Monday, September 22, 2014

Pity Is Not Compassion

Sunflower field near Yellow Springs, Ohio

Some people want to be pitied. Like Tolstoy's Ivan Ilyich.

"What tormented Ivan Ilych most was the deception, the lie, which for some reason they all accepted, that he was not dying but was simply ill, and the only need keep quiet and undergo a treatment and then something very good would result… The awful, terrible act of his dying was, he could see, reduced by those about him to the level of a casual, unpleasant, and almost indecorous incident (as if someone entered a drawing room defusing an unpleasant odor) and this was done by that very decorum which he had served all his life long. He saw that no one felt for him, because no one even wished to grasp his position… [W]hat most tormented Ivan Ilych was that no one pitied him as he wished to be pitied. At certain moments after prolonged suffering he wished most of all (though he would have been ashamed to confess it) for someone to pity him as a sick child is pitied. He longed to be petted and comforted.”

"Pity me" means "Self-obsess with me in my misery." The core of "pity" is a type of self-centeredness.

Compassion, on the other hand, is feeling-with the other in their struggle, in their weakness. It is a kind of other-centeredness. Compassion is good, pity is bad.

Pity is hierarchical. Pity looks down ("I pity you"). Compassion looks alongside ("I feel with you"). Compassion operates on a level playing field.

Pity nurtures opens wounds. Compassion heals the wounded.

God's Love Has No Conditions

If I Am My Shepherd, I Shall Want (Leading the Presence-Driven Church)

Field of sunflowers near Yellow Springs, Ohio

I look forward to spending alone-time with God this week after a busy weekend. I was privileged to be with the Jesus-followers of First Baptist Church in Urbana, Ohio. If you are reading this thank you again for inviting me!

I taught Saturday morning on "Leading the Presence-Driven Church," and our need for solitary prayer times in order to be led by God's Spirit. All authentic leadership in Jesus' name is a being-led by Jesus. I cannot do this on my own, no matter how strong my abilities are. If I am my shepherd, I shall want. 

Ruth Haley Barton writes:

"The raw gift of leadership may be there—as it certainly was for Moses—along with a strong sense of what is right and what we think needs to be done in this world. But our leadership cannot be a force for good if it is not being refined by the rigors of true solitude, that place where God is at work beyond what we are able to do for ourselves or would even know how to do for ourselves." (Ruth Haley Barton, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry, p. 43)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Praying to Make My Life Add Up (PrayerLife)

I'm on Urbana, Ohio this morning. I went for an early morning prayer walk, using Psalm 23 to meditate on. What a beautiful fall morning it is!

 When I pay attention to God I see things. I saw a billboard that read "Make Every Day Count." These words seemed important for me. I began repeating, as I continued walking, "I will make every day count. I will make every day count." This is not "mindless repetition," because repetition on truths are profoundly mindful.

I will make my life "count" - for what?

I will make every day "add up" to something. When I die perhaps someone will "sum up" my life, and I hope it "amounts" to something more than "He liked watching sports."

There is something called "the sum total of my life." There is an "amount" to my life. My life can amount to something.

My life can have eternal results.

I prayed, "God, pour everything into this present day. Into this present moment. Now. Make my "now" count, for You.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Speaking in Urbana, Ohio This Weekend

I'm leaving for Urbana, Ohio to lead a Presence-Driven Conference at First Baptist Church of Urbana.

Tonight - 6:30 - I'll share my story of coming into a presence-driven life.

Saturday - 10 AM - "Leading the Presence-Driven Church"/"Living the Presence-Driven Life"

Saturday - 2 PM - "In the Presence-Driven Church There Is 'Discernment' Rather than 'Decision-Making'"

Sunday - 10:30 AM - "Humility As the Foundational Attitude for Discernment"

Praying to Be Purged of False Identity (PrayerLife)

Outer quietude reveals inner restlessness. Who am I, when I have nothing to do?

