Archive for the ‘Emergent’ Category

Being Non-Dual   1 comment

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I have been reading a lot lately about contemplative approaches to life.  Being contemplative means not having a dual mind.  This requires being open and striving to avoid preconceived opinions.  This also requires not putting judgment on encounters but instead experiencing these encounters.  A contemplative approach is not always appropriate.  However, where possible, it can allow us to discover new viewpoints and new understandings.

Having a non-dual mind requires a lot of effort for someone like myself.  As a productive of Western culture and the outcomes of the Enlightenment period, I have been trained to look at everything from an either/or viewpoint instead of a both/and, or even an “it is what it is” outlook.  Like many others, I see something as either good or bad, either right or wrong, either black or white.  It takes effort, some training, and some self-discipline to allow other possibilities.

Over time, I think all of us come to a point of having to admit (sometimes extremely reluctantly) that life does not allow us to place experiences, situations, and even people, in nicely contained boxes.  Just when we feel we have all the definitions figured out and can properly assess which compartment something appropriately can be assigned to, there is a twist or experience which throws off our neatly formed order.  We are forced to reassess what we knew to be true.  We are challenged to redefine life’s aspects.  This upsets us which I think is mainly because it forces us to see that we are not as truly in control as we would hope.

In my recent reading on this subject, I have to realize that there is some comfort to a non-dual viewpoint, as strange as it may seem.  By not having to label and categorize each item using the either/or approach, there is the opportunity to change and be changed.  I find some excitement in the idea that approaching life without a dualistic approach could led to some amazing discoveries.

Again, let me say that there are necessary times when we must determine either/or in a situation.  Let me also say that even if we want to move toward more non-dual approaches, it will take a lot of effort on our part since it will require us to relearn perspectives that have been in place for centuries.  However, I think it sounds like a great adventure if we are willing to make the attempt.

A Change Is Coming   Leave a comment

You can definitely feel it in the air this morning.  With the wind blowing more intensely, the moisture in the air from over twenty-four hours of rain, and the gray skies, you know that the weather is changing to a different season.  It also helps that there are tons of colored leaves that lay scattered upon the ground which have fallen from the trees above.  Autumn is truly upon us and hints of winter are starting to arrive already.

As I thought about these changes in weather and seasons this morning, I pondered the effect of change upon our lives.  I am the first to admit that I dislike the change from spring and summer to fall and winter.  I do not enjoy the colder temperatures and the regularity of cloudy skies that seem to accompany this time of year.  So for me, some changes are less than enjoyable.  When I encounter this type of change, I tend to see an adjustment in my attitude.  I have to work harder to remain positive and to vision into the future.  These are not impossible tasks but I do realize that they take more deliberate effort when my attitude goes in this direction.

Some changes in life are more enjoyable.  I greatly enjoy the arrival of spring and summer.  You can probably easily understand why based upon my earlier comments.  I find myself more upbeat and with an eagerness during those changes.  When you are energized by change, you definitely see possibilities and opportunities.

What all of this says to me is that in regards to change, attitude is very crucial.  I am the one who can impact my attitude the most.  I can have an attitude of resistance and negativity in regards to changes in my life.  Or I can have an attitude of possibilities and positivity as I encounter change.  While I am not going to try to fool any of you into believing that choosing the later attitude is easy when I am not eager for the change, it still is possible.

Life is full of change.  A change is generally always coming.  The question is what to do with that change.

Shades of Grey   Leave a comment

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I had a conversation yesterday afternoon with a colleague.  We were discussing different theologians and I made the comment that I did not think John Calvin liked grey but preferred everything to be black and white.  I do not think that Calvin is alone in this trait.  In fact, I would say that the trait is not limited to theologians.  Many individuals prefer black and white to grey any day.

One of the reasons that I think people prefer life to be black and white is because when there is solid definition it is easier to know where you stand.  A person may not always like the rules that exist in black and white life but there is some sense of security.  Grey contains too many unknowns, too many variables.  A child needs black and white because of the limits of their experience and their limits of reasoning through situations.  However, as a person matures, the grey should be somewhat manageable.  The truth is that life has a lot more grey than black and white whether an individual wishes to admit that or not.

