Conversations With Life

a blog by Matthew J. Burch

Conversations about Why? (Part 1)

Often, when I am listening to a client share about their life, they are typically elaborating on some monstrosity that has created such pain and difficulty. They are in anguish,  confusion, and disorientation. What I find  true is that the most common question that surfaces is Why?  Why did this or that happen? What did I do to deserve this? Why am I the one to go through this difficulty? Whether it is loss, divorce, physical, illness, an accident, or even near death, the universal question that follows is: Why did this happen?

How do you answer  this question? What do you say to yourself when bad things happen and seemingly you have done nothing to cause the event? Or maybe you have contributed somehow, but certainly not to  the degree of consequences that you are experiencing. We struggle for a rationale. We struggle for answers. Sometimes we just simply want the dots to connect.

Why won’t the dots connect? What is it about life that allows for these times of hurt, or such disorientation? All of us have heard or perhaps said, “just gotta pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” Is that what we need to do or is that what we are conditioning ourselves to do? Sometimes life is just perplexing. It does not make sense nor does it remedy our current circumstances. The “so what” question then is, so…what does this mean? Does it have to mean something at all? Maybe life simply does not make sense. If that is true then at times we are living senseless lives. Or are we?

This indeed is a conversation of life that warrants a great deal of reflection and understanding because how we answer this question decides two very divergent paths that will follow. Either life is fatalistic and remains periodically senseless or everything possesses a reference point that can create something that contains ingredients of life.  How do you see it? How do you have conversations about why?

 

Photos courtesy of  Flickr Caitlin Marie & WorshipHim 24 7

Conversations of Courage

In amazement, I find myself moved by the conversations that I am privileged to share with people who are attempting to “connect the dots” of past and present experiences in their lives. Not only are these conversations earnestly seeking for truth, they are conversations that draw upon courage. I classify these interactions as “Conversations of Courage.”

These are not average conversations where common rhetoric or talk are merely exchanged to convey information back and forth. I am talking about the type of conversations that require vulnerability in the “guts” of a person and on a profound level make a decision to no longer hide from the truth of an experience.

I suppose a story or example would help illustrate what I am trying to convey. Perhaps in future blogs I will submit one for your perusal. For now, I wish to explain what I am trying to say first.

A choice must be made for “life” to continue. Courage is revealed when the vulnerability of a person’s situation evokes transparency and decision-making. Another way of saying this comes from author Gerald May, “A person must learn to become willing rather than wilful.”  Willingness actually leads to a more open space available for transformation. Wilfulness has within its make-up the attitude of being closed to secure a more immediate and self-focused aspect of interest. Willingness creates an attitude open to learning and growing. Wilfulness postures control and possible dominance where inwardly there is insecurity and fear.

For a time, the late Joe Batten from Des Moines, Iowa was my mentor and friend. He gave me an illustration that spoke to this point of willingness versus wilfulness. He would say, “Matthew what material is stronger,  leather or granite?” Naturally, like many who answered this question, I would say, “granite.” He would go on to state, “If you were to take a hammer and hit a piece of granite it would shatter. If you do the same with leather it dimples and still holds its shape.” The point: leather is actually a stronger material because it is flexible and open to change. In the scheme of life, leather is better.

Courageous conversations, I have found are: open and flexible. They require something of us, include vulnerability, and promote the refreshment of an other’s impact to develop and change who we are capable of becoming.”

I challenge you; be willing to have a conversation of courage. Take note whether you grow and develop as a result of your conversation.

Photos courtesy WordPress, Flickr, stephenK1977 & maxcady808

Conversation with Life is Ultimately a Conversation with God!

For those of you who know me, it does not require any boldness on my part to write the following:

 “You stir us to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”  Augustine

Why have I begun this post with such a bold proclamation as stated by Augustine? I believe that ultimately a conversation with life is a conversation with God! God is life. Where we enter into life represents itself as a conversation. There are many entry points.  Usually, we are entering at a point of pragmatics, survival needs, getting the job done, or simply self-service and maintenance. Other times, the conversation may be tasks and accomplishments, or goals and objectives. Eventually, our conversation with life presses into purpose, values, reasons for being, and understanding our own personal identity and the identitiy of the author of life. This is a much deeper conversation that requires who we are to be receptive to all the authoring that has developed up to that point in our life. That is why I call it the ultimate conversation of life.

When I was in my teens, I had such a conversation. I met my author, his name is Jesus. We have a relationship that as a mentee, I am continuously learning. I invite you to continue reading my blog. I welcome your comments and questions that you may have as you listen to the various blogs that speak to leading you life in an age of opportunity and challenge.

