Majesty

March 15, 2011

At the start of a song in our worship set Sunday morning, we began “Majesty” by singing three simple words:

Here I am…

I chuckled to myself a little bit as I sang it, though, not because there is anything inherently funny about the words, but for a different reason altogether.

As two latecomers dawdled down the aisle toward the front rows of chairs, one of them, with a cup of coffee in one hand, joyfully announced his presence with a wave of his other.

He was there. And he seemed to want God and everyone else to know it.

Linds told me that she was even tearing up a bit during worship just watching them.

Why?

Didn’t one of them hold up a peace sign instead of an outstretched palm? Yes.

Didn’t he fill a moment of quiet interlude with a startling “Praise the LORD?” Yes.

Wasn’t the lanky one playing air guitar most of the time during worship? Yes…but my goofy step-dad does that, too.

You see, that man and his friend live under a bridge. Literally.

A group of us visits them every Monday, giving them some hearty food and praying for their needs. Circling up around their tents before the sunlight fades away, we talk and laugh and pray.

Their home is situated beneath a busy overpass, in the shadow of a restaurant balcony where us rich folks nurse our gluttonous needs with $12.00 platters and take-out boxes.

As I’ve been thinking about it, I like more and more what Lindsey said: that she saw a child-like presence about those two as they played air guitar and sipped coffee. They don’t seem inundated with the “how-to’s” of how to use your hands in worship; they just seem to be themselves in what they do.

Do they really grasp the weight of what they’re singing? I have no way of knowing that. Half the time, I don’t really think we do ourselves.

But the song just seemed perfect for the moment:

Your grace has found me just as I am,

empty-handed but alive in Your hands…

Those men who sleep in tents underneath a bridge were there. And as I opened my eyes and saw them standing there, it just seemed right.

A Moment to Breathe

January 24, 2011

 

A friend of mine shared this poem the other day as he was getting ready for a busy day of work, and God touched my heart so deeply through the words.

I just wanted to share it with you. Take a moment to breathe and soak in the peace of the Almighty.

 

Invitation

by Mary Oliver

Oh do you have time
to linger
for just a little while
out of your busy

and very important day
for the goldfinches
that have gathered
in a field of thistles

for a musical battle,
to see who can sing
the highest note,
or the lowest,

or the most expressive of mirth,
or the most tender?
Their strong, blunt beaks
drink the air

as they strive
melodiously
not for your sake
and not for mine

and not for the sake of winning
but for sheer delight and gratitude—
believe us, they say,
it is a serious thing

just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in the broken world.
I beg of you,

do not walk by
without pausing
to attend to this
rather ridiculous performance.

It could mean something.
It could mean everything.
It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote:
You must change your life.

Sin and its solution

January 5, 2011

I should be well into my R.E.M. cycle by now, but I felt a gentle pull to forgo my sleep for a while and share some thoughts about what God has been pushing me through lately.

I just got off the phone with a good friend with whom I share the shame of similar spiritual failings and sinfulness but with whom I also share the joy of mutual confession and accountability regarding said failings and sinfulness.

Sin is a funny thing: funny in the sense that it is confusing, but also in the sense that it’s often laughable in the way that we talk about it.

The church seems to have two different camps on the issue:

One camp talks vaguely about sin as if it’s a foreign style of clothing they’ve never tried on or, for that matter, wouldn’t be caught dead wearing. To them, sin is the stinky socks on the other guy’s feet.

The other camp sighs openly about sin as if it’s a stubborn rash that just won’t clear up and unfortunately has no remedy. To them, sin is the misery-loves-company badge of common complacency.

The Bible tells us Jesus was a man familiar with suffering.

My failings tell me I am a man familiar with sin.

I can relate to David’s words in Psalm 51: “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.”

I also see myself in Paul’s aching confession in Romans 7: “So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work in my members. What a wretched man I am!”

I think that most Christians would acknowledge that the goal of a Christian life is much bigger than simply trying your hardest not to sin.

Obviously, “letting love be our greatest aim,” as Paul tells the church at Corinth, should act as the driving force of everything we do as Christians, including our pursuit of righteousness and Godliness.

I mean, I’ve seen that principle at work.

Hiding yourself in a corner and trying to wash the sin stains off of your clothes is never as effective as trading in your rags for his righteousness as you pursue love with everything you have.

In other words, you never break free from sin by focusing on fixing your sin; you break free by stepping into the light and allowing God to fix it for you.

Now, as a leader, there is a tension here.

The last thing I want to promote is the idea that being a leader means attaining perfection. But, at the same time, I recognize that being a leader does mean setting an example of righteousness for people to follow.

Whether your job title includes the word “leader” or not, that’s a tension we all feel.

We all sin.

I do.

You know you do.

Now, the question is, how comfortable are we with accepting that fact, not delighting in it, but accepting it.

I guess I feel like the church has created a culture of believers that is so transfixed with the idea of perfection, that it has become a breeding ground for feigned righteousness.

We’re a group of addicts in denial.

We know the way to recovery, but we hate it.

In this kind of culture, the last thing a person feels encouraged to do is unload the festering pile of guilt his sin has heaped upon his shoulders. Instead, we limp our way through church lobbies, hold back our winces of secret pain, and hope nobody notices.

Transparency.

Vulnerability.

Humility.

These are words that we don’t like in church.

“I couldn’t possibly be open about my sins. I just can’t bear the thought of the guy next to me knowing that I have problems.”

I just love what my pastor said once, “Breathe easy. Everyone already knows you have problems anyway.”

What a beautiful picture of the church.

Healing through confession. Victory through throwing our darkness into the light.

It’s a wonderful feeling not having anything to hide.

My prayer is that God would continue to sustain me in a posture of transparency, vulnerability, and confession-always.

It’s the only way to experience victory over my sinfulness and shame.