Thursday, December 29, 2016

Jingle Bells


It's always been difficult for me to connect with God during a worship service. I'm not sure why -- I am a musician after all, so you'd think it would be my first choice of meeting God. But for some reason it's rare that I really feel my spirit connect with God's during the musical part of a worship service.
This Christmas season, I found myself at St. Andrew's Church in Mt. Pleasant. I owe a lot to this church, having gone here often in high school and always coming away a better person, as well as being continually impressed with their community. It was actually on a St. Andrew's trip to Creation Festival that I made the public declaration of faith that changed my life. Sixteen years later, I still see the light of Jesus in this place.
Despite the tremendous quality of this church and its worship team, as I stood in the pew with good friends singing Christmas carols and worship songs, I still felt disconnected. We might as well have been singing Jingle Bells! In fact, they gave everyone a little bell to jingle on the way in, which was fun, but didn't help with the worship experience as far as I could tell. And so I started asking God why I've rarely been able to connect during these services; what was in the way?
And then something cool happened as the worship leader explained why we were all given the bells. It symbolized everything we needed to let go of in life (I don't remember why, to be honest...maybe because the jangy-clangy noise?), and so we were all to think of whatever it was that was blocking us from God and toss it in a basket at the altar in lieu of Communion.
Letting go has been a theme in my life for the past several years, and I'm sure it was no accident that this was the theme in that worship service where I felt I couldn't connect with God. The striving that has marked my life for about a decade now has slowly been eroding away as I learn to let go of career, finances and what it means to have a home. I still have so, so much to learn and even more to let go of, but that night I think I got some answers as to what is blocking me from knowing God better.
Maybe you have some of your own things to let go of. I don't have a digital jingle bell to send you, but consider writing whatever it is down and throwing away the piece of paper (or burning it on a Christmas candle, if you want to be dangerous!). Even the simple act of clenching your fists, imagining that detrimental thing and then opening them up can be a powerful reminder of what it means to hand all of that over to God, trusting Him more. Give it a try and let me know what happens in the comments! (Unless, of course, you start a fire. You're on your own then...)
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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Pot Pie & Purpose


How come pot pie never works? It takes forever to cook, despite being counted amongst the most prevalent of frozen entrees; and when it's "done," it's either still frozen in the center or so hot you can't eat it for another hour. I'm not sure why this is the case, but it seems to be a universal truth. And so, as I chomp on my piping hot Trader Joe's pot pie, I am wondering if there are any other parallels that this long-time American staple could relate to (I'm always eager to relate food to theology you know). The first thing that came to mind is a big idea on our purpose in life.
Have you ever done something that just doesn't work? Maybe a job or relationship that goes wrong at every turn. It's like wearing a shoe a half-size too small -- you could get by, but every step is uncomfortable and rubs against your little toe. Perhaps this experience is your pot pie in life. It will get you by, but something just isn't right.
So what do you do if you're in one of these circumstances? First, try patience. I cooked this pie in 12 minutes in a 700-watt microwave oven. I'm sure if I had elected for a 400-degree conventional oven, it would have tasted much, much better (and wouldn't have oozed out watery filling halfway through cooking), but it also would have taken about 5-times longer. If you are feeling off about your life, hold on! God may just have you where He wants you and so it's worth it to wait around and see what happens next.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
The second idea is to stop eating processed food and get yourself a new lunch. Yeah, sometimes you're late for work and just need to grab something quick as you head out the door (hence today's meal). But high-sodium, packaged foods are just not the best, no matter how many frozen peas fill the mysterious spaces within your entree. It would have probably been better to have woken up a little earlier and taken some extra time to make a nice proper lunch -- I didn't and now I'm burning my tongue. Likewise, it could be time for a new job, a cheaper car or more quiet spaces in your life. Whatever is off might be solved through a little time with God and/or some common sense.
As for me, I don't like to waste food or money, so I'm going to finish this pie and probably feel kind of sick afterwards. I'd say that puts me in that first category -- I'm not sure what God has for me right now, but I'm going to wait it out see what's next, finishing the pie I've been given. Hopefully there will be some proper homemade pot pies in my future, the sick feeling will be gone and it will be another year before I write another ridiculous blog post like this one...
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. (Proverbs 13:12)
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