Finally, another quote from Augustine: 

 But the abyss of the human conscience lies naked to your eyes, O Lord, so would anything be secret even if I were unwilling to confess to you? I would be hiding you from myself, but not myself from you.”

We have this incredible ability to think that we are hidden from God. Conversely, we are really hiding ourselves from Him. Conversations with life is an invitation to knowing and being known by another and by Him.

Photos courtesy of www.crossroadsinitiative.com & www.wordpress.com

Conversations of The Heart

This past weekend I was with a few men at a lake house. All of us were there for a single purpose-to complete construction on  a basement of a newly constructed home. While our focus was concentrated on framing, running wire, installing insulation, hanging drywall and such, there seemed to be a conversation that paralleled our efforts that accomplished a greater purpose:  We  connected through conversations that sought out the heart. What do I mean by heart?

In the Hebrew language, when using the term heart in the Old Testament it means the intersection of the mind, emotion, body, spirit, and will. Questions amidst the “construction” were seeking to know and understand each other as men on a deeper level. Ripping boards with a skilsaw, driving 16 penny nails with hammers, and running hundreds of feet of Romex was surrounded by intermittent questions that were seeking  to know and understand each other as men. Everyone seemed to take part. It became the attitude of work and our time together. I noticed three qualities of masculinity that surfaced throughout the weekend:

  • Men are passionate 
  • Men are determined
  • Men are devoted

I appreciated the conversations and found that men have so much to offer each other. The wish to fulfill and carry out goals, get the job done, and create the connection while working was rich and satisfying. Thank you men for your masculinity that created conversations of the heart.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and BUF Shots

Conversations that Create

Once again, I was blessed to have another engaging conversation of depth and discovery. I was traveling with a friend to meet with a consultant who shared some mutual interests. Of course, as we drove to our destination, we conversed. What I realized was the incredible enjoyment of our interaction and the manner in which it helps each of us create something new.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, What is Your Conversation With Life, we were not simply talking. We were actually creating as the conversation was happening. I found that our conversation included these qualities:

  • conversation is creative
  • conversation is life-giving
  • conversation grants permission for uniqueness and expression
  • conversation promotes authenticity
  • conversation helps us to understand and move towards wholeness
  • conversations teach us how to listen
  • conversation lends itself to discovering “the other as a true other”
  • conversation deepens intimacy (knowing of self and another)
  • conversation invites God to be involved

In future blogs, I am sure that I will be elaborating on these qualities that lifted from my conversation with a special friend. This was my conversation with life and I was sensitized to the beauty of giving consent to the conversation. What are your conversations creating today? Have you reflected much on the qualities that seem to emerge from your conversations? I encourage you to continue to deepen your Conversation with Life!

Conversation Tills the Soil of Our Hearts

When I moved in 1993 to Iowa from Southern California I was enthusiastic to explore my environment and learn about all the various aspects of Iowa’s terrain and geography. One of many unique characteristics of Iowa has to do with the soil.

Iowa has the some of the best soil in the heartland to grow crops. The black soil is rich with nutrients and humus, therefore providing a fertile beginning for seeds that are planted to develop and grow. As a farmer works with the soil by fertilizing, tilling, and managing water, the crops will then produce a greater yield during harvest time in the fall. By neglecting the soil and not tending it, hardpan results. Hardpan is a 3-6 inch layer of hard, crusty, clay that does not let moisture to penetrate nor does it allow nutrients or humus to get into the soil. This phenomenon develops simply by ignoring the soil while continuing to plant crops. Eventually the ground becomes very hard. Consequently, the only “crop” that does grow and flourish are weeds.

These are interesting facts about soil in Iowa’s heartland. I think there is a principle worth learning: “The quality of the soil determines the crop that grows.” What is the point?  

Is it possible that our conversations with each other are similar to a farmer caring for and managing soil? Do our conversations creatively till the inward places in our humanity that make provision for a greater yield? I believe “Conversation Tills the Soil of Our Hearts!”  Conversation, not simply talking, has its transforming effects to turn over, make rich in nutrients and minerals, manage barrenness and dry places, the soil of our hearts.

What if we realized that the degree of quality of our conversations we experience cultivates the type of heart soil and permits seeds of life, love, and living to take shape and form in our center. Would we engage more deeply with each other? Would we attempt to increase our number of conversations with each other? I invite you to reply by sharing with me your conversation about these thoughts.

Conversation or Condemnation

We all have an inner conversation that is taking place whether we are aware of it or not. Some call this conversation “self-talk” some simply say, “I was thinking about…” I tend to call it our inner conversation.

The other day I was having a conversation with a woman. She was sharing with me the events of her day, her thoughts, feelings and opinions about all of it. The conversation was flowing quite well until she began to feel  bad about something that she had done. Automatically, she entered into this self-loathing, disdainful attitude toward herself and the conversation was over.

