Church Innovations’ Partners Post

November 30, 2009

End of the 40-Day Search for Peace, Abundance, Shalom

Filed under: Uncategorized — ptellison @ 10:48 am

My 40 day quest for peace, abundance, shalom, has taught me a couple of things, which I’ll share with you in the next few entries. Major learning #1: I am not good at seeking a moving treasure, but super skilled at something else.

Peace, abundance, shalom can be found almost anywhere, but it is often seen in small encounters, like a series of dance steps completed amid a sea of other moving dancers. When you are one of the other moving dancers, you must almost stop, look around, crane your neck to notice it. Sometimes you are looking from a balcony and you can see it. But when you’re down on the dance floor, it’s easier to miss it unless you find yourself in it and extend it to someone else.

 

Peace, abundance, shalom is easiest to see in relationships. It is almost as though something physical, tangible, passes between two people when there is a fullness of connection. They are paying their full attention to each other. They are not holding back or blocking up the flow through the pipe so that just a trickle flows between them. They are undammed, and the peace is a woosh between them and from them to others, not peace-and-quiet peace but abundance.

 

Looking for this peace is not like finding Waldo in Where’s Waldo? because 1) Waldo keeps moving, 2) you are not looking at it from outside, as you do when you look into a book, and 3) since you are in the picture, too, you also are moving.  You can find it. You can even be in the peace. As long as something Bigger and Uglier does not continually get in your way.

 

That, my friends, is one major learning from this quest: I often focus, but not on the moving treasure that is peace.  No, I am super skilled at focusing on Big, Ugly things that block my path.  And I have learned in the past 40 days that if you keep paying your undammed attention to the path blockers, you will run out of energy before you get to participate in the peace and abundance.  While it is important to solve problems, I am learning that it is more important to find, extend, and receive the peace, abundance, shalom that is a sign of the life of the Triune God.   

 

Peace to your house. Pat Taylor Ellison

November 23, 2009

Search for Peace, Abundance, Shalom – Day 35

 

In 20 years’ work with church leaders, I have come to know some folks with high authority and responsibility in their systems.  A handful of these people I have come to know as friends, and we have worked together at something.  As times get more tense and nerves get more jangly, I am trying to stay in closer contact with this handful of folks.  

 

 

Do you know what they are telling me? What they’re experiencing when they go out in the midst of rising tension? Sharp rises in name-calling, along with sharp drops in capacity to hear one another, let alone take one another’s perspective.  Focusing on the most sensational and missing the most subtle, resulting in old trusted friends discovering shocking distrust, which further causes them to neglect the painful truths of confusion and grief which are too deep for words.  

 

 

 

Luther said, “Life is full of misery. Think upon the Prince of Peace.” This sounds like a time of misery to me.  What does the Prince of Peace send us to do as we go out like lambs into the midst of wolves?  What constitutes peace, abundance, shalom at a moment of potential attack? From Luke 10 we know our mission is to go, extend the peace to the house, eat with them, cure the sick who are there, and say, “The Kingdom of God has come near to you.”  Enough revving and racing. I say, “Peace to this house!” If you are a person of peace, I will see it rest on you. Show me that it has!

 

Enough revving and racing.  Let’s have lunch!  Are you sick to death of lack of peace, of name-calling, of failure to hear? Maybe I can cure that.  And I can surely say to you, “The Kingdom of God has come near to you.” Just now! Did you feel it? Please tell me if you did.

Peace. Pat

November 19, 2009

Search for Peace – Day 31 – Learning for a Lifetime

Quite a few of my blog entries during my 40-day quest for peace, abundance, shalom have been about how individuals do their work and extend the peace, even under trying circumstances. Maybe especially under trying circumstances.

 

But at Church Innovations, I am very interested in not just how individuals learn and work and share peace. I am interested in how congregations, whole communities, do that.  Particularly in times of pressure or change, when everyone has to learn new things in order to survive, but when they are probably all wishing the pressure would ease off and they could go back to what they remember as an easier time when they weren’t pushed so much.

