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The Art of Conversation

The Art of Conversation

It’s been said that talk is cheap. However, I’m not really thinking about talk so much as conversation. Today it dawned on me that conversation is an entirely different thing from talking. We can talk to others and have discussions, and we generally do this everyday, but it isn’t the same thing as conversation. I didn’t realize this until suffering years of malnutrition, starved of true conversation and it’s blessed essence and nourishment to my human soul.

Conversation is an art, and it is lost and dying. As I sift through the past 10 or so years of change, I wonder what exactly has contributed to placing conversation, that pure and true discourse between souls, in danger of extinction. Was conversation something that only took place in certain contexts, such as college or seminary, where learning, growth, and the exchange of ideas were as vital as a heartbeat to daily life? Is it that I am now on the downside of my thirties, thrust as a single, childless adult into the context of busier individuals’ lives who are occupied now with maintaining marriages and children while juggling careers? Are we as a individuals and a society too busy in this stage of life to quiet our souls long enough to realize that there is a difference between talking to others and having actual conversation?

My soul is sore. I shudder to think how long it has been since I have had the pleasure of conversation – the deep, freeing, flowing, intimacy-creating, relational-building kind of conversation; the kind that defies time, space, boundary and constriction. The artful pursuit of what lies within another person, and the reciprocal relinquishment of what lies within the self. Conversation is a delightful dance where partners grasp each others minds. It is a passionate interlocking of hearts, a joyful, intriguing dive into who another person truly is, and a richer discovery of who the self is. Just as conversation is lost, so also are people without it. I am lost, and I feel the loss.

The question is, am I alone in my loss and state of being lost? Do others feel the vacancy of the masterpiece of conversation? Are the majority of people content with the manufactured prints hanging in their relational halls, happy to call their daily exchange of speech and interactions sufficient? And those who truly engage in conversation, who do not feel bereft in this regard, why do they keep the circle so small?  Are we afraid of expanding our intimacy to the inclusion of pining souls adrift, thirsty for fresh water in an ocean of salty despair? Surely these people did not exist strictly in educational environments. Surely they did not love and hold to their breast the beauty of conversation for a mere few years of life, only to be discarded when jobs and spouses and children and activities began to fill the palettes of their lives.

Or maybe they did.

In the garden of Eden, Adam had a vast display of beauty and life at his fingertips in the form of a startling diversity of landscape, vegetation, and animal life. He had perfect communion and relationship with God, and yet his soul was lacking.  He needed another creation like himself with whom he could not just communicate,  but have conversation. And so God took from within the man a part of himself and created a unique but similar being to fulfill this desire. And conversation as it was meant to be was born into the world.

If only people could awaken and find themselves like Adam, sitting in the midst of the world around them, in touch with that lonely, missing masterpiece.  If only the business and busyness of life could fade for a few clarifying moments to allow that undertow of loss and desire to swell to the top and rise like a wave cresting, rushing to crash ashore. If only even one, such as myself, could again find conversation, or perhaps that God would fashion and merge our paths, then life would indeed be sweeter.

You Never Judged Me …

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You Never Judged Me …

I was sitting outside towards evening time and looked up to see the sun burning full and round at me through some nearby trees.  In that moment of warmth and light a thought flickered through my soul, traveled up to my mind, and out towards God: You never judged me.  It was a stunning realization.  For a long time I’ve been aware of the verse that there is no condemnation for those who are Christ Jesus.  But this is literally the first time that it has dawned on me that never, not once, not only in my lifetime, but from all of eternity past has God ever judged me.

In his foreknowledge he knew every sin I would commit and every good I would omit, every pattern, every choice, every hard-fought struggle against giving in to this flesh nature.  He knew my willful sins, the ones that I would delight in.  He knew of the times that I would “know better” and “do it anyway”.  Yet never has he pointed the finger of blame or crashed the gavel down to reverberate so hard as to knock me off my feet.  He has loved me with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3) and his thoughts about me outnumber the grains of sand (Psalm 139: 17-18).  His thoughts towards me are good and not evil, and his plans are to give me a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).

