Check it…

I wrote and threw this together yesterday.

Partially it was a fun experiment to see what I could do at first blush NOT using guitars (or at least them not sounding like guitars). 

The words are:

Let all creation sing Her praise–to U. Let all the colors bleed to U. Inside my doubt there is faith. And in my silence a song remains. And won’t U carry me away. U spin me round–round in circles. U spin me round–round in circles. Outside my head.”

Suspending Disbelief…an act of worship

  

Years ago I flirted with the charismatic world.  I suppose the farthest I ever got was Vineyard, which may only be like making it to second base, I really don’t know.  During Bible college I became pretty sickened by the rank intellectualism of the seminarians I was encountering and so became a champion of headless spirituality. Now you have to understand, I mean that in a positive way.  So much of Western Christianity is pure frontal lobe.  As Richard Rohr says, “it’s about 1/3 inch of 1/2 of your brain”.  Frankly, I think that there needs to be more heart and more hands within spirituality.  Head, I feel, can often get in the way…at least it has for me historically.  Alright, skip ahead several years.  Fly over the anti-intellectualism of my house church days.  Zip across most of my snobbish counter snobbery rhetoric.  Find me located in a much healthier place (I imagine), that appreciates all three aspects of the human organism.  Feeling has a place, as does choosing, and so also does processing, analyzing, questioning, thoughtful discourse.  Each of these are integral in a healthy integration of being incarnate (allowing All of God to reside in All of me).  In other words, full spirituality requires all of my capacities exercised to their fullest capacity.  That includes the intellect. In fact, I’m not sure if faith can exist without a healthy measure of doubt also in orbit.  True worship of the Divine includes, in a Job-like sense, the questioning of the Divine.  In fact, the picture we see in Job is one of a Holy community between GOD and Job filled with questions for one another.  An integral spirituality requires thought, consideration, and ultimately question.  This is a product, I would say, of the human intellect.  I also believe that to the best of our ability we are compelled to be ‘articulants’ of the Word made flesh.  We use the words we know to tell of the indescribable.  We strive for better words that give more full expression to the ineffable Mystery of God.  Language is also of a product of the human mind.  As we see with Adam, the naming of things, the giving birth to word and description, is fundamental to being human and being made in the image of God.  And finally we are compelled to be co-creators with God.  Creation involves imagination.  We are invited to imagine and RE-imagine new worlds or the world with new properties.  This is another element of the mind.  There are undoubtedly far more reasons than this to be thoughtful Christians, but for me 1)Question 2) Expression 3) Imagination are reason enough to cultivate a healthy appreciation of intellect among the trinity of the human soul.  

I’m saying this because I want no argument for what I’m about to say.  I want no one jumping out of the bushes and saying “Brittian wants us to ‘check our brains at the door’”.  Because I don’t.  I’m simply making a suggestion.

Back to the charismatic world.  I admire them. I admire them because regardless of their daily issues or uncertainties there is an assumption that God is active in the world, both at large and in their lives.  Not just any God, but the immanent God, the God who is HERE, the God who can overturn tables and hearts and bodies.  To many in that move, God can speak and WILL speak.  His voice is definite and deafening.  Maybe this only applies to their church services.  While the Presence undoubtedly springs from those events or meetings, the expectation flows into the fullness of living.  There is a casual expectation that God will be made visible and He will be known.  I deeply respect that.  Actually, I envy that.  I sort of think of it like this…if that isn’t the sort of God we are involved with then we should just move beyond God.  

Here’s my thought.  I’m bothered by the hyper critical intellectualism of post-mod melody making (worship services, etc.)  Many of us were frustrated by sit and soak Christianity where church became a spectator sport and we all watched Pastor Jimmy slam dunk another sermon (while we sat on our hands and listened to him have a great time).  Enter the dialogue styled talks of emergent gatherings or the small group anybody is free to share sessions of house church.  Awesome!!!  We weren’t sitting on the sidelines anymore, right?  Guess, what…I believe the same needs to happen with worship and song.  Just as the discussion in house churches or emerging churches requires an conscious engagement of the head, so this will require a conscious engagement of the heart.  