Solitude and aloneness are revelatory fires that uncover my true self and what I am defined by. If I am defined by the praises and blame of others then when those voices are removed, so is my identity. When my "being" is defined by my "doing" or "having" I have gotten life backwards.
Train in Monroe County

For these reasons solitude is required to purge my heart of false identities and forge my heart's true meaning and purpose. Henri Nouwen writes: "Silence and solitude call me to detach myself from the scaffolding of daily life and to discover if anything there can stand on its own when the traditional support systems have been pulled away." (Nouwen, Our Greatest Gift: A Meditation on Dying and Caring, p. 3)

When the music fades, when all is stripped away, and "I" simply come to God, then it's Him and me here now. Just me and my God Who is my source of life and is my life. 

When I am restless when alone with God I pray like this: "Restore my soul, O God, that has been layered over by the false gods of doing and having and accomplishing."

"Surrendered Life" - Redeemer Church - Sept. 21, 6 PM

We have child care available for children 0-10.

Holly Benner leads worship - begins at 6.

Connie Goncin shares her testimony. (See "A Wild Weed Finds a Home In the Garden of God")

Sue Anderson shares what it is to live a surrendered life.

Max Tegmark on Plato and Ultimate Reality

I've been reading physicist Max Tegmark's Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality. I used this example in one of my philosophy classes yesterday. Like the Pre-Socratic philosophers, Plato, and Aristotle, the search for ultimate reality takes us behind the appearances into a world that often seems counterintuitive. Tegmark writes:

"Not everything is the way it seems at first, and this goes even for trucks and reality itself. Such suggestions come not only from philosophers and science fiction writers, but from physics experiments. Physicists have known for a century that solid steel is really mostly empty space, because the atomic nuclei that make up 99.95% of the mass are tiny balls that fill up merely 0.0000000000001% of the volume, and that this near-vacuum only feels solid because the electrical forces that hold these nuclei in place are very strong." (p. 4)

Tegmark concludes: "If my life as a physicist has taught me anything at all, it's that Plato was right: modern physics has made abundantly clear that the ultimate nature of reality isn't what it seems." (p. 8)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Presence-Driven Church - More Programs ≠ Spiritual Growth

In All Saints Spitalfields in Chicago.

I got burned out on the Program-Driven Church years ago and entered into the surprising, delightful, non-striving Presence-Driven Church. It's in the latter that disciples of Christ are formed.

See, e.g., "Willow Creek Finds Limits to its Model: Spiritual Growth Is not Keeping Pace."

From this 2008 article:

  • Bill Hybels, senior pastor of Willow Creek, said it was “almost unbearable” to learn that almost a quarter of his congregation’s people were either “stalled” in their spiritual growth or dissatisfied with the church, with many considering leaving.
  • Hybels - “It is causing me to see clearly that the church and its myriad of programs have taken on too much of the responsibility for people’s spiritual growth.”
  • Researcher Diana Butler Bass says: “I have interviewed dozens and dozens of people throughout the United States who used to belong to churches like Willow Creek but left them in order to become Presbyterians or Lutherans or Episcopalians. Ex-members of the megachurches have sort of rediscovered a level of being Christian that they were unaware of.”
  • What's needed for spiritual revitalization and growth? Simple things like Bible study and prayer. What's cool, says Bass, is that “the littlest congregation in the world can do those kinds of things. It’s through those pathways that those churches have actually found revitalization.”

Get small.

Study the Word.



Be free.

Bear much fruit.

Give all the glory to God.

History of Western Philosophy - Aristotle

These are the notes I'll be using this morning to introduce my MCCC Western Philosophy students to Aristotle's metaphysics.



1.    Explain Aristotle’s idea of “form” and “matter.”
2.    How does Aristotle explain “change?”
3.    How does Aristotle’s reasoning provide an alternative to Parmenides?

