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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

escape from this mind prison?

last week, vandals left a simple but poignant message on the steps of the church:

Escape from this Mind Prison

i almost put it on the sign out front, not as some kind of a thumb-your-nose-back gesture against those who took the care to stencil the letters and then spray paint them, but as an invitation to those carrying a load or burden that continues to box in their perspective, framing it in pain, fallenness, broken faith, betrayal and resultant mistrust, as well as basic lack or loss of hope.

the writer of the book of hebrews challenges us (in hebrews 10.25) to be instrumental in opening each others’ minds, inspiring each other to revolution and beautiful action.

(this is explored a bit further in the blogpost 'you say you want a revolution' and can be found by clicking here. )

when I think about the message that was neatly and poetically written on the sidewalk, I am reminded once again that the power of darkness in our world has some struggling with the difference between freedom and slavery: the worship gathering affords us the opportunity to escape from the prison of hopelessness and pain that masquerades as life here, just east of Eden, gaining some perspective in order to more meaningfully serve love and hope to those still pacing back and forth in their cages.

there's a reason that the word sanctuary is used.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

a long ride down a curvy road

a friend was in my office one day and he presented me with a poser:

when you buy a car, you need to take it in every six months or your warranty is void. some employers require employees to get a yearly physical as part of their contract agreement. so why doesn't the church require people to come in for a check up on their marriage once or twice a year?

it was a good question, for which i did not have a good answer.


in his classic book zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance, robert pirsig discusses what he believes are the fundamental differences between classicism and romanticism.

The romantic mode is primarily inspirational, imaginative, creative, intuitive. Feelings rather than facts predominate. 'Art' when it is opposed to 'Science' is often romantic. It does not proceed by reason or by laws. It proceeds by feeling, intuition and aesthetic conscience...

The classic mode, by contrast, proceeds by reason and by laws- which are themselves underlying forms of thought and behaviour...

Although motorcycle riding is romantic, motorcycle maintenance is purely classic.

There is a classic aesthetic which romantics often miss because of its subtlety. The classic style is straightforward, unadorned, unemotional, economical and carefully proportioned. Its purpose is not to inspire emotionally, but to bring order out of chaos and make the unknown known. It is not an aesthetically free and natural style. It is aesthetically restrained. Everything is under control. Its value is measured in terms of the skill with which this control is maintained...

Persons tend to think and feel exclusively in one mode or the other and in doing so tend to misunderstand and underestimate what the other mode is all about... (Pirsig, p67)

i was intrigued by the common thread that seemed to be pulling some personal reading, a personal conversation and a pile of relational circumstance together, synthesizing them into an idea that i could grasp. as i thought about marriage relationships and the need for ongoing and intentional connection within them, as well as regular diagnostic exercise, the thought crystalized:

in order to enjoy a longer ride (romantic), we need to tend to the necessary maintenance (classic). classicism is the key to a more satisfying and prolonged romance.

not wanting to oversimplify relational dynamics, i would contend that, in some way, every action and interaction taking place between a man and woman contributes to either a bond between them or its opposite: a rift.

looking closely at the biblical story of david and michal (2 samuel 6.14-23) i recognized a single, rather straightforward problem that results in a fight so final that a rift is formed between them where a bond once existed- a rift which endures the rest of their days and leaves them childless together. the problem is this:

somewhere along their way, they stop relating to each other.

they lose track of the fact that they are one flesh, meant to share intimately together on all levels. they stop connecting. they stop feeding the living thing that is the relationship which has been established between them over years of knowing and growing.

having not attended to the basic classical maintenance needs within the relationship, the romance has ended, leaving a man and woman shouting at each other in the same street that, just hours earlier, has been the location for a great celebration of God's favour and restorative power.

it's a sad story and the sadness is increased by two things:
1) its preventability- things didn't need to go this way
2) its familiarity- we see the same things happen daily within our relational circles. just as i sat in my office listening to my friend share of his own marital journey, we all find ourselves sitting together, either sharing our own tales of marital disappointment, confusion and pain, or listening to those of another. the story of david and michal is neither the first, nor last story of distance that has opened up between a man and a woman.

No one can escape ‘bad’ moments in marriage, but no one is meant to drown in the difficulty. (Dan B Allender)

in his book The 10 Conversations You Must Have Before You Get Married, dr. guy grenier opens with a list of 15 rules of good communication (which are really strategies for meaningful discourse) and they are fairly predictable:
7 productive communication strategies to embrace
4 destructive communication tendencies to avoid
2 anger control strategies to apply, and
2 long-term maintenance strategies to lock in...

long-term maintenance strategies?
yep, with a rather familiar analogy that brings us full circle:

You've probably heard that changing the oil in your car is the single most useful thing you can do to maintain your vehicle. Every five thousand miles or ten thousand kilometres, you're supposed to do this basic, standard maintenance. Depending on how much you drive, this typically means an oil change every three or four months. Metaphorically, this type of regular maintenance is what you want to be doing with your relationship as well. To extend the metaphor a bit, in the same way that a regular oil change is perhaps the best thing you can do for your car, checking in with your partner as to the ongoing status of the relationship may also be the best possible approach to long-term relationship maintenance you can take...

"How we doin'?" conversations prevent lingering resentments from coming to full flower by ensuring that there are regular opportunities to deal with upsetting issues. They demand a culture of problem solving in the relationship and dramatically reduce the possibility of issue avoidance and the use of passive-aggressive strategies. Essentially, "How we doin'?" conversations make being frank and candid with each other a regular and expected event rather than one that's exceptional. (Grenier pp63-64)

so what if everyone who is married made a 'diagnostic' appointment once a year to spend an hour just talking together with someone who was there to help them explore the existing relationship between husband and wife and attend to some possible maintenance needs that exist within the marriage and which may be keeping that thing from really flying down that curving road that stretches from now 'til death do us part?'

*note: to celebrate their 30th anniversary, my mother and father rode a motorcycle diagonally across the continent, from british columbia to the tip of the florida keys. it took them thirty days to make the round trip. that was twenty years ago and they still ride the bike together. that's what i'm talking about.

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

who am I?

Who am I? They often tell me
I stepped from my cell's confinement
Calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
Like a squire from his country-house.
Who am I? They often tell me
I used to speak to my warders
Freely and friendly and clearly,
As though it were mine to command.
Who am I? They also tell me
I bore the days of misfortune
Equally, smilingly, proudly,
Like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really all that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I myself know of myself?
Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
Struggling for breath, as though hands were
Compressing my throat,
Yearning for colors, for flowers, for voices of birds,
Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
Tossing in expectation of great events,
Powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
Weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
Faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?

Who am I? This or the other?
Am I one person today and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
And before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army,
Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?
Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am Thine!

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer