Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Daytona Here We Come

Back in 1991, I headed from Virginia to Florida for a big bmx skatepark competition. It was a really big deal back then. As I recruited some friends to go, we decided to rent a (dum de dum dum duuummmmm.....!) mini van. I had never drove one yet, but I thought they were cool. So we rented a Pontiac Transport that was 1/2 car and 1/2 space shuttle. It was cooler than cool.

Now I realize that a mini van isn't cool. But when you're in college, the thought of all of your friends getting to travel in one car instead of two was really exciting, especially back then when it didn't happen often. So, we rented a mini van that could seat seven, but ended up with nine going. We crammed nine bikes, spare parts, safety gear, luggage, and people into that thing, and left on a Thursday night to drive through the night to Daytona Beach in Florida. It was nuts! We had bikes and parts strapped to the roof, to a WAY overloaded bike rack on the back, and crammed floor to ceiling in the van. We had people literally buried under suitcases who had to be rescued whenever we stopped. We had guys riding on the floor next to seats. It was packed, loaded, close quarters, hot, and smelly. Hands down, it was one of the best trips I've ever taken.

It was great because I loved the guys who went. And we were out to accomplish the mighty task of having fun and adventure. The conditions only made it that much crazier and funnier. We loved every truck stop we hit, with people counting as we got out of our clown car. We laughed at jokes, yelled at each other, and generally had a time of mayhem.

There are so many stories from this one trip. We lost the place we were supposed to stay, so we crashed in a single hotel room, only to have eight more guys join us. We have at least six stories from just the competition itself. There is a classic story of Eight Ball having a run in with a Quickie Mart clerk in the middle of Georgia at three am. So much fun and memories.

When I think of what community can be like at it's best, I think of this trip. I miss those guys. I miss those times. I miss being that well known, accepted, and loved. I long for it. I mean, my family far exceeds those bonds, don't misunderstand me. But outside of my family, it's hard to come by those types of relationships. We are too busy, too pre-occupied, too overcommitted, too tired. But I know one day, this world will pass. There is more to life than what we see here. So, I'll continue working to build community with those around me. I'll love, give, pray, and hope. But I know one day, there is a world of mini vans and too much luggage coming. Actually, one far far better than anything I've ever seen or tasted yet. I'm ready for that road trip, no doubt!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Worship Soon and Worship Often

Lately, I've been wrestling with what worship looks like, especially in student ministry. Our church has the standard youth worship team comprised of students who give time, prayer, and practice towards leading the group musically. Honestly, they are excellent. They even lead our adult services on a somewhat regular basis. We do a monthly worship night with our senior high students where we set aside two hours for times of contemplation, prayer, art, rest, listening, writing, confession, and scripture reading. They have historically been powerful times of us giving our attention and time to God as a gift. But what more is there?

In thinking about this, and praying through it, God's really pushing on me with this whole idea. I thought I'd share where I'm at, lay out in a couple of pieces what's going on and what I see coming, and then I'd love to get your feedback. Honestly, I really need your feedback to see how God is working in everyone else on this issue.

Ok, so here it is. I'll start with the Biblical side and encourage you to add to or challenge what I've found. As I have been looking through the Bible at worship, it seems to be centered around the idea of responding to the good things God has done and who He is. But more than just responding. Immediate response seems to be a high value as well. You have Adam and Eve simply spending time with God, talking to Him, loving Him. But then after the fall, it continues. Moses worships at the burning bush, Jacob stops in his flight from men who want to kill him to build an alter and worship. Job worships every day, praying for his kids. David mourns until his child dies, then immediately cleans himself up and worships. Isaiah falls down at the sight of God and worships. Jesus worships His Father many, many times in the gospels. The disciples stop what they are doing to give thanks to the God who saves them. The angels fall in Revelation every time God speaks. There seems to be an immediacy, an urgency to worship. It isn't always a planned event, but often is a response to God's showing Himself. The timing is irregular, and spread all throughout the day. And, by the way, singing is a minority act.

Obviously there are many, many more examples from Scripture. But as we find them, we see in them a responsive quality. There are the days set aside for celebration in the community. The Jewish temple feasts were regular days on the calendar. But even those are in response to God moving in large, redemptive ways.

It seems to me that we have, or at least I have, shifted to more of a model that says we will show up and worship on our schedule, and we will worship in the ways we want to, focusing on what we wish. My faith community doesn't seem to do much in direct response to what God is doing or revealing Himself to be.

I recently spoke with some students at a Christian college that I teach at. I asked them when they worshipped. "Chapel" was the unanimous answer. "What is done that is worship in chapel?" "We sing", they replied. If you ask my youth group, they would say we sing. If you prod them, they will pull up the other pieces of communion, prayer, listening, meditation, scripture, etc. But singing dominates the landscape of our worship. Many of us have developed a stage based program where the shiny happy pretty people are on stage using their musical abilities, while the rest of us who aren't as brave or talented face them and join in. Now, before anyone gets upset, I'm not saying we pitch student worship teams, or that we abandon singing. I am asking have we gotten lopsided in our approach, and what values are we communicating about people and worship through our approaches?

