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In spite of April Fool’s day, here’s a direct question, free of malice:

As we seek to understand the things, people and places that are sapping the life from us, have we looked in the mirror?

What if life and other people aren’t our only, or even or most significant, sources of energy loss?

What if we’re being drained by (gulp) ourselves?

Could struggling against our limitations, trying to live up to unrealistic or unclear expectations or unfinished business that is lurking under the surface be draining us?

If you’ve found yourself regularly or deeply tired, frustrated or empty lately- it’s probably worth some consideration.

Our faith community explored this at length last Sunday.  You can find the conversation HERE.

There’s something that has been bothering me for a while now, but I hadn’t been able to find the words for it.

Guess I finally did.

What are your names for those who don’t see God and the Bible like you do?

Liberal?

Conservative?

Legalistic?

Heretical?

False Teachers?

Un-biblical?

Deceived?

Deceivers?

Have you ever stopped to think that someone out there would probably use those same words to describe you and your theology and praxis?

Unless we reside on the cliff’s edge at the far end of a theological perspective, there’s someone who thinks that YOU & I are liberal, or legalistic, or teaching false doctrine or some other synonym for “they clearly don’t get it”.

Feels kind of crappy, doesn’t it?

We do realize that there are multiple opinions on and interpretations of many things in the Bible, right?  That each of us disagrees with other people who have studied the Scriptures, love God and serve Him as much or more than we do, right?  That one of us- and it may well be us- is probably wrong?

So why do Jesus’ followers (among whom I count myself) tend to act like their views are clearly correct and everyone else must be a little less enlightened?

If God was grading your theology, do you honestly think your paper would come back without any red ink?

Don’t we remember that our own understanding of God and the Bible has changed over the years?  And if it hasn’t, are we engaging them with open, humble, curious hearts?

I’m not saying we all have to have the same opinions or shouldn’t share our views.

But couldn’t we do it with a bit more love, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control?  (Unless I’ve totally misread it, those ARE fruits of God’s Spirit in us, right?)

Can’t we humbly express our current understanding, if we so feel led, without the name calling that makes us feel (falsely) superior to those we may currently disagree with?

May it be so Lord.  And please start with me.

“How are you doing?”

I end up talking to a fair number of people every week and ask this question frequently.

Not too long ago, the most common reply I heard was some version of “fine”.

Today, that’s definitely not the case.

Now, more often than not, people tell me they are “tired, busy, worn down, depleted, overwhelmed, burned out, exhausted” or some other synonymous phrase.

Can you relate?  I can.  It takes energy to live.  And at times we all seem to be running a little low.

But are we meant to live in a regular state of depletion?  Can we change this?  Learn to identify the things that are sucking the life out of us and respond creatively?

That’s what our faith community is wrestling with right now.  Last Sunday we began this conversation by exploring the drains that seem to be a part of everyday life.

So, if you find yourself worn down by busyness, weighed down by obligations & demands,  or sapped by routine- feel free to listen in HERE.

I’ll confess.

I see myself as an everyguy.

The beauty in this is that it can help keep me grounded and humble.

The potential darkside is that I can assume that everyone is actually a lot like me.

Likes what I like.

Thinks what I think.

Does what I do.

And wouldn’t the world and our relationships be better if that was the case?

Wouldn’t you get along better with the person in the next cubicle, or the neighbor next door, or the person sitting next to you at church if you were more alike?

I don’t think so.

While there’s upside to sharing things in common, there’s also incredible benefit and potential harmony to be found in diversity.

Or to put it this way- when it comes to relationships, identical is not ideal.

That’s the stuff we explored in Week 5 of our U+I=WE series.

You can listen in HERE if you are interested.

Our church community is walking through a series of learning conversations on relationships.

Not just dating relationships- or married relationships- but human relationships.

We’re simply trying to understand how we can get along better with other people.

And we began with a conversation that I think every teacher should have w/their students BEFORE they dive into a complex topic complete w/equations and theorums.

Intrigued?  Listen in HERE.

Got back to my car after lunch today only to find that the birds had left me this present:

I’m not sure exactly what they are trying to tell me, but here are a few of the possibilities I’ve worked out so far:

  • “You’re parked in our space.  Don’t let it happen again.”
  • “Your teaching this morning needed some more work.”
  • “Happy New Year!  Now go wash your car.”
  • “We think we got food poisoning at the Mongolian Grill next door.”

Let me just say for the record that I am sorry to the large flock of birds with loose bowels and great aim.

Whatever I did won’t happen again.

dessertCould engaging with God be as simple as enjoying dessert?

You bet.

Last Sunday our church community explored the power of food to help us connect with our Creator.

