I’ve been thinking over the last two weeks about liminality, stuckness, adaptive communities and the Holy Spirit. The ponderings are still very much alive. Some readers may have an expertise in liminality that will provide a more nuanced set of understandings but for now I am using liminality to describe the spaces between states. For example the threshold between my being indoors & outdoors, the transition from being a young person to becoming an adult, the time between yesterday’s sun setting and today’s sun dawning, the space between ending and beginning, and the passages of life (or rite of passages), the space between being frustrated and experiencing flow, being perplexed and enlightened, the space wherein I realize that no condition is permanent and, indeed, we can actually do better, and the experiences that give rise to displacing old responses with new remedies to everyday and circumstantial challenges.
I’ve wondered what my role is in making space for truth and caring, for facilitating threshold understandings, and for engendering resilience in order to overcome reluctance, resistance, and reticence. When is it time to patiently wait, when do I pray, shall I leave it up to someone else, ought I step up and get “it” done or “let time do the work?” What should I engineer, and what is the place of trust in God’s presence, timing and touch? How satisfied or content should a community be with the status quo? Am I the best provocateur for them? How do I discern whether a gentle push is appropriate or perhaps it is best to wait for another crisis to startle the sleeping?
Everywhere I turn there are apparent needs for adaption. Personally: I think of my own royal opposition to weather systems (when do I pack up the Summer and Fall clothes?), personal preferences (awaken to my stubbornness and insensitivities) and ineffectual habits (repeating behaviour that consistently keeps me spinning tires). Interpersonally: I think of persons in my world who can’t let go of bitterness or forgive; they wallow as prisoners of war (POWs). Organizationally: I think of organizations who respond to calls for change from the margins by clamp downs and efforts to control even more of the moving parts. Globally: I find myself waiting to hear some good news from the newsfeed (way too intrigues with messes) but feel like the “rhetoric record is broken” and on repeat.
So I am paying closer attention to: tipping points, break-throughs, gifts of repentance, tricksters, the use of humour, discerning and listening more carefully, driving a different way to work, use of shoves and nudges, words to the wise, watching the visible and quiet dynamics that result in change and, especially, giving thanks for the interventions of the Holy Spirit who moves me, and us, through to the other side of whatever transition is best for us.
 An old fashion vinyl disk plays music with a needle that would sometimes get stuck in the disk groove and the same music would play over and over again.
More than a decade ago, my wife suggested that “I get a life,” with respect to what I was reading. While vaguely understanding that there was pleasure for me in professional and academic reading, her provocation suggested that I redress my dietary imbalance and consider expanding my reading for the pleasure offered by novels. My response was a rather project-orientated. For example, along with a few other initiatives, I committed to reading each of John Grisham books just as soon as released and to work my way through the alphabet novels of Susan Grafton (Susan died in 2017: writing 25/26 of the books in the series). I admit that over the years these novels and my other reluctant redresses have been good for me.
This brings me to my most recent John Grisham book: The Reckoning (http://www.jgrisham.com/books/the-reckoning). The books begins: “Pete Banning was Clanton, Mississippi’s favorite son—a decorated World War II hero, the patriarch of a prominent family, a farmer, father, neighbor, and a faithful member of the Methodist church. Then one cool October morning he rose early, drove into town, walked into the church, and calmly shot and killed his pastor and friend, the Reverend Dexter Bell.” Shocking and intriguing start to the first of three sections that form this novel. The second section flashes back to Pete’s remembrance of his and others’ sufferings and sacrifices in the World War II arena of the Philippines. The final third of the book reminds the reader of realities of family brokenness, toxic community dynamics, the twists and turns of issues and circumstances related to human brokenness, resilience, endings and beginnings and intergenerational hope. The novelist’s drama is highly relatable.
Commenting on real life benefits of reading fiction, one author reported on research that claimed that fiction “modestly improves people’s capacity to understand and mentally react to other individuals and social situations” (https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/your-future-self/201806/the-real-life-benefits-reading-fiction). Maybe I’ve compromised the original advice of my wife, Viv; but reading fiction has brought great pleasure, helpful distraction and significant connections to my everyday navigating of life and ministry. Her estimate was right – this adjusted practice has added value to me and, in turn, others.
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