I envision a space of suspended disbelief…a momentary blip in time where we consciously interact with our emotions and allow our imaginations to be activated.  Psychology might call it, “silencing the internal critic”. Actually, all it really is is simply fully interacting with a moment, being present.  Charismatics might call it, “following the Spirit”.  Being in tune with the spirit and being moved by that.  This moment is a expectation of the glorious.  I imagine that it will take practice.  I imagine that it will take courage.  But I also imagine GOD will be there…powerful and present.  

Wanna try it with me?

Entering Mystery

Songs for me, and particularly the personal writing of songs, are a prophetic thing.  I rarely know why I write what I do–they more or less flow out in built in rivers of word and melody.  To be honest, I’ve never felt like I had much control over them; they are their own creatures and I get the opportunity to give birth to something I did not create and then watch it flower into fullness as a spectator and wonderer.  Maybe that sounds strange, it probably does, however it has left me feeling addicted to the process of creation.  I love writing music, mostly because the songs end up helping me understand something of myself.  Lately I’ve come to imagine that I am never so in touch with existing as a created being as when I myself am creating. It is in those moments that I feel fully present, not running off in this direction or that, not distracted by future worries or past grievances. And, I said, there is something prophetic about them. Sometimes, months later I’ll find myself saying, “Aha! That’s what this song was about.”  Interestingly, it will be an event that wasn’t even developed at the time of write, but fits fully and completely.

That having all been said, a song I wrote in the not too distant past has begun to give definition to this blip of my life.  I thought I’d share it with you:

“Entering Mystery, Your Truth and Your Beauty
To have found You and look for You is the paradox of Love
There must be more than this. There must be more than this.

How can you run the race without running? How can you press on without pressing in?
How can my soul be still until I have exhausted myself on You?

There must be more than this.”

What might the prophetic look like today?

Have you been left desolate suburbs and city streets?

Have you been withered away and wrenched apart great arctic glacial flow?

Do you fail to gather grain?

Do your crops of corn and wheat and hops cease to grow?

Where are your customers you tower’s of economy and produce, McDonald’s and Starbuck’s?

Where are the sounds of laughter or children running on the playground?

The streets are crawling with disease

The houses are caving in while the naked shiver inside

Does the sun scorch the forests and set them endlessly on fire?

Does the rain ever let up or the floods leave any dry earth?

What of the cars that once gathered supply?

They, abandoned, bring together no more.

What of the planes that littered the sky?

They, like birds of prey, are now extinct. 

How?

Why? Why do the nations rage and war for water as for oil before it? Why do kings and presidents and chairmen tremble for fear—like rat’s scurrying about looking for scraps of bread or a pinch of meat? 

How?

Why? Why do mothers abandon their children as they are born so that an early death will save them from a long life?  Why do father’s venture out of their walled stockade homes and not return? Why do young men—even young men—lose hope?

“I gave you empty stomachs in all of your cities

and lack of nutrition or any bread

And yet you did not turn back to me!”

                                    Says the sovereign Lord.

“I sent plagues among you, like Egypt, I killed your young men with the sword. I struck your victory gardens and private vineyards. I withheld rain in one place and sent to much to another. People staggered from town to town for water and did not receive a drink…still you have not returned to me.”

                                    Says the sovereign Lord.

“What have we done?”  the people ask, the religious beg to know their grievance. “Didn’t we seek you daily? Didn’t we memorize your words? Didn’t we study about your truths? Didn’t we worship you endlessly? Didn’t we gather at the right times? Didn’t we celebrate your Holy Day’s? Weren’t we passionate about you? Was there ever a time that we didn’t speak your name? Haven’t you been our all and our everything? Isn’t it true that we’ve accepted all this from your hand? Didn’t we sacrifice our lives for each other? Didn’t we love our fellow believers enough?  Haven’t our songs been filled with limitless praise and our gestures been full of abandonment to you? What about our adoration, doesn’t it mean anything to you?”

