Last Post

October 1st, 2012

This is the last post in this location. As if there is anyone left around to read it since this blog has been inactive for a long time.

The reason? 

The reboot that I mentioned a while ago is going to launch soon.

Beginning November 1, 2012, 3dliving.org will be operational. It will be focused on how we can live more fully the life that God gives us. I’m getting excited as I prepare new content and take the best of this site and make it better.

So if you are reading this, head on over. If you go before November 1, you will see a construction page, but come back. I hope it will help you live the beyond 3 dimensional life that is ours.

Remember the location is www.3dliving.org.

David

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way

January 24th, 2011

So if you have been reading here, I had all kinds of plans to be already 2 weeks into a newly minted web site with 5-6 new blog entries under my belt in exploration of my new theme of 3+D Living.

You also might have noticed that it didn’t happen. Yet.

Life has a funny way of changing the landscape. As I say quite often, the best laid plans of mice and ministers…

One of the undercurrents in this writing space has been dealing with depression from the perspective of an active ministry. Let me tell you one thing I’ve learned: I haven’t been able to do it.

For many years before I was able to do it, but barely. I would receive help and support from people who cared for me. I would have times when my praying and writing and creative endeavors would refill the well. And always, I would find more energy than I needed for leading worship and preaching. Always have and still do.

But when the administrative pressures increase, the water main would break underground and the well would dry up and not stay filled no matter how much love I would receive.

With my new commitment to a writing project I have been looking forward to it looks like I might have something that will help plug that hole and enable me to stay full.

Events have delayed that a couple weeks. As they tend to do.

The end result of those events is that I will be taking a 3 month Renewal Leave beginning February 1 and ending April 18.

That is very welcome news. It takes my life offline from the source of the distress filled pressure of active ministry to Renew, Rebuild, and Recharge. I’ve been in ordained ministry for 22 years now and this is the first one I’ve taken.

The board of my church graciously allowed me this time and will continue paying my salary during the time.

So last week and this week, my other activities are placed on hold while I try to take care of all the business I need to take care of before I unplug from the office. I have a single list I’m working from: Everything On This List MUST Be Done Before January 31.

So far, as I have been sharing that news with people I have found lots of people who truly understand and support my need for this time. And for that I’m grateful.

  • Anyone else out there taken such a leave and found it helpful?
  • What was most helpful?

Let’s support each other.

Questions from In Between

January 12th, 2011

I had hoped to have my new 3D Living Site ready for launch today, but I have more things I want to have ready. It won’t be perfect yet, but it needs to be better than it is now. In the meantime, some quotations that have been intruding into my soul and some reflective questions. No answers, just questions.

From last night’s Lectio Divina group: Psalm 40:8 (NRSV):

I delight to do your will, O my God. Your law in within my heart.

  • What is the connection between my delight and God’s will?
  • And what about God’s delight and my will?
  • What is happening when I find the delight in my living is dim and virtually extinguished? Is that saying something to me about where I am in or not in God’s will?

The same verse from Nan C. Merrill’s Psalms For Praying:

I delight to abandon myself into your hands, O my Beloved. For you are the Heart of my own heart.

  • How can I live the Heart of my own heart in the face of strong pressure to do everything to perpetuate the group your in?
  • Is the hope of the church in the growth of the institution or in reconnecting with a deeper obedience, a broader delight?

Then on my bulletin board, this piece from Thomas Merton:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from the desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me
by the right road through I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust you always
thought I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Just one more question:

  • What does delight look like?

Stepping Up to the Edge

January 10th, 2011

See, I am making all things new” – Revelation 21:5

During last week’s Lectio Divina group, these words came alive for me.

For quite a while, I feel like I’m treading along the edge of many things in my life. There is an intuitive sense that some sort of a rebirth is approaching. Unfortunately, I have no clue what my intuition is thinking about.

Part of this is a yearning to be free from being blocked by the debilitating power of fear. I am amazed how powerful anxiety can be. And that anxiety just doesn’t simply go away. So far, I’m learning that taking steps of faith (even small ones) are the only way to live beyond the fear. So I keep trying things that can free my from the pall of anxiety.

Another piece of this is a sense of restlessness. This has been present for many years and it has no connection with where I am currently living. It is a larger sense that there is something I’m supposed to be doing and have yet to live into.

A waiting, a yearning to be remade. To be reborn.

What is being reborn?

As I said above, most of this is still a mystery to me. Yet the invitation of faith is to not wait for understanding but to begin venturing into what seems to be the directing of God.

