Monday, February 23, 2009

The Space in Between, Part VII

I drove to Cascade today, coming from the west rather than parts south or east. The road was unfamiliar. I had been on it only once, as a passenger, and on that day it was simply a means to an end.

But not today. Today it was beautiful. Today I took the time to admire it as I drove. Today I stopped several times along the way to savor it -- the still mirror of water, the intensely clean aroma of the mountain forest in winter, the noisy silence.

The "journeys" of life are like these spaces in between. There are stormy times when the best option may be to simply press on, trying to get through without stopping for more difficulty than necessary. But much of life is the in-between spaces of routine: family interactions, mealtimes, commuting, work, laundry, home repair, and stuff like that. And, like the road I was on today, there is often great beauty just waiting to be discovered by those who are paying attention.

The Space in Between, Part VI

Sunday mornings can feel a little too busy sometimes. I usually walk the building before and after worship services, talking with people in the hallways, kitchen, classrooms, sanctuary, and just about everywhere else. And I do love the activity, catching up a bit on the lives of people I love. I love gathering every week with "spiritual family" to worship and share our stories together. But it's pretty easy to get caught up in the activity and lose focus.

I worshiped yesterday with another Nazarene congregation on our District. At their church, they do announcements and other such things at the beginning of the service. It was an unfamiliar place, filled with people I didn't know, and I had just come from a Sunday School class. As much as I wanted to be fully present, it was hard to do with all that activity. But then... the pastor invited us into silence.

For several moments we sat quietly. I recognized in that time the rushed-ness of my own spirit, and (mostly) released it. It was almost like an airlock experience, depressurizing my soul so I could more truly acknowledge and respond to God.

Silence and solitudes are spiritual disciplines, meant to be incorporated into the rhythms of everyday life. There is abundant life in those in-between spaces.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Space in Between, Part V

There is a lot of space between Salt Lake City and Baker City, Oregon. We've seen a decent amount of it so far on the SDMI teaching tour, and have a bit yet to go. It's a long time to sit, the terrain isn't particularly appealing, and some of the weather was a little questionable, but I've really enjoyed traveling those vast spaces in between training events because we travel together and, as we travel, we talk. We talk about what it means to follow Jesus together, about how to do that effectively, about the God we trust. We tell stories to catch up on each others' lives, explore and acknowledge our struggles, laugh together, pray together. We learn what other churches are doing, what is working for them, what is not. I am loving the journey.

Friday, February 13, 2009

People Together

I enjoy the Dilbert comic strip, and read it regularly. A few months ago, I stumbled upon animations of the strip. I was disappointed that the characters do not sound like themselves. This, of course, brings up an obvious question: How could I know what they sound like? It seems that my imagination has taken hold.

This week's convention featured an excellent selection of speakers in both general session and workshop formats. Many of them are authors; I've read the books of several. It seemed to me that some of them didn't really sound like themselves. But that doesn't even make sense. Again I find that my imagination has filled in the blanks. Print media presents a message which, though it may reflect some of the author's personality somewhat, is really quite independent of that individual.

General sessions were interesting. The speakers were well-known pastors and/or authors. The thousands of attendees all came together in an enormous room. In that situation, it makes some sense to project real-time onto screens so even those far from the stage could see facial expressions and so forth, but the whole environment -- with special lighting, fog machines, several cameras, and sometimes ten-foot tall projections of speakers' faces -- seemed to create a sense of other-ness. It seemed to remove some of the human element.

It was good to see and hear some of the authors in the more natural environment of workshops, to recognize them as flesh-and-blood human beings with genuine souls and the experiences of everyday life. While not a strongly interactive situation, the smaller group size, absence of special effects, closer proximity, and Q&A opportunities seemed to provide a sort of grounding. We could see each other more as people.

We are created for relationship, to connect as people shaping and being shaped by our interactions with each other. These past several days have been wonderful. But I find myself looking forward even more to returning to the community of people who exist -- and with whom I can exist -- simply as human beings without all the hoopla.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Space in Between, Part IV

This looks like another picture of an airplane wing, but it's not. It's a picture of a mountain. Mount Shasta, I think, though I'm not quite sure. Let's assume for today that I'm right.

According to Wikipedia, a Boeing-737 has a wingspan of just under 95 feet and is 36.5 feet tall. That's why the pit crew people who so quickly scurry around it look pretty small. Not like tiny little ants, but even big guys who can hoist the luggage with the neon "HEAVY" tags are dwarfed when the plane drives up. At any rate, a plane looks pretty big, compared to us.

And Mount Shasta? At 14,179 feet (also from Wikipedia), it is the second-highest peak in the Cascade range. In other terms, it is nearly four hundred airplanes tall.

Yet this photo of a huge and majestic mountain looks like just another picture of an airplane wing because I was sitting on an airplane, far above and to the side. Too often I see life like this, with skewed perspective. There is quite a diversity of application here. I've been listening to folks talking about the potential benefits and worthwhile cautions of technology in biblical community, though, so that's what I'm thinking about right now...

Even as technology-based communication (Facebook, Twitter, texting, etc.) provides ways of exchanging information with others, I'm pretty sure the distance distorts a lot of the message and often creates relational distance in the process. And we don't usually recognize the distance because it all looks pretty clear from where we sit. So much of what we receive is disembodied parts, presenting a picture which does not adequately represent the whole, particularly when separated from genuine, consistent everyday-type relationship.

