There Are No Part-Time Disciples 

If you claim to be a Christian, then the questions of “the meaning of life” is already solved and answered for you! The purpose of your life is to share the Gospel of the Kingdom and the redemptive qualities of Christ (Matthew 28:19). You ARE in the ministry. 

Galatians 2:20 reads, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” There is a vital truth to what this verse states. It is no longer YOU who lives, but Christ who lives IN you. Meaning, it’s no longer about your agenda, your desires, and your needs. If you call yourself a Christian your agenda is now filled with an all-consuming calling from Christ Himself.

So, your current situation and workplace are your personal mission field. Why? Because you can reach people a church can’t. You’re on the front lines! You might even have a better opportunity to reach people than a missionary or church professional does. Don’t let anyone tell you that full-time ministry can only be found within the confines of a church building. God is bigger than four walls and a steeple. 

God has put the people around you in your life for a reason. Find out what that reason is, and make it your mission to empower their lives with Christ. Jesus will always supply you with the necessary tools and weapons needed to conquer anything that comes in your path. 

Work at a grocery store? Perfect. You have the opportunity to share and reflect the love and servanthood of Christ to dozen of customers a day. Work for a restaurant? Awesome! Use your time at work to share your testimony with your coworkers, or even share a reflection of Jesus’ kindness to each person who walks through your doors. If you really look, there are endless possibilities for anyone who is looking to be a full-time disciple of Jesus Christ.

Your job title doesn’t matter, but the way you use your time does. Stop letting people tell you that working for the government or for your company isn’t God’s plan for you. Stop allowing the opinions of man to keep you from being a light to your current workplace (Matthew 5:14). Just because you may not have a seminary degree and a position serving in a local congregation doesn’t mean you’re not in full-time ministry.

Jesus Himself wasn’t paid by a church. He was a carpenter who used His everyday knowledge of work and carpentry to relate to the people He was surrounded by. Yes, men like Paul and Peter dropped everything to follow the plans of Jesus, but don’t forget about the thousands of other people who stayed where they were in order to be a light where it was needed.

The New Testament couple Priscilla and Aquila are perfect examples of this. Acts 18:2-3 tells us:

“And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade.”

We see that both Priscilla and Aquila were tent makers who helped Paul on his apostolic journey by allowing him to live and work with them in order to provide for himself. Their regular work flowed seamlessly into their ministry – a ministry that happened to help during one of the most critical points in Christian history. Tent makers, Yes! But, history makers as well!

So, step out and start vocalizing what God has put on your heart. If you’re not willing to do it where you are, what makes you think you would do it somewhere else?

This ideology of every Christian embracing a lifestyle of full-time ministry has the potential to transform the world from the inside out. It’s a possibility that could truly reach the far ends of the world for the sake of the Gospel. Imagine if everyday people, working everyday jobs, meeting everyday customers, all shared the extraordinary salvation given through Jesus Christ. The potential is limitless.

In order to embrace the fullness of what Jesus is calling us to, embrace the mission of using every moment available to share your faith in Christ. There are no limitations on where God can work.

So, know this: Jesus is not hiring part-time disciples. While this may discourage you in the beginning, I would encourage you to allow it to fuel your purpose in life. Stop, take a deep breath, and make today the day you start using every avenue available in every place, no matter how mundane, as a way to share the hope, grace, and salvation of Jesus Christ. Trust me, it’s worth every moment. 

So, You Don’t Fit! Then, Stand Out!!

There are many times that I feel like I just don’t fit. Like I am marching to the beat of a different drummer than every one else. Like my values, morals, and world perspective simply don’t jive with the people I live among. In other words, I am different. I simply don’t like what others like, watch what others watch, do what others do…

I have done a lot of thinking about this over the years. And, I have come to understand that realizing you don’t fit in is a good thing. You and I were not made to fit in. We were made to fulfill our calling in Christ. We were made to fit out not fit in. To stand out. You know, like a city on a hill (Matthew 5:14). To go against the grain. And to not only bring change to the community and relationships but to be the change for a world that lacks hope.

Since Jesus laid down His life for me, the least I can do is stand up and stand out for Him. The same is true for you if you are a true believer and disciple of Jesus. In today’s worth-seeking world, being liked and wanted is something we all yearn for. And regardless of whether it comes naturally, it’s how our culture forces us to feel – even by advertising popularity.

