Language & Beauty


Language & Beauty

Most of the world struggles to find language for traumatic experiences. Betrayal, aloneness, complexity, and crisis force us to process. The awkwardness of finding ourselves around others who are navigating trauma can be telling in how we react or interact. If we aren’t careful with what we say and how we say it, we can make an already terrible circumstance even worse. To sympathize originally means to suffer with. I can recall several conversations with others when my sister died two years ago. “Chad, you can never question God’s plans, he knows all, and knows what’s best”. I can neither agree or disagree with the comment on it’s own. However, we can very much question God in almost any scenario if we are honest. I can personally believe that God does indeed know all. One can move past the content of this comment, but it does reveal the fact that we struggle to find how and what to say during a traumatic environment.

Sometimes the best thing we can do in these type of spaces is to say nothing at all. Our presence may be the only communication we need to offer. We have a difficult time with shutting up. We love to hear ourselves talk, even if it is nonsense. I would also dare say that by attempting to find words to say, we belittle some subject matter. Sometimes there simply aren’t words for beautiful moments or even traumatic moments. So, anything that is expressed just fails to convey the scope of our emotions and thoughts no matter our intentions. Have you ever had a friend that you found yourself spending time with where neither of you felt the pressure to constantly talk? Those are far and few between, but when found it says a lot of the depth and understanding in that relationship. There is something beautiful about having the right words to say, but there can be something even more beautiful when we allow the space for silence. It can be a peaceful expression on it’s own.

They can be like the sun, words. They can do for the heart what light can for a field. -St John of the Cross

I believe that we can see the mystery and majesty of God through our broken moments. We tend to not do ourselves any favors by cheapening moments of deep meaning by saying the wrong thing, not saying the right thing, or saying anything at all. Everything speaks. This applies to normal everyday conversations, worship gatherings, communication strategies (print, branding, etc). This may heighten our awareness of the weight found in our words.

If everything does indeed speak, our verbiage matters.

I am a believer in the power of words. Be it a poetic approach or simply an informative angle. Within my world, words can inspire, confuse, or even distract.

In addition to describing a subject matter, our language also communicates what we’re not saying. Think about it. By conveying a description, we also send a message of what we are not actually expressing. The language that a group of people use often describes that tribe of people. It can express how they dress, the kind of music they listen to, and what they believe.

I will admit that I get hung up on words. You might be thinking “dude, get over it, you know what I mean”. I would say, maybe more thought, patience, and self control would allow for a deepening of the words we choose to use.


Mystery & Control


Mystery & Control

Almost everything in society is fact /control oriented. We humans tend to get a form of temporary satisfaction from the control, facts, information we receive. Who likes to be left hanging on the edge of something unresolved? I mostly HATE it! Honestly, I WANT RESOLVE and CONTROL. I can even see it in worship gatherings. People are afraid of letting go of what they feel they have control of – Emotions, expression, response, etc.

I hope to enjoy more of life’s mysteries. I want to embrace things that I don't fully comprehend. The world has tried to poison me (and YOU) to believe that we will find the peace and satisfaction we need in facts, logic, and control. In doing so this, it erodes the magic out of faith. Faith isn’t faith until it’s all you’re holding on to. What if we decided that we weren’t going to let society tame our childhood belief in mystery the way that Paul talks of in Timothy 3:14? The Message translation says that “this life is a great mystery, far exceeding our understanding.” The life that follows Jesus will fall prey to the comprehension game if we don’t surrender ourselves to the mysterious awe of God that is being beaten out of us by life itself.

“In the Christian context, we do not mean by a "mystery" merely that which is baffling and mysterious, an enigma or insoluble problem. A mystery is, on the contrary, something that is revealed for our understanding, but which we never understand exhaustively because it leads into the depth or the darkness of God. The eyes are closed—but they are also opened.” ― Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way

We might be able to get a form of comfort from knowledge, but there will come a longing for supernatural mystery. That’s when I want to step back and let awe for the Creator overwhelm me. If He is the beginning and the end, we should have peace knowing that HE KNOWS ALL, and that we don’t have to. That probably won’t stop us from trying to know it all though. I guess we can hope and trust that through walking out our faith in a real world, God will meet us where we are and guide us with His Spirit to mystery, reality, logic, and truth.

