Thursday, December 16, 2010

Leadership and the Role of the Social Architect

The Social Architect's task "is to design and bring into being organizations and communities that serve both the marketplace and the soul of the people who live and work within them. Where the architect designs physical space, the social architect designs social space."

According to author Peter Block, the role of the Social Architect is to create service-oriented space (in business, organizations, governments, schools) by giving those involved the necessary space and freedom to act on what matters most to them.

Three design criteria for Social Architects (and other leaders) as they line up the organizational structures / conditions necessary for promoting and acting on what matters:

1. Is vision, hope, idealism, energy fostered, promoted, encouraged?
2. Is intimacy, collaboration, open process made possible and held open?
3. Is there adequate space (emotional process) and allowance for depth, dialogue, exploration and a sense of adventure and risk allowed?
4. Is there room for failure in the midst of positive movement?

It seems that today's bias is toward more control rather than more freedom, more practicality than idealism, barter rather than intimacy, and greater speed rather than depth.

As responsible citizens and community members we are all called to show up and accept an invitation to participate, to create, to function as co-designers. Acting on what matters is an act of leadership that is not dependent on the response of those around us whom generally say "no we can't" rather than "yes we can try".

Leadership is about creating space for people around us to act on what matters while having the will to action, believing that it is possible to bring about change, growth and positive momentum.

Here are some of the essential capacities of the Social Architect / Leader in supporting and acting on what matters:

1. Convening: with a focus on all aspects of how people come together, the quality of the contact we make with each other, knowing the future is created as a collective act that requires attention to physically arranging the room appropriately, structuring the interaction and dialogue, allowing for open debate, focusing on capabilities (strengths) rather than on the needs (weakness) inherent in the gathering. Some key elements of convening include:

a. Leadership here is about creating an environment that knows what matters and fosters the ability to act upon it.
b. Care for the physical space of the gathering - including the aesthetic qualities of the room, making it conducive for group dialogue, for peers talking to one another in intimacy and openness.
c. Include high-interaction activities - we can't act on what matters alone and we need to make contact and encourage participation as we enter into context, content and agenda of the challenges and opportunities ahead.
d. Design airspace so that all voices can be heard - giving enough airtime is important, especially for the most doubtful and concerned...allowing for doubts to be expressed publicly, makes commitment possible for all and doubts do not have to be answered, only heard.
e. Aim at capacities and strengths - prioritize the discussion around people's strengths and gifts rather than focusing on their limitations.

2. Naming the Question: A leader (Social Architect) has the obligation to define the context, or the playing field and then help define and determine the right questions to start the conversation. Picking the right questions is a way of naming the debate. The Social Architect works within the community's requirements - including the concerns of funders, customers, and other stakeholders, opening the process by which compliance/achieving goals is measured and achieved.

a. Finding the right questions - and having them open-ended enough to engage everyone personally and organizationally while asking for ways to increase people's freedom so that better decisions can be made. How fast to grow, what are the challenges of growth...the person who names the question generally carries the outcome and we can't get bogged down answering too narrow a question.

b. Broadening the questions - Leaders job is to keep broadening the questions as this is what engages people, creating room for idealism, hope, and depth. We may need to stay with questions of purpose, feeling and relationships which require postponing the how? (Questions of methodology will never disappear and they don't need our nurturing.)

3. Initiating New Conversations for Learning: Technology can support relationships but we need to keep implementing high-contact and human being-based face to face conversations as much as possible, keeping all the voices involved over time. We foster positive change when we create the time and space for heartfelt unique conversations that discuss values, recognize doubts, and affirm feelings and intuition.

4. Sticking with Strategies of Engagement and Consent: Implied is that positive engagement is the design tool of choice. It is how social and cultural change occurs over time,

a. Complex challenges - when we face these difficulties, especially when we create systems that go against the default culture, dialogue itself is part of the solution. Productive conversation is an action step, not only a means to an end, but it is also an end in itself.

b. Chosen not mandated - keeping our intentions and will to live on the margins of culture requires that we talk through the implications and challenges of our choices with intentionally. We are looking to create a future that is chosen and not merely mandated.

c. Conversation - commitment and accountability can't be bought and sold, they have to be evoked, which happens as we dialogue over time. We become engagement managers helping decide who needs to be in the room at various stages and what questions they should confront while keeping to the ground rule that questions of intent and purpose precede questions of methodology.

5. Designing Strategies That Support Local Choice: We want to create social systems/ communities that people want to inhabit, so their input and collaboration is necessary. At a minimum members can begin to define and describe their requirements for participation. A Social Architect/Leader enables this participative design, and it may take a bit longer, but the alternative is to choose a plan/direction that may not be supported.

Here are some design elements necessary to construct a high functioning social system:
  • What is the mission of the system? Who decides this? Who are we really here to serve?
  • How do we construct the job of leadership? Who decides this?
  • What measures have meaning to us? Can we choose these collectively and limit their number to a few high priority ones - maybe three to five?
  • What learning and training is needed? Who decides this? Can different levels learn together in order to help overcome the social distance between levels?
  • What constitutes reasonable, transparent, just rewards? Who makes these choices?
  • How do we improve quality and introduce change? Who makes these choices?
  • How do we stay connected with our marketplace and those we are here to serve? How does everyone get involved in doing this?
  • What is our belief system about people's motivation? How does it fit with the values we came here to live out?
Who decides? Who is in the room? These are key elements in answering these questions. We are promoting activism and we intend to keep technology, barter and speed in perspective. It requires faith in our own capacities and the willingness to stop focusing on our weaknesses. Our weaknesses are always hanging around while our strengths have hardly been touched.


1. Focus on strength - and we confront ourselves with our freedom and other people with theirs...which is so much more powerful than the usual deficiency-oriented view which only limits us and reminds us of imaginary boundaries.
2. Support local control and local capacity - try placing as many choices as possible as close to the work as possible helping them understand the economics of the business while becoming financially literate.
3. Be undeterred by failure - learn from it, hold steady, continue to support local choice while remaining on the side of challenge.
4. Care for the whole - all statements of purpose reinforce the lives of those in the communities served.
5. Be willing to be vulnerable - take the heat, admit failure, no rationalizations, no forced optimism, just dogged determination to move forward in the midst of doubt.
6. Value the human system first - people who do the work are the business, the community is the focus, highlight and tell their stories (not the leaders or funders).
7. Name the debate - carry optimism and idealism out in front of the institution/organization/community with faith in people as primary motivation, with a commitment to foundational ideals that transcend the daily grind of work and responsibility.

Something only has to happen once in the world, and then we know it is possible, and that it can be possible for us in our own can be translated into our own context.

Social Architecture generates an image, fostering imagination, a position and role for each of us to help co-create. Acting on what matters for one person happens in concert with those around them, as individual effort will not be enough if we don't encourage others to find their own meaning, their own voice. Without them we will not be able to sustain our own.

