Life Design (1): Disruption

. 8 min read

Oct 2019, Christ Mountain Top
Isaiah 44.6-8 (6:00 pm only)
Genesis 28.10-22
Matthew 13.24-30, 36-43
Moment, World Communion Sunday (observed), Pounding the Pastor completed
of you have heard by now that mom fell out of bed on Thursday a week back,
hitting her head hard against the floor. Miraculously, there was no concussion,
no fracture, and no internal bleeding. By Friday evening, she was home from the
hospital and on Saturday headed out with us and a caregiver on family vacation!
We are so grateful. It was a disruption, our theme for today. And, all of that
messed with my brain! For the first time ever I left on vacation and didn’t
pack underwear or socks. See, this story is all about me. It is my disruption.
Does it destroy the design? Well, if we’re talking about whether or not it
messes with my plans and expectations for vacation … of course it does. But if
we are talking about a flexible, evolving plan, headed in a clear if a bit
general direction, responsive to circumstance and prepared to adapt … not one
Scripture, 2019: Ephesians 3:18-21
 I pray that you may
have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and
length and height and depth,  19 and to know the love of Christ
that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of
God.  20 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able
to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine,  21
to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever
and ever. Amen.
the middle of the road of my life I awoke in a dark wood where the true way was
wholly lost” (Dante, in Whyte, 1).
       Over and over as a pastor I have heard this
refrain. My wife, my husband, my child died unexpectedly, long before their
time. And I feel lost. I’ve been stuck in the same dead-end job for the last
ten years, but I can’t get anything else. Am I destined to this misery? My
husband, my wife, my partner left me. And I can’t trust anyone anymore. I’ve
worked for the same company for thirty years and was just downsized. How do I
start over? I hate my work, and I’ve found my passion, but I have too much debt
to just quit and start over. I’m trapped with no way out. Whatever design we
had for our life has been disrupted, or entirely destroyed. What now?

