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.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Curb Your Anxiety Friday the 20th with Kit Danley from Neighborhood Ministries

Please join our Open Hand community at 5:30pm on Friday the 20th (Reynolds front porch) for a dialogue with Kit Danley from Neighborhood Ministries in Phoenix, Arizona. Pizza and drinks will be provided as we interact with Kit.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes

Western scientific mentality steers us in the direction to deny the status of 'fact' (and therefore of truth) to anything not demonstrable by repeatable verification.

What if I say that on November 22, 1963...."A man with a rifle from a warehouse window shot and killed another man in a passing car." Every word is true (assuming we accept the Warren Commission finding), but how plain and meager the facts are. But take it further and say.."The President of the United States was assassinated." This is more fully factual because the victim is identified, the murder is stated as political and the overall perspective is truer.

Lets take it a step further and say that..."Men everywhere felt that they had looked into the abyss of evil and people wept in the streets." This actually tugs at the heart and is truer in a different way. It presupposes the other statements, and goes beyond them to describe more clearly the horrible nature of what happened.

Now look at the Gospels and the New Testament in the light of the above statements. They are much more like the third statement, involving more of the heart and soul in a confession of shared meaning - tied to history and to event.

That's how it is with Jesus - no neutrality, mere records or empty chronology. Rather a living participation and heart felt entanglement. For Jesus' story can't be described without a fuller telling involving heart, mind and soul.

Christian faith is fact, not mere telling of history, but poetry, not simple expressed imagination. Like the arched bridge that grows stronger with the weight placed upon it, so the story of the Gospels, bear up with reassuring strength, under the devotion of the centuries to Jesus the Messiah.

"What is music, asked Walt Whitman, but what awakens within you when you listen to the instruments? And Jesus is the music of the reality of God, and faith is what awakens when we hearken." Amen.

Wow, overlooked contributions from the Middle Eastern Christian perspective that have rarely been exposed to those outside the Arabic-speaking Christian world are readily available, texts that have inspired the faithful for nearly two millennia.

The idea that early Christianity was limited to Greek and Latin expressions has distorted historical reality and weakened our understanding of the roots of Christian theology and spirituality. During the 3rd and 4th centuries Syriac was the third international language of the church.

Middle Eastern Christians are the forgotten faithful, much like the Celtic Christian tribes dating back to the early Galatians and other Celt's scattered in Briton and Ireland.

We have so much to learn from our brothers and sisters in the Middle East and the wonderful book Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes by Kenneth E. Bailey is a a great starting point.


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Why Marry? The Decline of Males

WHY MARRY? My simple answer is to create families. Creating a family is the most biological, evolutionary, spiritual, soulful and fundamental human endeavor possible.

Lionel Tiger (no kidding that's his real name) published a book over a decade ago entitled The Decline of Males. Tiger's theme centered on the introduction of "the pill" in the 60's which for the first time in human history gave one sex (females) power and control over fertility.

In the not so distant past, birth control was a very uncertain science with a high degree of certainty about one thing - nature eventually won and pregnancy occurred after lustful passion between a male and female.

The introduction of the pill (and the subsequent "chemical pregnancy" of all female partakers of the pill) changed the balance of coupling negotiations and began a cycle of "paternity uncertainty" in which the male was never certain of who the father might be in the case of an actual birth. He had no way of knowing whether the female was on or off the pill, and was at the mercy of his partners actions or lack of action.

Thus began the "sexual revolution" and Cupid (his arrow in history was always the precursor to the shotgun and not the more misguided popular notion of something like a magic wand of love) didn't know who to aim at anymore....and even when Cupid took careful aim, there wasn't much fear instilled in the hapless male, who could easily shrug his shoulders and grab another beer while dismissing the arrow threat completely.

At the turn of the 20th century about 40% of all marriages were "shotgun"affairs, ones where everyone was essentially relieved - the female was fertile and the male was certainly going to marry her and everyone in the extended family loved the (early arrival) of the new baby.

A family was created and life moved forward. Nothing short of the story of Mary, Joseph and baby of the oldest and most respected worldwide drama's since the dawn of mankind. The pregnant and engaged young couple struggling to form a family and the entire world conspiring to help them. (The wise men bearing gifts looks something like the modern government in the West bearing gifts for the pregnant young woman - money, housing, assistance - everything necessary for survival.)

Actually the gifts given to the parents of Jesus would provide the necessary resources they needed for years to come. I have never heard anything about that in a sermon on Christmas...and the manger as least as depicted in American churches is about as nice as the cheap housing provided to young teen moms.

