With Jacob’s Well Minneapolis we’re talking “Because It Hurts” (Sept 2015)
We’re digging into those necessary and important parts of life that unavoidably hurt from time to time. We have no illusions about avoiding the pain, or somehow justifying it, but we do believe that when we help each other live in and through the pain it makes us more alive – even when it’s killing us.
One of the key things we are talking about is the relationship between our Comfort Zone and our Danger Zone. [Last week we called the Danger Zone our “Safety Zone” meaning that this is where my safety seems threatened, but that was confusing, so we’re switching “Safety Zone” to “Danger Zone.”]
When we spend too much time in our Comfort Zone we don’t grow much. And we are also ill-prepared for life outside our it – which is inevitable. And, like the diagram above, we find that when we leave our Comfort Zone we are immediately thrust into our Danger Zone and our reaction is Panic! Anxiety! It’s not fun. Not much growth happens there either. And it hurts.
What we need is to create some space between our Comfort and Danger Zones.
We do it by inserting Personal Practices that help us avoid the panic that paralyzes us. Gaining Perspective about what life is really like and about. How threatening the challenge really is. It’s seeing, and feeling, the big picture. I would say this is bringing God and wisdom into the situation. And inviting People to be part of the experience with you. This is the most important piece actually because it is through people you most often find the strength to learn and practice what you need, and that God gives you glimpses of the larger perspective you need.
When you bring Practices, Perspective and People into your life you interrupt the Comfort<=>Danger Zone chain reaction and develop a Growth Zone.
Sure, your Growth Zone is pretty scary too, hurt is part of the equation of life after all, but you aren’t in your danger zone! You can do this. And you can take that hurting stuff and… grow! In fact while you may be uncomfortable, scared and uncertain in your Growth Zone (with practices, perspective and people at work in it with you) you may find yourself surprisingly, but not so strangely, experiencing peace.
You’ll also notice that your Danger Zone is shrinking – not so many things trigger panic anymore. Your Comfort Zone is expanding – things you could never have done before are now part of what you do everyday. And your Growth Zone is a place that you long for – in it’s bittersweet way you realize that this is where you are most alive.
The Jacob’s Well Minneapolis community has been talking about the ‘healthy real & ideal’ in order to keep the ‘unhealthy’ versions of them at bay. We talked about Real & Ideal Work yesterday (4/13/2014). Here are a few thoughts from it. It starts with a parable that was written by someone from our community especially for this day.
The kingdom of heaven is like a woman who looks in the mirror in the morning, touches up her hair, smiles and says, “Today I will make the world a better place” as she heads off to work. She does that every day.
Yesterday was Palm Sunday as the regular church calendar goes. That was the day Jesus entered Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover, it was going to be the last week of his life. It was the week when he observed the Passover Meal with his disciples, was arrested that night, hung on a cross to die the next day, and then Sunday, Easter, is the day we celebrate his resurrection.
You know how I see what was going on with Jesus in all this? All of this was his work. When he entered into Jerusalem on that day we now call Palm Sunday everyone saw him as the superstar, he knew better. He wasn’t seduced with stardom, he knew it was an unhealthy idealization of the work he had to do. He wasn’t afraid of it either; he didn’t fall victim to despair by looking at the reality of his work in an unhealthy way. He knew what he was doing mattered. He had chosen to do it. I get this sense that Jesus was extraordinarily clear about what his work was – it was to love. To love us. You, me, everyone. Why? Purely because he did and he couldn’t turn it off. It didn’t matter if it was hard or it was easy, it didn’t matter if he liked doing it all the time or didn’t. It was the work that he had chosen and so like that woman who looked in the mirror each morning, touched up her hair and went forth ready to make the world a better place, Jesus was going to love us because he felt from the bottom of his heart that he was doing the right thing for the right reason.
Maybe that first Good Friday, when Jesus was killed, was really just another day at the office for him. He was just doing what he knew he was supposed to do. It wasn’t a matter of being hard to do, or easy. It wasn’t a matter of liking it or not. It was a matter of doing the work he knew he had been called to. And so he stretched out his arms and loved us with everything he had… just like he had always done.
What is your work? Choose it. Transform it if you must, but do it and live into it. Turn it into the power of God at work in the world, and in you. Remember, you GET to do this!
Posted in discipleship, emerging church, God, jacob's well, Jesus, Uncategorized, worship
Tagged Good Friday, ideal, Jesus, labor, mirror, real, work
Continuing our Jacob’s Well series on “The Elephant in the Room.”
Here are the text messages and notes people sent in during the service yesterday (11/17). See the input from last week’s service here. Leave comments or more ‘elephants’ below.
- Is the Bible to be taken as literal truth or parable stories to learn from?
- The entire book of Revelation x2; do we apply it today?
- How does the Bible fit into today’s world – in whole or in part?
- Do you need to be SMART to interpret the bible or ACCEPTING?
