I’ve got words all over my room, my thoughts about values plastered here and there, asking in the deep-gut way what kinds of qualities in life are most important to me.  We are so bombarded with messages telling us what we should value.  Sometimes the shoulds ride on top in our consciousness so that we confuse what we should value with what we actually value.  Wikipedia says ” A value is an assumption upon which implementation can be extrapolated.”  The assumption part of that is interesting because it suggests that what we value is always operative in determining our action, even if that value is operating below the surface of consciousness.

So what do you value?

There are so many things vying for attention, but in no particular order, these are the words on my walls: truth, beauty, awe, grace, peace, creation, freedom, mystery, wisdom, word, people, love, service, knowledge, glory, image, right, good, Bible, mission, community, friends, family.  There’s more, but these are things that weave together to make my life.  What’s not on the list are a few other things my actions proclaim that I value, but I don’t like to them that way.  Maybe they are closer to core values than I’d like to admit.   Quiet.  Comfort.  Sensory stimulation.  Distraction.  Indulgence.  Wealth.  Ease.  Intellectual stimulation.  Admiration.  Praise.

I’m thinking about this because I’m praying and thinking about what our church values.  There are many things churches should value, and then there are the things churches actually value.  Truthfully, it seems that it doesn’t much matter what churches (or individuals) say they value–what they do with the minutes and hours of the day will tell everything needed to be known about values.  To play with Paul’s image of the church as the body, we are often like hands who know we should value picking up stuff and making stuff and helping out, but what we really value is rest and idleness and adornment and strength for the mirror’s sake.

But think about the differences among people, and the differences among hands.  Some hands like tools of machinery, other hands value tools of artistry, other hands value tools of gardening.  When I think of my values, I think of things that are core to who I am that others may or may not share.  Beauty and mystery are the two easiest to put here, because so many people don’t think about beauty and lots of people just flat out dislike mystery.

When it comes to churches, it seems what makes any body of people unique are not only the things they value (or care about), but they shared ways in which they value them.  Any church is a unique work of the Holy Spirit in a given time-space reality, impacted by culture, by generational understanding, and by the specific work of God in a given place.

Does your church have a list of shared values that reflect what they actually value?  Or does your church have one of those church lists that says what any church anywhere ought to value, but by their actions, clearly don’t.  Another to way to ask it is this:  do declarations of values reflect current reality, or call us to a new and different reality, shaping us by reaching toward the “ought”?

Valuing conversation…

3 Replies to “Values”

  1. I must say I love this blog. It’s taken me a bit, but now i see it as a separate thing from it’s author and that mystery….that separateness makes it easier for me to engage. I also feel that now I may engage it separate from myself to to speak. It’s probably just a technological thing. Having spent the last two years being socialized to the new tools (myspace/facebook) being used and having thought often that those things are “just pixils”…..just pixils on a screen and nothing more. That they do not in any complete way reveal the mystery of the person or persons writing or reading those things. How a page online or a thought online is just that and nothing more. But in it’s nothing more-ness there in lies for me a larger and deeper mystery.

    The instant transmission of ideas or thoughts, this pulse. A pixilated peek. Folks so desperately want things to become enfleshed. Good things. Folks so desperately needing their good parts enfleshed. To somehow someway magically transcend the enfleshment of things not good. Folks so desperately want good to be….enfleshed in real space and time.

    For the longest time I’ve been intrigued by “Burning Man”. I couldn’t quite get my mind around it. It didn’t make sense to me. I’d gaze at all the pics, all the art, via a screen, via a monitor….via pixils and it came through jumbly and weird. “Why?” I mused, incredulous to it all….why did so many feel the need to spend so much capital to go to the desert to set their spirits free to allow things long un-enfleshed to become enfleshed. I felt I was looking at a painting without a frame, without a frame of reference. Why didn’t they just do those things from where they “normally” live? It just didn’t make sense to me.

    It wasn’t until I started asking some different questions that an understanding of sorts began to dawn on me.

    What does it say about a society when the only place for “some people” to express themselves is in the middle of the desert?

    What does it say about a society when the ONLY way those people are allowed to express themselves is if they agree to tear it all down after it’s over?

    What does it say about a society if tens of thousands of folks are living in a world that does not allow their spirits to become enfleshed unless they go to the desert and do it far away, hidden and temporal and promise not to bring any of said enfleshment back?

    While I’m not there, nor can I see it. I can only feel tangibly in my gut that the “People” coming to Northwest might feel that they won’t have to go to the desert to have their best parts, their spirits and their ideas for goodness set free in real space and time. That in a world full of dis-order, individual fiat, and bodies that will eventuall decay and decompose….that for a moment their spirits will like a bridge being tensioned by cables, will rise above taught and strong across a great expanse, and that they will know that expanse as love itself.

