Category Archives: function

Pay Attention

In light of some of the events in my life during recent months, I am often asked how my relationship… or time with God is going.  My answer, which is often unsatisfactory for the questioneer, remains simple.  My relationship with God is a daily knowing and being known by God, and I know that I belong there.

It’s nebulous for many who don’t understand the language of relationship in a way that I’ve nurtured it for some time.

The psalmist writes, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence.”  The knowledge that God is near settled deep into who I am at a very young age… long before I was able to find a verse from the Bible to back it up.  My experience of relationship with God was being shaped long before I could tell you where the verses were to back it up.  I’m good with that.

I’ve always been one to gaze deeply on God in the world around me.  There is a Belgic Confession that reads like this:  creation can be read as a most elegant book, wherein, all creatures, great and small, are as so many characters leading us to see clearly the invisible things of God.

With my heart, eyes and mind open, I spend my time in a long gaze at God, myself, others and the world around me with the hope that I will see it all the way that God sees it all.

There is an attentiveness that becomes more natural to me as I give intention to my experience with everything that has been given.  It’s not all rosey in nature, for there is no doubt that pain and separation play a large roll in the day-to-day of life.  I often times find that there are more questions that surface than there are answers.  But who am I to even pretend that I could fully understand how the meaning of it all will look in the end.

This is all to nebulous for those who begin with theological answers that they attempt to fit all of life into.  To ask the question, how does your relationship with God look today? sounds to me like: how are you fitting God into your life?  Truth is, I don’t give much attention to fitting God into anything.  I don’t desire that much control over a life that finds awe and wonder in the whole of creation, simply by gazing at the interplay of creation, history, and the other human beings that cross my path.

I just stop… and pay attention.

Steep yourself…

A highly functional environment requires a project manager who will oversee the bottom line and order up more busywork to keep things moving along efficiently.  By providing definition to a situation, they are able to create a clear-cut list of actions that will produce the satisfaction of a job well done.

In such an environment, what matters most is what you are capable of doing, not necessarily who you are.  In matters of intimacy, the suggestion to do something is nearly always inappropriate.

We go through plenty of long stretches in our life without being aware of the presence of love in our midst.  Our search for knowing and being known, then belonging by and to another person often times gets replaced with a pursuit of money, sex, work, children, parents, various causes, competitions, education, etc… There are so many things in which we have to deal with, not all of which are intrinsically bad, but can become absorbing.  We have all been given the gift of time, and intimacy is the path that will lead us towards purpose.

Every so often, a moment comes that reminds us that it is love and intimacy that we desire, and we put on the lens of proper perspective in which we are willing and able to lay aside all of the things that have become diversions of efficiency.

We ask questions that come from our search for meaning.

A functional project manager for life is not going to be able to administer a task list go give us what we seek.  Instead we must learn to steep our lives in intimacy… initiatives of love… the trust that their are provisions for our heart that will give us the peace and security to not worry about anything else we may be missing out on.

In intimacy, we find all of our everyday human concerns met.

Let the winds blow…

I’ve spent much of the past 7 months simplifying my life.  That should be qualified by saying that I was not all that complicated a person to begin with.  From a certain perspective, perhaps none of us really are.  Simplification in the sense that I am talking about is removing the ‘functional’ pieces of my life that were present merely to fill the void where a sense of purpose belongs.

As I write that, it dawns on me that even the word ‘purpose’ has been saturated in recent years by a vision that ‘things’ (activities, possessions, degrees, promotions, etc…) can lead to fulfillment.  So I will break this down for clarity.

Things have a function.

It is nature that leads to purpose.

Saying that, there has been an intentional effort on my part to purge the ‘functional’ areas of my life down to a bare minimum, and allow myself to be absorbed in the nature and purpose of the relationships around me.  It has been a journey, sometimes resembling the breaking of an addiction.  In the moment when silence grows so loud, and the urge to create some noise with facebook or some other vice can distract me from the emptiness that has been created by years of moving from one thing to the next, I can feel my soul cry to be known by another.

How much of our life is filled with distraction… that we allow in?

Discovering nature and purpose, especially when removing the functional things of our lives begins (and returns back to often) with simply allowing yourself to just ‘be’ and to listen when the silence grows deafening.  When the uncomfortable moment between two people who are attending to nothing other than absorbing each others presence triggers the thought, that ‘we should be doing something’… you must absorb just a little bit longer.

As parents, we do our children a dis-service by buying into the idea that we can’t allow them to ‘get bored’.  Entertainment then becomes a thing in our homes that has a function to keep the little ones active.

