the importance of asking questions: how I have been growing in humility

recently I sent a letter to a group of people explaining what I observed and how I felt it was inadequate and was falling short of the standard that I think this particular community should be living up too. discussing this with a friend I came to an understanding that this was not loving because I did not know what was happening in the background that I could not observe. a mark of maturity is to observe what you can not see, which essentially promotes the act of believing the best of people you are working with and asking questions about what is going on. the most neglected act of observing is seeing how the past has shaped the present. often times we do not know the past so we need to ask questions. if you are catching on with what I am saying you will have figured out questions are a great way to show love, care, and affection.

a common definition of humility that I am coming to appreciate in a greater way is to not think of ourselves as lesser, but to think of others more. when we think of ourselves less we tend to not think we have it all together or that we know all, not that knowing all is possible but we can act like it. when we think of others more we realize the limitation of what we can know and if our reaction to that is healthy than that will cause us to ask questions. ignorance is not bliss, no matter how much you think happiness can be achieved by the pursuit of personal pleasure. we need to ask questions. questions send us to a place of choice. You know that miniscule moment where you have to choose, most often it is a moment of discomfort because you are challenged to enter into a foreign place. I guess you can say questions make you a traveler and a traveler has too often face that they do not know it all.

questions allow us to enter in. a general critique of our society is that we are losing our ability to connect due to our electronic devices that limit our human to human interactions. We have a hard enough time being present with somebody, but an even harder time engaging with somebody. a great way to start that is by asking questions. I know I personally need to ask more questions. I fall short of loving others because I do not ask enough questions to engage with their experience. Another example to illustrate this comes from the conversation I had with the guy above that showed me that I was being immature. I simply assumed that a particular experience had defined him a certain way and after he corrected me of his actual experience I realized a simple question would have helped me show him I care instead of assuming about the particular defining experience he had. a couple questions that would have been caring would be, how did you come to that place or what shaped your perspective on that. both of these would have been engaging, clarifying, and a sign of humility.
questions engage, questions bring clarity, and questions show humility. I have entered into the practice of asking questions with a couple different projects this past year to promote and further my growth in asking questions, so I can love god better, love others better, and love myself better. the first project was called personal questions and this was simply a list of questions that pertained to my personal development, which I will be writing about soon. the other project was a question a day, which was mainly questions about people, god, life, achieving goals, loving others, and personal growth. they were just questions that were in my head or that I came across throughout the day, but were none the less necessary questions that I felt needed to be wrestled with. most of the time we get questions in our head and 5 minutes later we forget it and never think about that intriguing question again. well by composing those questions I aim to engage with life, seek clarity of our purpose, and approach others in a humble way. I will be announcing more about the question a day project soon, so be excited. here is a little teaser, it has to do with twitter 🙂

