Anyone, anyone?

Another of our ongoing conversations centers around the notion of community. My wife and I both grew up in pretty conservative Christian homes, of which most of that ideology we’ve since left behind. 

Something that sticks around however is the fact that no matter how crazy, off-base and completely out of touch with the reality of most living people conservative Christian theology is, they are pretty damn good at the living life together, supporting sick families and gathering regularly. 

What’s been unfortunate for my wife and I is that when we shed the ridiculous weight of the American evangelical church, we’ve almost completely lost the support we once had. Now, don’t get me wrong, we have great friends who would do anything at the drop of a hat if something catastrophic happened to our family, but it’s the daily, mundane stuff that is missing. Like when my wife, who struggles with autoimmune deficiencies, doesn’t feel well and can barely get out of bed, there’s not a group of people who take care of us like we used to have. 

The crazy part is, we live in the same town as my family, who are still fully immersed in that archaic conservative ideology, yet since we’ve moved on to (hopefully) higher levels of spiritual existence, we’ve been cut off. I understand being cut off on a church basis, that seems legit, but family? Just seems a little skewed, especially if someone were to take seriously the teachings of that first century Arab Jew whom they claim to follow. 

Back to this moment. Is there such a thing as a spiritual, enlightened Christian, Buddhist, peace-loving, ___________ (fill in the blank) community of people who are just regular folks, young families with kids, retired folks who are somewhat interested in mentoring relationships over traveling the world 9 months out of the year? I don’t know, maybe just some people who are interested in true authenticity, engaging the divine (however you like to describe that), caring for a community of people rather than just yourself…

Sounds pretty ideological, but my sense is that there are other folks like us who are searching for that sort of deep connection with other people, we just haven’t found them…yet. We’ve been to all sorts of different churches and we either can’t stomach all the talk and songs about blood, or the democrat process is the answer to all life’s ails. We don’t really fall in either of those camps, more in the middle, or more likely someplace else entirely. 

I’ve thought about writing up a craigslist ad to see what happens. All I know is that this search is kind of exhausting and I’m not sure it should be…

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Parenting 102

So I have to write this down because there is a certain level of brilliance that I don’t want to forget. 

As part of an ongoing my wife and I are having based around Rob Bell’s (and I’m sure others’) notion of an expanding universe, creativity, spiritual life, etc., my wife, in a moment of pure clarity and self realization, massively busted our own parenting chops. 

Here’s the story:

Our boys are probably some of the most creative kids I know, of course I am a little biased because they are my boys, I see a lot more of them than other kids. Not two days ago I was expressing to my wife how frustrated I sometimes get with our oldest son and his seemingly continual “upgrading” of his creations. He makes things all the time, costumes, lego stuff (rubber band shooters, Star Wars ships, candy dispensers, etc.), hand puppets, you name it, he’s probably made it out of something. Which is awesome, right?

Absolutely! But my frustration, pretty ridiculous now in hindsight, is that he never plays with the stuff he makes. He just makes it, then makes it better, then changes it, then starts over…

So fast forward to yesterday morning where my wife spends nearly two hours making a dinosaur train costume for our youngest son. Of course wants to add to it, because that’s what our boys do. He’s great until yesterday evening, when he wants to make another dinosaur train costume, to which my wife replies, rather sternly to both boys, something along the lines of, “I’m sick and tired of you boys making stuff, and remaking it, and changing it, and…” Then curiously, she stopped and said, “fine.” To which my boneheaded self completely missed the reason she stopped, so I stepped in to continue the sermon. I probably droned on for at least 5 minutes, until dinner was ready.

The fast forward again to last night as we are laying in bed, decompressing the day, as we typically do. My wife looks over at me and says, “you know what? We’ve spent a lot of time talking about an expanding universe, how creation is itself expanding, growing, getting better, improving upon itself. You know what else? We just railed on our boys tonight for being too creative, for doing the exact thing they have evolved to do: create, make things better. That’s what this whole thing is doing, right?”

To which I replied, “Shit! Are you serious? We just spent the evening telling our boys to limit themselves. Don’t do what you’re created to do… Wow, we can be real dumbasses.” We spent the next 15 minutes or so laughing at our own ineptitude and yet again, struggling through what it means to be a parent, a parent who gives a damn about what kind of kids they raise. 

I think my wife spent a good part of the morning talking to the boys about how mommy and daddy screwed up last night and that at the core of our being, we do not ever want to limit who or what they can be. I think honesty and some authentic self evaluation can go a long way. 

That said, I’m not sure that second dinosaur train costume is going to get made…

Hmmm…

So, there’s this guy, Rob Bell, a spiritual leader of sorts. For one reason or another, his method for communicating has kept him as a lamppost in my psyche throughout some pretty major transitions. 

Growing up a certain faith, becoming a leader/pastor in that largely conservative denomination, discovering Rob, falling out of faith (more agnostic than atheist), still catching whispers of Rob’s work, slowly turning the corner back to some semblance of faith (though that’s still debatable in my own head) and now really gaining a great deal of clarity on some things because of, yes, you guessed it, Rob Bell. 

Check this out, from a recent podcast:

“If you don’t name your pain, you’ll store it.”

Yikes! There no telling how much pain I’ve been storing away. Nothing physically or horribly traumatic, but we all seem to carry some pain with us. The question is, does that do anything for you? Does it help me to hold onto and inadvertently store it in my physical body? Am I doing myself any favors to repress my (mostly mild) anger about spending a god-awful amount of money for a degree that in my mind now, is complete rubbish? 

Now, as a follow up to that last point, Rob then asks:

“Who is your social self and who is your real self?”

Great question! Until recently, I’ve never even spent time wondering, much less trying to articulate an answer. Lately, I think I’m much more interested in joining those two parts of myself, but I still harbor a great deal of fear about what that might look like in a social, familial and professional context. That’s not a part of my ordered, comfortable existence. 

Which leads to the final (for this entry) question Rob asks:

“What are the things that keep you alive, what feeds your soul, keeps your heart alive?”

Hell, if had of thought about that 15 years ago, I certainly would not have spent $60,000 on a theology degree with a focus on youth and family ministry. That’s what I thought I was supposed to do, but most assuredly not what I wanted to do. That was not something that fed my soul, in fact, as many pastors know, it tends to work in the opposite fashion; it completely drained both my self and my family, which I am not okay with. 

What does this mean? Well, I’m not sure yet. One thing I do know is that I will be setting my intentions in the future for good, wholesome, life giving activities. My wife and I plan to find ways to be in relationship with people the likes of Rob Bell, Richard Rohr and others. This life is not to be wasted. I’ve already used up 35 years just coasting. I’m not down with that way of functioning anymore. I will be present, I will be intentional and I will be authentic in my journey. 

Check back later.