The world says:

Failure is not an option (I believe it originated with NASA)

If you are not first, you’re last (from a Sony picture 2006)

If you’re not somebody, you are nobody (popular saying)

But when we begin to look into the depth of Scripture, we’ll realize that none of those things are actually true. Literally, none of them.

Where NASA says, “Failure is not an option,” Scripture starts, “For everyone has sinned (failed); we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23)

Where Ricky Bobby in the movie, “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,” says, If you are not first, you’re last,” Jesus says, “So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last” (Matthew 20:16)

For everyone that tells you, “If you’re not somebody, you are nobody,” the Bible’s clear answer is: “God does not show favouritism” (Romans 2:11) Everyone is a somebody.

God has called us to go against the grain. To be the salt. To be the city on the hill. To be the light of the world.

Some of us walk, talk, read, and tweet like the most spiritual people ever to inhabit the earth. But behind the plastic mask we call “Christianity” is often merely personal modification rather than actual heart transformation. We seek more width than actual depth, and this show can only go on for so long.

Before you were born, you were called to be different. You were given potential for being a world changer. To walk so differently than the world that others will notice. And although being different might sometimes look lonely or unpopular, you must come to see that no matter the circumstances, God is still with you. Why on earth would we continue to cheat ourselves out of God’s love, and try to fill the void with worldly acceptance?

So, I’ve come to understand that my purpose on this earth isn’t to be loved and cherished by everyone around me. My purpose is to share the love of Jesus, show relentless grace, and always be willing to help my neighbour. Surprisingly enough, not everyone likes that. 

If you want to fully embrace the life that Jesus offers, be willing to ignore the opinions of man while you engage in the righteous pursuit of Christ. This will mean discussing touchy subjects. This means not ignoring the truth that most others seems to miss in the situation. It means purposely talk about the tough stuff in order to bring light to a situation that might be drowning in fear and darkness. It will mean swimming upstream while everyone else is floating downstream. However, remember that dead fish float downstream.

If we hide behind smooth words and shallow theology, we are indirectly telling God we are not bold enough to speak the truth. But, as I said earlier, “Since Jesus laid down His life for me, the least I can do is stand up and stand out for Him.”

So, a final question: Do you represent Jesus in a way that reflects timidity, or are you speaking the truth boldly and in love, unshaken by the opinions of others?

It is time to evaluate your life as a believer; your speech, your conduct, your lifestyle. There is no neutrality in the eyes of Jesus. You and I are required to pick a side, no exception. 

Hate the Sin, Not the Sinner! WRONG!!

“Hate the sin, not the sinner” isn’t working. Honestly, I am not sure it ever did work. When hating the sins of others, people just simply don’t know how to separate the sinner from the sin. Let me encourage you to instead “Love the sinner, not the sin.”

Remove the word “hate” from your vocabulary, and start reflecting an image of Jesus that portrays Him differently than a man standing on a soapbox wielding a megaphone. I can’t ever recall a person who came to faith because of hate. Let’s start a movement of people who are willing to take hate out of the equation and love people regardless of their sins.

When Jesus called us to love one another, it wasn’t limited by guidelines or parameters. The commandment was simple and to the point: “A new command I give you; Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35 NIV).

There are no regulations on who and when to love. Love is not ours to control, monitor, and divvy up. Love was never intended to be kept to ourselves. It was meant to be shared with anyone and everyone willing to accept it.

The idea of loving without limits may seem a little intimidating, but that’s the raw beauty of it. Sometimes loving people might not make sense, but it still makes a difference. 

There is a man named Emmanuel, who was part of the Rwanda genocide in 1994. As part of the Hutu majority, he assisted in the killings of nearly a million people, and one of those people was the husband of a Tutsi woman. Emmanuel later came to find shame in his actions, and he then asked for the forgiveness of the man’s wife. Not only did she express that God had already forgiven him for his actions, but that she did as well.

What reckless love was shown through the actions of this woman. Where the rest of the world might give her an excuse to eternally hate this man, she instead harnessed the love of God and offered a place of forgiveness and grace.

If anyone should be leading the way for love and compassion, it should be the followers of Love Himself – Jesus. When we begin to view people through the eyes of Jesus, we are less likely to see their flaws and more likely to see their need for love. 

