Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Thoughts on "Everything Must Change"

Hey all,

I've got just a 30 minute pit stop while I pick up some family members in Greenville, before heading down to Atlanta for my great-aunt Kitty's funeral tomorrow - visitation tonight.

Anyway, my friends Heather and Jeff updated their blog with, among other things, some of their thoughts about the Charlotte Everything Must Change event. Serendipitously (this, as a friend points out to me, is a great word!), I also found some of my missing notes from the conference last night. I think these are from session 3 - of which I only caught the last half, after closing up at the registration table.

There's a thread over at the EmergentColumbia site about the "words we wrote on our hands at the Everything Must Change tour!" I couldn't remember much about what my words were, or why we wrote them, until finding these notes. (I have the world's worst long-term memory. Have you ever seen the movie Memento? I'm really almost that bad.)

I'm embarrassed to note that I hadn't made the connection between writing words on our hands and the hand on the cover of Brian McLaren's book! But yeah, as was pointed out to me over at EmergentColumbia, that's why we were writing words on our hands. It's associated with action, as you might expect. The hand, Brian McLaren said, is the symbol of the ability to act. This was during a part of the conference where he talked about the need for sustained action to 'change everything' on 4 levels:

1. Personal action (a "deep shift" for your life) - maybe recycling, or gardening, or turning your
yard into a bird haven, etc.

2. Community Action - finding local projects and friends to associate with. Maybe study groups, service projects, etc. He also noted that if your church doesn't want to change and be involved, let them be - find other ways and other people to help nurture this in your community. Go where the energy is, don't waste energy trying to make others change.

3. Public Action - he called this "Spirit-Guided Movements," by which he meant actions of God across the larger culture, actions going on "which I don't want to miss." As an example he cited the Civil Rights movement - people chose which side of that to be on, and some therefore missed out on being part of what God was doing. He also cited contemporary movements towards Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR - which he said could also stand for Church Social Responsibility).

4. Global Action - "global awakenings". He told a story about a corporate VP who's reacted to the news that he has an inoperable brain tumor by trying to find ways to make a positive impact in the world. Supposedly he's building a website to recruit others - but if Brian said his name, I missed it.

He also talked about how to share this stuff with others. He recommended against talking about "this book I read" or "this author/preacher guy I read." Rather he suggested connecting personally - talk about what's going on with us. Share by saying "I'm going through something. I'm thinking things I can't help but talk about." (This is some of the stuff I wanted to talk about - and will have to wait until I have time.)

As Brian started closing out this section, he said "we make the way by living it." I take that to mean that as we feel lost about what to do and where to start to make a difference, we just have to stop feeling overwhelmed and start acting - personally, locally, publicly, globally - to make a difference. Little by little, each change we make begins to make the way to a world where everything has changed. Pie-in-the-sky kind of stuff, almost - so my cynical mind says. But Brian ended this session by talking about Jesus' comments on faith - "if you have faith the size of a mustard seed," you can say to this mountain, move, and it will move.

Now, in my overly literal mind, I've always thought of this verse in terms of supernatural kinds of miraculous stuff - praying for healing and things like that. As a result I've always cringed at this verse - guilty over my lack of faith healings to my name, and the like. Brian tied it in to these overwhelming problems in the world - crises of prosperity, equity, security - as mountains which seem too big to ever be brought low. (Isaiah - every valley will be filled and every mountain and hill made low.) So he reminded us of our faith - that we need not be overwhelmed by the scope of the problems. He reminded us that Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed..." etc.

I wrote "My take-away from this: 'I tell you the truth. This mountain will move." So the hand thing: if I now recall correctly, we were writing an action to take or a mountain that would be moved. Which reminds me that I'd completely forgotten what I wrote (which is why I write - I have practically no long-term memory!). My word was "epiphany", because I had a few that weekend. Mostly, an epiphany related to two things - doubt and fear. These are things that keep me from stepping out in faith - the things that keep me from making the difference I could. They feel like mountains blocking me from a life of meaning and purpose, filled with love for God and neighbor.

I tell you the truth - this mountain will move. May you have faith to sing your song in the dark, and to see mountains fall as God works in your life and our world.


ShaneBertou said...

Several of us from around the blogsphere are reading "Everything Must Change" together and discussing our thoughts. We've just begun, but we've set it up in a way where it's never to late to participate.

If you have any interest, you can visit us at:


Chris Cottingham said...

Hey Shane, thanks for stopping by, and for the heads up. I'll add the link to my list so folks can find it a little easier, and pass it on to my local emergent cohort - as we're discussing it irl, some of them may want to participate.