In service to truth in conversation, I will no longer be answering fine or ok when asked, “How ya doin'”, unless I am doin’ fine or ok.  But, I struggle to come up with a more truthful answer that does not vomit volumes of information on the asker who just wants to say, “good to see you, I acknowledge your existence.”

If it’s someone I know fairly well, that genuinely wants to know how I am I have no problem answering, “well, it’s complicated, let’s get together and talk sometime.”

But how do you answer truthfully when they are simply using the formula for acknowledging you standing in front of them?  And, is that really conversation anyway?

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I wrote the above draft on Saturday night and then went to church on Sunday and asked two people, “How are ya’?” before I caught myself.  Then I tried out a couple other things out and decided I like, “It’s good to see you.”

Figuring out how to answer the question is a little trickier.  It depends on how you are, who is asking and how much time you and they have.  Still, I think honesty is the best policy without going into the treatise on me.   I did tell someone on Sunday when asked, “to tell you the truth, not that well.  I would appreciate your prayers.”  And she suggested that we get together and talk sometime.  And I said, “I’d love to.”  THAT was a conversation, albiet brief.

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Ok, so we’re attempting to be intentional about having our conversations be part of the One Conversation, the ongoing river of conversation with the God of the universe, that began, did we know it, in the moment we drew our first breath, when God leaned over us in the arms of that earthly deliverer and whispered love words to our hearts.  We’re learning how to step into the flow of that conversation, a conversation that from one side is continuous and loving and so completely what we need.  But from our side it operates in fits and starts with days and sometimes months and years going by in which we shut out the voice of God and go our own way, or in which we pray before meals and in church on Sunday and wonder what it means to pray without ceasing.  I’m realizing this week that two things we need as we step into that river of conversation are truth and precision.

I’m realizing the need for truth in my life in a new way.  Really, it’s all that matters.  I think I need food and light, water and air, but without truth, the physical necessities are meaningless.  So, in the One Conversation, of which all other conversations are attempting to be a part, I am resolved to practice truthfulness.

What does this look like?  I had a conversation this week in which a friend made an observation about me, about who I am at the core.  Because it was an important conversation and because both of us were very intentionally including the Holy Spirit, I recognized it as truth.  It was important because it is a relatively new truth about me.  Historically, it has not been true, but now it describes me to the core.  I told this to my friend and said to him that this was an important statement because it represented a work of God in my life.

He observed that my experience of raising my special, challenging son, with whom life is a continual struggle, has changed me at the very core and caused me to become a different person with different strengths.

I thought about that for a minute and I said, “Couldn’t He have chosen an easier lesson?”

The response, “Would the truth go as deep?”  OK.

On the drive home from that conversation, I thought to myself, “I would be ok with shallow.”  Then I took that thought out to examine it because I made a recent promise to myself to take my thoughts captive and examine them regularly for truth.  I asked myself, “is it true that shallow would be ok?  And the answer was no.  I am not content with shallow.  I want to live my life deep, deep.  I want my relationships to be deep.  And I want deep meaning to live after me as a result of what I do on this earth.  So, “Thank you, Daddy, for the deep lesson in mercy and caring and seeing things through to the end because it’s the right thing to do.”  That’s the truth.

While we need to be truthful in our conversations if we want them to be part of the One Conversation, we also need to be precise.  And really they are inextricably linked.  Anytime I am less than precise in my conversation, the truth of what I am saying is compromised.  This is critically important when we are talking to God and about God.

In the course of the same conversation with my friend, I was relating to him some events of my week.  I said, “I remembered this week . . . ” and then I said, “no, that’s not right.  God reminded me this week . . . ”  The difference seems subtle, but is vitally important.  The former implies coincidence, the latter gives credit to God.

So I am practicing truth and precision in my conversations which I am intentionally striving to make part of the One Conversation, because I want to fill my head and my heart with whatever is true and right, noble and pure, excellent and praiseworthy, and because I want my interactions on earth to edify others and point to God.  All else is dust.

