Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"Rainbows" or "It's Complicated" or what you will.

I am at the Cannon Beach Christian Conference center, one of my favorite places in the world. Our staff is on a Prayer Summit here for a few days, which, I must admit, has never been all that appealing to me.
But I do realize that for some, this is something they look forward to all year. I'm ok with that, because they will meet with God and I would wish that for anyone.
I'm just more of a private, one-on-one prayer-er, or a word like that, that means "I pray". My most profound times of worship have been at times when I have been alone with God. People usually are surprised to hear that of me, being the worship guy at a large church. Oh well.
So when our Childrens Pastor suggested that we "Spend an Hour" with Jesus alone, I was there.

The exercise was to go off alone without any distractions and just spend time with Jesus- no cell phone, no computer, you can bring your bible but don't read what you would usually read for your bible study- no distractions at all.
The room we were in overlooked the beach and Ecola Creek through large glass picture windows which my love seat was in front of. So as the rest of the staff went their own ways to meet with Jesus, I got up, turned the sofa toward the sea and laid out my stuff for an hour with Him, too. I stretched out my legs, rested my feet on the window sill and contemplated how this hour would be spent.

A couple minutes into my meditation, a voice behind me said, "Do you mind if I sit down?"
"Yeah, no problem," I stuttered, gathering my pen, paper and bible from the seat next to me. Looking up I saw no one.

Thank you, Lord, I thought. You're here.

We sat for a bit just staring at the waves. The previous night had brought the tide right up to the sea wall in front of the windows and debris from the river was strewn and floating all over the waterscape. The sky was gray, bespeckled with patches of dull blue. It was beautiful. To me.
A small stream of a rainbow was starting in the middle of the horizon.

"Lord? How do you make a rainbow?"
He looked toward the horizon, lifted His arm and pointed.

"I take my finger and I point to the edge of the horizon. And as I move my finger in an arc toward the center of the sky, an invisible cascade of flowing colors caress the pallid clouds and rest upon the azure palette of the welcoming sky."

My heart felt like it would explode. With my eyes wide and brimming with tears, I looked at my Lord and Savior and asked, "Really?"
He lowered his arm, looked at me, smiled and said, "No, not really."

"The process is complex and it's intricacies far beyond your comprehension. In it's relation to time, you would assume it's development and evolution would take millions of years- to understand. I created this world. I wanted to remind you of that."
"And it is beautiful," he added.

"So it's no accident," I concluded aloud, staring at the newly formed rainbow. He turned his face to me.
"Are you?"
After a long pause, I replied, "I don't know."
"I've been wondering lately 'what's the point', 'what's my purpose', and I haven't found any answers."
Again, my heart felt like it would explode. "Can You tell me?"

He moved forward off the couch and facing me sat on the sill of the picture window.
"The process is complex and it's intricacies far beyond your comprehension. In relation to time, you would assume your development and evolution would take millions of years- to understand. I created this world... for you. If you were not here, it would serve no purpose."

He paused, turned, then pointed to the newly formed second rainbow.

"And it is beautiful," He said turning back to me.

Then closing one eye, He stretched out His arm, took His finger and drew an arc from one shoulder to the other over my head.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

We are just about ready to enter the season of Lent, a time set aside by man, to focus on the coming commemoration of Holy week and Easter. Lent is never mentioned in the Bible, (The actual word initially simply meant spring and derives from the Germanic root for long because in the spring the days visibly lengthen.) but then again, neither was the Super Bowl.
Many people do many things during Lent, but for me, I try to focus on what Jesus must have going through emotionally and spiritually.

Did He see me?
In my blue Sonoma t-shirt with the pocket and my flannel pajama pants watching Wall-E with my kids.

Did He see me?
Did He kinda smile and think, “I can’t wait to show him heaven, introduce him to Gabriel, have him stand on the sea of glass and sing, and tell him all this was worth it.”

I think He did.

I think He does.

During Lent I think about that.
During the entire year, too, but especially at Lent. I just think.