Her conversation ended with me but also with herself. I found her shutting down, unable to process, and grappling with words to rescue herself from what appeared a pain producing experience. What happened? Where did she suddenly go? One minute she was present and available, the next she was absent. Here is what I discovered.

There is a vast difference between  conversation and condemnation. Conversation is interactive, dynamic, engaging, and full of life. Conversation creates wonder and curiosity. Condemnation produces judgement, guilt, hurt, and deathlike features. Where conversation opens, condemnation closes. Conversation permits the opportunity for growth and discovery, condemnation ends all learning, avoids possibility thinking, and leaves a person in the ruins of  feeling inadequate.

As you reflect, ask yourself, Are you having a conversation? Is it leading to discovery and growth? Are you entering into condemnation, therefore closing opportunities to learn? Conversation or Condemnation, that is the question!

Keep the Conversation Going!

How ironic. It has been weeks since I have contributed an entry and I entitle this post, “Keep the Conversation Going.” What happens when we stop the conversation with life?

I was speaking with a client who was experiencing numerous unsolicited events in her life that were causing pain, confusion, and disorientation. She mentioned how all she wanted to do was to simply check out until it all had passed. Her statements were what many of us say to ourselves when we feel overwhelmed, buried, and burdened with events in life that seem to affect our lives in a personal way.

Before I share how I responded to her I would like to mention an observation of four key “attitudes” or “postures” that seem to indicate that she was indeed “checking out.” They are:

  1. disillusionment
  2. disengagement
  3. apathy
  4. lostness

These four qualities are indicators that there was no longer a conversation with the life. In turn, what had replaced her motivation to live life and stay engaged was a detached experience from life that was eroding her ability to actullay live life. Her conversation had ended! She was falling into the abyss of the absence of conversation.

What is the message? I responded with, of course, sensitivity to all of the variables that were certainly affecting her, but more importantly, I responded with this, “What type of conversation are you needing from me?” Interestingly enough, she became engaged, thoughtful, and began describing what she was needing from my participation with her. At that moment, I knew she re-entered “the conversation.” She began to become more animated, engaged, and ended up bring doses of resolution to her circumstances. Life lesson: Stay engaged with the Conversation that is affecting your life whether painful or pleasureable, rainy or sunshine, that is in part how you find your way back to life!

What is Your Conversation with Life?

If someone were to ask you, “What is your conversation with life?” What would you say? Your answer might be, “Oh, uh, my conversation now is with you, what do you mean?” Or they may refer to conversation meaning to talk. Well, as I mentioned earlier, all of us are having a conversation with life. Every waking moment, thought, feeling, relational engagement, or circumstance is in fact a conversation with life.

Conversation comes from the Latin ‘convertere’ which means to turn around or transform. It was a compound verb formed from the prefix ‘com’, and ‘vertere’, to turn. From the Latin ‘vertere’ originated a specialized form ‘vertare’ denoting repeated action. From it came  ‘versari’ and then developed to eventually produce‘conversari’ which means to dwell, live, associate or communicate with others. Conversation got passed from ‘converser’ (French) into English and suggests the notion of dwelling and social life. Conversation never meant ‘to talk’ until the late 16th century.

Why all of this root word analysis? I think it is important to note that the word conversation originally meant something much different from how we define it today. Conversation originally meant to transform or to turn around. It meant to dwell or associate. Imagine if more often we realized that our conversations have the influence and power to change. How would we handle our conversations knowing that they are a catalyst to literally transform others or to be transformed? So… what is your Conversation with Life and how is it offering you and others a place of dwelling?

Conversations with Life!

What a privilege it has been for the past 20 years to engage in a profession where I have conversations all day long. Yes… you heard right! My daily hours offer me opportunities to enter into peoples’ lives on a very profound level, to partner with them in their own personal conversation with life. Sometimes there are conversations filled with wonder, curiosity, and expectation for the fulness of life to abound. Then, there are moments where the conversation seems to descend into the brokennness and shadows side of life.

What I have found is that life is a gift, a gift that keeps on giving. When we are aware of our own life, we are able to receive the gift. When we are numb to our own life we lose or miss the moment and the gift.

By trade I am a Marriage and Family, Child Therapist and then more recently have developed some skills and services in business consulting and coaching. I realize that life is an ongoing combination of various conversations that ebb and flow with our personal understanding of life in that given moment.

Conversations with Life is a blog that journeys deep into the heart and soul of life. Life leadership is an inner conversation with your center as the external circumstances beg for a response. My hope is to engender a deeper awareness and appreciation for life to be lived one conversation at a time. I am eager and look forward to the conversation.