Showing posts with label unity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label unity. Show all posts

Thursday

Why Jesus Turned James & John Down


James and John wanted to sit at Jesus’ side in glory. They wanted to be close (and, given the context, they wanted to be big shots).

[They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.”][Mark 10]

Jesus said No.

Curiously, he wasn’t saying “No” to the desire to be a big shot. In the next breath, he shows them how to aspire to greatness appropriately. [Mark 10:42-45]

I’m thinking that Jesus said No because sitting on his right and left was too far away for his preferences. That means they’re separated, that means there’s (a little) distance between him and them.

He didn’t want them to be separate from him, even if they’re right next to him. He wanted them united in him [John 14:20, 15:4, 17:21]. He didn’t want them seated on the throne right next to his. He wanted them – just like he wants you and me – right there on his throne with him, in him [Ephesians 1:20]

So go ahead and aspire to greatness. Go ahead and aspire to “become great,” as Jesus encourages.

Just do it his way. Just do it from your place IN him. Don’t aspire to be separated, next to him. You are in him! Go with that! It’s way better than “next to”!


Too Much Talking. Not Enough Listening.

I need to speak (again) about things that I lack expertise on, and therefore about things wherein I am NOT an expert. This isn't so much about the issue, as it is about the process of addressing the issue. 

Recently, I posted about a revival I’m beginning to see in the homosexual community. One of the things that makes this subject hard to sort through (and yes, it happens on many other subjects as well) is that both sides are talking at the other, and neither side is trying to listen: it's polarizing an issue that doesn't need to be polarized, or not so much as it is getting. 

In that article (http://nwp.link/1A6zNVd), I attempted to avoid taking sides, because I’m trying to propose a better response: we need to love one another.

It's really interesting when I chose to step outside of the polarization, and declined to take one side or the other in this controversial topic. First, it's really hard to see the actual issues clearly through all the rhetoric. And second, when I declare myself (as I attempted to do with that article) as not on either side, then I get passionate emails from both sides, saying, "This is what I believe, and it's true!"

I received a pretty large number of messages of this sort from “both sides” of the issue, and they all pretty much assumed the same conclusion: “I’m right, so you must agree with me!” inferring, of course that “Anybody who sees this differently is deceived!” I was honored to be approached by both sides. I was disappointed that most of those approaches were attempts to convert me.

I deduce that since the two groups – both declaring that their viewpoint is true! – are declaring what are sometimes mutually exclusive opinions, it is conclusive that there is a measure of deception involved. And the odds are – as we are dealing with humans, here – that there is deception in both camps. (And the guys like me that are trying to stay out of either group – by virtue of our humanity – are NO less prone to imperfection than anyone else.) 

I've been walking with God and with his people for more than half a century, and one thing I've learned is that when everybody's insisting that they're right and the other guy is wrong, that’s not an environment where we can find a common ground. It's only when we quit telling others what they must believe, and start listening to what they DO believe, that we have any chance at all at finding a small place where we agree that we can start building some relationship. Besides, me telling you what you must believe is clearly not loving you. 

So here’s a challenge: if you have an opinion about the subject of Gay Christians, I challenge you to shut your mouth and listen to the other guys. I don’t care if you’ve got eleventeen Bible verses that conclusively prove that you’re right and they’re wrong, I maintain that shouting at someone about their wrongness will never encourage them to hear you, and that’s what we want: people actually hearing each other.

So I encourage us to stop talking on this topic, and listen to someone else’s point of view. And after you’ve listened, make sure you’ve heard them right (“I think I heard you say this… did I hear right?”) because we’re not used to hearing real people: we’re used to hearing out-of-context sound bites that our own side uses to prove the point you already believe. Both sides do this, and it’s normal. It’s also messed up.

After you’ve tested what you’ve heard, and you know you’ve heard them right, then still keep your mouth closed, and think about what they’ve said. Consider their heart. Consider the wounds they’ve endured from you and your friends (this has happened on both sides!). Consider that God loves them every bit as much as he loves you! And maybe, if you dare, consider asking God what HE thinks and how HE feels about those people who don’t agree with you. (If you can do this in less than a week, you haven’t done a good job.)

And one final challenge: Consider not telling others what you believe, until and unless someone has asked for your opinion. Then go out of your way to not alienate others. 

