True worship stands in opposition to the secular trend that repudiates the supernatural. Secularization says all that is, is what is. It argues that there is nothing outside of human existence to give life meaning or value. The secular attitude insists that humans are left to create their own meaning, value, and identity. But in the celebration of the Christ-event, worship affirms the supernatural, sanctions the past, and creates confidence in the future.

-Robert Webber, Worship Is a Verb: Celebrating God’s Mighty Deeds of Salvation, Second Edition

Biblical worship is rooted in an event that is to be lived, not proven. . . . In Christian worship we are not merely asked to believe in Jesus Christ, but to live, die, and be resurrected again with him. Life is not an intellectual construct, but a journey of death and rebirth. When our life story is brought up into the story of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, it then gains meaning and purpose.

-Robert Webber, Worship Is a Verb: Celebrating God’s Mighty Deeds of Salvation, Second Edition

A Child of God

 

He sees me and instantly his eyes light up and a smile covers his whole face.  When I nuzzle his neck and pretend like I’m eating him he laughs with pure joy.  I sing and he stops what he is doing to gaze at me with eyes full of wonder.  Later, when he is getting tired, he grabs ahold of my shirt and pulls his head into my chest to find comfort and then sleep.

Yes. These last few months have been ones of sleepless nights and poopy diapers, but even more so, they have been filled with wonder and joy.  I don’t have any long profound message for you except to say that I’m realizing again what it means to be a child of God.  This is exactly what Jesus meant when he said,

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Do I look for God and does my heart light up when I catch glimpses of his glory?

Do I laugh with pure joy at his gifts and love?

Do I stop what I’m doing to listen with wide-eyed wonder at his creation?

Do I go to him and find rest in his arms?

It is in these simple life moments that I am filled with such love for my new, little son.  And as I lay him down to sleep in his crib and he rolls over onto his side, (Don’t do that, kid!  Haven’t you heard of SIDS??!?!?) I remember that I too am a child of God.

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Spoken-word Psalm 6

I was in the hospital again this week with a friend.  He’s home now and is going to be ok.  I met with another friend over lunch who is struggling with what is happening in his life right now.  Both were struggling so I thought there might be others out there too.

Here is a psalm that I re-wrote for you when you’re tired, hurting, sick or just emotionally worn out.  It was originally written by David because he struggled with the same kinds of things…and he wrote this to God…for himself…for you…

Lord,

don’t hammer me in your anger
    or whoop me in your wrath.
Please have some mercy, Lord, for

I.

am.

tired.

    Heal me, Lord, for my stomach’s on fire.
My soul is delving deep in darkness
    And my heart is a liar.

Turn, Lord, so I can see you;
    save me because of your animating love.
The numb no longer know your name.
    Who praises you while staring at the TV screen?

(Remote control:  click, click, click…)

And here I am worn out from…everything

All night, I sit like a vegetable with arms
    and mumble many mono-syllables.
My eyes grow heavy and hurt;
    and then my nose

starts

to

run.  (snort)

Get behind me, sarcasm,
    (And yeah!, the Lord has seen my selfishness and…that sarcasm too.)
The Lord has heard me “hello?” for help;
    the Lord accepts my pathetic prayer.

All my insecurity will be overwhelmed with holy dreams and sleep;
    as my will repents and prays,

“…the Lord my soul to keep”.

Prayer in Process…

Every week we walk through doors at ECC we see four words.

Pursue.  Prayer.  Preparation.  Participation.

Recently, we started asking some questions.

“How are we doing with those words?”

We have had a variety of answers, but one of them haunts me and is something our staff is working on.

Prayer.

The last two weekends, we talked with our teams about focusing more on God’s worthiness in our prayer times before service.  Our church staff is also meeting with Daniel Henderson throughout the year to learn and grow in our leadership.  Our first meeting with him was a week ago and helpful for us.  We are also reading Henderson’s book, “Old Paths / New Power” and a few quotes have jumped out at me.  He writes…

“If we have not time we must make time, for if God has given us time for secondary duties, He must have given us time for primary ones, and to draw near to Him is a primary duty…”

“To be effective, these priorities must relentlessly shape your schedule.  Each week the calendar must be organized around these commitments.  Otherwise distractions will tank effectiveness.”

This is true.  Whether we like to admit it or not, we make time for the things that are important to us.  Last week was busy for me, but I made sure to run out of the office in time to see my daughter’s soccer game in the late afternoon.  (They lost.)

