What happened to the disciplines, pt. 3

Last month we closed out by saying, Jesus best exemplafied THE human life, a life that flows out of the heart of God’s love, mercy, righteousness, holiness, and justice.  We referenced, Philippians 2:5-8 as a way to show what this life looked like.  We saw, through this text, that God’s idea of a humanity that images him to the world around us, through the life of Jesus, was a humanity lived out in:

Allow me to dive into each of these functions personified in the work and person of Jesus, if for nothing else, for the sake of definition, and then we will return to the original purpose of this blog series:

  • Service by means of emptying – The idea of emptying found in Philippians 2:5-8 is not so much the idea of “emptying of” only, but rather the idea of being “emptied of in order to be emptied into” – or emptying of and out of and from one set of properties into another.  It’s the same idea found in 2 Corinthians 2:8-9, where Paul tells us that Jesus emptied himself of his richness and into poverty for the good of the other.  Hebrews 2:17 takes this so far as to insinuate that the mercy and empathy of God was brought to its depth and fullness because of Christ’s emptying into the other.  Then in Matthew 20:28, the evangelists will go as far as saying that this is not just one of the reasons Jesus came, but the reason.  We all want to be full of gratitude for the very fact that Jesus did this for us, but if we jump back up to our Philippians text, we see that the proof of our gratitude is shown as we “have this mind among” us… meaning, our gratitude for Christ’s service by means of emptying, should be shown in lives of service by means of emptying.   Here’s the deal, this sort of life seems daunting if not impossible, which is why I believe we can’t jump from being selfish demons to self-emptying saints in a moments notice, but rather we need practices in our lives that help shape us into this sort of person.
  • Incarnation, guided and informed by grace and truth…- Christ’s ontology among us was balanced, it did not weigh more to one side or the other, in fact it was informed and guided by two elements which seem to be in opposition to each other in our world. In the life of Christ, they not only complimented each other, they were weaved together so tightly that one could not exist without the other in his being and thus in his function as a human.  Three words that drive the depth of this home:
    • Full – which means to be permeated with, covered in every part, as if there was no room for anything else.  I think of my ruck sack that I recently packed for Haiti. I packed it so tight with clothes and books, there was no room for other substances within the bag, it was bursting at the seems with these two items there was no room for anything else – the person of Jesus, the servant Jesus (to use our Philippians text) was packed full of grace and truth – there was no room for selfish ambition, bigotry, lust, or any other disposition – and it was this grace and truth that caused him to weep over Jerusalem in compassion, caused him to drive out the money changers in the temple fueled by justice, drove him into times of solitude with his Father, and made him obedient to the point of death…he was full of it, and his person had no room for anything else that would shape his humanity into any sort of distortion of being the true human.
    • Truth – often times in our minds truth is a set of propositional facts, something that is one-dimensional, and can be memorized and regurgitated by almost anyone without much cost to us.  But Jesus’ truth cost him, it cost him his life, a truth that shaped his personhood, a truth that was the product, not of memorized facts, but a relationship with his Father, a dialogical truth, shaped in the fire of a love relationship between him, the Father, and the Spirit – truth as person, truth with texture, truth with depth, truth at a cost.  This is why Jesus will later tell us that truth is not a system of facts we must memorize, but truth is a person that we must engage, and this engagement will ultimately shape the truth we know, because of the truth that knows us at a soul level.
    • Grace – that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness, good-will, loving-kindness, favour – I’m not going to expound on this one, but at the end of the day, I don’t know about you, but I can tell you my existence toward others cannot be defined by this idea of grace – but it should be.  Again, this sort of life “packed-full” of grace and truth is not something we can just “do” we must be formed into it, we need disciplines that help us identify the other junk in our suit case that is taking up space that should only be reserved for grace and truth.
  • Obedience shaped by submission and suffering – suffering – it seems almost selfish that I have any sort of right to this word.  I’ve traveled the world, and I’ve seen suffering, I’ve touched it, smelled, and wept over it, but suffering like that I have never experienced.  Again, not to belittle the word, but being that I am a melancholy introvert I have wrestled with a suffering soul and mind, I have had a few times, not many, where true heart ache was my reality.  But I can not claim ownership of the word suffering like many of my friends across the world can – those who have suffered far reaching loss, war, extreme poverty, and oppression.  I have not had to suffer, as some of my other friends have, sexual, physical, or mental abuse.  I’ve not suffered the loss of a parent, spouse, child, or sibling – so I am, in no way, assuming I have the corner on understanding suffering.  All that said, scripture talks about suffering at many levels – it talks about a kind of suffering that Jesus experienced, due to his willingness to embrace the suffering of others through relationship and community which lead to an empathy that very few of us know.  Scripture talks about a kind of suffering that is the result of denying and killing your sinful will, sinful dispositions, and sinful desires that we feel are part of our very personhood – to rip these out of our hearts through obedience causes the soul to suffer, but like a phoenix, our person rises anew in a new way.  Jesus experienced both of these sufferings that resulted in his obedience, and Paul calls us to willfully enter this sort of suffering, which is very opposed to our western ways of overmedicating ourselves with entertainment, consumerism, and the like, in order to avoid suffering that is due to embracing the suffering of others (true empathy) and the denial of the will.  Again, this is why we need practices and disciplines, because I simply love my own will too much, and find comfort in ignoring or being ignorant of the plight of the other.