As I look at life around me, I believe that grey is the norm.  The clear delineations of previous times no longer exist.  As we have become more mobile and more connected, it has become more difficult to draw lines.  The times of making long-range plans is slipping away.  Everything is moving quickly.  So in this “grey world”, flexibility and adaptability are the key.  The visioning for the future needs to be shorter in scope.  Visioning can still occur but it needs to be more around base concepts and/or values rather than detailed plans.  This also will require a higher level of trust; trust in other people, trust in God, and trust in the community.

So while black and white is an easier life to live, the reality is that we as individuals and organizations are living in shades of grey.

A New Thing   1 comment

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“See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.”

(Isaiah 43:19, NIV)

After a conversation that I was a part of yesterday, this passage has been echoing in my mind.  I am working with a group which is charged with the task of determining where the future of a larger body within an organization may be going.  We have had a multitude of discussions and there are some recurring trains of thought.  The group is confident that the future means there needs to be a radical change from the past in the structure and the focus of the larger body.  So this is why the passage from Isaiah keeps coming to my mind.

I think that there are some major points found in this one verse which speak to me today and should probably speak to many Christians.  The passage begins by God declaring to a group of people who are stuck in exile that something new is taking place.  God is doing something new.  This is the action of God and not of some human mind.  God has decided to do something new and it is going to happen.  For me, this reminds me of two important truths….. I am not in charge and it is futile to resist if God is the one acting.

The second point that has caught my attention is in regards to timing.  God says “NOW (my emphasis) it springs up;” this is not some future event but what is happening right now.  God’s timing most often is not our own.  In fact, there are many occurrences when God’s timing definitely does not align with mine.  However, since God is control, God gets to determine the timing.

The third point is found in the very first word of the verse and in the second half of the second sentence.  The verse begins with “See” and the second half of the sentence states, “do you not perceive it?”  This led me to understand that God intends me to take notice of what God is doing.  Then I am troubled by the question God asks regarding my perception.  I wonder why I and others struggle to see what God is doing.  I think that if we are being honest, the major reason that we do not perceive God’s actions is because we do not want to see them.  If we see them, then we have to respond to them by either accepting or rejecting them.  If my statement earlier that resistance is futile is correct, then the only option available to us is to accept God’s actions.  If God’s actions require us to change, or to do away with past ways, or any other uncomfortable response, we try to bury our heads in the sand and ignore that God is doing something new.

The remainder of the verse tells us the reason for God’s new direction.  God can easily see when we are stuck in the wilderness.  God knows that we become thirsty and our lives dry up.  So in these new actions of God, God is trying to provide for us relief.  By doing something new, God leads us out of the wilderness by showing us the way and provides the streams that will quench our thirst.  It is clear to me that many of us, and the organizations of which we are members, are definitely in the wilderness.  This portion of the verse reminds me that there is hope and possibility.  God has already begun something new which will get us out of the wilderness and provide a cool drink for our lives.

So the challenge to me and probably many of you is to look and see what is this new thing God is doing and calling us to take notice.  Then I must trust and follow down the path that God is providing in the wilderness by this new thing.

Doesn’t Work Any More   Leave a comment


Television (Photo credit: videocrab)

This past summer, I spent time helping clean out the storage room of the basement.  It was long overdue and you could barely move from one end of the room to other.  In the midst of all the items that had been placed in that room were two or three old televisions.  They had been replaced years ago but since you cannot just send a television to the landfill with the week’s household garbage, they were moved to the basement until other arrangements could be made.  The reason that they were down there is that they just didn’t work any more.

If you have been a follower of my blog for a while, you know that I am part of many organizations that are in the midst of trying to vision what they are supposed to be.  These organizations have encountered challenges as they have seen their memberships decline and the energy levels reduced.  Resources are becoming limited and questions are arising all the time.  My leadership involvement in these organizations has often led me to do a lot of research and even some soul-searching.  The nagging questions that seem to arise are:

  1. How do we increase interest in our organization?
  2. How do we increase resources to accomplish our mission?
  3. How do we develop and encourage new leaders?
  4. How do we continue to make a difference in the lives of our members and our community?