Just past the point where you feel that some’thing’ needs to be ‘done’… there is a breakthrough in your nature.  The purpose for that moment manifests itself, with no effort on your part.  This is a moment of grace, that you will experience either on your own, or with someone you love… and then you know how to move on.

Recently, while sitting in an old wicker bench with someone dear to my heart, I began to think that we had been sitting looking over a lake for quite some time.  No words had been spoken.  A view of a nearly forgotten lake, squirrels running to and fro, mommy and daddy birds making the trek from their nest to a food source for their babies were the landscape for quite a bit of silent time.

I thought, ‘should I break the silence?’

Is their an element of ‘boredom’ that is going to need to be addressed with the introduction of some activity?

Instead, I chose to sit a while longer.  It was then that a wind came from the south.  I could feel it blow around us, and fill my ears with the comfort of white noise.  My eyes closed, and I rested just a bit longer until it died down and I looked over at my friend who had turned her head towards mine.

“Nice wind,” I said.

She looked at me, with a smiling nod, and responded “mmhmm.”

It was a moment of grace that provided a deeper purpose for our friendship.  One that did not cost us anything.  One that did not require us to do anything.  One that only invited us in to a place of belonging… to the world around us… to ourselves… and to each other.

A Soul Companion

In seeking to answer the question of what to invite into the place within us that nurtures intimacy, where we are able to be known by another, and in turn know them, most of the time we are able to determine or feel what is best for us.  However, sometimes we do find it difficult to make the right choices.

Relationships are created that leave us feeling empty.  Perhaps for a time, the flame between us burns and then quickly or unknowingly fades into a smoking remnant of what was.  This is why it is important to search deep into ourselves to discover the areas of healing that have gotten buried or tucked away.

Searching for areas where healing is needed within is often avoided for many reasons, most of which come down to a lack of intention and the almost natural ability to deflect the cause of our brokenness to some ‘other’.  Rather than deal with the root of the shame we may feel crouching in the shadows of our soul, we will medicate it with an indulgence of technology or blame.  In the mean time, an area that is crying out for love and attention comes to accept as normal the separation that exists between so many of us who live in relationships of convenience.

Separation is the antithesis of intimacy.

How many times from this numb existence have you at least whispered to yourself, ‘I’m not living who I am… there must be more than this…’?  This end of the rope place in your being can be the voice you need to hear that will provide a lens for what is really happening.

It is time for exploration.

Meditation and companionship are two  essential elements to navigating the inner places of the heart.  This spiritual direction is not necessarily dependent upon someone who is formally trained.  A journey to the heart is best done in the context of friendship.  The only requirement is an intentional attentiveness to the common places of your life that you willingly give attention to, and more importantly, to the places that are normally kept in the dark.

Human Longing

It is a special place where our needs and wants intersect in the purest of ways.  Often times, we are made to feel a sense of guilt or selfishness when we express the inner desires that many would categorize as wants.  Granted, it is easy to lose sight of the simplicity of life in such a way that the basics are drowned out by the excesses of all that we have at our disposal, and our wants do indeed become an unhealthy motivator for accumulating more things.  Things have a way of depersonalizing the very nature of who we are as people.  But they are a handy anecdote for the deficiency we feel when our needs are neglected.

At the core of who we are, is a desire for intimacy.

It is in intimacy where our needs and wants can be brought together in a way that brings fulfillment.  Human love… the comfort of trust… an inner atmosphere of joy.  These are the elements of life which call to us ever so softly from the depths of our soul.  It is from this place that we live outward.  It is into this place that we invite ‘the other’ into, with the hope that whatever gains access there, will not exploit or control.  Intimacy is what makes us more human.  Companionship with another person is where intimacy is nurtured.  This is our most basic need.

It is because we are human, that we have the ability to choose what we allow from outside of ourselves to intermix with the delicate areas of our soul.  The most fundamental question we should consider then when bringing the outside in, is… ‘What is going to make me more human?”

Often times, this question is answered by accumulation or experiences that we hope will allow us to do more and better things.  What we really long for is a human touch… meaning… and the knowledge of what it is to be and receive a blessing from another.

“Can I ask you a question?”

I was rendezvousing with a  friend at a  riverside park north of Fremont on M-20 in order to carpool to another location so that we could scout out a piece of land.  When I arrived, she was already there spending time watching the water go by, and had witnessed a local church having a baptism service for those who were taking their next step in the journey of faith.  Several people had made their approach to her as she waited with an invitation to join them, for she too could step into the water.