 

As you probably know, I am a Weight Watcher member – have been three different times in my life. The first two times I lost weight and then went back to the same old same-old. I had to start all over again, usually from a worse position (read more weight), and I was definitely older and the work was harder. The third time has been different – a great leader, wonderful friends in the group, and myself committed to weekly meetings forever, just like AA or any other group that helps people learn and keep healthy habits.  And guess what? It’s working. My own long-term commitment (and the long-term support of fellow members) is making it work. It’s exactly what we say in Church Innovations’ process of Staff Covenanting – it’s accountability within a system of mercy.

 

If groups of people can learn things, it has to be because they’re committed to doing it and accountable for doing it. And of course there’s also no substitute for fun – you have to find some joy and laughter in it, too.  That’s how my Weight Watcher group can sustain tremendous support for healthful living.  That’s the secret to the Partnership for Missional Church, too. And in clusters that have been together a long while, they have built ongoing systems of covenant so that they continue to meet to support one another and share the joy of God’s call to them.  The long-term struggles, innovations, friendships, and peace-sharing of PMC is wonderful to behold in person.  One would be tempted to say, peeking in the window, “See how they love one another?”       Peace. Pat

 

 

November 16, 2009

Discerning our Call, Living our Shared Life

Filed under: Uncategorized — ptellison @ 10:57 am

What is your job? Your calling? Your life? What has God equipped you for – whom has God set within your reach for you to learn from and be partners with? This is a set of individualized questions for you.  But it is also a set of local church questions for your congregation.

 

When the pressure is on, from a tight economy or from other circumstances in or beyond our control, it’s natural to pull back, close ranks, not think expansively.  Our Bremer partners might do that very thing in these challenging times. Except they’re not doing it. They’re looking at tough questions, at building new habits, at inviting people in whom they’ve never imagined coming, at working on an equal footing with people who appear to have next-to-nothing to give, except that’s not true.

 

Will it cost them? Yes.  But THAT may be their calling.  Will it tax their patience? Yes. But THAT may be their calling.  Will it enrich them?  Yes, but they may have to count riches in a different way, and THAT may be their calling. 

Here is the Dwelling Text we use with our Bremer partners:

Philippians 1:27, 2:5-11 (NRSV)

1:27 Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel…

2:5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,  6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,  7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.  8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.  9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name,  10 So that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 

How do we live our life, our shared collective life, in a manner worthy of the Gospel? The you words in Paul are plural. They’re not about single persons but about the community of believers. They behave, they live together in a manner that honors all the gifts and uses them for the glory of God to serve and free others.  Our Bremer project partners are already thinking about how they live their congregation’s life, a life in an earthly community and simultaneously a life within the very life of God.  What is their calling? How will they discover it?  Claim it? Be it?

 

November 12, 2009

Feng Shui?

A friend of mine who, as a matter of character, always points out what is right and true (or what is honest and fair and thus makes the best sense no matter when or where) recently advised me to always remember who I am and what I am here for.  It seems I had forgotten. 

 

She told me to take a good look at rooms where I spend large chunks of time and arrange them so that they bring comfort and strength to me, helping me do what I am here for.  She says my kitchen is a great example of a room that belongs to and supports me.  The next time I set foot into my office, I saw what she meant, and I knew some furniture had to be moved.

 

Now the space is better used, and I have much better lighting. My view is from a new angle, and the mood is, well, different.  Is this just feng shui? Would a Chinese person have done this automatically in 2005? Or do we each have to figure it out for ourselves at the proper time? And what has arranging furniture to do with seeking peace, abundance, shalom?

 

My job is to help people learn things, and to in turn learn from them. My job is to extend the peace wherever I go to do this work. My job is to be slave to others in order to free them into God’s preferred and promised future for them.  My office (both my position and my room) must help me to do that, to be that person who helps the learning and extends the peace to others. 