 Now back to the original summed up question that launched this blog series, “what sort of practices shape a Godward humanity?”  If we don’t have practices that form us, not unlike a lump of clay being formed into a beautiful vessel, we end up trying to force this sort of humanity on ourselves and end up at best in a state of burnout, rather than these being the natural outflowing of one who is fully and deeply enjoying Jesus.   So, what are these disciplines or practices?  I think they can be narrowed down to the following four categories:

  • Contemplative Practices (slow and focused)…
  • Communal Practice..
  • Environmental Practices…
  • Servant Practices…​

 but this for another blog…until next month

​for those following this blog… I am moving it!  Click HERE to go to the new blog site:

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Year End / Year Beginning

2012 was a good year for the Hansens.  Top three happenings of 2012 would have to be…

  • our move to East Austin.  This helped us:
    • re-centralize our lives – we now live closer to where we do life
    • become closer as a family – bottom line we live in a much smaller house and it forces more interaction, we needed this more than we knew.
    • live in a part of town that we love and have longed to live – most people know I have spent most of my time in Austin dreaming of leaving Austin, but since we have landed in the heart of this great city and have started doing life here, we now are fully aware of why people call this city great – Austin is our city! That’s not to say, one day we wouldn’t want to explore other options, but for now this is home!
  • ANCEast.  It is like embarking on a long awaited dream in the following avenues:
    • New Friends – We are meeting new friends with our very heart and love of the heart of this city. I love the small group of people who are calling ANCEast their home…I don’t just say that casually, I do love them…
    • The Evers – friends and co-pastor at ANCEast
    • With Jesus – we in NO way think we are advancing his kingdom – we can’t.  Nor do we think we are building a church, again, we can’t.  But Jesus loves the heart of Austin and the beautiful people that call it home, and we get to be part of this with Him, and because of that we are humbled and thankful

Writing and Blogging: I am going to spend more time writing, and writing on things that are more dear to my heart.  In fact the most viewed pieces I did in 2012 were A New Politics and Tolerance, Marriage, Hate and Sexuality and a series on community: Community Pt. 1, Community Pt. 2, Community Pt. 3, and Community Pt. 4.  Anyway, I plan on writing more on the subjects that I seem to have more readers around and that are important to me.

Reading: I love reading – absolutely love it.  But for the last several years my reading has been pretty homogeneous.  I’ve been challenged to change that.  In fact, I was challenged by a man, a professor that I have learned to love and respect about the types of books I read.  I’ll paraphrase what he said to me about this, “you need to quit reading these ‘church’ books, they’re not helping anyone.  In fact, it gives a weird unbiblical allusion that we can actually build the church…sure, I know, I know, we preach that we don’t build the church – but look at our structures, our processes, what we are willing to make a buck on, and what we are willing to publish time and time again – bottom line is, we believe we can build it.  But we can’t.  We were called to be missionaries and disciple makers – we need to be students of culture and history and the Bible.  Many of these books takes the place of the holy spirit in the lives of pastors and church planters – when God wants them listening to him, they are instead looking for the newest thing to copy.  I’m not saying you should never read a church book, just don’t waste your time on fads and flash-in-the-pan books, read the old or new good stuff, usually written by old guys…”  He said a lot more than that, but I’ll spare you it all, it was very convicting to me.  I want to broaden my horizons in reading.  So, my goal is to read books mainly in the following categories:

Fitness: We decided to push our fitness and conditioning to the  next level so we quit the gym.  After competing in the Tough Mudder  (I wrote a couple blogs about it: HERE and HERE) and we’ll be competing again in April to qualify for the WTM. Then last week I ran the GoRuck with Austin and Lamar (ironically on 12.21.12) it has only made me want to push my body harder and further.

We look forward to 2013 and all it holds for the Hansens, but we want to take is slow, live deeply in the now, and live deeply with our friends and family…. Here’s to 2013

Tough Mudder, 2012: A Lesson in Humility

After we finished Tough Mudder 2011, it took us no time to decide we were going to sign up for the 2012 Austin challenge as well.  This time we were going to do it different – we were going to go for time.  We were still going to run by the same motto – Start Together, Run Together, and Finish Together – but the rule was if you didn’t train,  you didn’t get to be on the team.  This was not about being harsh this was about community – the core of community is that everyone contributes to the common good and goal for the community, and for the  2012 Mudder, it was time as a team.

We had been through it once before, so now we knew what to expect and we knew how to train for it.  We knew how to strategize for the obstacles.  We knew to put some of the strongest members in the front and keep some of the strongest in the back.  On the down side, we all went in a year older, a little more injured, and beaten down due to being ill or being allergy stricken.  But all in all, we were physically better than we were last year.  Last year, our time was 4 hours and 30 minutes, not all of this can be attributed to physical difficulty, much of it was our late start time and backed up lines.  But the team as a whole moved a bit slower, needed more help, and didn’t even realize what fears they had to conquer.

This year was different – we were prepared.  Our start time was two hours earlier.  Just from the look of the team you could tell we were in better physical condition, minus the injuries – in other words, from training to hydration, there’s not much else we could have done differently – I know, you can always tweak your training, but for the most part we were spot on, we were stronger and we were leaner.  When you step back and look at life – this is the type of person you want to be in the community you are in.  You want to be the person who prepares properly, who contributes sufficiently, who can not only take up their own slack, but the slack of others.  However, you don’t want to be the person who needs to be carried, you want to be the person who does the carrying – maybe due to pride, maybe because you feel bad for the rest of the community, or maybe for other reasons.  However, it seems like, as a  lesson in humility, there comes a point, when you’ve done all you can do, you’ve guarded against any foreseen situation, but at the end of the day something strikes at your achilles heel, and you find yourself as the one who becomes a burden to the team, the one who needs to be carried, the one who slows everyone down.   You hope it is never you – and this time that person was me, and I never saw it coming.

In fact, this year we had trained so hard, the obstacles were not near as difficult.   Yes, they wear you out due to the amount of them, the energy it takes to conquer them, and the milage you are traveling, but the obstacles in and of themselves were not so difficult we couldn’t handle as individuals.  You should have seen our three girls conquering those 12 foot walls with no help!  We joked around while going through the obstacles,  we played on them, nobody even needed help to get over them…At the one hour mark, we were more than a third of the way through.  At the two hour mark, we were tracking to come in at a sub-three hour time.  And this is with our difficulties – Kristen’s IT-Bands were tightened up so much we had to stop to have The Doctor stretch them out.  Dustin was cramping like crazy.  Mine, Sarah’s, Dustin’s, and Jill’s breathing was a mess.  Lamar showed up with a jacked shoulder – yet, we were booking it for a team our size and age.

