Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Moving On

Last week Brian and I had the distinct honor of clearing out the storage facility we've had for the past year and a half. When we moved from our first location in the shopping center to the square, we had a lot of junk to store. In our best efforts to cut costs, we decided to get rid of the storage and get rid of some stuff, sell some stuff, and put the rest in places that don't cost money. While we were in the zone of cleaning stuff out, we decided that it was time to take down the River Stone sign that had flown high in the Crestwood Shopping Center for the past three years. This task has been on our list for the past year and a half. We kind of liked people just thinking that we were a multi-site church. In the first two pictures you can see Brian and John hanging the sign. I remember being so proud of that sign and letting the world know where we were. It was a strange feeling cutting it down and watching it descend to the ground.

The day ended up being a rather spiritual experience. We laid our eyes on things we didn't remember we had. Certain things reminded us of certain people who are no longer here, and that was sad. We remembered, reminisced, and re-evaluated whether or not we needed some of this stuff. It didn't take long to see how different our church is now. We have no use for most of the stuff we packed away a year and a half ago. We also had no use for a sign flying above a place we no longer meet in. It was a day to remember where we've come from, but more importantly it was a day to celebrate where we are and where we're going. There was a feeling of liberation - everything we were holding on to is now gone. Our chains are gone. We are free from the things that were holding us back, and we're focused on what's ahead and what we need in order to get where we're going. It was clear that the time to move on is now. While we never want to forget where we've come from, we also don't want to cling to the junk in storage or the sign keeping us focused on a season passed.

A new day has dawned, the old is gone and the new has come. I hope that we continue to clean out the closets of everything keeping us from moving on after the Holy Spirit and His plan for our church.

Before you came home...

For the past couple of months I've been walking 4-5 mornings a week. I walk for 35-40 minutes, and I've used the time to get caught up on various sermons that I can never seem to find time to listen to during the day. As Holly and I have turned a corner of healthier living (now that we're both post 30), this has become a very enjoyable part of most of my days. Jacob is usually still asleep when I leave, and only a few times has he been awake when I walk in the door. A couple of other times he's been sitting on the porch with Shelby (the dog) waiting for me to get back.

Today, I was about halfway through my route deep into my sermon of choice when I noticed a little kid that looked a lot like my son walking toward me. Not only did it look like him, it was him. Three blocks away from our house (including a couple of turns), Jacob was walking down the sidewalk in his Old Navy Pajama pants - no shoes, no shirt, three blocks from home. I was shocked, stunned, furious, confused, relieved, and curious. I asked Jacob what he was doing. He said, "I just wanted to find you." I asked him how he knew where I was, and he proceeded to tell me my route (which he apparently memorized the one time he went with me on his scooter). I went on to say all of the fatherly things about how dangerous it was that he walked that far by himself, how he needed shoes and a shirt if he was going to walk that far, blah, blah, blah... Then I asked him why he didn't just wait for me to get home. I reminded him and reassured him that Daddy always comes home. He listened, thought about it, and replied, "I just wanted to see you before you came home."

I've notice a lot lately that I'm learning a lot from my son. I'm enjoying this stage more than any others as he's dialogging so honestly and thoroughly about life, God, friends, baseball, basketball, Mom & Dad, and so much more. As I was carrying him home this morning, I thought about how so many Christians live their physical lives content to wait for the day when their Father comes home. What if we went hard after our Father because we can't wait for Him to come home. We want Him now. We want to follow him now and be with him now. What if we had that type of urgency to go where God the Father is - where He's walking and moving. Jacob was so confident that he knew where I was. He had no doubt we would be where I was. He was so caught up in the moment of finding me that he didn't make any plans, didn't put on shoes or a shirt, he just went for it. It's not small thing that scripture teaches us to have the faith of a child. What if we didn't sit around waiting for Jesus to come back and went out where we know He's walking and join Him, walk with Him, let Him carry us home, all the while just being excited that we are with Him and becoming like Him.

It was a beautiful thing, it really was.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Something to Say...

Last Thursday, Brian and I were blessed by a friend of ours with tickets to go and sit under the teaching of John Eldredge who's written a new book entitled, "Walking with God." It was a great time, and it was very refreshing. The event was in The Woodlands, and I took the excuse of going to Houston as an opportunity to take some pianos the church has accumulated to my Dad for repair and to later sell. I dropped the pianos off and had lunch with my Dad. He had an appointment so I headed to the Woodlands for some needed time of study. I landed at a couple of different places over the next several hours. My final spot was a Starbucks (which didn't exist according to my GPS).