Adapted from the great little book, The Answer to How is Yes by Peter Block

Enjoy the challenge,

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Overcoming the Darkness 23 degrees - 26' - Open Hand Winter Solstice 2010

Join us this Sunday at Sunset - 5:38pm sharp for our annual Overcoming the Darkness Winter Solstice Celebration when the Earth's axial tilt is farthest away from the sun at its maximum of 23 degrees 26 minutes.

Reynolds home with a Yuletide Fire Liturgy, grog and chili dinner to follow.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The myth of answering to our boss - stop it!

What power are you giving your boss that is interfering with your own purpose?

We tend to make the boss powerful because we falsely believe that without their support and approval we can't do our job. Our ambitions and dreams are held hostage as we become dependent on their support and approval. Here are four myths to consider:

1. They hold my future in their hands

2. They are key to my growth and I need to learn from them

3. They determine my work environment, morale and well being

4. They have the insight and wisdom I need to accomplish my job

It is actually foolish to believe that our boss will provide the keys to our future. There is no rational process guaranteeing a promotion, and despite attempts to be competent, judgments are merely subjective opinions. Their feedback has little to do with who we are and how we are actually doing our job.

Giving our boss power actually becomes an obstacle to learning. Our development and success is in our hands and it needs to stay there. They may wish to be helpful, but usually aren't.

Much of our difficulty comes from accepting the opinions of others rather than listening to our own internal guidance system. We have to light our own fire instead of placing our purpose in the hands of another.

By surrendering our functioning to others we automatically lose our freedom. And in doing so we forfeit our responsibility in creating our own culture by bringing the qualities we want into the world we inhabit.

They are not going to change. And we need to stop expecting that our boss will eventually understand us. They are not going to get it and even if they did there is no guarantee that they would want to help us get ahead.

There is no one to blame. We tend to think our boss is the problem and we want to fix them. They are merely expressing a symptom of the work system. Once they are gone another boss will step up and continue missing the point. We need to stay focused on our own behavior and get on with acting on what matters.

Jung reminded us that acts of disobedience are the first step toward consciousness. We are not here to fear or please our bosses. But our disobedience or betrayal can be a fuller expression of our own unique humanity. By disappointing authority we may be claiming the ground we stand on as our own. By choosing adventure over safety we are living into existential guilt instead neurotic guilt.

Neurotic guilt is symptomatic of an inauthentic life and stems from our fear of disappointing the expectations of others. We end up choosing to live a life chosen for us by others.

Existential guilt propels us toward deeper levels of personal integrity and challenges us to lean into our full potential. It is the ultimate redemptive value of betrayal and often will not be appreciated by those around us.

Betrayal can be a true gift that allows bosses to work through their own transformations while bringing emotional balance into our relationship systems with those in authority. It is a powerful stimulus for change especially when we can maintain contact rather than cutoff or alienation.

When we affirm our freedom and commitment to an organization, we can look past the behavior of our boss and instead respond to their intent. Our freedom and satisfaction come from acting to create what we believe in. And we can choose this independently of whether they support or reward or even want this from us.

The next time you find yourself wavering before your boss, remember that you are putting your future in someone else's hands. So stop it!

Take charge,

Highlighted from The Answer To How Is Yes - Acting on What Matters by Peter Block

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Curb Your Anxiety Friday - A Swiss Christmas Celebration

Join our Open Hand community for a special - Curb Your Anxiety Friday Swiss Christmas Celebration at our home - Reynolds 3173 N. Delaware St - December 10th from 5:30 - 7:00pm.

Enjoy a Swiss German Christmas Liturgy around the fireplace, with a Latino twist - led by Oscar Clavel, and including a Swiss French Gruyere fondue with white wine, fresh baked Italian bread and steaming garden veggies. Amen!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Ten Great Ways to Kill Your Church Staff - or just about any staff for that matter!

For those leaders who want to keep and develop talented colleagues, here are the 10 most common ways to accidentally eat them alive - and how to avoid becoming sharks. (For those leaders who want to get rid of troubling staff members, this is certainly the way to do it.)

1. Demand perfection and conformity: If you are an insecure leader you will tend to demand unrealistic expectations. Secure leaders seek out competent staff and free them to work toward their potential. Leaders can learn from them and even be challenged by them as they become vocational colleagues.

2. Overfunction and of course micromanage: Insecure leaders tend to be willful, lacking the ability to respect and establish appropriate boundaries. They take responsibility for what is not theirs and foster overfunctioning, herding and groupthink by offloading their anxiety on others and imposing it on their staff. Effective leaders treat their staff like professionals and encourage them to function at higher levels of maturity.

3. Play the game of 'divide and conquer': Ineffective leaders don't develop their staff into a team of colleagues. Instead, fearful of losing control or influence they participate in reactive secrecy, sharing information with some while purposefully withholding it from others. This results in staff member confusion and the perpetual staking out of territory. Good leaders understand that specialization doesn't have to result in compartmentalization. They encourage teamwork by developing a culture of trust through integrity.

4. Neglect a theology of calling: A key question is, "Does the church call the staff, or does the pastor "hire" the staff?" Answered one way it looks like the staff "belongs to the pastor." Answered the other way, it reframes the relationship between the congregation and staff. Mature pastors foster a theology of vocation and allow the congregation to participate in the call of staff. They also allow the staff and congregation freedom to work out these relationships.

5. Don't plan the corporate worship service together: A great way to isolate staff and fail at cultivating a shared culture is to not have a weekly worship planning time together. Staff members' participation in leading worship also validates their vocation in the eyes of the congregation. The benefits of doing so include - spending significant time together, cultivating a shared corporate theology of worship, opportunities for prayer, reflection, confession, while tapping into the various talents and expertise that each staff member can contribute. All this helps develop a diverse culture of shared values and perspectives.

6. Maintain a dysfunctional personnel committee: Ineffective leaders often don't spend enough time developing this type of committee into an asset for the staff and congregation. Smart leaders cultivate healthy congregational resources and a high functioning personnel committee encourages everyone to aim for higher standards across the board.

7. Try to make staff members responsible for other people's functioning: Take this as a sure sign of fear and reactive behavior when the pastor/leader insists on making staff members responsible for the behavior of others. (a youth leader held accountable for the actions of the church youth, or a church educator pressured to increase the numbers attending classes). Effective leaders encourage staff to be good stewards, but don't hold them accountable for the decisions or behavior of others.

8. Lower expectations and standards: Ineffective leaders settle for less. Wise leaders cultivate the perspective that their congregations deserve top quality staff. There is no good reason to settle for mediocrity, and in doing so you will actually lose the best people first. Effective leaders choose personal maturity over experience and invest in the long-term. (It takes several years to get to the top of your game and a string of short-termed staff tenures get the congregation nowhere.)

9. Neglect your own spirituality: Leaders can only enhance the spirituality of the staff and congregation to the extent that they are growing and maturing spiritually themselves. Staff knows when the leader is not studying, not spiritually centered and when they are not feeding themselves.