desire is to “accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine” in
and through us yet most of us scrape by on “good enough” or “barely good
enough” living. Instead of joy and wonder, our primary relationships and work
lives are riddled with conflict and disappointment. There are big issues in our
world and community – like the opioid crisis – but we get preoccupied with
bridge that’s out and bad calls by sports officials at a child’s game. No
wonder we can’t find a way to address the bigger questions of our personal
lives, let alone the deep pains of our world.
the middle of the road of my life I awoke in a dark wood where the true way was
wholly lost.”
       Here is the gift of disruption: The
opportunity to find a new way. Finding a new way puts us in charge, as much as
any human can be in charge. Finding a new way helps us own our own choices and
join God in creating our lives. Finding a new way helps us not to be dominated
by disruption but to become disruption in the world.
       In business today, being a “disruptive
innovation” is “the thing.” Netflix starts out by serving movie buffs who are
interested in films other than the new releases that Blockbuster features,
folks willing to wait a week to get it in the mail. So, there’s no competition
right? And by the time Blockbuster realizes the danger posed by the new
business, it is too late.
       When we find a new way, we can be the
change agents rather than the reactionaries. When we find a new way, we
actually begin to think for ourselves. Imagine that! We make our own decisions,
and we claim them.
the fable, The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote of a
lamplighter who lived and worked on a tiny planet that turned more rapidly from
year to year until the time came when a day lasted only a minute. The
lamplighter followed orders. His orders determined his way of working and
required that he light his one lamp at dusk and then extinguish it at dawn.
Once each minute, the lamplighter lit his lamp and then extinguished it.
       “I follow a terrible profession,” the
lamplighter told the little prince. “In the old days it was reasonable. I put
the lamp out in the morning and in the evening I lighted it again. I had the
rest of the day for relaxation and the rest of the night for sleep.”
       The little prince, puzzled by the
lamplighter’s behavior and not yet noticing the brevity of the days, asked,
“And the orders have been changed since that time?”
       “The orders have not been changed,” the
lamplighter replied. “That is the tragedy! From year to year the planet has
turned more rapidly and the orders have not been changed.”’ (1971, 48; entire
section from Richards, 1-2.)
       Okay: So, the orders have not been
changed. What happens if you disobey the orders just once? What happens if you
quit your job? What happens if you get another job? Lamplighter: It sounds like
you feel trapped. Have you begun to think for yourself? What happens if you
are the disruption?
AA group posts a number of traditional AA sayings at their meeting. One is a sign
with three words, or one word three times: “Think Think Think.” And, it is
always posted upside-down. Why upside down? Because we spend so much time
over-thinking. We spend so much time analyzing the wrong things. We spend so
much time stuck in our obsessions. It’s what our recovery sisters and brothers
call “stinkin’ thinkin’.” We claim to be rational, but, in reality, we’re all
upside down. God’s desire is to “accomplish abundantly far more than all we can
ask or imagine” in and through us yet most of us scrape by on “good enough” or
“barely good enough” living. Why? Because we respond to disruption with
obsession rather than innovation. Our thinking needs to be redeemed, to be
turned upside down.
take a look at our focus Scripture, the story of the look-alike poison weeds
growing up in the wheat. To be upfront: I’m going to use this story of Jesus in
ways that are, I think, consistent with the story, yet different than the
purpose for which Jesus told it.
       The slaves come to the master with a
great question. It’s the question we always ask: ‘Master, did you not sow good
seed in your field?’[1]
It is the question of responsibility: Whose fault is it? The slaves are us,
responding to a disruption by playing the blame game. Sometimes, it just is
what it is. In this story, it’s not the master’s responsibility or the slaves
responsibility. That is, we have no reason to blame God or to blame ourselves,
we have no reason to respond to the disruption with obsession.
       There is an enemy in the world. Sometimes
we wonder why God doesn’t just destroy evil now. One answer might be
from this story of Jesus: To destroy evil now would destroy the harvest too.
There would be too much collateral damage, and God loves us too much to do
       ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in
your field?’ And the answer is … YES. Isn’t it great to be able to say that, to
respond with that resounding positive, to drown out our obsessions? Did you do
your best? YES. So you didn’t succeed, but you can’t do better than your best,
and maybe next time you will take what you learned this time and succeed. Were
you faithful to your spouse? Did you honor your spouse? Did you love them? YES.
So, admitting the fact that none of us is the perfect partner, we don’t have to
hold ourselves responsible for the choices of someone else. They might be
hitting the door, and we might feel entirely lost in the woods, but we are not
responsible for their behavior. Get our of our stinkin’ thinkin’ and be open to
a new way.
       ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in
your field?’ We are responsible for our own behavior, for our own choices. And
once we have dealt honestly with them, done the reconciling work we need to do
– and we need to do that – then it is time to revisit the question of what seed
we are sowing. As Galatians reminds us, “Whatever you sow, that you will reap”
(Gal 6.7).
… if we aren’t happy with what we are reaping, it’s time to ask what we are
sowing. This, again, is the gift of disruption: The opportunity to find a new
way. And, in that work, perhaps to find God. God, of course, is the great
disruption. You might be somewhat familiar with Easter – what is dead doesn’t
have to stay dead. That’s disruptive. We shared the story of Jacob, who is
headed away from home for two reasons, to get a wife and to get away from his
brother who wants him dead. His life design is a mess. And God shows up in the
midst of the disruption. One of our folks here at Christ Church told me, “I
truly did not know what blind faith meant until I was diagnosed with cancer. I always
went to church, but I never felt until then, that I truly gave myself to God.
It took something (like cancer) to jar me.”
       Now, no one wishes for disruption –
whether divorce or job loss or cancer or grief. And, every disruption offers
the opportunity to meet with God. And, every disruption offers the opportunity
to evaluate our seed and consider if we want to plant something different. Not
because we are responsible for the disruption but because we have lost one way
and are now responsible to find a new way. One of the resources I am using (Designing
Your Life
by Bill Burnett and Dale Evans) reminds us, “It is never too late
to design a life you love.”
do we get started? Especially if we are in the midst of disruption? Well, the
wisdom of design thinking is really powerful and helpful, and all wisdom is
God’s wisdom. However, even Burnett and Evans experts in design thinking, who
teach life design at Stanford, even these experts recommend that we engage in spiritual
practices every day. In the Christian tradition, we have a powerful
antidote to stinkin’ thinkin’ – PRAYER. In prayer we seek and find God, even in
our disruptions. In prayer we move beyond our obsession and become open to the
Spirit’s innovation. In prayer we get beyond my “all about me” (and my missing
socks and underwear). So, as part of our annual call to discipleship we
encourage people to grow in their prayer lives. Today I lift up two prayer practices
in particular:
·       Two
minutes of thanks daily
·       Daily
prayers at set times
you don’t like what you are reaping, it’s time to sow something different and
to begin with prayer.
Bill Burnett & Dave Evans, Designing Your Life: How to Lead
a Well-Lived, Joyful Life
David Whyte , The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of
the Soul in Corporate America
Dick Richards, Artful Work: Awakening Joy, Meaning, and
Commitment in the Workplace

Harris, W. H., III, Ritzema, E., Brannan, R., Mangum, D., Dunham, J., Reimer,
J. A., & Wierenga, M. (Eds.). (2012). The Lexham English
(Mt 13:27). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.