This morning I wrapped up my second "Making it through December with your faith intact" study through the "Institute for Discipleship" at BeADisciple.com. Both classes were unique and my experience was positive. The first was very busy, having filled out at 20 participants; then I repeated the process for another seven.
The on-line format, I've discovered, can only be as interactive as the participants allow. That's true with any learning situation, but in the virtual world people can hide more easily! There is no eye contact, tone of voice, body language or handshake in cyberspace. Typically, in a classroom situation, I can read people quickly and then facilitate from there. I'll certainty offer more classes, because it's an opportunity to reach people I'd otherwise not "meet." But, given the opportunity, I'd still rather fly somewhere and lead my workshops face to face.
My closing "lecture", pasted onto the "announcements" board yesterday evening, was all about face-to-face, and I want to share an edited version as my post today:
...This evening I've been across the street with my neighbor's family, and the long conversation I just had with his daughter helped to put all of this "Advent stuff" we've been considering in clear focus. Here's the short version of what happened:
Two months ago my neighbor's wife was diagnosed with cancer. Things were fairly advanced and she passed away this fall - it hit the family pretty hard. Meanwhile his oldest son has been undergoing treatment for bladder cancer. This afternoon, at around 2:00, he died; he was 55.
So I went over and we talked, I talked with his grandsons, and pretty much everyone in the house; you know, the perfunctory stuff that gets covered "the day of" - the serious work usually comes later.
But then I sat out on the bench with my neighbor's daughter, _____, and we talked for a long time. She lost her mother last month and then her older brother today and she wanted to talk about God - her idea, not mine.
"I hope we're right about God," she said. "I hope that God really is there, and that there is some kind of continuity and that - as my dad keeps saying - death is simply a part of life...."
She told me she's "Not into organized religion..." We all know people who talk that way. So I joked, "Do you prefer disorganized religion?" And she laughed enough that I knew she understood what I was getting at.
And I told her, "I'm absolutely 100% convinced that we're not wrong about God, and that God does love us, and that relationships can be picked up again in eternity, and - yes - there is a continuity that we can count on." (I remember the conversation exactly because it was just thirty minutes ago...)
"Well I'm not sure I can do Christmas this year," she said.
"Christmas is how I got to be so confident in God," I said. "The birth of Jesus set in motion what makes it possible for all of us to know...." And the conversation went on.
This is a long process, this relating to the world around us in terms of light - this "Holding out the word of life". I've talked with _____ a lot over the years - she looks after our dog when we're out of town. But I never knew until this evening how close she is to possibly following Jesus.
What's important is that some of the light - the light that is Christmas - leaks out of me sometimes. What makes an eternal impact is the authenticity - or otherwise - of the way each one of us receives the King, and then allows that faith to direct our paths....
So, last assignment. Please follow through with the two items in the assignment folder for Friday.....
I'm going to miss my on-line class. But I won't have to miss the moment-by-moment imperative that is always there - to be the living presence of God incarnate in this broken and restless world...
Peace - always - DEREK