16 March, 2006

Metamorphosis and Contraction - 1

Year - About 1997

Time - 6:00 AM
Brothers and sisters filter into the living room. Each slips in silently, and takes a seat. Some sit in the comfortable couches, others in reasonably comfortable floor-level chairs. As each person sits, they close their eyes and begin a centering meditation. The room is utterly quiet.

After about 20 minutes, a brother reads the first line of the 23rd Psalm, but not verbatim. He changes the words a little bit so that it is not a declaration to an audience, but rather a prayer praising the Shepherd. There are a few sighs and a little more silence. A sister across the room reads another line. She carries on in the same vein of prayer, deepening it if she can, but praying something to which she can relate. After a half hour or so, they have finished the Psalm. Most of the people in the room have contributed a line or two to the prayer, and everyone feels refreshed. They have told the Lord how wonderful a Shepherd He is, and thanked Him for His eternal care.

One by one brothers and sisters file back out. Hardly a word was said outside of the few lines of actual prayer.

Time - 7:00 PM
Brothers and sisters file into a different living room. Everyone is talking. Some of them are carrying their dinners, and eating as they take any old seat that will work. The atmosphere is positively raucous. By 7:45, everyone figures out that no one else is coming, and most of the people are done with dinner, so it must be time to start. The stories of how the kids acted up today, and how much work was just like yesterday end, and everyone gets down to business.

They pick up songbooks. Someone calls out #52. You are usually not allowed to call out song numbers, but this is not a "meeting". This is a "song-learning meeting." Everyone has come together for the express purpose of learning new songs to use during regular meetings. During a regular meeting, the person who wants to start a song is responsible to start it by singing it, and someone else (anyone else) is responsible to call out the song number as soon as they figure it out. Usually, 90% of the people in the room can sing the song by heart, anyway, so this works most of the time.

Tonight, though, everyone is here to learn songs, and #52 is going to be the first one. Two people know the song, so they teach it to everyone else. Special attention is paid to the first line of each verse. If you learn the first line of each verse, you can usually sing the whole song, because the rest of the lines flow one after the other. There's a lot of laughter, and there are a lot of mistakes. Somebody tries to teach the harmony (they never learn), and after a few solid failures they go back to singing the song straight again.

At about 9:00 everyone is tired, and with 4 new songs under their belts, they go home (or out for coffee, but that is another story.)

Time - 3:00 PM on a Saturday.
3 brothers and 2 sisters get together out at a park while the kids play.

The date of the next "big meeting" has been announced, and it is 6 weeks away. The theme will be the Son of God accepting the mission the Father has appointed to Him just before the first Word of creation is spoken. There are 5 groups, and each group is going to have 30 minutes of the meeting to share something about that moment before time.

They brainstorm for a while about what they will do for their 30 minutes. Skits are popular. Songs are pretty cool (even more so because if it is a good song, everyone will sing it for the next year.) They could take a scripture, and turn it into a dramatic reading. They could put together a responsive reading for everyone to do. They could serve a meal that would relate somehow. They could mix and mingle existing songs, and create a kind of a song-skit. They could focus on the treasure for which the Son was willing to die, and make a kind of a treasure hunt. They could act the whole thing out using Weebles (Weebles wobble but they don't say No.)

Eventually, things get a little silly, and have to be brought back on topic. After an hour or two they have a plan, and everyone knows what to do next, and when they will meet again. They go home, and over the next week do their parts to get ready for the "big meeting."

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I suspect that not everyone reading this would be comfortable calling those little meetings church. That's OK, I am not comfortable under the steeple where I currently meet either. ;-)

I could keep listing simple, quick little meetings like that for pages. In a 3 month cycle we might do anywhere from 24 to 80 meetings. It depended what we were trying to accomplish. In the church I currently attend, we will do 36 meetings in those same 3 months. 36. Exactly. {{{Shiver!}}} Oh well.

I like variety. A lot. I think nature proves that God is partial to variety as well, but that's just me.

None of that is the subject of this post. (Though with just a little niggling, it could be the subject of numerous posts another day.)

The subject of this post is a painful phone call I had with a dear brother the other day. He knows whence I have come, and he had read this blog. He is not impressed.

I cannot say I blame him.

I left that church in 1998. Being in it changed me forever, and so has leaving it.

I cannot capture in a blog post the difference between the way that listening to a sermon stirs the heart, and the way that sharing from the Spirit freely with brothers and sisters stirs the heart. I could not capture the difference for my brother on the phone, either. He and I could not get on the same wavelength during that call. I am learning Romanian, and I would have done better to try to speak Romanian to him, than to try to explain why I am now meeting in a steeple church.

