I have not written since November. It is hard to write about transition and direction when you find yourself not exactly sure where you are going. I think it is about time I discussed this Vision Correction / Course Correction, for both my old friends and those that are crossing my path.
“Be good to your servant so I can go on livingand keeping your word.Open my eyes so I can examinethe wonders of your Instruction!” (Ps 119:17-18)
Throughout my time in high school, something was just not right. I was just not comfortable. I noticed it in the classroom … an inability to follow along with teachers. It was evident on the athletic field, mostly baseball … I could not track the ball as well as I always hadl. Without ever really noticing it, I found myself moving to the front half of the classroom. During my senior year it should have occurred to me when I could not see the numbers on the scoreboard from the wrestling mat, but like the proverbial frog in the pot (not familiar with this proverb? Check it out here,) I was oblivious to the change. (I am truly disturbed at how many people have set out to prove / disprove this boiling frog theory … people are really wack!) Myth or truth … you get the point … slow change is often imperceptible.
For whatever reason … I did not notice that my vision was deteriorating. In my last month of school a military physical indicated my substandard eye sight. Two weeks later … I saw the individual leaves on the trees.
It is unclear (see what I did there) when I began to experience spiritual squirminess. One could argue that this was just a mid-life crisis since it started around my 40th year and about the time the oldest of our seven offspring began to move on to bigger and better things. I was busy with work, church and had begun coaching regularly, but that notorious question began to roll around in my head … is this all there is? I began to believe that I had buried my talent in the ground: that God was about to take it away and give it to the one with ten. When I voiced my own disappointment in myself, most people gave an answer that did not sit well with me; “there is no higher calling than being a father and a husband. You have raised great kids and that will have impacts way beyond your lifetime.” Something about the self-centered nature of that statement just rubbed me wrong.
Years of teaching the parables of Jesus and the sermon on the mount in children’s church just made me feel like I was missing something major. Jesus was pressed from every side by the consequences of a fallen creation – His creation. He directed His anger at those who should have known His love for the down-trodden sinner and grieved along with Him; those who should have been first to jump in and work to restore a broken world. About two years ago it occurred to me that I could be more closely identified with those Pharisees than with the crowds of sinners to whom He poured out His grace. How could I so readily lose the big picture? Although I will get into that much more in detail in future posts, I am convinced that I allowed subtle (some not so subtle) influences to draw me away from the Kingdom work that was started by Jesus and concern myself with the work reserved for the one who sits on the throne. False battle lines were drawn between “us” and “them” and the pride of a soldier just out of boot camp coursed through my being. A spiritual equivalent of the “let’s go kill some Commies” that I heard during my time, serving in the Cold War, poured across the conservative air waves and blanketed my Facebook newsfeed. (Note: the “other side” had their hate whisperers as well which of course justifies our own position advancement)
Any of you who have followed my blog may have recognized when I began to hear that small still voice. I realized that I was not a sheep, but a goat. The fire under the pot was lit and I either needed to jump out or become Frog Soup. Since I have abused my body so badly over the years I determined I was not fit to become a meal so I jumped out With my vision clearing, it was obvious that a course correction was in order.
It has been a process that included a great deal of study, observation and prayer. I sought sources outside my comfort zone and ones that would have been considered blasphemous to me a few years ago. I am learning to look past the behaviors and history of the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:7-26) and to look at her as Jesus did. It is unnatural to picture a resurrected creation, but I believe that it is possible. I have a long way to go.
I left the tradition that I had been associated with for 30 years: not because of the people or the teaching. They have been a loving people who fed us, took care of us, and helped us raise a family of faith. Through corporate worship and Spirit led preaching, I developed an unquenchable longing for God’s presence. The power of the Holy Spirit worked in and through me. I witnessed powerful miracles. Over 30 years, scripture has become a natural part of who I am. God has been sovereign through out and I was exactly were I need to be.
Despite all of that God has directed me in another direction and removed me from some life patterns that prevented me from maturing and moving on. I have developed a love for liturgy and many of the lessons-learned by the early church and throughout history. I have realized that even when I don’t agree with everything another tradition believes does not mean that I cannot worship alongside them and learn from them. Movements that have been scoffed at by traditional evangelicalism (Emergent, Progressive, Missional), main line “liberal” denominations, and Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches all offer insights and are a part of God’s plan to bring about restoration to His Kingdom. At this point, Lynn and I have committed to worshiping as part of a “three streams” Anglican Church (ACNA). We like it because we can grow and serve and not “sweat the small stuff”.
Now that I have gotten this out of the way, hopefully I can start writing consistently about where I see God taking me now.
This was somewhat inspired by a Twitter buddy Chad West ( @MisterPreacher) (http://misterpreacher.com) I think I also can be labeled a “Recovering Pharisee” In light of this new found label, I would like to leave you with the story of a couple of accounts of some other “Recovering Pharisees” with whom you may be familiar. Nicodemus – That creepy night stalker that sought out Jesus to avoid being called out by his “buds.” & Gamaliel – Who utilized his wisdom and status to not only influence the counsel, but later on prepared Saul of Tarsus for ministry as the Apostle Paul. They were associated with exactly the people they needed to be around to be developed and utilized by God without becoming clanish and hardened.
“Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him,“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:1-8)
“When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered.So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” (Acts 5:33-39)