Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Reality of Mountain Tops

The reality of Mountain Tops is this:
You can not live there.

I love to worship God. I love to worship Him when it's just me (and my coffee)... I love to worship Him with friends... in corporate worship at church. (Yes, we also [can] worship God in our work, talents and giving [time and finances] and enjoy those times as well. But for the purpose of this blog, "worship" will be in reference to prayer, reflection and/or singing of praise to God.)

This past weekend I attended the Simply Worship conference in Lexington, MA.  (www.simplyworshipconference.com) This conference is designed to encourage and refresh worship leaders and teams throughout New England. A one day conference to meet others- learn new skills or tricks of the trade- and to corporately worship the Almighty God without the pressure of key changes or  "what's next" mentality. (That is, of course, unless you're on one of the leading teams, in that case... it becomes an exciting reality to think that every. person. in that room is there because they WANT to grow closer to the Lord!)

Okay, as I was saying.
After attending these conferences, my heart aches. No, my soul aches. Throughout the day, the prayer of "Even so, Come!" never ceases to come from lips. In the congregation I'm able to soak in the presence of God in a way in which is very rare in the other 364 days of the year. There is no "fighting tooth and nail" to get people to raise their hands to God or sing. In fact, as much as I love singing and leading others to praise God: I very rarely sing... I just sit or stand back and listen to the hundreds of voices around me... all expressing praise and adoration to the same God I love, know and am so thankful for. At about 5:30 pm on those Saturdays though, the reality of the real world kicks in....Of leading worship the next day....Of work and the exhaustion and stress it causes. The "where will the money for this months bills" kicks in. The loneliness kicks in.

This year (sickness aside) was no different. And as I have driven around the last few days while listening to the 10,000 Fathers (Aaron Keyes, Founder: they were at the conference as well) most recent album, "Invitation"... I'm tearing up, just asking God, "Why couldn't You have come back that day?" And today, today God whispered, "Because you were not made to live on the mountain tops." 

In his book, "The Heavenly Man", Brother Yun answers the question, "If you could say one thing to Western Christians, what would you say?" He answers, "That you like to stay too long on your mountaintop experiences. But life can not be lived there.... It is in the valleys." Even now, think about what a mountaintop view brings you: breathtaking beauty of all that is around you. But look immediately around you: there is no life. No vegetation. The wind is often too strong - the air is often too cold and thin for life to exist. Now think of the valley: Luscious. Green. Life. Vegetation. Flowers.

Maybe we need to change our perspective of what valleys are. Valleys are where growth happen. Those daily moments with Him and His word. Those daily moments of praying without ceasing (1 Thess.5:17) when you forgot to put the water in for the coffee... when we're stuck in traffic (can I get an Amen from the Bostonians?)... when our kids (be it students or yours) are on our last nerve.

Maybe it's in those moments that He is closer to us than we think or feel- because we're not acknowledging that He's there. Maybe we don't see Him at work in us or around us because our eyes are focused on that school bell, that bill payment, that moment we put the kids to bed, that meeting that is giving us ulcers to think about, that moment that we can finally put our head on the pillow.

Maybe it's time that we acknowledge that as much as mountaintop views and moments are beautiful, refreshing and even needed- we can't live there. And instead of trying to reclaim those moments or praying for the next mountaintop, we prayed this:

"Open up our eyes to see You in the ordinary
we don't want to miss You anymore.
Open up every eye to see every day, everything is
burning with the glory of the Lord." (Aaron Keyes)

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Pretty vs. Ugly Faith

In my Timehop today was a post in which I had written a quote from my best friend, Bethany, that she shared when speaking at a conference for Teen Girls (www.simplebeautifulconference.com) ... "Sometimes faith looks like dancing.. and sometimes faith looks like white-knuckles trying to hold on. Either way is faith."