I believe that in my search for answers, one of the things that has become abundantly clear to me is that one of our problems is that we do not easily admit that they way we have operated in the past just doesn’t work any more.  This does not mean that what we have done in the past was wrong.  Like the old televisions in my basement, there was nothing wrong with them when they were purchased.  Those televisions were the right ones for the needs that I had when they were purchased.  However, since the original purchase and over some years, they were not working as effectively and did not meet the needs I had when a new television was purchased.  This can be said of some of the our modes of operation in many organizations today.  One difference between my comparison of the old televisions in my home and many organizations is that instead of acknowledging that our methods and ways of being do not work any more therefore replacing them, we continue to use the same approaches.  So the effectiveness and reliability dwindles.

It has become extremely clear to me that if organizations wish to continue to exist and move into the future, there needs to be deliberate examination of how we live out the purpose of our organization.  Leaders and members will need to look at the structures and more importantly, the guiding principles of how our organization operates.  The goal is not to abandon our past but instead to review our ways to ensure that we carry the heritage of our past into meaningful ways today.  As we do this examination, we must be willing to admit that some approaches and modes of operations within our organizations just don’t work any more.

Different Rates   Leave a comment

English: Autumn approaches The leaves on these...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This fall I have noticed how the leaves on the trees have changed colors at different rates.  Some of the leaves on some trees are still green, others are different colors of orange, red and yellow, still others have already fallen to the ground and the tree is bare.  Since I am not a biologist, I have no idea if this happens every year and I do not notice it or if there is something unique about this year.  Either way, this observation has led me to think about how people change.

It seems that I am always in the midst of change in organizations which I am a part of and some for which I provide leadership.  I strongly believe that change is just a normal aspect of life.  In fact, I believe that just being alive means that you are in the midst of change.  Each minute of each day is different in some way than the minute that was before it.  I have also noticed that some people deal with changes easier than others.  In some cases an individual may respond to change differently depending on what the circumstances are around the change.

All of this brings me back to what I am seeing in the trees this fall.  Like the trees that still have green leaves, some people are slow to make change.  When I look at the trees that are already brilliant in color, I am reminded of those people who accept change and seem to thrive in beauty because of the change.  Still other trees have leaves near their tops that have changed colors yet the ones nearer to the ground have not; these remind me of individuals who may accept change intellectually but have not incorporated the change in the whole of their lives.  The trees whose leaves have changed and are now bare because those leaves have already fallen to the ground remind me of people who accept change rapidly and have already moved into a different cycle of their lives.

This being said, I am reminded by the changing leaves on the trees to be mindful of the different rates in which people change.  Just as the trees are individual in their change of color, so people are individuals with different rates of change.

English: Oak trees in autumn, Upwood These are...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Posted October 29, 2013 by thoughtfulbeliever in Emergent, Experiences, Leadership, Life

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For Such A Time   Leave a comment

In the Bible story of Esther, Esther is faced with a very risky action that she is being called upon to take in order to save her people, the Israelites.  Her cousin

The Passage of Time

The Passage of Time (Photo credit: ToniVC)

, Mordecai, tells her, “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”  (Esther 4:14, NIV)  I believe that this could easily be the mantra for most leaders as well as most individuals in positions of influence.  Currently, there is a great need for leadership in our society.

Leaders often face some difficult times during their time of leadership.  Challenges arise and risks must be taken.  It is not surprising that it can be very scary to take risks.  Like Esther, leaders can become reluctant to take those risks because it might jeopardize their position.  The words that they may have to say to others may be risky because they do not want to be seen in a negative light by others.  Taking a new and uncharted path contains risk because failure could result in being fired and/or destruction of the organization.  But leaders are called upon to take these risks.  Yes, it is important to determine if the risk really has the potential to move the organization in a positive direction but if so, the leader must take the risk.

There are times that the mantle of leadership is not a pleasant one to carry.  However, if we think about the words of Mordecai, we must wonder if we have come into a position of leadership because we are the ones who are right for such a time as this.