When I read Acts, I feel like a 6 on that 10 point scale. I'm not saying I don't have a good personal relationship with Jesus - at a 6 I'm sure I'm better than some. But the Apostles paint quite a picture of what a personal relationship with Jesus can - and should? - look like. Preaching fearlessly in the temple. Standing boldly before accusers. Constantly and with enthusiasm sharing their experience of the Risen Jesus. Going outside their safe communities to bring Jesus' words to any and all. Not caring what "men" think and only wanting to obey God. Wow - that's a 10!
Part of me feels discouraged. The standard that the Apostles set seems far out of my reach. But Acts also shows that the Apostles started out fearful, timid and hiding out. That I can relate to. But Jesus promised and delivered on sending the Holy Spirit and their lives were transformed. Jesus has made the same promise to us. We just have to believe He will deliver for us like He did for His disciples.
6 isn't bad, but, in Jesus, all things are possible - even me becoming a 10. I'm praying for myself and my brothers to be open to the Spirit and the gift of being an Apostle-like 10.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Forgive to be Forgiven

Have you ever had the experience where you realized what you were saying only after you said it?  Last night in group I had that very queer experience.

"When Jesus said that one must forgive in order to be forgiven, he didn't mean that being forgiven will be withheld until you also forgive others.  Rather, that we will be unable to believe that forgiveness is possible -- unable to accept forgiveness -- until we have had the experience of forgiving others."

Strange to hear that coming out of my mouth; I didn't really feel like I was saying it.  I was just along for the ride, listening, and thinking, "Now that's an interesting idea."  Not that I've never thought those things before, but this minor out-of-body experience made me realize that I know this to be true while still struggling to implement it personally.  I have certainly withheld forgiveness from those who have hurt me.  Even if they don't know it.  And that has kept me from realizing God's forgiveness to some degree.

My sense last night was that some of the guys felt the same.  Forgiveness is hard.  But not giving forgiveness is a trap.

Father, forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.  Help us to forgive our debtors!

Church: Healing Place or Just A Crutch

So is church about healing or about being healed? Is it a crutch or a crutch? Can it be both? Should it be both? One of our guys felt church wasn’t much of a healing place – nice to go to, but not much healing going on. As we talked it became clear healing wasn’t an event, but a process. Expecting to “be healed” by going to church certainly is a crutch – and a very unhealthy one. Most of us know someone who used this crutch and many of us have used it ourselves. Maybe we still do?
As we looked at Acts and the life of Jesus, it is so clear that church is meant to be about healing and not just being healed. If it isn’t, it isn’t church – clear and simple.
But what is healing? The blind seeing? The lame walking? The dead being raised? My problems being solved? Don’t have much experience with that myself. But I have experienced healing at Nativity and in my small group.
My sin has been forgiven – and they were no small sins. My sinful behavior has been shared and exposed – and I am much more able to be faithful. My anxiety and fear have been lessened – and I am more at peace. My lack of trust is being turned into deeper confidence and belief – and I am more centered in my God. My pride and arrogance (did I say I play guitar?) is being humbled – and boy is that good for the people I live and work with.
So in a very real sense, Nativity and my small group are a crutch for me. I lean on both in my brokenness. I need both in my brokenness. Church is about healing and a God given crutch for me. I guess it can be both – thank God.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Guitar Hero

I spent part of Easter feeling pretty good about myself. I had focused some of my quiet time on areas needing improvement in my life - greed, self-centeredness, pride. Given the story I tell about my life, I was feeling pretty good - these were all manageable. Doing better, no major issues, life pretty in control. And then we had group last night.
We watched the Pastor's message again. The conversation turned to evangelization - definitely not one of the boxes I can check off on my list of things being done as Jesus asked. But still feeling ok - several of the guys also voiced their discomfort with speaking to others about the God thing. And then I told a story of the party at our house where someone asked who played guitar - mine was sitting out. This young guy (it was a party of 20 somethings for my daughter's birthday) was in a band and a good player. Anyone who has heard me knows I'm not. But that doesn't bother me - I'm comfortable with that. But then he asked "What kind of stuff do you play?" Pause - mostly James Taylor type stuff was the response. Anyone who has heard me play in the last couple of years also knows that I'm playing mostly Christian worship music. Oops. Is this how Peter felt in the courtyard?
But the real wake up call was the response from the guys. Most voiced their surprised that I would hide what I really played. Several said it didn't seem like something I would. Suddenly, the word "poser" jumped front and center. I wanted to be a guitar hero, but was a poser instead. And as the leader of our group, who pushes others to be real with God's word, it was a disappointing revelation. I packed up my guitar and headed home thinking about how much fear still drives my behavior and how much courage I need from God to be a guitar hero.