- Heaven and hell – can we take it literally that it exists? Is there a heaven?
- Justin mentions the bible was written by goat herders. What about revisions (with bias) made overtime by monks/priests through handwritten translation?
- Since the bible is written by “man” is it ok to view the bible as flawed as “man” is flawed?
- Are you unchristian if you have sex before marriage? Even when ur young?
- Is it our job to evangelize or lead by example?
- Is there only one religion of god (Christianity? Related: Is Jesus the only “son” of god?)
- Can Christianity exclude anyone (x2), and if it did, is it still Christianity?
- Is Atheism bad?
- If I tell someone I’m a Christian, it associates me with a lot of people I don’t like. How do I deal with that?
- How to reconcile what the Bible teaches about Jesus being THE only way into God’s kingdom and a personal belief or conviction that people outside of Christianity are welcome, too?
- Christians can’t “accept” other faiths/religions as full truth as well.
- Why do people feel a need to tell others that they are wrong?
- If God created everything – both good and bad – it’s my belief that then everything is for a reason. With that said, what is the reason that there is such a divide in the Christian faith? Are those with another opinion of God wrong? Is there a wrong? If not how do I deal with those that call themselves Christian, but don’t align with what I believe God is?
- I have a hard time truly grasping that Jesus was truly the son of God…really? And came back to life? Really? I sometimes wonder if I can really be Christian if I struggle to believe this.
- Why is it necessary to define oneself as a Christian? And how does the culture of worship interfere with Truth?
- Did Jesus become the son of God? What if God is a human construct and what is wrong with that?
- How did god impregnate Mary from heaven?? How is Jesus the son of god if Mary and god didn’t actually have sex? I’m confused.
- How is Jesus’ death and resurrection any less “fantastical” than old testament stories that work best as a metaphor?
- If Jesus was born Christ, isn’t it impossible to be life him? If he became Christ, the shouldn’t we expect ourselves to live better lives. If god is all that is, isn’t god more like quantum physics? How do you love quantum physics?
- So many wonderful questions, so little time. Thank you for the chance to wrestle with them so openly. I’ve wondered why we don’t talk about the Holy Spirit more here. I could talk about/listen about Jesus & God forever, but I’m not sure what to think about the Holy Spirit. Such a minor point, really, but it keeps niggling at me…P.S. I find it easier actually to be loved by the stars in the sky?
- Why do good Christians have to suffer in health areas? What is God’s purpose in sickness?
- Disease. Famine.
- Why do bad things happen? Suffering, war, hunger…
- I don’t understand war! It’s been around since the beginning. What does it ever prove?
- Why do the people with the least often receive more than their fair share of hardship? (i.e., Philippines)
- Why does God allow for so much suffering in the world?
- Sometimes love and grace can be so big that sin and injustice almost become irrelevant. What the hell happens with Hitler?
- Why do bad things happen if god can control almost everything?
- Who goes to heaven, the afterlife or whatever it is after the death of the body. What about your Jewish, Muslim, Atheist friends
- We don’t pray together every day. If I don’t pray in the morning or evening I feel undisciplined and not a good Christian.
- I wrestle with my sins in Galatians Chapter 5: 13-15. Will we be forgiven for our sins? Or not?
- Hearing God’s voice – how to decipher it it’s God.
- I’ve been spiritual and in tune to God up until now. Now, in middle age God is completely gone to me. I’m pretty much a non-believer. Why would God “go?”
Thanks for all the thoughtful and honest questions. We responded in some way to many of them, but certainly can’t say we resolved them all. That is a lifelong task. My hope isn’t to answer them all, but to let everyone know that questions and doubts are healthy. They can build faith. They are dangerous, not when they are thought, but when they are buried away.
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged doubts, elephant in the room, emergent church, exclusivism, faith, God, Jacob's Well, Jesus, minneapolis, preaching, questions, worship
I was teaching a session of a Kairos course at Luther Seminary yesterday on “Faith and Everyday Life.” I began by telling them, “Faith In Everyday Life is a difficult thing for me to talk about because faith and everyday life isn’t something that we do at Jacob’s Well. [pause] It is the ONLY thing we do at Jacob’s Well. If something doesn’t relate to everyday life, we don’t bother with it. Why would we?”
If nothing else, it got everyone to look up from their screens. We then spent an hour talking about how we do it.
Teaching that class gave me a new way of looking at what I strive to be about. I know this is an ideal we don’t live up to all the time, but nonetheless I believe it is a fundamental commitment of our community [this goes way back, see this entry]. Why devote time, effort, money or staff at something that doesn’t make a difference in people’s lives? Churches get caught up with events, traditions, structures and activities that have achieved ‘sacredness’ other than helping people live their faith. That’s a problem. It happens naturally, but it is our job to continually ask, “Is this event, tradition, structure, event building community, equipping people, opening lives to the presence of God?” And if the answer is no, then it’s time to re-evaluate.