I wonder what would happen if we didn’t live by ego, pride, control. What if we weren’t crippled by narcissism? Yeah, it’s a mystery but it’s a mystery that I want to try and live with. Wilde said that “Skepticism is the beginning of Faith.” We’ve also heard that “Faith is the evidence of things unseen”. If “wonder is the basis of worship”, maybe we need to allow ourselves to be astonished once again.

Separation from definitions is most unlikely in life. Most would say that everything is either black or white. The grey areas can be a little taboo. We tend to gravitate towards big "hot button" issues, but that is not what we're talking about here really. It seems as though we do our best to set up borders & rules to protect our way of faith, but what we're possibly doing is robbing our lives a full dimensioned journey.

I'm finding that life can't always be black and white, cut and dry. As much as we would like for it to be, sometime it just isn't. What if God doesn't want us to live in a black and white world? A black and white world is created by man. The Creator breathed color into life. WE define the black and white. We may use our moral code and what we have learned from the scriptures to form it, but it is still our formation. If we are setting up the black and white perimeters, what do we need God for? If we are depending on our own, accepted definitions of right and wrong, we have no need of God and His grace. Scripture says that hope in what is seen, is not real hope (Rom. 8:24). Lines might need to be blurred in order for us to actually see God clearly. Does God live in the grey area? The uncertain area? He is bigger than our boundaries and definitions. He is most definitely larger than our words and intellect.

“The choice in politics isn't usually between black and white. It's between two horrible shades of gray.” - Thorneycroft

“Light is meaningful only in relation to darkness, and truth presupposes error. It is these mingled opposites which people our life, which make it pungent, intoxicating. We only exist in terms of this conflict, in the zone where black and white clash.” - L. Aragon

Help us to let go of our desire for power and control. Let go of our desire for affection, esteem,
approval and pleasure. May we let go of our desire for survival and security. Let go of our desire to change any situation,
condition, person or myself. We are open to the love and presence of God and to what You have already begun. Amen


Pace Setters


Pace Setters

Slowing down our pace of life is getting more and more difficult. Taking a deep breath seems to just be a meaningless saying with no frame of reference though it is one of the first things that a therapist or doctor would tell us to do in a stressful situation.

Several years ago I slowly began to notice specific moments and events that would linger in my memory. These moments were typically found around a table, kitchen island, or fire-pit with new and old friends while savoring beverages, food, and conversations. The word ‘companion’ leads us to the table, originating from the Latin companionem, meaning ‘bread fellow’, someone we break bread with. Mary Douglas, a structural anthropologist imagines social situations as ever decreasing circles which each enclose greater familiarity. We each have concentric circles of intimacy.

"Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Who we share our table with also influences what we have as a part of the meal. A proper meal typically includes a combination of contrasting elements – hot and cold, bland and spiced, hard and soft – as well as dietary requirements of protein, grains, and vegetables. Much like who each of us are wired to be, we are different, diverse, and unique. Eating is a communal act that allows us to savor the food, converse and relax. Yet the early 19th Century sociologist Georg Simmel argued that cultures put such an emphasis on communal eating because, ultimately, eating confirms our isolation. Finding others who share an interest in slowing their pace of life can sometimes be just as difficult as the act of slowing itself.

Find pace setters: Enjoy a beverage that requires sipping versus consuming quickly. The space for conversation and observation will heighten. The more noisy an environment, the shorter conversations tend to be. Discover spaces with ambiance. Exhale and enjoy a meaningful and inspiring conversation where listening, speaking, and learning take place.

A meal where you include others in the process. Converse during the creation as well as the consumption. Resist having every course at the table at once. Take your time. Discuss several subjects. Resist topical conversations that never have opportunity to get off the ground. Discussing several subject will enable more meaningful discussion possibilities.

Every so often I drop the top on the Jeep and drive along the Natchez Trace (a beautiful slow paced scenic path through a national reserve). Much like the posture one must take while entering a place of solitude in a monastary, driving along “the trace” forces you to slow down and breathe in the air while observing some wildlife along the way.

When I make these drives I make a deal with myself and my Creator. No social media, no texting. Nothing but me, my Jeep, and creation. Because of this arrangement, I tend to be more present in the moment. I am more aware of the sounds and smells around me. What would happen if we had that presence most of our days? Would we be more aware of others, their needs, and how we could assist instead of drive to our own goal and expectation?

