a conversation

community // Spirituality

I’ve recently been in a conversation with a friend about the possibility of expanding the “brand of communitas” (his words, not mine) to a larger circle of folks in the Phoenix area.  While I’ve back and forth about how I feel about this conversation, my biggest fear has remained that I don’t want to get in the way of the communitas ethos and dreams if they must move far beyond the little band of us who live these ways out in downtown Phoenix.  Below are excerpts from a my most recent response to this conversation.  I’m not sure why I feel it important to document some of my thoughts here, except for the fact that they represent a clear sense of what I’m/we’re here to do.

“I’ve always imagined communitas being a counter-cultural voice among an already counter-cultural people.  I think it would frustrate me to try to bring the ethos we carry to the larger public.”

“The suburbs need this stuff (communitas). They need initiatives that invite them to dream bigger about how they can care for “the other”.  They need to imagine a God that is not just their God, but also the God of the atheist, the lesbian, and the homeless man.  They need to learn how to be present to the places where God is most present.  But I left that world for a reason.  At first it was because in my impatience I couldn’t handle the shortsightedness of it’s people of faith.  But I’ve realized that it’s much more than this. I’ve realized that my place is to be a voice among a different people.  My job is to be a symbol of the kingdom of God in the spaces and places of the forgotten empire and among the simultaneous messiness and authenticity of the city.”

“So I hear your dreams and ideas and get excited for them, but unfortunately not in the ‘I’m in, let’s do this’ sort of way, but in a ‘I believe this needs to happen, so please do it’ way.”

“I feel called to keep things simple, accessible, authentic, honest, and real.  You feel called to expand, to develop, to make better, to make more efficient.”

I am convinced that I will continuously wrestle with what my specific role is in the redemptive plan of God.  I am also convinced that this constant wrestling is much better than never asking the question at all. Far too many of us settle into roles in which we were never meant to fill, and find ourselves far too comfortable to move on.  What is clear (for now), is that the best thing I can do is pay attention to those who have chosen to invest their lives in the work and efforts of communitas.  I must learn to better pay attention to the personalities, stories, and experiences of others as opposed to the multitude of initiatives (read “programs”) we can give birth too.  I can (and have in recent years) get far too busy with activity that I fail to be present to the people that these activities were meant to serve.  I will not do that anymore….as least I will do my best to try.

July 26th, 2010

I am giving up “myself” for Lent

Spirituality

ashwednesdayOver the few past years, I have learned to love the annual rhythms of the traditional Christian calendar.  Not being raised in a faith tradition that valued (or even mentioned) the cycles of seasons such as Advent & Lent, it is refreshing to me to yearly explore these seasons and the themes they represent.  This Wednesday (Ash Wednesday) marks the start of the Lenten season where participants traditionally choose something to “give up” for the 40 days leading to Easter.  The intent is to fast from something and in hopes that it’s absence might bring us closer to God and more reflective of the season’s theme’s.

As I have pondered what to “give up” this year for Lent, I am struck with a sense that there’s something more I can give up than caffiene or alcohol.  I am convinced that there’s something more tragic in my character that must be addressed. It’s my sense of “self”.   If I am honest, much of my existence is about “self-interest, “self- preservation”, and “self-promotion”.  I think much more highly of myself than I should even often convincing myself that this world needs “me”.  This sense of self affects my faith, my relationships, and my posture towards those I share life with.

I am sure I am not the only one.

So for this year’s Lent, I am going to experiment with something different.  Instead of giving up something tangible (like food or drink), I am going to give up “myself” for the 40 days of Lent.  I want to use the season to probe the dimensions of mny life that I am unwilling to give up, those spaces which I selfishly and stubbornly claim as my own.  I want to explore the ares of my existence that neglect “the other”, and cling instead to my sense of self.  To balance this, I will spend the Sundays of Lent breaking this fast to rest in the identity of self that God validates in me – that I am valued, that I am His creation, and that I am loved deeply.  The culmination of the season in Easter will bring me to the celebration of a new self that identifies with the resurrection.

I would love to share in this experience with some others who are brave enough to try this with me.  As I’ve shared this tought with some others, the quick response is typically, “What would it look like to “give up yourself”?”.  I am hesitant to answer this question as I imagine (and am hopeful) that it will look very different for each participant.  If you’d like to journey through this with me a small group of others, drop a comment below.

This idea can’t be any worse than this one :)

February 23rd, 2009

Understanding God

Spirituality

If you have understood, then this is not God. If you were able to understand, then you understood something else instead of God.  If you were able to understand even partially, then you have deceived yourself with your own thoughts.

- Augustine via The Solace of Fierce Landscapes

February 22nd, 2009

Grief

community // family // musings // Spirituality

griefI’ve discovered that there is an emotional experience I feel from time to time. One in which I lose myself to an introspective and analytical spirit. Until now, I didn’t know it’s root or cause. It is a feeling I’ve known before, one in which I find some odd comfort in.

It is grief.

As dimensions of my false self crumble, I am left to deal with their death. The death of a dream, the death of a belief; today it is the death of control.

I am overwhelmed by the loss of my ability to control the whole of my life. As long as I live in community with others, I now recognize that I do not have the final say in how my story unfolds.

I must discover and come to terms with a new understanding of control. This is the grief I am experiencing.

