Soundtrack to Our Movie

There’s a line in a song that I used to listen to that says “this is the soundtrack for our movie, can you tell me when we get to the good part? I’ll play it for you.” I won’t go into an analysis of the lyrics of the song, but it did plant a thought in my head recently as I was thinking about worship.

We all like music. Whether or not you are a “music type,” chances are you enjoy the sound of music playing somewhere in the expanse of your day. Sometimessoundtrack when I’m driving, cleaning up the kitchen, or folding laundry I like to listen to worship music. I like to have the words and sounds of praise going on around me and most of the time I sing along. Sounds like a good thing, right? You’d think so. But I noticed that I sometimes have the wrong motive in this seemingly very positive habit. Let me explain.

See, even though worship music is definitely good and can help me worship God, if I’m really honest with myself sometimes I am trying to save time by listening to worship music rather than trying to engage with God. What I mean is that I’m trying to in “get some God-time” in the midst of my busy schedule instead of taking time to worship. I’m hoping that my time listening to worship music will somehow work in my favor when I weigh my day and see how much time God got from me. Yeah, that’s pretty messed up.

Sometimes we all struggle thinking we can earn God’s favor. Without constant reminders of God’s grace, we start to believe that our good works help God love us more or earn us points with him. Instead of being with God for the sake of our relationship, we try to stack up our efforts and activities so that they give God more reasons to be pleased with us.

One of my bible professors says that “God doesn’t value efficiency like we do. He values growth.” I’d be silly to think that God wants things done in the fastest way possible (the people of Israel wandered for forty years!). And yet I try to get all of my prayer, study and worship done as quickly as possible so I can move on with my life.

What I need, and perhaps what we all need, is a change of perspective. We need to remember that everything we do is part of our worship to God. God doesn’t want a slot of time on your calendar, he wants your calendar. When Paul wrote “Whatever you do, do all for the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31), I don’t think he meant whatever you do while you’re having your quiet time.

There is no substitute for an actual heart engagement with God, whether there is worship music happening or not. My heart of worship to God expressed through any action, whether singing, speaking, working or thinking, makes worship real. The song that’s playing, whether in a church service or on your stereo can no more guarantee worship than listening to Christmas music makes you Santa Claus.

Without my heart responding to God, which is actual, intentional and on purposeI’m just listening to a soundtrack. This doesn’t mean you can’t listen to worship while you work, just don’t think you’re worshiping…unless you are. There is no such thing as “worship autopilot.”

Isolation: A Romance (Part 2)

In the last post we talked about our natural tendency as human beings to withdraw and isolate ourselves. Blame it on whatever you want, whether it be the digital age or the way we are raised, people tend towards isolation. It wouldn’t do much good for us to stay here, so let’s talk about the solution to our problem. It isn’t exactly rocket surgery…

I was recently talking to one of my leaders about dealing with problems in life and how we all have things we have to process. Sometimes what we need to do to process our thoughts seems redundant. It’s really important that we resist a “once and done” attitude when it comes to caring for our soul! As I was speaking, I started to listen to the advice I was giving and I thought, “I need to be sure I’m following that too!” Sometimes the answers to our problems aren’t complicated, and that is what gets us stuck. We expect the answer to be complicated. If we’ve heard it before, we assume we need something new to get out from where we are. But this isn’t always the case. Sometimes the answer for this problem is the same as the last one.

If you’re like me, your exercise routine is always at an ebb and flow. Life happens. You travel, have a week off, or get sick or hurt and your routine for running or going to the gym is shattered into a cabillion pieces. Whenever I get into that stuck place of feeling like I need to work out (but let’s face it, it feels good to just sit on the couch!), the only thing to do is start again. I know that when I get into the gym I won’t be able to run as far without getting winded, but that’s when it’s really important to remember that I’ve done this before.It worked last time and it will work again. It’s like the Nike slogan. You get it.
The same is true for getting out of the box of isolation. Chances are there have been times in your life when you were great at setting up community with other people, great at relational interaction and staying connected. Then you got hurt, got busy, or stopped putting forth the effort.You’re sitting on the couch enjoying the feeling of no effort living. But eventually you won’t be able to get up.

