Category Archives: God

creativity…rethinking intelligence

A friend sent me this TED talk by Dr. Ken Robinson today and it has me thinking about how we experience the world and the God who created the world.

If you want a more in depth perspective, take a look at The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World by Iain McGilchrist. Thick book but solid perspective of the brain in the Western world.

How do you understand intelligence and how do you cultivate creativity?

imaging God

Life has suddenly turned busy over the last few weeks as I continue to work, now have 2 kids in school and have started back to school myself in a doctoral program focused on discernment of images and activity in a shifting culture (depending on what you call it).

In one chat session with our cohort last week, we discussed the picture to the left that is Michaelangelo’s painting of God’s Creation of Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. In September 2004, I saw this painting from the floor of the Sistine Chapel but I had never considered the significance of the painting.

As you look at the painting some questions to consider: What is the focus of the painting? How is Adam portrayed in the painting? What is God doing? How are they interacting? What does the space between signify?

See what you come up with as you think through this painting. The image is powerful and certainly communicates more than a 1000 words.

how do you know?

“You keep telling yourself what you know. But what do you believe? What do you feel?” said Mal to her husband Cobb.

There are many layers to the movie Inception and on my second viewing with new friends from my new doctoral cohort, I was captivated by the questions surrounding how we know, believe, feel and experience reality.

As a part of an earlier conversation in the day, Len Sweet shared that we can recognize reality by it pushing back. This is the future story we will live with holograms and avatars. Inception poses the solution of knowing reality by the physical marker of a totem–a physical item with specific characteristics and weight unique to every person. This makes a great deal of sense to me when I think about the Reality of God.

What are your totems that bring you back to the Reality of God?

wonder woman versus batgirl

(posted by my wife Amy)

Our boys are obsessed with Superheroes. Most days they are several different incarnations – Mr. Incredible, Superman, Batman, and Luke Skywalker are perennial favorites. Recently, they received matching Wolverine costumes from their Nana and Gramps, which they are wild about, even though they have never seen X-Men (and won’t for a long time). We spend time discussing at length Syndrome, the bad guy from the Incredibles, who likes to create gadgets that make him seem like a Superhero, even though he is not. The main problem with Syndrome, of course, is that if gadgets make everyone super, no one really is.

As the only woman in our household, I always get to be the girl Super (as we call them) in our stories – Elastigirl, Wonder Woman, Batgirl, or even Princess Leia – and I love it. Last weekend, however, I had my eyes opened to a new perspective. I’ve been blessed to spend this weekend at the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) Convention in Nashville with three friends from our church, along with 4,000 moms from around the country.

In a general session today, we had the great gift of hearing from Efrem Smith, a leader and speaker who can bring it like few others I’ve heard. After he shared with us from the gospel of Matthew about Tamar, a descendant of cursed people who was also in the bloodline of Jesus, he challenged the moms in the room to love the unlovable mom – to find them, love them, connect them, and show them Christ’s love.

How in the world can we – who are possibly very busy with crazy situations inside walls of our own homes – do that? Luckily we have Jesus living on the inside of those crazy situations with us, giving us special powers. But like Syndrome, Batgirl is not a real Superhero. She is simply mimicking a guy, Batman, who is also not a real Super. Batman is a very rich man who spends his life creating gadgets that make him seem like he has super powers, and even though he uses the powers for good and not evil – he is hiding behind the mask and gadgets. And instead of living into her own identity, Batgirl assumes a false mask.

On the other hand, Wonder Woman was born with real power – it is her true identity. If you get close to her, you know where her power comes from. She can go higher than the average human woman, and does not hide behind a mask. She lives in her true identity – and if we do this, live in our true identity in Christ, we also have real power from the one who created us in his image.

As you think about your life, is there a super that you relate to?

one beautiful mess

Yesterday, I was in a conversation with some friends and local pastors that I have been journeying with for the past year and I realized something new about myself.

In the last few weeks, there are two books that I have found myself frequently carrying around with me. The first is a book called The Practice of Adaptive Leadership by Ronald Heifetz, Marty Linsky, and Alexander Grashow.

The second is a book that the leadership of our church will be reading together during the last part of 2009 called Invitation to a Journey: A Road Map for Spiritual Formation by Robert Mulholland.

In one hand a business book about “the practice of mobilizing people to tackle tough challenges and thrive.” And in the other hand a book about our spiritual journey with God and how God transforms us to his image of his Son Jesus in order that we would lay down our lives for others. My question is, how can anybody in their right mind carry around these two books and be reading them at the same time?

My genius answer, “Me.” I love this stuff and more and more so see how a business book and a spiritual journey book relate to one another in God’s Kingdom or God’s Economy. When we see and hear the world with the perspective of God’s Kingdom, we begin to realize that “everything is spiritual” as Rob Bell says. We begin to see how God wants to make all things new, whole and right; a place and experience of the world that is centered in God and is encompassed by God.

As I read and reflect more on these two books, there are surprising similarities because as I have discovered leadership comes from the core of who we are. As God transforms my identity so that I lay down my life for others, leading people through difficult challenges becomes more natural to who I am and more rooted in my inward life that no one else sees on the outside.

