The surface of our planet — which has existed for 4.5 billion of years — has never stopped changing shape. Great tectonic forces have sculpted our gorgeous blue oceans and green continents.

So it is with me — and you. We too change. I morph, you alter. We are always changing shape because of the great forces that are always ragung at our edges.

In the beginning of earth’s formation the land masses coalesced out of molten lava, came together over billions of years, united (as Pangea), drifted apart and crashed back into each other creating the map of earth we know today.

We, the people of the earth, have also risen from a set of collisions, for instance a collision between a mother and a father, a collisions between ourselves and a sibling, or perhaps a friends, colleague or community. Relational lava, and continental drift has churned and roiled our lives. Forces explode all around us and with Pyrrhic victories both subtract and add to who we are. We drift. We ram. We erupt.

I remember early in life being in unspoken competition with my two brothers, playing ping pong, baseball, basketball, wrestling with my dad and brothers on the family room floor. The wrestling was fun, but it often ended in tears, at least that is what I remember my mom saying. One brotherly basketball game I remember poignantly. It ended in a fight with me on top of my little brother. I hate that memory, that picture. One continent running over another, if even for a brief span. It wasn’t my best moment.

I’ve really never have liked playing competitive games — except when I win. The stress of proving oneself is unpleasant. I prefer games of chance. There’s no losing, just a variety of outcomes we can’t control. I have been competitive in my jobs, and I often ended up in the top level position, English Department chair, lead pastor because I wanted to be there, in part to control things, to avoid repeating the past in which I lost face or ego strength, to control the wrestling matches, and in part — and this is the positive face of power— to create a field-leveling egalitarianism, an intentional democratization that empowered others. In these efforts I transcended, perhaps for a bit, the sibling rivalry of my youth — maybe.

Life is sometimes in our control, often not.

The great collisions of Oceana, their attendant volcanoes and earthquakes, the uplift they caused, the erosion that followed created the continents we now ride on. We benefited; we in no way controlled it.

The amazing Himalayas were formed when India rushed north and crashed into Asia. The lengthy and precipitous Andes were created when South America collided with the Pacific plate.

I think of my own early years. Born in Long Beach California, raised in rural Missouri, I moved in my late teens to San Diego. The Midwest and West Coast ate like separate continents. I have lived in California through career, marriage, family and now retirement. In the Baptist church we attended in Missouri my parents were denied membership because they were baptized Presbyterian and would no submit to being rebaptized. The denominations — a continental smashup. That left a mark on me. I have never been a denominational fanboy.

In one church I helped lead I came into a competitive relationship with another leader that ended in me leaving. I witnessed the hidden and yet volcanic force of competition and jealousy. The other leader and I wrestled in the family floor to win the love of the congregation. I find that reality now sickening — human but ignoble. I left broken into continental pieces, again hating competition, especially with men.

But the next church I served in put me back together, and there I became the master at showing love to everyone, sharing power and avoiding ugly competitive power struggles. Together, carefully, with much mutual respect, we — myself and some people very different from me — totally renewed the place. I was greatly loved there, and I made sure that so were many others. We became a relational continent.

Sometimes after great damage and difficulty come great progress and accomplishment.

None of this is unique to me. We all come from cataclysmic events that dramatically change us. We ride our morphing continents toward transformation. We see this everywhere. Africa is now sliding north and will one day erase the Mediterranean Sea and crash into Europe. Amazing!

I am retired now and I like Africa am migrated north, to a colder, harsher clime and I smash up against time, aging and the chilling power of illness. I am experiencing uplift, I hope, but a the very least I am morphing again by means of collision, heat and fire.

Our world is in motion. It always has been. We run into one thing. We bounce off another. Then we are different.

Someone told me recently of a childhood trauma that has shaped their entire life, an harmful event surrounded by a family code of silence. It was a harm and a harm that needed a help and a talk, openness, acknowledgement, attention, love, healing. That didn’t happen. I hate that kind of damaging inattention. It’s like subduction, when one continental plate dives under another, and someone is hidden, and someone else is lifted up.

