‘Stinking Thinking’

Terry Walton



I Was Thinking…

The people of the Atlanta-Marietta District are wonderfully gracious in so many ways.  I love it when they share with me a good movie, good book or good play they recently found insightful and/or inspiring.  One book recently recommended is entitled God, Improv, and The Art of Living by MaryAnn McKibben Dana.  I have enjoyed reading this fascinating book on improvisation.  “We’re all improvisers”, says Dana, “whether we realize it or not.” 

Dana writes “…life hands us our share of disappointments, failures, and dashed dreams.  Sheryl Sandberg, an executive at Facebook, whose husband suddenly died while they were on family vacation, leaving her a widow with two small children at home recently told an audience, “It is the hard days—the times that challenge you to your very core—that will determine who you are.  You will be defined not just by what you achieve, but how you survive.”

When the unexpected happens, our reaction is often compounded by a sense of shock...  Such a shock is unsettling, and it can lead us to facile explanations about God’s plan.  Everything happens for a reason, we tell ourselves; we just don’t know what it is.

I don’t believe our defeats and tragedies are by God’s design.  They’re by-products of randomness, human frailty, and free will that make up the world we live in.  But even if there were a plan, what would it matter?  At every moment, the question is, ‘Now what?’  ‘What’s our next move?’  An improvising God calls us to see what we can see—the situation right in front of us, no matter how surprising, annoying, or downright deplorable—and find the best ‘Yes-And’ possible.” (Pp.79-80)

I think MaryAnn McKibben Dana is helping us see a very important truth.  I have often felt it important to get our thinking correct.  How we think about God is important because that affects how we live (or don’t live) for God.  How we live (or don’t live) for God is important because it influences how others think about God.

At a child’s funeral one well intended person told the grieving parents “It was God’s plan.  God needed another angel”.  Would you want to follow a God who kills children out of a selfish reason of need for another heavenly messenger?  I know I wouldn’t.

There is a lot of ‘stinking thinking’ in our world.  Some of that odorous thinking is clothed in what I call ‘God-speak’.  This is why our worship life, spiritual disciplines and accountable Bible study is so very important.  Without regular worship, spiritual disciplines being practiced and healthy Bible study being experienced, we are destined to end up in a cesspool of unhealthy belief systems and unhealthy living.

As we settle back into the routine of school and lean into fall, it is a great time to evaluate our spiritual habits.  Life is real.  The truth is that we don’t prepare for the unexpected after it happens.  We prepare for life as we live and journey with God.  Then whatever happens…Emmanuel!

 Always Thinking…


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