And I write:

To Me, A Swine
Whole now I stand,
though I strain to see
where the light now stops
a hole should be.
I stand.
No hole
but a heart.
Not mine.
Whole-heartedly given
to a hole-hearted swine.
Deservedly none
standing near’s aware
a hole now holds what I once despaired
was a fantasy
from another world
lay earth-shod

A string of pearls.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Function VS. Purpose

While I was putting up some Christmas decorations around the house one year, it became very clear to me that the push pins I was using to hang up lights and garland was taking a painful toll on my thumb and index finger. I wished that I had some kind of metal glove that could be as strong as the hand covering on a knights armor, (or Gauntlets) and yet pliable and fitting enough to hold a tiny thumb tack.
But I didn't.
So like every ultra-intelligent, 40-something male, I scanned the living room for something to whack it with.
Well, not just anything; it had to strong, but not too strong. Substantial enough to wield, yet not heavy enough to put a hole through my wall. or hand.
The garage, which housed my rubber mallet, was over 10 yards away and down a massive, winding stairway consisting of 4 concrete, yet most assuredly rickety stairs, so I wasn't about to climb off my towering Playskool footstool to go get it. Instead I reached toward the family computer work station and grabbed the exact thing which both you are thinking and I needed:

A stapler.

And it did work perfectly. It was light to hold, yet solid enough to drive the push pin in. It worked well. And if it worked for the push pins, which I had ran out of, it should work for the small, renegade brads I had.
But it didn't.
The first one I tried to drive lodged in the hinge. As I struggled to remove the stubborn nail, the stapler shattered, leaving it in two irreparable pieces. Great.
The decorations were half hung and the stapler was unceremoniously committed to the trash bin.
I doubt its end would be as tragic if it was used for the purpose for which it was created. But it wasn't. Because I didn't. So it paid for it with its "life", or with its existence in mine. And, sadly, through no fault of it's own.

And the rubber mallets sits unused and unreconciled.

You see, the stapler worked for what I needed it to do- pushing in push pins- so I continued to use it for just that. To me, because it worked for my desired purpose, for that amount of time, I changed its original and primary purpose for my own needs.

It really wasn't fair to the stapler, but you and I both know that the stapler couldn't care less. Not so for anyone under my care as a Minister, more specifically a Minister of Worship and Arts.

Some pastors, quite unintentionally I believe, find and utilize people in their church body to fill an unoccupied, yet much needed ministry position there. I'll call these people "Staplers". They function well in that position, because of their dedication to Christ and to the church and everyone, including the leadership, assume that they are functioning in their purpose. That is, until they reach the natural evolution of that task, which, in the best case scenario, they should have been growing in and are able to mature with naturally. But if it is not their true purpose, the Staplers will shatter as they are being "fixed" or "adjusted", the task will remain undone and the Staplers will be committed to the trash bin. If only someone would have first walked the 10 yards to the garage.

This reminds me of a story I heard from John Stanko:
In a time when people did a lot of walking because of the lack of modern technologies, a man walking to a neighboring town began to see along the side of the highway targets with an arrow smack-dab in the middle of the bulls-eye. They were everywhere- on trees, stumps the sides of buildings- everywhere. Each one with an arrow in its exact center.
With great excitement, he entered the next town and began to inquire as to who this marvelous archer might be. He soon learned that the archer he was looking for lived in a shack at the edge of town. When he reached the shack, he saw, to his wonderment, more of the targets scattered around the the archers property, each in the same condition of those he had seen before entering town. When the man saw the archer coming out of the shack, he inquired if he was indeed the man responsible for all the targets here and the targets the man had seen outside of town.
"Why, yes", the stranger answered. "I am."
"Please, good sir, can you tell me the secret on how you came to be such an amazingly perfect shot?"
The stranger smiled, removed his hat and pushed his hair back, all the while scanning his bulls-eye garden.
"Well, I don't know about secret," he chuckled. "Or even about 'perfect', but what I do is I shoot the arrow, then I paint the target around it!"

