Wednesday, May 25, 2005

I Am

Well yesterday I had a few things I really wanted to write down but I was too tired and I figured I could remember them until I had a chance to record them. Unfortunately I think I figured wrong.

Ah yes, I remember. Well one of them was a concept that I heard from Barbara De Angelis (warning: links to a very fufu page) when I dropped into one of her seminars last week. Paraphrased, it is:

If I don't allow people to know the real me, then any love they give me is counterfeit and I will therefore never really experience it nor be truly filled by it.

Which means, if in fact I am portraying a certain image, no matter how much people love, respect, and care about me, I may not truly be available to receive it, and it would be my own responsibility to change that. Now, this isn't terribly revolutionary — I'm sure if I thought about this I could have come up with a similar perspective — I just have never really heard it phrased in a way that really made me want to examine the contrast between who I am and who people think I am.

That seminar, by the way, was pretty amazing, despite the fact that the majority of attendees were old, white women. When I walked up to the ticket booth the lady asked me, "Can I help you?" as if it wasn't already obvious that I was going to buy a ticket. She seemed pretty surprised that I was there, I guess. Anyway, I was most impressed with the Question and Answer time she had after her speech — she seemed remarkably perceptive in diagnosing relational issues in a very short amount of time. Throughout the seminar I was also impressed with this feeling of giving, empowering, and grace that she seemed to give off. Good stuff.

At any rate I left with the distinct desire to focus much more seriously on figuring out who I really am, what I really need and how I'm going to get it.

The other thought I have been mulling over now and then relates again to Christianity and evolution. I have been considering how evolution has really served to shape and perhaps even correct my concept of Christianity.

Consider our typical American Christian concept of God. If you start young enough, many of our ideas resemble an old man who wants people to do good and not bad. This is a useful illustration when we are too young to understand much else, but most adults are at a point where this preliminary characterization is simply not enough.

Another concept of God that I think is pretty popular in our culture is that of being chosen by God, or somehow special in His eyes. This is an idea I have really given a lot of thought to before (wow, almost a year ago!). In my mind, I cannot reconcile the idea that God loves all people equally and yet at the same time considers me (or anyone else, for that matter, besides Jesus) special or chosen. Either you love all those around you equally, or there are some you love more than others. I don't think it can be both. It makes sense that we would try to fit God's idea of love into the mold of our reality of humanistic love — after all, no human being can honestly say they love all mankind equally.

That conflict troubled me for a long time, and so I find myself revising my understanding of God and His love. It is not something that fits our human understanding of love, it must be bigger than that. Strangely enough, this bigger concept of love feels to people (myself included) to be a colder, less romantic kind of love — that God loves all people equally and wishes for all to be saved. And it that sense, I think it seems to resemble evolution (or maybe, natural selection).

Well I've written about as much as I coherently can for be continued.

Wednesday, May 4, 2005

You-Reek-a (Eureka)

Zak and Mark and I were hanging out after our Men's buildup tonight and it really got me thinking. In fact, I really think I've hit upon something. I guess it's not really something that revolutionary when it comes down to it, but I think that the clarity with which I see it now is somehow different. Anyway here goes...

It has been said that each congregation has a "personality," and by that I take it to mean that each one has its strengths and weaknesses. There is nothing inherently wrong with that just as there is nothing inherently wrong with people having personalities; nevertheless, I believe it is useful to explore a certain personality in order to specifically accentuate those strengths and illuminate those weaknesses with the intent of growing in them.

Now, the West region has many strengths: generosity monetarily, intellect, talent, vision, and organization come to mind. There is however one particularly glaring weakness — namely, love. It is my opinion that this weakness that is the major obstacle to our growth at this point.

Of course, love is such a broad term which has several manifestations, and this is not to say that the West Region lacks any love whatsoever. I suppose the specific type of love, if there is such a thing, that I find lacking could be described as warmth or heart or even hospitality. Perhaps even the physical expression is all that is lacking — affection, then.