I look at how we put together a worship service. Typically it is comprised of songs we like to sing, because of the tune or the lyrics. They typically move in a direction in their styles. Either fast to slow, or fast to slow to fast again, etc. We arrange them, and sing them because they are true. As long as we are singing songs that are theologically true, then we are doing worship. I'm not convinced. Now obviously, we would include that the singer needs to be aware of the lyrics, and "mean" them "from their heart". But even with that clarification, does that guarantee worship? I'm not sure.

So, we are looking at making a shift in our understanding. We are going to begin working on making worship more of a rhythm in our times together. We want to see our students respond to God on a daily basis in smaller, less programmed ways. Therefore, we're going to work on giving them a time to respond to God at our weekly meetings. We're just on the beginning side of this, and haven't gotten far into it yet. But we want to have students wrestle with what God is doing in their lives, and then give them creative ways to respond to Him. We will probably still use some of the same tools we have (journaling, prayer, creative art, poetry, communion, etc.) But instead of keeping it to one night a month, we are going to work smaller pieces into each week. And then they will be very focused on what God is revealing to us right then.

The other piece is that our leaders, starting with me, are going to need to begin practicing this daily form of worship as an immediate response. If we don't live it, then it won't be passed on. It's like teaching about the need to regularly fast, and then only fasting during the 30 Hour Famine. It rings hollow. (Not that I've ever done that!) I'm working on building into my daily rhythm small times to stop and worship God. Nothing big, but actually stopping what I'm doing to worship. It's coming really slowly, unfortunately. I simply forget. And I think that's the idea behind it. So we won't forget.

My hope is that my life will be one of worship, and that student's will catch a picture of what their lives could be like as they worship whenever and wherever they need to.

This is where I'm really need your ideas. What are you working on? Do you agree with the theological ideas, or are they off base? How is God challenging you, and what steps are you taking? Any help you can give will definitely be appreciated on my end.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

As I've been on my rear with a virus (who knew a doctor can't prescribe medication for a virus? huh....anyway) I've had some time to read. So I've read the Ted Dekker trilogy of the Circle.
The first book is Black, the second is Red, and the third is White.

Honestly, if you dig fiction, go the library and get these. They've been out a few years now, and they were amazing! The scene of Eden in the first one brought me to tears in my desire to be home with Jesus. I'm not kidding, and I don't think it was the high fever and Dayquil entirely at fault.

I really encourage anyone who enjoys fiction in the whole espionage, fantasy, spy game genre to check this series out. It's well worth it.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Five Days and Counting

Okay, I admit it. I have trouble slowing down when I'm sick. I've been feeling under the weather for the past five days. It always goes away on it's own. Always. Sometimes. But I'm starting to wonder if it's going to this time. I may have to do the one thing I have such a hard time doing...go to the doctor.

Why does this bother me so? Because I'm the fixer. I mean, my name, according to all of those cheesy Christian store bookmarks and coasters, means "Healing One". I fix everyone else. I don't need fixed. Oh, I know, this sounds ridiculous. But it's there, under the service. It's not an idea that I am regularly aware of, but it is definitely a value that drives me. I encourage others to get help when they need it, but I rarely take that advice. I'm a complete hypocrite in this area.

Isn't self revelation tough?

So, what am I to do? I'll go to the doctor in the morning, for one thing. I'd go today, but I have to teach my class at Taylor. (How do you like that justification?) But I need to do more than this. I mean I have spiritual sickness and emotional sickness as well as my physical ailments. I've got to return to trusting my friends and letting them into my soul and life.


When? It's easier to write it than to do it.

I honestly don't know. Unfortunately, it won't be today. I am legitimately too busy.

Wow. More than an excuse, I have ordered my life poorly, in such a way that I really have boxed myself in. It will take a while to rework this. But I must. God's been pushing me on it for a while, so I need to keep moving towards this.

He is faithful. I just need to follow. I can do that.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

It's the Tom and Chestnut Show

Last night, I was talking to our 7th and 8th graders (who rock, by the way!). We were in the middle of the lesson, and this example popped in my head. Thought I'd share it with all three of you who read this thing.

We have two cats now that we have moved to the country. Tom, and Chestnut. Both boys, brothers even. About 6 months old. So they play all the time. The other night, I was in the barn working on something, and they were running all over the place, being nuts. We have this little trampoline for the girls to jump on, one of the jogger kinds from Target. Tom was on top of the trampoline, Chestnut was under it. Chestnut knew that Tom was somewhere around, but for the little kitty life of him he couldn't figure out where exactly his brother was. Which, of course, was two inches directly overhead. So, Chestnut comes sneaking out from under the trampoline slowly, crawling with his tail sticking straight up in attack mode. Tom, patiently, waits and watches. Just a Chestnut clears the edge of the trampoline, Tom attacks. He launches himself into the air with all four paws out like wings on an airplane, using his brother as the landing strip. He lands on Chestnut just like one of the old westerns where the cowboy jumps on his horse, and the two of them are off across the floor. Tom is whooping and yelling things like "Yee Haa!" and "Get up, cowpoke!" Chestnut is just scared silly and running for his life. Finally, Chestnut runs out of steam and they both fall over and wrestle to the death.

