That Chaos Moment

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In Exodus 14:14, Moses tells the Israelites:
“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

And, then in the very next verse,

Exodus 14:15, God tells Moses this:
“Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.” 

Ladies and Gentlemen, That Chaos Moment.  The moment when communication breaks down, and vision grows fuzzy.

It’s no wonder that God and Moses got their wires crossed.  Moses said, “God’s got this.  Be still.”  God said, “I’ve got this.  Keep moving!”  For a moment there, the communication lines between God, Moses, and the Hebrews were about as shaky as it gets.

We give the Hebrews a lot of grief for being whiney and complaining but, you know, none of them had ever done this before.  Crossing the red sea?  Chariots chasing them?  This was all chaos to them.

We would probably be smart to recognize that such a moment can happen to churches, too, especially ones moving into uncharted territory.  The pastor or church leadership may have one direction in mind, the people may be impatient or uncertain, and God may be desperately trying to move the church in yet another direction.

That Chaos Moment may be necessary, and not nearly as scary as it sounds.  God’s advice is rarely wrong, of course.  We just need to heed God’s call to “keep moving”–to step boldly into the uncertain.   That doesn’t mean our Moses-types are necessarily wrong, encouraging the “stillness” of discernment.  It is, after all, a sure way to reacquire God’s signal and direction.

And as for the impatient, even complaining person in the pew?  They can be a potent reminder that the vision must be shared amongst everyone.  Of course, even the best communicated vision can fail to bring along all the stragglers, but when the core people reengage with God and church leaders, there’s no barrier that cannot be crossed over.  Or through.

That Chaos Moment can hit any church, any time, but especially the church that’s charted a course towards a spiritual unknown.   It takes faith to pass through the waters of chaos and see the dry land of the very next moment…

Here it comes…

That Liberation Moment.

Have a Great Week,

Mitch

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Moses and Errin’

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Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”  –Exodus 4:10

When I’m trying to quiet down a group at church, I know exactly what to say:

“Would anybody like to close us with a prayer?”

–Instant Silence–

That scenario plays out time and again, in my current church and every other church I’ve ever served.  It doesn’t really stress me out too much. Many folks don’t feel comfortable sharing their faith out loud, in prayer or testimony. I’m used to it.

I will step in and do my priestly duty, offering up a prayer to close out a meeting, but I wonder:  Who’s fault is it that Christians today struggle so much with this?

Maybe it’s God’s fault.

Remember the call of Moses?  When Moses claims he’s “slow of speech and tongue”,  God lets him off the hook, and allows Aaron to do the public speaking instead.

By this time, I think Moses had just worn God down with all his “No’s” for why he was the wrong man for the job.  God even offered to train Moses in how to share his faith publically, but Moses was resistant.  So God relented.

It probably wasn’t what God intended, but generation after generation has been using this same “slow of speech and tongue” excuse to avoid communicating in faith and prayer. If Moses didn’t have to speak up, then neither should we, right?

Hmm.  That’s our mistake.  That’s less like Moses, and more like Errin’.  Maybe it’s our fault for taking the easy way out.  Or the church’s for seeing this as “the pastor’s job”.

The truth is, many folks really do want to share their faith — it’s just a matter of know-how, comfort, and practice.  Of making it a priority.

This Fall, I’m launching Faithsharing 101 classes at my church.  In 4 short weeks the goal is to help people feel more comfortable praying out loud, articulating why they’re a Christian, and even sharing some about their faith story with others.  This is not a class in evangelism or door-to-door witnessing.  It’s a class in finding the right words, and feeling good about sharing them.

Can this be done in 4 weeks?  I don’t know.  Maybe God was short on time with Moses and didn’t have a month to set him on the right path.  It will at least be a good start.

I think God wants all believers to be able to express themselves.  To offer a prayer in the midst of those who are gathered.  To spread Good News through words and stories.

It took some time, but God helped Moses eventually find his voice.  And Aaron found his role in this new community of Hebrews, too.  God assures us that there’s a place for all of us, and sends the Spirit to help us find our voices.

We just have to practice saying ‘Yes” when God calls us.

Now…

Would anybody be willing to close us in prayer?

Have a great week,

Mitch

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T O T A L I T Y

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Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness spreads over Egypt—darkness that can be felt.”  So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days.
–Exodus 10:21-22

On August 21st, 2017, a word I’d heard but never used sort of sprang up into my mouth, where I uttered it many, many times:  TOTALITY.

Everywhere I went people were saying that word!