When I arrived, there was a familiarity to what was happening that my years of formal ministry had acquainted me with.  I smiled when I saw a gentleman with his acoustic guitar, and felt a small tugging to grab my Martin from the car to join him in leading some songs.  The tugging didn’t last long as my eyes found the one for whom I had come for, and I wondered how she was responding to this peculiar rite of passage that was taking shape to her left.

We greeted each other, and decided to head towards one of our vehicles in order to venture off to the land that awaited our expedition.  As our seat belts clicked into their places, I noticed that approaching the vehicle was a young man from the church who had a look in his eyes as if there was something that needed to be shared.

A light tap followed then the sound of the window rolling down.

“Do you mind if I ask you folks a question?”

Familiarity peeked my curiosity again, as I knew knew the script that was to follow.  There was no verbal response from us, only kind eyes that sent the message that he had our attention.

“If you were to die tonight, do you know where you would go?”

I smiled and looked over to my friend, who I knew was feeling a bit alien to the conversation that that this young man was beginning.  To ensure that the moment did not get any more uncomfortable for her (as this line of questioning is sure to conjure up), I leaned in to meet the dialogue with a bit more friendly of an introduction.  I reached out my hand, and told him my name.  Asked for his name and where he was from, then affirmed that his question lent itself to a long conversation, and that we were actually on our way out.

His response… another series of questions.

“Well, are you guys Christians? Do you believe in heaven and hell?”

I smiled again, and affirmed that while this is all worth a conversation, we were in motion to head out to our next location, to which we were met with the assurance that it would only take a moment to ‘know’ for sure what it would take to have eternal life.  Before I could respond, his follow up came with the most interesting words he had posed to so far.

“You can know what it means to live a fulfilled life.”

I paused here for a moment, looked over at my friend and saw a smile, then turned back to our dashboard evangelist and affirmed him.

“You’re right, I know that everyone should give thought to what it means to live a fulfilled life.”  In the back of my mind, I was thinking that it most assuredly wasn’t going to happen in the speedy quick one size fits all conversation that he wanted to blaze through.

Within moments, we were on the road and off to our next adventure.

While this is not a knock on the church, it is an example of how the marginalizing power of the ‘thing/function’ ethos has penetrated the sacred areas of our lives, even when it is dressed up as ‘spiritual’.  The young man at the window was no doubt filled with good intentions to see other human beings be able to experience a full life.  However, his method was far from relational, and leads me to wonder if the lens by which he viewed life had more to do with getting through a prescribed anecdote that had a predetermined outcome that was measured with statistical applause than actually seeing the person right in front of him discover their nature and purpose.

Secular to Sacred

The deepest wounds that I have experienced and perpetuated in this life have been because of the propensity to reduce people and places into things with a function.  Whether it has been done intentionally or it has become a systemic norm, we have been conditioned in some way to name and label plants and animals, styles and personalities, ourselves and others into categories that are designed to make things more manageable.  It is wonderful at first to have all these things coming our way, without having to bother with relationships or meaning.

In a lot of ways, this makes sense.  Someone is a parent, because they have children.  Someone is married because they have a wife or a husband.  Someone is an employee because they have a job.  Labels such as this are an entry point into knowledge and understanding of the culture and the world around us.  If efficiency were the end all be all to navigating through this life, then the better we are at categorizing the world around us, the more freedom we will have to do as we choose without having to deal with the messiness that is below the surface of the person sitting in front of us.

As a man, it is easy for me to accept the label of ‘husband’, and thus define that role in a functional way, that then allows me to view the ‘wife’ in the relationship in a way that can efficiently sustain a ‘household’.  I will take out the trash.  She will do the laundry.  We will eat at six o’clock.  To bed at nine thirty.  Before long, the convenience of this existence will lend itself to be rather efficient as we master the functions of our roles.  And the days will roll on.

Somewhere down the path, however, boredom will set in.  The inner longing of our nature will begin to desire a purpose that is greater than merely being a thing with a function, and we will be at a decision point.  So often, we do  not pause long enough to clearly see the choice that is before us, and simply respond to the longing by finding a way to become more efficient.  After all, something is wrong in the functionality of our relationship, then obviously, there has been an unraveling of control somewhere, and we need to gain it back.  Functionality is the key.

How can I be a more functional husband?

How can I be a more functional wife?

What more can we do to get control?

So, we strive to gain more of what got us in this mess in the first place.  Acquire more things.  Generate more activity.  Get more.  Do more.  Is it any wonder that after a number of years of this, we are genuinely puzzled that we as human beings are not any better?