I Am Especially Fond of You

Carole and I speak of our love for each other often. Sometimes too much for me, but still appreciated. She also speaks of what she likes of me – that I am attentive to her, that I think outside the box, that I am freer than I used to be. And, of course, I tell her that I am especially fond of her and those particular ways of which I am especially fond of. It always evokes a smile in us both. I feel secure and I think that she does too.

We have been married a long time and I am glad for it. I expect her to love me – what choice does she have after all these years? – but to be fond of me, that is something more.

I loved “The Shack” when I first read it. It made me question, wonder and weep. I love the idea of a black, matronly woman as God! Paul Young wrote this book for his kids as a Christmas gift and in a short period of time many thousands wanted to know what he was telling his children: that God was especially fond of them. I think that is what I want in my life – to know that God is especially fond of me. I know that this is what I want from my wife and my children. And I want them to know that I am especially fond of them too.

I know that I am not especially fond of me. Perhaps that is why to have God and others orient toward me in this way is a wonder.

Many people I see in my counselling practice don’t have anyone that they think is especially fond of them; spouse or child or friend or God. So they try to be perfect, hope to cause no offence, work to be right most of the time, hide from any conflict, all in the hope that someone might read through these adaptations and, perhaps, that the someone will discover something to be fond of.

Sound like you? Maybe sometimes.

Like the beautiful woman I met who had all the augmentations done to her face and body but could not find a man who was fond of her – the inside her. Or the painfully narcissistic young man who entranced everyone but could not make a relationship that would last. Or the grandfather who criticized his children and grandchildren and could not give up “correction” (as he called it) for fear that his loved ones would turn out as empty as him. How un-fond of a man to himself and his progeny.

But to be found as a person who is fond of others and to have others be fond of them. That is amazing.

The Shack movie is coming out shortly and I expect to be disappointed. Unless I discover again that God is especially fond of me and of you. I hope so. I believe so.

Who Are You Going to Please?

Most of us are people-pleasers. We will please almost anyone if it keeps us from pain or adds some “bling” to our lives. Ministers can be terrible people-pleasers; but they don’t seem to know who to please, so they try to please everybody or ignore anybody.

One pastor I know would lie in a fetal position behind his office desk on bad Sundays after his sermon, crying and hiding, hoping that no one would find him. Not only was he not found, he almost lost himself and his family.

Today we speak of “boundaries” – that is, to think and reason who you will let “get in” your soul and in your face; who you will trust and who you might wish to please.

Here is something about Jesus that reflects on this: “All [in the synagogue] spoke well of him [Jesus] and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips.” [and then, a little later] “All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this [what he said]. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill … in order to throw him down the cliff” (Luke 4:22,29 NIV).

Interesting isn’t it? We may try to please people and then they inevitably turn on us. At least they did for Jesus and they probably will for you if you stand for something worthwhile.

Psychologists say that people are motivated by the appreciation of others, especially significant others, like parents or bosses or God. But not everyone will be pleased by how you live your life and so you have to choose who matters. Who will you please?

When I was hired as the team-leading pastor of CapChurch in North Vancouver, I boldly said that I would do all I could to please God, and satisfy my elders but I wouldn’t overly labour to please the pew-people generally. I figured that I would dissociate running after all these people’s whims, worries and wants. 16 years later I think that was a good decision. And I have learned that pleasing your spouse is a good idea and in so doing you are often pleasing God in the bargain.

This is not to say that we (those who decide who they will please) need to be rabble-rousers or demagogues. But it’s not like the English bishop who once remarked, “Everywhere Jesus or Paul went, there was either a revival or a revolution. Everywhere I go, they serve tea!” (An old preacher’s story. Who knows if it’s true.)

I don’t want to be like that. At the end of the day, I want my life to count for something and for a long time. This will mean I am going to run into opposition somewhere along the way. And, knowing me, probably a lot of it.

What Star Are You Following? (David Ducklow)

I received this Christmas blessing from my son, David Ducklow. David is a chaplain in training at Vancouver General Hospital and completed a Masters degree in Spiritual Formation. Here is his blessing to me and now to you.

Isn’t it amazing how, because of our work and efforts in preparing for Christmas, we ‘crash’ soon after the meal is finished, the presents have been opened and the relatives have left? I don’t imagine the wise men doing the same thing. The joys of seeing a newborn King probably made sleeping the last idea on their minds.

The gospel of Matthew follows them on their marathon mission, and though they had good reason to be tired, remarkably they show no hint of it. Matthew says they spent two years following the star, hunting Jesus down. I have never followed a star before, let alone for two years, but I can imagine that it may be like trying to find the hypothetical pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Next to impossible. So I would probably talk myself out of this on the first day.

However, the wise men had enough energy and motivation, not just to walk for one day, but for seven hundred and thirty days! Their reason? “When they saw the star, they were filled with joy!” (Matthew 2:10)

How would you react if you saw a star that moved? Would you refuse to follow it? “Not today. Maybe tomorrow. I had a bad night sleep and I have a crick in my neck.” The wise men most definitely had this option during their two-year pilgrimage. Or would you be so excited that nothing could keep you from getting to that pot of gold?

What star are you following? Where do you think it will lead you? How long have you been following it? Are you willing to follow it to its end or are you about to crash? I am sure these are questions the wise men asked themselves. They certainly had enough time to discuss their reasons for doing such a crazy thing.

But, what was their motivation? Who had told them to do this crazy thing? What would they receive in exchange for their gold, frankincense and myrrh?

(David also is a Spiritual Director and an “Intentional Tutor” especially for kids with disabilities. You can reach him on our web site.)

Just Thinking with Jasper

Jasper, my first grandchild, had a stunning insight recently. We were driving from a movie (Kungfu Panda) at a downtown cinema in Vancouver. We saw some obviously poor people on the sidewalk and I said to him that the church tries to help poor people. He asked me, “How does all the singing we do at church help the poor people?”

Interesting.

I was thinking of trying to answer Jasper’s question and then I remembered what I have taught for years; that an unanswered question can open a relationship for a lifetime. Answers often close down conversations. They certainly close down thinking.

Jasper surprises me how intelligent he is. He is 6 years old and has superpowers like his dad, who is really smart. Brent is not from our side of the family. We are more attachers-emoters than thinkers. (Christine, if you read this, you are really smart and have superpowers too.)

I have come to think that the church is great for attachers-emoters that need to believe something or lots of things, to keep their attachments in check. Otherwise, they would jump on their high horses and ride in all directions at once.

But thinkers are in trouble at church. Most preachers work to have you believe stuff, not think stuff through. This has resulted (humble opinion only) in a paucity of thinkers and a plethora of believers.

Seminaries train their seminarians in how to believe and to convince others on what to believe. Sermons might take 5 hours a week or 20 hours a week to prepare, depending on whether we are more OCD or less. Sermon prep is a thinking process. But then sermonaters preach it like like listeners are to believe it. Not think it.

I have a yearning to preach a sermon or many sermons first saying, “I don’t think I believe what I am about to say, but I am thinking it. Will you think with me?”

I would like to call my churchly friends “thinkers,” rather than “believers” as in “I love being at church with fellow thinkers.” Jasper Patrick McLaren would probably like this kind of church more. So would his dad.

And I don’t think there is a connection between singing and helping.

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