Tag Archives: nathan

Being Open

Open Door

What does it mean to be open?

I’m reflecting well in advance of my sermon this Sunday, looking at Luke 24:26-48, another post-Resurrection story about the fearful disciples encountering Jesus in the midst of their wonder, confusion, and isolation. The key verse for me says that Jesus “opened” their minds to understanding and goes on to try to help them make sense of what just happened to their beloved teacher, now back from the dead. For whatever reason, that is resonating with me, so I’m starting there.

The word open is a friendly word to me, just because of my personality. I am a creative guy – I love art and new experiences. I like to explore possibilities, no matter what I do. So, being open means welcoming fresh energy and perspectives.

For the disciples post-Easter, they were likely not open. If anything, they might have been stuck between grief and hope. Their beloved teacher had just been put to death, but rumors were circulating that he was actually alive. They gathered back up and retreated to a locked room, perhaps to get their facts straight and try to figure out what was going on. The word “opened” thus is a stark contrast from their environment – an isolated, dark, secretive room away from prying eyes and outside forces.

It’s easy to assume that Jesus is just explaining everything for the disciples in plain fashion, but if you go on further in the scripture passage, he tells the disciples to wait and pray. So, Jesus isn’t doing the big reveal and wrapping up the story. The resurrection appears to be just the beginning – there is more to come. In a sense, Jesus is preparing the disciple for that next journey or possibility that was about to come. Maybe this is what it means that Jesus “opened” their minds.

I suppose my question for you all is this:

  • Do you see faith as an open or closed structure, flexible or rigid? Why?
  • Has there been any time in your life when you felt closed off from the outside world but then someone or something came in and opened you up to new possibilities? What was that like?
  • Does the resurrection make sense to you? How do you understand it today? Has that changed?

I welcome your responses below. Let’s think and reflect together.


Craving Community

Nathan & Seth, hanging outI’m not sure if people are lonelier than ever before.

Some research, like this 2006 study in the American Sociological Review mentioned at Christianity Today, indicates so.

As of 2004, the average American had just two close friends, compared with three in 1985. Those reporting no confidants at all jumped from 10 percent to 25 percent. Even the share of Americans reporting a healthy circle of four or five friends had plunged from 33 percent to just over 15 percent.

While we are a few years out from 2006 now, I wonder whether such research might hold true. Certainly with the emergence of social networking, people can take networks with them more easily than ever before. You can move to a new place and still remain up to date with your friends and family all around the world. And if you only plan on being somewhere for a short time, why bother at all developing another network that you will leave behind?

For my wife and I, moving to Dallas was an exciting and lonely process. We left behind a great group of friends and extended support, as well as favorite restaurants, grocery stores, hangouts, and so on. It took a while for us to warm up to Dallas, to find places and people to call our own. For just about anybody, a move invites this blank slate of opportunity which can take a lot of time to work through and make it something worthy of being called “home”.

The Christianity Today articles goes on to say this in response and reflection:

To draw our culture to Christ, evangelical churches spend enormous amounts of money on slick marketing materials, enormous amounts of creative energy crafting “authentic” worship, and enormous amounts of intellectual capital on postmodernizing the faith. We’re not convinced these strategies get to the heart of our cultural malaise.

Indeed, if there is a kind of community that can offer a sense of belonging, ideally it is church — but even church can be a lonely place. My wife and I know this from numerous experiences of being outsiders. I know this serving as a pastor where some folks at the periphery of our community can easily be forgotten. Even in church, it can take a lot of initiative and patience to break down walls and finally be considered “in”.

And while attending a big worship service can be helpful, it may not really fulfill that deeper need of connection and support that we all seek.

I suppose I believe that everyone craves community, and I make the case every Sunday morning that there is always enough room around the table. The real challenge is putting that to practice more deeply beyond our church walls – not trying to convince others that church is a family that you need to belong to (or else?) – but living so as to reveal the good news that we all are part of God’s family, whether we come to church, love Jesus, or… not.


Finding Balance

Feeling out of balance? The Table this JuneLike many of you, I struggle trying to find balance in life. Whether its work, family life, time for me, or time with God, I’m always having to make choices that reveal where my priorities are. Sometimes, it feels like I make the wrong choices. Other times, I make the right choices. It feels like I’m doing a high wire act over the Dallas skyline.

This has been especially true for me as I just sent my wife and kids off to Korea. When they are here, I can easily tune myself out when I am in their presence with tv, computer, or work issues. But now that they are gone and our apartment is so quiet, I regret tuning them out at all. I would give anything for them to be back, even with my kids’ uncanny ability to leave out toys in unlikely places so I can step on them and almost require medical attention.

In the moment of life, priorities can easily get mixed up. Yes, bringing home financial resources to provide for our family is so important, but is it important enough to risk missing out on events in their life that only come around once?

Is taking on a second job to pay off debt worth it if it means we end up working ourselves into exhaustion?

Can we find time in our lives to say “no” to our family so we can rest in quiet or have a conversation with a close friend over a cup of coffee?

If we commit to growing as followers of Jesus, how do we make spirituality a daily affair in the chaos and unpredictability of life?

These are not easy questions to answer, and yet we are all there in one way or another. Learning how to set boundaries and priorities may go a long way in determining the kind of balance we develop in our life. And it is so hard to do.

I don’t have all the answers, but I am inviting you to share in conversation with us through the month of June at the Table. We’ll be digging into these questions, looking at some great stories and passages in the Bible that challenge us, and listening to God and one another as we seek balance and wholeness. Maybe you know a friend or two who might be interested in this conversation.

Let’s practice this tightrope walk together.

See you in June!


Mountaintop

Post-Easter meanderings…. hey, it was windy in Oklahoma.

Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge


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