I won’t go into all the various areas here, but one area that I’m changing my intention with is my relationship to my writing. For years I’ve been thinking that someday maybe I’ll magically become a writer. So far, all I’ve been able to create is a haunting frustration and sense of failure that this someday will never come. Over the last couple years and especially the last few months, I’ve been gravitating to books and articles about writing. One key message from all of them is the importance of moving from thinking and talking about writing to really writing even if my own uncertainties and anxieties continue.

So here I am with a new commitment to online writing.

My plan is to write each day, but to publish at least 3 times a week

I know I’ve tried this kind of a blog reboot before, but this time I’m taking a different approach. Before I was trying to write the same kind of random ideas and thoughts without a lot of intention other than to toss it out more often. The other part that is different is that it will in a different cyberspace.

This rebirth is a different kind of commitment to my writing. It is a commitment not only to quantity but especially to the quality of my writing. The words I’ve been reading lately focus on writing with the readers in mind. What will you receive from the time you graciously spend with my words.

This revitalization has three elements:

  1. 1. a whole new blog related to what I’m calling 3D Living;
  1. a collection of materials and resources that will build on the blog writings and become a primer source for this perspective I’m building; and
  2. a larger project that I won’t be ready to announce for a couple months but I’m most excited and terrified about.

These principles of 3D living have been forming in my life and thought for as long as I can remember. They get forgotten then relearned and refined time and again. It is now time to give these ideas life beyond a collection of random notes that lie hidden in a collection of folders I carry with me everywhere.

So what does this 3D Living look like? Three words: Open, Connected, and Whole. These three words gather together the elements of abundant life:

  • to be open to the work of Love and Hope,
  • to be connected to God and others in a living commitment of faith, and
  • to be whole in the love and peace of God’s Presence.

There is the seed. There is much more that is coming in a new place. I’ll let you know.

Soon.

Goodbye Old Friend … Almost

January 7th, 2011

The calendar changes and I find myself facing the realisation that it is time for more than just remembering to write 2011 instead of 2010 on my checks.

If you are one of the few that have been following my writings, I am grateful for your persistence, though it might be just as simple as setting up your RSS feed and not noticing that my posts have been few and far between.

The last couple years have been a time for winter in my spiritual and creative life. A season to be struck by the starkness of my own inner life. Which is not a good thing for someone who is an extreme introvert. During the last year I have finally accepted the reality of my own depression and state of being burned out. That was the easy part.

The hard part is accepting that my old ways of trying to fix it won’t work.

Just waiting passively (I would say patiently, but it was really passively) for the hard parts to go away and a magical world … um, a miraculous outpouring of blessings would just come. Casting Jesus in the part of that Prince who would come someday and sweep me into a fantasy isn’t right.

The other thing I’ve tried is to face the waves of fear and depression like the enemies they are and vanquish them with my own will and wit. Yeah, that has worked as well as if I had tried to go the beach and keep the tide from rising.

I can’t fight my way and no Prince will come to wake me from my long slumber.

These ways haven’t worked yet and never will.

Only grace works. The grace of family, friends and God. But grace comes and is always leading us into a place filled with the spaciousness of hope and new possibilities.

So, Goodbye Old.

So now, what’s new?

Last week I was stuck in the old cave of my deeper shadows wondering what if anything could be done to move me out of my dampened inertia. I found myself looking through some old web sites I had bookmarked and read one written by Cath Duncan on July 3, 2010 called “How to Recover from 10 Types of Demotivation.”

I don’t remember reading it before, but I must have sensed that it had something I was going to need to hear. As I read it, many of the ideas resonated with my personal experience.

One of them really stood out.

7.) You’re demotivated by grief

At the beginning of any change, we go through a phase of wondering if we should or could hang onto the way things were and grieving what we’d be losing if we make significant changes. Confusion, self-doubt, mistrust of the world around us and feeling lost are common symptoms and the bigger the change, the more powerful these symptoms. Sometimes we even go through a bit of depression and social withdrawal. Martha Beck calls this the “Death and Rebirth” phase of change in her book, Finding Your Own North Star. With all the grieving and fearing and feeling lost that goes on in this phase, it’s normal for your motivation to dry up.

Death and Rebirth.

I needed to let go of the idea that I was flawed because I was feeling lost and depressed. I had to redirect the voice of condemnation and fear that is a big part of my own loss of vitality and motivation.

Transformation takes time and energy.

For this expected rebirth to happen, some of the known and comfortable must be retired. Best done with gratitude and grace, but left behind nonetheless.