This is a place where Saint Francis’s sage advice is priceless: “Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.” In other words, once you’ve demonstrated the good news of the gospel, once you’ve loved until it cost you more than you wanted to pay, once it’s become necessary (ie, they’ve asked), then consider the gentlest, most loving way to share how God has led you. And then listen some more.

I guarantee that Westboro Baptist won’t find you acceptable in this. And I guarantee you won’t get a smidgeon of support from the mainstream media: they both thrive on controversy, but controversy isn't actually our goal. 

But you'll hear Fathers heart better. And maybe you’ll make your Father (who loves both of you) smile.

And his smile is ALWAYS worth the price! Always.


When God Moves From Singular to Plural

I’ve been meditating on the nouns of Genesis One. All of them are about God, of course, and for most of the creation process, all of them are singular: God said this. God did that. God said that it was good. Rinse and repeat.

Everything He makes has a counterpart. Day has night. Sun has the moon. Ocean has land. Every creature is part of its own species, according to its kind.

And then it changed. On the afternoon of the sixth day, suddenly God changes how He’s doing his creating, and when God changes something, I want to pay attention. I want to learn.

Suddenly, God moves from singular to plural, and He changes so completely that He did the plural thing twice in the same day!

The first plural is about him: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness….’” Now, for the first time, God does something as an “Us!”

Up until this point, it’s just been “creation as usual.” Make a planet. Check. Make some oceans. Check. Make some plants and animals. Check, check.

But suddenly, it’s like God steps up, He gathers His Trinity about him, and now He is fully present: “Let Us do this. Let Us make something to be the counterpart of Us!” This will be His masterpiece.

And God, in His fullness, created his masterpiece, and that masterpiece is another Plural Thing, and it was us! You and me! The first words with which God describes humanity are plural! “These are the one ones made in Our image. Let them have dominion ….”

God did all the rest of creation as a “He,” but when it came time to make humanity, He says, “Let Us do this.” And the product of that creativity is not a thing, and it's not a species, it’s a race of individuals. It’s a community of humanity to whom He gives authority.

He made us so uniquely that the angels watched us curiously. What a thing He has done. A race, a community. Made in His image. Carrying His authority. Us.

The Symphony

I enjoy classical music. More than any other kind of music, the composers of great classical music wove melodies and harmonies together, often mixing layer upon layer of different music, weaving it together into a glorious piece. The fact that some, like Beethoven, couldn’t hear what they were composing overwhelms me.

You couldn’t ever play a symphony on a single instrument. Which melody would you play? They’re all woven together, each instrument taking our turn at the forefront, taking a turn in the background. When they’re all playing the symphony together, the result is glorious!

“Symphony” is an interesting word. It’s actually a Greek word that’s so unique that we don’t translate it, we just use English letters to pronounce it with.

The Greek word συμφωνω (“symphōneō “) means “to agree together,” or “to agree with one in making a bargain, to make an agreement, to bargain.” Our working together – not all doing the same thing, but working, each in our own way, toward the same end – is a symphony.  

Our word συμφωνω is the heart of Jesus’ declaration in Matthew 18:19: “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.” This is a symphony.

I suppose that there are a few things that stand out to me in this:

§         Our “agreeing together” makes beautiful music in heaven. I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that it makes Jesus really happy.

§         This isn’t about numbers. He doesn’t say anything about “If you gather all the Christians in the city….” The symphony begins with “two of you.” I think we miss this one sometimes.

§         Our “agreeing together” isn’t about us doing stuff in unison. If every instrument played the same line, the only variation would be when someone missed the note, and it would sound like a junior high school band concert. There is nothing beautiful in the “symphony” produced that way, except that little Johnny is actually playing something; I sure wish he’d practiced his part.

I think we’ve missed this one sometimes as well. I’ve been browbeaten in the name of “unity” to do the thing that the browbeater is doing, in the way the browbeater is doing it, rather than playing my own part on my own instrument. I’m not sure that browbeating someone into submission is the best method of achieving beautiful music. I grieve that we’ve done that.

§         Our “agreeing together” is powerful. That symphony moves Father’s hand to do “any thing” (“each, every, any, all, the whole, everyone, all things, everything”) that we agree about. This is some of the beauty of the symphony, I think: actually seeing “on earth as it is in Heaven” happening, and us getting to take part in it.

