Detour

Photo: On the Burmis Road

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord.

(Jeremiah 29:12-14)

I took a detour yesterday, not that I had to.  I didn’t need to be at my destination for several hours and there was a road I had never been down that beckoned. The views were fantastic. I’m so glad I took the time to explore.

Not all detours are voluntary. I’m learning now, when the Lord sends me on a detour in life, to pay attention. What is it you want to show me about yourself, Lord? What other facet of yourself and your plans are to be discovered on this road?

I once had a counselor who was very helpful. At first, it seemed to me, he sat there doing a great bump on a log imitation, waiting for me to talk. I was so accustomed to having people in my life tell me what to think and what to do that this change was extremely frustrating. Then it dawned on me that a person didn’t get to a position like his (as head of psychiatry), by being inefficient with time. I chose to trust him and his method. For me it worked very well and I was blessed by having a person in my life who really listened and taught me how to listen. I thank God for that man and that whole detour that seemed to take far longer than I thought it should.

God knows how fleeting our days are. He is not inefficient with time. He sees the big picture and knows who we will become many miles in the future. He has a plan. He listens and teaches us to listen as we spend many hours with him.

I choose to trust him.

Ready?

Photo: Canada geese heading south, already

This photo was taken from exactly the same spot as the dock photo I posted yesterday. I looked up and there were several flocks in the sky, all headed south.

“But it’s still only August!” I yelled.

They just honked and kept flying southerly, southerly.

“Come back!  I’m not finished with this season yet! Come back! Do you hear me?”

“I’m not ready for change!”

Sigh.

I seldom am.

Captured by the Spirit You Oppose

Photo: The (b)log in my eye.

I’m going to be very judgmental here.

I’m going to be judgmental of the one person I am qualified to judge –me.

When the same verse of scripture and the same concept arises in diverse places several times in a few days it’s time to pay attention.

Something irks me, really irks me. Stepping on this trip wire brings down a cascade of feelings I would rather avoid. Like most trip wires this one is anchored to an old hurt. How do I describe it?

I was enjoying a YouTube musical smorgasbord concert last night, listening to favourite songs and rabbit trailing to new discoveries, when I foolishly read some of the comments.

(On some of the world’s greatest singers) “His voice is very tense and somewhat forced at 1:02 and again at 1:49. I hope he fixes this soon… She hesitated at 2:01. Listen for it… F____ has such a flat affect in this performance.  Where’s the passion? Good try, but I like A_____’s performance in 2009 at Covent better…”

I liked the commenter who said, “I’m glad I’m not a music major. I can just enjoy  the music.”

One of the reasons I dislike music competitions (including popular TV talent shows with judges and elimination-type formats) is because the audience comes away with a critical, judgmental, elimination-type spirit. Everyone is a judge. Alas, it is the nasty, witty judge who builds his own ego at the expense of the performer who people love to emulate. The joy of music chokes in the dust up.

A good music festival or competition adjudicator will always say more supportive encouraging words than critical. They will gently choose one or two areas that can be improved with very practical steps demonstrated on the spot. They will close their remarks with more acknowledgment of that which was done well. They will not compete with advanced students by becoming extremely, ridiculously picky. They will retain the love of music for music’s sake.

There are very few good adjudicators. Most either suggest nothing practically helpful or undermine the participant’s confidence by pointing out far too many imperfections or worse, try to one-up the outstanding ones by flaunting their knowledge.

When I read comments online that publicly criticize anyone, whatever their field, I want to lash back with my own nasty comments. The issue I struggle with is knowing where to perch myself on the worship/helpful critique/criticism/judgment/condemnation spectrum. I want to publicly criticize people for being publicly critical of other people. How crazy is that? It’s like being intolerant of the intolerant.

This week I read a book by Frank Viola called, Revise Us Again. (The title appealed to me.)

In one chapter he identified a trend I have long noticed myself. It’s the tendency for people who vociferously oppose the teachings or acts of others to start to eventually exhibit the same type of problem. Sometimes they recoil to the opposite extreme of the expressed idea, but their actions begin to look similar after a while. Viola calls this being “captured by the spirit you oppose.”

Church history is full of examples of those who broke away from established groups over an issue only to go off the rails in the same area within a generation or two. The persecuted became the persecutors.