So, I guess I can walk around proudly with both books, set them on my table in Starbuck’s, pick up my coffee and not wonder what the person across from me is thinking as they see the jacket covers of my two intriguing books.

which Jesus are we talking about?

Recently, I’ve been reading Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch’s book, REJESUS: A Wild Messiah for a Missional Church and some of what they write I’ve heard before in their talks but I love the following quote on 111: “we need to go back to the daring, radical, strange, wonderful, inexplicable, unstoppable, marvelous, unsettling, disturbing, caring, God-Man.”

This morning I was speaking on a story that Jesus tells (Matthew 21.28-32) and Jesus tells it in the midst of a crazy series of events…Jesus enters Jerusalem and the people hail him as King, they are excited and the people are asking, ‘Who is this?’

Jesus answers their question in an intriguing way…by entering the temple and driving out the money changers and sellers of high priced animals for sacrifice. Next, he heals the blind and lame in the temple courts. He leaves the city and the next morning, he curses a fig tree and it withers. It is plain to the reader or hearer through these experiences that Jesus is demonstrating who his power comes from…his Father in heaven. Later in the day, he enters the temple courts again and teaches the people. The chief priests and elders challenge his authority. They doubt who he serves and how he serves.

In response to their questions about his authority, he says this, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven (God), or of human origins?”

They don’t know how to answer his question honestly and answer “We don’t know.”

So it is after Jesus stumps the leaders about the origin of John the Baptist’s authority that he tells this story about two sons.

This is one baffling Jesus. I wonder if this is the Jesus we have become familiar with.

love you good or bad

The post below is from my wife Amy. Since this blog is dedicated to encountering God in the everyday reality of life and we frequently talk about what God is teaching us through parenting, she will be a regular guest writer on my blog.

A good friend of mine told me about a grocery shopping trip with her little girl, Janie. It was truly a revolutionary story for me, one that changed my whole parenting tone and communication strategy with my kids. Sweet Janie is one of my favorite kids – she was born over a year before our oldest, so she was one of the first babies with whom I had ‘hands on’ time. She also has a very strong and determined personality – so one day when she was in Trader Joe’s with her mama and didn’t get her way, started to throw an EPIC fit. And kept throwing the fit, while my friend (who had her other two kids with them as well) walked up to the front to pay for her groceries firmly holding Janie’s hand. Janie kept trying to throw herself on the ground, wailing and screaming for the entire store to hear. If you are a parent, you’ve probably had those moments before too. If you are not a parent, you’ve probably judged parents having those moments – at least, I know I did before it was my turn.

At the front of the store, my friend got more looks and glares from fellow shoppers and felt herself very, very near the end of the rope. Seriously, what we do in these small moments as parents is so defining! And it’s not always pretty, but what my friend did is one of the reasons I will always look up to her as a mom full of grace. She picked Janie up, hugged her as close as she could, and began to whisper to her, ‘Mama loves you when you’re good and Mama loves you when you’re bad. Mama loves you when you’re good and Mama loves you when you’re bad.’ Over and over, just like that. Janie went limp in her mama’s arms for a minute or two while they paid, silent, contemplating. When they got outside she was back to herself – she cheerfully apologized to her mom and they went home without any more drama.

It’s been months since my friend told me this story and it comes into my head at least once a day. I’ve started saying these words to Brighton when I am feeling frustrated with his behavior – Mama loves you when you’re good and Mama loves you when you’re bad. Some of his behavior is simply not what I would choose (asking me to buy him something over and over after I’ve said ‘no’ ) and some is truly bad (knocking his baby brother’s head into the wall). But either way I repeat these words to him, hoping that he’ll know this unconditional love before he knows my frustration.

And then there are the moments when I have my own temper tantrums – usually over something small, but always something that made me feel small and insignificant. In those moments I have begun to hear God whispering to me that he loves me when I’m good and loves me when I’m bad. I’ve had some of my lowest lows since becoming a parent. The struggle with post partum depression and balancing the needs of small people with my own needs has found me wanting over and over – and at times things have been very out of balance. And in spite of myself, actually even because of myself, God reminds me of his love.

So the story comes full circle. This morning my younger son, Everett, was overly hungry for breakfast and was throwing all of his brother’s toys around, and generally making himself a nuisance. Brighton’s response? He looked his brother in the eye and said, ‘Everett I love you when you’re good and I love you when you’re bad. Let’s get you some breakfast.’ Amen.

seeing God’s Kingdom

Jesus spoke and taught a great deal about God’s Kingdom. In fact, I would argue that this is what Jesus cared about more than anything else. He described God’s Kingdom through story and metaphor and it seems like his followers had a difficult time grasping what it was and how this related to the religious institutions and factions in the first century. I’m not so certain we understand any better than they did what God’s Kingdom exactly is and I’m not so sure this was Jesus’ point.