All throughout Scripture we see Jesus loving people whom others deemed foul, broken, dirty, and unworthy. For us that may mean the homeless drunk guy, the prostitute hanging out downtown, the person in jail, the drug addict – even the convicted sex offender. People may criticize you for giving your time and attention to people who are ostracized or considered permanently broken. They may say it’s not safe, that they’re not worth your time, and that these people gave up the right to be treated well when they made their bad decisions. They said that to Jesus too. But while self-proclaimed followers of God sat back and criticized the openness of Jesus’ love for people, He called them out for their lack of it:

“And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Mark 2:14-16 ESV)

Take note that even the Pharisees and other religious leaders are confused as to why Jesus is extending love to those who are sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes, and thieves. The love Jesus showed to these people was without boundaries or regulation. He was giving it all to people who might not even recognize Him as the Son of God. The beauty of this is that Jesus knew these people couldn’t offer Him anything in return, and yet He still embraced their friendship and presence.

Jesus’ response to the religious elite was nothing short of jaw-dropping: 

“And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:17 ESV)

The sick, or the sinners, were the people who needed the most urgent shot of love. You probably have someone in mind right now who could be classified as one of “those who were sick.” Hey, it may even be you. But no matter the person or their beliefs, when you show them love, you show them the Spirit of Jesus Himself. 

A Fish Out Of Water

I have always felt a little like a fish out of water. I have never been interested in financial wealth. I have always been looking for my purpose in life. What it is I can do to fulfill a deep need that I felt in my life. I didn’t want to live to work. I wanted to work to live. Life was more important than the work I would be doing. The purpose for my life always outweighed the  provision I needed to live on. And, then one day I realized that if I could nail down what my inner passion was I would find my purpose. And, hopefully, there would be a way to earn or receive the provision needed.

So, I know, three “P’s” … Provision, Purpose, Passion.

Most of my generation – the Baby Boomers – focused on provision. Once they found a way, a job, a profession, which would earn them a good living they then began to take the time to look at purpose and passion. As a result, many of them became involved in social causes when they reached their early fifties. They went, as the literature states, from seeking success to looking for significance. As a result of this approach they believed it was their task to help there children get a great education so that they too could have adequate ‘provision.’ When their children grew up and had their provision secure then their parents believed that their central duty as parents was complete. 

This, of course, is part of the reason there is a generation gap. The parents want their child to find a way to make a good living. The child (Millennials and Gen Z) were looking for a place to express their passion and find their purpose in life. Then they would be concerned about ‘making a living.’ And, they would be willing to live on less if they could fulfill their passion and purpose. In other words, the parents want their children to make money and then consider making a difference. The children don’t want to make money unless they are making a difference.

So, why my comment that I felt like a fish out of water? Because I went to university to get a business degree and then graduate and make a lot of money. However, in my third year of a four year degree I began to be less concerned with making a living and more concerned with what purpose my life had on the planet. I began to wonder what I could do with my life that would make a difference. I didn’t want to just live my life, take up space, breath air, and then die. I felt like ‘a fish out of water’ because all of my classmates were happy earning the degree and then making a good living.

During the next four years I finished the degree and worked in the business world. During this time I had added God into the equation and the search. I didn’t know Him personally but I believed there was a God and that He was ‘sort of’ interested in my life. So, I spoke to Him a lot and never heard back from Him. Then one night I asked Him what the “purpose” of my life was. He responded that I was on the planet to make a difference for Him. I felt this passion rise up inside me – like it had finally broken through and been released. The passion had come to life.

As I looked back from that point on my brief life I realized that many of the things I had been involved in even as a child were geared to make a difference in the lives of others. I began to understand that my newly discovered passion had always been there – I just had not been looking for it. And that my passion had always led me to become involved in things, activities, groups that had purpose. 

So, I left my work in the business world (provision) and went seeking further education to enable my passion and purpose to come to fruition. Today, 50 years later, I earn less than I was earning before I left the business world. And, God has been faithful in the area of provision. As I pursued my passion and purpose in life – making a difference in the lives of others – He has been faithful in providing for every need. 

When I share this with the Millennials and Gen Z generations they understand. Because my approach which made me ‘a fish out of water’ in my own generation allows me to swim with the current younger generations. 