 

It’s a surface thing, this arrangement of furniture, a surface that, like my friend, points to what is right and true about me and focuses me on what I am here for.  Learning with others, extending the peace.        Peace.  Pat

 

 

 

November 9, 2009

Looking for Peace – Abundance – Shalom: Day 21

Filed under: Uncategorized — ptellison @ 11:37 am

Some places I go I am quite welcome, and they wave me in, flagging me down like a big airplane and guide me into a parking spot right next to my friends. This happens in a group I attend weekly, and it happens when I’ve arranged to meet someone for coffee or a meal at a restaurant and I’m the last to arrive.  It also happens when I travel to visit friends or family – the wilder people I know actually dispense hugs, even in this fear-of-flu era, and even the reserved folks I care about raise their hands and smile, some almost imperceptibly (but for them, cracking a smile is almost like unfurling a 40-foot banner and waving it around). It is glorious.

 

Some places I go I fit in and my presence is tolerated. There’s a place for me, just the way there’s a place for many others. We find that place, sit down, and enjoy the situation. This happens on the bus, in a clinic waiting room, in a restaurant where I’m not a regular, and in some meetings.  It is just fine.  No big deal. 

 

Some places I go it turns out I do not fit and sometimes people are shocked to see me. Some do not want me there (one violent instance of this I may devote a whole entry to someday). Some of the shocked people are very kind and extend a welcome anyway.  Some of them merely raise an eyebrow. Some remain completely indifferent.  Some find me – this is increasingly amazing to me – utterly invisible.  I mean, they just do not see me.  Some of you reading this blog don’t know me.  But I am usually seen.  And if I’m not seen, I’ll do something to be seen. That’s just me.  Yet I tell you the truth, recently I was invisible for the better part of two days.

 

Now what interests me is locating the peace when I am invisible.  How do you find or receive peace when people cannot or will not see you?  It can be very cold.  If I have a choice, I’ll tend to go to the warm and friendly places and to the neutral places when I must.  But on this 40-day quest I’m getting interested in the places where I’m frozen out.

 

Peace. pat

November 4, 2009

The Sixteenth Day of Looking Out and In

Filed under: Uncategorized — ptellison @ 10:03 am

Today is Wednesday, often a day of meetings at Church Innovations.  For me it will be, as so many days have been over the past year, a day of meetings after a night of very little sleep.

 

This day’s meetings include one with our regular staff, one with our United Kingdom partners, and one with reading team conveners on our research team. I really appreciate all of these staff members, and in general, I enjoy meetings that bring us face-to-face, voice-to-voice, meetings that build our relationships and help us deepen our trust in one another.  Even meetings called to address obstacles and problems can be wonderful times of trust-building. 

 

I have watched leaders in the past couple of weeks rise to extraordinary challenges. A couple of them were expected by many, even willed by some, to fail.  Through the strength of their personal relationships with their teams and through very good hard work, they did not fail.  The way they continue to do it seems simple: every day they work at their craft, making it work really well – not perfect, but really, really well. They work at a high level of competence, not by falling into it or happening to get it done but working, working, working away at it. It is good work. Very good work.  They also do what it takes to show respect and even fondness for others.  Fondness! From leaders.  Fondness. Tenderness.  Connection.  Fondness!

 

When I falter, usually it is because I have lost confidence in my own ability to turn out very good work, or I have found it impossible to show fondness to others because some irritation or haste or weariness has gotten in the way.  Today I am looking out for very good work and I am looking out for ways to show fondness.  But I am looking in, too.

Peace. pat

                           

 

 

 

 

 

October 30, 2009

11 Days In: What Am I Looking For, Again?

 

 

Why is it that, when I am looking for peace, abundance, shalom, life seems to want to bother me with irritating things? Highway congestion. People’s nervous tics that they don’t notice but which suddenly loom large for me. Bad usage and spelling on signs. Anxiety and frustration seem to me suddenly to be everywhere. Is this just a bad time for a peace-quest?  Or am I just especially tuned in to whatever seems to be standing in my way?  Hmmm.

