Walking on The Lake

Lakeside

I usually walk along the dirt road that runs beside the edge of the little lake. But this week the lake was frozen so I walked on the other side, on the lake itself. I have often tried to take photos from the road, but it’s hard to get down to the water’s edge. There are thick brambles and bushes growing along the shoreline. This time I saw the thicket from the other side and realized I had to walk quite a distance before finding a break the width of a snowmobile to get through. I wanted to walk back on the road. I had a completely different perspective of a familiar place as I walked on the lake ice. It made me think about the jokes about walking on water (when the water is quite solid in this part of the world this time of year.)

The thought came: The thing about walking on water is that you have to get out of the boat.

Something else happened yesterday that caught my attention. It was a minor thing, really. I was invited to join a group that prays for a person whose books and ministry I admire. They arranged for a meet-and-greet type of conference call and I was looking forward to making new friends. When I called the number a recorded voice said that number could not be reached from my location. I tried several times. Same result.

I haven’t verified it, but I assume the problem is that I live on the other side of the border from the people hosting the call. It’s frustrating sometimes but we are accustomed, living so close to the USA, to receiving offers on TV and other media that are not actually offers. They are not valid for us. There are 800 numbers we can’t call, videos on the ‘net we can’t see, books and other materials that can’t be shipped across that line.

I thought about the Ktunaxa people who have inhabited this valley for centuries. The valley here, between the Rockies and the Purcells, runs north/south. The western and central border between Canada and the USA, with a few exceptions, is a straight line drawn from the Lower Mainland to the Great Lakes. It did not take into consideration that it would divide a first nations group with common language and culture and  cut them off from each other.

My emotional reaction to the inaccessible conference call was out of proportion to the event. These are lovely people who certainly didn’t suddenly pull in the welcome mat. There will be other opportunities to connect. But my embarrassing feelings prompted me to ask the Lord what he was trying to show me here. That’s when it all came flooding in and I wept as I felt His heart.

So often people are cut off from each other in the big C church -the universal church, the ekklesia, the called out ones. We have been cut off by man-made borders and administrative divisions. These borders act like the hedge of thorns around the lake and keep us apart and from accessing what each side has to offer the other. Someone explained to me once that in the way a trellis is meant to support the vine so it might grow and flourish,  an organizational structure in the church is meant to support the healthy growth of its people. When the vine is putting the bulk of its energy into supporting the trellis, it’s time to make changes.

In the past few months I have been running into rules and regulations in various denominations that, while preserving the integrity of the structure, do not promote love and connection between all the members of the body of Christ. Like the berms that were meant to protect the city of High River when the flood waters came, instead the rules have served to keep the stagnant water in, and those who wish to bring help out.

At its roots Protestantism was based on protest over doctrine. I believe sound doctrine is extremely important, but sound doctrine states that without love there is no sound doctrine. Denominational lines start forming around people who have something in common, but within a generation or two the habit of protest  becomes evident as they assert their differences and proudly glorify themselves like Junior High students at a pep rally chanting “Colonel Irvine is the best!!!” (yes, my Junior High was called Colonel Irvine) “And we are going to beat the pants off the rest of you!”

Lines draw by men cut off communication. Even if you agree on essentials of faith, if you are not a card-carrying, tithe-paying member of a denomination you are not fully accepted. It feels like rejection. The message perceived by “outsiders” is: You are not one of us.

As I walked along the lake, cut off from the road by the thicket it reminded me of the way the church, at least in my town, functions. There are points of contact, but they are few and far between. We are like the Ktunaxa – one tribe, one people- but artificial lines have cut us off from each other. I felt the Father’s heart grieving over this artificial separation and I wept. I love His church, His whole church, and not just one self-protective isolated part of it. This is not the way it is meant to be.

Sometimes following Jesus means getting out of the boat.

lakeside bw

Jesus: A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34,35)

 

Winter Lake

11 thoughts on “Walking on The Lake

  1. Allan Halton

    “We are like the Ktunaxa – one tribe, one people- but artificial lines have cut us off from each other. I felt the Father’s heart grieving over this artificial separation and I wept. I love His church, His whole church, and not just one self-protective isolated part of it. This is not the way it is meant to be.”

    Amen, dear sister, I weep too. Not too many years ago I don’t think I would have had the boldness to say it, but now I can’t help but say– trembling– that we are going to see the dis-integration of denominational Christianity, and shall once again be integrated into one “tribe.” Oh, the very thought! How deeply we need this!

