Archive for April, 2007

A long walk off a short pier… backwards

April 25, 2007

I think the brothers in my church might never forgive me if I post another blog before acknowledging that I fell in a lake Saturday evening. Mister Coordinated here, I tried to untangle my fishing pole from a thorn bush by walking backwards on a pier that stopped way too quickly for my taste.

We hadn’t even been at the lake for three minutes before I had personally tested the depths of the water. As I took the last step backward and found nothing but air, I think I decided to focus all my mental energy, not on regaining my rapidly disappearing balance, but on keeping a careful hold on the sharp metal hook between two fingers of my left hand, lest I share the fate of the poor cricket at the end of it. After feeling the brown lake water swallow me whole–shoes, jeans, shirt, fishing pole and all, I emerged from the water with that shiny little weapon still pinched between my fingers. I figure I get a little credit for that, right?

It was a fun weekend. On Saturday, five of us went camping on some land owned by a brother (thanks Jerry!). We hiked around his place (almost a square mile in area) and hung out and talked and made a camp fire (it got pretty cold after dark). Jerry hooked us up with bamboo poles so we could go fishing by his house later. We probably caught 15-20 fish, but they were relatively small and would have taken way too long to clean and cook, so we threw them back. Nice-size steaks waited for us back at the campsite, and they were delicious.

Jeremy learned that every one of us snores, and I learned that Justin has an uncanny ability to keep mental track of the time. On the way home, both of them learned that I can talk for at least an hour straight about the philosophy behind the Matrix and Groundhog Day. I’d be interested to hear what each of the other brothers learned over the course of our trip.

We oughtta do stuff like this more often.

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The Renewing of a Mind

April 18, 2007

Score one more for the fellowship of the saints.

I went to a meeting of the brothers in my church last night with a viewpoint about something. I came out of that meeting with a totally different viewpoint. My belief about the issue (doesn’t matter what it was) didn’t fundamentally change. But my viewpoint, the way I looked at it, changed. How did that happen?

I spent days leading up to that meeting unintentionally hashing and rehashing the issue in my head. I probably had a dozen imaginary conversations (you know you do that, too!) in which I hammered out what I thought about this thing. Without intending to get worked up about anything, I was stuck on this thing and kinda dreaded going to that meeting.

Then my brothers welcomed my comments. They gave me a safe place (that sounds so “Oprah”) to say what I needed to say, and they responded to it. Every one of them. In my group, that’s not very many, but they were 100% functioning. I’m sure that for them it seemed like a small discussion about something minor, but inside me I was battling all kinds of demons and ideologies. So for me it was very needed. It was precious. When the meeting was over, I had gained one of the most valuable things I could have received at that moment: A different way of looking at something.

There are always multiple levels to things, you know? Life is complex, so single-mindedness just doesn’t work. But that’s what comes natural to me, because I’m a male.

Did you know that a male has only half as many connections between the two halves of his brain as a woman has? The net effect is that women can multitask better than men. I also think it enables them to see two sides to issues better than men. We have “tunnel vision” sometimes because it’s how we’re wired. We take one thought and crown it king. All other thoughts must bow in humble submission to the one thought that we have enthroned. In the end we take everything to its extreme position and call that “truth.” We are principle-driven.

But then I step into a room of other men called to the same calling. We deal with each other’s differing ideas and we seek the Lord together until we find that our independent little minds have found a way to transcend themselves. We realize that we may not be seeing everything, and we see how much we need the input of the rest of the body in order to do what we do. It’s like the eye realizing that the nose has information that may help. I need my brothers for this very thing.

So thanks, brothers.

Person in progress

April 13, 2007

Sorry for the pause in posts. Sometimes you’re too busy living life to stop and write about it. I figure in the end no one loses when that happens.

Having finally finished the initial drafts of a book, I finally regained the time to start reading again. When I get free time now, I’m reading through any one of the myriad of books that friends insist I must read sometime. Making my way through them, I am reminded of how difficult it can be to expand a mind that has fallen into a groove.

I remember being in a place where I was constantly learning things. And I don’t mean just information. I mean that my mind was being changed. That’s not mere assimilation or accommodation of knowledge, it’s an alteration of the way I think. It’s exhausting but exhilarating. Like the familiar world around you suddenly becomes new again, charged with attraction and interest.

I remember days like that when I was younger. I don’t have them as much anymore. I suppose that’s good in some ways and bad in others. It’s good because a mind that’s constantly shifting and reforming can hardly hold anything in at all. Like my astute wife asked one of her high school teachers one day: “Is it possible for your mind to be so open that your brains fall out?” I think so.

But it can also be a bad thing to have a permanently fixed mental map of everything, because that means that you’ve quit learning. I really can’t imagine how that can be a good thing. I hope I’m still learning, still curious, even when my hair is all white.

Maybe the important things get settled first, then the details change over time. Every now and then you have to renovate something structural in your mind, but for the most part you keep the same foundations. Never mind the fact that it’s out of fashion these days to speak of philosophical or theological “foundations.” Metaphors break down at some point or another, but I think this one still has its merits.

What I’m trying to say is that we should always be people in progress. We should never decide that we’ve arrived and that we have nothing important left to learn. I mean that for just about every area of life. But in particular I’m thinking about my spiritual life and the life of my church.

I think we should always allow ourselves permission to not have it all figured out. I think that we must experiment… try new things out once in a while. Maybe even “play” with things a little bit.

Little children learn by play. They learn by discovery, sometimes even unstructured exploration. They’re not supposed to already know “the right way” to do everything. So they play at it for a while and try out different things. Toys, playgrounds, dress-up clothes… really everything becomes a playground for someone who’s still learning what things are and how they work.

I think that’s the way we are with spiritual things. Sure, some things are steady constants. We already know we need fellowship with each other, and communion with God, and faith, etc. But the way we work these things out is filled with potential for discovery. Let’s never fall into the trap of thinking we’ve got it all figured out. Let’s never become hardened in our own traditions, even while maintaining those things that we know bring life and reflect His nature.

And please allow me the freedom to not have all the answers, either. I tend to blog my thoughts on things that matter to me, and often I speak in answers as much as in questions (Who wants to read a blog full of nothing but unanswered questions?). But I can’t promise that I’ll always write that way. I’m discovering that I’ve still got plenty of loose ends in my own mind about some things.

What kind of things? Alright, I’ll list the biggest one for now:

What is the church’s role in the world?

I think I know what Paul thought about that. And for now it’s still what I think about it. But I find myself needing to ask if there were questions that Paul didn’t answer because his circumstances didn’t require him to ask them. Like how does the Church function within a democracy? Or how do you plant a church in an area already saturated with Christian culture and symbols? That’s just a sample. We’re gonna have to discover some things for ourselves using what we already know as our guide.

So forgive me if I sound contradictory for a while. I’m a work in progress.