Enjoying the freedom of being good enough

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Assorted thoughts

My wife and I had the privilege of attending the School of Theology recently in Oregon. SOT is an intimate gathering of about 20 people from around the country who assemble to discuss theology and its implications/applications. The specific theological focus on the table was exploring the beauty of the Trinity.

I’m offering a variety of thoughts, observations and statements presented during the week. I am purposely omitting names of the speakers. I’ve learned the hard way that Christians tend to become polemic around personalities.

We draw circles around theology, organizing theological “truth” by who is “inside” and who is “outside” our particular camp. We often refuse to listen to those outside our particular group, dismissing their views merely on the basis of who is speaking rather than being willing to evaluate actual content. We much prefer to listen only to those we already know agree with us.

We resist the discomfort of learning and growing. We opt for the psychological security blanket of affirmation and conformation.

As an ancient Greek philosopher noted, “It’s impossible to teach a man what he already knows.”

I can be as guilty as anyone.

With that, here are some nuggets of thought from SOT:

  • Much of what is presented as the “Gospel” is basically, “You suck. Try to suck less.”
  • In the fundamental, evangelical paradigm, what’s important is being “right.”  Unfortunately, everything else gets crushed, one way or the other.
  • You cannot compare your damage with anyone else. Everyone has their own capacity to bend, adapt and adjust. There is no simple solution to the healing of the human heart. This the beauty of the work of the Holy Spirit being poured out on every human heart, on a personal level.
  • “Unbeliever” is not a category. It’s an activity.
  • The lies that exist in our heart do not exclude us from the fact that God includes us in His love and His life.
  • Shame destroys our capacity to discern between an observation and a moral statement.
  • The value of ambiguity is that it reveals the heart.
  • The greater our maturity, the more we are like little children.

I’ll share more at another time.  To close, here are a few pictures I took during our free time at SOT. Lake Sparks is part of the Cascade Lakes near Mt. Bachelor in central Oregon. It’s beautiful at sunrise.

Miscellaneous thoughts

Have a few miscellaneous thoughts floating around. Here goes:
1. I’ve been pondering the fact that the Bible was written to communities of believers. The original recipients of the Scripture heard it as a community, interpreted it as a community, and made application as a community. Yet I’m a product of a culture that elevates the individual and personal. I typically read the Bible alone, attempting to find the meaning for me, and figuring out how I’m going to apply it.  I don’t know that this is all bad, but I do question my approach. I mean, if the Bible were written for a community, what am I missing when I read and process it as an individual? I’ve wondered how I can shift to a more communal approach to the reading and understanding of Scripture.  In that musing, it dawned on me that maybe a good (and obvious) start is to read it in and with a community. We don’t do this very much. We evangelicals might be most guilty of this. For all our talk of reverence of the Bible, esteeming it as the “Word of God,” many (most?) of our churches spend very little time actually reading the Bible as part of our church services. Our liturgy seldom includes public reading and responding to Bible passages. What reference that is given is usually relegated to a verse or two sprinkled throughout the pastor’s sermon. Even then, Scripture is used to support what the pastor is saying, more so than the pastor reflecting on what the Bible is saying. The Bible is dissected into fragments and phrases, leaving it very vulnerable to forced meaning. It seems to me that to truly respect and honor the Scripture as God’s Word, we need to read whole passages and let the message come to us, allowing it to shape and form us. This seems to be preferred over the popular approach of us speaking and forcing the Bible (and only chosen portions at that) to support what we already want to say.

2. I’ve set in a couple of meetings recently where church leaders expressed their frustration over the commitment and involvement level of the congregation. Most of the frustration revolves around tying to get people to volunteer for the positions of lay ministry needed to carry on the structure of the church. Church people are as affected by consumerism as the rest of our population. Plus they stretch themselves to the limit with work demands and involving their kids in as many extracurricular activities (mostly sports) as they can. It’s the American way. The result is that folks don’t value putting energy into old paradigms of church structures. I came out of these meetings feeling depressed and discouraged. This brings to mind Jesus’ teaching about trying to put new wine into old wine skins. I came away doubting if we’ll ever be able to effectively motivate people to fill these positions. I have a hunch we church leaders and the congregations will be perpetually frustrated if we keep trying to do so. Perhaps we need to find new structures that are culturally relevant. I’m not sure what that looks like, and I wish I were smart enough to figure it out.

