Monday, February 17, 2020

Transitions

February is more than half over.  It's been a busy month so far. The big event, of course, was my daughter Mathea's wedding out in Seattle. I had the privilege of traveling with my older daughter and her husband, and we kind of took over the Grand Hyatt in downtown Seattle. The wedding itself was at a tiny little venue (someone's backyard, really) about an hour north of the city. Lovely setting, and a very powerful, intimate gathering. We carpooled back to Seattle and the hotel and had another couple dozen close friends and family in the penthouse suite. All in all, though sometimes family gatherings can be a little tense, it was utterly beautiful and far better than I could have imagined. And Mathea and Matthew are now married in grand fashion. I am so very excited for them.

So the last couple weeks I've been trying to figure out life in Minnesota again. It's been a challenge to go from such a conversation-saturated four days around the wedding back to the quieter pace of Decision Hills. Work. Writing. Snow. Dog-sitting. You can feel the days turning toward spring, though we have a long way to go yet. It is still most definitely winter. One still needs lots of patience (or mindless television) for the long, dark evenings.

I'm nearly finished with the interior work on reissuing my Exodus book. Mathea and I are working on cover designs, and that's probably the biggest remaining task. Erica and Eric have been just amazing with the editing process. I suppose it should be the case that a second edition should present new challenges and that updating needs to be a current-state-of-the-heart kind of thing. But I hadn't expected that to be as much of a challenge as it turned out to be. Good, healthy, introspective; but challenging.

One of the very necessary parts of this life, I'm realizing, is intentional community. The week after the wedding, I felt like a razor's-edge addict going to AA meetings. Each day that following week I had some kind of community gathering, Life Group, staff meeting. Each of those gatherings was so very necessary to help me transition back to a more solitary life. We are made for community. It is no accident that the first comment God makes about humanity, even before sin breaks in, is that "it is not good for the man to be alone." (See Genesis 2:18.) I'm incredibly thankful for the friendships and communities here.

But right now I'm dog-sitting, and it's time for me and Kenai to go for a walk. That's all for his sake, you understand. ;)


Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Relationality

One of the enduring joys of my life in the last decade is an ongoing conversation I've shared with my daughter Mathea. Years ago she came to the deep conclusion that Christianity is only true if it's absolutely relational. That might sound simple, but very often we treat Christianity as a religious system. I put in my repentance, and Jesus dispenses forgiveness. It's a transaction.

This kind of transactional religion drives people to ask questions like, "How much do I need to do to be saved? How much commitment is enough?" That's like a groom asking his bride at the altar, "What is the minimum I need to do for you to stay married to me?" If we put it in relational terms, suddenly it looks abundantly foolish. As it should.

Mathea is getting married this weekend. I'm very excited. And it seems timely that Scott Sauls should post this blog during a week when I'm reflecting with great joy about the relational nature of both love and faith.

Winter writing

I've been writing, though it doesn't feel like it.

More specifically, what I've been working on is editing the manuscript of a book I wrote a decade ago, and I'm planning to publish a second edition. The book takes the Exodus story and applies it to our lives, asking the question: What does it look like for God to set us free today?

The editing process can be grueling. Simply said, it's not my favorite part of writing. My older daughter and her husband have been incredible in this whole process. They've combed through the manuscript with a fine-toothed comb, asking all kinds of hard questions and suggesting needed changes. The final product has taken longer than I anticipated, but it's also far better. They confront simple things that need to change stylistically, like the fact that the original manuscript consistently had two spaces after each sentence. That convention has absolutely changed since I wrote the original manuscript. They also confront places where I've shied away from dealing with difficult questions in myself and others. Because of their kind, firm probing I have addressed some hard questions in the updated manuscript. So the topic of what it means for God to set us free is now much more current than I expected. It's always a challenge to write in the vulnerable present rather than the somewhat settled past.

We're coming into the final stages of the manuscript work. My younger daughter does an amazing job with graphic design, and she's working on a cover for this book just like she did for New Wineskins. Little by little, we are making progress toward publication. Originally my optimistic goal was mid-January; I'm guessing the book will actually come out sometime in February or early March.

In the meantime, there are other projects on the burners as well. Some of these are directly related to my work at The Open Door. Others arise out of my fascinations with theology and leadership and biblical truth but aren't directly work-related. Still others are just stories for fun, though I haven't been taking much time for those lately.

We held a fishing tournament here at Decision Hills last Saturday, hosted by some of our middle school boys. They did a great job. Spending many hours focused on the fish living below the ice, I realized that this winter feels a little like that to me. Life has slowed down as the temperatures drop. It's a necessary season of slow work, churning out new words and editing old ones. But my mental processes are frustratingly slow these winter days. Most of my energy is going to my day job, and that's a good thing. Writing fills in the gaps and provides a challenge for the long evenings when a lingering conversation or a game of Scrabble might be more fun.

It is a joy to see a project coming to completion. I'll keep posting here as this Exodus project moves toward publication. Meanwhile, it might be a good day to get out on my snowshoes and cut some brush for the deer to feed on.