Posted in Different Scriptures, Different Thoughts

Encanto (lots of spoilers – beware)

We finally joined the millions of you who have already been singing about Bruno for months, and I wanted to spill some thoughts before they faded. I thought the movie was pretty great for many reasons, but as a pastor – one continued to buzz through my imagination: The Madrigal Family is a beautiful allegory (on some levels) for the Church.

The meaning of the word “Encanto” can mean “charmed” as in magical, but there also seems to be an element of alluring, charming, even grace that draws others in. Here is a family that – in their healthiest moments, exists for the good of their surrounding community. They are not given such enchantment only to enjoy on their own, but to be a blessing where they have found themselves dwelling. If they would lose their source of enchantment, they would cease to be a light to the city. Their community would notice, and be wounded without their presence. One question we often hear in measuring our effectiveness as a local church is: If your church closed it’s doors this week – would the community notice/be impacted? The allegory here brings another powerful question: If your church lost the power of the Holy Spirit this week – would your community notice? May we pray for the transforming power of the Holy Spirit (& it’s fruit) to increase and bring the kind of revival Mirabel sings about as a new foundation comes at the end of the movie.

Another obvious connection seems to be the concept of “What’s your gift?”, and the over-emphasizing of the obvious/impressive gifts, over the inherent value of each individual as part of the whole. I don’t need to go too far down this road, as the connections make themselves. How often do we (hopefully inadvertently) communicate the importance of certain gifts over the greatest gift and power of being and living as a beloved and loving child of God? May we seek ways to empower and invite all voices & gifts into the ministry and liturgy of God’s gathered people as we seek to join Jesus together.

Once we open the door to such “gifts”, we begin to see some particulars revealed in the characters themselves:

  • Isabela – Some of these connections are painfully obvious in our Western culture of advertising and image-curating to make our churches (& people on stage) attractive/attractional. But this puts unhealthy pressure/emphasis on Isabela to appear perfect, and paints an photoshopped image that often distracts from genuine faith.
  • Luisa – This connects with both “spiritually strong” and “physically able”. Spiritually, we often rely so much on a small group of leaders within a church, not acknowledging that they feel vulnerable and weak at times too. Do we model and guide into healthy habits of serving and resting, inviting/allowing others to serve? Physically – often the less public, but highly valued (and often over-used) for their willingness to serve and give hours of devoted physical presence. Instead of relying so heavily on Luisa’s – what if we painted a picture (or built a ministry) of everyone owning and investing in the life and work of God’s people? Even if that means discovering some limitations (as it should).
  • Pepa – There are people in our churches who seem to “control the environment/weather” according to their mood that day/week. To Love them is not to empower them only when the weather is good, but to help them develop healthier responses (and spiritual fruit) to have & offer peace that is not dependent on their circumstances.
  • Camilo – So often we train (whether purposefully or de facto) Jesus followers to “be all things to all people” with good intentions. But what we sometimes get are people who seem like shape-shifters to a world that is already suspicious of inauthentic relationships. How well do we help people know themselves fully in the light of Jesus Christ – trusting that God has made us (& is forming us) each uniquely capable of revealing His Love to our world?
  • Dolores – She hears everything. Do we use her knowledge to manipulate situations and people to our advantage, even without realizing it? Or do we help her discover how to use her gift for discernment in listening well to the Holy Spirit for the sake of and in the lives of those around her?
  • Antonio – Has a gift and a special connection to nature/science. Do we listen to his understanding as a special revelation of our creator? Or do we deny what he brings to the table, afraid that what he says will contradict our previous/preferred understandings?
  • Bruno – The one willing to speak honestly about the trajectory of our “family”. Will we listen honestly and have difficult but necessary conversations about how we can better care for the elements that are causing our home to crack? Do we care enough about the community we exist within, and our mission as a family, that we can be honest and vulnerable about changes that may need to happen even deep down to the foundations/patterns we’d laid long ago? For many Christians, the song is right – “We don’t talk about Bruno”. But we should.

Finally, what commentary on “Encanto” would be complete without Abuela and Mirabel? This is obviously a church that (rightly) empowers and celebrates women in leadership, yet also honestly confesses that even women can mess up when they focus on blindly protecting the status quo over healthy vulnerability. It’s interesting that they movie doesn’t “beg the question” of what Abuela’s gift was…yet we’re never told. Often the local church operates under the assumption that we don’t ask questions about those “at the top”, when Jesus sure seemed to critique religious leaders heavily. May we never be so confident in our place of leadership that we forget our role as those who wash the feet of those we serve.

From the Abuela’s to the Bruno’s – may we see the gift of the intricately woven and living “whole” for the sake of the community/world, more than we emphasize the giftedness of any one servant who is only one piece of the mosaic…or as scripture puts it, one small part of the body. May we each discover new insights about how God invites us to actively join His activities – not just within the walls of the church building – but as the living Body of Jesus Christ that is sent (bearing the Bread of Life) as Julieta’s into a consuming world, in need of something that will actually bring/heal life as we consume it…

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many.”