One of these things to retire is this blog. When I started this 6 years ago, it was a place to just toss out some of my thoughts about life. Most of the time what showed up here was the only draft I would write. I hit publish because I was afraid I would lose the nerve if I sat on something and revise it.

That might have worked 6 years ago, but not today. And not now in my life. My writing needs to mature and become more than just random words tossed out my window into the internet. It is time to practice the craft and art of writing.

I have a new project about ready to start. I will introduce that next. It is coming together as a culmination of many years of thought and reflection.

More to come. I hope you’ll like it.

The Temptation of Whatever it Takes: Part 2

September 6th, 2010

In a previous post (quite a while ago, I’m sorry to say) I began reflecting on the three temptations of Christ as recorded in Matthew 4. I see the core issue we face is the temptation to do Whatever it Takes to bring us what we feel is missing in our lives. I also see the three temptations connecting with the three main energy centers of both the Enneagram and the writings of Thomas Keating.

I started with the hunger of Christ and the temptation to turn stones into bread as our fear of survival leading us to use whatever it takes to ensure our safety and security.

What about the next temptation?

Temptation 2: Caught by Angels

The scene is the top of the top of the Temple. The center of the life of the people, a place always occupied with people looking to affirm and celebrate the work of God. “Jump,” the Tempter says, “won’t those guardian angels prove your value to God by saving you before you hit the ground?”

In this case, the temptation is to do whatever it takes to receive the attention and esteem of others.

One of my oldest fears is the fear of being ignored or forgotten. I can’t even begin to count how many nightmares and small anxiety attacks involve this fear of being lost and passed by. Even though I am introverted by nature, I willingly step right into the middle of a crowd to demand attention, to preach, or at least to tell a bad joke, just so people will know I’m there. And the more I feel ignored, the sillier my actions become. Just ask my family.

“Look at me.”

From watching what is going on in society, I don’t think I am any different from pretty much everyone around me. We have this basic need for attention and affection; to know that people like us. It also goes deeper than that, if I am seen then I am real in some way and I am important somehow.

This importance we want to extend into the future also as a way to affirm our existence. Think of all the monuments created and monuments destroyed as various attempts to ensure that our names and memories continue to point to our existence, or to erase the future/present from our enemies.

“Look at me, I exist, I’m here.”

On the Enneagram, the Heart Center focuses on being seen as a success, as valued for the things we accomplish. The 3 Enneatype seeks success at any price, the 2 Enneatype is willing to give themselves away to be seen as loving and worthy of receiving love, and the 4 Enneatype demonstrates to the world how creative and wonderful they are. Keating talks about our basic need for affection and esteem.

We live in a society today that is very much prone to this temptation. We are in awe of the spectacular, with “reality” television and the growing sources of 24 hour news feeds (television and internet). And that doesn’t count how easy it is to set up a blog somewhere and write something expecting people to read it (and how we track our hits and our twitter followers and our Facebook friends almost religiously). Do I have status? Is it up (Alright!) or down (Woe is me!)? Do people know who I am? Do people talk about me? Our adulation of celebrities doesn’t even hide as we have so many different kinds of Idols in our world. And it doesn’t even matter how you get your 15 minutes of fame, the only bad press nowadays is no press.

“Look at me. Notice me. Know my name.”

That is the invitation of the Tempter to Jesus. Here is the place where any kind of miraculous stunt would be assured to be on everyone’s lips within days if not hours. And there would be no question about how spectacular this event would be. Jesus could just coast through the rest of his life and have all the adulation and esteem he would ever want. And his enemies would not be able to question the sign, it was in their own front yard.

Jesus’ response? “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” (Matthew 4:7) Remember the basic fear behind this temptation? That one would be forgotten and in being forgotten be seen as not existing or not being valued. To me the response of Jesus is a challenge to the idea that we need to prove our worth. In our society we feel we have to do Whatever it Takes to prove ourselves worhty of attention and affirmation because of what we do and how spectacularly or perfectly we do it. If someone doesn’t see our caring or giving it doesn’t matter. We have to always be testing others to remember that we are real.

“We are created in and by love.”

In the Enneagram, the core of the Heart Center is the invitation to Hope. I see that hope being based on the grace of God already valuing us and continuing to create us in God’s Image. The image of God we are granted include the ability to be creators ourselves, with creativity and great compassion. The pathway away from the temptation is to accept with assurance that God, the Creator and Maker of all things embraces us in this wondrous way. We not only have a future, but we have a present. And that is one of the givens of Grace. No demonstration by God or ourselves can prove this promise. We return to faith. We are invited to trust in the unseen but very real hope we have in the living presence of God. That presence is the true source of the need to exist and be valued.