what questions do you have? they can be anything, leave them below

the best of the books i read in 2014

This was a year of books for me. there were some I liked and some that I did not wish I started and then there were some that I wish I did not finish. 2 years ago you would not have caught me reading a book any day of the year except before finals to study and write papers, but a book called King’s cross changed it all for me. after that book I have read over 200 books. Most of the books are nonfiction and focus on personal growth and short story telling. Half way through this year I realized the majority of the books I have read come from two dominate context of the male perspective and the Christian theoretical stand point. This is something I hope to change and develop. this coming up year I hope to get into fiction, so that I can experience the expanse of the mind of other people’s creation. This year I read close to 100 books an di had come up with close to 20 books that had left an impression and would add to a favorite pile to get sorted through at the end of the year. So without further a due here is my top book list for this year in descending order
1. the return of the prodigal son Henry Nouen. A great book using Rembrandt’s painting of the prodigal son narrative as the back drop of this insightful book on the father child relationship, but more importantly the emphasis on the transformation from the child into the father. If I described anymore I would give it away and I would not want to do that with this wonderful book. Truly transformational.
2. faith works Jim Wallis. Seeing the practicality of faith in it can be lived out in practical steps , but this is more than what you will just hear at church. This will allow you to see real life holistic community built churches do big things in the everyday life by living with the marginalized and working on business
3. mountains beyond mountains: Michael French and Tracey kiderard. This is the story of Paul Farmer. For those that know him his name should be infamous if you don’t know him you probably should. This 1 man doing a million things and saving a million people, sounds interesting huh, well it is. it’s worth the read
4. a million miles in a thousand years: Donald miller. Inspiration, motivation, guidance, all unnoticeably will come from this book of real life stories of how one man found his path and started living it to the fullest.
5. people before profit Charles Garber. The title pretty much says it all. Corporate power influences our sociological and our personal development, this may not be a bad thing , but the main value that is behind this is profit. This is a critical and analytical look at how we are forgetting the importance of the individual and humanity as a whole. Very important read for our times to see how corporate power influences us.
6. unleashing the real me: Brennan manning. This was adapted for his more famous book Abba’s Child, but focused on the transformation aspect of being the child of the father. Come to a place of peace and comfort in how the father has created you is what this book is focused on, but it does it from a place of affection and acceptance.
7. the circle maker: Mark Batterson/ a great story about a guy that had a vision and pursued it. bringing people together in urban Washington DC to create a community that cared for the city. His visions are led by prayer and a circle of what the goal is, but only his goal is to provide opportunity for the city to come to a place where they will be cared and provided for. entrepreneurs will enjoy this with the goal oriented church planter, but not only that he starts organizations and mechanic shop sand meeting place’s that turn into coffee shops.
8. turning my mourning into dancing: Henry Nouen. Want to be able to have joy through the tough times, to be able to dance in the futility of life, well see how Henry sorted through it and practiced dancing in his life. he takes you on a journey through loneliness, identity, and purpose and then comes to terms with the end of life on this earth. This will take you through the highs and lows of life
9. ruthless trust: Brennan Manning. Ever wonder how much faith you need to believe, here Manning shows us that faith and trust should not be rendered synonymous more, but instead we need to realize that trust is where we are lacking. We are not so much lacking in faith but our trust is not ruthless enough.
10. getting out of the boat to walk on water: john Ortberg. I think we all wish we could walk on water. How cool would it be to walk on the ocean during the middle of a hurricane. John shows us how much power we have when we are with Jesus. The more we connect and trust god that is here with us and for us then we will be able to do things that we did not think we would be able to do, but this is not a self-help book that is going to help you reach a goal. It will be a book that brings you to a greater understanding of how god desires to connect with you in all of life.
11. relationships a mess worth making: Paul David Trippp. A great book that will help you see the reality of relationships, the messiness and the value of great relationships. This is not just the boyfriend girlfriend context, but the wider range of general relationships. Paul is a psychologist that brings his faith and truth into his insights on relationships. You will not only leave this book knowing more about yourself, but holding higher value in depth and connection in your relationships with others and with god.
12. importance of being foolish: Brennan Manning. I bet you never thought being a fool could be radical or transformative. Manning shows us how he has discovered that Jesus looked like a fool to the world because of how counter cultural he was and he denounced everything that the people of his time thought was right. The journey that Manning takes you on is not only one that points out the radical nature of the gospel, but it is one that will encourage you to step into the uncomfortable atmosphere of being foolish.
13. Lazarus awakening Joanna weaver. Raising somebody from the dead and bringing life back, I do not think that can be topped. There are many things that we can resurrect inn our own lives. We may feel that our dream is dead or the passion in our marriage has weltered away, but Weaver reminds us that there is hope. Bringing things back from the dead will be a messy process and will take effort, but it sure will be worth it because in the end there will be so much fruitful faith.
14. free yourself be yourself Allen Wright. What gets in the way of you being you and not what society and peers have pressured you to be. Wright believes that only a small amount of who we are is really displayed to others and the rest we form around social norms and what we believe about ourselves. Wright shows us what it looks like for us to be free to be real and to be honest with who we are. You will be sure to find the power that comes from this freedom, we just have to learn how to continue to live inn that freedom.
15. everybody’s normal until you get to know them: John Ortberg. I listened to this book out loud with a group of friends on a road trip and I do not remember many main points of the book, but I do remember some of the great discussions that it provided, so on that premise it makes the list. One thing that you can expect to get from reading this book is the proof and illustration of depth in relationships. Ortberg provides many compelling points that point us back to our created nature of being relational and how we are all uniquely created, but often we do not take the time to enter into meaningful relationships, so we have settled for a case of normative relationships. Ortberg will leave you seeing so much more glory and uniqueness in each created being and life form on this earth.
16. the search for significance: Robert McGee. We all want to know we have done something purposeful, but do we want to know we have a purpose or that we have significance. The futility of life often takes us over and we live to feel good instead of living for a significant purpose and meaning. this book was helpful for me to reflect on my life and find the theme of restoration taking place in it so far. We search not only for purpose , but to know we are significant and not just somebody aimlessly passing through this thing called life. McGee uses his experiences of encountering god as his loving father as the back drop of coming to terms with our significance.
17.Integrity the courage to face the demands of reality: henry cloud and john Townsend. These guys are some of my favorite authors and psychologist, so it is surprising that they are this far down the list, but they can not win all the time. This book is important for those of us tat know there is more in life, but often we can not grasp it because of things we find weighing us down in this place we call reality. You can expect to have your reality check by the time you finish this book, but you can also expect to finish knowing you have the strength to be truer and more honest without being conformed by the outside pressures of the world.
18. Christianity after religion, Diana butler Bass. the title was what got me. I do not join with the “ I hate religion but I love Jesus” crowd, but I was curious where this book was going to take me. oddly enough it made me see religion in a truer way and allowed me to appreciate it more than I did before. While reading this I was brought to a greater understanding of formalized religion and how it form. Since I was able to understand the roots of the formation I think I was able to objectively see the purpose of religion. Formalized religion has great potential if it is used in eh correct manner and of course the incorrect uses get highlighted and Bass also provides examples of those. a very balanced book.
19. Friendship with god, an uncommon dialogue: Neale Walsh. Ever wonder what those people mean when they say I have entered into a relationship with god well here it is in its unfiltered manifestation. We talk, we hang out, we do things, we go on adventures, and we want our friends to be there to answer the big questions with us; well this is how Walsh approaches god. Walsh takes us on his journey with him and god and how he came to converse with god as if he were a friend. I felt for the longest time that people talked about a relationship with god and praying and talking to god, but it always seemed so ambiguous, but now Walsh has written it out and described it clearly. A great way to take the next step of diving deeper with god.
20. living as the beloved: Henry Nouen. Another one from my favorite author. This story takes place with Henry writes to one of his friends who asked him to explain the importance of being the beloved. Henry’s friend did not see the great importance coming from a secular background. This book was great because Nouen explains the beloved identity in an understandable way, but still in his witty eccentric self. you do not have to be a believer, person of faith, or secular to appreciate this book. It truly comes from a heartfelt place and the passion that Henry has for his friend and for being the beloved come together and get magnified in this book.