The fact that we don’t see as much of Father’s hand being moved by unit may be a good clue: maybe the way we’ve been striving for unit isn’t the most effective way.

I suspect that we’ll accomplish the symphony of unity much better if we’re all playing the music that our great Conductor places before us: following the Conductor will be more symphonic than following another musician, no matter how good they are. The trombonist will never make beautiful music if he’s trying to play the timpani’s part. Or the piccolo’s part. Or the violin’s part.

More to the point, the trombonist will never be judged for how well he played the second violin’s part. His only reward will come from how well the trombone part came out when it was called upon.

My encouragement is for us to look to the Holy Spirit for the part you’re to play in this whole symphony, not to human leaders. We must fellowship together, yes. We can learn from each other, of course. We do well to “encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.”

Don’t follow the leader of the brass section just because he’s loud. Learn to play your own instrument, your own calling, your own gifting. And having begun, follow the Holy Spirit who’s conducting this symphony.

Friday

Christians on the InterWebs

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen it happen, but you probably have seen it as many times as I have: someone, somewhere – let’s call him Henry – posts an opinion online. Fine. All is well and good.

Then some fundamentalist Christian sees that post! Far too often, the Christian ignores the heart of what they said, but finds some little detail that they don’t agree with, and they tell them why they’re so wrong. Others join in, and soon we have a feeding frenzy, rapid-fire accusations of all kinds of nasty things, all on account of a detail.

• We are on Facebook, not in theology class. The requirement of rigorously defending one's theology is different in a social environment, such as Facebook, than in an educational environment. I will not demand that someone quote chapter and verse, listing supporting papers for their position, while we're sitting at a dinner table among friends who have no idea what we're talking about.

• Some among us are teachers, and as such, they have a standard that we must live up to. Most people online are not teachers, though their post sounds a little like they’re trying to teach. I will not hold him to the same standard that I hold teachers to. The James 3:1 kind of thing. We don’t hold kids just learning to hear God’s voice to the same standard we hold a mature prophet, do we?

• I do not have my theology perfect. I don't know where it's wrong, and I work hard at correcting it where I find errors. But I am aware that I don't completely agree with ANYone's theology, including my own. Let’s quit arguing about insignificant theology. Who cares if it reminds you of some hated heresy of the past? That’s not the point of their post! Get over it! Move on!

• I tend to agree with John G Lake, when he said, "It is a law of the human mind that I can act myself into believing faster than I can believe myself into acting." In similar spirit, I have concluded that it is FAR, FAR more important to get young Christians out doing stuff, expanding the Kingdom, doing something, anything, even (hear me carefully) even if it's wrong, than it is to sit them down behind a desk and make others learn theology. For example: I would really rather deal with someone who had just raised my dead friend back to life, but was confused about Ananias & Sapphira, than I would deal with a young buck who had just gotten his MDiv and was looking for a church to pastor, but as yet has not really done anything.

• Likewise: I'm far more interested in the fruit that comes from a your life than I am the doctrinal correctness that comes from your teaching. That is NOT to say that good doctrine is unimportant: it IS to say that good doctrine is not preeminent over living out that truth which we already know.

• Authority to teach comes from God. But my authority to teach YOU comes from YOU and nobody else. If Tyler has not invited you or me to speak into his life, but we go ahead and speak into it, then he would be correct to label us as nosy busybodies or worse. If you were on your way to buy a dozen red roses for your sweetheart, and someone jumped in your face, blocked your way, and proceeded to tell you why America made a mistake to abandon the gold standard for its currency, what you can do about it, and why you needed to deal with it •right•this•minute•, it is likely that you would have difficulty receiving that data, and it is likely that anything that that person ever told you would be colored by that encounter. Let’s not be that person.

Brothers and sisters, please hear me. Unity isn’t about everybody agreeing with your personal pet doctrines. In fact, unity is not about doctrine at all. Unity is about us all having one father, and a very good heavenly one, and trusting each other to follow Him. Agreeing isn’t part of that equation, and agreeing with YOU is completely off the topic. If I’m following the same Father you are, then eventually, we’ll get to the place where you and I see the main things through His eyes, and we see the peripheral things through our individual assignments. We probably won’t ever agree on the details.