How many times have you seen real affectionate love and appreciation in a congregational setting? Effusive, lavishing, heart-felt and humble — gratitude, acknowledgment, praise. It stirs in my heart just describing it. I remember Russ Ewell in San Francisco showing his sincere appreciation of those serving for the worship service; he was encouraged how, without prompting, someone cared enough to come early that Sunday to organize Christmas carols in the foyer, so that people walking in would feel just a little more special when they came in. I remember Ismael Rodriguez praising me profusely for my work on the "Celebration of the Soul" service (most of which was possible because of his own inspiration). And I remember James Counts always remarking his amazement at my varied abilities.

As a child I would spend time with my dad on certain weekends, since my parents were divorced. I remember the day Dad dropped me off at home without kissing me goodbye. I don't recall specifically what we did that day, but I do remember leaving realizing, okay, things have changed. I remember feeling a subtle sense of loss as I got out of the car.

It is so much easier to laugh things off, to quip with a snide remark, to brandish our quick wits, than it is to show deep affection. I am much more likely to spar back and forth for hours with the guys than work on deepening my expression of love for them. It's so much safer, so much more culturally accepted. I will never run the risk of letting people know I need them or their love so long as I have my shield of humor around me.

This is probably not news to anyone. What is remarkable to me, I think, is that we haven't done anything deliberate about it for as long as I can remember.

When people contemplate leaving the West Region, do their hearts ache? Do they feel pangs of anguish as the memories of the tears of pain and joy flood their minds? Do they agonize about their decision, weigh other options, pray for miracle opportunities to stay to open up? If not, why not?

In thinking about these things with regards to myself, I realize that there is a certain wall where affection simply stops. I think about all the words I've used to describe this kind of love and what really gnaws at me is the fact that those words are what I think I can be. When I am filled up, when I feel most loved or empowered, that is when I feel the most myself, and that is when I wish there were more people with which I could share love. More typically though, I find myself scraping by, barely meting out a half-polite word to my roommates because I'm so drained and tired of dealing with the indignities of my daily life.

Tuesday, May 3, 2005

Steve Shoff's "Meaningful Service Initiative"

For Steve's leaders' meeting ("E-quip") he had us fill out a service initiative statement. Here's what I put together after some short thought.

What? (overall idea/vision):

To bring each member of my group to another level of maturity and
connectedness with each other and the rest of the fellowship; to
empower each of them to clarify their own needs and what it will take
to meet them; to empower each of them to pursue their own individual
or collective projects with community, workplace, or church

Why? (reason/purpose/meaning):

We haven't spent enough time cultivating people and their gifts, to
where each person knows him- or herself deeply and knows what he or
she can offer. As a result we have many who do not know what they
really want and feel instead like they are wandering without hope or

Who? (people involved/friends/team):

My "Changes That Heal" discipleship/support group. I also need to
develop relationships with people that will meet my needs more
directly; specifically, strong-charactered men that I respect.

What for? (goals/objectives/aims):

An overall more healthy west region, and more specifically, singles ministry.


I'm not exactly sure how I feel about it. I mean, partly I just put something in order to fill in the blanks. During the meeting itself we worked on a "Credo Memo" — an exercise described in the book The Leadership Challenge. The task is as follows: assume you are on a paid sabbatical from your job or group for six months and will have no contact at all during this time. What kind of memo would you leave them with? We worked on it for about ten minutes; I spent the first half of it finishing my Pat & Oscar's BBQ chicken and thinking what to write and then the last quarter of it cleaning off my hands. Unfortunately I lost the paper after the meeting. I'm pretty sure I put something like this though:

Credo Memo

Help people be the best that they can be by: letting them be themselves, cultivating their strengths, realizing their weaknesses, celebrating their victories and mourning their losses. Love several different forms, at several different times, in many different ways.


As I wrote that I kept thinking, the more I write, the easier it is to get too bogged down into details and to place too much emphasis on something, to the neglect of something else. It seems that I am limited to the overly broad term "love" to express my thoughts. I start to appreciate how supremely difficult it would be to write something like the bible, for this reason. I wonder if that is why the book of John can seem so "lofty" sometimes, as if John purposely kept things very conceptual. To those who would criticize the bible for not spelling things out more explicitly — I imagine it is pretty difficult to write something useful enough that the population that benefits from it transcends gender, age, culture, and even historical time period.