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

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Messy and Awkward

Our group was a bit messy this week. There were a few things that happened where as a leader, I wasn’t sure what to do. Our group as a whole also seemed unsure of how we should handle a situation and so it felt awkward for a few minutes. Although none of us likes feeling awkward, if we are in relationship with people and sharing what is in our hearts, it will happen from time to time. Life is messy and not always easily sorted out.

Messy awkwardness will happen in small groups. The good news about messy awkwardness is that the awkwardness doesn’t last forever, but subsides. The good news is that if we battle through it, usually life change and stronger relationships are on the other side. Maybe your group has had some awkward moments. As you experience them, look at them as opportunities for growth and not as something to be avoided. In fact, moments of messiness and awkwardness are sure signs God is up to something in your group. It often means God is moving.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pray 10

This past week groups were asked to get separate and spend 10 minutes alone in prayer. Your group may have had different experiences with that time. Maybe it was awkward, maybe it was great and refreshing, maybe it was something in-between or both. The encouragement to pray ten minutes was an important action for groups for a few reasons.

First, one of the purposes of small groups are to help make it easier for us to actually live out our faith. From time to time it is worth breaking from the routine of just talking in a group to actually doing what we are trying to accomplish.

Second, small groups exist to actually bring us closer to Christ. We hope small groups develop into friendships -friendships that help develop a deeper friendship with our Savior. Hopefully the ten minutes reminded you of that.

Third, we need solitude in order to have community. To bring my best to the small group, I need to be connecting with God on my own so that I have something to offer. Hopefully after you prayed for 10 minutes individually your group had much more to talk about on the subject of prayer.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Miracle in Chile

Our group prayed last night for the miracle that took place in Chile. I was struck by a number of things as I watched. How many miners dropped to their knees thanking God for their rescue as soon as they were released from the capsule. How many family members centered their hope for rescue in their faith in God. How trust and faith in the Divine served to drive rescuers harder to do all that was humanly possible to aid those trapped. How 33 men – some who only knew each other for a day and some who were life long family members – supported and cared for each member of the group as they faced a seemingly hopeless situation. How the bonds shaped by sharing difficult times will bind these men forever.

Here’s a great quote about the miner from Bolivia: “Despite the offer to return to Bolivia with his family, which President Morales said was effective immediately and he would even fly him home in his presidential plane. The miner made it clear he wanted to stay in Chile, at least for a few days. He said he plans to meet up with the 32 other miners on the surface once they have recovered from their ordeal.” He was offered a job and a house, but he first needed to see the men he can become brothers with in the mine. Talk about band of brothers.

I sat in a circle with nine guys last night with none of us ever wanting to experience the sheer terror of 2 months underground (I start to panic after two minutes in tight spaces). And no one could ever want to see that rescue scene repeated. But I do want the faith that many of the miners and their families demonstrated. I do want a band of brothers who will support me in whatever tragedy life may bring my way. I do want a faith in the Divine that drives me to do all I humanly can to help those in need around me. I do want to celebrate victories in my life with people who have prayed for me, cried for me, and worked hard to help me.

It isn’t hard to see God’s hand in a miracle like the rescue in Chile. But God isn’t limited to the big stage. In fact, most of God’s best work is done in the quiet of our every day life. In the quiet of my family, in the quiet of my workplace, in the quiet of my small group. Big miracles are often easier to see and they grab our attention. It’s the small miracles that we often miss. And it’s through small miracles that most of God’s work gets done.

God bless the Chilean miners, their families, and their rescuers. And God bless every one of us who are working out our own smaller, personal tragedies. May we all experience little miracles like the big miracle the Chilean miners did through faith in God and support from good, caring supportive people around us.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Fatherly Anger

When a group of guys talk about anger, the topic of children is almost always part of the discussion. I listened last night as we talked about anger and being a father. The experience of “father” took on many forms: five kids at home; grown kids living away; step kids breaking in a new father; teenagers with messy rooms; some of us enforcers and some instigators; and at times using our work as a place of refuge, sanity and control. For most of us, it wasn’t hard to tap into anger as a part of this season of our life.
I’ve been challenged by the series with why there isn’t more healthy, God honoring, righteous anger in my life. One of the places where I do feel the righteous anger is when I see men not stepping up to their fatherhood responsibilities. Fathers who skimp on quality time with their kids (no time to help coach once a week, but never miss their round of golf). Fathers who don’t set needed boundaries for their kids (letting kids cross clear lines of behavior because it is easier than engaging in daily limit setting). Fathers who abdicate their financial responsibilities or even abuse children. While I have not always been a good father or step-father, I’ve always worked hard at it. I’m angry when a father doesn’t work hard at being a great father. It one of the most important jobs we'll ever have. That's righteous anger.
Sitting with guys who fathered differently, but have good relationships with their children – old or young, at home or not – is a real treat for me. Anger – no doubt. Sometimes (often times?) unrighteous anger – yes. Struggles for balance and boundaries – of course. But mostly, God honoring efforts to be good fathers.
We were a few guys short last night. One stayed home to help his young son with homework because he’s having such a tough time in school and it’s impacting the whole family. One was driving 10 hours with his married daughter to help sort out some messy family stuff. I think they both would have preferred to be at group last night to sip some wine and share life. Good choices. Good fathers. Blessed to be among them.