10. Don't invest in your staff's professional development: Effective leaders are intentional in cultivating their staff by providing vision, providing the necessary budget for individual development, providing a sabbatical leave program and by nurturing a learning environment that encourages and challenges everyone.

Finally, here are a few reminders (by church staff members) of ways that leaders can keep a good staff:

  • provide challenge, vision, courage and a spirit of mutual accountability
  • stimulate an environment of theological reflection throughout the staff
  • become an enabler - helping your staff live into their vocational callings
  • be a team leader and team player, living out your own calling to provide vision accompanied by appropriate action
  • be a true servant leader and model redemptive relationships
  • be an effective educator and keen learner, investing in the future and encouraging your staff to do likewise
  • support your staff and value their input while inspiring and encouraging their vocational activities
  • have a pastoral spirit toward the staff as they are true colleagues and not mere "hires"
  • protect and champion the staff from the willful and destructive members in the congregation (be less fearful about losing a few troubling church members than about losing good staff)
  • never ask the staff to do things you as a leader are not willing to do yourself
  • never, ever, take credit for their work!!!!!
Adapted from Israel Galindo and his great book Perspectives on Congregational Leadership - Applying systems thinking for effective leadership

Enjoy the challenge,

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I and Thou.......A lack of clarity is indispensable !

I suppose it is by no accident that I just dusted off my tattered copy of I and Thou by Martin Buber (translated by Walter Kaufmann) and reread these words:

"At that time I wrote what I wrote under the spell of an irresistible enthusiasm. And the inspirations of such enthusiasm one may not change any more, not even for the sake of exactness. For one-can only estimate what one would gain, but not what would be lost."

I find it ironic that this is the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Chanukah - that eight-day festival of light celebrating the triumph of light over darkness, of purity over adulteration, of spirituality over materiality. (It almost sounds like another exuberant Celtic holiday channeled by Holy lunar gravitas.)

I admit that I have never knowingly celebrated Chanukah, but will certainly do so beginning tonight.

Apparently more than 21 centuries ago, the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks ?) who were forcefully Hellenizing the tribe of Israel. And of course, against all odds the Jewish rag tag army defeated one of the strongest armies on earth at the time. They drove the Greeks out, reclaiming the Temple in Jerusalem and once again dedicating it to G-d.

With only a single days supply of olive oil they were miraculously able to light the Temple's candelabrum for eight days, until more sacred oil could be ritually prepared. And of course the rest is history - to commemorate this miracle the wise men instituted the festival of Chanukah.

Let me get back to Buber for a moment. He too, wrestled with a desire to get back to the roots of Judaism - back beyond the roots of Christianity. Away from the subversive Greeks.

The Greeks were profoundly visual people, glorified in visual arts. The Hebrews at the other end of the continuum entertained a strict prohibition against the visual arts. The Greeks visualized their gods in marble and intricate vase paintings. The Hebrews expressly forbade these types of images as their G-d was not to be seen.

Rather He was to be heard and obeyed. He wasn't an It but an I - or a You.

Post-modern Christians also attempt to get back to a pre-Hellenistic primal Christianity. The problem is that there never was a pre-Hellenistic Christianity. The Christian faith was nursed in Hellenism for over three centuries.

Paul was a Hellenistic Jew and wrote in Greek. The gospels were also written in Greek probably sometime after Paul's epistles. Although Christianity didn't deny its roots in Judaism, it was "born of the denial that God could not possibly be seen." And as Walter Kaufmann goes on to remind us..."Christians were those who believed that God could become visible, an object of sight and experience, of knowledge and belief."

Christianity and Judaism both emphasize trust and confidence in G-d. Christian faith however, seemed to always land in the Greek territory of very specific articles of faith that had to be believed. This naturally led to ongoing disputes about what had to believed by those wanting to be saved.

As the Reformation shied away from visual images, it came to rely more firmly on the purity of doctrines that led to salvation. This eventually led to bloodbaths and further divisions as each group of splintering Protestants believed they had a corner on the particular truth necessary for salvation

Buber highlights the Jewish doctrine which holds that people can at any time return to God and be forgiven. Judaism stresses the action, the repentance, not merely the state of mind or intellectual belief in forgiveness.

Thus, the book of Jonah is read aloud on the highest Jewish holiday every year. Remember that Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrians who conquered Israel. How could God ever forgive them without demanding some conversion? "When God saw what they did, how they returned from their evil way, God repented of the evil that he had said he would do to them and did it not."

The 'return' has always been at the center of Judaism. For Buber, man stands in a direct relationship with G-d and he is not focused on what we believe as much as how we believe what we believe.

In Kaufmann's translation of I and Thou he states that, "Among the most important things that one can learn from Buber is how to read.....we must learn to feel addressed by a book, by the human being behind it, as if a person spoke directly to us. A good book or essay or poem is not primarily an object to be put to use, or an object of experience: it is the voice of You speaking to me, requiring a response."

I close with some Buber passages that encourage a return to G-d, a true Jewish celebration of faith indeed. Amen. Enjoy the challenge!

"The I of the basic word I-It, the I that is not bodily confronted by a You but surrounded by a multitude of "contents," has only a past and no present. In other words: insofar as a human being makes do with the things that he experiences and uses, he lives in the past, and his moment has no presence. He has nothing but objects; but objects consist in having been.

Presence is not what is evanescent and passes but what confronts us, waiting and enduring. And the object is not duration but standing still, ceasing, breaking off, becoming rigid, standing out, the lack of relation, the lack of presence. What is essential is lived in the present, objects in the past."


"Feelings accompany the metaphysical and metapsychical fact of love, but they do not constitute it; and the feelings that accompany it can be very different. Jesus' feeling for the possessed man is different from his feeling for the beloved disciple; but the love is one. Feelings one "has"; love occurs. Feelings dwell in man, but man dwells in his love. This is no metaphor but actuality: love does not cling to an I, as if the You were merely its "content" or object: it is between I and You.

Love is responsibility of an I for a You: in this consists what cannot consist in any feeling - the equality of all lovers, for the smallest to the greatest and from the blissfully secure whose life is circumscribed by the life of one beloved human being to him that is nailed his life long to the cross of the world, capable of what is immense and bold enough to risk it: to love man."


"Relation is reciprocity. My You acts on me as I act on it. Our students teach us, our works form us. The "wicked" become a revelation when they are touched by the sacred basic word. How are we educated by children, by animals! Inscrutably involved, we live in the currents of universal reciprocity."


"Hatred remains blind by its very nature; one can hate only part of a being. Whoever sees a whole being and must reject it, is no longer in the dominion of hatred but in the human limitation of the capacity to say You. It does happen to men that a human being confronts them and they are unable to address him with the basic word that always involves an affirmation of the being one addresses, and then they have to reject either the other person or themselves: when entering-into-relationship comes to this barrier, it recognizes its own relativity which disappears only when this barrier is removed. Yet whoever hates directly is closer to a relation than those who are without love and hate."


