Rest

Interesting question came across my radar last week. Ashton was in a room full of worship leaders for a nationwide series of summer camps. For 8 weeks they will be leading the same songs, doing the same things, week after week. Her question:

What advice would you give to us on how to remain renewed and refreshed every week? How do we not get into a cycle? Even when it is week 4 for us and we have sung the same songs every week… how do we fight that?

It’s a valid question, and the Fuge worship leaders aren’t the only ones who face it. The truth is, everybody in spiritual leadership has the task of “handling the holy things” week in and week out. Ashton’s “holy things” may be music and microphones. Yours may be a Bible or a lesson plan. Someone else’s may be the routine schedule of meetings you attend or lead. Regardless, Christians gathered in the name of Christ for any reason have an occasion to invite and expect His presence.

Until we don’t.

Until we drift into a routine or rut – what Ashton calls a “cycle.”

Now it’s time for this. Next – that. Then back to this. Then the other.  Before long, not only can we get bored with the whole thing, we telegraph that boredom to the very people we’re supposed to be leading.  As a result, the “gospel” no longer feels like “good news” and we lose our sense of wonder and gratitude.

(If that sound a lot like your Sunday morning experience, I’m sorry. But I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to remain that way.)

My response to Ashton was one of those things that startled me with how fast it came. (That’s usually a sign that I didn’t originate the answer.)  The key to avoiding the rut:  Play, Stay, Away, and Pray. [click to continue…]

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When was the last time you literally felt the tension or stress melt off of you?

How long has it been since you were so relaxed, breathing felt optional?

Where do you go to remember who you are, or reconnect – not just spiritually, but emotionally and physically also?

What would it look like for you if you suddenly found yourself surprised by peace?

All that and more has a single answer for me:  Friday.  That was the day we interrupted our regularly-schedule life and made the two-hour drive to the farm.  Know why?  Don’t laugh…

I wanted to see the flowers. [click to continue…]

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old deflated soccer ball isolated on white

Somewhere near you there’s a frustrated pastor whose tried-and-true methods for leadership or church growth he has spent much of a lifetime developing aren’t working anymore.  He’s too passionate to quit, but too tired to start over.

Somewhere down the road is an organization that once was the hallmark of success because of its ways of doing ministry or business.  The strategy it perfected was brilliant and worked when others failed.  Until it quit working as effectively.

Somewhere nearby a young man is giving up on everything he knew of the Faith as a boy.  Why? Because his boyhood faith doesn’t give him answers to his adult realities and temptations.  The problem is, he doesn’t yet have a man-sized faith to take its place.

In all three of these scenarios, as described in the previous post, somebody’s system was breaking down… And God has them right where He wants them. [click to continue…]

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Under His Mercy

There’s a place where love feels like love,
Where all the affection in the universe seems gathered up
And pointed only, always to you…
That place – that beloved place – is under His mercy.

There’s a song where all the symphonies and sonnets,
Ballads and serenades seem to converge
And sing only, always over you…
That song – that harmonious song – is under His mercy.

Under His mercy the world is recreated,
Eden reimagined, and hope is born again.
Under His mercy we all are reinstated,
Those stains are washed away, and we’re adorned again.
We’ve traded ashes for His beauty…
And longing for His love…
Under His mercy.

[click to continue…]

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Dead Fish

There’s a certain kind of tired, a certain kind of strain
A certain season of get-it-done-now
When it’s a good thing that some things run on autopilot.
Otherwise, I may just forget to breathe.

But then You specialize in keeping my whole world turning
My light still burning, My heart still yearning –
And after all these years I’m still learning
To trust and know You’re there. [click to continue…]

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Shepherd Birth

O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
Nor do I involve myself in great matters,
Or in things too difficult for me.
Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord
From this time forth and forever (Psalm 131).

Soul-check time:  How “at rest” are you?  The answer to that will make all the difference in your worship, and your work.

This psalm of ascent is the confession of a soul at rest – a “weaned soul.”

The first verse speaks of three things the psalmist has turned away from – a proud heart, haughty eyes, or a mind that tries to figure out the impossible.  The common theme in each – I know my limits.  And I know my place.  I am free of selfish ambition and arrogance toward others.

Are you ready to start your ascent today?  [click to continue…]

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Godtext 2Okay, let’s stretch a little and use some imagination.  Suppose you received that message on your smart phone or email.  Looking beyond the earthly trappings – a church house, your bedroom or office or favorite nature connection – what does the “usual time” and “usual place” for a meeting with God look like?

I daresay for most of us, me included, we become Saints in the Presence of a Busy God.  We pray, we worship, and we listen to a God who’s gettin’ it done. And on our best days, we come in faith that He will actually use us to help execute His plan and that He will get some things done for us.

Anything wrong with that?  Absolutely not.  After all, our God has unlimited power, knowledge and presence.  And He invites us to trust Him to use it and to join Him in effecting His plan – His work.  See if you can relate to some of these “meeting places” with God. [click to continue…]

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Peaceful Pond

You’re feeling disappointed or rejected,
Lonely or loveless,
And even though you know better than to believe all that in your head,
You’re too lost in “to-do’s” or “he-did’s” to even recognize your own heart.
Time to come and find your rest.

You’re feeling restless or impatient,
Guilty or angry,
And even though you know you live face-to-grace,
You’re too consumed with how far you have to go to recognize whose job it is get you there.
Time to come and find your rest.

You’re feeling anxious or worried,
Burdened or exhausted,
And even though you know it isn’t your load to carry,
You’re too loaded with responsibilities and cares to recognize that you’ve picked them up again.
Time to come and find your rest. [click to continue…]

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Be the fly on the wall for this conversation…

It’s not that life here is so bad right now.

Okay.

It’s that life is so busy.  Urgent all the time.

I can relate to that.

And not even that it’s urgent, but that I don’t feel as though I am responding well to the urgency I do have.

What do you mean?

Nothing ever gets completely done.  Or so it feels. My weekly schedule is pretty busy as it is.  Then factor in anything else that has been added to the schedule lately, and I’m having a hard time breathing.

I think I know what the problem is.

You do?

Yep.  Your Urgency Response Index is low.

My what?

Your Urgency Response Index.

Sounds serious.

It can be. [click to continue…]

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On Sage Avenue, just north of Airport Boulevard in Mobile, Alabama, you’ll find the still-proud structure of St. Pius X Catholic church, built in 1968.  I’ve never been inside of it for any reason.  But I’ve bragged on it a lot.  Especially to my friends at Mrs. Cobb’s Day Care that met at the Methodist church across the street back in the summer of ’69.

In between using tennis racquets as air guitars to tunes like “Proud Mary” and “Daydream Believer,” and acting out our own living music videos to “Seven Little Girls, Sittin’ in the Back Seat, Kissin’ and a Huggin’ with Fred,” we’d hang out on the playground and I’d brag about “My Daddy’s Company.”

Actually it wasn’t his, but he worked for one of Mobile’s premier construction firms during the time when a boy most wants to be proud of his dad.

Martin Builders had just finished the beautiful sanctuary at St. Pius.  They also built such local landmarks as the Spanish Plaza and Malaga Inn downtown, parts of Bel Air Mall, and the Mobile Greyhound Park (not to proud of that one).  And oh, how I would brag – obnoxiously – about “my Daddy’s company” and what they had done.

My first paycheck came from Martin Builders – a whopping $8.00 for cutting the grass.  That evolved into summer work for a couple of hot, humid summers, where I learned what builders actually do and what they need to get the job done. [click to continue…]

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