There have been many moments where I sensed the Divine presence. One day specifically, I was headed back towards returning home. Radio / playlist was off, wind flowing through the vehicle, leaves beginning to turn color and float down from the towering trees above - then I felt compelled to simply look up. The floating leaves overhead already had my gaze, so as I gentled lifted my head skyward for a moment, I noticed a rare bald eagle soaring effortlessly. I remember laughing out loud and saying “of course there is a freaking bald eagle flying along with me on the Natchez Trace”. Coincidence or not, I took it as the Creator giving me a bit of a head nod. It was an environmental communion unlike I’ve ever had.

Take the long way home. Drive with the windows down.


Posture and Permission To Listen

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Posture and Permission To Listen

Today, I heard the wind. It was as though it was saying something. I’ve never seen the wind, only it’s effects. If faith is evidence of things unseen, maybe the wind is speaking a language we can only understand in the stillness. Many times when I have meetings outside of the office, I meet at one of my favorite local spots for coffee and such. In between some of my meetings, I may have a few moments of waiting before the next person. During that time, you wouldn’t believe how obvious it is how we love to hear ourselves talk. Everyone one is jumping over each other’s words and phrases to get to what they each want to say next. It’s exhausting. Thanks headphones.

This is a simple reminder that in hearing someone speak, we will hear what is said and what isn’t said. Calming our agenda and opportunity to speak may just help us actually comprehend what is being communicated.

Some steps that may help a posture for listening: Take some deep breathes before beginning. Clear your mind of certain have to’s in the conversation. don’t feel like you have to get a certain response or comment. Put mobile devices away or at least turn them over. I know we’re all looking for the next Instagram photo op, but let’s be honest, checking your phone is rude while someone is speaking. have a goal of the other person leaving knowing that they have had an authentic and life-giving conversation with another human.

Cynicism is tiring. I’m going to try to talk less, listen more; fear less, hope more; do less, rest more; whine less, breathe more. On a personal level, setting a posture for listening means we need to change our environment to be conducive to listening. Maybe it is no accident that silence and listen are spelled with some of the same letters.

Once upon a time we would answer the question of "how are you doing?" with "fine" as if we didn't want to burden people with an authentic response. Today, the answers is overwhelmingly "busy". Maybe it was once an real answer, but now it tends to be a default answer. "Busy" doesn't even describe how we are doing.

I wouldn't argue that we think that we are all very busy, nor would I actually deny we ARE busy. What is it about us today that find ourselves without margin? Does society project guilt towards the thought and act of slowing down? This will erode us from the inside out if and when it becomes reality. Do we wear our clutter and activity like an award that we have won?

Maybe we are hoping for a moment of peace, stillness, or even meaning. Even church activity is more about activity where it was once an environment of being still, learning, Holy communion.

Being busy should never be a badge of honor. After a certain amount of time a state of being isn't how we are doing, it is who we are. If and when our activity level defines who we are, our humanity is diminished.

So, as we move ahead, what are some ways that we could slow down, establish margin, and savor the life we've been given?

Everyday introduces a new idea, new way of doing things, and new challenges. Right brainers tend to thrive these days due to the amount of channels, mediums, and social implications of being a “creative”. For years I pursued a dangling artist carrot. I thought that if I could introduce the most radical “out of the box” idea, or execute the most outlandish creative moment, then I would receive an award or bonus from the Cool Kids Creativity Institute.

Then I joined the staff at a church. Everything began to change.

Everyone puts different levels of value on creativity. I found myself in a marginalized role. I was to be the token Bono on Sundays, bring a good idea to the table here and there, and just expected to do my job. The expectations were different than I had set out to pursue.

It didn’t take me long to sense that God had me right where He wanted me. Doing what I was made to do, and vulnerable to learn more of what I was being compelled to be. With that said, let’s jump laterally.

Once I had someone say “Chad you might want to stop trying so hard, and just be who you were created to be, and not who you think others want you to be.” Those words in addition to how the Spirit was moving and revealing in my life began to alter my head and heart space. It gave me permission to embrace how I was wired to be, and seeking peace and centeredness through prayer and meditation slowly began to recalibrate my motives, hopes, and ambitions.

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