 

                                    Says the sovereign Lord,

“I hate—I despised your religious get togethers…I cannot stand your meetings…Even though you have brought me the offerings of your labors and the deep worship of your heart…I will not accept them…I have no regard for them. Take away the noise of your songs! I will not listen to your guitars or your piano’s or your drums.   You have lifted up the Messenger and forgotten His message.  You have adored Me but not what I adore. 

“Let justice roll on like a river and righteousness like a never failing stream!”

That’s your only way out. 

In that day I will restore your fallen cities. I will repair your broken walls and restore the ruins of your houses and will rebuild it as it was intended to be used…

Taking A Time Out-Part 2

The last fifty years have changed our society and it has changed the church too.

Songs have replaced sermons as the central focus of the Christian meeting. Why? This is because they are more entertaining in general and because they are can be spat out faster. The songs themselves have changed…they too are shorter…their language is more emotional…more invocative…more Jesus-my-boyfriend rather than God, Great King Almighty with seven lengthy verses.

Light shows. Smoke machines. Banners. “The Rock and Roll Worship Circus”.

Back in the late 90’s when praise and worship music was just beginning to be infused with performance styled attributes, my Bible School Praise Band, named after the U2 Song, “Endless Deep”, played U2 rifts during prayers, used wind sounding effects while singing, “There’s a wind a blowing all across the land” and managed to do what our bass player hailed as “manufacturing the Holy Spirit”. The result? One girl in the audience said she wanted to come onto the platform and “smash my face in”. I remember thinking that she might be over reacting a tad. But today I doubt she would have the same response, as those gimmicks are pretty commonplace. The “best and brightest” of today’s mega-churches employ similar methods in their once-edgy now ordinary services. I guess my band was ahead of its time. Clearly we were misunderstood geniuses.

Hyped up and hopped up, we have little tolerance for long explanations. In fact that’s why we have professional pastors isn’t it? Let them consume, digest, and then regurgitate theological thoughts into bite size nuggets of truth. One professor I had called the popular devotional, “Our Daily Bread”, “our daily crumb” because of its distinct tid-bit formula.

Ok.ok.ok. We get it.

But is there anything wrong with all that? So we like to be entertained. So longer is boring and lengthy is deflating. Sermons are out…nobody needs to be preached at. Engaging music is cool (and it has gotten a lot better in the past twenty years)…And frankly our vocabulary isn’t really what it used to be…so we need short and simple sentences sparsely populated with the right mixture of verbs, nouns, and adjectives that will stir and give hope not depress and demoralize. Old way versus new way. The End…Fin…

Well, maybe nothing is wrong with those things and the whole hyper active way of thinking…but I wonder if it might go further than our practices and thought life and extend into how we relate to God. I wonder if we have inadvertently contracted attention deficit disorder of the spirit. When we pray we do so impatiently. We want answers now and up to the minute signs assuring us that God is listening. The apostle Paul prayed three times that a thorn be removed from his side…I doubt we would ask once without becoming fidgety, demanding that a positive answer be given immediately. He also mentioned prayer without ceasing…but we seem to have isolated conversation with God into a few canned liturgies said once a week… Our Christian fellowship meetings must each be high octane. There is little room for silence or “waiting upon the Lord”; a habit that the Quaker’s used to call “soaking”. My mind begins to shriek when there is a pause in the production, “What happened? Who missed their cue?” And so we speak when not Spoken to. We insert words when the Word is not there. We plow ahead without His presence. Since we have no time to hesitate for His overdue answers we keep talking, talking, talking…placing duct tape over God’s mouth, making Him to be our captive audience, listening constantly, unable to get a word in edgewise.

My two year old son, Ransom, gets incredibly excited when there are guests. The more keyed up he becomes the more animated and wild his behavior gets. His environment, his context that he is in doesn’t justify any such conduct. So, we say, “Ransom, use you’re inside voice.” Which he does…but it doesn’t last… Then comes the ultimate and intimidating, “TIME OUT!” He hates that. More than physical repercussions, more than loud or angry words, he cannot stand to be taken out of the action… I’m the same way.

