Yesterday I decided to engage in a task that was a long time coming…cleaning out the youth supply closet. Now for those of you who aren’t familiar with a youth supply closet, I want you to picture your junk drawer in your house; and now it’s a closet. So as you can well imagine there were quiet a few things that needed to make the fifty foot trek to the dumpster. It also happened to be an incredibly rainy day. But on one of my trips to the dumpster I noticed a path being carved in the water before me. After dropping my load I came back to observe a single hornet that was carving the path in the water. He was holding on against the inevitable. Fall is coming…winter is coming…and a deluge of water was pushing against him and yet he still held on stubbornly against the inevitable. Here he was exposed to imminent danger (feet, cars, etc.) and yet he persisted. I almost wonder if he would have been safer to let the current carry him. Would he have found refuge further down the stream and then be able to live out his last few weeks in a better place; an open place?
I feel like we in the church can be guilty of hanging on to things we should let go of. Culture and the winds of change push us so aggressively that we are scared and so we hang on to that which we know/understand. The problem is that this isn’t a new problem. In the third chapter of the gospel of John we read about someone who was shook by all of the newness that was being ushered in. He was anxious about this Jesus character but could not comprehend why he should change or how he could change in order to accommodate his known identity, tradition, methods, etc. Jesus responds to him in part and eventually says to Nicodemus, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” – John 3:8 Those truly born of the Spirit know what it is to move by the Spirit’s leading. They know what it looks like to let go and allow the current of God to carry them into newness of heart and life (that’s a very loaded phrase if you dig into it).
So back to the hornet and hanging on. Sometimes what we perceive in fear may actually be the moving of God. Think about it for a minute Abraham left all he knew, Moses stood up to a god-king, Joshua faced down giants, 3 Hebrew children didn’t bow, Peter got out of the boat, Matthew left his tax booth, Saul forsook all he ever knew (it was rubbish)…they all let go of relative safety, what they knew and the tradition they had embraced in order to be carried by God’s Spirit into something unknown, foreign, scary and unpredictable…and the world would never be the same. So what are you clinging to today? What terrifies you about God’s movement amidst the winds of culture? Where is God calling you to pull up anchor and join the movement of His Spirit? May we be those born of Water and Spirit and not those who cling to dry and stagnant land amidst the current of God.
Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Candy Crush Saga. One of these four had to catch your attention. Yesterday on my drive home from work, which albeit is about a 5 minute commute I noticed a phenomenon. While at a stoplight I lost myself in a song, but started to look around wondering who might be pointing and laughing at the guy rocking out to Needtobreathe. But here’s the weird part. No one was looking at me. While we were stopped, for maybe all of about two minutes, everyone I saw was looking at their phone. What have we become? Fifteen years ago I didn’t even own a cell phone and now I have a mini-computer in my pocket. And I was slow to get on the smart phone bandwagon. But now all of a sudden, these things are everywhere…and I mean everywhere.
There is this weird maxim tucked away in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians a couple of times that if you weren’t paying attention to, you might miss. “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.” – 1 Corinthians 6:12. And then again in 10:23, “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive.” Now in a way, Paul was trying to relate to the Corinthians licensing their lifestyles that conflicted a bit with their witness. And I get that piece, but I think this might be able to relate to our overstimulated technology tethered culture as well. You will notice in the first reference of Paul’s use that he includes the phrase “I will not be mastered…”. The Greek root of this phrase literally alludes to the loss of the freedom of choice/freedom to choose. And then in the second occurrence we see the insinuation that perhaps these things might be okay, but they aren’t really improving our lives.
In all of this I’m not saying technology is a bad thing. In fact, there are so many benefits to media and technology that for the most part they outweigh some of the negative issues. But think about this with me for a moment. How many of you, when you find yourself in a time of silence/lull immediately reach for that phone? This is where I think the issue may take root. For thousands of years humans have been known for their innovation and cultural achievements. And now, I’m known for my high score on Flappy Bird or Candy Crush!?! The one thing we have that we constantly spend and can never recall is time. And I am scared to think of the hours (maybe even days at this point) I have wasted because of seemingly harmless activity on this miniature computer I keep closer to me than anything else. Maybe these things aren’t so bad…but I think I might need to find out who or what masters the empty spaces in my life and what better things they might be filled with. And I think that if we fill these spaces with more meaningful encounters/endeavors we might be amazed at what we can do and the freedom we find that we have.
