Last night my small group went to the Free* Journey prayer experience at Crossroads in Oakley. It will be running through Monday and I would suggest that you check it out if you live in Cincinnati.
The experience is simple but immersive. It didn't take long for me to become open to it. Actually, it was wonderful to do something "spiritual" that I had no personal involvement in planning or implementing. I can't remember the last time that happened. I needed it.
Today is the day I am supposed to be preparing for the weekend at Vineyard. I'm closing out the Free* series this weekend.
I thought it might be good for me to write about the three realizations that I wrote down last night during the prayer experience. I woke up this morning thinking that maybe I had some sort of breakthrough. (To be fair, I have felt that way before without breaking through anything.)
Here goes nothing:
1. I'm free to SPEAK UP. Though much of my professional life is spent communicating, I almost always opt to say as little as possible in any given situation. The less I speak, the less chance I have of sounding foolish or hurting someone's feelings or being misinterpreted. I learned this habit at a very early age, probably out of some series of painful moments that I cannot remember anymore. I am generally quiet. To be fair, I think this can virtuous at times...and given the choice, I would rather be known as the quiet guy vs. the loud guy. But I came to believe last night that I am truly free to speak up when I want. I don't have to be quiet. God made me with a voice and I should be prepared to use it.
Part of speaking up also has to do with the things I say in public - as a pastor, a blogger, an author and a filmmaker. I have learned through the years that it is almost always better to not speak about something in a public forum unless you have a defined point of view. I still agree with this as well, but I need to take a few more risks than I have been since re-entering vocational ministry. In my twenties I too often taught my opinions as fact. In my thirties I have generally not taught my personal opinions at all. Again, this also can be virtuous. But it can also be self-protective and sheepish. I'm going to edge the pendulum a notch or two toward saying important things I might normally be tempted to skip over in order to avoid conflict. I need to embrace the fact that I am a preacher. And preachers preach.
2. I'm free to DREAM AGAIN. This particular realization has to do specifically with dreaming about the impact of the local church. I was once a dreamer. I followed some huge God-dreams in my twenties. Some of them were realized, but most of them fell short. As a result, I learned to dream more "realistically." Since coming to The Vineyard I haven't really dreamed the way I used to. I have had passing moments of wonder. I have seen mini-visions realized, but if I used to dream like a fire hose, these days I dream more like a drippy faucet. I turned down the dream-o-meter because of the pain of my previous dreams being unrealized. I didn't need a shrink to figure that one out. It's pretty obvious.
I'm ready to dream again - to risk the pain for the greater reward. To be fully me again. I'm ready to be a part of a church that turns a city upside down. I'm ready to start praying the prayer I stopped praying around 2003 - that God would give me influence over my generation in my city. I am no longer settling for less.
3. I am free to be HEALTHY. This one came out of nowhere, and what I actually wrote down in the moment was, "I could do more good for God if I were a healthier person." I didn't like the way that it looked on the paper and I still don't. It feels like the words of someone who believes that it is all about the things you do vs. who you are. I don't like it when life feels that way. The next thing I wrote was, "I am free from feeling guilty that I primarily connect to God through mission." This one surprised me. I have always wanted to be the guy who connects primarily with God through prayer or singing worship or meditation or study. The truth is, I connect with him most by doing stuff - by actively taking risks for the greater mission. That has always felt shallow or un-spiritual to me compared to the way others experience God. But now I'm over it. I'm free from that. The danger, of course, is when I do missional activity for my own sake...but the same danger exists in prayer, worship and study. I'm free to lead in a new way.
I have been getting healthier this year physically. I need to become more disciplined and balanced around issues of sleep, time management and emotional health. The healthier I can be, the more good I can do - the more I can be about the mission.
I am still processing these things. Normally I wouldn't blog about them until they are processed fully. (But...I'm learning to speak up more.) The good news is I think I just accidentally wrote my message for this weekend while typing this blog...