"Man becomes an I through a You. What confronts us comes and vanishes, relational events take shape and scatter, and through these changes crystallizes, more and more each time, the consciousness of the constant partner, the I-consciousness. To be sure, for a long time it appears only woven into the relation to a You, discernible as that which reaches for but is not a You; but it comes closer and closer to the bursting point until one day the bonds are broken and the I confronts its detached self for a moment like a You - and then it takes possession of itself and henceforth enters into relations in full consciousness."


Tonight I am going to light one candle and enjoy Chanukah and the celebratory Jewish traditions of eating foods friend in oil, topped off with sufganiot (doughnuts).


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Curb Your Anxiety Friday - With the Bob & Joann Giannini

Join our Open Hand community on Friday the 19th, 5:30 -7:30pm for Curb Your Anxiety Friday with Bob and Joann Giannini. They recently spent two weeks on the Island of Iona where the Irish Monks first landed and founded their monastery in 563.

Refreshments and light dinner included at the Reynolds home - 3173 N. Delaware Street. Cheers, O'

Thursday, November 4, 2010

What is the Gospel? (according to Jesus?)

Once again Brian D. McLaren has challenged us to rethink our theological certainties with the provocative suggestion that many believers haven't the foggiest notion of what the gospel really is.

Say what? Yes, see for yourself in his controversial book A New Kind Of Christianity - Ten Questions That Are Transforming The Faith. (Chapter 14 What Is the Gospel?)

Don't take it personally, after all Brian was in the same boat for many years. He would have answered the question by quoting the apostle Paul in Romans. We all know the theory of atonement called "penal substitution", which forms the basis for a formula of forgiveness for sin called "justification by grace through faith."

But what was the gospel according to Jesus? This is not a trick question. For Jesus, the gospel was the good news that, "The Kingdom of God is at hand." And Jesus's one-word preface to his gospel was - "Repent!"

"Repent" literally means to become pensive again or have a change of mind. And McLaren would add that Jesus was talking about God's new benevolent society being already among us. He doesn't believe Jesus was talking about going to heaven when you die when he proclaimed that, "The Kingdom of God is at hand."

Instead he explains that Jesus came to..."announce a new Kingdom, a new way of life, a new way of peace that carried good news to all people of every religion. A new Kingdom is much bigger than a new religion."

It wasn't a message about how individual souls might avoid hell and ascend to heaven after they die. No, it was primarily about God's will being done on earth as in heaven for all humanity. It was about Jesus's faithful solidarity with all people in our suffering, oppression and death. It was about God's compassion and call to be reconciled with God and with one another - here and now.

"It was a summons to rethink everything and enter a life of retraining as disciples or learners of a new way of life, citizens of a new kingdom. The good new proclaimed by Jesus Christ wasn't primarily a way of integrating Plato and Aristotle, spirit and matter, perfect being and fallen becoming, or even law and grace - even though, in a sense, it does all these things. More essentially, it was a fulfillment of the three prime narratives of the Hebrew Scriptures."

First, to accept the free gift of being "born again" into "life abundant" means participation in the new creation, a new Genesis of regeneration.

Second, to join Jesus on a journey of a new Exodus, passing through the waters of baptism, eating a new Passover meal (the Eucharist), and experiencing freedom from the powers that oppress and enslave.

Third, to become a citizen of a new Kingdom, imagined by the prophets and inaugurated in Christ, as disciples while demonstrating in word and practical deeds its presence and availability to all (as apostles).

Jesus says, "The time has come!" It is not some distant reality, but is at hand, within reach right now. "The time has come today to cancel debts, to forgive, to treat enemies as neighbors, to share your bread with the hungry and your clothes with the naked, to invite the outcasts over for dinner, to confront oppressors not with sharp knives, but with unarmed kindness. No wonder Jesus called people to repent: if the Kingdom is at hand, we need to adjust our way of life and join in joyful, painful mission of reconciliation right now, ASAP!"

"I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Gentile." Paul

Maybe this will help us read Romans (and Paul) with a new lens. After all who wrote Romans? This is a trick question. Not Paul.

He actually dictated it to a scribe named Tertius (16:22) and we can imagine him talking about a subject he loves, expressing unedited the natural flow of his thoughts and feelings. He is not writing a modern Western linear minded argument, but more as a Middle Eastern poet in circles and parables.

"If we read Romans keeping these realities in mind, I think we will become more sensitive than ever to the wonderful dance of the Spirit of God and the mind of a man in the context of a community in crisis. Together, the Holy Spirit and Paul make move after move toward the single goal of justifying the gospel as good new for Gentiles and Jews alike." Amen.

On Love

On Love

If your are going to try - go all the way!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Beowulf The Protector - All Saints Day 2010

Beowulf: Died 21 October, 2010

As we turn your bones on All Saints Day Beowulf, we say Cheers!

Lots of Love from all of us......Berry is lost without you.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Open Hand October & Celtic New Year Celebrations

Join our Open Hand community the last week of October in celebrating the closure of the Bright Half of the Year, Halloween and All Saints Day, culminating in Halloween evening worship.

Thursday Evening Prayer with Bonfire 7:00 - 10:00pm, October 28th, 3173 Side Yard.

Friday Morning Prayer Liturgy 7:00 - 8:00am, October 29th, Van Gogh hospitality home.

Curb Your Anxiety Friday 5:30 - 7:00pm, October 29th, 3173 with pizza and drinks.

Halloween Sunday Evening Worship 5:30pm, October 31, 3174 Crane home (if at all possible). 493rd Anniversary of Martin Luther's 95 Theses and preparations for All Saints Day, November 1st.

Can't wait! Cheers, O'

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Help Leah & Jeff Paint A Room - Saturday Morning: 9:00am - Noon

Calling everyone who loves the Crane's! Please consider heading over to the their new old home at 3174 N. Delaware Street this Saturday morning. Bring your favorite paint brush or wall roller and roll your sleeves up.

With your help we can knock out several bedrooms between 9:00am and lunch. Pizza will be served at noon along with cold ones.

We may not be an Amish community, but we know how to paint interior walls.

Love you Leah and Jeff (and kids),
O' for the Open Hand community

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Columbus Day - Going the Other Way

It has become one of my favorite holidays in the USA.

As politically incorrect as it may appear, I deeply respect Cristo Colombo for enabling the "old world" to pull out of its doldrums 500 and some years ago. He was heading West when all the others were still looking East for ways to get around Africa.

His adventurous leadership broke through long standing emotional barriers that had restricted the imaginative capacity of medieval Europe for centuries.

The fact that he rode around Europe on horseback for over ten years trying to secure funding for his visionary (crazy) dream of sailing West, is an encouraging reminder that we can live into our vocational callings, even when things look hopeless.