Today I work mainly with Gen Z and Millennials and so I understand them. They put passion and purpose before provision. But, unlike myself, they are not like a fish out of water in their own generation, because their whole generation is this way. I am thankful that in my generation God called me and released me to fulfill my passion and purpose even though I felt like a stranger in my own generation. I felt like a fish out of water. But, looking back I would not change anything. I am enjoying swimming with those I now relate to and minister with. 

Dare to Be Real – Don’t Settle for Fake! – Part Two

Do you know that you can fail and still be seen as righteous in the sight of God? Do you know that, as a believer, you can mess up big-time and still be welcome in the Church? Do you know that being a Christian is not about being morally perfect and constantly having al the right answers as you live a life that is properly put together without any cracks?

I have come to learn that understanding God’s grace depends on whether we have been conditioned to run and hide when we sin, like Adam and Eve did, or to run straight to the Father when we sin, like David did. We can either cover ourselves in shame or run to the Lord and say, “Search me, God, and know my heart” (Psalm 139:23). 

When David messed up bad, he wrote these words to God.

“Have mercy on me, O God,

according to your unfailing love;

according to your great compassion

blot out my transgressions.

Wash away all my iniquity

and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,

and my sin is always before me.

Against you, you only, have I sinned

and done what is evil in your sight…”

(Psalm 51:1-4a NIV)

David understood, on the deepest level, that he could always come to God, no matter how deep or awful his sin. It’s crucial we get this, because we need God in order to please God. We’re like a child needing to borrow money from his dad so they can buy him a present. Our hearts can’t change for God unless they’re changed by God. It’s quite a paradox. The Man you are sinning against is the Man you’re asking for help so you won’t continue to sin against Him. 

And He’s patient with us. He’s so patient with us.

But Jesus goes even further to make this point clear in the Gospels. He says that if someone sins against us, we should forgive them not just seven times but seventy times seven. God does even better than. 

You know what the difference is between a righteous person and a sinner? One banks on forgiveness found in the cross, and the other doesn’t. Christians are not better than anyone else. We’re just forgiven. We didn’t achieve salvation. We received grace.

So, may I ask, why are we constantly putting on a mask and acting like we’re perfect. Or, at least, acting like we got things together; life is working for us. We’re good? It doesn’t help us, and it definitely won’t help the church reach those who do not know Jesus. People today need real, not fake.

Being something you’re not is exhausting. No one wins. You know the truth. God knows the truth. Your family probably also knows the truth. So, why not just bank on His grace? Rely on Him to be your strength in a time of weakness.

Here is what I have learned over the decades of ministering ….

Be confident in who you are, and comfortable with who you’re not. 

As believers, we’ve been freed from trying to keep up with the Joneses. It’s hard enough to keep up with Jesus. Why exhaust ourselves trying to serve two masters?

Dare to be Real – Don’t Settle for Fake – Part One

The unspoken rule in the church seems to be that the longer you have been a Christian, the less you can hurt and suffer through problems. This is especially true if you are in leadership. I say this because I am currently reading a good book by a pastor who committed suicide in the fall of last year. And most people – other than his family – seemed to be unaware that he was struggling with issues. After all, he was a church leader. He was a believer.

We seem to have this wrong view of what it means to be a Christian. We need to remember that having issues and facing problems is not a lack of faith but simply the way life is unfolding at that moment. In reality, the more you give your life to God, the more you become a threat to the Enemy! So, for Christians, we can expect – as Jesus said – that we will have troubles, trials, and tribulation. Life will not always be gentle to us. 

I mean, let’s look at Paul. I would consider him closer to God than I am or than you are. I’d be happy just to get a glimpse of the second heaven, and this brother was invited to the third heaven!

Yet still, knowing that God’s power is perfected in weakness, Paul declares, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). He would boast all the more gladly. Not because he’s proud of his weaknesses but because he’s confident in God’s response to them. And, the church culture today seems to require, often demand, that we hide our weaknesses. 

It is unfortunate that we have churches today where we cannot admit that we are not perfect. That we have issues. That we are struggling. That everything is not alright. The reality is there’s no such thing as a perfect Christian. The reality is there is no such thing as a strong Christian. Just weak Christians relying on a strong God. And, because weakness and trouble seem to indicate to others that we are not living right or, heaven forbid, we have sin in our lives, we wear a mask and talk and relate in such a way that the message others receive from us is that things are great even when they are not.

Proverbs 24:16 states that “the righteous fall seven times.”

Not once.

Not twice.

