Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Risk of Following

I’m in the bookstore at Laity Lodge, near Kerrville, Texas. I’m here for a retreat, with a cross-discipline group of people who have come together to talk about work, faith, leadership, mental health, art, music, and digital media. An eclectic mix, to be sure, but there is a common thread: we share the thread of faith and a desire to live it in the world.

The bookstore is small, a quiet place. There are some fiction and poetry on the shelves – which my eye seeks first – but most of the books are about faith, devotions, prayer, theology and philosophy – matched to the themes that the lodge and the rugged Texas Hill Country inspire. You see names like C.S. Lewis, Eugene Peterson, Frederick Buechner, Madeleine L’Engle.

And the poet Luci Shaw. I pull a slim volume with her name on it from the shelf; I’ve read her poetry, and enjoyed it, but this isn’t about poetry. The title is The Crime of Living Cautiously: Hearing God’s Call to Adventure. At first I think it’s about leadership, but it turns out to be about how to live a life of faith.

Indirectly, though, it is about leading and following – following Christ and following the leading of Christ. Shaw uses the prism of her own outdoor adventures to examine why she considers living cautiously a crime. And her experiences include bungee jumping, a rowing expedition, a week’s sailing with a woman friend. She enjoys adventures with excitement and a thrill of fear and risk.

Without explicitly saying so, Shaw seems to say we tend to follow Jesus in a rather safe, orderly and secure way, but that we should be following him in order to dare, to risk, in order to truly live. Her physical risks stand as a kind of statement of faith and exhilarating test of self.

Physical outdoor risk (like bungee jumping) are less important to me; here at Laity Lodge, the closest I will get to risk are a hike (mostly upward) and the two scorpion traps in my guest room (for the record, I never see a scorpion on this visit; I’ve seen them before, however).

But I understand what Shaw says; my own sense of exhilaration comes (tinged with risk and fear) have come from taking career risks – risking everything to do something new, something important, something that changes the status quo, something that leaves people (especially me) never the same again.

I’ve taken career risks in two large areas. One is writing a series of corporate speeches that branded me inside the company as a “radical” but which permanently changed the company and the industry. The second is the area that I represent at this retreat – digital media. Interestingly enough, I’m not here to represent what I do at The High Calling (part of the same organization as Laity Lodge); I’m here because of what I do at work, and what I’ve done.

I look back and some of these career risks and smile, but I remind myself that, in their time and context, they threatened and upended the status quo, and there was always opposition, sometimes rather ferocious. An email newsletter for employees (it sound quaint in 2013 but in 1993 it was a revolution that I fought people for months to do and then realized I could do it without permission). Another battle: a corporate web site (“Waste your money if you want to, the web is like 8-track tapes. The future is Lotus Notes”). Then blogs. And then social media.

Did I succeed every time? Yes. And no. Sometimes, perhaps most of the time, a cost was paid. When people have a vested interest in the status quo, they don’t take change lightly.

But this is what happens trying to live a life of faith. Jesus is not status quo; what was status quo was sin, and he came to upend it as only he could do. To follow him, as Shaw explains in her book, is to live a life of risk, daring and adventure.

I buy The Crime of Living Cautiously. It turns out to be well-paired with another book I’m reading, David Platt’s Follow Me. It also turns out that Shaw wrote a considerable portion of the book right here at Laity Lodge.

Follow him and change the human heart, starting with your own. And then change the world.

Over at Faith Barista, Bonnie Gray is writing about “follow.” To see her post and those of others, please visit her site.


Maureen said...

How lovely to discover Shaw wrote some of the book at Laity Lodge. Clearly, that place inspires.

SimplyDarlene said...

iLike the cover of the book a lot... thank you for the review, too.


Sandra Heska King said...

Trying to imagine Luci bungee jumping. I signed up for the Be Brave activities at Deidra's retreat:

Optional Add-on: “Be Brave” Activities (individual challenge course, including zip line – because sometimes fear is the biggest thing standing between you and your dream)

I'm a little nervous, but if Luci says it's okay...

Anonymous said...

I love how you challenge the status quo not just to do it, but for real purpose. I want to be that type of person too in whatever area God leads. Thanks Glynn.

Anonymous said...

I feel i have linked with a few of the 'people' that have been linked, in some way, like you, to the laity lodge/high calling.

it just came about through blogging. and though i am not connected to the laity organization, i really like some of the people that are.

laity lodge truly is a nice place to visit. it has been made a comfortable place in sparse hill country beauty. and beyond that, the staff is made up of friendly and caring people.

it was a gift to myself, in october of last year, to visit for my birthday. it was an adventure. Going somewhere, where i did not know anyone, staying with room mate that i didn't know, etc.

Luci makes a good point in saying that a life faith in Jesus and living a live of the Holy Spirit really can be seen as realizing that is what life truly other words, we really do want to give our life over to flinging ourself into His arms, even though, our nature is to maintain control, to want this life to be our own. We fear the losing of our life...and actually lose it in trying to keep it.

Okay...I'm done blabbing.

Ann Kroeker said...

I'm appreciating your stories here, Glynn, and the fact that not all risks--perhaps not even the most daring risks--are physically demanding. I think, depending on personality, a person might need to take more social risks, even emotional. Someone recently advised me to try to get more in touch with my emotions because I approach all of life's problems and past from an intellectual standpoint, thinking things through, instead of letting myself feel deeply. This may be one of the most important risks I could take.

Besides, I am just about to complete several months of physical therapy for my back, and I don't think my PT would approve of me announcing I'm going skydiving or bungee-jumping. Then again, maybe that's how I can keep him in business? :)

Laura said...

It sounds like the PERFECT companion to Follow Me, Glynn. I'm so glad you've shared about it here. A lovely introduction.

Renee said...

Sounds like a god book and the reminder that when we follow Jesus, life is an adventure!

Anonymous said...

Timing is a funny thing. I just finished reading Shaw's book a few days ago and loved it. The idea that the life of faith is one of risk and daring rings true to me. I suppose it becomes an adventure, when we really do choose to walk in faith.

I appreciate what you do at The High Calling, Glynn. Thank you so much. Blessings.

David Rupert said...

"The Future is Lotus Notes" -- gosh, that brings back memories.

I've been on an adventure kick lately too. I dont' know if I would call myself a radical, but I do want to see, and do, and experience life.

A couple of days ago I wrote about the dog who always wants to be on the other side of the door -- because that's where the adventure lies.

There's a danger -- because too much malcontent can lead to sin. But there is a sin in being content in our own circumstance.

And I think we are by nature discontent, because this earth is not our home