Listening to Your Guts and Church

“There can be as much value in the blink of an eye as in months of rational analysis.” ― Malcolm Gladwell, Blink

I strongly believe in the weightiness of the “blink test” when it comes to churches. I know we need to pray and think and not commit lightly to a local community. But, most of the time we walk into a gathering of people and we pick up things at a very deep, gut, intuitive level:

Is this a safe place? Is this a joyful place? Is there life here?


Is this a dangerous place? A cynical place? Will the life get sucked out of me here?

We don’t know everything that will happen in a particular place. We don’t know who might wound us, or who might turn out to be a life-long friend. That’s all part of the adventure of community. But, again, I think we know some things just by walking in the door.

This weekend I got to go to a church and I knew, without really “knowing”, there’s a lot of joy here, a lot of life. And, nothing that happened the rest of the day did anything but encourage that knowing.

Let me say it again: be prayerful and thoughtful about church and choosing community.

I do wonder, though, if our cultural propensity towards making rational decisions has desensitized our ability to be in tune with our guts, with that still, small voice that might actually be speaking more powerfully than pros and cons lists.

So pray and trust your gut.

Seeing vs. Slowing

Today’s post is from my sister’s blog. She writes excellent stuff over at Momma’s Musings. Check her out and enjoy this post on “seeing”.


Today, my Baby climbed up the park structure.  All by herself.  In footy pajamas.

My post-toddler, pre-pre-schooler neatly stacked 27 pairs of underwear.  And left them that way.

My 4 and 3/4’s kid, who is adamant and clear that he is not 4 and 1/2 or 5, but 4 and 3/4’s, reminded his brother to work hard, because a man takes responsibility, after all.

And I got to watch my kindergartener chew vigorously on the end of her pencil, in rapt concentration as she was following her teacher’s instructions in order to draw a scientist working in Antarctica.  Kindergarten is intense.

Anyway, I was struck at the end of this day, how fast it’s all happening, this growing up and getting bigger part of life.  We’re not a busy family, by American social norms anyway, but I can’t stop the rapid growth that is leaping through my children’s brains and bones every single day.

I feel like it’s all the rage right now in Christian spirituality to talk about going slow.  And perhaps this is the needed Word of the Lord for many.

But for me, I just want to see.  Slow is not happening.  Devotion is happening.  Sleep is happening.  Sabbath rest is happening.  Togetherness instead of busyness is happening.

But slow is not happening.  My 3-year-old can whoop me on a scooter race and my 4 and 3/4’s kid can already outrun me.  Life is fast around here.

I can’t change the speed at which 4 children under 6 years of age grow.  It’s a miracle to behold, moment by moment sometimes.  Yesterday, it was diapers.  Today they are drying dishes and memorizing the Nicene Creed.  Amazing.

I can’t make it slow.

But I can see.

Jesus models this for me.  He is always going to this place or to that place, walking here and there, traveling about.  And he is seeing.  He sees wherever he goes.  He looks, notices, attends to with his eyes.  He doesn’t miss what is happening, even in his busyness and comings and goings and growings all around him.

And not only does He see and see clearly, but he is astoundingly accurate in diagnosing heart problems and getting right down deep to the root.  He sees and then he looks all the way down to the very bottom.  And then he casts light, Himself, right onto the situation or the person.  Light in the dark, heart exposed, known.  He sees and He knows.

I want to be a Momma like that.  I cannot slow the natural fastness of my children growing up.  Slowness is not going to be the goal around here anytime soon.  But I can learn to see, to see them and know them.  I can learn from Jesus how to get right down to the heart of it.

Simon Sinek on Work-Life Balance

“This is what work-life balance means. It has nothing to do with the hours we work or the stress we suffer. It has to do with where we feel safe. If we feel safe at home, but we don’t feel safe at work, then we will suffer what we perceive to be a work-life imbalance. If we have strong relationships at home and at work, if we feel like we belong, if we feel protected in both…we do things for each other, look out for each other and sacrifice for each other…we have a feeling of comfort and confidence at work that reduces the overall stress we feel because we do not feel our well-being is threatened.”

From Leaders Eat Last

The Joy of Walking Around the Block

I wrote on Monday about my fight against nostalgia this fall. I want to say again that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with thinking about the past, reminiscing, or cherishing great moments we have experienced.

But dangers lie there, and we can get stuck in the past pretty easily.

We can also get stuck dreaming about the future. This tends to be the temptation for me. Instead of being present in the moment and enjoying what is going on right now, I just look ahead hoping for something better around the corner.

Part of that is because the present can kind of stink. Our dryer broke on Sunday. Tuesday morning I walked into the office and the floor was covered in water and there was a stream gushing out of a wall. Not how I was hoping to start the day. If it isn’t water, it’s something else: unexpected extra work, interruptions, annoyances. And then there’s the big stuff: the phone calls you don’t want to receive, tragedy, and life altering moments.

All of this makes it easy to retreat to the past or dream about the future…anything to take our minds off the present.

We are having a January “heat” wave here in Boston so my wife and I took our daughter for a walk on Monday afternoon. She’s only 16 months old, so we hold her hands and walk on either side of her while she toddles in between.

And she has a blast. Giggling, barking at dogs, smiling, pointing at everything, and then there’s the pure, full-bellied laughter and joy that comes from being swung between mom and dad.

Marina has me beat at being present in the moment and enjoying whatever is right in front of her.

Why do we lose that as we get older?

Here’s to being more like Marina. Here’s to being more present.

Nostalgia and Being Old

Sometime this fall I was struck with a hard, nearly debilitating, wave of nostalgia.

