Sunday, February 18, 2007

Practice, Practice, Practice

This week I skipped town for a continuing education program in Richmond, VA. The program is titled “Extraordinary Leadership Training.” Now I signed up, not because I am or will ever become an extraordinary leader, but I’d like to become a better leader. The three year program will teach me about Bowen Family Systems Theory. The theory challenges me to work on myself and my family connections. I can sum it up briefly and inadequately as “learn, learn, learn, practice, practice, practice.

The program has taught me that leaders offer non-anxious presence and by doing so reduces the anxiety of the entire group. Little did I know how much I’d get to practice on my trip home. Fortunately for me, my colleague traveling with me, is well versed in offering a non-anxious presence.

Let me simply say, we arrived at the Richmond airport over 2 hours before our scheduled departure. We were flying to Cincinnati, in order to fly to Boston. (I could write a series of blogs regarding the special logic of air travel including simple ideas such as: to travel east you must first go west and it is cheaper to fly round trip than one way. I believe air travel log makes up a entirely separate branch of philosophy, logic, mathematics and physics!)

Upon arrival I went to a handy check-in kiosk only to discover it could not find our reservation. So we stood in line. After 20-30 minutes of non movement in the line, the long line, security personnel asked everyone on our side of the terminal to move to the other side of the building. We waited for probably 45 minutes before we were allowed to return. Two hours later we had missed our flight, while waiting in line but had lots of practice of non-anxious presence.

After enjoying a night (well really about 2/3rds of a night) at a local motel, compliments of Delta Airlines our saga continued. I’ll spare the rest of the details, but it proved to be a wonderful opportunity practicing staying calm, focused and finding humor in the entire experience.

So where am I headed with my ramblings? How often do we approach the challenges of life as an opportunity to practice what we believe? Do you see each day as a chance to become a little better person? I’d like to say I see each day this way, but one of my principles for living is to tell the truth. Still, I’d like to approach each day as a learning opportunity and each challenge as a chance to grow a little more.

The same is true for our faith. How do saints become such wonderful, solid, grounded persons who seem to exude the love of God? They practice. Their lives and ours are made up of individual opportunities to live what we truly believe. We become a sum of those opportunities.

This week I’m going to practice, practice, practice being a follower of Jesus Christ. How about you?

Grace & peace,


Friday, February 09, 2007

Miracle Stories

The other day as I attended a worship service in one of the churches I serve,
a guest preacher, shared about the miracle of healing in her life.I have seen dramatic healing, so I have no doubt such miracles occur. But as I reflected, I realized how limited our view of miracles can be. The miraculous, life giving power of God is not limited to the dramatic removal of a dreaded disease. Nor in my experience is the removal or the continuation of such a disease determined by the amount of faith of the victim and/or their loved ones. Too often, there seems to be an equation, “faith x prayer = healing.” The theory goes, if you just have enough faith then the healing happens. I call it the vending machine approach. You put enough currency into the slot, pull the selected lever and out pops the miracle.

I have lots of problems with this approach. First, it suggests we have some control over God. That is, if we just insert the correct spiritual/faith currency then God will have to do what we want. My life experience tells me it doesn’t work this way. God is God. We are not. Seems to me this is important to remember.

Secondly, the corollary to the first belief implies if there is no miracle, as we sought, then the problem is ours. We simply do not have enough faith. If we’d had enough faith then God would have healed the loved one, performed that miracle. So it is our fault. This belief suffers from the same faulty reasoning as the first because it still places us in control of God. It has the added feature of assessing blame and assigning guilt to the person who sought the miracle.

Finally, for me, this approach to God’s power forgets the reality of mystery. Miracles and healing are a mystery. Mystery is a critical part of faith. Life is mysterious. We do not have it all figured out and that is a good thing.

Before I leave these musings, let me say that I believe in miracles. I’ve seen dramatic healing of body, mind, spirit and relationships which clearly involved the mysterious life giving power of God. I have experienced them in my own life and participated in them in my ministry.

Where do you find the miraculous in your life?

Where have you seen the incredible, life giving, healing power of God at work?

Are you open to mystery?

Grace & peace,