Categotry Archives: Meanderings (look it up)

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The View From Here

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Categories: Meanderings (look it up), My Story

I spend a lot of time here in the ongoing process of “de-constructing”–in other words, processing my thoughts and discussing the issues about the institutional forms of Christianity that are now in my rear-view mirror. That de-construction is necessary, and a lot of fellow bloggers are documenting their own similar journeys.

However, I think it’s important to note that this journey is about far more than what is in the rear-view mirror. There is a lot of stuff ahead of me, a whole horizon to explore. Stuff I never knew existed. So I thought I’d talk a little about that today.

During a lot of my de-construction, and culminating with the wake-up call, I felt a sense of grief and loss, and rejection. Institutional Christianity had been pretty much all I’d known, and had been a place where I found acceptance (as long as I “played ball”). So even though I could not deny the truth of what God was showing me, it was still hard to let go. And yet, I knew I couldn’t embrace what was in front of me until I let go of what was already behind me.

So when I let go…I found a whole new world.

If I boiled down all my feelings about being outside the walls into one word…it would be “wonder.” I feel like God has opened up the wide-open spaces to me, and I have discovered options for ministry and purpose I never knew existed. Despite the tame forms of Christianity I’ve lived in, there has always been a part of me that knew that ours is a subversive faith, one that is destined to turn the world upside down. That is the part of me that now is free to come to the surface. Before now, there were so many things I would never have considered doing (I do NOT mean in a sinful sense) simply because they didn’t fit the paradigms of “church”. Now I can see that there are so many more ways to be Jesus to the world than just the formats and structures I grew up with, and I’m anxious to try some of them out. 🙂 The boredom I have felt for years fades away in the rear-view mirror when I look out at all that is in front of me.

Before I really let go and embraced this new world, I tried desperately to hold on to my relationships within the institutional church (and I still have friends there). I often felt fearful and alone because I knew God was morphing me into something that more and more of those people could not relate to. But when I let go–not forsaking my friends, per se, but just not holding them so tightly–I found a whole new group of people experiencing a similar journey as myself. I have actually found people in this town who are like-minded. Wow. And I have discovered a whole set of Internet friends, and even some dear friends from the past who have found themselves on a similar journey. People I never would have found had I not been willing to let the institutions fall into the rear-view mirror. And of course, there is the wonderful house-church community that has not only watched us walk this path, but have been walking it with us all along. It’s still gets lonely out here sometimes–just not quite as lonely.

There are also times I feel a bit overwhelmed by it all. As a sheep in the flock of God, I feel like I have been kept in a sheep pen for most of my life (and when you think of a bunch of sheep stuck in a pen–boy, that analogy might just generate another blog post in itself–might be veerryy entertaining). Now, I feel like I’ve been released from the pen, and I’m running and jumping in the open country. Woo hoo! But then the magnitude of the unfamiliar surrounds me, and I start to get uncomfortable, even scared. The sheep pen is familiar, but I simply know I can’t go back there (besides, someone has locked it behind me). And when I find myself in this place of uncertainty and insecurity…this is when I begin to listen for the voice of the Good Shepherd. I am out in the wide open, but I am not lost. But I can no longer depend on the sheep pen for my bearings; I must listen to His voice. I can’t just venture off into the horizon; I must be led.

So…I’m a sheep in the wide-open country, driving in my car (make it a convertible), my wool blowing in the breeze, with the sheep pen in my rear-view mirror, the horizon in front of me, and God is on my GPS. How’s THAT for mixed metaphors?

So how is God leading you these days, and what does it look like?

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Weekend Ramblings, and Some Links You Might Click On…

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Categories: Meanderings (look it up)

This week, I have truly enjoyed and appreciated the comments readers have left, sharing what music and movies have spoken to them. For some of the movies and songs you listed, I went, “YES!!!! I wish I’d put that down, too!” For some of them, I went, “HUH?” 🙂 But I definitely appreciated the diversity of responses, knowing that God has His own ways of reaching each one of us.

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More About Music and Worship…

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Categories: Meanderings (look it up), music

In yesterday’s post, I lamented that even as a worship leader and songwriter, I have become bored with most of the music that is labeled “Christian music” or “worship music.” I’m bored mostly because I’m hungry for something more.