Going against the grain is seldom easy. Fueled by a lifelong passion for sailing, and equipped with exceptional navigational skills, Columbus was relentless in his desire to test his intuitive knowledge. He knew the earth was not flat in 1492, regardless of what Thomas L Friedman says today in his bestselling book.

"Sailed to the WSW, and we took more water aboard than at any other time of the voyage. I saw several things that were indications of land. At one time a large flock of sea birds flew overhead, and a green reed was found floating near the ship. The crew of the Pinta spotted some of the same reeds and some other plants; they also saw what looked like a small board or plank. A stick was recovered that looks man made, perhaps carved with an iron tool. Those on the Nina saw a little stick covered with barnacles. I am certain that many things were overlooked because of the heavy sea, but even these few made the crew breathe easier; in fact, the men have become cheerful. I sailed 81 miles from sunset yesterday to sunset today. As is our custom, vespers were said in the late afternoon, and a special thanksgiving was offered to God for giving us renewed hope through the many signs of land He has provided." C.C.
11 October 1492 The Log of Christopher Columbus

I say cheers!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Give me that pill.....

Okay.....raise your hand if you have ever used performance enhancing drugs. Don't worry, no one will know you are reading this blog when you do.

Those of you who internally scoffed and said something like, "Of course not, I am not a professional athlete.", or, "I didn't even play sports in high school or college, why would I need to get a leg up on anyone else?", probably weren't thinking about the drug, Adderall, often prescribed for ADHD or Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

As I talk with college students about this, it is apparent that this popular drug is widely available on campuses around the country and cost a few dollars a per pill on the black market for students wanting a competitive advantage.

Say what! Yes, it is common knowledge among students that taking Adderall while studying for an exam, enables them to buckle down and lock in with a Zen like focus for extended periods of time.

The scenario seems to be wide spread. A student pops a pill, and then hunkers down in the library for hours of intense concentration. They are so focused and productive that it becomes hard to tear themselves away from the books, to get ready for an evening of socializing.

The Adderall is dictating one type of behavior and their hormones another. Tough choice.

If you know your classmates are taking a pill to enhance their ability to study and ultimately better prepare for exams, what's your strategy to keep up. Drink more coffee? For many, they see nothing wrong in mimicking what others are already doing to get ahead.

Sounds like the scandal in professional sports. Athletes recognize performance enhancing drugs are necessary if they are going to stay competitive with their peers.

Many parents with students (at all levels) get them diagnosed with ADHD so they have a legitimate prescription to keep them more focused 24/7/365. This might be especially advantageous for an easily distracted young boy, in a classroom full of more mature and capable girls. Most of us guys need all the help we can get to keep up with more sophisticated gals at all levels of life.

I'm not sure I would have traded my evenings and weekends of socializing in college for extended times in the library, even if hits of speed transformed me into a straight A test taker. But then again, maybe students today can have their cake and eat it too.

Alcohol has been around forever and is readily available for those wanting to kick start their social lives and lubricate the hormonal pull towards relating and connecting after the intensity of a day holed up in the library.

"Give me that pill...! I have to keep up with my friends."

"Give me that drink....! I have to connect with my friends.

"Give that other pill...! I have to get some sleep."

"Give me that smoke...! I need to relax."

"Give me that coffee...! I have to wake up."

"Give me that......."

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Honesty and Truth-Telling in Families

Nobody said it would be easy, but most of us grew up assuming that our parents would never intentionally lie to us, or deliberately conceal information about important things.

As kids we expected straight answers. After all if we couldn't be told the truth by our mom and dad, how could we ever begin to trust the universe, including our own internal world of thoughts, feelings and perceptions.

Here is where the problems begin. Parents can be no more honest and direct with their children than they are with themselves. And as a parent, I recognize the natural drift to focus on what I perceive as being 'good for us' rather than what is true.

I am as guilty as anyone in routinely telling my children when they were young what I thought to be helpful rather than conveying my true regrets, struggles, doubts, and uncertainties. It was much easier to talk about "how it should have been" than "how it really is or was for them."

As Harriet Lerner describes it...."we rarely describe our reality to each other with candor, and this failure constitutes a tremendous loss, for it is through our stories, which create an authentic connection with significant others, that we begin to uncover our deepest truth."

Anxiety and a reactive emotional climate makes it difficult to push against silence and secrecy in a family system. "I just can't be real; I can't be myself", is often an unspoken symptom of underground anxiety reverberating through the life of children. They learn from a young age to recognize and tiptoe around invisible family mine fields.

From generation to generation reactivity accumulates over time. Intense and painful events that have never been processed remain embedded in the emotional landscape of families, only to be reenacted with each new generation.

And it is this level of underground anxiety (emotional reactivity) in a family that determines how much freedom the offspring have to discover, clarify and express their own realities (truth as they experience it), and how accurately they will see themselves and others.

Anxiety polarizes and herds family members often towards fusion or the opposite, cut-offs. Toward disclosing too much or too little. Toward completely avoiding a subject, or focusing on it incessantly.

By the time chronic anxiety (as opposed to acute situational anxiety) becomes the family norm, it tends to lock members into a rigid authoritarian rules bound system or the opposite fluid and chaotic family system that is out of control. Either way, kids suffer in both extremely anxious family polarities.

Someone eventually has to take the lead and openness and truth-telling can't begin until at least one person steps up, calms down, and really begins to think rather than to merely react. Any movement towards greater truth-telling in our families will requires us to:

1. define ourselves more clearly to one another
2. to see other family members more objectively
3. to talk straighter about family issues that matter
4. and to acknowledge in oneself and others the full, shifting range of competencies and vulnerabilities that make us human

Usually that someone in the family is a motivated adult who has the capacity to reshape the emotional climate of the family system by changing their behavior. (A child generally has limited capacity to problem solve and to take risks with the adults on whom their very survival often depends.)

Positive moves toward truth-telling require us to remain less anxious, and to arrive at a place where our wish to understand the other people in our family is as great as our desire to be better understood by them.

Honesty and simply "being ourselves" is not to be equated with uncensored raw expressions of thoughts and feelings that are merely dumped out into the family system. Instead, being strategic rather than spontaneous may include timing and tact on our part.

Truth-telling requires us to "be ourselves", but to also exercise restraint as it may take extended time and effort to clarify our positions on how we really think and feel, and where we stand on important family issues.

Asking questions and remaining calm (I call it sitting on your hands) helps promote a less anxious process, and each question and disclosure often times evokes more new questions, new feelings and new disclosures.

Laying the groundwork for becoming better truth-tellers is a life long challenge. It can begin at any age, and be done by each and every family member over time. Where lies, secrets and silence have prevailed in the past, families can begin to reverse the process with humble acknowledgment and declarations of forgiveness.

The good news is that it's never to late. We can begin today. The great news is that we have little to lose and lots to gain. Why bother going into emotion-laden issues with our families?