Like my two year old, my Christian activity seems to get more and more frenetic until my environment no longer resembles my actions. I guess it’s not just me…its Christian culture at large. I…We…are in need of a time out…

We need to breathe. We need to rest…we need to normalize. Turn down the amps. Turn up the lights. Put away the banners and the slogans and the blips and the bleeps…and just pause…for just a minute.

I’m doing it now…breathing…just breathing…slowly, steadily and satisfied. Then I hear those words from Him, “At last…I was wondering when you’d take the ear buds out…and plug into my speaking…just me…”

Taking A Time Out–Part 1

“Here we are now, entertain us.”

Yup, that just about says it all.

For my generation, it’s obvious…stimulation, over-stimulation, hyper-stimulation…

Remember Atari? It was cool. I got in on the gaming revolution way to late, but it was really cool. There was this one game, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, with its synthesizer theme “music” and brick-like pixel snakes to be avoided, I was completely amused. But then came the Sega-Genesis and Sonic the Hedgehog, always moving, and if you weren’t moving then you lost the game. So, my mind had to speed up in order to keep up. Skip a decade (because I did) and suddenly there is the multiplayer James Bond phenomenon…again, constantly moving, frantically fast paced. My eyes actually started to hurt after playing it for a while. Then X-Box came and with it we got, Halo…big…better…faster…more painful for my eyes…

But that’s just talking about games…

Movies are the same way…I remember watching Chariots of Fire when I was about 10 years old, one of the first movies I ever saw…I was riveted; the characters, the plot line, the breathtaking melody…Funny thing, recently I tried to watch it again, I barely made it through the first hour…slow, monotone, bland colors…nothing like the blockbuster Pirate extravaganza Hollywood had just put out for summer consumption. Our cinema is a thing of booming, exploding, crashing, flashing, and constant excitement.

And then, there are slogans… A good politician used to be memorable by his speeches; leaders were immortalized by their exquisite oration…now it’s all about catchphrases, blips, and even single watchwords. The former British Prime Minister Tony Blair began one of his addresses by saying, “Now is not the time for sound-bites. I can feel the hand of history on my shoulder”…Hellooo?!?! That’s one of the most amazing sound bites I have ever heard! But, even that feels a bit wordy. Today on the political front whole campaigns have been reduced from a pithy slogan to solitary names that say it all… “BUSH”…or equally to the point “GORE”. It’s ironic that in this age of mass marketing and advertising extraordinaire a really good point can’t actually even be made…no time…no patience…no toleration for the long winded explanation…so just flash a face in front of me, wave a color next to their head, and say their name clearly and deliberately so it can be understood…now that is a successful political canvassing.

The iPod has allowed us to create the portable soundtrack for our life…My friends make fun of me that the first thing I do when I get into my car is turn it to the day’s fresh Playlist. But they are the same way…ear buds always in…sound on.

Do you see what I’m getting at?

Our culture, like the movie, is fast and furious…our need for speed is farther reaching than just in the car world. Say it fast, think it fast…and make sure it keeps my attention!

Christianity isn’t much different than the world around it in this respect.

True Worship (an out of context quote)

I found this…I love the definition of worship it provides…Worship is movement…it’s being moved. Truly and positionally moved…great stuff

True worship is:

When we willingly forgo other things to come together as a community and put ourselves under the Word of God- when we listen to Him, and allow Him to speak to us, push us, challenge and change us- that’s worship. When we respond inwardly and outwardly…saying “Yes God- You are more worthy than my job, than my possessions, than my hobbies and than myself of my love and devotion,” we worship.

Worship is trusting God, not myself, and it’s loving God- not my idols. It’s actively pulling my focus from myself and my wants and putting that focus on Him- His desires for this world. I think about who God is, what He’s done for me, and I am moved.

The whole point of worship is to “move us.” But when I say that I’m not talking about simply whether or not we had an emotional, charismatic-like experience. When I say “moved” I mean: If we don’t find that our hearts have been moved from idols, whatever they are, toward God, we haven’t worshiped.

Find the rest here…It’s interesting and I’m thoughtful about it’s implications within the original context it was written in–provoking I must say (especially from a house church/organic/emergent type perspective which tends to reject [along with the rest of modern culture] the role of sermonics)…

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