 

I am trying like anything to keep in mind that the peace that I seek is not tranquility, the absence of work or struggle. The peace I seek is abundance, shalom, the fullness of life.  Tranquility peace may be found in a silent cemetery.  But that is not where I live my life.  Abundance-shalom peace may be present in a silent cemetery, too, but it is also in a house overflowing with people or an argument or a noisy fair-going crowd or a phone call inside a party inside a restaurant inside a very busy day.  If I block out the noise, I’ll lose the music; if I withdraw to stillness, I’ll lose the movement.

 

Spiritual practices are what I need to help me listen deeply amid noise, see the particular amid crowds, recognize the movement of God amid strangeness.  I believe I have had those skills in my lifetime, but I think, like musical talent, such skills may get rusty with disuse. A quest for the kind of peace I’m seeking, I am learning, is not purely accidental. While I am sure that the Lord will bless my search for peace, abundance, shalom with delightful surprises, I must also work at the habits of noticing so that I’ll see them when I’m in them. What do you think?

 

Peace. Pat

October 28, 2009

9th Day in the Quest for Peace

Filed under: Uncategorized — ptellison @ 4:03 pm

I am discovering that our (my) addiction to tension (and change, I think) makes peace, abundance, shalom a little tough to find. Others who have ever been on a quest are now saying, “Duh.” Ok, well, I thought of myself as a person of peace, a person who, at my own whim, could drop the need for speed and tension and just drop into the peace-consciousness of a spiritual master. “Yes, Grasshopper. You understand it.”

 

Setting myself the quest to seek peace has, it seems, come at a very inconvenient time.

Big training event at work: lasts all day and into two evenings!  Daughter planning a wedding: many places to see and many things to think about! 

Halloween: up a couple of pounds at Weight Watchers and candy lying around the house this week!

Yikes! I am really just too busy to be out looking for shalom.

 

What is peace – the peace that passes human understanding? The abundance of God through Christ Jesus, perceived because the Holy Spirit turns your head in its direction? Shalom – fullness of life? I found it several times last week as I began the quest, twice over the weekend (though it vanished almost as soon as I saw it), and a couple of times during the big training at work. It feels like…it feels like…oh my gosh. Someone has just tagged me in a photo on Facebook. I wonder what photo it was…I am going to find out. I’ll be back. 

 

October 22, 2009

3 Days into the 40 Days and Nights

So Noah gets onto the ark and God shuts the door behind him. The rain falls and the ark begins to float. Three days into the voyage… don’t you wonder what happened? Sounds like the start of a joke.

 

Well, I’ve begun my quest for peace, abundance, shalom. In three days I have told quite a few people about it. In the first 24 hours I told my Weight Watchers group, about 45 people I’m with almost every Tuesday morning. Some of them actually applauded. One of them even came up after the meeting and told me she recommended I read the New Testament to find real peace. She had good peace/abundance stories.  During the second 24 hours I told my colleagues on staff. Ooh! they said. That’s sounds like a great idea.

 

Today is the third 24 hours. I am in the midst of a giant filing project you might call a clean-up. There are, of course, thousands of files (real paper ones) that we’ve accumulated in research and development in the 20 years (Yes! This week it’s 20 years!) that I’ve been at Church Innovations. Thousands of old files create mountains of piles, especially with our overlapping categories of consulting, teaching, and research/study. I imagine Noah was encountering mountains of piles by the third day as well. So I took a moment away from the paper and sat at my computer to make a diagram of the piles and to sort the work…multiple layers of multiple innovations over multiple years. And the Lord is generous! In those multiple overlapping categories I have found some new and intriguing possibilities, just in time for our Board to interview me about the future of CI’s Research and Development work.

 

Peace. Abundance. Shalom. Out of the old, something new. Out of the tried and true, innovation. Out of the flood, new creation. Bless the Lord. I can’t wait until day 4!        Later! Peace. Pat

 

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