That's kinda the same thing, isn't it?
It all looks good on the onset, but at some point the foundation of it all will have to be reconsidered. And at that point, you should stop and start all over again.

You should... but what usually happens is that because your Staplers have been building houses in the "natural evolution" zone without even knowing how to read blueprints, you believe that if they stop, everything will collapse. So you keep on using the stapler for other than what it was intended for. You keep shooting the arrows and painting circles around it, leaving the outsider to comment as Shakespeare's Olivia, "Excellently done, if God did all."

Yet, indeed; did He?

Are you serving in your purpose, or are you simply functioning?
Do you know what your purpose is? why God created you as YOU?

Let me close with another reference from John Stanko:
When you are at your lowest point in life, when there is no one around, when it is so dark that you cannot see the hand in front of your face. The one thing you find you have the strength to do?
THAT is your purpose.

Friends, you've heard it said that if you don't live your life, no one will live it for you? I submit to you that if you don't live your life, EVERYONE WILL LIVE IT FOR YOU.
Don't let that happen.
Find your purpose. Serve in your purpose. Live in your purpose...
for God's sake.
and yours.

Talk to you next week.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

"Worship Leader" or congregational worshipper?

What if there was no distinction between what we traditionally call a "Worship Leader" and a worshipper in the congregation? If you were to put yourself in the role of a worshipper in the pews, what would that do to your assumptions?
Should then the entire congregation be on the stage or should the entire worship leader team be in the congregation?
If the latter, wouldn't we lose the need for a stage?
Who would start the songs?
Where would the drummer sit?
How would we handle "specials"?

What IS the difference between what we traditionally call a "Worship Leader" and a worshipper in the congregation?
Are they just to start the songs?
Are they to "perform" specials?
Are they to model what "real" worshipping should look like?


Maybe never.

One of the biggest dangers and pitfalls of a worship leader is to get in the way. I can't tell you how many times as I'm praying over a worship set that I have to ask myself, "Is this for You, Lord, or is this for me?" While I am glad for that sensitivity, (I have spent many nights on the secular stage, and believe me, it WAS all about me!) I hate the fact that I am still fighting and harboring a rebellious heart. Jesus knows this. And yet, He has continued to ask me to serve Him in this capacity.
Funny thing, though...

One of the biggest dangers and pitfalls of a worshipper in the congregation is to get in the way.
How many times have found ourselves not able to "enter in", or "get into" the worship service because of some personal reason:
You had an argument with your spouse before you arrived.
You had an argument with your kids before you arrived.
You had an argument with your parents before you arrived.
You stayed up too late the night before.
You had a horrible week at work and your boss attends the same church.
The pews are too hard.
The pews are too soft.
The music is too loud.
The sermon is too loud.
The pastor’s tie is too loud.

Do I need to go on?

What is it that one has to do to really "Worship"?
What is the key to LEADING one's rebellious heart INTO worship?

I believe there has to be a shift in our being. Not just in our thinking but in our entire being. Since it has to happen in our entire being, it cannot be like a light switch, turned off and on. It HAS to be constant and dramatic; like, you are 150 lbs. and *poof* now you are 450 lbs. Your entire world is different- in EVERY way.

A few years ago I lived and worked in Japan. One of my jobs was at Tokyo Disneyland where we lived in a section of Tokyo called American Village. All the homes there were like the nicer homes here in America; unlike the suburban houses surrounding us. Only Americans lived there, workers at Tokyo Disneyland shipped over from America, who spoke English and ate American food. However, the next summer I returned and worked in a small vegetable shop outside of Tokyo where no one spoke English.
Where do you think I learned and absorbed Japanese language and culture the most?

The more time you spend focusing on the object of your worship, the more it influences every aspect of your life. You will not be able to separate yourself from it and everyone and everything around you will reveal to you its effect on your worship.

So, is there a difference between what we traditionally call a "Worship Leader" and a worshipper in the congregation?

I believe there shouldn’t be. But in today’s church, that’s going to take a shift of being. On both sides.

But what if?

I’ll write more about this next week. I think you have enough to chew on for now.