The comments I got were interesting and varied (and thank you for all of them). Some expressed that they could definitely relate to what I was saying; some offered advice on how to improve my songwriting and/or music that speaks to them. It was a significant enough response that I thought it would be good to just continue the discussion here for a bit.

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Grappling…

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Categories: Meanderings (look it up)

Grapple…it was the Word of the Month for January/February. Guess we need to carry it over into March, too.

I gotta tell you…all this grappling, although I know it’s necessary, is starting to weary me a bit.

While I am certainly benefiting from all the stuff I’m studying and reading and learning, a lot of it is making me grapple with a lot of my long-held beliefs about God and doctrine. Why do I believe what I believe? Where does that belief come from, and is it truly founded on the Scripture by which I claim to live? If it does, then that belief becomes positively reinforced. If not…then I have to do something about it.
And then I grapple with what I need to change, how I need to adapt to these new perspectives. How do these truths affect how we look at life, church, ministry? What will these changes look like? How do we flesh them out? What comfort zones are going to be totally abolished during the process? (ANSWER: Most of them.)
And I grapple with the healing process going on in my own soul. I’m looking at my own brokenness, and how my leadership style changes, and needs to change, as my personal healing continues. I can easily see, for example, how my codependent tendencies caused me to be very controlling and even interfering in my pastoral style. So when I see people in my group struggling with their own issues, in obvious need of some sort of pastoral care…I know how I used to handle it. How do I handle it now? How do I engage with them and with their problems in a life-giving manner? I know what it used to look like; how should it look now? What should I say–what shouldn’t I say?

Things like that.

Right now everything feels topsy-turvy to me. I like to have my legs under me, I like to know which way is up, and I don’t feel like that right now. I’m not really depressed or anything; just uncomfortable. I know it won’t always feel like this; but I just sort of felt like complaining about it. 🙂 Just keeping it real.

How about you? Can you relate? Do you have any idea what I’m talking about?

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Deconstructing "Quiet Time"

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Categories: changing mindsets, Meanderings (look it up), My Story

I want to give a bit of a disclaimer about this next bit I’m about to write….

It is part of my story, my journey. It doesn’t necessarily have to be part of yours. In other words, by sharing what I’ve been going through and the conclusions I’m coming to, I’m not suggesting that this is how it ought to be for everyone. Just sharing, that’s all.

I grew up in a family that placed a high value on a daily “quiet time”–or some of you might call it, “personal devotions” or “prayer time”. It was understood that before you got going with your day, you would take some time to pray and read your Bible. If you didn’t, it was understood that things just wouldn’t go right that day–or at least, you wouldn’t want to make a habit of skipping it often.

As an adult, I understand that the purpose of this “rule” was simply to build good discipleship habits. As a child who longed to please…it might as well have been written into the canon of Scripture. (It isn’t, you know–you DO know that, don’t you?) It was so ingrained into me that I felt like it was a sin not to have my quiet time, like I might miss the rapture or something. (I related quite a bit to Brant’s post from a few days ago.) And even after I made it to adulthood a few weeks years ago, and I could rationalize it differently, I still felt somewhat unclean if I didn’t have that quiet time.

Never mind that all through my “quiet time”, my mind would wander terribly and I would waste hours at a time daydreaming, or that I remembered almost nothing of what I read in the Bible. Never mind the fact that The Wild One regularly acted more like Jesus than I did–without having a regular structured “quiet time” every day. If I had that quiet time, I felt “okay”, and if I didn’t–I didn’t.

Until finally I came to the point where my religion failed me.

I’ll spare the details for another blog entry, but for now, suffice it to say I was in an extended time of trial, and working all the spiritual formulas I knew to turn things around–all to no avail. And I came to a place where I had nothing left, and I got very, very real with God. All I could do was to throw myself upon Him, admit to myself that I didn’t know anything about real trust, and ask Him to teach me.

It was one of the best things that ever happened to me. My religion failed me, and I am now living on what is left.

