Y-Axis Reality and The With-God Life!

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Why am I here?
  2. Do I serve a purpose in this world? If so, do I know what that purpose is?
  3. What’s the meaning to life?
  4. Who am I?
  5. What are my dreams, hopes, and aspirations?
  6. When do I last remember feeling happy or experiencing a deep sense of contentment?

Did you have trouble coming up with satisfying answers to some of these questions?

If so, you’re like most of us who struggle with coming to grips with answers to life’s most important questions about meaning, purpose, identity, etc.

The loss of meaning and identity is rampant in our culture.

We Barely Notice What We’ve Become

My hunch is that this loss of meaning and purpose is related to our immersion into an x-axis only reality.

The x-axis is, of course, the horizontal (time-bound/natural) plane.

The x-axis represents life on a horizontal playing field. On this flat playing field, all that you see is all that there is.  It’s impossible to find meaning and identity when we are satisfied with life within the horizontal plane.

Immersion into an x-axis only reality has occurred over decades or longer.  As such it’s been invisible to most of us.

Comparing this immersion into an x-axis only reality to our experience with modern-day skydomes, James K.S. Smith observes,

“Like the roof on Toronto’s SkyDome, the heavens are beginning to close. But we barely notice, because our new focus on this plane had already moved the transcendent to our peripheral vision at best. We’re so taken with the play on this field, we don’t lament the loss of the stars overhead.”

The heavens closed.

We barely noticed.

But it’s starting to feel a tad stuffy around here, and a few of us are beginning to look up again.

That’s a good thing.

Why?

Because you cannot answer life’s most perplexing questions without a rich experience of both the x and y axes!

An X-Axis Truth: Always Searching, Never Finding

In mathematics, for example, the x/y axes serve the fundamental role of identification or naming.   And you need both planes for that!

If you depend on the x-axis for things like identity discovery, you never leave that plane.  You are always confined to a one-dimensional reality.  Such a reality would eventually lead to discouragement and despair because you will never be content inside of that one dimension.

You will always suspect, deep within, that there’s more to life and that there is more to you!  But, when you set out on your search again – through the valleys of money, fame, reputation, experiences, possessions, etc. – you will simply be covering ground you have already explored.

Initially, it may look different because it’s the latest fad from the hippest teacher.  But you will discover it’s the same terrain with the same ending.

Eventually, you give up.

When I say give up I don’t mean that you stop living, but you stop looking for something to live for.  You lose your why and settle, too quickly, for the what and how.

You stop dreaming.  You stop hoping.  You begin to believe that this is all there is.

Yes, But What of the “Lucky Ones?”

A few of us – the “lucky” ones – will manage to have enough success to keep moving from one thing to the next.  Finally, with enough status under our belt, we begin to trade on our image and find some meaning within this phony exterior we present to the world.

And, the world applauds.

They “like” every photo and post.

They ooh-and-ah over every glittering moment we provide.

Even fame like this takes its toll.  Usually, it’s during the quiet moments of our life when the numbing effect of that sixth drink begins to wear off just before we drift off to a fitful night’s sleep.

At that moment, darkness creeps in.  Deep, fearful darkness that we will one day be exposed, ignored, or passed over for the new flavor of the month.

We find that the x-axis is insufficient and has exacted a high cost.  We discover a lament that feels like desire.  The lament is calling us to once again look up at the stars.

The question then becomes, “do we even know how to look up or what to look for if we do?”

Remember: the y-axis is the vertical plane.  It’s the “let’s look up and imagine a world shaped by the sacred, saturated with wonder, and soaked in awe” axis.

Humans will always long for more.  We are ever and always in search of meaning, purpose, and identity.

To Empower We First Embrace

If discovering these things requires familiarity and – more importantly – experience with a Y-Axis Frame, then reclaiming the Y-Axis will require empowering others to recognize what we have lost.

Empowerment is more caught than taught.  So, to empower others, we will need to work diligently as ones whose lives are fully framed within a Y-Axis reality.

Many of these posts will be directed toward Christians. We have, I believe, a unique opportunity and responsibility to reimagine life within a Y-Axis Frame. As I do, I will need to awaken us to how what we preach and practice (though unwittingly) has helped establish the dominance of an x-axis only world.

I will highlight how our language contributes to creating an x-axis only world.  I am also going to point out how our us against them posture and antagonistic orientation to our culture only solidifies an x-axis only world.  Both of these are related to how we view and believe the Gospel.

So, we are first going to need to reorient ourselves to an ancient Gospel. The one that’s found in the Scriptures as opposed the one often distorted in the pulpit.