I am not saying that doctrine doesn’t matter. I’m saying people matter more.

Wednesday

An Underground Gathering

My information said that the meeting started at two o’clock or so, but I didn’t have the chance to get there for a couple more hours. Besides, I wasn’t sure about it, so I wanted to arrive after they were well under way.

By the time four o’clock rolled around, I was quite lost in the county roads trying to find the place: It was already dark, and I was looking for an old barn, maybe half a mile from the nearest paved road so finding it was no easy task. I backtracked, tried the turnoff that I’d passed by a couple of miles back, saw another truck pulling into a dirt road, and headed down the same way. The road ended at a place that was obviously not what I was looking for, but we turned off just before that, wound around some sharp corners, and emerged into a field full of parked cars surrounding a barn, looking in the dark like a flock of baby chicks around their mother hen. Out of the barn came the sound I was expecting, the sound I was looking for. When I heard it, I realized how much I’d been longing for it.

I parked my truck and walked through the parked vehicles towards the barn; I noticed some older SUVs, some fancy new cars; the variety caught my attention. There were a handful of other folks arriving, and we said very little as we approached the barn: words weren’t actually necessary. This was also the sound that they were looking for; their faces showed the same sense of expectation that I was feeling.

We slid the door open, and the sound washed over us. It was palpable, nearly physical, though it wasn’t all that loud. Inside were maybe a hundred people. Twenty or thirty of them were playing instruments, men and women, black, white and others, young and old. The instruments were equally diverse: guitars, keyboards, drums from America, from Africa, from Ireland, from Asia, from places I'd never heard of. Even a didgeridoo from Australia, wired into the sound system. There were young kids playing drums and rhythm instruments. Most of the sound came from the instruments and from the several people singing into microphones. There was a basic sound system set up, but it was obvious that this was no show.

Nobody but the handful that entered with me even knew that we had arrived. Maybe twenty people had their hands in the air, others were kneeling, still more were dancing or waving flags. Some were visiting together near the tables in the back, tables piled high with food and drink. Kids played on the dirt floor. They took nothing away from the music.

I worked my way to the back of the room. I was trying not to disturb the worshippers, but I needn’t have bothered: most of them were oblivious of my passage; those that were greeted me with the great bear hugs of old friends or the whole-hearted hugs of family; it didn’t seem to matter if they knew me before that day or not. The diversity of people struck me again: these were people from almost every imaginable background, age, race, socio-economic group, religious persuasion.

The music never took a breath. There were a couple of microphones set up where anybody could walk right up and sing along with the music; those mics were nearly always busy, with intricate harmonies and counterpoints accentuating songs that nobody had ever heard before. Before I realized it, four or five hours had passed.

There were a hundred people there, and people were coming and going throughout the night. But the audience had only One. His presence filled the room like birdsong in the spring, like a welcome home after a long journey. There were a hundred voices singing a hundred different songs, all blended into one glorious chorus, and our Audience roared back His approval.

This was worth getting lost in the backwoods county roads for. This was worth being part of.

Sunday

The Family of God

I am a man of many talents. I can be many things at once. Simultaneously, even.

I am a husband of the most wonderful woman who has ever walked this planet. At the same time, I am the father of three of the most amazing children of this generation. And while doing both of those, I am also the son of an awesome man and his awesome bride of nearly sixty years. It’s an honor to be related to them.

In other words, I’m part of a family. It’s an odd family, really, though I suppose most families can make a claim of that sort in one way or another. Ours is a very diverse bunch.

This Thanksgiving, we had – sitting side-by-side at the dinner table – the (successful) campaign manager for a very liberal politician and a (successful) football coach with unrepentantly conservative political views. We had passionate proponents of the social gospel sitting with evangelical bible thumpers and next to others whose credo is, “eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die!” and still others who preach that any road is a road to whatever god you want it to be.

When we gather for a meal, we share the responsibility for giving thanks. More than once, I’ve watched some folks cringe as others prayed; I’ve done it myself, and I’m quite certain that family members have cringed when it was my turn.

But none of that gets in our way of being family. Grandma and Grandpa are the matriarch and patriarch of this clan, and the clan knows it. They have knowingly raised a bunch of “rugged individualists,” and they’re not ashamed of it. In this family, if you’re family, you’re family! Deal with it. There is nothing you can do to revoke your family status. One of the family divorced his wife, but she’s still family. She comes to the campouts and the gatherings, and she’s well and truly loved.

