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, June 24, 2010


How do you approach an “all powerful and all loving Father” when our experience of “father” doesn’t quite match up? My father came from Donegal, Ireland to the US as a young boy. I often refer to him as a “tough Irishman.” He was loving, but also often emotionally distant – that’s just the way he was. One of our guys has a father who is still emotionally distant. Another of our guys never knew his father. Even the guys who have fathers who are their heroes can talk about things that were missing in their relationship.
As we talked about fathers last night it struck me that all of us, no matter what our experience of “father” was, had a deep understanding of what we wanted, what we missed, and what “father” should be. That deep knowing and longing for “abba” is in all of us because it was planted deep in us by a God who has a great desire to be our all loving and all powerful Father. It is clear from scripture that, if we let Him, God will father us perfectly. He wants nothing better than to father us lovingly and powerfully.
And that’s why the thought that “worrying is dishonoring to God” is so troubling for me. I often call God my Father, but I am a big worrier. The two thoughts cannot be held at the same time. I believe one or the other, but cannot believe both. If I really believe God is an all powerful and all loving Father, I cannot worry.
My earthly father taught me to be responsible, self-reliant, and strong. My heavenly Father planted deep in my being a desire for complete dependence and trust in an all powerful and all loving God from whom I can draw great strength. One has lead to big control issues in my life. The deep desires are only now allowing me to be more trusting and reliant on my all powerful and loving Father. Thank you, Abba.
I’d love to know how others relate to the idea of God as Father. Comments?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Open Mike Night

Put six guys in a room, tell them it's "open mike night" - you can talk about anything - and what do you get? Comments about the Orioles mess of a season, commentary on the political scene, World Cup predictions, Ravens predictions, stock market woes, the latest golf or fishing adventure, the latest electronic gadgets on the market.....? And that's why I love my small group.
Last night was open mike night in our group. Without a pause or hesitation, one of our guys dove in to how he has been struggling for the last year with being unforgiving of some former friends who hurt him and his struggle to be forgiving. The next guy talked about how receiving a heart stent (he's still upset about missing his par putt after he was picked up after he collapsed on the 9th green when the heart attack hit - go figure) is making him take a difficult look at the stressors in his live. Next up was a painful conversation about one of our guys marriage difficulties. A fourth member, who was late for the meeting, never heard of "open mike night" (mostly because we never did it before), but jumped right in. He was able to unload a bit of the stress he's feeling because an illness in his family has upset the balance in his family and disoriented his household. And I was asked to talk about the deep sadness I feel when I am faced with the issue of suicide in people's lives.
Wow. Everyone spoke from the heart. And when it was time to pray at the end - the prayers were longer, deeper, and God honoring. God really does show up in circles.
Open mike night - what a concept!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Living In God

I was distracted at group last night. I had just attended the wake for the brother of a friend. Her brother was 52 and died suddenly. I didn’t learn until I left the funeral home that he had committed suicide. Every time I’m faced with the reality of suicide I am at a loss to understand the level of despair, pain and anguish that would lead someone to consider such a tragic act. Being unable to feel connected and loved by family and friends. Not having a forgiving and loving God to center all the pain and anguish around. Not seeing any purpose to continue living, but suicide as the only option. I feel so inadequate in understanding the despair. There is just deep sadness.

Then from my left, a voice says he understands completely. He has had the same thoughts and has felt the deep sense of despair about his future. He’s never tried to end his life, but he has sure thought about it. As we’ve each told our stories, we’ve all come to know his pain. Yet every time he voices thoughts of suicide, I feel that deep sense of sadness wash over me. And while having a group of supportive men around you who understand, at least at some level, is important, it’s not enough – other small groups have lived through the painful experience of losing one of their members to suicide.

I left group praying – and pray now – that God will enter deeply into the life of each member of our group and provide that center around which all our despair and pain and doubt can be placed. I pray that each member of our group will allow God to shoulder the burdens with us and lift us out of our despair into the beauty He has created for us. I pray that every Nativity small group becomes a place where God shows up, members come to see more clearly and deeply God’s love for each of us, and the excitement of living life in God and for God grows strongly and deeply.

Good and gracious – living God – holy is Your Name.

Friday, June 4, 2010

A Circle On the Porch

We sit in a circle on the back porch. Conversation is about God's creation and how some of us lose sight of His awesome work with all of our electronic gadgets. We slide into a conversation about God's wisdom being readily available to us in Scripture and how we often fail to apply this wisdom in our lives. Some regrets (not really guilty regrets, more wistful acceptance of our life's journey) were expressed by a few of us that we didn't walk in God's wisdom earlier in our lives. How different our lives might have been?
And then I almost miss a pretty amazing comment. One of our guys, who is usually pretty quiet, was on a roll and sharing his heart. One of his statements was how he's learned to really pray in the last six months or so by coming to group. Like many of us he grew up Catholic, went to all Catholic schools, and can whip through all the standard prayers with the best of us - Hail Mary, Our Father, Glory Be, etc. But in our group, he said, he learned how to really pray from his heart. How to make God more real in his everyday life. How to turn some of his stuff over to God and let God be God in his life. And how it's made a difference in his life.
And that's why I come to group every week. God shows up in a different, special, awesome way every week in a small group. A circle on the porch can be a life changing environment.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

What Happens in Group

I noticed in our small group last night that in discussions (which I truly always enjoy) I have a compulsive need to offer contrary points of view -- whether I believe them or not.  I already knew that about myself, but the surprise is how much I feel compelled to do it.  I can't really say whether my motivations are healthy or not.  I'd like to think that I am just naturally oriented to question things, and to encourage others to think differently; this is true about me -- but I also think I like to instigate a little uneasiness in others.  Maybe this makes me feel better, or in control.  Hmm ... that last one is a little disturbing.

What a screwy mess I am!  I'd like to be able to recognize and splice out my motivations, but it doesn't seem to work that way.  I am sadly just a mixed bag of impulses; that's the way it is.  I suppose I can take solace in the fact that at least some of my motivations, at least some of the time (I hope), are oriented toward the good of others.

I am so thankful to have this group!  They don't always realize how much they teach me, but it's one of the best classrooms I have.