A harassed medieval band of believers who were opposed to the lavish lifestyle of the clergy took vows of poverty, yet years later the order agreed to hawk indulgences and supervise inquisitions –as fund-raising projects, because the living by faith thing was too hard.

Over a century ago, a group left an old mainline denomination stuck in apathy and tradition to start an interdenominational parachurch organization intending to pool efforts to reach the poor and seek the deeper life. Within three generations many of the descendants of earlier converts of the movement, now  just like the first shallow, well-to-do pew-warmers with insider status, could be found hunkering down in yet another denomination with its own traditions and frustrating unwritten rules.

Another group was so concerned about unity that it ditched the serious, but sometimes uncomfortable discussion of Biblical theology. Now they are so tolerant they no longer even have the unifying belief in Jesus Christ in common.

It happens over and over, and even now the hundreds of new denominations forming every year continue to suffer from recoil, captured by the spirit they opposed.

Viola’s premise is that when something about another believer’s choices upsets us so much that we want to go on the warpath, we are often projecting our own unacknowledged weaknesses on them –and it’s easier to fix them than fix ourselves. We have blind spots. Our self-righteous rejection of them leaves an open door for this spirit.

We’ve all met people who are constantly afraid of being cheated only to discover they’ve got a little fraud thing going themselves, or those who preach vehemently against certain sins who later appear in tabloid photos in remarkably familiar compromises.

Jesus said, “How can you think of saying, ‘Friend, let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” (Luke 6:42)

In all probability the speck is just a chip off our own log.

This week I am very aware of the Lord bringing my attention to the need for purity of the church –the Bride of Christ.

I want to pray, “Yes, Lord! It’s about time. Fix them!”

When my prayers are met with silence on the other end I am instead humbled by my own tendency to write people off for not studying scripture more, (or on the other hand, letting unloving, blatantly bad teaching slip through unchallenged for fear of rocking the boat), for lacking a compassionate heart and instead avoiding feelings by intellectualizing, for being so pedantic about proper technique I miss beauty, for depending on my own resources and not seeking the Lord enough.

When I look at what irks me about other people’s specks I can follow the trail back to my own logs.

Holy Spirit is capable of purifying his church. He doesn’t need my meddling.

He can employ servants who have dealt with their own stuff first though. Apollos needed Priscilla and Aquilla to quietly take him aside and correct his theology –but first they had to get straight with God themselves or pride would have led them to discount his ministry, discourage him, or compete with him rather than raise him up to become greater than his teachers. They honoured him. Godly leadership enters as a platform to raise up, not a ceiling to clamp down.

Help, Lord.

O souverain

Ben Heppner

El Cid by Massenet

An English translation, from the Tenorissimo! site:

Ah! It’s all over.

My sweet dream of glory,

my dreams of happiness

have gone forever!

You have taken my love from me,

you take victory from me,

Lord, I bow to your will!

Oh Lord, oh Judge, oh Father,

always indistinct, yet always present,

I have adored You in happy times,

and blessed You in the dark days.

I go wherever your law calls me,

free of all human regrets.

Oh Lord, oh Judge, oh Father,

Your image alone is in my soul

which I submit into Your hands.

Oh heavens blue and shining,

spirits on high, descend upon me,

it is the soldier who despairs,

but the believer maintains his faith.

You can come, you can appear,

dawn of the eternal day.

Oh Lord, oh Judge, oh Father!

The servant of a just master

answers Your call without fear,

Oh Lord, oh Judge, oh Father!

Ah! tout est bien fini.

Mon beau rêve de gloire,

mes rêves de bonheur

s’envolent à jamais!

Tu m’as pris mon amour,

tu me prends la victoire,

Seigneur, je me soumets!

O souverain, ô juge, ô père,

toujours voilé, présent toujours,

je t’adorais au temps prospère,

et te bénis aux sombres jour.

Je vais où ta loi me réclame,

libre de tous regrets humains.

O souverain, ô juge, ô père,

ta seule image est dans mon âme

que je remets entre tes mains.

O firmament azur, lumière,

esprits d’en haut, penchés sur moi,

c’est le soldat que désespère,

mais le chrétien garde sa foi.

Tu peux venir, tu peux paraître,

aurore du jour éternel.

O souverain, ô juge, ô père!

Le serviteur d’un juste maître

répond sans crainte à ton appel,

ô souverain, ô juge, ô père!