What helps you connect faith and life? What aspects of “church” make it feel distant and foreign from everyday life?
Read this article from Kathy Lynn Grossman of USA TODAY, “Relationships Are the New Religion for Many,” and tell me what you think. This is good Jacob’s Well conversation.
I think the article’s observations are right on, the conclusion isn’t. [It really reminds me of some elements of our message yesterday. (3.24.2013)]
My analysis says that “church” has failed to deliver value or relevance to people at their gatherings (worship services and more) for so many decades that we now have whole generations who have no idea that the church might actually have any. What people still have is the relationships that once found amazing, empowering, loving context in being church, and so they gather around those relationships instead. And for the most part “church/religion/the institution” continues to gather those who are left around nostalgia for what doesn’t connect.
How will we teach those looking for more that there is more when so few are trying to reclaim what church can be?
Posted in change, church, community, current news, doubt, emerging church, God, jacob's well, marketing, preaching, precarious, public
Take God seriously. Really seriously. Take your theology less so.
Wedges, squares or more. It’s still pizza.
This is heresy to some of my doctrinally-oriented sisters and brothers, but I don’t consider myself dogmatically-handicapped, just conceptually-flexible. Here’s the deal: our theology only describes what we know and understand about God, it doesn’t prescribe what God has to be like.
A little humility is needed here. I was just reading the last four chapters of Job in preparation for preaching and was reminded by God’s booming voice coming out of the whirlwind that even in our most profound moments, we don’t know squat. At our best we reflect back, in our limited, human way, what we pick up from God.
The theological pizza can be sliced in more than one way; wedges, squares or more, it’s still pizza. That doesn’t mean there aren’t better ways or more faithful ways to understand and talk about God, it just means that none of them ARE God. They are all human constructs trying to capture to something that they can only point at.
So what does that mean?
- Don’t let your theology or theological traditions limit your experience with God. Expect God to mess with them; stretch them; make you rework them. If you don’t think this applies to you, you’ve parked the car of your faith journey while the world is flying by.
- Be open to other people’s experiences and expressions of God. Their ideas don’t have to be ‘right’ (nobody’s are, remember!) to be an authentic voice for their wrestlings with God right now, and for you to learn something from.
- Value your doubts and tough questions and experiences as God’s way of helping you do #4.
- KEEP GOD BIG! Theology is a box, not the thing itself. We need its categories and explanations to be able to deal with and talk about God, but we need to remember that God doesn’t, can’t ever fit in it. So take the initiative yourself to find the bigness of God that breaks your system. This may be painful but you’re on the way to a breakthrough, not a breakdown!
The numbers game is one of the trickiest in the God world (aka church). There are at least three pieces to this dynamic.
1. We all say it isn’t about ‘how many’, but we all compare our ‘how many’ and feel either inferior or superior because of it. Some of us more than others.
2. Then there is the sustainability dilemma. If the church is going to support itself it takes enough people to make that feasible. But then it isn’t about making money, or guaranteeing an income for the pastor and other staff.
3. On the more positive side we know that we have a responsibility to grow in both depth and breadth. Not one or the other.
As you evaluate your ministry try dealing with the numbers game this way: Numbers are important. They let you know some very important things about the sort of systems and resources needed. The numbers help you set goals that match your vision and calling. And they tell you whether your ministry is growing or shrinking. Remember, the answer to “Why?” is the important piece to this.
But while that bigger number is important, the key number is always ‘one.’ Never take your focus off of the individual. What is each person’s experience who enters your doors, who attends a small group gathering, who is encountered at a service event, who has a crisis in their life and needs your community’s ministry, who is met by a person shaped by your community? Who are you for the person standing right in front of you, right now? There is no such thing as the community’s experience, or the neighborhood’s reaction to your church. It is the experience and reaction of each individual. Build, equip, structure your community to be about the number that always comes first, one.
I’m speaking to a class of students at Luther Seminary on Friday who are preparing to do ‘mission development’ as either a new enterprise, or within the context of an already established church. LOTS of things to talk about, including a bit about the story of Jacob’s Well, but I’ve only got 45 minutes. So here is the 5 point checklist I’m giving them (and yes, it feels a bit inadequate to me too.)
- Are you really called? Are you willing to do whatever it takes? (’cause it will take it!) Who are you as a leader? (strengths/non-strengths, assets/liabilities)
- What is your vision? What are your expectations, what does ‘success’ look like? Is your vision clear enough for others to follow and big enough to need God to make it happen?
- What is your plan? (models you are watching, strategy and systems, including funding)
- Who is your team? How will you find them? How will you prepare them and use them to complement and balance you?
- How will you evaluate? Don’t overlook this!
Given this is just a sketch… what’s missing? Particularly anything that can’t be fitted into one of these 5 points?