Then it hit…mile 9 or 10, my achilles seized up bad, slight pop, toes curled, and foot shot up into 45 degree angle… I thought I was done.  I told the team to go on, I couldn’t do it.  But they weren’t having it – I had to live in my weakness, and it was not easy.  Sarah, Bryan, and Dustin stayed in the back of the pack while I attempted to stretch out, after it stretched out, they allowed me to walk slowly to gain some flexibility and mobility.  The rest of the team waited at the next water stop.  When I got there I took time to really stretch it out.  The Doctor (for those who don’t know, the Doctor is my brother, and he was on our team, and yes, he is a doctor) felt it, and said it felt thin, and like I had possibly torn some of it.  He said, I want you to go on, but I do need to warn you that if you do, it feels like it could tear and that means surgery.  So, they did it, they stayed back with me, they supported me.  In fact, at one point we had to go through another water and mud pit, and while I could handle the water easy, I couldn’t even walk in mud, so Nathan (aka, The Doctor) and Chad pulled me out of the mud, put me on my feet and we went on.  I had already told the team I was not doing the Mt. Everest obstacle, it was too dangerous, and while it is the most invigorating of the obstacles, it takes some power running and power jumping.  But once again, once we made it to the obstacle, they weren’t having it.  The RnT said, we’ll form a ladder, and you can climb us, but I put on my stubborn hat, and said, I won’t do that to you.  I thought many of them didn’t make it up this obstacle last year on their own, and I knew they had trained for this, and had talked about it a lot, so I wanted to see them do it.  And instead of being one of the first – I stood back and watched everyone of my amazing teammates, shoot up that half-pipe on their own.  Then instead of all finishing they all stood at the top, and cheered me on…and in good responsible fashion, I thought, I may blow out my achilles, but I’m doing this with them.  So, I ran, on my second step I felt it seize up again, and so I had to launch on my weaker foot, from a lower position than I had wanted to, but I did it, we did it and we crossed the finish line – together, as a crash, as a team.

So, does it feel good to be the weakest link on a team – no, not at all, it’s humbling and embarrassing.  Especially when you are used to being one of the strongest.  But after you let the pride go, another reality sets in, and that reality is simply this:  There is no better feeling than knowing you are on a team, you are in a community, of people who love you, who are going to be your strength when you need them, who are going to carry you through till the end.  Who will allow you to be vulnerable with your weaknesses – this is community and this is what I learned from the Tough Mudder this year.

oh and by the way, we beat last years time by 1 hour and 20 minutes

Tolerance, Marriage, Hate & Sexuality

I believe it was the summer of 1991 when Disney issued their first “Gay Day”, and the small town I lived in and many conservative friends went nuts – you would have thought way more than our right to excess, make believe, over priced entertainment, and talking mice had been attacked – but nope, that was it, gay men and women simply wanted a day at America’s most famous vacation spot set aside for their families absent of discrimination and marginalization.  Why?  To do something extremely dangerous… ride rides with each other and their kids.  This was the stuff of real worry, if you could get a talking mouse, pantsless duck, and the boy that never grows up dressed in tights (sense the irony) to befriend gay families then the good ole US-of-A would crash and burn.   Well here we are, and the issue is no longer talking animals and a land of make believe overtaken by gay extremists, but this war has escalated to Ice Cream and Chicken nuggets – we are now living in a time in which the most unhealthy nation in the world can no longer achieve bipartisan obesity. A line in the sand has been drawn, and on one side stands the muppets.  One day, I will sit my grandchildren on my knee and tell them stories of the days of old, when you could order a chicken sandwich, eat ice cream, and never wonder if the cow that was milked for the ice cream nor the chicken that was killed for the nuggets was gay, straight, republican, or democrat; a day when getting over weight could be done without political controversy…

However, all that said, I think these continuous debates about chicken, ice cream, gay rights, marriage, and the likes just shows how much we (when I say we, I mean the “we” on both sides of the argument) take great pleasure in missing the point, and are willing to chase after a more shallow and hollow humanity built around igronance.

Okay, so, let’s define a few things:

  • tol-er-ance [tol-er-uhns] – noun – a fair, objective, and PERMISSIVE attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own.
    • Let’s be real – which political, cultural, and social groups pontificate this word the most?
    • The idea of tolerance in our culture is smoke and mirrors, and is not practiced (from either side), someday someone is going to have to put on their big-boy undies and be the first to act out this idea.
  • Marriage– marriage, historically has had two major roles (1) religious (2) political (uniting kingdoms, empires, families or to create heirs).
    • Christians, get your panties out of a wad, the moment the state began to allow divorces to happen over reasons not defined in the bible, they no longer lined up with our definition of marriage – if the government makes gay marriage legal, this is not the beginning of some redefinition of marriage, they did this a long time ago… move on!
  • Hate– simply means to dislike intensely or passionately; feel extreme aversion for or extreme hostility toward; to detest.
    • Dear Friends (who happen to be gay): real christians (those who hold to the Bible) cannot hate.  It is an anti-Christian property.  Rather than accusing Christians of hate, it would be more congruent to call those “christians” who hate, non-Christians.  However, Christians do disagree, and up until recent history disagreeing and hate have been considered two very different things, we should return to this.  Sincerely, Christian
    • Dear Friends (who are not gay and are Christian): to deny the same rights you enjoy under a non-Christian government to those who hold to different ideas and definitions than you, does edge close to the idea of, “feeling extreme aversion” towards someone.  Sincerely, other Christian
  • Sexuality: sexual character; possession of the structural and functional traits of sex; recognition of or emphasis upon sexual matters.
    • With all the hoopla surrounding the gay/straight talk, it seems as if our humanity has been reduced to sexuality.  What if we all got into car accidents and had our bodies severed from the waist down?  Would we cease to be human?  While our sexuality is part of our humanity, it is certainly not the entirety of our humanity.  If our sexuality ceased, our humanity would not.  So can we place this argument in it’s proper place, and elevate the importance of our humanity.

We’re humans, we will always argue.  Our differing opinions make this democracy great (among other things).  Can we please elevate this conversation?  Can we respect our differences?  We need to, or this is going to get ugly (it already has).  Here are some ideas I have:

  1. Tolerance: can we do this?  Can we simply act out what we say we hold as a value?  Scratch that – can we tangibly be love to those who are different from us.  Christian, can you turn the other cheek (I think someone pretty important said something about that).  Do we always have to one-up the “opponent” by lowering ourselves to their mode of attack?  I’ve heard that the “counter attack” to the Chicken sandwich appreciation day was to show up in masses and publicly “kiss” – really, this is what we have come to – this is the opposite of tolerance and maturity.
  2. Marriage: Get Government out of the Marriage business! Rather than argue over who has the right to be married, can we take marriage out of the government business?  If you go back to the historical reasons for marriage, the only one that still survives in our nation is the religious reason.  Our government is not a religious institution.  Can’t we give both straight and gay couples the same rights under civil union rights – and then allow religious institutions to determine how they define marriage under the spiritual and/or religious authority they hold to?  Sometimes I think the real fight is that conservative Christians don’t want the biblical definition of marriage invaded.  But as I said earlier, it has not only been invaded, but over taken, and that happened way before this gay marriage debate started.  I would much rather have a government that focused on things they needed to focus on, keep their nose out of the idea of marriage, and transfer all “marital advantages” to civil unions for any couple willing to live in a committed relationship, and then let churches, mosques, temples, and Las Vegas chapels honor marriages as they see fit.
  3. Hate – can we grow up and reserve the word “hate” for what it really means! Can we go back to realizing that differing opinions makes for a great democracy.  My Christian straight friends, we too need to realize that a great democracy is made up of beautiful people who have very different views from us, and deserve the same rights we have (stop getting caught up in semantics), if you cannot appreciate this, then you need to do a quick study on national theocracies…if you still aren’t convinced, I’m sure you could find some real estate in Saudi Arabia.
  4. Sexuality – I get it, it’s important.  If you are a Christian then you know that sexuality goes way beyond who you are sleeping with at night and speaks to the imago dei in us all, which demands of us a posture of humility and love.   That said, sexuality is not worth dividing our humanity over.  It is not worth denying rights over.

Christian, we are never told to “demand our rights.”  We aren’t told to boycott, condemn, or demand the government to legislate our morality.  However, as US citizens we have those rights, and this is what makes us citizens of a democracy.  That said, let us remember that as Christians (takes priority over our citizenship) our energies are to be spent on making peace:

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with ALL

Can we do this

Community, pt. 4 – Be You

This will be the last blog on community before we bring them all together into one blog and this may be the shortest of the four.  I think the statement I am most envious of, that I seem to hear every week is, “vocationally, you have to figure out how to only do one thing, and do it well” or something like, “if you don’t learn to do only one thing well, you will be average at several things“, and to be honest, neither of those are the most encouraging thought to those of us who seem to wear many hats.  However, I think I am coming to a new understanding or a new idea of what it means to wear “one hat –  even if you have to wear that one hat in many settings – then again, maybe I’m wrong, and maybe I’m trying to simply justify doing too many things.   But for now, I think there is something to this, and this is where this has come from:

A couple months ago while in Chicago I was having a conversation with a friend of mine, Jacob Vanhorn.  One of the questions I asked him was, “in a world like ours, where you have many different things pulling at you, how do you successfully become a master at the one or two things as opposed to be a manager of the many things?”  His response was brilliant.  He said, “sometimes the goal is not so much ‘doing less things or taking less ventures’ but rather having the knowledge of who you are (what type of leader you are), and then knowing what role you should play in the new venture or in your current roles based on who you are…In other words, being able to answer, ‘how am I still being this person in this endeavor?’.  When you can no longer identify who you are in what you are doing, then you have either tried to control it too much, micro-manage it too much, or are drowning in the project because you are trying to be someone you are not.  If that’s the case you need to let go of it and hand it off to someone who can lead it better in the next stage which requires a different sort of leader, and let them truly lead.” Yes, that made so much sense to me, and I immediately began to look over the many different things I do that were weighing me down, and I could see, how that in those very things that used to bring me joy but now burdened me, I was no longer being me, I was being someone else.

I think this is also true with community renewal, community living, and community development as well.  We not only rob the community we are in from the gift of who we are, but we rob others from playing the role they were meant to play when refuse to only play “one part”, the part of who we are.

For the longest time I have thought, “I hate being boxed in by what I do” and I do, but I don’t so much mind being boxed in by who I am – I am who I am, and that is the role I was created to play in community.  You are who you are and that is who you were created to play in community A QWLL.  What comes to mind is Paul’s explanation of the parts of the body, or the church in both 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12.  The truth is, we actually work against the potential of a community when we try to be more than or different than who we are.  It is easy to look toward someone who may be a bit more charismatic in nature, outgoing, multi-tasker, or what have you and think, “I wish I could be them” – the end result is your frustration and the frustration of the whole community.   In fact, let me take this to another level – I think one of the best thing or most productive things leaders can do in communities, is to help people become the best them they can be, not the best reflection of us we would like them to be…when we do this, we help them find fulfillment and become a gift to the community; but when we put the weight of “us” on them, we burden them and make the community miss out on what they could have offered.

I think this may be one of the most overlooked aspects of community development, community living, and community renewal – we usually go straight to “what needs to be done” aspect and I really think we need to start with “who we are” or “who have we been created to be” – and I think we will be a lot more effective this way.

Community, pt. 3 – Where You Already Are

For those who are just now checking in to the community-focused blog, you are catching us in the middle of things.  So if you would like to catch up with us, you can read Part 1, by clicking HERE and Part 2, by clicking HERE. There are two things I said in the last blog, which will seem to make more sense in this one:

  1. each of these community blogs are part of a whole, not independent in themselves – the reason this is important, is because this one blog will seem to not be so congruent with the last two if you’ve read the last two under the premise or assumption that community development is something that can only be done by relocating to live among the poor.
  2. next month (which is this month) we’ll discuss living deeply where you already are – while I absolutely believe that God calls some to ‘relocate‘ in order to live among, to be ‘sent’, and to do community development among the poor and at-risk communities, I do not believe that this is God’s call on everyone.

before I go into this let me make some qualifying statements, so that what I say won’t be taken out of context, nor used to justify a life of consumption and escape from the real issues in our world.

  1. The Poor – while I do not believe that all are called to uproot and move among the poor, I do believe more people are called to do that, and everyone is called to be deeply engaged with the poor and the people that serve them.
  2. Home – where one lives should not represent nor be a manifestation of our lust for stuff; the idolizing of status and power; or a place of escape from the real issues of the world.  However, I don’t believe that what I believe means all people will live among the poor.  The place we call home should represent where God has sent you to represent him; where God has best equipped you to serve and live out the gospel; and where your ‘otherness’ will stand out and point others to God – whether this is among the poor, the rich, the middle class, the black, the white, or in a different country – we need to understand we are a sent people and that should inform what we call home.

