Monday Musings: Gratitude

This past week was Thanksgiving, so I’ve been reflecting and reading on topics of gratitude and stewardship, being thankful for all that we have  and putting it to use in ways that demonstrate that gratitude.  I’ve been enjoying reading Christine Pohl’s most recent brilliant work, “Living Into Community: Cultivating Practices That Sustain Us” and the first section examines the practice of gratitude.

Reading about gratitude I find myself thinking of all of the ungracious people I have encountered in my life, and in this work, and saying internally “I wonder what it would be like if we could just get this figured out and fixed!  I’m so tired of people being so ungracious towards one another.”

WHOOPS.

In sweeps my own ingratitude, my own wistfulness and searching for something more, better, or different.  It is good and right to have a dream and a vision for a better future but when these things cost us a heart of gratitude or impoverish our ability to give thanks, we fall prey to what Kevin Rains (Vineyard Central Church) calls “spiritual pornography . . . creating a mental fantasy of a perfect place or people and not recognizing the good things all around me.”  This world and the relationships and experiences we have here was not created merely as an object of our pleasure and consumption.

There is no perfect community.
There is no perfect ministry or outreach.
There is no perfect family.
There is no perfect church.
There is no perfect relationship, or marriage, or friendship.
There is no perfect spiritual life.

So, in a season where we all consume more than we ought in food, let us not fall victim to the mentality that all of this around us is created for our hedonism.  Conversely, let us remember that having a heart of gratitude is not created by ignoring the presence of dysfunction, shortcomings, and disappointments present in our selves, our communities and our relationships.  Instead, let us realize that true joy comes even in the midst of the disappointments, remembering how much good we have in comparison to all that is bad, and embracing the ways we always have much more over which to celebrate than to complain.

What are you grateful for?

Monday Musings: Community & Seeing Christ in the ‘Other’

This week’s Monday Musing’s are going to be other’s thoughts, not my own, that I find worthy of further pondering.  The quotes are from things I am currently reading that deal with topics of reconciliation, community, truth, etc.  I hope you enjoy!

Living Into Community: Christine Pohl

  • “The character of our shared life – as congregations, communities, and families – has the power to draw people to the kingdom or to push them away.  How we live together is the most persuasive sermon we’ll ever get to preach.”
  • “While we might want community, it is often community on our terms, with easy entrances and exits, lots of choice and support, and minimal responsibilities.  Mixed together, this is not a promising recipe for strong or lasting communities.”
  • “Community life certainly has moments of incredible beauty and intense personal connection, but much of it is daily and ordinary.”

Uncommon Decency: Richard Mouw

  • “When we approach others in a civil manner, we must listen carefully to them.  Even when we strongly disagree with their basic perspectives, we must be open to the possibility that they will help us discern the truth more clearly.  Being a civil Christian means being open to God’s surprises.”
  • I must confess, I absolutely, positively adore this analogy.  Mouw captures this beautifully:
    “Developing the spiritual sensitivities necessary for civility is a lot like learning art appreciation.  And we know that in the aesthetic realm the reason why the requisite sensitivities do not come easily for most of us is due in part to the fact…that we have not studied the subject enough.  Often we don’t even know what to look for – or at – in trying to understand and appreciate a work of art.  We have to learn how to study such things.  The same kind of thing holds for civility.  If we are going to be people who approach others with empathy and teachability, we need to learn how to study other people spiritually.”
  • “When we genuinely see the ways that the divine image is desecrated in the lives of those who are oppressed by poverty, injustice, disease and violence, we are also cultivating a more general ability to discern where that image is present under less brutal conditions.”

I think that’s enough to leave you all with for this week.  Afterall, I’ve been ruminating on most of that for over three weeks now.  What do you think?  Comments, questions, reflections, reactions?

What are S.A.F.E. meetings?

Many of you may already know this, but LOVEboldly hosts S.A.F.E. (Sexuality & Faith Engagements) the first Monday of every month. Often, I have been asked about the purpose of these gatherings and why they matter. So, here is the answer:

First of all, we can’t take the credit for the idea of hosting these meetings. The Marin Foundation began them (called Living in Tension Gatherings) several years ago in Chicago. The idea comes from a line in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail: “But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word ‘tension.’ I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth.”

As you can see for yourself, our world is polarized when it comes to the topic of homosexuality. Both sides of the issue are guilty of talking past each other rather than dialoging with one another. As a result, each side demonizes ‘the other’ and the divide deepens, resulting in abusive language and behavior towards those with whom we disagree.

At LOVEboldly, we are persuaded that agreement with one another’s political, theological, moral, or philosophical perspectives is not essential for restoring dignity and communicating with kindness and respect. We want to bring all types of people (non-Christian LGBTs, LGBT Christians, celibates, ex-gays, liberal and conservative straight Christians, straight non-Christians, etc.) together to willfully enter into a place of constructive tension, and seek to intentionally form a community that peacefully and productively takes on the most divisive topics of faith and sexuality.

The goal of our gatherings is not for people to convince others that they are right and ‘the other’ is wrong, but rather work off of a worldview enhancement model. We want to provide a place where people can feel safe to not only share their experiences and beliefs with ‘the other’ but also learn to excel in constructive tension with those they disagree. We seek to make it an active engagement in learning what relationship with ‘the other’ tangibly looks like.

If you live or are visiting the Lexington area, we would love to see you at one of our gatherings. Remember, they are held on the first Monday of each month, beginning at 7:00 pm. Please feel free to email us at loveboldlynow@gmail.com for more information.