Not three times.

Note four times.

Not five times.

Not six times.

The righteous fall seven times.

Remember, we are not talking about the wicked. We are talking about the people who are getting it right. They still fall over and over again. But by God’s grace, we don’t stay in our failure. The verse in context says, “though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again.” We all fall. The Spirit just doesn’t want us to stay there. When we hide our moments of failure, we are also hiding our moments of grace. We are not calling upon the Spirit to lift us up, dust us off, and encourage us to try again. 

Being a Christian is not about being morally perfect and constantly having all the right answers. It is about daring to be real and no longer pretending that everything is great. Being a believer means not settling for our “Sunday best face” but being real, transparent, and vulnerable. It means not being a fake – because that is hypocritical. And, Jesus was not a fan of the hypocrites of His day. They were called the Pharisees, the religious leaders and teachers.

Remember, even if you can fool the people, you can’t fool God. He knows your heart. He knows what you are thinking. And He knows what you are going through. So, to receive His grace we need to dare to be real and never settle for fake. 

To Set On Fire

After Jesus rose from the dead He appeared to a number of disciples individually and then to the disciples as they were fishing. He had told them recently (Luke 24:49) that they were to go and wait in Jerusalem until they received the promised baptism in the Holy Spirit. But instead of doing as He had asked seven of them went out fishing. 

One wonders if the reason they did not catch any fish was because they were not suppose to be fishing – but waiting in Jerusalem. So, after a whole night of fishing and catching nothing, Jesus tells them to cast their nets on the starboard side and they catch so many fish that they have an issue bringing the net into the boat. It is then that John realizes that it is the Lord who has spoken to them from the shore. He tells Peter. Peter jumps in and swims to shore. Interesting to note: Peter began to follow Jesus because of a great catch of fish (Luke 5:2-10). So Jesus now repeats that miracle inviting Peter to begin to follow Him again. 

A time of cooking a meal begins. Jesus has already begun to broil fish and He has some bread. But He asks them to add to the fish from their catch. They do so and settle in for a meal around the campfire. After they had eaten their breakfast together Jesus says to Simon (John 21:15) “Simon, son of John, do you burn with love for me more than these?”

When Jesus announced that He would be crucified and die, Peter had said that he would never leave Jesus nor deny he was a disciple even if it cost him (Peter) his life. He then said that even if no one else followed, he would. Jesus told him he would actually deny Him three times before the morning sunrise. And, that is what happened. Now, Jesus asks him, in front of the other disciples, if he loved Him more than the other disciples (referencing Peter’s comment “even if they – the other disciples – do not follow…”)

Jesus asks him three times, “Do you love Me?” Because Peter had denied knowing Jesus or being His disciple three times that eventful night. The Aramaic word for “love” is hooba and it is taken from a root word that means “to set on fire.” So, Jesus is asking Peter, “Do you burn with love for Me?”

The message for us today: Our love for Jesus must be passionate and kindle a holy fire within our hearts.

Peter denied Jesus three times and so Jesus asks Peter three times if he had a burning passion for Him. Only the third time does Peter actually give an affirmative answer… “You know that I burn with love for you!” (John 21:17) 

The story goes on and at the end of John 21 Jesus prophesies over Peter telling him how he would, in his old age, die for the faith and glorify God. Again, building on Peter’s initial denial of Jesus, the Lord now completes the circle and ends with – “You were right however Peter, you will lay down your life for me.” 

I love the way the Scriptures simply fall together in such an amazing way. 

So, do we, His disciples, truly “burn with love” for Jesus? Loving Him with our whole being? Is He first in our lives? Does He have our whole heart? 

As we quickly come to the close of the first month in the new year 2020 it would be a good time to get honest and real and see if we truly “burn with love.” If we do, then we need to add more fuel to that flame. If we don’t, then we need to blow on the embers and “fan into flames” the love that was once there. 

Don’t enter the next month without taking some time to see what or who you burn with passion for.

Intentional Deliberate Silence – Part four

We were chatting about Mr. Rogers and his desire to be revolutionary and a radical. His radicalness was to allow silence when he was engaging with people… (see yesterday’s blog)

Again from a great book that I have recently read …

One year he was invited to the White House for a conference on children’s education and television, where he met with Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, and the highest-level executives of PBS. And how do you think he started that meeting with some of the most powerful people in the world? With sixty seconds of silence during which they were told to think of someone who had an impact on them.

