In these days of social distancing, this is the hub of church life now. The staff and board are all on line first thing in the morning or on the phone connecting with people to show up at on-line church. All through the service Amanda, Brenda and I are here at The Vicarage “greeting” people as they come on line and gathering info through private message convos and on-line comments. We follow up on these throughout the week by phone and Facebook.
After the service, Amanda goes in and makes a few copies for people who do not have internet service and then we distribute the CD version to the doors of those individuals homes.
I haven’t posted here in the last few days because I have been busy social distancing. You might think….”Wouldn’t the stay at home order make you less busy than usual?”
Well, truthfully the nature of the work is changing but the work itself is still taking the same amount of time . I am moving slower now. Some of that is because I am still recovering from pneumonia. I am noticing it takes me longer to do things than it used to. I need to rest more frequently. But I think the second reason I am moving slower is because of the amount of prayer I am doing these days. That prayer has shifted my mindset to a much more peaceful space.
I am also doing a lot more writing these days too. The book is coming along nicely.
This week I have also gone back to meetings. Not as many as I use to have for sure but I have had two ZOOM meetings which took 3 hours a piece.
Today I called two of our elders in the church and both of them needed my help. One of them has not been able to get out to get food. or her medications. I was going grocery shopping anyway so…. But our grocery has started limiting the number of people who can go into the store at a time.
It didn’t take as long to get in as I thought it would, but by the time was all said and done getting her groceries and meds took me four hours. The smile on her face as I handed her her final med pack was worth it all.
The other couple I helped is refinancing their home and since the banks around here are not open for walk in business all the forms needed to be e-mailed to me for a print off and for them to sign. Then we scanned the forms back into the computer and e-mailed them back to their bank. My elder friends had absolutely no idea how to do any of that so….
Pastoring these days is turning out to be much more practical than it used to be. We find ourselves meeting very practical needs as well as praying and teaching the Scripture. I have to say I am kind of enjoying this new form of social distance busyness. It’s slower and much more hands on. Maybe I am getting less done but somehow it feels like I am being very productive.
I have always believed that the journey of life is as important as the destination. In fact, when it comes to self discovery I believe that the journey is even more important than the destination. It’s in the journey that we discover our God given roles. It’s in the course of the journey that we discover where we belong in this vast family we call humanity.
The art of self discovery becomes possible only when we stop rushing headlong towards what we see as the goal…the destination, and when we take time to look around at what the journey means to us. What we understand about the journey, how we look at the part of the journey we are on now, helps us understand many things about who we were made to be. There is no right or wrong in this process of discovery just more and less honest.
I have a friend, for instance, who is being driven by the current situation, of social distancing, to begin managing our church food pantry to meet the needs of elderly people in crisis.
My own reaction to COVID-19 is the understanding that I was made for the secret place. Each day finds me driven deeper and deeper into the place of prayer, the place God and I have dubbed “the sage’s cave”.
As I said before there is no right or wrong in the process of self discovery, there is only more and less honest. I could wish to be more like my friend and start laying out plans to create social reforms that will help in the Covid crisis, but that would be me being dishonest about what is really in me, because I am afraid of the reaction of people when they hear I am being led to pray (because lets face it our culture loves social activists while it sort of scoffs at monks).
I will undoubtedly explore the idea of being honest in the process of self discovery in the future, but for now I simply want to encourage you, my readers, to use this current situation to discover something about yourself you did not know before.
Soooooo. ……WHAT DOES OUR NATION’S EXPERIMENT WITH SOCIAL DISTANCING SHOW YOU ABOUT YOURSELF?
The world today is filled with voices calling to us. The problem is not in hearing the voices. It is in knowing which ones to listen too and which ones to shut out, because not all the voices are equally valuable or helpful.
So, do I listen to….FOX, CNN, MSNBC, ABC, BBC? Do I listen to the Republicans? Do I listen to the Democrats? Or do I listen for a voice deeper…older than all those voices? Do I listen for the voice of God?
In all the noise that is circulating in the world is it even still possible to hear the voice of God? The answer to that question is “yes”, but it is a qualified “yes”.
If we are going to hear the voice beneath all the other voices, then we have to spend time listening for it. If we want to hear God, then we had best shut off the TV, put away the phone, shut off the radio and get quiet. If we want to hear the voice of God, we had better get out our Bibles and we had best start by reading a few chapters in the Book.
I am not talking about being quiet for a minute or two minutes or even five minutes. God is not in a rush to speak to our angry, anxious, worried hearts. t’s not that He doesn’t want to speak, He is just not going to rush for anyone including you. So if we want to hear His voice in the midst of all this craziness, then we had best determine to settle in for a good long chat. HEre’s how:
Open the Bible. Read starting in Psalms and don’t stop until something stands out to you. That which stands out is the start of God’s voice to you.
Jot down what stands out to you and then think about why it stands out. What does it have to do with your personal life? Write that down.
Congratulations you have just heard God speak to you!
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Phil. 4:8
It’s time we started listening for better voices than the ones on TV!
So I spent 19 of the last 36 hours in meetings of one kind or another. It feels like every last ounce of glory and strength has been drained out of my body. Amanda and Brenda are no better off. Brenda was out even longer than I was by about 6 hours.
