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About the Node Not Taken

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Steady There, Young Philosopher

My hardworking, entrepreneurial colleague surprised me in conversation the other day:

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like had I stayed in the corporate world—what would I be doing now?

My friend was in one of the periodic slumps that happen to anyone building a business of their own. Those slumps squeeze out long-suppressed questions. These are the questions that precipitate momentary crises of faith for those constructing wings as they plummet.

No. Really. Is there an actual "Afton State Park"?

No. Really. Is there an actual “Afton State Park”?

Young philosophers like to ponder the “What ifs” of life:

  • What if I had dated that person rather than this person?
  • What if I had taken that job rather than this job?
  • What if I had studied engineering rather than philosophy? (One certain answer: the world would have to cope with a very bad engineer.)
  • What if had dived 12 inches to the left and missed that rock in the lake?

One problem with our casual “What ifs” is that they often assume a straight line from the point of decision. You go this way. You go that way. Two roads diverging in a yellow wood.

But what if our lives are composed of nodes that become roads? What if each decision is followed by another so that our paths are constantly changing in real-time?

Another problem with casual “What ifs” is they forget the tiny but forceful pinpricks of relationship and conversation and motivation that accompany every choice. Thousands of tiny insights and histories and dreams contribute to each action as well as each subsequent action.

Personally, I cannot help but wonder if the nodes that become roads all lead to the place/people we were meant to be in the first place. Wait—don’t call me a determinist yet. Stick with me: what I mean is that whether we stayed in the corporation or went on our own or dropped everything to join the circus, would we end up as the kind of people we were meant to be?

This is not a perfect thought: we build things into our lives, good and bad, by daily habit. We grow, or not, because of those habits and subsequent opportunities. Admittedly, the determinist take on choice has holes.

But I’m reminded of that inveterate letter writer who wrote his friends about walking in the “good works” begun in them.

Today I’m looking for nodes and roads.

And I hope to step in a good work along the way.


Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Big Church

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big church extends deep into the work week

There are big churches—but this post is not about large buildings and lots of people. There is the political big tent, which tries to draw together all sorts of people with diverse viewpoints. There is the Big Ten and the big top and the big bang theory and the Big Gulp—from which Mayor Bloomberg wants to save New Yorkers. This post is about none of those, though perhaps Big Bang is closest.

This post is about Big Church.

It’s not about size so much as messaging. Not about authority so much as a disbursing of gifts, talents, passions and mission. Not about one person’s vision and that person’s ability to pull others with him or her so much as it is about a silent listening of many to One, and each responding in kind.

Sometimes we need to state what something isn’t to figure out what it is (a kind of apophatic attempt, you might say).

I’m stuck on a quote from an old dead guy who wrote letters trying to help his readers recognize the big church already at work among them. I wrote about a couple of this guy’s quotes here, and I’ve started with all the “this is not’s” because I’m convinced we mostly don’t see what this old dead guy was saying. That is, we don’t see it, though it is there and vibrant and alive in ways that are still largely invisible to us.

Big church is an entity that communicates persistent care through all its parts. We may think the pastor is the voice of the church, but that’s not so. The pastor is one voice. But the voice of the church looks like words and action. It looks like words and action that extend deep into the work week, far beyond Sunday morning. Big church lives out a redemptive message while embedded in culture and work and relationship. And big church is constantly inviting. But not inviting to a place or a political party. Or to put on a narrow (or wide) filter. Big church invites people into relationship. And it invites people already in relationship to go deeper.

All this because the individuals who comprise the big church routinely step out of self-created subcultures—we’ve done so for centuries—as seasoning for the broader culture. Stepping out carrying God’s passion for other individuals, in all the many ways God has in mind. Big church seamlessly folds in “together” and “apart.” That’s why church is big. And certainly much bigger than a place you go for an hour on Sunday.


Image Credit: OBI Scrapbook Blog

Written by kirkistan

June 10, 2012 at 3:15 pm

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