I had an incredible opportunity last week to experience something of God’s Kingdom; it was not something I exepected. I was invited by a friend to participate in a Leadership Development Program through the Center for Creative Leadership. It was held here at the San Diego office of CCL and people from all over the country joined me in my home town to participate. So 13 strangers from all different walks of life and work engaged in a week long experiment with 2 faculty members.

Before I entered the experience, I had heard from my friend that it would be an incredible experience and I had heard from another former participant to hold my breathe as I received feedback from my boss, co-workers, reports and people from our community of faith. So, I went in open handedly with little expectation of what would transpire. Would this be the best week and exerience of my life? Would it be difficult for me to hear constructive criticism of how people perceive me?

What I encountered in this course were people, as well as myself, who discovered that developing as a leader is not by simply making a few little tweaks but by looking deep at the core of who we are. By looking at the core of who we are, I think I witnessed God’s Kingdom breaking into our lives and world whether we recognize it or not. I would love to share the stories of others but I don’t yet have permission to do that. Let me share a few pieces of my story.

By looking at the core of who I am, I was reminded that God has created me uniquely and creatively. I am formed in his image and being conformed to his likeness. I realized that I am often living up to other people’s expectations of an ET (Extroverted-Thinker) world but I am an NF (Intuitive Feeler). I encountered the question, how do I live with an open heart? Daily, I have opportunities to engage all sorts of people, become more aware of my surroundings, suspend judgement, ask open questions and offer who I am to others from the core of who I am. This, I see as God’s Kingdom breaking into my life and world.

On Saturday, I officiated a wedding at Sunset Cliffs (what an incredible scene to get married). As I began leading the wedding ceremony, I realized that what I had written to share with the couple was not enough. It was a script I wrote and adapted for them in advance but these words were actually not what my heart would say to them. So, I threw out the script and spoke from my heart. I shared with them what my gut was saying (and I don’t think it was indigestion).

While I don’t think I need to speak off the cuff to live with an open heart, I feel that in this situation, on the cliffs, with this couple and their family and friends gathered around, they needed to hear from my heart. I actually had a difficult time holding it together as I looked into the eyes of the bride and groom and saw the tears of joy welling up in their corners.

God’s Kingdom had broken into my life and onto the scene of this wedding. They knew God was there and I saw him at work. We experienced God’s Kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.

Where have you seen God’s Kingdom breaking into your life?

Opportunities to Change Our World

Tonight, Amy and I had so much fun together as we dreamed and wrote about a challenge that someone put forward in our faith community for different community groups. We sent out an email and facebook notes that pointed people to a great opportunity, which I mention below.
When a group of people make a little time, dream together, think creatively about how to use limited resources and finally make a community decision (at times there are too many options), I believe this imaginative community is what the community of faith is all about. See, God desires to change the world through a ragamuffin group of people who are able to take a little risk and trust that God will bring life from death. He will turn our limited resources into his unlimited resources.
If you are interested, this is what we sent out to friends and family around the country:
Someone in our faith community gave $100 to a number of groups of people and challenged us to make an impact in our world. Our community group decided to raise awareness and money for Opportunity International by having a dessert night and inviting friends to learn more.
We hope there’s no pressure to donate, we will simply share about this organization whose work we genuinely respect. Amy and I realize that a number our friends and family live outside of the San Diego area but there is still a way that you can help. You can still make a difference!
There are other ways that you can contribute to the challenge than attending to our dessert nights this coming month. (1) For every person who signs up for the bi-monthly eNewsletter, Opportunity International gets $10 from a Matching Challenge. Please send us a quick email and let us know if you sign up.(2) If you are a parent OR if you would are looking for a unique gift for a family of children, we would like to let you know about a book called One Hen: How One Small Loan Made A Big Difference. If you purchase the book through http://www.amazon.com/One-Hen-Small-Loan-Difference/dp/1554530288/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1204302752&sr=1-1, they will contribute 4% of revenue to Opportunity International. We just got a couple copies in the mail today and are excited to share the story and vision with Brighton and Everett.
Here is the story: “Inspired by true events, One Hen tells the story of Kojo, a boy from Ghana who turns a small loan into a thriving farm and a livelihood for many. After his father died, Kojo had to quit school to help his mother collect firewood to sell at the market. When his mother receives a loan from some village families, she gives a little money to her son. With this tiny loan, Kojo buys a hen. A year later, Kojo has built up a flock of 25 hens. With his earnings Kojo is able to return to school. Soon Kojo’s farm grows to become the largest in the region. Kojo’s story is inspired by the life of Kwabena Darko, who as a boy started a tiny poultry farm just like Kojo’s, which later grew to be the largest in east Africa. Kwabena also started a trust that gives out small loans to people who cannot get a loan from a bank. One Hen shows what happens when a little help makes a big difference. This help comes in the form of a microloan, a lending system for people in developing countries who have no collateral and no access to conventional banking. Microloans have begun to receive more media attention in recent years. In 2006 Muhammad Yunus, a Bangledeshi economist who pioneered microloan banking, won the Nobel Peace Prize. The final pages of One Hen explain the microloan system and include a list of relevant organizations for children to explore.”
No pressure but these are a few easy ways to change a small part of our world.