year end review 2014

Christmas is over, neither the 49ers or raiders made the playoffs and we can no longer have dates line up in an ascending order for another 86 years. seasons they come and go and most of the time they come back around again but seasons are different each time they come back around. this year’s fall was much wetter on the west coast than last year. this slow point in life is different feeling than the last one, so it is important to learn from the seasons so that we can be prepared for the season when it comes around again. looking back can be fun or it can be a tedious gut wrenching task. I think mine is a little of both, so hopefully I can find some balance in my year end seasonal review of things I liked, did not like, learning experiences, growth, and things I would like to do better.

most often the honorable mentions get mentioned at the end, but I am going to give my shout out’s first. these are people that I did not give much consideration to before and I have entered into what they have to offer and I found it very interesting and fruitful. the first one is the music group U2. ya I know one of the biggest groups in pop rock history, but I never gave him the appreciation that I now think they deserve. to be honest I doubted their motives for giving away from music through one of the biggest profiting music distribution programs out there, but the music that came out on that CD was marvelous and honest and it brought a freshness to U2 for me, which has allowed me to view and appreciate U2 in a more genuine way. the next person I want to give a shout out to is Rob Bell. ya I know that one book that made everybody question his theology and start calling him a heretic. well I was a part of that questioning group but still have kept a fascination with Rob Bell and his writing. I appreciated how he connected with his readers in the books I had read of his previously, but did not put much more effort into staying with his work. I had heard a friend talk about his blog with high esteem, so after putting it off for a while I checked it out and it turned out to be the most enlightening and productive bible teaching I have experienced. it was not only poignant , but it was delivered in a relatable and elaborate fashion that would allow the reader to understand and connect with the text being taught. This other guy made my shout outs because he is somebody that has stayed true to his craft. He is a musician and he has combined my two favorite kinds of music, hip hop and folk. Josh Garrels is an excellent poet and an even greater story teller. His voice is unique, so you probably would not hear him on the radio, but the passion and soul behind his voice makes his music so powerful. He is definitely worth looking into, if you do check the song “freedom”.

traveling to South Africa was probably the capstone of my year and the thing I had set out to accomplish at the beginning. it was not only a step to go serve with an organization I did not know, but in a place I did not know. this was my step to spread my wings and step into something I want to spend my life doing. it was so exciting to spread my wings and fly and to experience the joy that came during that experience. one of the greatest lessons I learned this year was from my South Africa experience and is something that I continue to dwell on. It is that we receive more ourselves when we try to serve other people and the more we understand that the greater our service will be. most often we can not go into a situation and force a blessing upon somebody because most often when we go into a situation to serve somebody it is usually ourselves that receive the blessing. It was great to finally feel alive in something I was doing.

