Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Magnificent Neighborhood

Recently, I’ve been teaching a good deal based on a realization I had a few months ago: it really doesn’t matter if you pray, meditate, worship, serve, spend time reading your Bible, etc., etc., etc., if you don’t have a personal, intimate, dependent relationship with and on Jesus Christ. I truly believe that the essence of our faith is relationship with God—after all, He came to be with us personally, and when He went back to His Father, He promised us an “Advocate” or “Helper” (John 14:16-18) who would dwell “within” us. The individual, incarnate connection and the spiritual indwelling speak volumes about the relationship that God designed and seeks for us.

It’s true that a good portion of the evangelical church, and a significant part of Christendom for that matter, teach that we are to have a “personal relationship with Jesus,” and that we need to “invite him into our heart…” clearly invitations to a personal and intimate connection. We’re taught that there are many ways to foster this relationship: prayer, meditation, Scripture reading… but wait, Kit… didn’t you imply at the beginning that these things are of no value without a relationship already in place? So how can they BUILD that relationship… seems like you have a “chicken-egg” problem here! Let me clarify… in 2008, (August 18 to be specific) I wrote about the differences between “knowing and knowing [about].” The conclusion drawn was that in order to truly know someone (as opposed to merely knowing about them), requires some measure of experience with the individual… thus, if one’s heart is not open to Christ’s ministering, guidance, and loving direction in one’s life, and one is not open to moving in accord with these, then experience is limited, and acquaintance, rather than genuine, personal, intimate “knowing,” is the result. The point then is that reading, praying, serving, are important… but not sufficient… we MUST encounter the personal, intimate, living Christ in our lives and allow Him to impact us regularly and powerfully. In fact, we must come not only to expect His guidance, His direction, His impact, we must rely on it to sustain us… thus dependence.

In this personal, intimate, dependent relationship, our times of communion with the Holy Spirit in prayer and meditation, our time seeking to increase the depth of our knowledge of Christ, his nature and character, through the Word He gives us, our times of expressing gratitude, awe, and wonder as we worship our Creator, will all establish and reinforce that very relationship, and enable us to experience Him and His love and deepen our relationship in the context of the manifest experience of His daily, hourly, even minute-by-minute impact on us in our obedience. And to KNOW him more fully.

Lastly, it’s essential to recognize that God gave us each other, and that His Spirit is present in each of us. (More on that soon.) We must recognize that our community is intended to reflect and magnify God’s presence one to another… in a relationship that reflects the way God loves us… and thereby know him better. What a great… no… what a magnificent neighborhood in which to dwell.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Story

I know that it’s been WAY too long since I’ve written, and that likely speaks to a lack of intention and discipline. Not a happy declaration, but candid, and honest. There has been a significant amount of busyness in my life over the last six months, and I think I’ve been wallowing in it, using it as an excuse for accomplishing little… oh, well sure, I’ve been busy at work, and busy at church, and busy at home, and busy… well… busy, but the lack of focus has netted very little of perhaps, lasting consequence.

On the bright side, I believe I’ve just completed one of the most powerful, and therefore impactful books it’s been my privilege to read: Don Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. This book is a consequence of an effort underway to make a motion picture about Blue Like Jazz, which was the precipitating element in Miller’s study of story. The book’s subtitle, “What I Learned While Editing My Life,” speaks of what happened when the formal principles of story, in narrative, books, and more significantly in screenplay, are applied to life… how thinking about and striving for a better story as we live makes for a better life. Don Miller shares better than two-hundred fifty pages about story, characters, (and character!), and positive and negative turns, and inciting incidents, and… and how to cast our lives as story and perhaps craft them more (much more) intentionally. When I teach about planning, one of my favorite expressions is, “There are three kinds of people: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened.” The obvious choice is the first, but I confess, it’s often all too easy for me to fall into category two… you see, I was busy, and all this stuff just kind of happened…

I read another book recently, about Presence Centered Youth Ministry by Mike King. Good reading if you have teaching or pastoring, or encouraging, or coaching students. In Chapter 11, "Rule of Life," Mike talks about a tool/principle espoused by Benedict of Nursia who lived in sixth century Italy – a rule of life developed to govern monastic communities in Christian formation, but left room for individual differences that were not detrimental to the whole. When I read the passage about “rule of life,” I really felt inspired to develop my own. (What an amazing coincidence that I should encounter these two books sequentially and proximally!) I did so, and crafted it with the help of a trusted brother. But… I’ve been busy… and not intentional… and not significantly productive.

I’ve not read Don Miller in a while, and I’ve really missed him. He’s brilliant (in a very humble and humorous, subtle, and insightful way) and I really enjoy him. With wit and wisdom, and some amazing characters (who exemplify solid character… sterling character, even), Don’s convinced me I can do a much better job with story… my story. What about yours? Read Don’s book.

