Tuesday, September 27, 2011

In Need of a Sabbath

Recently God has been speaking to me about renewal.  For a mountain of reasons, which I'm sure many of you could relate to, I have found myself in a desert season.  I've been burned out on ministry and bitter towards people and ultimately wanting to check out for reasons of self preservation.

At a recent retreat with other World Impact missionaries we talked about "Catching the Wave" of what God is doing in ministry: how to do it, what to do when you "wipe out," etc.  I shared with some of the missionaries that I felt like I'd already wiped out, gotten churned up in the wave, ate dirt, and am now laying on the beach, a frazzled mess, and not quite sure what to do next.  The crisis is over, but I'm feeling dazed and confused and unmotivated to jump back in.  Perhaps you can relate. 

I thought if I stepped back and took a little time to recover my energy and equilibrium would return, but instead I've gotten a little more indifferent and definitely more confused.  However, God has started to speak to me through my clouded state...as He often does in His grace.

I've told myself I'm just lazy when I don't apply myself in the Christian disciplines, or said that I just don't care about things anymore...but I think I've been naming things inappropriately, which hasn't allowed me to deal with the root issues.  It hasn't been laziness keeping me from pursuing God, so much as it has been me pulling back because I've been hurt and confused and maybe to some extent I've been blaming God.  And, I certainly care about God's Kingdom and serving in the city, but I've forgotten what I'm passionate about in the midst of trying to do everything and meet every need.

As my desert season has extended beyond the time I thought I could muster up the motivation to carry on, I've realized I just can't do it.  It's not in me, not without it being put there by God.  I always think I have to DO to fix things, but I think God is telling me to stop doing (that's what got me here in the first place) and listen and wait expectantly for the Lord to rain on my dry soul.  Hosea 6:3 puts it like this: "Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is as sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”

A sermon I listened to recently put all the things God had been speaking to me in perspective.  What I lack in my life is Sabbath.  Sure, I take days off but then I usually try to distract myself from my stress and struggles by plopping in front of the TV, or surfing the internet, or eating, or...the list goes on. But that is not the kind of sabbath God commanded us to observe.  In fact, I rarely ever think about it as a command.  It's not just that I spend more hours of my Sundays trying to "switch off" than seek the Lord, but that I don't have a life set to a rhythm of God's renewal.  I don't have a life fueled by sabbath and yet expect to find rest.  I try to do more, which results in listening less.

We live in a culture that drives us at a frantic pace, it tells us we can do it all.  But, deep down we know life isn't supposed to be like that, it just usually takes a wipe out with a mouth full of dirt for us to stop and acknowledge it. 

So, here I am.  My soul is dry.  But I am expectant.  The Lord will come to me as the the spring rains that water the earth.  There will be renewal.  But I must press on to know the Lord, and structure my life with a rhythm of sabbath. 

Perhaps you too, need more sabbath in your life?  From one dry soul seeking God's renewal to another let me suggest hitting the pause button on life, finding a quiet place and engaging with God.  A good place to start might be with a few songs that have spoken to me lately, and Darrin Patrick's sermon "Jesus & Sabbath":

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside still waters.  He restore my soul.
Psalm 23:1-2

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Rock Opera in Heaven

I'm not normally much of a concert person.  As an INTJ I usually see concerts like this: You want me to pay what to stand next to a bunch of crazy people all up in my personal space and to hear songs I can listen to for much cheaper (and with more personal space) on a CD?  No thanks.  But, occasionally I break my concert rule when there is an artist whose music has been very meaningful to me...Jeremy Camp, Addison Road, David Crowder.  I can't really think of many others I've paid money to see in the last 10 years.

Recently, because of an unfortunate situation for some of our close friends, we inherited their tickets to the David Crowder Band concert.  I love their music and was looking forward to it, but probably not in the way the original purchasers of the tickets were.  We headed to the concert, anticipating a fun evening out.  The evening did include an awkward and uncomfortably close conversation with an odd lady sitting next to me.  How do you really make those conversations end when the person is sitting almost in your lap?  However, this was not the band's fault so I won't hold it against them.

David Crowder was just as good as I remembered.  Something I love about their music (both in concert and otherwise) is that it exudes a level of joyful praise not often found in other music.  When listening to DCB songs I feel like I'm interjected into a praise session that is contagious.  The concert was no different.

Crowder has an unassuming air, wearing jeans, a baseball cap, and his trademark beard, he led the band in a truly amazing display of God-given musical talent.  Coupling this with the lyrics on screen it made for one awesome worship service.

Halfway through the night, after beginning his song "You are my Joy", Crowder paused and told the audience, "I hope you don't mind, but we have officially entered the rock opera portion of the evening."  He explained, for those of us not really in tune with the music scene, that rock opera is full of dramatic theatrics, with big crescendos and long pauses, shredding guitar solos and songs of epic length.  I'm not really a "rocker" but how can you say no to that?

About five minutes later, with a crowd of people singing "You are my joy!" to guitar solos and an impressively crazed drummer I thought, "There will so be rock opera in heaven."  I have no idea what the extent of heaven will be but sometimes I think we bore ourselves (and others) thinking that in heaven we will stand around singing hymns (I like hymns, but for eternity?) and then maybe take a little walk through the garden...you know, a serene heaven, if not a little blah.  But, in that moment, singing that song, I felt a perfect crescendo of praise to our Father and I thought, surely this is what heaven will be like.  The glory of God is not a staid pursuit I think.  It will take more than any one genre, musical or otherwise, to fully express our praise to God.  And it is only through God that we are given the inspiration of these avenues of praise.

Does it blow anyone else's mind that God, who is the object of our praise, is also the source of our ability to praise?  No good thing that brings God glory is created apart from the breath of God.  That's a humbling thought for those of us who like to "create." 

I think worship in heaven will be one big, rock/rap/dance/folk/country/poetry/jazz/prose... extravaganza, maybe complete with a light show (God is the Father of Light after all).  Our God is a big God, with many ways of expressing His glory...I look forward to experiencing them all in heaven and am grateful when I get little tastes of them here on earth.