Now, let us get on with this quickly.   The short topic of today’s blog is “where you already are“.  Simply stated, rather than constantly looking for the next place to move, or fantasizing about what it might be like to live somewhere else, among a different people, or how you will “do” community better elsewhere, I think we should be more concentrated on building and doing community and living deeply right where we already are.  In fact, to constantly be living in the fantasy of what could be is to be very bad stewards of where God has sent you now.  For me this ideas is built around two texts (actually more than that, but for sake of space, I’ll only mention these two).

The first text speaks to how you see where you are.  If you see where you as happenstance, or as a result of bad choices you’ve made, or as a trophy for the good choices you’ve made, then whether you live among the poor or the rich, you will never get the purpose to why you live where you live.  According to Acts 17:24-28, you live where you live for one reason that trumps all the other reasons, and that is so that those in your vicinity “should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him” through your life where you live.  This changes everything.  This takes where you live and turns it into the place you have been sent.  I am NOT saying, God will not, is not, or doesn’t want to ‘send’ you somewhere else, but it seems like the principle of stewarding in the scriptures starts with what you already have or in our case, where you already are.  What if you began to look at where you are as where you’ve been sent?  How different would the life you live in your current neighborhood look if you believed it was there you were called to be missionary?  What if, you live where you live because you have the make-up that God desires to use among those people.

The second text has everything to do with living deeply right where you are.  Let me give an example.  I have a friend who could almost be called a serve-aholic.  That’s what he does, he serves.  He serves the homeless, the poor, the broken… he wakes up in the morning, has his coffee, reads his bible, climbs in his truck and drives away from his neighborhood to serve.  A couple months ago, he said to me, “this whole serving thing is wearing me out…I don’t even know my neighbors.  I’m always, going.  I can’t tell you about the life of my neighbor or the spiritual and communal needs they have, but I can tell you about the deep needs of those in these other communities.  In fact, a couple days ago, as I was driving out of my neighborhood, I noticed police cars, ambulance, and a big commotion and I have no idea what was going on, and still don’t…this seems very wrong and imbalanced.”  It just so happens that this friend of mine found out his next door neighbor had committed suicide, leaving behind kids and a wife, and he didn’t even know it.  Hear me, I’m not saying it is wrong to ‘go’ elsewhere to serve, but I am saying I believe it should come secondary to living deeply right where you already are, especially if we are to view our current home through the lens of Acts 17:24-28.  I believe we are called to live so deeply where we actually live (our home address) and slow down enough that we should be able to live local enough to live out the gospel right where you are.  To quote John Perkins, I believe we are to live close enough with those around us, that we begin to desire for our neighbor and neighbor’s family that which we desire for our self and our family. Living out the gospel means bettering the quality of other people’s lives spiritually, physically, socially, and emotionally as one enriches one’s own through the gospel.   How did Jesus live this love?  This bring us to the second text – John 1:14 “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  Jesus became one of us.  And the truth is, the most effective messenger, the most effective life lived under the influence of the gospel will be a life that lives deeply “among” where you already are.

Again, I realize God is calling and has called some of you to other places, and I am not denying that he does that, he does!  I realize that living among the rich opens up a whole different can of worms such as, how do we spend our money, or justify spending the money it takes to live among them, etc, etc.  But that is not what this blog is for, this blog is simply to state, that everyone from rich to poor, black to white, long for deep transforming, confronting, life altering, accepting community; and that needs to be developed everywhere, so rather than spending a lot of time trying to figure out where to escape to, why not start building community by living deeply right where you already are!

Questions from Ideation ’12

This past week, I had the opportunity to attend the Chicago Ideation Conference put on by Charles Lee.  It was  a great time of connecting, networking, and learning.  In fact, in the first session, the intro speaker said something about taking notes, not so much on what is actually said, but on what is inspired in you when ideas are spoken about.

