Archives For Transformation

“Our culture has accepted two huge lies: The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear them or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.” ~ Rick Warren

Not too many days from now, billions of people around the world will gather with their families to celebrate the holidays. Even in the most ordinary of years, these gatherings can be stressful. In most families, not every member sees the world in the same way. Not everyone agrees on what’s to be done about the common challenges we face. Not everyone likes the leaders we’ve had or have now, or the decisions they’ve made, or plan to make.

In a year like the one we’ve just experienced, these tensions of difference are running particularly high for just about all of us. You’ve probably already wondered just how volatile things might get around the holiday table this year. Even in the calmest of families, the likelihood that somebody will say something that sets somebody else off are considerably higher than they may have been in previous years.

If this past election cycle has shown us anything, it’s that we need a better way of talking with each other. Attacking, judging, shaming, yelling, condescending, hating, breaking off relationship…these approaches may feel justified in the moment, but they’re very unlikely to produce any sort of lasting solution that honors us all.

Thankfully, there is an alternative approach. It’s called “Civil Conversation,” and it’s a skilled way of talking and listening that every one of us needs to learn for the sake of the common challenges we share and must find a way to resolve together.

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grandcentralstation

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” ~ Mother Teresa

I want to talk with you for a minute about the United States as a Relationship System.

When I say “Relationship System,” I mean something that’s in some ways quite similar to the nervous system in your body. For example, imagine you’re running a marathon. You’re determined to beat a certain time you’ve set in your head, and you’ve been training your body for months to achieve that goal. But on the day of the race, at about mile 14, your right heel begins to scream in pain. Now nothing else in your body is hurting, at least not yet. The vast majority of your body is signaling All Systems Go, except for this annoying heel, which is screaming at you that something isn’t right. So what do you do? How do you respond to that signal in your heel?

This is similar to how a Relationship System works. A Relationship System is a web of people who are linked together via a network of relationships. Such a system can be as small as two individuals (such a married couple) or as large as the entire population of the world. At whatever level you parse it out, however, every relationship system tends to function a bit like a living organism, like the body of the athlete running the marathon. No one part of the system has a complete picture of the Current Reality. Rather, each part of the system provides vital (but partial) information back to the whole, and the “whole” must collectively decide how to proceed based on that information.

Right now in our nation, we’ve all begun to recognize that there’s been a significant breakdown in this information loop within our National Relationship System. A large segment of the nation perceives the current reality in our country in a radically different way from another large segment of the nation. We’re all looking at the same picture, but perceiving very different realities. It’s like we’re the marathon runner, but the signal pathways between the major parts of our body have been cut off. Part of us is feeling one way, another part is feeling very differently. But the connection between the two has been severed, so neither part understands what the other part is experiencing. Thus the whole body suffers.

Now, I have some very good news about all this. In Relationship Systems Theory, which is a big part of the work I do every day, there is a simple solution to this system-wide breakdown. It’s so simple, in fact, it almost sounds too simplistic to be true. But my experience, and more importantly loads of research, have demonstrated that it works, time and again.

What is the solution?

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guy-worship03

“I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun!” ~ Thomas Merton

It’s so unfathomably easy to lose yourself. Every day is a fight to remain conscious. Maybe this is in part what Jesus was referring to when he said the path to life is narrow and only a few ever find it. Staying awake to your life really is the hardest thing of all.

I find myself surrounded by dreams, fantasies created from masks I like to wear. Yes, some part of me likes to wear them, and that’s a big part of the problem. I find myself not merely tricked into falling asleep, but enticed.

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guy-baptismprayer

“When patterns are broken, new worlds emerge.” ~ Tuli Kupferberg

Here’s something I hear quite often in my coaching sessions: “I’m just waiting on God to reveal His will to me. I’m willing to do whatever He wants; I just need Him to show me. I don’t understand why He’s waiting so long to tell me what He wants me to do. Maybe I’m just not listening hard enough? Or maybe there’s some lesson for me in His silence? Why isn’t God telling me what He wants?”

Now, let me say up front this kind of situation has some nuance to it. It’s certainly commendable that you want to know God’s will. It’s even more commendable that you are willing to surrender yourself to His direction ~ what Ruth Haley Barton calls the “Prayer of Indifference”. So I’m not saying either of those dispositions of the heart are wrong or undesirable. Far from it! They are awesome.

But for many who pray this sort of “just tell me what to do” prayer, there is something false about it. Something escapist. Something that pretends holiness, but in truth just wants to avoid the responsibility of making a decision. It’s like the young man of 25 years who begs his parents to tell him what career he should choose. He’s not a child anymore. Such a decision is no longer his parents’ to make. Yet he wonders in exasperation why they won’t reveal to him their will for his life.

Somehow we’ve lost touch with this basic truth: the life of faith is inherently developmental. We grow and mature over time ~ at least we’re supposed to ~ and as we do, our relationship with God must grow and mature too. This is God’s will for everyone. His nature is developmental. He is always about the business of growing us up.

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SILVER & LIGHT from Ian Ruhter : Alchemist on Vimeo.

“Life grants us a series of opportunities, and those opportunities come with a price.” ~ Ian Ruhter

So here’s the first thing to finding your purpose: You have to discover what you love. This can take a long time, or can happen in a single day. But you have to put your heart out there and let something take it. You have to experience things. You have to let yourself be vulnerable to life. What will break your heart? What will set it on fire? What will make it soar? To know these things, you have to let life happen to you. As you do, ask yourself, always be asking yourself, “What do I love? What do I want to give my love to? What do I want to give my life for?”

“What do I love? What do I want to give my love to? What do I want to give my life for?”

Once you know the answer to this, the next thing is to give yourself over to it. There is a threshold, a point of no return for every passion. Until you go all in, you are just dabbling. There’s nothing wrong with dabbling. Just be clear with yourself about the fact you’re doing it. Ask yourself: “If this really is something I truly love, what am I willing to sacrifice for it?”

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guy-overlookingglory

“Beauty is not a luxury.” ~ John O’Donohue, Beauty

There’s just so much beauty. It’s everywhere. There’s so much, it hurts. If you look at it for too long, your heart will break. It will break wide open like the husk on a grain of wheat, and you’ll be utterly undone.

Maybe that’s what we’re all here to do. Train our eyes to see the beauty, then let it break our hearts. Maybe that’s the way the whole world gets healed.

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ancientruins

“You will never live beyond the way that you see yourself.” ~ John Eldredge

There are these old stories about myself I carry around in my soul. I carry them like holy relics, like sacred articles that tell me where I come from, what has happened to me, and who I really am. I’ve carried them a very long time. I’ve used them to guide my life. They have been my personal holy writ, the internal sacred text that defines me.

Like a script, these stories have directed me to act out my life in a particular way. They have told me what I can and cannot do, where I can and cannot go, and who I can and cannot be. They have sealed me off from certain destinies, and forced me to experience certain others, many of which have been very painful and isolating for me.

I’ve known for a while now these stories are lies. They are false narratives, straight-jacket scripts, that were cast over my heart years ago like a mad wizard’s spell. For years I walked around as if in a dream, a subtle nightmare really, in which I believed debilitating falsehoods about who I was, what I was, and what was, or more often wasn’t, possible for my life. It was a delusion cast on my soul through a black dance between my wounding, my enemy, and my shame-ridden imagination. It became a prison that locked me away from my true self, and from my true life.

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