    Like

    1. Thank you for this Allan! I hear you. It’s good to know I am not alone.
      Sometimes things just fly out of this keyboard because I can’t keep silent anymore. It’s like fire in my bones. I hear Abba saying to quit praying to uphold the things He is tearing down.
      Yes, Lord. Tear down that wall. Your will, Your way.

      Like

      1. Hi Susanne. I presume the links were to your comments on those sites? Definitely some food for thought there. I like this quote from A.W, Tozer: “Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers met together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become ‘unity’ conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.”
        ― A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

        Like a lot, actually.

        I once sang with an small city amateur orchestra made up of members with widely varying skills. (It included a gracious group of experienced musicians who mentored young players.) At rehearsal I found the tuning somewhat disorienting. As I walked across the stage (it was an opera) I could hear the pitch gradually rise slightly from one side to the other. This was the problem: the young musicians tuned to each other rather than to the piano which was on stage right.(Since a piano was included and its pitch can not be easily changed the instruments needed to tune to it rather than the oboe this time. It was cold and that may have affected the piano’s tuning and sometimes acoustics in some large buildings can alter pitch perception as well,) At any rate, the concert master arrived late, and supervised the re-tuning and the problem was fixed.

        This example works for me. I still see a place for concert masters though. 😉 The Lord has given us gifts to help build each other up. We are all part of a royal priesthood, but we are not all necessarily leaders. imho

        Thanks!

        Like

  2. Susanne Schuberth (Germany)

    Thanks so much for your detailed response, Charis. We agree in everything. And your example of that opera rehearsal has taught me a lot!

    As for those links, yes, the first pointed to my comments, but the second particularly to Mike Gantt’s update which followed my comments. In fact, Mike displayed great insights into today’s churchgoing problem over there on Kevin DeYoung’s blog (at The Gospel Coalition site).
    Regarding the Tozer quote – actually, you have been in my mind’s eye when I posted it there. 😉 Indeed, I won’t try to tell a platitude that no one would be needing…but I assume we also had the same thoughts on the spiritual maturity of Aiden W. Tozer [I saw one of your comments on another site where you expressed your opinion which is consistent with mine].

    From hence, I’d like to copy and paste the following quotes, taken from “Tozer’s Contradiction and His Approach to Piety”, Justin Taylor’s Blog, June 08, 2008 – The Gospel Coalition:

    “Dorsett exposes a fundamental contradiction in Tozer’s character that raises all sorts of questions about holy zeal and its effect on the whole of life. The contradiction could be summed up: how did Tozer reconcile his passionate longing for communion with the Triune God with his failure to love passionately his wife and children? Perhaps the most damning statement in the book was from his wife, after she remarried subsequent to his death: “I have never been happier in my life,” Ada Ceclia Tozer Odam observed, “Aiden [Tozer] loved Jesus Christ, but Leonard Odam loves me” (160).”

    […]

    “Tozer saw his wife’s gifts for hospitality and encouraged her in them; yet he disliked having visitors in his own home. He preached about the necessity of Christian fellowship within the family of Christ; yet he refused to allow his family or his wife’s family to visit their home. For every laudable area of his life there seemed to exist an equal and opposite error. This study in opposites leaves for a fascinating picture of a man who was used so greatly by God, even while his life had such obvious sin.”

    So sad, isn’t it?
    Living in sin and being a prophet of God? Is this really possible?
    If Tozer had been one with Christ as Christ was and is with His Father, he would have seen the glorious image of God in his wife, too. He would have loved her, “as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her.” (Eph 5:25) I do not know what was going on in A.W. Tozer’s heart, yet I guess there were still deep wounds in his heart that caused him to shut out others the way it was described in the quotes above.
    Just in case you’re interested, Charis, I wrote on this (wounded hearts, that is) recently BUT – 🙂 – I’d like to post the link to Michael Clark’s honest article which should be read before dipping into the comment section. Link see below

    http://awildernessvoice.wordpress.com/2013/08/25/where-is-the-love/

    PS
    “The Lord has given us gifts to help build each other up. We are all part of a royal priesthood, but we are not all necessarily leaders. imho”

    IMHO, too, Charis! I think leadership springs from a God-given authority nobody should claim for himself unless he has been called by the Lord Himself as His first disciples had been as well. If anyone who hijacked a ministry without having heard the Lord’s beautiful voice – personally – beforehand, he has not been heaven sent. Period.