Remembering on Labor Day

August 31st, 2010

In a few days we will be celebrating Labor Day in the States. For most of us we see it as an extra day off. It has become the bookend to Memorial Day, the ending of the recreational summer. School is starting and campers are put away, but we enjoy one last day to have picnics and relax.

I usually take some time to remember my Grandfathers. Both of them worked on the railroad for the Chicago Northwestern line. One was an engineer, the other a brakeman and conductor. They both worked hard to support their families until their bodies were too worn out to work any longer. Because of them many people made it from one city to the next and many tons of goods were carried from origin to destination. I give thanks for them and for all those today whose labor I depend upon.

These are the ones who use their bodies and intellect to produce the things that we usually take for granted. If it is in the store, someone had to grow it, mine it, manufacture it, package it, deliver it, and somehow make it available to you. Labor Day to me is a time to remember how truly connected we are to one another.

It is also a good time to remember that each of these someones is a person who is loved and cared for. A son, a daughter, maybe a parent, a grandchild, a husband or wife, a friend, and even a neighbor. Each a person of priceless worth not because of what they labor to produce and deliver, but because they are a person created in the image of God and beloved by that Creator.

On a business spreadsheet they might be a number or a cost of production unit, but we do best to remember that each one is first of all a person. A person with loves and dreams, with pains and sorrows, with reasons to weep and occasions for laughter and song. No matter what language they speak or the color of their skin we share one Creator.

So, take some time this weekend and look around your life. Then give thanks for those who enabled you to have all you have. And remember that they are also beloved by the same God who loves you. With that gratitude we also need to express God’s compassion with our care and our seeking justice in all parts of this world.

If only Rebooting was easy

August 26th, 2010

One of those nice things about electronic tools is that they can be rebooted. having troubles with your smart phone? Pull the battery and let it reset and reboot itself. Getting stuck with Windows? (or even Linux) Reboot.Clear out the cache, start with new readings of the program instructions or the data.

Nine times out of Ten that gets your electronics back on track.

Too bad we can’t do that with life.

I know, there are people who try to write and encourage people to just restart their own inner programming to fix their own emotional and spiritual problems. I’ve read the articles, I looked at the books. I’ve even tried some of the ideas.

It isn’t really that easy.

Sure, I can reboot how I handle (mishandle) the tasks in my life and it works for a couple days maybe. Sure I can try the latest new idea and a new sense of freshness comes for a few days. I can have some mountain top experience that might lift my spirits for a couple weeks.

But I just need a new “fix” sooner or later. The deeper change doesn’t cover things up and each “fix” has less of an impact on my life. Really.

For the last few months I’ve been in really need of that magic fix. The depression has been especially deep. The sense of burnout has been deeper and more profound. The procrastination has been more debilitating than I ever remember. And none of the “fixes” have worked.

A couple months ago, someone came into my office holding some sizeable chunks of concrete. The steps leading into the church were falling apart. Our trustees started looking and talking about the issue. They explored all kinds of ways to patch what had broken and to put down some nice carpet to make it usable for a while.

But every scenario led them to know that in 2-3 years they would be doing it all over again and more of it.

So they decided to tear the steps out and put in something entirely new. Sure it was a major inconvenience and mess for a while. And there are still a couple things left to finish the project. Some people haven’t been too happy with both what they did and the cost of it. But they believed they did what needed to be done the long term.

I’m afraid that is what God is doing with me. Illusions stripped away and old dreams torn down. I have felt more lost in life than I ever have been. Yet, I am believing that this is what needs to be done.

I want to know what all this means in life and ministry and future and even writing (they are all valued pieces), but that knowledge is not coming. So I have to trust the deeper reboot in my life. A clearing the cache of what I thought my life would be and seeing how God starts it all back up again.

Instead of seconds, this looks like months.

Sigh.

The Temptation of Whatever It Takes: Part 1

February 25th, 2010

Last week for Ash Wednesday, I wanted to try to help my Confirmation students understand Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness. Last year I started working with my own version of Confirmation that links up with the Enneagram and some of the process perspectives that offers me. So it didn’t take much for me to see a link between the three temptations of Jesus and the 3 energy centers of the Enneagram (also the three energy centers of Thomas Keating).

But even that didn’t lead me to connect well with the students because the needs of the three centers are basic needs for life. What makes them traps for us is when we go to the extremes with the importance of or the means to achieve our needs. The common thread with all the temptations of Jesus was the temptation to do “Whatever it takes.”