Society rally's around the pregnant female (typically everyone in the extended family)...all conspiring to promote the best interest of their beloved young relative. Even as the males begin to drift away, no one including Cupid most of the time, knows where to point the arrow or shotgun anymore.

So what happens in the early 70's? Roe vs Wade! Never underestimate the determination of a society to protect their beloved daughters from unwanted pain and agony. But why all the unwanted pregnancy's if the pill is so effective and readily available? I guess we have something of the paradox of the modern human life...unreliable human nature. Some call it "sin nature" I suppose.

Along with rising rates of unwanted pregnancy, declining marriages and uninterested males, there was an accompanying outburst of increasing divorce rates. Perhaps this all ties into my hunch that marriage is first and foremost about the "creation of a family" and not primarily about romantic love and sex.

When two people bind together simply to avoid negative societal pressure (another paradox is that there was all along a strong religious sanction against the sexual revolution and sleeping around and living together as unmarried couples and the pill etc.) and instead of living together against the wishes of the Church and the extended family they marry, many of those marriages ended in divorce after one to three years. Why?

Because they didn't marry to create a family! Instead they chose a lifestyle of freedom (no kids), materialism (two incomes) and excitement (infidelity) rather than responsibility, commitment and imagining and calling forth the future - KIDS.

I probably fit the model perfectly when entering into my marriage. We couldn't live together - in our case the Church and our families had strong sanctions against this and our only option was to marry. I wasn't thinking about creating a family - kids were far out on my horizon. I was in love with my best friend and I wanted to know this woman completely. The price was marriage. (We celebrate our 29th wedding anniversary this year and fortunately I have been blessed with four children and a courageous wife that gave up significant amounts of freedom, materialism and excitement over the past three decades to create our unique family.)

Here are the challenging highlights of Tiger's book:

1. The introduction of the pill profoundly changed our society and unleashed the sexual revolution
2. Men became unsure of paternity and gradually became less interested (or forgot) about the primacy of creating a family - they simply wanted more sexual experience from a variety of females
3. Laws were passed by law-abiding family members to protect their daughters from unwanted pain and abortion on demand became a constitutional right
4. Although there was still a strong current of pressure on many young lovers, divorce became easy as the lure of living together was not enough to sustain the daily tasks of routine marriage
5. Neighborhoods are now lacking fathers
6. In the 1,000,000 man march in D.C., 600,000 of them were not living with their children
7. Men have become more marginalized each decade since the 60's - thus the decline of males
8. The "Great Satan" as seen by Asia and the Middle East is the "rights of women" in the West - not materialism or capitalism....can you imagine if women could control fertility or abort the next generation whenever they wanted
9. Worldwide the industrialized nations are not producing enough children for healthy replacement of their populations
10. Paradox - 2/3rd of all pregnancy's in Russia end in abortion...they have lost nearly 20,000,000 in potential replacement population
11. Paradox - underdeveloped nations continue to lack birth control and they have too many babies
12. Laws are passed contrary to basic biological and evolutionary human development - welfare state in some Western nations encourage single mothers not to marry
13. Working moms often have some other kids mother watching their child in day care
14. Stay at home teen moms and other dependent women earn a low allowance that keeps them relatively poor and needy with at risk kids
15. Dis-arranged marriages in the industrialized nations leading to higher divorce rates worldwide
16. Chinese families exposing their daughters and having only a generation of boys - million of spoiled boys, with no siblings and not enough girls to even come close to providing wives for them in the future

I am not sure how accurate his observations are, but they certainly do stir the imagination. What would happen if we......?

Enjoy the challenge,

Thursday, August 5, 2010

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living....

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for
and if you dare to dream of meeting
your heart's longing.

It doesn't interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk
looking like a fool...
for love, for your dream,
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn't interest me what planets
are squaring your moon.
I want to know if you have touched
the center of your own sorrow,
if you have been opened by life's betrayals
or have become shriveled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain,
mine or your own,
without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy,
mine or your own,
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic,
to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn't interest me if the story
you are telling me is true.
I want to know if you can disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless and therefore

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure,
yours, and mine,
and still stand on the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn't interest me to know where you live,
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after a night of grief and despair,
weary and bruised to the bone,
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn't interest me who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the center of the fire with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn't interest me where or what or with
you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you from the
when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with
and if you truly like the company you keep
in the empty moments.

Oriah Mountain Dreamer
from the Dreams of Desire (1995)

Cheers, from the qG Irish Rhinoman