Over the past 4 years, I’ve been wrestling with who I am as a leader and how to surround myself with the right people, along with knowing what role I play in new ideas and vision.  I was talking about this with a friend of mine who was also at the conference, Jacob Vanhorn.  One of the questions I asked him was, “in a world like ours, where you have many different things pulling at you, how do you successfully become a master at the one or two things as opposed to be a manager of the many things?”  His response was brilliant.  He said, “sometimes the goal is not so much ‘doing less things or taking less ventures’ but rather having the knowledge of who you are (what type of leader you are), and then knowing what role you should play in the new venture or in your current roles based on who you are…In other words, being able to answer, ‘how am I still being this person in this endeavor?’.  When you can no longer identify who you are in what you are doing, then you have either tried to control it too much, micro-manage it too much, or are drowning in the project because you are trying to be someone you are not.  If that’s the case you need to let go of it and hand it off to someone who can lead it better in the next stage which requires a different sort of leader, and let them truly lead.”

All that to say, I am using that as a filter for myself as I read through the questions below, that were inspired by the Ideation conference.  Below is a set of questions, that were inspired in me as I was listening to the different speakers at Ideation.  I will use Jacob’s question as a lens to begin to think through the questions below.  If you are a leader or someone who is starting or thinking about starting a new endeavor, I recommend that you wrestle through the following questions:

  • Discovery Questions:
    • Where do I (we) need to have courage to move forward?
      • To answer this question you must be able to imagine what could be!
      • To answer this question you must be willing to admit where you have grown stagnant, and complacency has set in.
      • To answer this question you have to be willing to step off the wave of fame, and get dirty.
    • What am I will to go all-in for?  In other words, what am I willing to fail big and publicly at?
    • Do I want to lead others into my vision; or do I want to lead with others into a vision bigger than I can imagine?
      • To answer this question you must be willing to admit you want to keep all the fame and attention; or be willing to give it away and share it.
  • Awareness Questions:
    • What is already happeningin my neighborhood, city, or field of interest that needs to be focused on or harnessed for deeper impact?
      • To answer this question properly, you have to be willing to allow the local situation or need to inform the vision, rather than create your own detached agenda.
      • To answer this question, you have to be willing to let go of other elements that demand your time in order to slow down so you can deeply know your surroundings.
      • To answer this question, you cannot lead from a distance, you have to lead from within.  You have to be willing to be present enough to know the local environment and the holes within it that continually perpetuate the dysfunction or needs
      • To answer this question you must be willing to take your eyes off of you, and find who else in the area is also attempting to address the issues and figure out how to collaborate.
    • What is the common enemy? This question is two-dimensional: (1) What is the common enemy causing the local problem (2) What is the common enemy causing people to be paralyzed from actively fighting the enemy?
      • To answer this question you must be among and within; you must be willing to no longer allow there to be an us-and-them mentality, but a “we mentality” – the enemy must be your enemy as well, or you will never truly engage it at the cost it demands.
      • To answer this question, you must move beyond “drive-by-projects” and move in!
      • To answer this question, you must be able to clearly articulate what the absence of the vision means and how it will affect the context you are hoping to work in.
  • Execution Questions:
    • How do you involve people in the vision without adding one more thing to their already busy life?  Another way to ask this is, “how do you help the vision to intersect the life they are already living?
      • To answer this question demands you slow down to be an intuitive leader.
      • To answer this question you must be able to size the vision downward. In other words, you must help people see beyond the normality of a compartmentalized task, and into a vision that threads itself through all aspects of life.  In other words, you have to be able to explain how the vision looks on a corporate level; on a community level; on a family level; and on an individual level.
      • To answer this question, you must be able to teach people how to be purposeful with the way they already live by showing them how what they are already doing allows them to take part in the vision; while at the same time you must be able to help people subtract “meaningless-time-sucks” from their lives.
      • To answer this question you must be able to make the journey as deep and rich as the completed vision itself – this will help prevent burnout.
    • How do you plan on defining success?
      • To answer this question, you have to paint an intriguing picture of what the finish line looks like.
      • To answer this question, you have to paint a provocative picture of what the journey looks like, which means clearly defining measurables along the way.
      • To answer this, you must be willing to be people focused, or else people will turn into a commodity that you use to accomplish your vision.

I realize the length of this blog steps over the lines of the “blog rules”.  I also realize that these aren’t the only questions to be asked when embarking on a new journey, but as begin to think about my roles, my ideas, and my ventures.  I am going to ask myself the above questions, through the lens of the first question Jacob asked me.  Maybe you should do the same!