Temptation 1: Turning Stones to Bread

We all have the basic desire for survival, to not be hungry. We like to feel safe and secure with all of our needs met and our fears taken care of.One of the things we really don’t like is that feeling of emptiness and it doesn’t matter if the emptiness is in our stomachs, the noise level around us, our bank accounts, our schedules, our understanding of life, or our inner spirit. We just don’t like it. In US society we loath emptiness so much we overindulge and hoard just about everything. We have fallen into the trap of confusing what we want with what we truly need all in the service of preventing us experiencing even the hint of being less. On the Enneagram this would correlate with the Head corner of the 6-5-7.

So Jesus in the wilderness after 40 days of no food sits in a place that we actively avoid. My confirmation students thought the idea of going 4 hours without food was ghastly enough let alone 40 days. So Jesus is set up for the first Whatever it Takes temptation. He was famished, and I can imagine that emptiness raising weakness and fear that he might not survive this time and the wilderness would be the end of his journey even before it really got started. So the temptation is to not believe that God will really take care of him, that the Spirit left him out here to die in the wilderness, so if Jesus wanted to survive, he would have to take care of it himself.

Both Jesus and Satan knew that Jesus had the power to make it happen and besides who would know. Jesus would know. And the truth he would know was that in the end he wasn’t able to trust God to care for him with even his basic needs, so he had to step in and fill the void of God’s activity in his life.

Whoa. That raises a lot of questions for me about all the things we do to “insure” that we will succeed in surviving our life. I will leave any personal reflections up to your living conversation with God’s Spirit.

But I find this temptation causing me to wonder how many survival programs for struggling churches are all based on the idea that God hasn’t stepped up to save you yet, so you need to do Whatever it Takes to make sure you have your needs as a church met. I’m all for hoping the Church of God continues (my income is a vested interest in that endeavor). However, I think we have lost sight of the idea that the Church is the Body of Christ and that the God who creates us and forms us together as a people is also desiring for us to live abundantly.

Where is the Trust that God holds the future and is faithful to us?

In many books and programs that come through my email and inbox the trust seems to lie instead on how we are processing the metrics of “successful” churches to “insure” our survival as a congregation or as a denomination.

Are we as the church being seduced by the Surviving by Whatever It Takes temptation? I’m afraid we are more than we would like to admit.

OK, this ended up being longer than I expected, so I will break it up into 3 parts and take each of the other two temptations.

Feel free to comment below.

Living Intentionally

February 24th, 2010

Note: A long introduction to this post.

I’m approaching Lent with a different attitude this year. Instead of focusing on giving up something simply for the sake of giving something up, I sat down to see what I wanted to add to my life. More particularly, what can I add to my life that enhances and expresses my living relationship with the Presence of God.

I’ve from time to time found great value in daily journaling, but haven’t touched my journal for 7-8 months. So that is part of what I am taking on. I also have found that the two times a day Centering Prayer is foundational to so much of who I believe God is calling me to be. So that is the package. Over the 40 days of Lent it is my intent to develop those three pieces of my spiritual practice to the point where they are my basic core.

Now, to the flip side. In order to be successful in that intent, I do have to decide what in my life can be set aside to make room. The image I’ve been working on is the image of our lives being a bucket (or a water tank as a member of the church shared). Our buckets are already full of things we do. So, for me to be successful in making those practices a core in my life, something has to be taken out of my bucket.

As I thought about that, I have realized for a long time that aimless television viewing is a major time and energy sink for me. Notice, I didn’t say television itself, but aimless television viewing. This is sitting down, grabbing the remote and spending hours just flipping around watching for a few moments whatever catches my attention. Big problem. So, that is the giving up part of this formula.

If I have a show I want to watch, fine, I will watch it, but then I want to turn the television off when it is done. The other night, I sat with my wife and watched a couple hours of television. That’s fine, too. We were sharing some time together, we would watch, we would talk. Yet, I have to confess, when she left, I slipped right back into the aimless viewing that I was wanting to stay away from.

Now to the point of this post!

I realized as I was processing that event in my journal, that the larger attitude I am trying to give up is living without intention. To do something without aim, purpose, or intention leads to that larger experience of wasting the precious moments that God gives us. This is living without choice.

The gift of life is something wonderful and I want to waste less and less of it as time goes on. So whether it is watching television or surfing the web or pastoring a church or anything else in my life. I am realizing that to live it best is to live with intention. And that intention is to express in everything I do the living Essence of God within me.