It’s what I’ve come to call (though no doubt not original with me) the Good News Gospel of the With-God-Life.

Explore, Experience, Enjoy the With God-Life

Rediscovering this beautiful Gospel has propelled me into a whole new way of living!  This new way of living, really a new way of being, is one that that Pillar Community Church has and continues to explore, experience, and enjoy!

Hopefully, over time and through practice, we will discover the joy of the with-God-life that Jesus makes possible.

As we do, others will begin to see the dome retract and the heavens reappear!

Disrupting to Renew!

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Transforming Pastoral Ministry, 6: Called to “Curate”

I love lemons.

They are, by far, one of my favorite fruits!

I most enjoy lemons in the vast array of pies, tarts, cookies, and cakes Melissa takes the time to bake.

To enjoy lemons, in any form, dozens of things must happen first.

I won’t list all of those things (because I don’t know them), but I will note a handful that are helpful for our analogy of cultivating/curating.

  1. A seed is planted.
  2. A tree must grow in soil that is conditioned and nurtured to encourage its growth.
  3. Bugs, insects, and a variety of other air-born pestilences must be vigilantly guarded against.
  4. A bloom bursts forth.
  5. A fruit grows from the bloom.
  6. The fruit ripens on the tree.
  7. Eventually, someone picks the fruit.

Well, you get the picture!

At some point, I finally get to sink my teeth into some form of lemon-infused dinner, drink, or dessert!

An Ancient Art!

In order for any of this to take place, however, the soil in which the lemon is first planted must be healthy soil that’s been nurtured, tended, literally arranged and organized in order for a fruit or plant to grow from it!

Continue reading “Transforming Pastoral Ministry, 6: Called to “Curate””

Devotion: A Sacred and Signature Affection!

Devotion: A Sacred and Signature Affection!

“The material creation is not just some detour from our heavenly existence. It is the very good abode created by our heavenly Father. Creation is not some icky, regrettable mistake on God’s part. It is the product of his love.” James K.A. Smith, You Are What You Love.

It sounds strange to claim that delight begins with devotion.  When we think of delight, or things we enjoy, we intuitively assume that devotion is the last thing required.  Who needs devotion to enjoy things like ice cream, or a roller coaster, or a massage, for example?

Yet, for those activities that require more than the fleeting enjoyment of temporary pleasures like Krispy Kreme doughnuts, for example, true delight is both uncovered and discovered through living a life that’s devoted.

Devotion, which is, in my opinion, one of the signature gifts of Christ’s Ascension, is also woven into the very fabric of Creation.  The joy of practicing devotion or the desire to practice devotion – is also a Signature Affection of Creation.

The Thumbprint of God’s Love

The phrase Signature Affection is one that helps me imagine what the thumbprint of God’s love feels like.   I employ this phrase more precisely to signify a God-given love (affection), delivered by the Father, to His Children, at the time of Creation.  This love has, unfortunately, long-since been distorted or leveraged for lesser loves.

Continue reading “Devotion: A Sacred and Signature Affection!”

The Ten Things I’ve Learned about Formation While Watching My Son’s High School Football Team

Pt. 2: Formation (Development) takes time and is not easily measured in the short-run.  

Joe Erhmann, former NFL player and volunteer Defensive Coordinator for Gilman High in Baltimore, Maryland, has spent his life helping boys become men.

His story, beautifully captured by Jefferey Marx, in his bestselling, Season of Life: A Football Star, A Boy, A Journey to Manhood, reminds me that growth and development are best measured in years, rather than days – or even seasons.

In a particularly moving portion of the book, a mother asks the coach how good this year’s team is going to be.  In response, the coach answers,

“Won’t know for twenty years,” the coach responded. “That’s when we’ll know what kind of husbands and fathers they’ll be. That’s when we know what kind of men they’ll be.”

In a world that expects instant results for our effort, and immediate return on our investment, it’s helpful – actually vital – that we recapture the narrative that says formation/development (lasting change) takes time and is not easily measured in the short run.

Continue reading “The Ten Things I’ve Learned about Formation While Watching My Son’s High School Football Team”

You Are What You Love!

For many, discipleship is more about what you know than it is about what you love.  James K.A. Smith, in his excellent book, You Are What You Love, challenges the assumption that drives this cognition-as-belief model of discipleship.

Smith suggests that “Discipleship is a way to curate your heart, to be attentive to and intentional about what you love.”

He argues, quite persuasively, that discipleship is an issue of what we love more than it is one of what we know.

Continue reading “You Are What You Love!”