Friday, January 16, 2009

On Finding the Music

For better than a year, I've been referencing "the music" in my Facebook status. Any who know me well know that this is a reference to "the music" which surrounds us from a motion picture called August Rush (2007). [Yes, the movie IS predictable, and requires an almost superhuman "suspension of disbelief," but I believe the story... and the message outweigh the drawbacks.] At the conclusion of the movie, the title character, in a voice-over enjoins... "The music is all around us. All you have to do... is listen." I take August's surrounding, encompassing music as a metaphor for the love that our Creator has for us, and that is present in everything around us; a testament to his eternal affection and abiding love... if we would but just "listen."

My wife forwarded this little article to me, suggesting, quite rightly, that I might find it interesting.

http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/news.php?id=28442

I pass it along for you, as I beleive it reinforces the message that all we have to do, is listen...
May you find His peace.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Possibilities - Revisited!

Last year (June 11, 2007 to be specific) I posted an introduction to Benjamin Zander. Ben is a symphony conductor, teacher, and leader of the finest order. This past weekend, thanks to a circuitous set of circumstances (initiated by no less than the unwitting Christopher Schoppet), I ran across a presentation Ben Zander made last February at the “TED” Conference.

A little about the conference may be informative. According to their web site, “TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader. The annual conference [held in Monterey, California each February] now brings together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes).

Chris had found a talk about current education and creativity, and posted the link on his Blog. Curious, I visited the site (a TED page), and, over on the side, noticed a link to a talk by Ben Zander. I “dropped everything,” and went immediately to Ben’s talk, where I remained, enthralled, for the next 20 minutes or so. I hope you are too!

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/benjamin_zander_on_music_and_passion.html

(Oh, by the way, I've officialy designated Benjamin Zander as my hero. A position NOT accorded lightly!)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Knowing? No... Knowing!


Recently in conversation, Nathan Reginato complained that foreign languages had really messed up English, because, thanks to all these outside influences, the rules are very inconsistent, and it's difficult to keep things straight. And he IS right. But another result of all the outside influences is that English has one of the richest vocabularies of any language on the planet, offering the ability to express fine shades of nuance in many areas to a much greater extent than in other languages (and no, don't come at me with "how many words are there for "snow" in Eskimo...).

Unfortunately, there are also cases where English employs words that do not allow for serious differentiation between concepts, and sometimes this inconsistency has greater semantic implications, causing even bigger problems than the inconsistent rules mentioned above. As an example, the homonym, "bank." Now, no one really has much difficulty in differentiating the meanings of this word... we don't expect to deposit money on a river bank, nor do we really expect to find water when we make a "bank shot" when playing pool... huh. But there's a problem we have when exploring thoughts, caused by another, pernicious homonym... the word "know."

Someone will say, "I know Sally." This usually means that that person is acquainted with someone named Sally, that they have at least met her, and depending on their experience with her, may know her likes and dislikes, foibles, habits, and so on. Likewise, someone may say "I know Algebra." This means that they have studied the subject, and even developed proficiency... but no one would say that they were "proficient in Sally..." So we're faced with this 'knowledge dichotomy,' what are we really saying when we say that we know something or someone? They're really not the same thing. In fact, I'd like to propose that knowing someONE is often a richer, more fulfilling experience.

Experience seems to be key... as an example...

You've just boarded a transcontinental flight to go and visit Sally (remember Sally?), your cousin in Bangor Maine. The friendly airplane Captain comes on and announces: "Hello, and welcome aboard Air Chance Flight 252 to Bangor Maine this morning. Say, before we get going, I just want to tell you a little about myself... I graduated from MIT with a triple major in Aeronautical Engineering, Meteorology, and Systems Management, oh, I was Phi Beta Kappa and Summa cum Laude. I have read not only all the flight manuals for this aircraft, but the maintenance manuals as well... not only how to fly it, but I imagine I could take it apart and reassemble it! Also, I've spent the last two weeks, faithfully using Microsoft Flight Simulator to develop a good feel for the plane... Of course, I've never actually flown a real aircraft before... this is my first flight ever! Oh... and buckle up!"

Anybody want off? You see, there's knowing, and then there's knowing. I'm afraid that all too often we get "head knowledge" and don't follow it up, or "flesh it out" with experience.

I think this is often the case with the church, and, sadly with Jesus. We study, and discuss, and pontificate, and dissect, and cogitate, and expound, but we miss actually knowing, knowing intimately, our Lord and Savior, because we miss EXPERIENCING Him.

It's worth some time to consider how we go about really getting to know someone, how we develop close friendships, and how we learn to knit our lives with those we truly love and care about. Certainly study of the Scripture and consideration of theological disciplines is key, but we really need to take a very pragmatic, personal approach to "knowing" Jesus. And we need to do it now.