God designed the family and the church to be the natural places for us to be able to share in deep, meaningful relationships with each other. Whether we come from a big family or have no family, the family of God unites us to each other and helps us from killing ourselves through isolation. The writer to the Hebrews says this in his familiar passage:

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
(Hebrews 10:23-25 ESV)

You weren’t designed to go it alone. Sometimes it is difficult to humble ourselves and get involved in other people’s lives. It’s easier to be quiet than to encourage someone or to tell your story. But I promise you it will be worth the effort.

Isolation: A Romance (Part 1)

“Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.”
-Proverbs 18:1

“Then the LORD God said, “It is no good that the man should be alone”
                             -Genesis 2:18a

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? I’ve been asking myself that question for about a decade and still haven’t landed on a definite answer. The first time I ever took the Myers-Briggs test it was overwhelming and confusing and, frankly, I didn’t really buy it. How could a group of questions really identify who I am?

I’ve taken the test about three times since then and I think my results are slightly different every time. Either the test doesn’t work or I keep changing! Ok, maybe I’m being dramatic. The test actually reads me pretty well despite the subtle differences. But what has been consistent for my results is the fine line I walk between introversion and extroversion. The first time I took the test I was scored as an “expressive introvert.” In my most recent test I discovered that I am an extrovert with slight tendencies toward introversion. A little confusing. Maybe I’m just learning to be better with people the older I get. This is definitely a good thing -just ask my parents!

The whole Myers-Briggs thing has got me thinking a lot lately about personality types, differences, and how to best understand ourselves and each other. I believe that the better we can know ourselves and each other, the better we can communicate, relate, and accomplish things together. As I have studied, I’ve discovered that there is one tendency that we all share regardless of personality type. This is the tendency towards isolation.

As you can see from the verses at the top of the page, God is not a fan of isolation. We were created in the image of God and are meant to share in communal fellowship with others in every area of life. From the marriage relationship to friendships to work partnerships, humans are wired to do life together. But isn’t it interesting that we all tend to think otherwise? It seems that we all tend to resist connection with others. Have you ever gotten home from work and hoped your neighbor wasn’t outside so you wouldn’t have to talk to him? Have you ever gone to the longer checkout line in the grocery store because the cashier in the short line talks too much? Often we see interaction with people as inconvenient irritations rather than part of our God-ordained design.

Think about it. For the introvert, he thinks “I don’t need people. They are all exhausting! I just want it quiet. I’d rather keep to myself.” End result: isolation. For the extrovert, she thinks “I don’t want to bother everyone. They all think I talk too much anyway. I can handle my problems on my own. I’ll just keep quiet about what is really going on.” Result? Isolation. Maybe it’s our western proclivity towards independence. Maybe it’s our rebellion. Whatever it is, it’s trying to keep us from healthy relationships.

What are the ways in which you need people? Are you trying to hide who you really are? Hiding in life is like a bad game of hide-and-seek; if you are too good at it eventually people will stop looking for you. Take some time and think about how you can bring more “togetherness” into your life. In part 2, we’ll talk about how the church is one of the primary ways that God brings people together.


The Power of Touch

Ok, the fact that you find that title a little sketchy is really the whole point. Why have we become so weird when it comes to real contact with people?

I recently read an article that described that way that human babies develop in the womb. Because the skin develops early, touch is one of the first sensations that humans feel. After they are born, the physical contact between babies and their parents stimulate psychological and neurological responses that help them fully develop. Interesting huh? Just wait.

Even more interesting than this is the fact that as we grow our need for contact with people doesn’t diminish. We remain, even as adults, in great need of loving, personal contact.

In this age of computer screens, media-driven relationships and crazy stories on the news (and there are plenty of them), there aren’t many people vying for a heathy culture of contact. Well, here it goes: don’t be a weirdo, but don’t underestimate the power of a handshake, hug, or simple pat on the back. People need to feel a real sense of care from those that actually care about them.

One of my best friends and mentors taught me that whenever he passes his wife in the kitchen or in public, he puts his hand on her shoulder as he walks by. He told me, “I don’t even have to say anything to her. This simple touch communicates that I’m thinking of her, that I care and that she matters to me.” I think he’s right.

Don’t let all your relationships be facilitated by electronic devices. Go to lunch. Try actually talking to people and see what it does. People used to do it all the time. Sometimes the best thing you could get is a hug.