When people used to ask me what I did I used to tell them I was a “professional meetinger”. That period of my life was annotated by a long series of meeting minutes and action items I had to get done in order to build the Kingdom of God.
The last 36 hours has made me realize that I am not a “professional meetinger” anymore. I still have a deep passion for the Kingdom of God but I realize my job is not to “meeting” the Kingdom into existence any more (if it ever was). I am going to try really hard not to meeting myself into a stupor ever again.
Today when people ask me what I do for work. I am not exactly sure what my answer will be…artist, prophet, pastor, caregiver? What I do know is that I will never again tell people I am a “professional meetinger”. That is a part of my past. It doesn’t fit me anymore.
What do you do when life shifts from march time to a waltz? What do you do when the rest of the world is still marching and you’re waltzing? What do you do when the rest of the world starts noticing that you aren’t marching to their rhythm anymore?
Since returning from The Philippines, my life rhythm has changed radically. There are days when the world still pulls at me and I am tempted to march again. But, most days I am pretty much settled into the slower waltz rhythm that was put on me by God at the end of 2019.
The rhythm is pretty repetitive: My morning’s go one way. My afternoons go another and my nights…well they are still a work in progress but even they have done some major shifting. The framework around all of it seems to be breakfast, lunch and supper.
I am not good at the waltz rhythm yet. I haven’t got all the nuance down, but clunky as I might look, I have changed pace. What I know is that I will not be going back to marching for a while.
People are starting to notice that I am not on the same foot as them anymore. I am OK with that. Everyone else may need to march. I need to dance in order to accomplish what God needs me to do at Cornerstone.
I was praying about it this morning and I felt impressed by the Lord that much of what I am waltzing through is preparation and discovery for the next phase of ministry.
No I am not leaving Cornerstone, people, so don’t worry. God has made it clear that I have work to do in this city still.
But God is changing the nature of the ministry I do. I have known that for a while and have been very open with the whole church about this. He started changing me three years ago and He isn’t finished yet. The change is going at His pace. As with everything else at the church, God has it firmly in hand and He is in charge of the results.
So…What do you do when life shifts from march time to a waltz? What do you do when the rest of the world is still marching and you’re waltzing? What do you do when the rest of the world starts noticing that you aren’t marching to their rhythm anymore?
You figure out how to be the best dancer you can be …and brother you dance!
In this season of intensive prayer leading up to and including Lent, I have journaled many personal revelations/ realizations about my life which I think may mean something to the larger body of Christ.
Here is one thought which came to me on January 31 regarding the idea of “CONTROL”:
It is time for me to learn I do not control God. It is time for me to start allowing God to control the outcomes of my life. So many times, my service to God, my prayer to God, my devotional life before God is about me trying to control the outcomes of my life. My religion, my relationship to God is too often about me achieving some personal goal rather than me totally surrendering to God no matter what the outcome of that surrender is. This insistence on control is a very great sin.
It is time to embark upon the great and terrible and mysterious adventure with God. It is time to resign myself to the current of God’s river and to allow it to carry me away where it will.
Do you ever feel like you are trying to control God?
During this corporate season of prayer I have filled my journal with hundreds of entries from my personal prayer times. Here is one of the thoughts I have been contemplating since Jan. 26.
“We are only empty vessels. The sooner we recognize that, the sooner we can stop trying to accomplish things in our own power and we can allow God to fill us and flow through us with His power. In His power we can accomplish eternal things if impossible magnitude.”
I am aware that God is bringing me into a place where I recognize my powerlessness. This sense of my own fragility is the key to operating in the supernatural power of the Living God.
Are you becoming aware that you are not equal to the task in front of you? What is your answer to it?
Morning came early today. By 6:30 I had showered, walked and fed the dogs, had breakfast, done laundry, got the bills ready for mailing and loaded the car for the dump run. By 7 I was at prayer in the church and by 8 I was loading the car with my travel piano in preparation for the funeral I am performing this afternoon. By 9 I was peeling potatoes for the potato salad I am taking to the funeral. Then, I headed off to the bank to make a deposit and to withdraw money for mom’s daily needs for the next few weeks.
Brenda had a great night in Southington CT. Two more people gave their hearts to Jesus last night and she got to pray with a man who has had five strokes and lost his voice.
That is the power of story. That is the power of art launched into conversation.
I think it is for this reason I have felt over the last several months that I need to spend more time in two things: Prayer and creation of art.
I am learning God has skills He would make available to us if we would both seek Him and practice. These skills remain latent in us until we need them and choose them for the purposes of His kingdom! Who knows but maybe this is one of the reasons for the shifts going on in my life right now. I am being called out of certain things in order to help my mother. That said perhaps I am also being called into other things by the shifting which will make me of greater use for God’s kingdom.
Cornerstone Church has been in a season of 24/7 prayer since mid January. I have been so blessed to be able to spend between 2 and 5 hours of prayer everyday during this season. I think this needs to become a new normal for me. God has said many things to me during this time. Here is one of those things that came to me in a prayer time on January 22.
HOPE is the understanding and believing of God’s future plan in specificity for an individual as well as in the grand scheme. Faith is the chutzpah which acts on that understanding. Faith cannot operate properly without first having a true hope. Many people struggle with faith because they try to operate in faith without any understanding of God’s specific plan for the suture of their situation (they have no hope).