    Merci mille fois et à la prochaine – Suzanne [Leonhard Cohen, tu sais 😉 ]
    (J’ai des ancêtres français, bien que je ne les connais pas. – Und du hast deutsche Vorfahren, wie ich unlängst auf deiner Seite gelesen habe…? 🙂 )

    Like

    1. Oh my, Susanne! You have taken me down to the river for a big drink of fresh water.;) What a time I have had today swinging from link to link! There were a lot of interesting rabbit trails in the mix, but now I have even more puzzle pieces, and some of them are starting to come together.

      Wow. So many directions this conversation could go, but let me stay with the fascinating inconsistencies of a man like Tozer, who obviously was loved by the Lord and who loved the Lord right back. It strikes me that one of the distractions that continually plagues the church is hero worship. Personally I wonder if this is why God allows the public “fall” of so many leaders in whom we have placed our confidence -not necessarily as a mere correction for them, but as an act of love toward people who are tempted to idolize anyone other than God. It is my belief that no one person, or denomination, has the entire truth, because we can’t handle the entire truth (or perfect power); our egos will tend to get in the way and pick up some of the praise intended only for God.

      There was a wonderful mentor in my life who demonstrated the fruit of the Spirit. Suddenly this person was taken out of my life and I was in deep grief over the loss. I learned so much from them. Later I realized that the severing of the relationship was a gift of God. I could not fathom that God could love me without demands until it had been demonstrated by one of his people. BUT I was perilously close to worshiping the mentor rather than worshiping Jesus, and I never recognized it until pain made the lesson clear.

      The Bible does not hide the flaws of many of the men and women that God loved and spoke through. Some of them, like David, were at the peak of popularity when they fell into serious sin. This article about how we “tune” to heroes of the faith, rather than a faithful God, clarified this point for me. http://beliefsoftheheart.com/2013/07/23/i-wonder-if-sunday-school-is-destroying-our-kids-2/?utm_content=buffer6e02d&utm_source=buffer&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Buffer

      Humility is essential in leadership. Paul says this is why God not only allowed, but sent “a messenger of satan” (his thorn in the side), lest his own ego be inflated by heavenly experiences. Messengers of satan (the accuser) are very good at pointing out our failures.

      Back to Mr. Tozer. As a teenager I knew people who were personal friends (or shall we say acquaintances) with Mr. Tozer. They spoke of his ease in the pulpit, or with pen in hand, and his lack of ease in interpersonal relationships. I forget where I heard this story, but someone told me that since he did not drive an assistant was assigned to take him to the airport in Toronto (or was it train station -no matter). When it appeared they would be very early the suggestion was made that they visit a sick member of the church who lived in the area. When she answered the door she nearly fell over saying “I must be dying! Mr. Tozer doesn’t just come for a visit.” To me this points out the need for community and for all the gifts of the spirit to be in operation. The person making the suggestion probably had a pastoral/nurturing gift. Some prophets are good at seeing the big picture, but are almost oblivious to the struggles of individuals. I don’t know if Tozer’s treatment of his wife (which many of us would interpret as lack of consideration) was due to a lack of love or if she was simply not on his radar. (I mentioned this in another post, but sometimes I wonder if a number of prophetic folk would qualify for a diagnosis of aspergers.)

      This is a problem I see with churches that lean heavily on one man for leadership. When one person (or in larger organizations, one a small group of ordained people -usually men) are expected to have all the spiritual gifts, and we (the folks in the rows of seats) see them as heroes of the faith who will go to God like Moses and come back and tell us what to do or even how to think, we are not only failing to be who God created us to be, we are setting them up for a fall. Our God is a jealous God; He will not allow anything to stand in the stream of worship meant for Himself, because He knows it will kill anyone who is not prostrated by humility.

      I’m glad to have met you, Susanne, although I doubt we agree on everything -that would make one of us redundant. My French and German skills are rusty -and since I learned most of them from singing old music, my knowledge of idioms is rather archaic. I have German roots, yes, but perhaps this is also why I am so keenly aware of division in the church. When my Roman Catholic German mother married my Protestant Scots/English father she was shunned by her family. My father’s family took up the offense and as a result speaking German was verboten around them. As a child I was cut off from most of my extended German-speaking family because of religious strife that did not include the Jesus I have come to know later in life. I never tried to speak German (or French) until I studied singing -and my conversational abilities are … schlecht. Alas.

      Like

  3. Susanne Schuberth (Germany)

    As for your link, Charis:

    I’m glad to see
    That SW and TT
    Bark up the same tree

    (Sam Williamson and Tullian Tchividjian 😉 )

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s