There it was. In all it’s pristine glory. Okay, maybe most people would see a dingy closet door in the lower level of the downtown Flint YMCA. But to me, in a daze from finishing up my morning work out, it represented the entire world. There is nothing more fascinating to me than a locked closet door; okay, that may have been a bit of hyperbole. But don’t you just wander. I always have. My grandmother called me a meddler…I liked to think of it as a term of endearment. But I have always had this huge curiosity about what things lay behind locked doors, closed drawers and chests. In college this may or may not have even gotten me into a bit of trouble as I worked to perfect my skills at picking locks and getting where I obviously was not intended to go. I am just thankful that I am on this side of college without a criminal record. Although I am not sure I ever actually stole anything; I just wanted a look.
And I like to think that this approach to life isn’t altogether bad. I’ve always like J.R.R. Tolkein’s poem from Lord of the Rings in describing Strider, “All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost”. I find myself often wandering about the things about me. I am curious about what lies not only behind closed doors, but what is around the bend. I like to marvel at the make up of planets spinning and the way trees grow and mountains dominate the landscape. And I think this Spirit may be of God. Not a spirit that causes one to get into trouble or mischief, but one that brings someone into a sense of wanting to know more about the world around them. And I think this may have been what the Apostle Paul was alluding to in his letter to the Colossians as well, “My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” – Colossians 2:2-3.
The mystery of God. I love that concept. And this isn’t the only place this is mentioned in scripture. God is the great mystery to be searched. The great locked door to be opened. And the best part about it, God can never be fully known, at least in this life. The best avenue we have for exploring the nature of God is the person of Jesus Christ and we know Him more fully through the presence of the Holy Spirit. And in Christ is all the treasure of wisdom and knowledge. And so we are encouraged to explore, seek, ask, knock and fully relish in the spirit of curiosity put into us to seek out God in everything around us and in the revelation of Jesus Christ. And for a meddler like me, this is great encouragement. So wander…and wonder as the mystery of God is always before us.
I’m a morning person. I know for a lot of you that may not come as a surprise, but I am pretty sure I have always been a little wired that way (although my parents may contest that was not the case during my teenage years). There is something about the sun coming up and the quietness of the world waking up that renews my soul. This past week I have been the speaker at a Preteen camp in Howell, MI and needless to say there are a few hours in the morning where I am the only soul who has stirred. I am able to walk through the field hedged in by a couple of lakes (really ponds at best) and it is almost as if I am the only person in the world. I am able to find that time with God in solitude and quietness in His creation and I have come to the conclusion that I neeeeed this.
It’s funny because I usually try to take time to myself early in the morning in my normal routine as well. But you and I know that this is not the same. As our mornings begins in our day to day life the thoughts come rushing in of what the day before us holds. We can’t help it. We have check lists and chores, tasks lists and appointments, projects and meetings, and pretty soon our souls have been drained in just thinking about all that has to be accomplished. No wonder many of us want to go back to bed shortly after the day begins.Where is the space for God in all of this? Where is the freedom that He needs to envelop us in grace and work through us in love. In Lamentations 3:22-23 (albeit a book of sorrowful worship) we read, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
God’s compassions for us are new every day. Wow! I want to hear that again, God’s compassions for us are new every day. And yet, do we take advantage of that? Are we even aware it exists? I almost think God is singing over us as we wake with His imagination running wild for us for the coming day. He envisions the impacts we could have on others. He dreams about the opportunities for us to invest His love into the world around us. His heart is beating excitedly for the mercies he has shown us to be extended in wonder and amazement as we usher in the Kingdom.
But then the lists take over. Then the stress piles up. Where has the new day gone?
May we find a way to live into each new day as if we truly understand the faithfulness of God in extending us grace upon grace as children dearly loved by our Father in Heaven.