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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Small Leak, Big Problems

This past week, I made a rather unfortunate discovery. My wife had been cleaning up our toy room and told me that part of the carpet was wet. Thinking that my 2-year old had just spilled something, we ignored it. After a few days, the dampness was still there and so we began to investigate a little more. Pulling back the carpet, the water-stain indicated the moisture must be coming from the other side of the wall, or in our floor plan, the kitchen.

With some growing concern, I slid our refrigerator away from the wall. And behold! A puddle of water was slowly being filled by a drip from the water line. After some more discussion and consideration, we decided that the fridge probably began leaking shortly after installation- three years ago! And now this week I get to deal with the fun part- how serious is the damage? Rotten floorboards? Damaged sub-floor? Mold and mildew? The leak itself was so minor that for years it had gone unnoticed and un-addressed. A couple twists of the wrench fixed the leak, but fixing the resulting damage might take a whole lot more.

As you may have guessed, I have a spiritual application I'm heading to. Why else do I blog? In our spiritual life, there are a lot of things that seem minor. If we do them, it's great. But if not, no big deal, right? It's good to read my Bible, but if I miss out for a few days or weeks what difference does it really make? So I miss church when I'm too busy, skip out on my small group when I'm overloaded, and forget to pray when other matters fill my mind. These spiritual habits are valuable for sure, but who will notice if they slide for awhile? And believe me, I'm talking to myself on this one!

That's just it. No one will notice. For now. But our spiritual habits keep life, and our faith, functioning according to God's design. As we miss out, it's as if our soul has sprung a small leak. The real issue is that small leaks don't get fixed, and down the road our minor oversights can become major stumbling blocks. What began as being too busy for community can over time become isolation. What began as skipping a day or two with God will over time become a self-directed life. As our spiritual leaks go untreated, the damage is far more complicated than a quick fix. I think it leads to disillusionment with church for some. We've missed out on real community for so long, and then we jump back in expecting a shot in the arm when instead it feels dead and lifeless. Because the reality is that authentic community and connection to God takes time, and I believe, practically speaking, that it takes repetition. As we immerse ourselves in the spiritual habits again and again, we will discover our souls being made and kept whole.

I don't know where you're at today. I don't know the last time you checked your spiritual life for leaks. But I want to encourage you to remain steady. Keep at the small things that help you draw near to God. Keep focused. Don't allow a busy world to distract you from what (and who) matters most.

Cling to Him today. Journey on, friends.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Would You Be the Seahawks Running Back?

If you watched their last game against the mighty Chicago Bears, I think you would answer that question with a resounding "no". It didn't seem to matter which of our beloved Hawks touched the ball; no sooner had they turned to run and several angry men in black and orange jerseys were pummeling them into the hard turf. Can you imagine being the one with the ball? I don't like pain, and I think if I had to suit-up for the Seahawks on Sunday, I would be in big trouble. I am not fast. I am not elusive. I am slow and thoughtful. These are code words for "dead meat" in the NFL.

Now what if the Seahawks asked you to play running back. But instead of the Bears, Broncos, or Bengals, they were taking on your local 7th grade team? Would you do it then? If you had five 300-hundred pound giants clearing a bull-dozer sized hole in front of you, would you take the ball? I think most of us would! What changed? Did we change? No! Did our protection (offensive line) change? Nope. But the match-up changed. We suddenly found ourselves in a situation where the competition was no match for the incredible strength that goes before us.

I ran across a parallel idea in the Bible today that got me thinking. Yes- I often relate the Bible to football! In the Old Testament, the leader Moses is standing in front of the nation of Israel for the final time, encouraging them and offering some parting wisdom before he passes away. He tells them that they are about to enter the Promised Land, which at the time is filled with huge, angry men; kind of like the Chicago defense. But, Moses says, do not fear. Why? Because "the Lord your God will cross over ahead of you like a devouring fire to destroy them." (Deut. 9:3) The Israelites could run the ball and take the land with confidence because God would clear the way.

It's easy to be fearful in life. We look around us and feel overwhelmed by complexities, adversities, and discouragement. We're not sure which way to go and at any moment we worry that we will be over-run by opposition. Today, we can find hope and peace in the front line of our God. He goes before us like a consuming fire, in whose path no one can stand. The key, however, is that we follow after this Fire. It does us no good to claim allegiance to a God of power if we are content to go our own way and live according to our own designs. But when we follow behind him, when we recognize where he is leading and when we go quickly in that direction, we can have great confidence and peace in this world.