Nostalgia for high school,
for college,
for 90’s music,
for candlestick park,
for certain streets in Salinas,
for California beaches,
for mountains in Colorado,
for tacos and bagel bakeries and pizzamyheart,
for fog and wind,
and for, of course, people.

Mostly, though, it was nostalgia in the perfect sense of the word: a desire for something past that feels better than the present.

This wave of nostalgia caught me off guard since I am the kind of person who is generally forward-looking. Most of my “day dreaming” has to do with future oriented events.

So, what the heck was going on there? Some kind of weird new dad thing? Something about getting into the mid-30’s? Something else?

I know there are people who are bent towards nostalgia and looking backwards, so I tread carefully here, but I’ve always seen too much nostalgia as a negative. And I think for me, my nostalgia, was beginning to border on the sinful. I was groveling in memories and afraid of the future and, even though I wouldn’t have said this at the time, I was losing hope.

Was the best in the past? Did I peak at 32? Is it all downhill from here?

And then, several times this past semester, I was thrust into the story of Abraham. Outside of stories about Jesus I don’t know that there’s a story in Scripture I appreciate more.

What I always love about Abraham’s story is how the writer continually points out Abraham’s age: 75, 86, 99, 100, and older. Most scholars tend to think that by the time Abraham is asked to sacrifice his son, Isaac, Abraham’s been on this journey with God for about 40 years.

It takes him 40 years to develop that kind of faith. I ‘ve always found that encouraging.

But, what stood out to me this time around was that God didn’t come to Abraham until he was 75.

How often in our youth fueled culture do you hear someone 75 years old say: I’m just getting started?

It’s not like Abraham did nothing for 75 years. He was a busy guy, and successful vocationally and relationally. But the biggest chapter of his life didn’t even start until he was “retired”.

That pretty much snapped me out of my nostalgic kick (even though I’m still listening to a lot of 90’s music).

The best still lies ahead.
In fact, it might be decades away.
Do you believe the best is still ahead of you?

First World Problems, Atheism, Gender, and Thinking

Tony Jones created waves this week when he said that he is not an atheist (despite his doubts about God), because the overwhelming majority of people around the world believe in God. (Original post here; response to waves here)

In other words, atheism is a first-world problem.

Which is a fascinating way to think about it, and it highlights a common conversation I have with students.

Higher education in the US places students squarely in the middle of a great paradox.

  • On the one hand, they are lucky enough to have access to an incredible amount of knowledge, research, information, and skills. They have access to more of these things than any other human beings in the history of the world.
  • On the other hand, what is presented and taught as enlightened/educated/sophisticated thinking (and not just the thinking but also the conclusions) are ideas that are actually shared by a very small percentage of people (both historical and living).

A great example of this (alongside Jones’ point) can be found in this interview with Camille Paglia. Her point is neatly summarized by the sub-title of the article: “ignoring the biological differences between men and women risks undermining Western civilization.” (Read the whole thing, it’s a tour de force).

I’m sure my feminist friends at various universities around Boston would want to paint Camille as a quack, but here’s the more essential point: what is often packaged as truth and enlightened thinking are ideas and conclusions that very few people around the rest of the world actually share.

Now, I am not a traditionalist, I am not advocating for group think, or for chucking our ability to draw our own conclusions.

But, and I am speaking here most directly to my student friends, what is often communicated to you, especially in the university setting, are conclusions draw from a very  narrow stream of thought. The knowledge available in this world is a big, wide steam.

There’s a lot more out there.
Keep thinking, keep exploring, keep learning.

Enthusiasm and Joy

First, go watch this.

Now, not everyone is wired up like Jim Harbaugh. And that’s a good thing. Not everyone will express their joy and enthusiasm in quite the same way, but no matter how you are wired up people have a very visceral, gut-level reaction to you and what you do.

Do people sense your joy? Do people absorb your enthusiasm for what you do? Why or why not?

You don’t need to be a rah-rah head football coach to be able to inspire people with the joy and enthusiasm.

Let it show!

New Years

A new year is upon us and so we begin 2014 with a fresh emphasis on posting here at the ID! I hope to post 2-3 times a week and focus on integration and finding God at work in all kinds of interesting places.

We begin with the Boss. I’m almost done reading Bruce, a biography of Bruce Springsteen, and there are all sorts of gems throughout the book.

If Bruce is known for anything it’s his legendary live performances. Bruce and his band(s) have been known for three-plus hour shows with several encores and lots of surprises.

As Bruce made the transition from clubs and small venues to arenas and stadiums he obsessively worked on making sure that everyone, even the folks in the cheap seats had a great time and felt included in the festivities. During sound checks he’d walk the whole arena listening to the mix and sound, and fixing problems until things sounded great everywhere.

“Such were the dimensions of Bruce’s expectations, and his overwhelming need to fix every problem and right every wrong that might stand between himself and his audience. He owed them his best…especially the fans who came out every night in search of something more perfect than they could find in their daily lives.”

Bruce’s life and band were also relatively free of the excessive rock ‘n roll lifestyle and partying that typically fill the pages of these biographies. Bruce’s legendary saxophone player, the late Clarence Clemons, gives some insight:

 “Man, the other bands back then, they always wanted to get back to the party…but for us, the party was onstage. That was our joy. Not what might happen afterward. We left it all onstage, all the time.”

Two questions: First, whatever you do you have an audience (might be your kids, might be the people you lead, might be the people you work with), do you care enough about your audience to “fix every problem and right every wrong” that might stand between you and your audience?

Second: whatever you do (work, hobbies, parenting, etc), do you leave it all onstage, all the time?