How will it change us if we take time out of our schedule?  I don’t know, but we’re going to find out.  We will take a bit more time on the weekends to praise God for who he is.  I am taking a 1/2 day once a month to get away and pray.  Now, I might miss a month here and there and it doesn’t have to be a whole 1/2 a day.  The point is that I am working on my awareness of God’s presence in the normal parts of my day and redeeming time even if it’s just in the car or running outside in the morning.

So like I said, I don’t know how it will change us or myself.  I’m guessing that the process is the point as much as the outcome.

But we’re going to see…

Prayer by Dana Gioia

I discovered this poem and it touched me deeply.  I don’t know the situation or the circumstances that birthed these words, but I resonate with them.  The joining of grief, art, faith, lament, hope…

Echo of the clocktower, footstep
in the alleyway, sweep
of the wind sifting the leaves.

Jeweller of the spiderweb, connoisseur
of autumn’s opulence, blade of lightning
harvesting the sky.

Keeper of the small gate, choreographer
of entrances and exits, midnight
whisper travelling the wires.

Seducer, healer, deity or thief,
I will see you soon enough—
in the shadow of the rainfall,

in the brief violet darkening a sunset—
but until then I pray watch over him
as a mountain guards its covert ore

and the harsh falcon its flightless young.

God who spoke will speak through the Word. God who acted will act in our worship. [We need] a restoration of the supernatural, an expectancy that God will be present to us in our worship to touch us, to heal us, and to make us whole.

-Robert Webber, Worship Is a Verb: Celebrating God’s Mighty Deeds of Salvation, Second Edition

Art in worship is a bit like the ring on the left hand. It’s a vehicle through which a volume is spoken. . . . I have found that music, banners, liturgical dance, drama, color, the symbolic use of space, and other artistic objects serve my worship. . . . They communicate the gospel in their own way and, in doing so, inspire within us offerings of praise and thanksgiving.

-Robert Webber, Worship Is a Verb: Celebrating God’s Mighty Deeds of Salvation, Second Edition

Cancer and Resurrection

It’s the beginning of April.  This time every year, as we see both snow and 70 degree temps, I am also thinking about something more than Spring Break.

I’m thinking about cancer.

I was diagnosed with cancer on April 5th over 10 years ago.  I remember getting the news from the ER doctor who walked in after my x-ray and blood work.  I had been in chronic pain for over month and was still feeling it’s bite even with a full dose of Vicodin.

“I’m sorry.  This is the part of my job that I don’t like,” the doctor said, “but you have cancer and it’s extensive.”

I was sure at that moment that I was a dead man walking.  The doctor had just said the “C-word”…malignant cancer spreading to my abdomen and wrapping around my right kidney and main artery in an attempt to squeeze the life out of me.  I could envision the surgeon cutting me open during surgery and surveying my internal organs that now looked like a grey gelatinous mass.  “Sew him up and send him home with morphine,” he’d say, “There’s nothing we can do…”

Cancer.  The word feels like a death sentence, because for so many it is.

chemo chair

But I didn’t die then.  In fact, in a couple hours later another doctor walked into the room.  This doctor was an oncologist and she said, “It’s serious, but we can handle this.”  I had faced death and suddenly I was given…hope.

Death and resurrection.  That is the theme for our church this year as we start a new series called “The End and the Beginning”.  This is also a theme for me. Because of what Jesus did?  Yes.  But also because over 10 years ago, I saw death starring me in the face.  Death.  And resurrection.

And that is also the theme of the next week and a half.  We proclaim life, but also death.  Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Our death and resurrection.  That is the story of our faith.

Jesus died.

Jesus rose again.

Jesus will come again.

And because he did.  We will too.

I remember sneaking in the back of the church service during my 12 weeks of chemo.  My hair had fallen out.  My fingers tingled because of nerve damage.  My blood vessels were burned.  I didn’t have enough strength to talk to people, but I wanted to be in church.  I needed to be in church…surrounded by God’s people singing.  And so I would sing with tears in my eyes.  Despite the pain.  Despite the cancer.

I

Would

Sing.

chemo me

And again, that is what we do.  We sing in the face of pain and death.  This is one of the things it means to be a disciple.  We are made new.  We bear His death and resurrection in our bodies and because of that, we sing.  Jesus died and rose again.

So this weekend, we sing.

This is not the end.

We sing.

LET THE MESSAGE OF CHRIST DWELL AMONG YOU RICHLY…SINGING TO GOD WITH GRATITUDE IN YOUR HEARTS. –COLOSSIANS 3:16