My deep and growing desire is for deep, authentic relationships with others. I'm still thinking about what all of this means.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Space in Between, Part III

When it comes to long drives, I am definitely a fan of freeways. They are designed to move people in vehicles long distances at consistent and fast speeds, allowing us to reach destinations more quickly.

But there are times on such trips when I have wondered what I miss by driving so quickly and by staying on the prescribed path. Every so often, I add a little flexibility to my schedule so I can pause along the way. Today was one of those days, and it was great.

Twin Falls is situated next to the Snake River, and quite a ways above it. The Snake is between the freeway and the town. It is spanned by the I.B. Perrine bridge, which has a pathway leading just under the bridge. I stood there awhile, hearing and feeling the traffic rather than seeing it.

Malad Gorge was another worthy stop. A foot bridge crosses the Gorge a little below freeway level, providing a good long view in both directions. Even with the cars passing so close, it feels separate, distanced somehow. The wind was brisk, but not bitterly cold.

At this time of year, there is always at least a little uncertainty about driving weather. Not only were the roads dry, but the sky was even quite lovely in places, with just enough clouds to accentuate the blue:

Then, of course, there was the conference itself. It's one of those things that draws people who happen to have had a significant influence on my life through their friendship, teaching, and mentoring.

What a great day!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Extreme Mission, Extreme Accomplishment

January 26 was the one-year anniversary of the inauguration of the Bruno Radi Convention Center. Most people don't know where this convention center is located, or who Bruno Radi was, or why it's named after him. Thirteen months ago, I didn't, either. But then I flew to Argentina and invested time, money, relationships, and manual labor. This facility and what it represents became a part of me. The people I met there come to mind regularly. So do the ones I didn't meet.

It is particularly for the ones I didn't meet that the building was built, for those who do not have a relationship with God. Throughout the past year, the Bruno Radi Convention Center has been used almost every weekend to reach people for Christ, help them mature in faith, and develop skills for service. It has been used to host youth camps, pastor conferences, spiritual formation courses, concerts, and more. It is also rented to commercial groups, with the resulting income being re-invested in training.

Of the ten church plants we worked with in the area, four become fully recognized in 2008 and three anticipate reaching that point in 2009. The remaining three continue in that process as they worship, grow and serve their communities. I look forward to celebrating again with these ten church families, even from a distance, as they reach new milestones in ministry.

Extreme Nazarene doesn't sit on its laurels, though. Even before this venture in Argentina had been completed and entrusted to the care of capable South American leaders, Extreme's leaders were already moving quickly toward the next mission. They are now in Peru, developing and deploying 80 long-term and 1000 short-term missionaries into 120 communities, helping to address complex needs in those communities while introducing people to Christ and planting self-replicating churches.

Check out Extreme Peru here!

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Space in Between, Part II

One of the things I've been learning from Dan is finding beauty. I love his photography, because he can go to scenic places and to "ordinary" places, and find very cool-looking stuff in both. He is naturally gifted. I'm really not gifted in visual arts, but that's no excuse to ignore beauty, so I just work a little harder at it. That's part of the reason I've been traveling more recently with a camera. It is actually a spiritual discipline, a rather simple practice that actually helps me to grow in my faith.

The photo here is one I took in the Boise airport a couple weeks back. It is a hallway that connects my flights' gates to the rest of the airport, so I walk through it every time I fly into or out of Boise. Both sides are lined with windows that let in lots of light, and its place above the ground gives me the feeling of walking through a portal, from one world to another.

For all these reasons and more, it is one of those places in my life that I choose to pause just briefly whenever I'm there, and immerse myself in that moment. It is a place to recognize where I have been and where I am going. It is a time to stop and be fully present in the midst of routine. It is an opportunity to wait and see the world move forward without me.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Big Church

Children's ministries has its own lingo sometimes, and one term that seems to be common is "Big Church." For example, kids often join their families in Big Church for special events, and at SLC First, the 4-k group worships in Big Church for the first part of the service before going with Miss Betty for Stories of God.

Big Church can feel a bit foreign to kids -- and adults -- who have not been there before. These days I feel like that as I visit other churches during these weeks of leave. I have been part of church leadership long enough that it is easy to forget what it's like to be a visitor, and I want to see that experience with fresh eyes, and to become better able to help guests of SLC First to feel at home when I return.

It is foreign, too, because different churches do things differently. How do they honor Christ through the Lord's Supper? When do they baptize believers? What is in place to help people mature in their faith? Where do kids worship? These are important to me as a leader because they give me ideas. They are important to me as a visitor because I want to worship without the distractions of trying to figure out what is happening.

There is another part of this Big Church experience in my life -- the opportunity to experience even just a small taste of the Big Church existing beyond our walls. I had the privilege of doing this a year ago with Extreme Nazarene in Argentina, then this past summer in Barbados. I saw some of Big Church when I took teens to camp with hundreds of others across our District, and when we hosted teen quizzing.

The pastor where I worshiped today returned yesterday(?) from his own Big Church experience. He visited a multi-site church in the Philippines to talk with their leadership about ministry and to worship with thousands of others who are also tremendously excited about what God has done in their lives, and about what he continues to do.

There is one body, with many members. SLC First is part of Big Church.