He did the same thing when he accepted his Lifetime Achievement award at the 1997 Emmys. In the middle of his speech, he took off his watch, told the audience he’d keep the time, and led them in the very same exercise. He was leading not just the audience in the theatre, but also 18,744,000 people watching all over the country in the very same moment. And it was clear from the first second or two, when a few in the audience laughed or howled, that they thought that he was just joking.

But he was serious.

It was the Emmys and millions were watching. One second of silence could easily lose those millions of viewers.

I particularly love Esquire’s account of the moment:

And he lifted his wrist, and looked at the audience, and looked at his watch, and said softly, “I’ll watch the time,” and there was, at first, a small whoop from the crowd, a giddy, strangled hiccup of laughter, as people realized that he wasn’t kidding, that Mister Rogers was not some convenient eunuch but rather a man, an authority figure who actually expected them to do what he asked … and so they did. One second, two seconds, three seconds … and now the jaws clenched, and the bosoms heaved, and the mascara ran, and the tears fell upon the beglittered gathering like rain leaking down a crystal chandelier, and Mister Rogers finally looked up from his watch and said, “May God be with you” to all his vanquished children.

I wonder how many that night truly experienced their first minute of intentional, deliberate silence.

To watch this special time go to: https://youtu.be/Upm9LnuCBUM

Here’s the truth we have to reckon with: slow or silent space doesn’t mean wasted space – no matter how much our world tells us it does.

Empty space does not need to always, inherently, be filled.

It just can be. 

What would it look like if we were people who reclaimed spaces of silence as an act of resistance in our daily lives?

For another amazing video … Mister Rogers was reunited with Jeff Erlanger, a quadriplegic man in a wheelchair who had been on his show decades before as a kid. Mr. Roger’s gentleness and tenderness in that moment is honestly one of the most real and beautiful moments I’ve ever seen on TV. It’s when Mr. Rogers showed himself to be a resister and rebel all over again. 

Link:  https://youtu.be/MRaq11KiARM  

Intentional Deliberate Silence – Part Three

We need a “quiet revolution.” There is simply too much noise too often everywhere we go. The other day coming back from Eastern Canada to my home out west there was music playing on the plane as we loaded ourselves and our bags into the small space we purchased by obtaining a ticket. When we landed the same music came back on as soon as we came to a stop. Now listen (pun intended), we were not paying any attention to the music. We were busy squeezing ourselves into the small space we rented and then trying to get ourselves and our carry-ons out of the small space and off the plane as quickly as possible. 

My point: there is noise everywhere even when no one is wanting it or it is just adding to the noise and commotion of life in general. We need a quiet revolution.

Recently I read the following in a great book I took time to read as I drank great coffee in the stillness and solitude of my study – in an oversized, comfortable chair that has been my friend for 30 years. (I’ll leave the quotation marks out – anything in brackets I have added)

When we think of famous rebels or revolutionaries or resisters from history, we tend to think about noise and violence, about warfare and a small band of militia fighters trying to take down an empire. (You know, for example, Star Wars!)

Not me. I think about Fred Rogers.

Yes, Mister Rogers.

Of course, there’s the urban legend he was a Navy SEAL and wore those awesome cardigan sweaters to cover up full-length arm sleeve tattoos. But I don’t mean in that regard.

Mister Rogers was a rebel and a revolutionary because of how different he was on television. I remember watching him as a kid and gravitating towards his peace and calm and secure quietness – maybe because I always had such a tough time with those exact things.

Looking back now, it’s astonishing to think about what he did. How he predicated his show on calm, slow, methodical, and pointed talking. Yet silence and slowness are now treated like diseases to be eradicated. Television inherently calls for more noise and stimulation. The cuts and pace and music are intentionally nothing like real life…In fact, especially during Mister Roger’s era, I remember cartoons growing in noise, speed, and stimulation. Today most animated shows are an assault on the senses, causing violence to our more sensitive awareness. Attempting to entertain and stimulate via a metaphorical shock that ends up frying the more fragile parts of us.

Rogers knew that, and he knew it was creating a culture of buzz and anxiety. So he fought for the opposite.

Think of the boardroom fight that must have happened at least once or twice. Fred, you can’t be silent for ten seconds and say or do absolutely nothing on TV. That’s the equivalent of a year in television time! People will immediately turn it off.”