1 Corinthians 12:12-14

Posted in Different Books, Uncategorized

The Soul of Desire

Recently I was able to read an advance copy of the new book by Curt Thompson, M.D. “The Soul of Desire: Discovering the Neuroscience of Longing, Beauty, & Community“. Having read and enjoyed Thompson’s previous books, I was excited to read his most recent contribution. As a Christian we believe there are unseen realms beyond the physical world that we are most familiar with. But we also do not seek a “spiritual realm” connection that is separate from the embodied existence we (and Jesus) share. Instead, we seek a greater understanding of how God has created us and woven our existence together as physical/spiritual beings. Because of this, we can gain much from modern studies of neuroscience as they relate to our relationships.

Thompson has already written much on the neurology of interpersonal relationships, attunement, integration, and secure attachments. In his previous books, he has explored (among other things) how telling our stories can be redemptive/healing/formative, how “being known” by each other and by God is something our souls are hungry for, and how unhealthy shame can keep us from one another and from God.

In this most recent book, he brings some of this same knowledge back in fresh ways, while also giving practical insight into how healing comes to the dis-integrated relationships and situations we often find ourselves in. Dr. Thompson does a great job of being honest about our brokenness (both as society/culture, and as individuals), and yet highlighting how God’s desire is to bring beauty and New Creation; not just after we’ve been healed, but as part of the healing and redemptive process.

Thompson highlights how much of the relational pain/isolation we currently experience is connected to the unmet core “Desires” we see reflected in infants/children, and our common responses to those continued desires being met in unhealthy ways as we grow. I’m over-simplifying, but he emphasizes there are 4 primary desires we all have: to be seen, to be soothed, to be safe, and to be secure. He explores how the insights of IPNB (Interpersonal Neurobiology) offer us fresh understanding not only as we seek greater relational intimacy between one another, but also as we seek to draw closer to a God who invites us to know Him even as we are known and loved by Him. He returns over and over again to Psalm 27 (especially verse 4) in confessing what we’ve been created to truly seek.

Thompson spends a lot of time in this book, highlighting specific experiences of healing and redemption that have happened in the context of what he calls “Confessional Communities”. He talks also about four foundational questions we are asked by God – not for information, but toward transformation. As we read his accounts, we hear whispers similar to those of John Wesley’s heart as he developed Methods of Classes and Bands, inviting people to experience the vulnerability of confession and forgiveness in the context of secure & Divinely loving relationships. He does not offer a cookie cutter “program” in response to all of the research he presents here, but he does present inspiring truth and invites his readers to imagine (along with/in the presence of a curious God) what might happen if we pursued these things together in healthy/integrating ways.

This is not an easy book to simply say “read this with a group”. It may be best individually, or with close friend/”Band” at first. There are awkward and vulnerable moments throughout the book that may make small groups or book clubs uneasy. But I definitely recommend the book for mature/discerning audiences, and believe the truths it points toward can offer new paths for healing and wholeness in our relationships and in our communities – in ways that proclaim the gospel message our world definitely needs to see and hear.

Posted in Spoken Word

eye wonder

(Click here to listen.)

Another sun rises
And we should not be surprised when it seems to burst through the lies
That there is no light worth seeing
With every ounce of our being we silently applaud the darkness fleeing
As the world of shadows becomes the world of forms
For a moment, the storms have ceased, and increased our awareness of
This present moment. That something new might foment.
And here, I wonder.
Although we remember the thunder of days past, will we let them cast a shadow
Or will we allow the light to shine
This doesn’t mean we turn a blind eye toward what was, but we shift our focus
To what can be. That we might see, and our eyes might wonder.
Eye wonder.
As blinders are torn asunder we begin to see a bit more clearly
So much in our world we’ve nearly let go by, without batting an eye
And it’s not that we must more strongly try, but that we may simply need to let hurry die.
To hear the cry of golden beams of sunshine lighting up the trees
The one who sees holds treasures for a moment, not to possess or to employ, but to enjoy
Eye wonder.
The brightest greens of springtime grass, the winds that pass gently
Carrying seeds to furthest corners, even the mourners who profess their sadness deep
There is beauty there in keep – steeping slowly in the humanity we’ve usually passed by
We’re invited to let our eye – wonder.
Drawn in by realizing that light shines even here, we’re set free from fear to hear
Voices we’ve previously cast aside
Eyes and Ears opened wide to allow our fellow man to confide
That they’ve missed out on beauty too.
In different ways than you. And I wonder.
Will you hear their stories? Will we pause from seeking glories at the expense of every other
Slowing down to join our sister and brother
Realizing they’re not so different as they seemed in the darkness
And the starkness of this, eye wonder, speaks to the blunder of those who cannot see
Proclaiming the light is broken. Not just a token moment from which we easily move on
But a dawn, an arrival of sight in ways we’ve needed to recover
To see the value of “the other”, the beauty we discover when we realize what the light reveals
How it heals what has been scarred, and as those marred find themselves restored
We find that we’ve too long ignored, as we’ve looked for sources to plunder
But here is eye wonder.
Reminding us that’s it not always about what we can take, for goodness’ sake
We must live as those awake – not only to what can be – but to what is
That we would not miss the sacredness of this. present. Moment.
Walk slowly, with eyes fully open, continue hoping – but also look them in the eye
Seek the why, instead of assuming you know the story. Know that glory comes more fully
When it’s shared. When we’ve dared to cross the aisle, to walk the extra mile
In their shoes. They often didn’t choose their path, and the aftermath of such a finding
Becomes a blinding light inviting new things to be
And then – I wonder what wondering eyes might see.