1.    Explain Aristotle’s idea of “form” and “matter.”
A “form” is what a thing really is. “Matter” is not what a thing really is.
o   For 3 reasons:
·         Your physical being (“matter”) could not be what it is to be you. For three reasons.
1)    Matter is always going in and out, always changing.
E.g., you change your material constituents a lot without
stopping to be yourself. E.g., you cut your hair.
2) Something can remain what it is even if we replaced bits of matter on it. E.g., we could take a house, tear out some rotting boards, and replace them with different kinds of boards.
§  As long as it stayed that same continuous functional structure, serving the function of a house, we would still have the same thing or entity on our hands.
3) Matter is not definite enough to be what a thing really is.
§  Matter is just a lump or heap of stuff, so we couldn’t say you are some stuff or other.
§  It’s only when we’ve identified the structure the stuff constitutes that we can even go on to say something intelligent about the stuff itself.
Forms are non-material. But not in some abstract Platonic Realm of Ideas.
o   Aristotle thought we actually cannot go coherently beyond our experience. The only thing we can do is the investigating, the mapping, of the sphere of our experience.
o   E.g. – Raphael painting
Immaterial forms exist in physical things.
“Form” makes things belong to a certain kind. E.g., “dog.” Matter makes them individuals of that kind. E.g., “This German Shepherd.” Or: “My dog.”
“Matter is the principle of individuation in material things. This means, for instance, that two peas of the same size and shape, however alike they are, however many properties or forms they may have in common, are two peas and not one pea because they are two different parcels of matter.” (82-83)
EXAMPLE: These two dry erase markers have the same form. But they are two individual markers, because of matter.
“Forms are logically incapable of existing without the bodies of which they are the forms. [This is against Plato.] Forms do not themselves exist, nor come to be, in the way in which substances exist and come to be. Forms, unlike bodies, are not made out of anything; and for a form of A-ness to exist is simply for there to be some substance which is A; for horseness to exist there simply are horses.” (83)
So? This chair is a form-matter composite.

2.    How does Aristotle explain “change?”
In our experience we contact things that are changing. E.g., a leaf unfolds, is green, turns yellow, then withers.
A child is born, matures, grows older, then dies.
Now the question is: If we are to talk about changing things, there still must be some “It” that stays the same while all the attributes of it are changing.
            Otherwise it will be hard to talk about change at all.
            Change, paradoxically, requires stability.
E.g. – I cannot say “You have changed since I last saw you” unless there is some stable, unchanging “you.”
The question Aristotle asks is: what are the more continuous, persisting things on which we can anchor our discourse about change, things which themselves persist while properties or attributes are changing?
This is the “What is it?” question.  E.g., Who are you, really?
E.g., “you.” Which among the many properties of you that impress themselves on my senses are the most fundamental ones, the ones you couldn’t cease to have without ceasing to be yourself?
You could change your jacket. But obviously you would still be you.
Aristotle’s question about identity is the search for the parts or elements in the thing which play that very fundamental role, which are what it is to be that thing.
Two questions:
#1 – What are the characteristics of an object that are fundamental and indispensable, in that they make the object what it is?
#2 – What are the characteristics of an object that persist through change, so that the object, though changing, remains the same object?
(For Plato it’s the Forms.)

For Aristotle, there are two kinds of change:
o   Substantial change
§  When a form/substance of one kind turns into a form/substance of another kind.
§  “Matter” takes on a different form.
§  E.g., when you shake a bottle of cream and it changes into butter.
o   Accidental change
§  When a form stays the same but the matter gets reconfigured.
§  E.g., when you put a new roof on a house.
·         What a substance is, is its actualities (e.g., this piece of wood); what a substance can be or change into are its “potentialities” (e.g., a pile of ash).
o   Potentiality – the capacity to undergo a change of some kind. (82)
o   ‘Forms’ – the actualities involved in changes.
§  E.g., a bottle of cream can change into butter.
§  E.g., a piece of wood can change into a pile of ash.
o   ‘Matter’ – that which has the capacity for substantial change.
§  Matter can take on different forms.

·         E.g. – a piece of wood is actually cold but potentially hot; actually wood but potentially ash.
o    “The actualities involved in changes are called ‘forms’, and ‘matter’ is used as a technical term for what has the capacity for substantial change.” (82)

3. How does Aristotle’s reasoning provide an alternative to Parmenides?
-       Kenny, 83
Parmenides denied that change was real, because Being cannot come from Unbeing, since Unbeing cannot be thought (is nothing).
For Aristotle change is explained like this:
·                     Matter is eternal.
·                     Matter cannot exist without form.

·         Change is explained by either: 1) matter taking on a different form; or 2) a form/substance changing accidentally.