Why not bother? There is probably no better way to discovering our own truths than to unearth the stories and family events that have shaped our own stories. These stories are us, and it is in exchanging and refining our personal experiences that we can begin to know our own truths. Amen.

Enjoy the challenge!
PS Peter, John, Nick and Annie - I'm all ears......OK, I need hearing aids sometimes, thanks for the journey! Love DAD
Adopted from the materials of Harriet G. Lerner, Honesty and Truth-Telling

Thursday, September 30, 2010

"Here we go.....again!" The 96th Thesis

This is not our attempt to re-create the Reformation.

"There are those who seem to wish to do so. They long for a Restoration. They would recover the old Confessions; constitute a catechism; rewrite the Tablets, even revert to sixteenth-century architecture.

Idolatry is not essentially the worship of a statue (in Iona or anywhere else!) Idolatry is essentially the worship of a static God....Our God is a God that moves. The paradox of his changelessness is that He is in constant motion. The sixteenth-century Reformers knew this. One of their mottos was 'A Reformed Church is forever to be reformed'. Thus to be true to them is to be imbued with the same Spirit that informed them. It is, like them, to be concerned only with how to make God living and relevant to one's own age." George MacLeod Founder of the IONA Community

MacLeod argued that most reforms had come, not because the Church had initiated them, but because of inexorable pressure from outside, and that it was more fruitful to look at the contemporary environment to see what it is saying to the Church than to look at the Reformers' insights and to try and recover them.

It is in this same Celtic spirit of Iona, that I post Brian D. McLaren's 96th Thesis (actually composed of 10 questions.)

Ten Questions to stimulate response: Preparations for the journey ahead.

1. Narrative question: What is the overarching story line of the Bible?

2. Authority question: How should the Bible be understood?

3. God question: Is God violent?

4. Jesus question: Who is Jesus and why is he important?

5. Gospel question: What is the gospel?

6. Church question: What do we do about the church?

7. Sex Question: Can we find a way to address human sexuality without fighting?

8. Future question: Can we find a better way of viewing the future?

9. Pluralism question: How should followers of Jesus relate to people of other religions?

10. What-do-we-do-now question: How can we translate our quest into action?

Remember that responses are not answers, which tend to end conversations even before they begin. Responses seek to stimulate more conversation and get the ball rolling.

To actually begin the journey, we need to address the short comings of where we actually find ourselves today and join him in confessing them to the watching world. Once again McLaren leads the way:

We acknowledge that we have made a mess of what Jesus started.

We choose not to defend what we have done and what we have become.

We understand that many good Christians will not want to participate in our quest, and we welcome their charitable critique.

We acknowledge that we have created many Christianities up to this point, and they call for reassessment, and, in many cases, repentance.

We choose to seek a better path into the future than the one we have been on.

We desire to be born again as disciples of Jesus Christ.

We pray that God will create something new and beautiful in and among us for the good of all creation and to the glory of the living God.

We need to evoke new ways of being, and being with one another. A new inner ecology, a spirituality of inner transformation via community, a growing and expanding network of connectivity. A people of "orthopathy" with distinct orientations of the blossoming fruit of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Orthodoxy: good thinking

Orthopathy: good being

Ortho-affinity: good relating

All three must interact and express themselves through Orthopraxy: good work and practice in the world, the creation God made, loves and will never abandon or betray.

We express our dependence on the gracious Holy Spirit, from whom we receive life and every good thing, in whom we live, move and have our being, and toward whom we move in our journey through this life.

We embark on our quest, launched by prayer.......

Adapted from A New Kind of Christianity by Brian D. McLaren

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Postmodern Transition...Between Something Real and Something Wrong!

Here we go again! Brian D. McLaren has posted the 96th Thesis and rejoined Martin Luther's invitation for a new discussion. As you recall Luther nailed a document to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany back in 1517 and his 95 provocative statements rocked the Middle Ages.

"Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology.... Wherefore he requests that those who are unable to be present and debate orally with us, may do so by letter."

McLaren begins his book A New Kind of Christianity describing his motivation..."Morning after morning I woke up in the brutal tension between something real and something wrong in Christian faith. The sense of something real kept me in ministry and in Christian faith; the sense of something wrong kept me looking for a way out. Somehow, by the grace of God, I held on to the something real long enough to begin to figure out what that something wrong might be. And eventually I began to get some sense of what to do to disentangle the one from the other, to hold on to the something real and let the other go."

With his spirituality intact he began to see that faith can transcend mere beliefs and what emerged was more a new way of believing rather than a rebuilt systems of beliefs.

He goes on to explain what he calls the "postmodern transition" from modernity where nearly all our Protestant denominations derived their institutional ethos in the first place: the mechanical universe of Sir Isaac Newton, the conquistadors, colonialism, the Enlightenment, nationalism and capitalism. In other words, our ancient Christian faith had been hijacked by a paradigm, framework or worldview shaped overwhelmingly by absolute scientific laws, consumerist individualism and rational certainty.

On the future side of the equation we have transitioned into a new postmodern realm of pluralism, relativism, globalism and ambiguity. Both modern Protestant branches of liberalism and conservatism were lost in the transition and in translation. McLaren states that both forms of modernist Christian faith were clueless in knowing and understanding the nonmodern and postmodern people outside their sanctuaries.

Roman Catholics were no better off and equally unable to evolve from their own medieval paradigms. They joined their Protestant brethren and made a similar bipolar adjustment, splintering into left/liberal and right/conservative parties that reacted to one another, while losing sight of the changing world outside their gated communities.

Harvey Cox, a Harvard Divinity School theologian speaks of the first era of Christianity (from Jesus through 300 CE) as the Age of Faith characterized by rapid growth, diversity, vitality, persecution, and courage. And that era ended under Roman emperor Constantine and the state alliance of Christianity with his Roman Empire. The unity of the church (and state) were promoted with creeds helping enforce submission to the emperor's regime.

This Greco-Romanization of faith codified belief as a tool of social control and the original catalytic faith of orthodox Judeo-Christianity and its three centuries of social transformation were effectively muted and diluted.

"Paradigms and dogma can be defended and enforced with guns and prisons, bullets and bonfires, threats and humiliations, fatwas and excommunications. But paradigms and dogma remain profoundly vulnerable when anomalies are present. They can be undone by something as simple as a question - a question about the divine right of kings, the origin of species, the relations between matter and energy, how races can and should relate to one another, the motion of planets, and the standard operating procedures used by the church."

Exactly my point! Perhaps it's time for another tipping point, another radical transformation, from"Here I stand!" to "Here we go again!" Not towards a new set of beliefs, but entirely fresh new ways of believing. In honor of Martin Luther, McLaren's 96th thesis is intended to generate new questions that inspire new conversations and ultimately launch believer's on a new quest.

