An Update from the Daniel Foundation
I have the privilege of talking with men on a regular basis about stuff that far exceeds the Phillies box scores, the Eagles record, the fluctuating stock market or the latest political turn of events, in importance.. Things like:
(Note: Names, not actual)
Discussing the state of Andy’s marriage and what might be done to restore trust with his wife.
Brainstorming ideas with Larry on how to best correspond with an estranged child.
Asking Jim how his view of/relationship with, God has been affected by his debilitating illness.
Inviting Mark to surrender control of his life to Christ
Exploring with Bill, Terry and Larry, the panoramic view of what God is doing in history using a book called ‘The Story.
Discussing with Manny how to cultivate a growth mindset in his high school lacrosse players
Telling Jerome that I fear he is wandering away from the God who loves him, in pursuit of gods who don’t.
Discussing with Rodney why one can experience vocational and financial success… and still be susceptible to death-by-boredom.
Pondering with Bernard how to be faithful to Christ and still feed one’s family when one’s employer demands increasing conformity to secular policies.
Having to suggest to Jeff that engaging in community service is critical to his journey to sobriety.
Discussing with David, a homeless friend and a new believer, how the gospel offers us a new identity that frees us from tyranny of the manhood-as-conquest pathology that led him to homelessness.
Each of these conversations took place over coffee or food, in places like 'Nudy’s Cafe,' ‘Your Mom’s Place,’ ‘Steel City Coffeehouse,’ ‘the Bookworm,’ ‘on an athletic playing fiend,’ etc. Virtually none of these conversations took place in what might be called a religious setting. To be sure, religious settings are important, but rarely do I find that formative conversations take place there. Pulpits, sermons and homilies are critical, to be sure, but I find that more spiritual formation tends to happen conversationally, in informal settings, between trusted friends than anywhere else. One such pastor, the late Eugene Peterson, agrees. He writes:
‘Conversational language is the speech most used and appropriate for this (spiritual) training, not preaching from the pulpit, not lecturing in a classroom. Conversational language, because it is spoken in a quieter voice, is often not noticed or, if you do notice, is not taken as seriously as it’s sister languages. Preaching has a pulpit and sanctuary to dignify it’s authority. Teaching has lectern and classroom to spatially define its task. But a conversation takes place informally, anytime and anywhere, with no one officially in charge. The settings for this kind of speech range from a pair of rocking chairs on a nursing home porch, to a parent bent over a cradle, to two men bend over coffee and a diner, to a telephone conversation between mother and daughter a crossed three state lines. It could take place in a letter or a succession of letters dealing with matters of the heart and soul or among three or four friends at a weekly meeting before going to work, Reading and pondering together the ways in which the Jesus’ discourse in John 6 intersects with the hours they have before them that day.’
I found Peterson’s words encouraging. For the Daniel Foundation is all about relationships, informal settings and substantive conversations, which has a funny way of opening the soul of men who are reticent to open their soul, let alone attend, a religious gathering. tDf has, from its beginning 12 years ago, tried to be faithful to this tagline: ‘Cultivating Christian faith in unusual places,’ and, I might add, ‘among unlikely people.’ Thank you for allowing Dave Swenson (Seattle) and I (Philly) that honor.