We’re family because, whether by birth or by marriage, we all have the same father and mother. We don’t need to agree to certain conditions to be family. We don’t need to believe the right things, join the right groups, vote in a particular way. We’re family because we have the same father.

I have another family: the Family of God, sometimes known as The Church. In this family, we all have the same Father (though the mother part has me scratching my head). I’m part of that Family because I have Father God as my Father. In this case, I was adopted into this Family, but His commitment to me is no less than the commitment of my biological family.

Similarly, I don’t need to believe the right doctrines, follow the right traditions, hang out with the right people in order to be part of that Family. I’m family because I am a child of the same Dad as the rest of the Family.

I’m part of another family too, a third one. I’m part of a local fellowship of believers, a local church congregation.

I would suggest that the same rules apply in this family as in the other two: I am not a part of this family because I believe the right doctrines, follow the right traditions, hang out with the right people. I’m part of the family because the guy who leads us does a pretty darned good job of fulfilling the role of a father in our family. It’s odd, because he’s a young man, young enough to be my son, or the son of many of the leaders among this group. Yet it’s clear: he’s the father here.

He’s not a hireling, selected and contracted by some committee in order to fulfill the requirements of a job description. He’s a father among us because God has placed him in our midst and given him a fathering anointing. He’s a good leader, and he’s growing to be a better one, but that doesn’t change his calling as a father among us.

In the natural, biological realm, it’s not possible to be a father unless you’re a male, and your children – if you have any children, are younger than you by a fair bit, usually by decades. In the Spirit, there is no male nor female, that’s not an issue.

The other isn’t an issue either: I don’t need to be older than others who see me as a “father” in their lives. I usually am (partly because I’m older than most people I hang around with, I suppose), but that’s not required. Paul told Timothy that his youth didn’t disqualify him.

I have come to believe that families gather around fathers. Religion gathers around beliefs, doctrines.

This is a big deal because unity is a powerful thing in the Kingdom of God. But I guess we have forgotten that “unity” and “uniformity” are not the same thing.

If you and I have relationship because we’re in the same family, because we look to the same father, then there’s nothing you can do that has to separate us. But if you and I have relationship because we believe the same things, then when one of us does something as small as question a belief, then we can no longer maintain our relationship. One of us has to go.

That is not the way of the Kingdom. We don’t accept or reject people because they conform to the right beliefs, the right doctrines. We don’t cease to be family because someone hangs out with the “wrong sort” of people. Heck, Jesus was famous for that. Messed up the religious folk in his day too.

We're in the middle of the "Holiday Season," when families gather together. So let’s be family. Let’s not be religious. Let’s love each other because we have the same Father, not because (or if) we have the same beliefs.


Monday

The Gathering

Have you heard about the time that the forest animals gathered together? “We must have unity!” they declared, and began their meeting. The Head Bear, the Raccoon Patriarch and the King of the Elk stood before the Gathering and called them to attention.