Here’s the thing. To go back and look honestly and clear eyed at what has happened to us is to finally begin to understand our core desires and our intrinsic and extrinsic motives, to see ourselves for who we really were, to see what went awry and what went well and to see how it changed us, perhaps for better, perhaps for worse. We live on sea beds that may become a mountaintops.

My current illness and it’s debilitating effects is keeping me home, dependent, less active. For a person who had spent his whole life justifying his existence by doing, writing, speaking, leading, building, investing this new reality is painful. I can see what I have been, a doing, and now I am becoming, through pressure, pain and fire — a being. I am learning to love myself nonactive, to live in the moment, to stop pressing so much, to let go of achievement as a way to gain value in others eyes. It’s hard.

One the most ancient continents is Oceana, formerly Australia in the seven continent model. Oceania is our modern, knowledgeable way of designating what we now know as a wider geographical sense of the Australian continent, one which includes Australasia, Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. In fact Oceana is really a continent archipelago and includes the islands of Australia, New Guinea, Tasmania, Seram and more than 25,000 of islands throughout the South Pacific Ocean. Much of its mass is under water.

Again, it is the same with us. We are more connected to others that we know. We are each holons, a whole and a part, and as a part we are defined by the whole. I am a individual and I exist as part of a society. I am an island that is also a continent. The people in my life have made me more of who I am than the choices that I have made.

To live is to live in tension between an individual and a collective. I am free to be me, to chose an identity, one different than I had as a child or different than the one I was given by conflict, and yet bound by musical strings strung to you I am always plural. I am always a chord. I can delocalize. I am not one geographical note or simple song. I am not a simple melody line. I am a symphony. How should I manage, us?

Ancient crystals called Zircons, have been found in Australia and are among the oldest existing matter on earth. They are are the earth’s first historical record. They reveal that as early as 4 billion years ago the continents were formed out of the glowing magna that covered the earth.

The same with us. We too have ancient magna at our core and ancient crystals, personality Zircons and soul diamonds are extruded from us.

Consider the formation of diamonds. Diamonds formed deep in the earth by pressure and heat are brought to the surface from the mantle in a rare type of magma called kimberlite and erupted in a rare type of volcanic vent called a diatreme or diamond pipe.

Ah, how fascinating! This is so applicable to us. The heat and pressure of life shape the soul, and cataclysmic events in our lives may create diamond pipes which funnel the best in us, what is intrinsic to us, to the surface.

We each contain jewel as a part of our own stories. Every experience we have been through remains with us, informs our choices, Has a potential to create beauty

I ask myself, what is intrinsic within me, what did God put there, what are the diamonds? And I ask what are the diamonds formed in you? And I see that these often don’t appear until we have gone through the fire.

Three billion years ago when these Zircons and diamonds were formed, our earth looked very different. The sky was orange, the sea green, the new landscape fiery red and volcanic. A strange, strange world preceded us, but it created the beauty we see today, our sculpted, snowy peaks, our great plains, our blue skies, our green earth.

For me and you it is the same. The colors of our lives have also changed from when we were born and when we were young. Perhaps the color of jealousy has changed to compassion. Perhaps the reds of competition have changed to the greens that empowers others.

So I ask this: what are the colors of the modern world and what lovelies and beauties formed in fire might we add to the modern palate?

I encouraged a friend this week to paint again. She has been on hold. Perhaps if the previous restraints of fear and competition were removed, if the previous control of others was removed, she could in a kind of mental angiogenesis — much like in the formation of new blood vessels — pipe diamonds to us all.

I think that I myself might yet add love to the world, by preferring others, resourcing others, putting others first, by moving from competition with others to empowerment of others. And just possibly I might bring a handful of word-gems to the surface. Perhaps the pain, the fire and pressure in me may yet create my own pipe to the surface, a diamond pipe that might carry ancient, glowing symphonic beauties to a few of the creatures that makeup my current relational continent.

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