This ten-part A Deacon’s Musing series will explore the intersection between the change philosophy known as Appreciative Inquiry and a Christian theological orientation grounded in diversity. I am most grateful to be co-shaping this conversation with my mentor and friend Maureen McKenna. We sincerely hope that the definitions, metaphors, theological reflections, images, and videos help impart the significant generative potential that is rooted in appreciation, gratitude, and abundance.

As this Appreciative Inquiry series of theological reflections unfold, you can find each blog on the Tabs above.

  1. Constructionist (170429);
  2. Simultaneity (170512);
  3. Anticipatory (170601);
  4. Poetic (170708); and
  5. Positive (170721).
  1. Wholeness (170929);
  2. Enactment (171020);
  3. Free Choice (171117);
  4. Awareness (180209); and
  5. Narrative (180406).

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like.

James 1.22-24

Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’.

John 20.28-29

And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed him.

Mathew 4.19-20

Just Do It

Just Do It

Sure, maybe it was slogan-like, though I admit I am not sure if my mother said it after the Nike campaign or if she coined it and they stole it! Regardless, there I was 16, not wanting to do the homework that was assigned. It was a long weekend and I just wanted to get out of the apartment and away from school. I was, truth be told, in full procrastination mode!

I also knew that putting off the work until the end of the weekend was likely not a decision full of wisdom: easy on the Friday, not so much on Monday. As was (and is) my mother’s wont, she listened and then offered simple advice: “Just do it.” With that, she left my room as I vacillated between just doing it or just leaving it … I ended up doing the former and that “teaching” moment has stuck with me ever since …

Whether it’s doubt that leads us to inaction, lethargy and/or procrastination, distractions or all of the other trappings that fill the silence around us, it seems the adage “just do it” has an ancient pedigree. Sometimes it is in our doing that our convictions catch up with our imaginations. Sometimes that act of doing that for which we long, even with all of the possible reasons not to do so, allows us to see the aspiration lived out, even if we’re not yet “there.”

My best experience with the Emergent Enactment Principle of Appreciative Inquiry connects with a Thomas character …

It was one of those wonderful Appreciative Inquiry (AI) introductions. I had the gift to be with a faith community that was beginning to dream. I was obviously very engaging and witty, charming of course and able to make space for them to begin to imagine how the AI change philosophy could help them embrace a vision of abundance. AI does not deny that there are challenges, whether that is personally, communally, in a family or a congregation. At its core, however, is a belief that where we focus our attention is what we will see (See The Poetic Principle).

From Sand to Pearl

From Sand to Pearl

And yet, in the space of trust we had developed, Thomas wanted proof, which I could not blame her. Experts had come and gone, mission statements and strategic plans had been penned and sat as forgotten mementos of a holiday long forgotten.

So, she bravely named this challenge in the Circle. Holding it, at first in silence, I thanked her … then I asked what she wanted for the congregation. At first, the image was connected with a lament for what felt lost. With some space to reframe, she began to describe a vision that had everyone nodding with affirmation. You could feel the energy of possibility shift: something I describe as the Spirit being present. Then … Thomas’ doubts returned …

That breath of possibility quivered as the energy seemed about to shift and then I asked a question, for the power of the question is like a key. The right question unlocks us, whether individually or collectively

“What do you want more? The past that you know or the image you just shared? There’s no right answers, but if it’s the latter, are you willing to begin to take a risk and do it as if it is happening?”

The right question is … a blessing. You know when you have it, because the moment you ask the right one, it allows us to look at the world in a way that excites our imagination to encounter old information in new ways. Thomas, bravely, said she could …

Be Love

Be Love

  • Sometimes it is in our doing that our convictions catch up with our imaginations;
  • Sometimes that act of doing that for which we long, even with all of the possible reasons not to do so, allows us to see the aspiration lived out, even if we’re not yet “there” yet;
  • Sometimes, it is in the community holding confidence and doubt equally, that our forward momentum leads us to places that we could only but imagine, but for which we had no map;
  • Sometimes, letting go of the certainty a map might provide allows to walk as if we have already arrived …

Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would not otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man would have dreamed would come his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it. Begin it now.”

W. H. Murray (The Scottish Himalayan Expedition, 1951)