There is a difference between knowing that a person will sin versus judging them for it, a difference between allowing the natural consequences of sin versus raging in anger over people about how wrong they are, a difference between God and man.  It is not God, but man who points the finger and slams the gavel and even takes Bible verses to point out how wrong others are and how much they are “God’s enemies” if they continue in their unrepentant ways.  It is not God, but man, who will flip out at this post and begin harvesting verses from their minds, looking in indexes and concordances to find stories or verses to negate what I say here: God doesn’t judge until the end.  Until then, he loves.  And that is all he has ever done.  And that was given to me, today. When the warmth and the light shone down on me.

Peace to all far and wide.  He is a God who has always loved us, and loves until our last breath. The choice to know him and love him back through a relationship with Jesus is ours, and at that point, condemnation shall never touch a hair on our head.

The Measure of a Moment

The Measure of a Moment

I remember the first time I noticed, I mean really noticed, the interaction between light and water.  I was sitting in the grass in a wide open area having a scheduled quiet time at a church retreat.  For the life of me I couldn’t concentrate on the bible or the things they’d given us to reflect upon. Instead I looked around or stared at the ground in contemplation and free thought mode.

Suddenly a burst of color caught my eye and I honed in on a blade of grass upon which a drop of water rested.  The rich green and the perfectly straight edge amazed me.  I thought of a man made level that is used in construction to make sure they are building perfectly straight, level boards and surfaces.  God was the first to create such a perfect thing, yet it is something we hardly notice in the midst of that which we walk upon without a thought.

As I continued to observe the dew on the grass I moved ever so slightly from side to side, marveling at the miracle of subtly changing colors of the spectrum within that tiny liquid circle. I’ll never forget the sense of wonder encapsulated in that simple moment, the stunning realization of beauty so common and yet so rare, the significance of something so small and seemingly insignificant.  It reminded me that whole worlds can exist in a moment even as countless moments comprise the whole world.  It brings to mind now a wonderful quote I often think of in times of quiet observation:

God dwells in the details.  – Mies van der Rohe

Today is a day where the small and grandiose bounce around together in my soul, polar opposites dancing within, waltzing out of reach and eluding my grasp.  I cannot completely define what it is, but it has to do with significance and insignificance, time and eternity, the measure of a moment, the fleeting nature of time.  Time is but a dew drop in the continuum of eternity, yet within it is a marvelous array of colors blending one into another. The earth exists within eternity as a small drop of water, and even smaller, our individual world and the length and breadth of our own lives.  How small, how fast, these lives of ours.  Before we know it we are grown with children and careers, and in the blink of an eye or a shifting of our body we see that life has changed from color to color, season to season, and our children are the ones with children and careers.

What is the meaning of all this smallness and profoundness heaped together in something so fleeting yet ever continuing as time?  Do we get it? Do we truly see the significance within the seemingly insignificant? We hardly have appropriate levels or scales upon which to weigh the measure of a moment, a life, or a lifetime.   Our thoughts and actions, goals and achievements, dreams and ambitions and efforts … all seemingly small, yet at times enormous, deep, and far-reaching.

Maybe there really is nothing which is insignificant.  Maybe “insignificant” should not even be a word.  Everything matters.  The matter within the simple blade of grass and the matter comprising a drop of water and the matter of light pouring from the sun in a beam of glory (as if to say “This matters! Yes, this small thing is simply and profoundly beautiful and alive and significant!”) all come together to enlighten us on our complex journeys.

Perhaps this realization that everything matters, that all things are significant and have purpose and value, is both a precursor to love and a component of love.  Love does not see anything as insignificant, for love sees the “whole” as well as the “part”.  Love sees nothing, save evil, as ugly.  Love in fact creates beauty out of the unbeautiful.  It transforms evil into good, reversing the letters to make the opposite of “evil”, which is “live”.

I guess what I wish is for each of us to really see as much as we are able.  To walk with God and to sit with him, to listen to his observations of the world around.  How marvelous all of life would seem if we would take time to sit with Jesus and ponder the glory and significance of the “insignificant” things laid out before us in our daily lives.  To cherish, as he does, all things that are made and to gaze at everything and everyone is such a way as to see the wonder and the beauty and the incredible meaning and value of life.

Life is a splendid gift – there is nothing small about it.  – Florence Nightingale

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