I ordered my skinny cinnamon latte and took out my bible and notebook. I sat down at the only available table in the place which was uncomfortably close to a couple who looked to be in their mid 50's. At first glance I didn't think anything odd about the couple, but within moments it was clear there was a problem. This couple was in the middle of a huge argument, and it was an argument that had to do with whether or not they should stay together. I am a compulsive eavesdropper, and I was hearing everything they were saying (as was the table furthest away from them due to the volume of this man). I heard him drop God's name and God's will. I heard him attack her level of faith. I heard him validate his job and insult hers. I heard him take credit for things and blame her for things. I heard him place the weight of their conflict on his broken wife. I sat there and felt very strongly that the Lord brought me to this location for this event. I was trying to find two other Starbucks listed on my GPS which apparently didn't, and I was on my way to another one two miles down the road. Then, I saw this one. Could it be a coincidence that I was here for just a time as this. Two Christians struggling in their marriage, talking openly and honestly, even mentioning maybe they need to talk to a pastor. I thought to myself, "It's good that I'm here." I listened and waited for my opportunity to approach this couple, but I didn't feel it. I tried really hard to focus on the section of Scripture that I was reading from my Life Journal. I searched intently for the "Word from the Lord" from these passages that would solve these peoples' marital problems. I prayed, I waited, I listened, I studied, and I looked for the right time to intervene. To the pleasure of most of the other people studying and reading, the couple decided to head outside. I knew they weren't leaving, and I was still confident my moment would come. As they fought outside, I stared. The wife knew I was staring. I knew she knew that I had something to say. I knew she was needing someone to stand up for her. I very badly wanted to be the guy, but as I prayed for something to say, I had nothing. Very rarely am I a person with nothing to say. I begged God for something to say. I was here. I was available. I had some time before it was time to meet Brian for dinner. I packed up my stuff and awaited my opportunity to speak truth in love. Then, my boldness turned into hesitance. My excitement turned to sadness. My zeal, to brokenness. I had nothing for these people. I couldn't come up with anything to say. I was trusting God, I was listening, I was available, and I had nothing. The couple walked off, and all I could do was pray for them in my heart.

My struggle is this. If this was someone in my church, I can guarantee there would've been no shortage of words. If this would've been my friends, I would've had plenty to say. When my parents marriage was falling apart and my Mom was really having hard times, I had a lot to say. But, in that Starbucks in the Woodlands, I had nothing to say. Even a few days later, I don't know what I was supposed to do. Maybe I was just supposed to pray. Maybe I was supposed to trust God more and just talk to them trusting that the Holy Spirit would fill my mouth with the right words like the apostles in Acts. All I've got is maybes.

In the end, though, I'm being confronted with evidence that this world needs the Gospel. It can't only work in the pulpit in church. It has to work in Starbucks in the Woodlands. It has to work in San Marcos on the Tball fields. It has to work in our homes with our families, hanging out with our friends, and in the streets with our neighbors. Again, I wish I was enlightened by some supernatural revelation, but I can't say that I was. I don't feel guilty about what happened, but I don't feel good either. I don't know what this means for you, but for me it means to be better prepared to speak on behalf of the Gospel whenever the Lord arranges for it to happen. It also means to be more aware of the power of prayer. I've prayed for that couple every day since. My heart still hurts for the pain and anguish. I don't know their names, but God does, and I am thankful for another opportunity to trust Him in a new way. Hopefully, next time I'll have something to say...

Monday, April 14, 2008

Jacob's Rush

Lately I've found myself really enjoying my son. That's not to say that I didn't before, but it seems that overnight he's become this little man I can hold conversations with who asks about a question per second. These questions are mostly random with at least one an hour presenting me with some theological issue that I can't really answer. There may be future blogs about some of those questions, and there may be future blogs about the roller coaster experience that is our new found T-ball phase of life, but this one is about something different. Thanks for reading on...

A couple of weeks ago, our family (which again includes Ashley who's living with us), sat down to watch August Rush. This is a beautiful movie about a young boy with an extraordinary gift for music. He hears music in the wind, where he lives, in the city, etc. Orchestrations come to him with ease, and the movie includes his discovery of his abilities. I won't spoil it for you, but you should definitely rent it or put it on your Netflix list. After the movie, as the credits were rolling, and the movie score was playing, Jacob went and sat down at the piano. He was listening very intently to the music from the movie, and he began to play along. When I say play along, I mean that he played along. I'm not saying that he played what he heard note for note, but he played along. His ear kept him in the right key and he played sometimes with the melody and sometimes he was making harmony, but it was all right. It all fit. When he would accidentally hit a note that didn't work, he quickly changed it. Holly, Ashley, and I exchanged dumbfounded looks and could say nothing. It really was one of the most beautiful things we've ever seen. I had to shake my head and attempt to withhold tears.

As we've been studying Galatians, I find myself more and more free from sin, guilt, fear, and death, and more importantly I find myself strangely sensitive to the Gospel. It's interesting to me how much we try to control our Christian experience through discipline and routine. I think it's more appropriate for us to realize that God created and set this world into motion. It could not continue without his constant involvement and supervision of everything. We are dependent upon him for everything. His Spirit moves in us and speaks to us - all around us He is giving us opportunity to be His ambassadors, to live for His glory. The music is around us, the Gospel has been preached and is being preached in movies, in the streets, in our homes, at our jobs, at our schools, in coffee shops - everywhere. What if we just played along to the music that God is playing in the background? What if we realized when we stepped out of tune or hit a note in the wrong key and we quickly found ourselves back in sync with the score? It reminds me again of John 3-4 where Jesus encounters the woman at the well and Nicodemus and He says that following the Spirit is like the wind. It blows wherever it pleases. It goes where God wants it to go. What if we surrendered control of our spiritual lives and let the wind blow us and find our part in the greater musical score that is being played? What if followers of Christ were able to sync up with their Holy Spirit Rush? Jacob didn't make an announcement. He didn't read a book. He didn't ask permission. He heard the music, sat down, and played along. The music was much bigger than him. He didn't try to take it over. he didn't think he was making better. He just played along and contributed what he could. He played a part, and it was genuinely one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen.

I hope that we can discern the song the Spirit is playing all around us and play with Him, play in tune, play in rhythm, play an appropriate part, play like He's the conductor and we're the musicians, play like He's the Creator and we're the created, play with our hearts with our ears listening closely for where the Song is going and for what's coming next.

Thank you, Jesus for your Gospel that reveals itself everywhere.