Hearing, Seeing and Speaking

101712_2206_DreamDiscov1.pngOutsiders bring fresh perspective and new insights into our world. Inviting someone in to hear and see our lives, to reflect prayerfully and then to speak faithfully, this is a great challenge and opportunity. We risk hearing uncomfortable truths with the hope and expectation that we will be renewed and transformed as a result. The Kingdom of God is found where our internal needs and resources intersect with those of the community around us.

TBSP LOGOThe Missional Church finds its fullest expression at this intersection. The next week will be spent pouring over data, stories and collections of interviews as we prepare a Comprehensive Report. In June The Best Start Project began working with our first congregation. This is a congregation with great strengths and competencies already on board. They have a strong history over their 20 years, and are positioned now to be transformed and grow into the mature Body of Christ that they are called to be.

This work begins with the congregation centering itself in prayer and bible study. On this foundation it builds by bringing together information gathered from Market Research, customized Congregational and Community Surveys, Listening Conversations, Leadership Style Assessments, Ethnographic Interviewing, and Congregational Analysis. The Comprehensive report synthesizes all of this information into a digestible format with the addition of Observations and Opportunities. The congregation then has a path forward and the increased capacity to use these tools for continued renewal and transformation.

Expanding the dream for The Grove Dallas

The Grove, Dallas is a new kind of social space, dedicated to promoting human flourishing through entrepreneurial innovation and collaboration in the heart of the city. Because of the immense need and opportunity, we are expanding, and we are inviting you to join with us. Click on the image below to learn more about the Grove Expansion campaign. The Grove Expansion Campaign

I’d love to share more with you about The Grove, and what socially conscious coworking can do to enhance your work and remake your community.

Exploring the bounds of truth

May God give us strength…

“There is no class of people upon earth who can less afford to let the development of truth run ahead of them than you. You cannot wrap yourselves in professional mystery…you cannot go back and become apostles of the dead past, driveling after ceremonies, and letting the world do the thinking and studying. There must be a new spirit infused into the ministry….We must be more industrious in investigation, more honest in dedication, and more willing to take the truth in its new fullness.” Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, Yale, 1871. (Niebuhr, Williams, Ahlstrom 1980, 257-8)

Interesting how the arguments of our own day often mirror those of earlier ages – in this case the period between 1860 and 1900. This debate is nothing new. One could argue that a similar struggle existed between the Sadducees and Pharisees who believed that the cannon of truth was tightly proscribed (in the case of the Sadducees) and more open to continuing revelation (in the case of the Pharisees). Of course, even the Pharisees wanted to place a limit on that revelation that found Jesus’ own teachings distinctly on the outside.

The challenge becomes, as it has always been, how to hold to and honor truths of the past while also remaining open to new and continually unfolding insights and receptions of revelation from beyond human intellect and creativity. And for clergy and congregational leaders, how to stand in the midst of that tension, with it also existing internally in the heart and mind of the individual leader, and facilitate a process of dialogue, mutual appreciation and growth in maturity toward wholeness. May God give us strength.

 

How do you see yourself?

Certainly our opinion of our physical appearance matters. Messages from family and friends mix together with subtle and hugely overt valuations based upon body type and various standards of beauty. We then internalize and process these messages and draw conclusions about ourselves which impact how we move through the world. Watch this video, and then let’s continue the conversation…

Clearly these women were impacted by the stark difference between how they described themselves and how complete strangers, after only a brief meeting, described them. Seemingly without exception the descriptions of others were softer, radiating greater openness to others and peace with self. What a gift this became for participants.

I wonder how else this principle might be applied. I wonder if we similarly judge more harshly our personality quirks and foibles. What if we had a way to receive warm affirmations from others of what they see and appreciate in us, holding that alongside our own views, and allowing them to inform one another? the exercise in the video included an interpreter, someone who listened to both descriptions and then sketched what was heard.