But Rogers knew the difference. The media’s culture of noise is like giving someone meth or cocaine. It overstimulates, lies to your senses, and then something in you weirdly craves it again – even though before you experienced it you never realized you desired it.

The only way to fight something like that is with the anchored, deep, slow presence of silence.

Silence today is rare, so undervalued, that it is an act of resistance.

Rogers would use that silence strategically. “Silence is the greatest gift we have,” he once said. And he fought for that silence everywhere.  

He even had a ritual in which every meeting, spanning across decades, had to start with silence. He’d instruct his staff and team to take one minute at the beginning of the meeting to think of a person who had a positive impact on their life. And he’d watch the time and tell them when the minute was up.

More of this story next time ….   In Intentional Deliberate Silence – Part Four

Intentional Deliberate Silence – Part Two

When we first think of silence and solitude, we may not care much about it, or we may think it sounds religiously sexy and hipster, cool, and trendy.

Until we try it.

And then we are shocked and maybe terrified by it.

Because in silence we feel exposed and naked, and weirdly we become noisy. Not outwardly but inside our heads. So we quickly dismiss it. “Nah, I’m good.”

But here’s the unsexy and unpolished truth: our aversion to that nakedness and the awkwardness and ugliness we feel are actually why we need to do it. We need silence and solitude. If we never experience it, we are continually buzzing, always anxious, wired, and on edge, empty and spiritually thin and malnourished. 

This, of course, is what we see in the Church and the lives of individual believers today. A lack of spiritual life and vitality. People going through the ‘Christian motions’ without the emotions. Going through the traditional, religious, daily habits of prayer and Bible reading and yet not experiencing life. Just existing. Or, already spiritually dead and not knowing it. As Paul reminded Timothy, these are people “who hold to the outward form of our religion but deny the power thereof.”

And here’s the worse part: This feeling of nakedness, ugliness, and awkwardness is just the beginning. If we stay in the desert (solitude with silence) longer and push through it, up bubbles a myriad of distractions, random ideas, images, and thoughts that feel so uncomfortable we wonder, “Do I really have these thoughts? Where is this coming from?”

But to stay put in the quiet place is to stay put in the desert. A place we can’t survive on our own, where mirages of our false self pop up again and again. And we are desperate for someone to save us and meet us there. Thirsty for just a drop of water.

And that’s where these words of Henri Nouwen speak to us over and over again as a beautiful reminder.

“The wisdom of the desert is that the confrontation with our own frightening nothingness forces us to surrender ourselves totally and unconditionally to the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Silence and solitude are like a graveyard for all the worst in you and your false self. Dare we say, your religious self.

And, if we want to live into our true selves, the ones Jesus created us to be, we have to enter through the graveyard. We have to take ourselves to the desert. There we will finally discover the real person that God created. Burying the person that we have allowed others and our culture and society to form. The one that religion has approved even though your life was lived on the surface and you were spiritually thin or maybe even dead. 

Silence and solitude hurt. So, we naturally work hard to avoid it. We want to avoid the silence and the solitude because we don’t like what happens and what we see when in the silence. And, we have been fed this non-biblical idea that time alone with Jesus (our morning devotions)  was therapeutic, beautiful, serene, and peaceful. Just not true. Being in His presence is life changing. And, it means facing who we are so that we can become who He created us to be. That is difficult and can even be seriously messy and painful.

So, it seems we have two options. We can go around my true self and stay within the noise. Or we can go through to our true self within the silence and the solitude.

The beautiful part is that even though it’s messy and painful and glaring, we aren’t alone.

Jesus meets us there. He was waiting for us. In silence. In our pain. And let’s be honest; sometimes it feels like He doesn’t show up. But when we keep showing up – again and again – He doesn’t leave us out in the cold alone.

As the prophet Isaiah said, Jesus gives us “streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:19). He meets us in the place of death with sustaining life. He won’t take us out of that place, but He will sustain us in it.

In fact, when we see His face in those moments, it’s almost as if we’re not waiting for Him; it’s as if He’s been waiting for us. In that mundane, everyday ordinariness, we see Him. Face to face. Eye to eye. And we start to hear something different.

Not noise, but His voice. And He says, “This is your true self. The one I saw when I died for you. I’ve been here the whole time, waiting for you to get here.”