Of course, I'm laughing my head off the whole time. It's literally one of the funniest things I've seen in person for a long time. At least since Mike Farnsley ran through the fountains at Kings Island, but that's a whole other story.

Here's what I realized. If I can laugh like that at two cats just being themselves; two cats that I had nothing to do with creating or bringing into being; then how much must God laugh with us? I mean, I just feed the little guys, pet them, and make sure they are safe from the big black cat that prowls our fields. God actually creates each of us everyday. He has to laugh and chuckle at us just being who He makes us to be.

That's comforting. I want my Dad to laugh with me. Actually, laugh at me is more accurate. Not in that second grade mean kind of way. In that "those darn cats" kind of way. He loves me, and actually adores me. It's really strange to write that out, but it's true. Not because I'm a pastor, a dad, or anything else. He loves and cherishes me because that's who He is.

I love that.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

So, What's the Plan?

I need God to help me out. Okay, that's not true. I need to listen to what God has known for billions of years. Yeah, that's much more like it.

I am overwhelmed with the needs of families in our community, and how it plays out in their teenagers lives. It's the old feeling of fighting the oncoming flood with nothing more than an umbrella. I feel outmatched, out powered, under equipped, and under resourced. So, I want to turn away from it.

There is so much brokenness, abuse, hurt, anger, hatred, and dispair in people. I've had six suicide threats in the last three weeks. What can I do? What can we do? We're just a church, how can we fix all of society?

Honestly, that's how I feel. That's what I think.

But even as I write this, I am reminded that the battle isn't against other people. It's against powers and spirits and Satan's forces. It is. They are the ones that need beaten back. People need rescued. I can't heal them. But I can fight for them. So, today, I am praying for God to give me the pieces of the Plan that He has. I'm going to seek for them even more this week. What will it hold? I don't know. But He does. That's more than enough.

Pray with me. Pray for the families in our town. Pray for other people to be drawn to His plan. I know there are already dozens working it out. I just need to figure out my role. You need to figure out yours. He is the one who has to solve the problems. We just have to follow.

Monday, October 6, 2008

I Miss Home, Even Though I've Never Been There

I'm in one of those phases where I want to go home. On both levels. I would like to just go home and paint, and repair, and build. I'm a bit tired of ministry right now, and would enjoy an extended time away to just be at my house, in my barn, quietly working. Not sure why. Guess I need to spend some time on that one. That's probably the issue. I'm not really spending time contemplating much right now. I'm in a constant phase of preparation for my next event. My next sermon, lesson, worship night, college class, small group, youth group, game night, event, etc. No rhythm, just run. I don't handle that well.

The other sense of home that I have echoes this. I want to go home, to be free of the cares of this world and with my Dad. No, no it's not a hidden suicide thing. I just want to be with God in a way that is different than right now. I want to be face to face, no distractions, just swallowed up in His presence, love, kindness, grace, hope, joy, peace, and passion.

Usually when I feel like this, it's a gauge telling me I'm running on empty from doing too much. Yep, it's that time again. I'm realizing it as I'm writing it. I need to step away. Okay. I've been at this long enough to not fight it. I'll step away this week. I'll talk to my supervisor and schedule some time away.

Good, I feel better already. What about you? Are you ready to go home? Is it time for a break as well?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Just Some of the Reasons

I realized this morning just how negative I've been lately. I'm not even sure how long it's been going on. I have definitely not been counting my blessings at all. I've been selfish, ungrateful, whiny, and generally a pain in the keister. Wow. That's not fun to admit....

So, here is my list of a few things for which I am grateful:
1. My God: He is so good to me that I can't describe it. That doesn't mean I get off the hook from contemplating it though.
2. My wife: she truly is just second to God. She is a gift, an amazing person, and I do not appreciate her enough.
3. My children: they rock. they are generous, smart, healthy, funny, kind, and they love me like crazy and show it. I've got to return that favor much more expressively.
4. My parents: my mom and Jill's parents are amazing. I can't begin to describe how great they are!
5. My church: we struggle and bump along, and I really enjoy that. I love the fact that we don't have it all together.
6. My health: God is so good to me that little pains hurt. I live so pain free that little things show up on my radar. I'm grateful for that.
7. My home: I absolutely love our new house, with it's creaky floors and dozens of projects to take on. I love the toads in the yard, the owl hooting at night, and the quiet evenings.
8. Our students: we have the best group of students ever.
9. Their parents: it's no surprise the kids are so good when you meet the people raising them.
10. My class at Taylor: its a challenge, and I love and need that. What a gift that I get to teach it. so many more qualified people than me, but yet I get to do it.
11. Indiana: I love the harvest, the sunshine, and the people. It's beautiful in a new way all the time.

Obviously, the list could trail on about comfortable shoes, my friends, and so much more. Many of you would be on this list too, and are. I appreciate you so much for your support and love of me, and for the prayers you offer for me.

I will do better today. I have so many reasons to be grateful.