"It is time for a new quest, launched by new questions, a quest across denominations around the world, a quest for new ways to believe and new ways to live and serve faithfully in the way of Jesus, a quest for a new kind of Christian faith." A New Kind Of Christianity by Brian D. McLaren

Stay tuned for the next blog highlighting his Ten Questions to stimulate responses: Preparations for the journey ahead.

Cheers, and enjoy the challenge! O'

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"Sperm in the air!" - What's in your imagination?

When Freud was heading to London in 1938 he asked another Viennese intellectual what it was like, "London? How can you even mention London and Vienna in the same breath?", Zweig thundered, "In Vienna there is sperm in the air!"

I am beginning to sense another season of growth, innovation and the challenge of change and spirit of adventure for our Open Hand community from our small corner of the known world - 32nd and Delaware Street in Indianapolis.

It never ceases to amaze me. Somehow passionate folks (from all over the globe) hookup with one another, on our front porch, over a pint and simple meal.

What begins with a gesture of hospitality, sprinkled with opportune timing, commingles with laid-back open inquiry. The next thing we know, our collective imaginations are impregnated with the seeds of potentially innovative collaborations.

C.S. Lewis identifies this expansive condition as a freshly 'baptized imagination'. Apparently we can have multiple conversions. I know I have.

If I have learned anything from this fruitful process over the past thirteen years of intentional community its this: you bettered have a valid passport in your pocket, faith the size of a mustard seed and the ability to say yes rather than no, to very unreasonable opportunities about to come your way.

Strands of our original DNA were first articulated by Ann at the conception of our Open Hand community of faith. She, with Janet's confirmation, spoke out a promise from God that the nations would come and go from these properties on 32nd Street.

Part of our calling to live intentionally with a focus on global hospitality, has been to pry open a fertile space for emerging cross-cultural connections, and to keep it open. As Parker Palmer reminds us, we can't guarantee anything will happen. Fruit of the imagination (or the womb) is primarily a gift to be received.

As I told a friend recently, Open Hand is in the middle of a 25 year process of discovery. When I occasionally get a birds eye view and peer over the horizon I see nothing but wonderful challenges and opportunities ahead.

At last weeks Curb Your Anxiety Friday, I witnessed once again the global miracle of life finding a way, announcing another pregnancy from among passionate people. Amen.

What's in your imagination?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Timing: Finding Mr. Right at the wrong time.

A young acquaintance of mine stated that she had met the 'right person' at the 'wrong time'. She went on to talk about the complexities of romantic relationships, and her pattern of meeting Mr. Right at the most inopportune times.

Mr. Right just happened to be married this time, and so it was extremely complicated she said. Without asking, I pondered how she happened to fall for a married man. She already knew what I was thinking and blurted out that they worked closely together in a stressful environment and quite naturally began to lean on one another emotionally which eventually erupted into a full blown sexual affair.

She reminded me that he was already unhappy in his marriage and that it was only a matter of time before he left his wife anyway. So I asked her why she was questioning the timing just now. Wasn't she going to get what she wanted? Mr. Right would soon be divorced and they could marry in time.

There's one big problem she said. "His wife is three months pregnant with their first child. This complicates everything! He will have to pay child support, work out visitations and of course remain in constant communication with her....... which will drive me crazy."

I asked if she had ever met his wife. "Yes, we know each other, she was a grade ahead of me in school. It will be very difficult for us both."

I sat on my hands and she continued to talk. She carried on for a bit and then began to cry. I let her.

Finding Mr. Right at the wrong time can be very stressful and I had no comforting words of wisdom. That was over six months ago and I have not heard from her since.

I have subsequently been in two more conversations recently with acquaintances (both married and single) who also found the right person at the wrong time. Getting the timing down seems to be a common problem among our species.

As my wise friend and colleague Rod would say, "We always want what we can't have." My wife Ann might put it this way, "She found Mr. Wrong at the wrong time. She could find Mr. Right at the right time, anytime."

I would say trust your gut, not your head or your heart and you will know if the timing is right. If not, well, you can always avoid personal responsibility and blame the other person.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Curb Your Anxiety Friday - with special guest from DR Congo

Sawubona - Hello, I see your face!

Get ready to kick back and unwind Friday as we Curb our Anxiety with Karl, our special guest originally from DR Congo.

The Reynolds front porch, from 5:30 - 7:00pm, with pints, pizza, and popcorn.....Hear about what's happening in Africa from a man in the know, who speaks about a dozen languages and has been to just about every country in Africa.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"The only way around is through." Robert Frost

"It's one thing to sit tight and see what happens out there. Quite another to be the one making things happen." Wharton, University of Pennsylvania, Aresty Institute of Executive Education

That someone who steps up is often the steward of a vision, a leader able to manage their own anxiety enough to point people in the right direction, even when those around them are falling apart.

The late Rabbi Ed Friedman reminds us that a leaders primary challenge is to fire the groups imaginative capacities while stimulating their resources.

In stepping up, true leaders:
  • function with integrity
  • promoting responsibility in others
  • when clearly defining themselves to others while regulating their own anxiety
  • and staying connected in the process
  • which stimulates the groups strengths and resources
  • while staying the course
Effective leaders live life to the max, acting on what they believe to be in the best interest of themselves and the group to which they are responsible. They are focused on their own functioning, their own integrity and their own responsibility.

Effective leaders help people grow by discerning between content and process, giving time to situations, and staying goal oriented.

Effective leaders focus on strength and empower people, stirring the groups resources, enlarging everyone's options.

Effective leaders focus on challenge and not comfort, without shaming or scolding, instead they ask questions, pointing everyone to the imaginative capacities of the thinking brain, inviting more light.

Effective leaders focus on integrity and not unity, looking through the window of their soul, not on pleasing or being nice - not on mechanical maneuvering of people, or a need for others love and approval.

Comforters and appeasers, along with know it all advisors are not helpful in anxious relationship systems. Love is only possible when we speak through the window of our own soul and speak the truth as we experience it.

There can be no true unity if integrity is compromised and being committed to the truth is far more powerful than any technique.

Effective leaders focus on the system and not the symptoms, noticing what is happening, but more importantly recognizing the structures, patterns and processes behind the symptoms.

Effective leaders function with open integrity - soundness, completeness, unity, purity, honesty - because secrecy promotes anxious reactivity generating triangles and secrecy itself is more harmful than the actual secret.

Secret meetings (a closed process) neglects the counsel to speak the truth in love.

Cheers, to those of you in leadership who are staying the course and stepping up to the challenge on being an effective leader. Remember that the only way around is through and you probably have what it takes to get where you are going.

Adapted from Generation to Generation and A Failure of Nerve by Rabbi Ed Friedman

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Open Hand September Events - Say 'Yes' more than 'No'

September 3 - Friday Morning Prayer Liturgy: 7:00am - Rod's Hospitality Suite, 124 E. 32nd Street - The Van Gogh House (Every Friday Morning - 7:00am)

September 7 & September 21 - Tuesday evenings combined men's and women's prayer: those with kids figure it out! Locations to be announced. (Several women have requested that we do this at least once monthly....)

