This past Sunday morning we hosted a live conversation. It was a Deep Dive Live event, something we do from time to time. Along with our podcast Deep Dive Digital (look for it on iTunes), it is one way we try to model a conversational approach to spiritual formation. This past Sunday, along with Chris, Jeremy and myself, we invited Charles Nienkirchen to join us. Charles is Professor of History and Spirituality at Ambrose University College, a wonderfully energetic and spiritually rich person who loves to talk about the big things. To meet Charles is to love him. He is the guest at our Spring Lent Retreat, March 5-7 (information here). It was a stimulating, thought-provoking time, full of insight, humor, passion and even the odd (gracious) disagreement. We had a broad sense beforehand of what we going to talk about (our current series) but we did not map out how we would go about it. So we just let the conversation happen, and happen it did. But that is what conversation is all about. It is an uncontrolled, spontaneous thing, and you don’t quite know where you are going or where you will end up. You will certainly want to listen to the podcast.
Which brings me to ask some questions (with more below). How are you with conversation? Do you enjoy conversation, especially those kinds that shed light and are helpful? How about talking with friends about life and faith? In my opinion, conversation is the reason God created Starbucks. I know of few things more helpful in my life as a Jesus-follower than talking with friends about this life we are called to. I need their perspective and they need mine. And somehow, in the process of the give and take, something is discovered by talking it out, something I could never know sitting alone with my thoughts.
I often reflect on this: in the dynamic of conversation there is a kind of true personal knowing of another person that can be found in no other way. We reveal ourselves as we talk, not just in formal concepts but in the way we make associations, in the connection of thought to thought, and what we choose to focus on. You know someone when you listen deeply to their voice. Indeed, you come to know yourself when you talk. Conversations are vehicles for dynamic personal discovery.
And we are invited into this way of being with God. We call it prayer, but in many ways you can think of it as conversation with God. And if you take full stock of how this is modeled in Scripture, you will notice that it is variated as any common human conversation -- there is information, argument, self-disclosure, passion, emotion. I believe that prayer is the basic way we practice a relationship with God. One of my favorite New Testament words is paressia (Gk), which literally means “freedom of speech” but is often translated as “boldness” or “confidence”. The New Testament reminds us, over and over, that we have free speech with God, that we can say what is on our hearts and in our minds, and that we can expect him to listen to us, and honor our perspective (Eph. 3:12; Heb. 10:19). Now, our perspectives can be totally skewed, and badly informed, but they are ours, and by sharing them we are known. If we stay at this with God, somehow, through the process of being in conversation with him, we change. There is a kind of learning that comes to us mystically and surprisingly, often through the normal processes of life, but amounts to nothing less than God’s conversational response to us. What a wonder!
This Sunday is Valentines Day, and we want to pay special attention to with a special look at love. See you at 9:29 or 11:11.
Take time to ponder these questions: 1. How are you in conversations about the real meaningful aspects of life? Do they frighten you? Or enliven you? 2. Why is it that so many people now prefer virtual conversations (afternoon talk-shows) rather than to participate in the real thing? 3. When was the last time you have a conversation about matters of faith and God? If it has been a long time, why? Where could you find conversation partners for that purpose? 4. If you are married, what is the general state of your conversations? I often think of marriage as a life-long conversation -- so how is your conversation going? Are you talking about meaningful things? Are you sharing life?