The Patriarch of the Raccoons spoke first. He told stories of how the Prince of the Entire Forest had walked among their trails generations ago, and how He promised to return someday. “The time is approaching!” declared the raccoon. “We must prepare for His return! We must be united together for His sake!”
“But how can we be united? We’re so different!” cried a skunk in the second row, and the convocation burst into excited squabbling. How indeed could a group this diverse become united? “Learn to eat nuts!” the squirrels chattered. “Build dams!” cried the beavers. “You must eat bugs” chirped the swallows, and the objections of the spiders and bees were missed in the clamor. The otters just wanted to go play in the river, and the owls were lobbying that the meeting should be postponed until midnight.
It was clear that it was easier to call for unity than it was to get all the animals to agree on how to become united. The discussion went on late into the afternoon until one of the younger coyotes, who had had very little for breakfast that morning, accidentally ate the Vice-Chairman of Ways and Means for the Mouse Kingdom. He was instantly ashamed, but the damage was done. The rodent species began to leave, the young coyote was barking his apology, and a grey squirrel, not being fluent in the coyote language, misunderstood his intent and chattered an alarm, and then there was pandemonium.
Dozens of animals were left dead on the meadow that night as the moon came up over the trees. There were a number of bloody trails where wounded creatures escaped to the undergrowth.
Hope may not have died that day, but it was seriously wounded. Species didn’t trust each other after that event, and there was bickering within the groups about whose fault it was. The King of the Elk had young bucks lining up to challenge his right to lead the herd that fall. There was no more mention of the Prince of the Entire Forest coming to walk among them anymore.
I have been privileged to know a number of prophets and apostles over my lifetime. When they have gathered, have been seasons when we have acted like these animals: “Be like me!” one would shout at the others. The intent was sincere: “I’ve discovered this truth! You need to know it too!” For decades, probably for generations, prophets have devoured each other, apostles have snapped at those who don’t see as they see, and teachers have tried to make entire congregations into their image. Those gifted with mercy have been angry with those who don’t grieve over the hurts of others, and intercessors have withdrawn to hide in their caves.
Let me give you an example: Do we rest in God, under the shadow of His wings, or are we to pick up the weapons of our warfare which are not carnal and become the violent ones who take the Kingdom by force?
We know that truth, but we overlook it sometimes. We know that the answer is “Both,” and if someone asks us as clearly as I just have, we can see that. But in the busyness of our daily lives, our focus narrows, and we only remember the lessons that we have learned recently. I think that there must be a rule somewhere: if I’m learning one lesson, then some of the people closest to me are learning the opposite lesson at the same time.
Recently, I was at a gathering of a couple hundred apostles and prophets, and I saw some things beginning that I’ve waited decades to see: I saw gifted leaders recognizing each other’s differences, acknowledging them as strengths, rather than considering them as weaknesses.
The call was still for unity, but – unlike the animals in the meadow, and unlike so many previous gatherings that I’ve seen – there was no value placed on uniformity.
In the past, at least in my experience, the call for unity is usually associated with a cry for some common ground: a common theology, a common lifestyle, a common expression of ministry.
I don’t know if those common ground goals have ever worked to produce unity. If they have, I have not heard about it. I was part of a denomination for several years that codified their theological “distinctives” into their confession of faith: you couldn’t receive their credentials if you didn’t agree with every detail of that doctrine. Our quarterly gatherings were morose and divided; our annual gatherings were full of sharp disagreement and biting criticism. The intention was good, but there was no unity.
I would like to propose a change: instead of building unity around uniformity, rather we build our unity around fathers, around relationships rather than doctrines or practices. (Of course, when I speak of “fathers,” I’m not speaking only of men, just as “the Bride of Christ” is not limited to only women.)
I fellowship with other believers regularly. One of the things we have in common is that we look to some of the same people as “fathers” to our own spiritual lives and in the life of our gathered community. We don’t have common theology, these people I fellowship with; in fact, we have some significant differences of opinion, which I find to be invigorating, challenging, encouraging, because I know that they love me regardless of my doctrinal differences with them.
I’m getting used to people encouraging me to be who God has created me to be, rather than to be like themselves. The prophets among us are learning to walk without the limp. Intercessors are coming out of their caves. Apostles are rising up to lead, though many of them are scratching their heads wondering what their gift is supposed to lead them into, but finally beginning to understand that it’s safe to ask those questions.
In our fellowship, we are not gathered around a common doctrine. We are united in our hunger for “more of God,” and we gather around a person, the one who comfortably fits in the role of “father” among us. Though many of those whom he fathers are older than his parents, we recognize his “fatherness” among us. Odd isn’t it?
As individuals, we gather around one father. As a fellowship, we relate to other fathers that we know and relate with. We are proud of the men and women who are “fathers” among us, but we’re not jealous of other fathers. If you gather around a different apostolic leader, then I’m delighted that you have such a man or woman to lead you!
In the natural – the biological realm – the only time someone will be jealous for another person’s father or mother is when their own has failed them. So it is in spiritual relationships, I’m not jealous for your fathers because my father is a good leader and a good friend among my house. It would be weird for me to long to be parented by people who neither birthed me nor know me as a son.
Unity is a wonderful thing, and I’m looking forward to us (at least in my region) growing more in unity as we gather around fathers rather than doctrines or practices, as we learn to celebrate our differences and focus on our own strengths and responsibilities rather than either conforming ourselves to others’ example, or working to bring them into conformity to our own patterns.