September 12 - Open Hand Worship: Sunday evening, Reynolds Home 5:45pm, baby sitting provided.

September 17 - Curb Your Anxiety Friday: Pizza, refreshments - and dialogue on the Reynolds front porch - 6:00-8:00pm

September 26 - Open Hand Gathering: Pitch-in feast at Kath and Derek Powell's home - bring a dish, and a date, or a friend - 5:30pm
Let me know if we have other announcements to post......cheers, O'

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Fusion Fantasy - Vampire Love

"Why does a woman spend ten years trying to change her husband and then complain, 'You're not the man I married!" Barbra Streisand

Fused people are controlled by their 'connection', an intense single mindedness in which they have given up their separate identities to become part of an undifferentiated oneness. At first glance is almost sounds biblical.....and the two shall become one flesh.

But, as illustrated in the blood soaked cover of Rolling Stone Magazine, we see a much more graphic and accurate portrayal of the tenacious nature of emotional fusion. We could define this as an invisible field of attraction, an almost demonic connection where boundaries are blurred and individuality is destroyed.

As sex therapist David Schnarch reminds us, "Giving up individuality (self) to be together is as defeating in the long run as giving up your relationship to maintain your individuality. Either way you end up being less of a person with less of a relationship."

All over the world marriages face the same common problem - maintaining the relationship while being true to self....or stated another way, fulfilling our dual needs for togetherness and separateness, and somehow balancing these two fundamental life forces.

Differentiation, as defined by Schnarch in his book Passionate Marriage, describes a healthy process where we maintain the ability to be our self even while we are emotionally and physically close to others - especially as they become increasingly important in our lives.

He goes on to remind us that well differentiated people can agree without feeling like they are 'losing themselves' and can disagree without feeling alienated and embittered. In other words, they can stay connected with people who disagree with them and still know who they are. They don't have to flee the relationship to hold onto themselves.

We can understand differentiation as the ability to stay in touch (connected) without being all consumed by other people. Unlike the entangled menage a trois of vampire love, our urge for togetherness and our capacity to care, requires us to be emotionally distinct people if we are to have true interdependence and mutuality.

An unhealthy entanglement results in people whose identity is primarily dependent upon their relationship. They are unable to facilitate the development of those they love and they ultimately lose their true identity when significant others do change.

Schnarch calls this 'borrowed functioning' when our pseudo self is artificially inflated and pumped up through emotional fusion, resulting in poorly differentiated people clinging to each other. This contributes to domestic violence and bloodshed - think vampires, or O.J., Tanya Harding and John and Lorena Bobbitt.

In reality our sexuality is about who we have been, where we have come from and now becoming the person we can and want to be. And the good news is that we can begin working on resolving the past in the present by focusing on what's currently happening in our relationships.

Healthy relationships are all about resilience rather than damage, healing rather than old wounds and potential rather than trauma. Becoming is always a process of growth, and doing what we aspire to be, we become that person. The good news is we get to decide. We can actually live our way to a new way of thinking and relating to those we love.

Hang on tight, because nobody's ready for the challenges of marriage.....marriage makes you ready for marriage.

Enjoy the challenge,

Highlights by O'Steven from Passionate Marriage by David Schnarch

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A New Kind of Christianity

Two of my favorite people in the world: Elisabeth Harnes and Josh Kupke. I have learned much from these two loyal friends over the past decade and they have consistently challenged my thinking and encouraged my faith or perhaps I could say they encouraged my imagination and challenged my behavior. Either way they have been wonderful allies, deeply embedded in my life and the DNA of our Open Hand community.

The fellowship we enjoy together reminds me of what Brian D. McLaren talks about in the opening chapter of his recent book A New Kind of Christianity. "Responses, please remember, are not answers: the latter seek to end conversation while the former seek to stimulate more of it....their primary goal is to start the interplay, to get things rolling, to invite your reply. Remember our goal is not debate and division yielding hate or a new state, but rather questioning that leads to conversation and friendship on a new quest."

In 1620 a group of pilgrims set out to embark on a quest from Holland to the New World in hopes of creating a faith community where they could live in honesty, openness and freedom.

Just before they boarded the vessel called Mayflower, their pastor had one last message of hope: "I charge you before God and his blessed angels that you follow me no further than you have seen me follow Christ. If God reveal anything to you by any other instrument of His, be as ready to receive it as you were to receive any truth from my ministry, for I am verily persuaded the Lord hath more truth and light yet to break forth from His holy word."

"The Lutherans cannot be drawn to go beyond what Luther saw. Whatever part of His will our God has revealed to Calvin, they (Lutherans) will rather die than embrace it; and the Calvinists, you see, stick fast where they were left by that great man of God, who yet saw not all things. This is a misery much to be lamented. For though they were precious shining lights in their time, yet God has not revealed his whole will to them. And were they now living, they would be as ready and willing to embrace further light, as they had received."

Much like these early pilgrims, our Open Hand community is on a quest, knowing that we have not yet seen "all things." Thank God there is "further light" to be discovered and more of Gods's will to be revealed as we "go beyond' our current understandings. For surely the Lord has more truth and light yet to break forth from His holy word.

Thanks Elisabeth and Josh for joining with me and our Open Hand community on our journey of faith over the past decade. You are both excellent traveling companions and I can't think of two more courageous mates that I would rather sail with. Climb the masts and tell us all what you see ahead......

Cheers and blessings,
O'Captain Steven

Friday, August 13, 2010

This is not a test. I repeat, this is not a test.

I have never done what I am about to do. (At least not out loud and especially on the world wide web.) Don't take this personally. Unless of course you are compelled to respond.

I know a hand full of international missionaries, well really only two, that actually originate from Africa, and are faithful to the point of risking life and limb daily in their pursuit to live and share the gospel with the less fortunate in China and Romania.

She and he respectively, have faithfully pioneered fruitful ministries, impacting the lives of countless individuals as well as influencing city officials and governing structures in their respective locals. (I am not exaggerating when I say that they are leading catalysts of change in their respective countries.)

I am aware of ongoing financial challenges, with one needing $8,000 by the end of August that would allow her to walk through an open door of opportunity in China and the other celebrating the 10th anniversary of Mana Deschisa Romania. He has a need for more regular supporters to his monthly operating budget in order to grow the ministry.

Here is my request on behalf of Open Hand:

1.) A onetime $8,000 total gift for our friend in China.

2.) Ten new monthly donors for the ongoing support of Marshall Mckenna and Mana Deschisa.

Open Hand will send 100% of these funds to China and Romania respectively. Your gift is confidential, tax deductible and we will not solicit funding directly to any donor.

You can reach me anyway possible and I look forward to hearing from you on behalf of our friends abroad. (my cell is 317-918-0301)

This is not a test....please respond accordingly.