So after that experience, I found myself at a crossroads. I would come to my “quiet time” in the mornings, and find I had nothing to say and no interest at all. It was a little scary because I was a pastor, and it felt a bit like backsliding. I honestly felt like all my praying and contending had done me no good; the only thing that had worked in my situation was letting go. So why go through the motions anymore? That was when I realized that’s exactly what this “quiet time” had been all those years–going through the motions. I didn’t want to do that anymore; whatever my faith looked like from now on, I wanted it to be real. Again, I asked the Lord to show me.

And this is where I have to say, this is my journey, not yours. I gave myself permission not to have a set quiet time. I didn’t give myself permission to walk away from God (and I didn’t); I just gave myself permission to relax. And in that decision, I found a sense of rest for the first time in nearly 30 years of being a Christian. I was free now to start over, to learn all over again what true discipleship would look like for me.

I am a work in progress, but this is what my devotional life looks like now, since I made that decision…
  • I pray, but not at a set time, or for a set time period. I pray as I go through my day, as I’m driving, while I’m working out. I involve God in my internal conversations, constantly aware of His presence. And I pray in a more focused manner when there is a need to do so. I do not pressure myself to intercede and travail if I don’t feel it.
  • I don’t read my Bible every day. (GASP!) But I do still read it.
  • I traded my “prayer closet” for new scenery. I used to hole up in my living room in the mornings; now I go to the gym, and then to a local restaurant or coffee shop to read and study, whether it be the Bible or whatever piece of nonfiction I’m working through at the time. Or lately… I use that time to write in this blog. A lot of what you read here is coming straight out of my new-and-improved “quiet times.” (I’m letting you into my prayer closet–don’t you feel privileged??)
I grew up believing that all that time of pressing in, praying hard, and diligent study would keep me close to God and make me more like Jesus. (Remember the Sunday school song? “Read your Bible, pray every day…and you’ll grow, grow, grow.”) But since I’ve deconstructed my quiet time, an amazing thing has happened–or, hasn’t happened. I haven’t backslid. In fact, I feel like I love Jesus more, because I no longer feel imprisoned or held hostage by my religious expectations. I am much more relaxed, much less anal (can I say that?), and overall much happier in the journey.

I still believe there is a time/place for fervent prayer and diligent study. That’s all still in the Bible. I just believe that for my own journey, God has given me a time of respite, because all of it was based on religion and not true discipleship. The truth is…I need to rest. 🙂 What did Jesus say? “My yoke is easy, My burden is light.” That’s the only burden I want to carry these days.

Interestingly, and strictly by coincidence, Steve over at Emergent Kiwi has written along a similar line with regard to reading the Bible. Leave me your thoughts about all this in the comments, then go check him out.

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Debris

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Categories: food for thought, Meanderings (look it up)

I’ve often been known to refer to Tulsa as “the other Windy City.” (A collective groan: “MORE about the weather??”)

Well, sort of. But not quite.

What I get tired of is not the wind itself, but all the debris that it blows into my yard(s).

My front door faces north, and sits in a sort of alcove. So when a cold front blows through, the neighborhood litter likes to collect at my front step. As I write this, the latest cold front has scattered something brown and raggedy in my front yard for me to go pick up. I haven’t decided if it is shredded cardboard or dead cornstalks. I’ll have to get back to you on that.

What really confounds me, however, is the south wind that blows debris into my back yard. Why? Because there is this high privacy fence surrounding it. I do not know how many times I’ve let the dog out and seen a plastic bag or empty potato chip bag or candy wrapper blowing around the yard, and wondered, Where the heck did THAT come from? The wind is obviously blowing this stuff all the way from the main road at least 300 yards away, across an open field and over the fence. Nice.

So…because I haven’t said anything overtly spiritual in a couple of days (although we know now that everything is sacred for us Jesus-followers)…let’s see what spiritual truth I can extract out of this…hmmmmmmmmm…..

We all have debris blowing around in our lives. (How’s that?)

No matter how hard you work on the yard that is your life, or how clean you try to make it appear…eventually you will see more debris blowing around it. And when you look at your neighbors’ perfectly manicured lawns and shrubbery and make comparisons to the weeds in your own…you need to remember that they have debris, too. It might be hiding behind their privacy fences, but it’s there. This is because we are all of us works in progress. Every one of us is broken in some way, every one of us sustains wounds from the war of life, and every one of us is, in some way, a pile of rubble and debris. Not only that, but because we’re always rubbing up against each other, we litter other people’s yards with debris, too.