  2. Wow. Nice. Love the incarnational stuff, the enfleshment of things. And it says a lot, as you suggest, that we have to send folks off to the desert to enflesh their inner lives. What it says is up for debate, I guess, but the need for safe space in which to engage what is going on in the deep caverns in crucial. Unfortunately, so many houses of faith won’t let that go on, because there is an assumption that not all things inside need or deserve expression. And that’s true enough. Thomas Merton talks a lot about the tension between restraint and expression, and Christ’s call to self-denial is a real bugaboo in a world of free self-expression. And its interesting that society didn’t send Jesus to the desert…the Spirit did. Deserts are interesting places to go burn away things, maybe in service of emptying, so something else can be enfleshed, something not of our own origin or making.

    Is a word published in a book more substantial than a pixel on a screen? More connected to the authorial voice? How do I view the words appearing now, in this reply, letter by letter? Once they’re out there, are they just pixels? Or do they point somewhere, trailing their own “clouds of glory” so to speak, small births that speak of something, someone, issuing them forth. Living words…

  3. Language, words. Pixils being drizzled upon an electronic canvas, like so much paint from Pollacks brush, but to what effect? I ask myself. Words, theories, ideas….

    I’m recalling a friend of mine that can tangibly “feel” overwhelmed when walking into a “Barnes & Noble”. I pretty much feel the same both when walking into a bookstore or when reading online. So in order to manage it all, I assume I have to have a filter in place…. to keep my sanity =)

    So whether or not it’s just peoples thoughts on a shelf, or pixils on a screen….I can only take so much. So my apologies for my delay =).

    I think I may be like my grandmother. Who I’ll have to let others decide if this is true. But I think I’m like her because she had to get away from it all. She, I am most fond of her because each day was a brand new fresh adventure to be plucked annd eaten fresh off the tree before night fell.

    She had to feel dirt in between here hands to let her hands have dirt touch them. Living Dirt, Living Words. Living stuff everywhere. Life! Cool Innit?

    I’m still asking myself some tough questions though.

    Now I’m asking,

    What does it say about a society when the most prevalent modality for art is to contain it within a screen, to burn it onto film. Why is it ok for our society to relatively speaking “only” view it’s art in tidy cathode ray boxes, or plasma screens?

    What does it say about us as a people? Or about humans? Or humankinds place in things? I don’t know, but I love the tension of the asking. The asking pulls my cables taught. Asking another makes them even taughter. Tension is good. It holds things together, it holds me together… (cellular tension?) =0 now I’m laughing at myself.

    I’m reminded of my impression of Eastern Europe, former Soviet Bloc countries. In this case the city of Varna, Bulgaria.

    Dirt Poor, dirty, littered. Relative to Western Europe it’s in shambles.

    But one thing awed me. The Art. There was this park, I’m assuming it a WWII memorial park, but it was a park that stretched out along the black sea. Beautiful, ornate, statues, sculptures etc.

    They may have not wealth, or money, or capatilism….

    But they had art. I don’t know if they liked it or not. And from what I gathered from drinking a beer with some of the college students there…. It seemed they’d much rather have a dime or two to spend on food, or their loved ones.

    Clearly Maslow’s heirarchy of needs needed some addressing.

    But in American, most especially in post auto-mobile America, where neighborhoods and cities were built largely after the auto-had been made….

    There is virtually, no art, Everything is monochromatic, the same. For a country that proclaims that it loves diversity, there doesn’t visually speaking seem to be a whole awful lot relative to what’s allowed in the desert, or online, or on a screen or tucked away in sarcarphogas like museums. unless you turn on your monitor. Of course this is relative and it’s just my impression. But I wonder if “we” our society is afraid of something.

    My mind, wanting closure, thinks it knows the answer.

    It thinks the answer is, “we are afraid of the wrong thing being enfleshed”

    So, my mind thinks we tear art down before it even has a chance to go up.

    My mind thinks that because art seems to invoke one thing more than any other thing, one truth more than any other.


    My mind thinks that faith, faith is the universal glue everyone uses. Whether it’s Malcom Gladwell’s posits on how folks know things without knowing them, or the uncertainty of quantum physics, or string theory, or Athiests….who seem absurd to me because my mind thinks to itself that the Athiests are doing the same thing as Christians…. They are believing in “some” thing…and while that some thing is no-god world. It is still a some thing and an assumption as great as any christians, or muslims, or who knows?

    But that’s just my mind. I don’t really like to listen to it. I’d much rather hear your thoughts, or the sound of wind through the trees, or fill my mind with art.

    Because my mind has to have a language to sift through it all, and most of the the time it’s a language of faith. It believes that the sun will rise tomorrow, that the heart will continue to pump blood, It believes those things without me ever having to ask it to. It’s a bedrock. This faith in my bones. Sometimes it has to be taught. Taught how to ride a bike. So that it will believe and trust and encounter the freedom that, learned faith provides.

    Beh…time for more coffee!

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