This exercise can be used in coaching, spiritual direction and counseling, where an individual (it also works with groups) is invited to self-describe. Then outside observers are asked to give a separate description without any collaboration or comparison. The coach then is in the position of reflecting back what was heard in both descriptions, literally sketching out the images that have been offered, and then exploring the similarities and differences and walking with the client toward new insight into themselves, greater appreciation and love for self, and thus more compassion toward self and freedom and peace in life.

Organizations (businesses, non-profits, churches) can benefit from a similar exercise.

Less formally, friends could do this for one another. In the simplest terms, at church camp we frequently have kids give one another “warm fuzzies” – brief notes of affirmation – “What I see and appreciate about you is…” These are incredibly powerful for many, to the degree that friends of mine have held on to theirs for 35 years and longer.

  • How might you benefit from a neutral set of eyes on your life, highlighting beauty you are unable or unwilling to see?
  • When will you be ready to invite someone to facilitate this new growth for you?

Jeremiah 29 (NKGCV)

(The following is my own modified translation from Jeremiah 29, following closely the NRSV. NKGCV => New Ken G Crawford Version)

This text, I believe, is both central to our understanding of God’s call upon the church, and terribly misunderstood by congregations and especially when applied to individual lives. I invite you to read the text, and then I’ll explain why I think this is true.

4 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. 8 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let the prophets and the diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, 9 for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, says the Lord. 10 For thus says the Lord: Only when Babylon’s seventy years are completed will I visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.

11 For surely I know the dreams I dream for you, says the Lord,
dreams for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.

12 Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, 14 I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

Again, v 11 “For surely I know the dreams I dream for you, says the Lord,dreams for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” Those familiar with this passage typically know it with the word “plans” where I have translated “dreams.” The Hebrew is “Machashabah”  (thought, device, plan, purpose,invention) from “Chashab” which can mean “to plan” but also means imagine, consider, think upon, recon, and esteem. “Plan” is an unfortunate and limiting translation because of it’s concrete and specific connotations in our modern culture. We think of building plans, schematics, of a plan for a trip or event, that has every detail clarified and managed. By implication, then, this would suggest that God’s intentions toward us are similarly concrete, specific and managed town to the last detail. Two problems with this, biblically speaking: 1) The text is about “The People of God”, not about an individual or individuals; and 2) the scripture simply does not support the notion that God has every detail thought out in advance. If that were true, then our task would be to discern and follow every micro step in our journey. At any point in time there would be one and only one right and perfect place and way to be in the world, everything else would put us outside of God’s perfect will and plan for us.

Certainly there are times when the Spirit does seem to have a concrete and specific intention in mind for us, individually and collectively. Those moments appear in scripture as well – and they are the exponential exception, not the rule. Take the story of David, for example. We have dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of days accounted for in his life. This leaves the vast majority of days unaccounted for. This does not mean God was absent (“Where can I flee from your presence?” Ps 139:7) but rather that God’s presence is more like the wind that blows, as Jesus suggests (John 3:8). Some will counter with “All our steps are ordered by the Lord” (Prov 20:24). I would submit that we hear Proverbs in light of Psalms “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a Light to my path” (Ps 119:105) and understand that God’s Word and Spirit are leading and guiding us in the way of righteousness, but not micromanaging our choices along that way. Each day may present us with multiple good and right options for living our lives. Righteousness comes in fidelity to God’s spirit i the choosing, and in our commitment to the choices we have made, recognizing that each “Yes” also brings multiple “No”s. My yes to my wife means my no to that kind of intimacy with all other people. My yes to my children means my no to pursuing my own interests (and even what call I think God may have placed on my life) at their expense.

What of these dream then? How and when do they come? The context gives us those answers. God says, “Bloom where you are planted. Bless those around you, even if you see them as your enemies. For your blessing hangs directly on your willingness and actions to bless others.” So, while I am waiting for God’s dream to be revealed and fulfilled in my own life, I am to be faithful to the call of this larger context from Jeremiah 29. I am to to as Micah 6:8 direccts “Do justice together with God. Love mercy together with God. Walk humbly together with God. This is the whole of what God requires of you.” (NKGCV)