We are all in need of restoration, and I believe Jesus the Healer is always seeking to clear away the debris, clean us up, rebuild us. But my experience is that healing of this sort comes in layers. And that’s why just when you think you have your yard all cleaned up…sooner or later you find more debris. And that’s also why we can never take pride in our own sense of righteousness.

Thankfully, God’s love for us has nothing to do with the debris in our lives. Jesus meets us in our broken state and embraces us just as we are…and as we walk with Him, His love works in us the healing and debris-cleaning we so desperately need.

Just checked…it’s cornstalks. Or at least something leafy and dead. Good thing it’s garbage night.

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Thoughts on religion

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Categories: Meanderings (look it up), religion

I just found out about this book yesterday–The End of Religion by Bruxy Cavey. For obvious reasons (see the title of my blog, above), the name of this book arrests my attention, and I plan to add it to my reading list, to see what’s up. I’ve heard Cavey teach via podcast, and I think he’s got some interesting things to say.

But this book title has got me thinking about religion in general. The word “religion” is just about as confusing as the word “church”, the word “grace”, the word “anointing”–these are all Christian catch-words that often mean different things to different people.

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About Music

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Categories: Meanderings (look it up), music

I am not sure why I haven’t made this a topic sooner, but…I’m into music. A lot.

As far as what it is I do, especially in a ministry sense…music is probably my primary gift. I am a songwriter, a singer, a keyboard player, a worship leader. I’ve been musically inclined my whole life, and although I’m pushing 41 now, there are still a lot of things I want to do in this area of my life. I’ll probably talk more about that stuff later on…for now, I just thought it would be good to introduce you to this part of me.

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Un-persuaded

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Categories: changing mindsets, church, Meanderings (look it up)

I am a skeptic by nature, but I am not a cynic.

It is difficult to persuade me; but once I am persuaded, it is difficult to un-persuade me.

Once I am convinced of something–even if it ultimately proves to be wrong–I tend to hold onto that belief until it draws its last breath in my life.

This is why I say I am not a cynic. I am an optimist. I tend to keep believing in something long after it stops working. This is something that can be a virtue but can also work against me.

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An Uncomfortable Realization

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Categories: fun, Meanderings (look it up), What the heck was THAT?

In the events that have unfolded in the past couple of weeks, I’ve been forced to face an uncomfortable realization about myself:

I’m a freakin’ hypocondriac.

For your consideration, I submit the following points as evidence:
  1. Within five minutes of someone around me declaring he/she has a sore throat…I become very aware of a slight hint of a scratch in my throat.
  2. Within a few minutes of someone telling me that they have a stomach virus…I become very aware of a slight hint of a scratch in my throat. (What the heck? That’s not even the right symptom!)
  3. Within a few minutes of someone telling me that a child in a house I just visited threw up shortly after I left…I become aware of a slight hint of a scratch in my throat.
  4. Within a few minutes of reading several blogs where the writers said they were sick and going back to bed…I become aware of a slight hint of a scratch in my throat.
  5. I love the smell of Lysol.
  6. I love antibacterial soaps.
  7. I love hand sanitizers.
  8. I have to use lots of lotion on my hands in the winter because the constant use of antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers dries them out.
  9. I take steady doses of Airborne and Zicam whenever anyone who lives within 200 yards of my house has a cold.
To my amazement, however…a nasty stomach bug hit my wife (The Wild One) and son (The Director) two weeks ago. I never got it. As I write this, both The Wild One and The Director are suffering from a cold and are lying around in their pajamas. I have yet to come down with it, despite the fact that I am aware of a slight hint of a scratch in my throat.

Guess the hand sanitizers, antibacterial soap, Lysol, Airborne and Zicam are working.
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(P.S. To help someone who might really be sick and in need, please check out the Uganda links on the sidebar. Let’s look outside ourselves and do what we can to be Jesus to the world.)
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