Today I was speaking truth with my friend Jon and we were having a conversation about the conversations we’ve been having about conversation.  We were trying to define a conversation that has threads in several blogs and roots in our neighborhood, across the city, across the continent and around the world.  It contains face to face conversations as well as blogs of people we know, people we sorta know, people we know but have never met face to face, people we don’t know and people who know the people we know.  We pretty much decided that conversation 2.0 wasn’t enough to describe it.  So, do we add or multiply?  Is it 2.5, 3.0, 6 or is it conversation 2000 – does that describe it’s limitlessness?  Maybe it’s conversation infinity.

What all this conversation has made me realize this week is how starved I’ve been for conversation, for deep, meaningful communication with no agenda.  And why is that?  Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you that i’ve been talking right along.  I talk and talk and talk.  Why hasn’t this been conversation?  This week, God revealed to me that the reason my interactions have left me cold is that I haven’t been having the  One Conversation that Matters.  I haven’t been conversing with Him.  Without this one conversation all others lack meaning.

So in 2007, my goal is to learn the art of conversation.  I am going to, with God’s help, begin to learn how to make every conversation part of the  One Conversation that Matters, including, and maybe especially, the conversation inside my head.

Peace.

 . . . there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it aaway from me.  But he said to me, “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Theefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so the Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2Corinthians 12:7b-10

   It interests me that Paul called his thorn in the flesh a messenger of Satan.  How often do we, in this post-modern culture, give credit where credit is due.  Many of our hardships are direct attacks from Satan and his angels.  God allows our diffictulties, our hardships, and our thorns in the flesh for His own purposes, but we must not make the mistake of thinking of them as from God or think that he has abandoned us because we are experiencing a dark time.

  I think our response to difficulties and hardships should first be an examination of the heart.  Is this the result of some choice I’ve made that has opened the door for Satan to reign is this area of my life.  If the answer is no, then God has allowed the pain to produce character and fruit and we need to learn how to “delight in our weaknesses, hardships, insults, etc.”  Ouch . . . easy to say, tough to do.

  The second thing that interests me is the personalization in , “But he said to me, My grace is sufficients for you for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I struggle with the concept of keeping my eyes on my own journey and not comparing it with others.  I am constantly fighting (and often losing) the urge to ask. Why does that person get healing or deliverence and I still have to live here, I still have to struggle under this load?  But today I noticed that this statement is very personal.  His grace is sufficient for me.  That is all He promised, not that He would make my life look like someone else’s.  And really, shouldn’t I be grateful for grace at all from God when it is so much more than I deserve, instead of constantly questioning the trappings of the grace He’s chosen to extend to me?

  The last comment I have about this passage is that we are so much more comfortable when we operate from our strengths – when we serve and minister out of strength.  The challange for us is to be willing to be used in our weakness so that Christ’s power may be manifested in us.  God gave us strengths to use for his kingdom, no question, but I wonder how much more we could accomplish if we let God use our weaknesses as well.  And what if we then boasted about our weaknesses to others as a testimony of what God can do when we are obedient?

I’ve been thinking about excellence vs. perfectionism.  Where is the balance?  How do we strive for excellence without driving ourselves crazy with perfectionism?  What is excellence?  I don’t want to settle for good enough – but when IS enough, enough?  I’m not perfect and doesn’t an impossibly high standard only serve to make me feel bad about myself?

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord, not for men . . . it is the Lord Christ you are serving.    Colossians 3:23&24b

Acts 23:11 – take courage

Courage is something i can take up and (presumably) set aside – it involves an act of the will.

I cor. 16:13 Be on your guard, stand firm in the faith, be men of courage, be strong: do everything in love.

Courage is something I can be.

Joshua 1:6-9 be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified bacause of them for the Lord your God goes with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you.

you get to choose courage – but i don’t know how to do that.  Or maybe I know, but i haven’t recognized it, or i’ve forgotten.

Courage is a choice.  Fear is irrelevant in Christ.  Don’t act on your feelings – act on your knowledge of who God is and who you are in Christ.