if I were to find a theme from this year I would call it desert. this year did not have many high points, so I can not call it a roller coaster, but different points where I felt like I was in a dry land waiting and trying to find a way to the richer more lively land. being able to thrive and produce fruit in dry periods is something I have been trying to work on this year. I believe that big things can happen in deserts but we need to open our eyes to see the opportunities. one of the opportunities I took was to start this website. there were struggles that came with having a blog and the responsibility and motive for writing were challenged plenty during the dry times, but it was something that taught me and grew me in the understanding of myself.

before this year started I wanted to take a break from school and the pursuit of whatever was to come next, so that I could become more Intune with myself and god. well lucky me that continued into the next year. one of the big things that promoted this continuation was the ending of a relationship I was in. it was a difficult thing that I felt was right to end. at this point in time this break up was helpful for me to see how I still fall short in the way I love others. it helped me to not think of myself less, but to put more effort into thinking of others more, so I guess you can call it humbling. I started to see a counselor later in the year to further this understanding of myself and to become more emotionally healthy. one of the most encouraging things I learned this year about myself is that I am a beloved child. this has been what I am trying to have the foundation of my life be built on. I know it will be a long journey to build that foundation , but I value it so much that I want it to be my continual pursuit.

speaking of journey’s I went on a few adventures and of course my dear friend Philippe was at the center of them. the first to speak of was a road trip to northern Montana where we went to one of the most breath taking places in America, Glacier national park. that trip was great just being with 3 other great people nonstop and just enjoying an adventure. the other journey was more of a guiding adventure. it was back to back conferences that were focused on providing information and plans to get you working towards a path that will bring you satisfaction in life. the Storyline and the Justice conference were experiences that fit right in with what I was now thinking about for my future plans and the timing of the conferences could not have been better. going to these conferences is what motivated me to start my blog because they showed me that we should share what we are passionate about and allow others the opportunity to join with us.

we need community and this year has been a search for that. the search has not gone in a beneficial pat for me this year. I had the opportunity to have some really quality stints with some close people in my life, but the other long periods of time were very lonely. this year was important that it allowed me to discover myself and god in a greater way, but it also showed me
my natural desire and longing for close relationships. ways I am currently relating to others I would have liked to have been more honest. this is not in a way of white lies, but come from the out of being real with who I am and letting others accept me. while seeking some counsel on this I came to understand that I have an acceptance problem and it was more pervasive than I thought. I realized this in the midst of a dry point of the year when things were pretty crappy and what I learned from that experience was that I do not manage my pain or tend to my wounds, so in the spirit of loving myself and loving god I wish I tended to my pain and myself in a more loving way.

one thing that I can specifically point out that I did not like about this year was the great deal of injustice that happened in the year. my heart was able to mourn and be impacted by events like no other time in my life. I think I grew closer with being able to connect with people, but it was interesting because I was not directly connecting with any of the afflicted people. from Ebola to multiple plane crashes to heightened strife in Palestine to raised awareness of the shooting of people of color by the police to mass shootings on university campuses. these are all big things that have happened this year in which have indirectly impacted me , but none the less have allowed me the opportunity to mourn and be connected with people in their struggle. I don’t like that the majority of our country in America does not care enough about these events. we just treat them as news headlines and something to say that is sad to. I do not like that reaction because these are human lives and we have the ability to connect and mourn with afflicted people and share compassion.

many of these things are in the past for me, but our responsibility with knowing the past Is to remember it and learn from it. with knowledge comes great power and with great power is great responsibility. the past is something that shapes the present and future, so with that I will look forward to this upcoming year with great anticipation. this past year was flat , so I look forward to making this next year more adventurous and dedicated to serving. earlier this year I announced that I have started something called the 123 in the 4.5, which is a list of things that I would like to accomplish in the next 4.5 years. this list is comprised of things that I think are life giving for me and the people involved, so in this next year I am going to focus on finding the abundant life, the life that gives life. I will be announcing many big projects and dive deeper into the journey of life, this journey of restoration that I am on. In addition to this yearend review I will be doing a yearly update letter, which is more of a recap and an update of what I have been up too. If you would like to be added to that leave a comment here or send me an email at b.b.mclowe@gmail.com