When my daughter came home from school talking about a “keyboarding class” a couple of years ago, I assumed she was talking about a music class. It took a little more conversation for me to understand what she was talking about. “Oh, TYPING class”, I exclaimed as communication finally dawned. “What’s typing class?” another child asked. Yet another reminder of my quickly solidifying status as an “old fart.” Those of you who know what an Underwood or an Olivetti are will probably appreciate this article. (The Digital Generation Rediscovers the Magic of Manual Typewriters). Now I like a good typewriter as good as anyone, but do you really want people carting in a Royal Quiet De Luxe Portable or their trusty IBM Selectric to the neighborhood Starbucks?
I’m one of the “littles“…( a FAN of the Tony Kornheiser radio show). I listen to the podcasts of the show religiously when I’m on the road. It’s funny, smart, snarky and covers topics from sports, politics, movies, culture, food, etc. (frankly whatever “Mr. Tony” wants to talk about). For WAY more information than you really want to know…check out his wiki page). I was scrolling back through some of my past blog posts and rediscovered a post from 3 years ago that featured a clip from his show. (Listen to the excerpt here…Tony Kornheiser on Spirituality. It’s a little over 9 minutes long but worth the listen.)
In my original blog post, I said that I wanted a group like the the one Kornheiser describes (beginning at around the 5 minute mark of the clip). Specifically I said, “…what was so meaningful about [Kornheiser’s golf] outing and what draws most of us toward that kind of experience is the community that allows such a conversation to occur. I want that.”
Something has evolved for me over the past couple of years that resembles the community evident in Kornheiser’s Yom Kippur golf outing. It is what I “wanted” but looks different than I expected. A few months after that blog post, I started a conversation with several friends facilitated through a private blog. It is a group of friends who trust each other implicitly, enjoy spending time together whenever we can, and who are a source of encouragement and challenge that make life better just knowing they are there. We have a lot of things in common, but we differ on MANY things as well…politics, theology, religion, even continents. But unlike many institutional forms of “community”, these differences haven’t seemed to hinder the friendships. In fact, the relationships have probably grown deeper through the differences. More specifically, the growth has occurred through the trust to share those differences out in the open without fear of reprisal. Which brings me to another observation from Mr. Tony’s radio conversation.
Tony Kornheiser and David Aldridge’s skepticism toward religious institutions is clearly articulated. Their experiences of and attitudes toward these institutions are shared by many people in society today. We have all heard those feelings expressed from many of our acquaintances, neighbors and/or co-workers. This is obviously a problem from the perspective of the institution. To address the problem, institutions have expended huge amounts of time, energy, and resources. “Outreach” programs are developed. Books are written. Consultants are hired. Neighborhoods are canvased. Small group programs are initiated. But we still hear of skepticism directed toward the church based on real or imagined stereotypes of church and religion. I’ve come to believe we are not going to create the type of community people hunger for by introducing more programs, or slick marketing campaigns. What to do?
“Start what you need.” I would suggest starting a conversation among some of your friends…a conversation that is based OUTSIDE the doors of the institutions in question. A conversation specifically intended to create the community you are looking for. Don’t force this conversation; allow it to evolve. However, be intentional. Take some risks. Share yourself…the good, the bad, and the ugly. Share the questions and the doubts as well as the definitive portions of your faith. Chances are, you and some of your friends share that same need. I have a hunch that the more community we experience in our personal lives, the more community develops in the institutions in which we participate. It’s a hunch that I’ve experienced personally…both in my friendships and in my church. A couple of years ago, after hearing something that made me write, “I want that”, I started what I needed. It’s been more than I thought I wanted.
Before my current experiment of fasting from Facebook, I saw Lent in terms of the thing to be given up…sweets, or coffee, or beer, or Facebook. It was about the “nouns” so to speak. The thinking was if I denied myself some particular noun, it would be an offering of sorts to God, as if God would be pleased by the absence of that thing in my life for those 40 days. That perspective would fit with the material nature of my western worldview. We have a tendency to see the world through the colored lenses of nouns. We objectify our lives by identifying them in terms of the nouns with which we surround ourselves…our cars, our address, our clothes, our friends, our job, etc. The practice of adding some discipline helps counter this…adding a more regular prayer time, daily Scripture study, writing more regularly, etc. These practices seem to help move ones focus from the nouns.
The real “rubber hits the road” moment for me in all this fasting stuff is the moment of decision, not at the front end of Lent, but daily. There is a choice to be made every time I open a web browser…to login or not. Which choice will I make? Ultimately it’s not about the actual state of being logged in or logged out. Each choice made is an opportunity for prayer…for worship. Isn’t that what the whole idea of “pray without ceasing” is all about? The spiritual formation is instilled in the particular choice made. M. Robert Mulholland defines spiritual formation as “A process of being conformed to the image of Christ for he sake of others.” (Invitation to a Journey: A Road Map for Spiritual Formation). This “being conformed” thing is a journey…a process…an action…a verb.
C.S. Lewis says this so much better:
Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow-creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.
I’m learning to view lent in terms of choices.
I was a senior at LSU when Dale Brown’s over achieving #11 seed Tiger basketball team made their run to the Final 4. This is a fun article from the USA Today last week that will bring back some fun memories from my Tiger fan friends: Quick fixes, ‘freak defense’ helped LSU make Final Four history. Several of us found ourselves at Dr. Udell Smith’s house for summer missions interviews (Louis Landry, H. Kay Rothkamm, JEd Campbell, Jeff Wilson maybe???…some others but I can’t remember who) during one of the early round games (Louis told me yesterday it was the Memphis State game). Dr. Smith said we could stick around and watch the game. I remember throwing paper at the television, screaming at the refs, rolling around on the floor…Dr. Smith retreated to his patio to get away from the commotion. At one point he came back inside to make sure we were not completely trashing the place. That was probably the most fun I’ve ever had watching a basketball game on TV. Great times! (Enjoy the article)