Where is God leading you? Where is His consuming fire opening a path and inviting you to follow His lead?

Journey on, my friend. Look to the Fire.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

When Worship Gets Put on Hold

We had an interesting dilemma this Sunday as the body of believers gathered together. In spite of the fact that we had three computer geeks looking at our Dell, we couldn't get our computer to communicate with our projector. What this meant is that no one could see the words to the songs. As they came into the Sanctuary, they could see the nice background of the ocean waves lapping the shore amongst some majestic rocks. But no words. We all kind of looked around at each other thinking and asking, "What do we now?" It was time to start, but without words for people to follow, how would we worship? So we made the announcement first in hopes that one of the techies would figure it out. After two jokes and three announcements, still no words. So we had our 'grin and grip' time where everyone welcomes one another and introduces themselves. This bought us a few more minutes, but as the conversation died down and it was becoming uncomfortably quite in the room, still no words. The worship leader looked at me with that same expression: "What do I do?" All I could think to say was, "Just worship. Tell people they don't need words. Go for it." And so he did. He said we could follow him as best we could and worship God from the heart. Ironically, before we reached the first chorus, the tech guys got it figured out and we had words. And there was much rejoicing.

I've been thinking a lot the last couple of days about how typical that is of our worship. Why is it that to worship God, we need to have words to the song accurately projected in a font that's large enough with clear contrast and a pretty picture? Especially when most of the people in the room know the words already? Now don't get me wrong, I'm not against projecting the words and letting people sing along. I'm not against helping newcomers feel welcome by providing the words so they know what's going on. But have we maybe accustomed ourselves to a way of worshipping that God never intended? Think about it- we are programmed to have things right first, and then we worship. The band has practiced and prepped, and then we worship. But it doesn't happen in this way just on Sunday (or Saturday or whenever we meet as a church). We need the right CD to playing so we can worship. We need our environment to be right so we feel like worshipping. We need to be in the right mood, have the right amount of time, or know the right words so that we can worship God.

Honestly, what happened to worshipping God from the heart? I think in our modern culture (our post-modern culture, for that matter), we have lost the essence of worship; the authentic move of our hearts towards God. The idea that no matter where we are or how we're feeling, we can turn our spirits towards Him and say, "You are Lord, you are good, and I worship You." The way it is now, we are in great danger of becoming programmed worshippers. God seeks worship that is real and unscheduled, happening even as often as we breath; our hearts over and over proclaiming His presence and His peace. No music, no voices, and no words necessary.

Don't let worship become a scheduled event. Don't put it on hold. Just worship. Tell people they don't need words. Go for it!

Journey on.

Friday, October 06, 2006

From Doing to Being

There is a to-do list that sits on my desk. Most everyday, I walk into my office, take a look at that list, and being doing what it says. I make phone-calls, write letters and prepare messages. I work for the joy of crossing items off the list. At the end of the day, I usually look back and count up how much I've marked off as the barometer of my success. And yet I've been noticing that day after day, I accopmlish these tasks and yet sense that I am missing the mark.

I did something different today. Today I came in and didn't open the book. I didn't turn on my computer and I didn't check my messages. Instead I did a few things that I had sensed God was calling me to do. I spoke with some people and spent some time in prayer. Looking back on my to-do list, I can see I haven't "accomplished" a single thing. And yet the sense of accomplishment in my spirit is great.

This has me wondering; how often do we spend all of our time doing the things that we think we must, while we fail to do those things that matter most? We run our errands, fulfill our role, and make it through the day. At the end we're left to wonder, "Have I done anything of significance?" I can tell you that today didn't look any different, but it felt entirely different. I was driven not to do and to accomplish, but to be who God has called me to be. To operate from the heart and not from the head. I feel good about today.

I know I need to-do lists so that I remember certain things, but maybe I need them less often. Maybe more frequently, I (and you?) could operate away from the list and off the books, but centered on the God who has made me and calls me. Maybe the greatest to-do list I have is in my heart and not on my desk.

I pray that you will journey on with purpose.