3. I conducted a workshop for pastors and church leaders this past week on conflict resolution. A wonderful group gathered to discuss this important topic. The shared wisdom was truly enriching. Here is a synopsis of my workshop and a few pictures to go along with. If you’re interested in me presenting it to your church, leadership team or group, let me know.


Conflict is inevitable in church life, whether in the congregation, among the leadership, or both. Many tips and techniques have been developed to help us resolve conflict effectively. However, in the heat of the conflict when emotions are elevated, tips and techniques seem to go out the window. We barely remember what they are, much less how to follow them. This seminar focuses on a more fundamental and useful arena in conflict resolution—effective self-management of emotionality. Only when we maintain a calm, non-reactive and well-defined posture during conflict, can we provide real leadership during times of conflict. The presentation includes interactive learning activities as well as lecture.


“Christians are too secretive about their sins. I find power in knowing I’m not alone. And not just a person saying, ‘You’re not alone,’ but in someone saying, ‘I’ve done that and still struggle with that.” —–My friend, Matt

Light in Darkness

School of Theology

I recently had the privilege of participating in the School of Theology, directed by John MacMurray. John convenes the S.O.T. once or twice a year and invites selected theologians, authors, and other thinkers to present and discuss theological issues and their implications for life. In addition to formal lectures, there is ample time for questions and responses and ongoing dialogue as participants eat, hang out and generally do community together for a week.

The most recent S.O.T. was held near Winter Park, CO, in a beautiful mountain setting. September brought out the best of the golden aspen, and the weather couldn’t have been better. The house we stayed in was situated adjacent to the 9th hole fairway of a spectacular golf course. Most of our instructional times were held at Young Life’s Crooked Creek Ranch.

The guest lecturers were C. Baxter Kruger, Paul Young, and Dr. Roger Newell. Some may recognize Baxter from his theological works on the Trinity. Paul is known for his book, The Shack. Dr. Newell is a professor at George Fox University and has published some works on C. S. Lewis.

Kruger focused on the Father, Son and Spirit’s great love and desire to include us in the Trinitarian experience of relationship. One of the most helpful things Baxter shared came in a personal conversation with him. I had shared with him some of my own journey of embracing the “good enough” concept and the struggle to overcome personal shame.

His comment was empowering and liberating. He told me that Jesus’ goal is to bring us fully into the knowledge and experience of His Father’s love. In that, God has us on a trajectory. He is committed to taking our moments of greatest shame and pain, and transforming them into sacraments of His grace. Not only will they be our points of most profound healing and salvation, but will also be our most effective points of ministering to others in their greatest need.

I’d heard this expressed in similar ways before, but this time it seemed to “take.” I got it. And it’s made a huge difference in my life.

I’m including a couple of photos of the beauty that surrounded us–another sacrament of His grace.



Aspen among the evergreens.

Atop Adams Falls.


Some Creative Endeavors

Charles Lee in a recent blog entry gives five practical ways to stay creative. Of the five two have been particularly helpful for me of late.

One is his suggestion to visit open space. Here’s what he had to say: “Whether it’s the beach, the mountains, or the local park, take frequent visits to view landscapes. I’ve found that visiting open space, even for a few minutes, helps me to gain better perspective. It’s a physical act of taking my focus off the immediate to appreciate things that are much larger in scope.”

The second is to have fun. Again, Lee: “It’s important to give yourself permission to go engage in something solely for pleasure. Turn off your cell phone and go do things that you enjoy (e.g., exercise, join a sports team, take a walk, watch a movie, etc.). Unwinding from the norm through things that fill you and give you energy is really important to your creativity. People definitely undervalue fun as a means for creativity.”

I’ve applied these recently by taking long country walks and bike rides. My only goal has been to take in the beauty of the open space of our rural landscape and allow it to refresh my soul. I happened to take along my camera and here are some of the scenes I captured.

By the way, Lee’s blog can be found at

Reflections in a creek.

My shadow as I ride.Kansas sunflower.


Kansas sunset.


Rose in our garden.

Wild flower

Beauty and Hope

“When people cease to be surrounded by beauty, they cease to hope” (N.T. Wright).

Kansas Sunset

Learning to rest in being “good enough” restores our soul, much like a Kansas sunset.

Multnomah Falls

Our family took a winter trip to Oregon to visit our daughter. We discovered Multnomah Falls is more magical than ever in the winter. Waterfalls symbolize refreshment. Jesus invites us to such a relationship with Him. He offers us rest and promises that His yoke is easy and His burden light (Matt. 11:28-30). Is that our experience in ministry?

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