Want to know more?  Listen in HERE.

fall-leavesOut to stretch my legs on a late October day

Unexpected warmth summons shorts from their brief hibernation in the bottom drawer

My body creaks and fusses at what I’ve asked it to do

So I distract myself with the trees

 

These giants that guard our streets and yards have been transforming

Shifting subtly like chameleons captured in time lapse HD

Weeks ago they towered as a mass of green

Today they are a canvas replete with hues

As if the Artist discovered some forgotten tubes of color on the top shelf

And couldn’t wait to use them all

 

Mine is not the only movement happening in this moment

The leaves are traveling too

As I walk forward, they journey down

Leaping from their lofty perches toward the warm, damp ground

Here the will complete their life cycle

Like salmon coming home to spawn and die

They will be raked, blown, bagged and mulched

Maybe even frolicked in

If they are fortunate enough to land in the right yard

 

But not yet

For now they float and shimmy through the air

Carried by the gentle breeze

Hovering around me

 

I pluck one of the autumnal sojourners from the air

Anxious for a closer look

My specimen is a rich scarlet

Smartly shaded with gold and bronze

Splattered with stipples of the green that comprised its entire wardrobe just days ago

The more I stare, the more I am awed

How could so much beauty be compressed into a solitary- seemingly insignificant- leaf???

 

Disbelieving, I examine another

And a third

A fourth

And a fifth

And draw the same conclusion

 

Each

Is

Magnificent

 

Instinctively my head snaps upright to scan my surroundings

I see not only the millions of leafy, micro canvases

Still waiting for their chance to enter the gallery of our awareness

But I see the Artist who pours gallons of glory into every ounce of their Creation

And the God who can capture my attention and my heart

With just a single leaf

 

And I walk on

With a leaf in my hand

And wonder coursing through my soul

iStock_000000813699XSmallDIVORCE.

How do you feel when you hear that word?

To be completely honest, sometimes that particular combination of letters registers nothing more from me than a small sigh.

It’s not that I’m complacent, but that divorce is so commonplace.  Even the most conservative estimates figure that over 40% of all marriages end in the courthouse.

Other times though, the word “divorce” pulls a deep groan from my heart and mouth.

Especially when it involves people I know and care about.  Or if I’m granted a closer look into the reasons behind, feelings about and effects of the relational dissolution.

Not too long ago a friend from another church I used to be a part of asked me if I had heard the news about 4 or 5 different couples from that community.  “No.  What?”, I replied tentatively.  The one word response was somber: “Divorce”.

I felt like someone had knocked the air out of me.  I thought about those folks, the love I’d seen them display for each other, and about how life had irrevocably changed for them, their families and friends.  I found myself shaking my head even though the person on the other end of the phone couldn’t see my physical response.

Some months back another old friend stayed with us for a night on his way through town.  Nearly a decade ago I stood by his side as his best man and listened in as he promised to devote himself to his bride as long as God gave him life.

Now ten years later I sat next to him on my couch and listened as he spoke about his deep longing to abandon his wife and start a new life.  He had convinced himself that if he could only end his marriage then everything would get better.

His sadness was palpable. It stained his voice, hung on his face and weighed on his carriage causing him to slump deeper and deeper into the cushions of my couch.

What felt much less solid was his perception of divorce as a panacea.  Although I wasn’t inside his head and heart, it seemed to me that he was dramatically underestimating the damage and mourning that would come from walking away from his marriage.

Just so you know, my friend knows what the Bible has to say about divorce as well or better than I do.

However, he, and lots of folks who find themselves in similar situations often need more than a few scriptures tossed their way.  They need to hear from others who have walked that path and found out that what God says about divorce is true.  Specifically- that it is less than what He wants for us and is to be used as a last resort because it has long lasting, deep running effects.  Yes, God stays by us through divorce, and forgives and heals us as needed.  But that doesn’t mean that leaving a marriage will be easy or enjoyable.

For the next week I found myself wishing for someone who could share their own story of divorce with my friend.  To warn him that abandoning his wife wouldn’t fix his life- and would likely increase his pain and dissatisfaction more than he bargained for.

In a previous church community I would have sent him directly to Steve and Sharon.  They are a married couple who both love God deeply and have the kind of wisdom that only comes from living life for a good long while.  They had also each gone through a tough divorce, married later in life and created a blended family.  They are exactly the kind of couple people point to as if to say, “Go ahead and get divorced.  God will make you be happier in the end like Steve & Sharon.”

But if you sat down with them, you’d quickly hear a different message.  They’d be up front with you that the healing takes a long time and that while divorce may get you out of a marriage, it doesn’t fix all of the dysfunction that you brought to the relationship.  Steve and Sharon would tell you about the guilt you’ll feel, the doubts that will nag you and the regret that will build as you come to wish you wouldn’t have hurt your spouse and all the others who suffered collateral damage when the relationship ended.

As you can tell, I have the utmost respect for Steve and Sharon. But my friend doesn’t know them.  Nor does he live anywhere near them.  So I longed for another voice.

And then I found one.

I’ll explain more in the next post.

Some days I like nothing better than holing up in my office so I can think, create and excise items from my to-do list.

Other times I feel profoundly grateful to sit across from another person and hear their story.

Today I had a couple of chances to do the latter.  Both times I heard my friends share openly and honestly about their mistakes, struggles, questions and faith.

I was impressed, humbled and honored to be a part of the conversations.

Not a bad day.