Monday, March 27, 2006

Permission to Do Nothing - Granted!

It's been a long month --- storyteller's workshop, worship conference, video testimonies, worship projects, barbershop concerts, drama rehersals. Not a lot of free time for writing as I would like. Finally got a free night this past Sunday. Resolved to spend the evening doing as little as possible. Roberta planned on reading a book, I was going to relax with some great jazz music. Then it hit --- guilt!

Even as we settled down for the evening we hadn't gone very far when both my wife and I felt it. We were actually planning to do nothing! We were about to commit the sin of being unproductive. How could we think of such a thing? More than once Roberta looked up from her book and said, "There are things I should be doing. I shouldn't be just sitting here. (long pause) But it's all I want to do!"

I knew how she felt. I had to remind both myself and her that that not only is doing nothing NOT a sin, it is a command of God! It would seem that God knew his creation would fall prey to the insatiable drive to 'do something', and so he commanded one day's rest in seven to address the need for rest. For the record, even two thousand years ago, in the time of Jesus, this was considered a little strange. Many people regarded the Jews as lazy and irresponsible because they took a whole day off every week.

What I have always wondered however, is why we have this overwhelming drive to be busy in the first place? Why do we get so fidgety and restless when we do nothing? Why is the same level of inactivity that is acceptable lying on the beach, so unacceptable in our own living rooms?

I have a theory.

I think we all suffer, to one degree or another, from the tryanny of our own attention span.

That's right - the tyranny of our own attention span. The same hightened sense of boredom that has us flipping channels, also keeps us from slowing down and just enjoying the moment. And in a world dominated by the 10-second sound byte, the video montage, and the one-minute news update, the situation has become even worse. There are many people today that are simply incapable of paying attention to anything for any length of time.

The result is we have trouble simply enjoying the moment. When we do spend a few moments resting, doing nothing, before long a little voice in our head says, "Okay, been here, done this. What's next? Come on people - I've seen this movie before. Show me something new."

Of course on the spiritual level there's another aspect to it as well -- fear.

I have come to the realization that some of us are reluctant to stop "doing" because when our minds are not filled with these activities then we might be tempted to "think". And this is bad because thinking can lead to contemplation. And contemplation can lead to introspection. And introspection can lead to having to face some hard realities about ourselves, and nobody wants to do that. And so because of our fear of facing who we really are, we occupy our time with as many activities as possible so that we don't have time to think about how good or bad a person we might be.

Of course, on the spiritual level, this is all very good for the enemy. Satan of course has no desire to see God's people spending a lot of time in quiet contemplation because they just might be quiet long enough to hear the still small voice of God. They might, even without intending or planning to, take head of the prompting and leading of the Holy Spirit; and we all know what that could lead to.

So here's my challenge to you. Take a few minutes, or dare I say it, one day a week, and strive to do nothing. You just might find it's the most productive thing you've ever done.


Thursday, March 02, 2006

Worship and Remembrance

This past week I was reading at a freind's blog about the connection between worship and remembrance. At one point Phil makes the following statement.

I’m amazed at how we so quickly forget things. Throughout the Bible are numerous occasions where people were to remember what God had done and who he is. Take for example Nehemiah’s prayer 1:8 and again in 4:14. I keep coming back to these statements to remember for they are essential to our faith. How important it is for us to remember – remembering is part of our worship and important to our spiritual growth.

I'm pleased that Phil has made the connection because for me remembrance is a very large part about what worship is all about.

Communion, or The Lord's Supper, is the central point of worship for those of us who follow Christ. More so, I think, than Christmas or even Easter, because the Eucharest, as some call it, is what Jesus Himself ordained that we should do in remembrance of Him. He asked that when we remember Him we do so by partaking of the bread and the wine. He gave them to us as a mnemonic, as an aid to help us remember who Jesus was and is, the Christ, and what he did when he sacrificed Himself to free us from our sins.

I find myself wondering however, what was it the disciples remembered when they celebrated the Lord's Supper for the first time after Jesus' ascension into heaven. I wonder who among them was the first to break the bread as Jesus did; an act they so identified with Him it was how the disciples on the road to Emmaus recognized the ressurrected Lord. I can picture each of them in turn, pausing for a moment, with a lump in their throats and tears in their eyes, staring off into the past as they put the bread in their mouths and touched the cup to their lips.

Did they think about His death and resurrection? Yes, I'm sure they did, but I imagine they also remembered a great many things not recorded in the gospels. They remembered the one-to-one conversations they had with Him as they walked along the road and when they withdrew to the quiet places. They remembered the laughs they shared as they told each other stories from their childhood. And they remembered meals of bread and wine shared in happier times when all seemed right with the world.

As they continued to celebrate the Lord's Supper with the early church I'm sure they recalled in detail the day they first met the master. They remembered the time He comforted them during a personal battle, embracing them as a brother, praying with and for them as they battled with their own doubts. Most of all I am sure they remembered a smile. A particular look He would give them that said, "Do not be afraid! I love you brother, and out of all Israel I have chosen you to be my disciple."

It is seldom the big and grandious things I remember during Communion. I think of the glory of heaven and the price that was paid for my sins, it is true. I would be remiss if I never thought of them. But more often than not, I find it is the personal events that I remember the most. I remember the way He helped me deal with the death of my father even when most of my Christian friends seemed to ignore me. I remember the Workman's Compensation check that showed up two weeks ahead of schedule on the very day my rent needed to be paid. I remember the joy and gratitude I felt for the gift He gave me - the day I watched Roberta walk down the aisle to become my wife. I remember a small child, not quite sure what to make of me on my first day helping out at Vacation Bible school, who could only think of one thing to say - "Jesus Loves You."

Worship is about remembering all the reasons we choose and continue to believe, because while the stories in the Bible are indeed the most important stories ever written, they do not end with the Book of Revelation. The 'Good News' is still being written today in the hearts and lives of every man, woman, and child who calls upon the name of Jesus. These stories too must be told. These stories too must be remembered.