Friday, February 26, 2010

Eric Peters Concert Review

Last week, singer-songwriter Eric Peters came to our church. On Wednesday night, he was kind enough to play a few songs for the kids and read from his epic space novella, The Revenge of the Birds. He was even brave enough to face a barrage of questions from K-5th graders...Questions like, "What's the worse song you have ever written? Can you play it for us?" and "I've been to Texas."

The next evening, after a day of scavenging the local bookstores, Eric came back for an all-church concert. With guitar in hand, charango in tow, and a harmonica to boot, Eric began to weave a tale. And imbedded in the fabric of this story was the promise, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."

He told his own story. He read from his childhood diary and we were transposed into the mind of a child. He sang of his wife in songs like, "Sad to Watch You Wave" and "May Your Tenderness." He gave a benediction to his sons in the song, "I Will Go with You." He sang of his own struggles, disillusionment, and hope in songs like "Reality Came Crashing Down" and "Old Year of Denial." And rising like a steady drumbeat was the guarantee "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."

He told the stories of others. With a smirk and a wink, he sang of a race horse with an identity complex. Cloaked in the fur-covered garments of Jacob, he told of a conman who was blessed. Donning the rust of an abandoned bicycle, he told of his desire to be reclaimed. And sporting the skittish feet of a rabbit, he told of his longing for a place of rest. The drum beat drew ever nearer, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."

He told my own story. There is a quote by Frederick Buechner inside the cover of Eric's latest CD that says, "The story of any one of us is in some measure the story of us all." In the stories Eric told, I found my own story of fear and faith, displacement and hope, anxiety and trust. My own struggle to love and be loved was reflected back to me in the words, "I thought love was a weapon to conquer and wield but love turned out humble and it still conquers me." And I surrendered with the realization that, "little by little it's becoming all I need." Rattling the bones of my own story is the pounding promise, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."

For those interested, here's the set list for the night:
  • "You Come Over Me"
  • "Little by Little Things"
  • "Chrome"
  • "Run Down"
  • "Reality Came Crashing Down"
  • "Old Year of Denial"
  • "I Will Go with You"
  • "Sad to Watch You Wave"
  • "Waterloo"
  • "Son of Laughter"
  • "Squeeze"
  • "You Can be Yourself"
  • "May Your Tenderness"

Thank you to everyone who came out for the show. I hope you left with the assurance that you are never alone.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Memory Verse: Isaiah 42:6-10

On Wednesday nights, the 3rd-5th graders have been memorizing Isaiah 42:6-10. Last Thursday, nine students bravely stood before a crowd of 100 people and recited these verses. Great job Anna, Ian, Jacob, Jason, Kaylin, Marissa, Morgan, Rachel, and Sierra! The date for ice skating has been set for Sunday, April 25th.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Bound (Part 1)

I wear chains. You may not see them, but they are there. I desire to be a servant of Christ, but am entrapped by a cruel task master. Just when I think I have broken free from his command, I find myself, once again, submitting to his incessant decrees. I am enslaved to the approval of others.

I first recognized my bondage in Jr. High. Through wearing the right clothes, saying the right things, and associating with the right people, I struggled to fit in with the fashionable few. Leaving my elementary friends, I set out in pursuit of popularity. The social barometer was the lunch table, and I would not be content until eating with the "in" crowd. In this failed attempt to find significance, my chains were clearly visible.

Bearing the burden of my bonds, I entered high school. At a youth event the summer before my sophomore year, I met a family who would change my priorities. These were a peculiar people. They didn't care about attire or outward appearance. Their language was not tattered by gossip or meaningless chatter, but was filled with gentleness, grace, and kindness. As I spent more time with them, I realized the foolishness of chasing the chaff of popularity. For a moment, it felt as if my shackles had been loosed. Yet even as the size of my audience grew smaller, I continued to perform: choosing the words my character would speak, emotions she would express, and insights she would reveal. In the midst of becoming a respectable person, I felt the cold clasp of chains.

In time, I graduated high school. The transition to college brought new people and new expectations. In an effort not to disappoint others, I worked, studied, and practiced with vigor. My performance was directly tied to how I viewed myself. When I performed well, I felt good. When I performed poorly, I felt shame. My aim was to avoid shame through the means of excellence. My bonds became a burden disguised in the cloak of discipline. However, in the midst of my chase fueled by bad motives, God continued to reveal Himself to me. As I listened to lectures, completed assigned reading, wrote papers, and studied for tests, I contacted a God of love. Growing in acceptance of His love, I learned to cast aside my chains. Yet, they lingered.

I am now a children's minister. Shortly after my first year of planning for Wednesday nights, someone came to me with criticism. After she left, I cried, and as tears streamed down my face, I felt the cold clasp of chains. Lest, you begin to feel sorry for me, I better tell you that this criticism was countered with praise as I received letters in the mail, balloons in my office, and spoken words of appreciation. Ironically, the more praise I receive, the more I crave. In my quest for one more word of approval, I trip over my chains.

"Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ" (Gal. 1:0). When will I find release? "But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit" (Rom. 7:6). I will always be bound, but it is my choice as to who is my master. Will I serve God, or man? As Kenneth Boa writes in his book, Conformed to His Image, "The more we are concerned with what God thinks of us, the less we will be worried about what others think of us. And when we are no longer enslaved to people's opinions of us, we are free to love and serve them as Christ loves us - with no strings attached."

Lord, help me to accept your love. "Set me free from my prison that I may praise your name" (Ps. 142:7).

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Do it Again

"Do it again." If you have been around children, you are more than familiar with this phrase.

My dad likes to play hide-and-seek with my 2-year old nephew, Silas. Dad hides behind the bed while my nephew counts. Then Silas goes seeking until Dad comes charging out of the room chasing him into the waiting arms of a third party. Amidst the shrieks of laughter, Silas chuckles out, "Do it again."

Last week my neighbors, Rachel and Evanson, came over to play in the snow. One of our favorite things to do was race down the hill on our sleds. As we sped down the slope and tumbled into the ditch, we would giggle with glee, until one of the kids would suggest, "Let's do it again." So we would carry our sleds back up the hill and slide down again... and again... and again..., until my legs grew heavy, my cheeks turned flush and my fingers were numb. As I trudged back to my house to warm up by the fire, I heard a child's voice call out, "Maybe tomorrow we can do it again."

How many times have you watched that same movie, listened to that same song, repeated that same joke, or made that same funny face only to hear "Do it again?" So you do it again... and again... and again... And each time the child squeals as if it were the very first time. For repetition does not diminish the joy the child finds in the act. What if this delight is a God-like characteristic? I love this quote by G.K. Chesterton:

"A child kicks its legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"' and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we."

So tonight when billions of stars blanket the sky, and tomorrow when the sun peeks over the horizon, may you be filled with wonder. May you view these acts as if you were seeing them for the first time, and may your heart cry out, "Do it again." Lord, help us to grow young.