January 26th, 2009

An Interesting Thought

Spirituality

cathedral

Today I visited the Episcopal Cathedral here in downtown Phoenix for morning prayer. It was really good to walk through the liturgy with others (who are way more experienced with it than I) and out loud. The cathedral is one of my favorite spiritual spaces in the city. The architecture represents Phoenix well, a historic stone building built with a Spanish mission motive. They have a brilliant courtyard in the center of their space that contains a labyrinth and some really artistic stations of the cross. I have a feeling I will be spending a lot of time there in 2009.
After morning prayer, I was chatting with a guy I met name Matt. Matt is the head of youth and young adults for the Arizona Episcopal Diocese. As we talked of the spiritual traditions we were raised in, we realized we both came from protestant, evangelical, conservative backgrounds. He than asked me what led me to come to Morning prayer at an Episcopal Cathedral. I explained to him my recent draw to liturgy as the primary spiritual rhythm of my life. I acknowledged that I didn’t yet fully understand why I’ve been interested in more liturgical forms of faith. He said something interesting:

You can come to faith in the protestant tradition, but you can’t grow to depth there.

These are words that will roll around in my head and heart for a while. I am not sure if it’s that simple, but I certainly can relate – the ways and postures of faith in which I was raised seem to be less than a complete expression. They lack a complete picture of God in an over-zealous attempt to understand him intellectually. Liturgy is void of the attempt of figuring out God and full of the ackowledgment of what we know of Him. Something about that resonates deep within my soul.

January 7th, 2009

Spiritual Rhythms

Spirituality

trinityThis New Year I am attempting to dive deeper into the life and rhythms of a contemplative. I am confronted with my inability to live my commitment to Jesus as the priority in which all else of my life is built around. I am tired of making space to nurture my spiritual self only when family, work, hobbies, etc allow. Instead I want to more deeply explore spiritual rhythms at the core of my life. Here’s how I am attempting this:

The Daily Offices – a daily rhythm of 3 spaces (morning, midday, & evening) carved out and reserved to “be” with God. In my rhythms, morning prayer resembles the devotional time of my evangelical tradition, midday prayer is shorter and heavily liturgical, and evening prayer is flexible with times spent in prayer as a family, and others in solitude.

Sabbath-keeping – a weekly rhythm of rest.  I am trying to explore what rest looks like (and doesn’t look like for me) and then to create a 24hr space in which to dwell in that rest.  My hope, prayer, and intent is that these times give me space for contemplation and appreciation to accompany the rest. What I don’t want in this rhythm is a pharasaical-sort of discipline, but intead a relaxed committment to honestly pursue the activites that give me rest spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally, and relationally.

A Rule of Life – a holistic rhythm of living in which I attempt to live in balance of the committments I’ve made.  In my case, these commitments are to the ways of Jesus, the ways of community, the ways of Justice, and the ways of creativity.  At times this means giving intention to the commitments in which I’ve neglected and other times it means creatively rethinking my actions and words to better reflect these core committments of my life.

As I explore these individually and communally (with the communitasPHX folks), I am convinced that this sort of rhythmic intention of spirituality is vital.  It gives true expression to our words and hopes.  It provides a discipline to our commitments.  And it provides us ways to pursue Jesus in the demands and chaos of everyday American life.  I’m working on establishing these ways as a part of “a symbolic order” in which people from distant geographies can experiment and explore with the way of life together.  More on this to come.

January 5th, 2009

Exploring “presence”

musings // rhythm // Spirituality

As the pace of life has quickened this fall and I find myself more busy and more tired than I am comfortable with, I’ve been exploring the concept of “presence” and it relates to the quest for balance.  Presence in the idea of being available (or present) to our things, people, and commitments that fil our lives.  For most of us, I am convinced we are truly present to little in our lives, excusing real availability to allow for the multitude of “to-do’s” that fill our lives. I am pretty sure that most marriages fail due to the emotional and physical inavailability or one (or both) spouses.  Children grow up to be less than whole human beings ofte because mom & dad were never around, and even if they were physically there, they were often mentally and emotionally elsewhere.  Presence demands focus and undivided attention to the people and things dearest to us.

I am finding myself haunted by the reality than I can easily be present to little in my own life.  I can go days and sometime weeks without really making myself available to God, to Kelli, or to my kids. To fight this I am intentionally wrestling with the concept of “presence” in the days ahead.  As we head to the coast for a few days camping on the beach, I will no doubt have plenty of time to explore how I might develop a way of life back home that is more present to the things I am committed to.  I want to keep track of my wrestlings and my learnings here for myself and for any others who might find some creative ideas to create presence in real life helpful.  I will tag them with “presence”

Here’s some current things that help me be more present:

  • to the city: riding my bike instead of driving
  • to God: the daily offices (morning prayer, midday prayer, & evening prayer)
  • to Kelli: regular nights out without the kids, weekly time to talk family, schedule, and to pray together
  • to my kids: creating intentional times to listen about their day, what makes them happy and what makes them sad
  • to myself: working out, and being aware of imbalance & stress

I am excited to tackle this idea more.  it’s alreay clear that there are direct correlations in my life between saying “no” to things, maintaining margin in my schedule, and being present to the things and people that are most important to me.

October 2nd, 2008

Prayers for a spiritual journey

Spirituality

Shall I abandon the comforts and benefits of my home,
seeking the island of promise our fathers knew long ago,
sail on the face of the deep where no riches or fame
or weapons protect you, and nobody honours your name?
Shall I take leave of my native land,
tears in my eyes
as my knees mark my final prayer in the sand?
King of the mysteries, will you watch over me?
Christ of the mysteries, can I trust You on the sea?

Christ of the heavens,
and Christ of the ravenous ocean wave,
I will hold fast to my course
through the dangers I must brave.
King of mysteries, angels will watch over me,
Christ of the mysteries, when I trust You on the sea.

via Celtic Daily Prayer

September 2nd, 2008

A Prayer for Imagination

creativity // Spirituality

God give me your eyes,
To see the potential of the world around me.
Help me to recognize that which is unfinished, raw, and “in progress”.
Give me the ability to imagine what could be,
To see “raw resources” rather than “finished product”.
Give grace to my flawed perspective,
That I in turn may give grace to all that I see.

August 14th, 2008