Totality.  Referring to that narrow band of geography, spreading across the United States, that fell completely into the shadow caused by the solar eclipse.

Like a status symbol I never knew was attainable or even existed, I was suddenly one of the millions who were lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, and to have the clouds (literally) part and reveal the sun, fully eclipsed by the moon.  Totality.

It was very cool.  I hadn’t even been expecting much of the event, but watching the world around me rapidly descend into nighttime was like something out of a global disaster movie!  It was somehow palpable, pervasive.  It was darkness that clings to you.

I was instantly transported back to ancient Egypt.  To the showdown between God and Pharaoh, to Moses stretching out his hand and bringing sudden darkness on the land. This was not just a heavy cloud cover kind of darkness.  This was, as God puts it, “darkness that can be felt”.

A plague of totality.

I experienced 3 minutes of it, and felt a little relief when the light began to return.  I can’t imagine what 3 days of that would have felt like, knowing God was punishing you.

Some folks feel that way. That God is punishing us.  Can you recall a moment when everybody you knew was walking around in the dark at the same time?  When it seemed like the whole Earth had crawled up inside a shadow?

September 11th comes to mind.  And our world today can feel like the new Dark Ages.  There are so many scary, hateful signs of despair, whole swaths of us that are living in the shadows. Many turn their eyes towards heaven, and blame God for the dark.

Darkness is so often portrayed as something to be feared and dreaded, but on August 21st, 2017, I experienced the thrill of life on planet Earth, in its totality. We praised God, even in the dark!

During this totality, what I heard were screams of joy coming from a neighbor’s front yard.  A jubilant firework being shot off across town.  We whooped and hollered and stared right at the sun for a few moments.  This was a once in a lifetime experience that was shared by those “in the zone” and those hundreds of miles away.

Let us remember that God created darkness along with the light.  God is not out to punish us, or banish us, or deprive us from joy.  God created the sun and the moon and the earth.  God created the universe in its totality, and all the many lives who inhabit it,

not for us to revel in despair…

but to eclipse it with joy.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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Maybe it was cold

2cc324866badf687460e130cf765aaf9Maybe it was cold on Mount Horeb.

Maybe Moses didn’t turn aside to see the burning bush.

Maybe he turned aside to warm his hands.

 

Perhaps he stammered and made excuses

when God unveiled his adventure

because he was cozy and comfortable next to the flame.

 

His flock?  At least they had thick wool coats to keep them cared for.

The Hebrews?  At least their slavery had them sweating and sheltered.

But Moses?  He was at the Mountain Top, exposed, vulnerable.

 

Maybe it was cold on Mount Horeb.

Maybe it was a trick God played on a chilly servant.

And once Moses was warm, it was time to go.

 

These winter nights, as I sit by my hearth

May I be so lulled into obedience

By a flame that will not end.

 

Have a good week,

 

Mitch

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Whoa and Behold.

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Schwarzenegger had “I’ll Be Back”

Eastwood had “Make My Day”

But my favorite catchphrase comes from none other than Keanu Reeves, and it goes like this:

“Whoa”.

Can you picture him saying it?

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He’s uttered those fabulous four letters in the Bill and Ted movies, and Speed, and Point Break, and the Devil’s Advocate, and even The Matrix!

So what, exactly, does Keanu mean when he says Whoa?

Certainly he’s not slowing down a horse.

No, I think that little word means something like this:  “I am awe-inspired and/or overwhelmed by what is happening, and I need a moment.”

Sound about right?

Keanu says it a lot.  But how often do you?

Personally, I think he’s on to something.

I think it’s a perfect way to acknowledging the presence of the Holy Spirit!

Remember Paul on the road to Damascus?  Whoa.
Elijah in the cleft of the mountain? Whoa.
Hagar in the desert? Whoa.
Shepherds at the manger? Whoa.
Moses and the burning bush?  Whoa.

And of course, the biggest Woah moment of all:  Pentecost.  WHOA!!!

One doesn’t just jump and go to work when the tongues of fire appear and the mighty wind begins to rush.

No, it doesn’t mention it in scriptures, but I firmly believe

that those disciples gasped in amazement,

a reverent moment of “Whoa”

before the Spirit said “Go”.

And so we must be on the lookout, because the Spirit has not left.

In good times and bad, there is so much to “Whoa and Behold”.

It is the ever-present Power of the Holy Spirit

that reveals the extraordinary around us and in us,

on every Excellent Adventure,

(And every Bogus Journey, too.)

 

Have a great week,

Mitch

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