Did you see the movie War Room? That movie was a game changer for me... but how quickly I forget what I learned! Remember the scene in the beginning... when Miss Clara tells Elizabeth, "the thief is out to kill and destroy... and you're letting him!" That moment hit so hard I almost lost my breath. 

But four weeks after seeing that movie, and YEARS of knowing and quoting that verse (John 10:10): I forget it. Just in the past two months I've: had to take out my first loan. I've had my heart broken. Lost my breath when looking at my bank account. Discovered I have a dairy allergy. Learned of friends getting divorced. Discovered that a friend was walking away from God. Battling the worst season of seasonal depression I've had yet. Should I go on? 

Don't get me wrong... not every moment am I crying. Not every moment am I wanting to crawl into a hole and not come out again. (Though, I have had those moments.) And today was a day chalk full of reminders that we have a mighty, sovereign and all-loving God. No, almost more than that: I know and have THAT God in me and around me. 

The first reminder today was in the song, "the Great I Am", by New Life Worship. Then secondly, during a conversation with friends regarding that song and I was explaining why that song speaks to me so deeply. It's realizing that the God who raises the dead, gives visions and performs miracles in closed and restricted countries is the same God I know, serve and love. [Disclaimer: I KNOW that God can (and does) those miracles here in America and Canada as well, but let's face it.. we don't believe that He does. Plus, with every home owning more than one Bible: why should He have to perform those miracles to and for us?] I digress, so back to the song: 

"The mountains shake before Him, the demons run and flee
at the mention of His name, King of Majesty.
There is no power in hell, or any who can stand
before the power and presence of the Great I Am."

James 2:19 tells us that even the demons believe in God- [but] they shudder. 
Do we?

The third reminder I had was tonight, while washing dishes and prepping my meals for the week. In fact, I'm really glad my life is not on a reality show like poor Truman in "the Truman Show"... You would have seen me in my 10x's too big for me pajamas in a messy kitchen with tears streaming down my face while my Pandora Natalie Grant station played song. after. song that ministered in such a divine and intimate way that at some points, all I could do was stand there with soapy (or raw ground turkey) hands lifted towards God, asking Him to not only forgive me: but to wash me anew. 

And then I remembered, the thief and enemy of our souls is out to kill, steal and destroy. Sure, I'm about 99.999% sure that Satan himself could care less about me. So I'm sure he's left the "destroying of my soul" to some scummy, putrid demon who's mad that he didn't get promoted last month. (Ha!) But, what if we as believers started truly remembering that we don't "wrestle against flesh and blood, but against..... the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."? (Ephesians 6:12) 

What would happen if we stopped living to put that extra money into a nice house renovation and prayed to ask God who (or what) to give that money to? What would happen if, instead of watching that 60 minute tv show that you just couldn't live without we spent reading Scripture or a book to help us know God better? (Bunny trail rant, but seriously Jesus-loving-people: I see you and hear you get more passionate about Grey's Anatomy and Sports than you do about God... So I'll call you out on that: THAT IS YOUR IDOL. Whatever we get more passionate about than we do God is our idol. End rant.) What if instead of just scrolling through Facebook and Instagram and Twitter mindlessly, we prayed an honest prayer for each person that pops up in our mini-feed as we scroll? What if we set reminders on our phones not to just pay the bills- but to pray for people through out our day? Could we perhaps be like those [handful of] men in (Acts 17:6) that turned the world upside down? 

So my faith- and your faith... maybe it looks like dancing or, more than likely, it looks like white-knuckles... but rest in this tonight: 

It's Faith. 

May we be like the father of the demon possessed child who cried out, "[Lord] I believe! Help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24)


For those who are curious, here are some books that have helped to open my eyes to God, the world and Faith in the last several years:

Radical, by David Platt
The Heavenly Man, Brother Yun
This Present Darkness, Frank Peretti
Piercing the Darkness, Frank Peretti
Love Does, Bob Goff
Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan Manning
Interrupted, Jen Hatmaker