He had preached for a number of years, before he laid that burden down. He is shooting higher now, much higher. He knows that I too once shot for the same target as he, and what he reads from me here is very different from the things I was writing 8 years ago.

He was obviously disappointed.

The awful truth is that I do not know whether I have metamorphosized forward, or whether I have let go of the plow and am looking back. I don't know whether I have been damaged and have given up, or whether I have been broken and am finally moving toward the real goal in humility. I know I have been crippled, but is it the crippling of Jacob/Israel or the crippling of a million other children of the Lord who never grow again.

This is why I like "Thomas Covenant, The Chronicles of the Unbeliever" so much better than the "Lord of the Rings". I'm not Frodo. I am headed somewhere, but I don't know whether it's to the Crack of Doom to save the world, or just to some deserted, rocky beach somewhere to wander into the ocean. I'm just Thomas Covenant, a scared leper in a world he does not understand.

That phone call has been on my heart for two weeks now, and I have no answer for that brother. I think it highly likely that I will post a few times on the perspectives that oppose themselves in my head.

Hopefully, in following posts I will move beyond existential whinings. Thanks for bearing with me.

:-)

13 comments:

milly said...

I took a moment to think on this. The first thing that popped into my head was something a minister at my chuch use to say. God has put you where he needs for you to be. The hard part about that is that sometimes it's hot and sandy. I can't seem to let go of the feeling that you are on the edge of something, and well yes you might be standing in the sand at first. I also get the feeling that the ocean isn't too far and milk and honey are on order. The biggest thing is to hold on. I could say I've been there and stuff but I haven't. My husband feels his foot in the sand from time to time with his work at church I explain to him that he has to trust in God. What it all comes down to is Let God Lead, and try to trust Him when you feel the hot sand an your feet. Could be your picking up another brother or sister along the way. :-}

Danny Kaye said...

You mentioned that you, "too once shot for the same target as he," and that you, "do not know whether I have metamorphosized forward, or whether (you) have let go of the plow and am looking back".

I suppose the question your readers have is, "What were you shooting for back then? And why might it have been greater than what you are shooting for now?"

Much of what I am about to type is repetitive of some things I have typed in the past, BUT:

I am facing the same thing, now.
A VERY brief history:

I became a Christian in 1987. It was an amazing time. There was one man who caught the dream of winning the world for Christ in our generation. And he knew how to inspire the rest of us to catch the same dream.
We preached the word wherever we went.
We made radical sacrifices to help advance the gospel around the globe.
We strove to "Present everyone perfect in Christ" (Col. 1).
We had a mission and we had the spirit to accomplish that mission.

Then, in a short time, it all fell apart.

Most of us lost our dream, and many also lost our convictions about seeking and saving the lost, financial sacrifice, personal righteousness...etc.

Now, just having come out of a years long funk, I am re-evaluating my Christianity. Once all the hype was removed that was pumped into our worldwide movement, my real character was revealed. My real motivation was revealed. My own lack of convictions was revealed.

I believe much of what I did and felt and believed was right in God's eyes. But, I have to ask myself why I now do what I do. It comes down to:
I love God, His Word, His people, and His Son.

Since October of last year, I have grown beyond anywhere I have been before. But this time, my convictions, faith, motivations, and ultimately my love for God, are real. And nothing will shake that foundation again because I built it with Jesus, and on Jesus. Not with hype and show.

Just this morning I decided I was going to post to my blog a list of 10 things I have either learned or decided since October of last year. I believe it will help me see that I am heading in the right direction.

What am I saying? I guess just that, you may not be doing the same radical things you used to do. You may not feel like you are "measuring up" to the standards to which you used to call yourself and others.
But if you are shooting for the ultimate goal of being and loving like Jesus, then you are still metamorphosizing in the right direction. The day you stop trying to be more like him, let us know. We'll be sure to whack ya' upside the head with (as Blest says), the gold brick of truth wrapped in a blanket of love.

Kansas Bob said...

I suspect that not everyone reading this would be comfortable calling those little meetings church.

You would if you were a member of "Our Familyhood Church". I love your heart codepoke!

Danny Kaye said...

K-Bob, thanks for reminding me. I wanted to comment on that sentence from the big "C".

I understand that I have been isolated by becoming a Christian in NH and staying in that same congregation for 18 years, BUT:

When did "church" become strictly official meetings of the body of Christ?

The scriptures teach that I am part of Christ's body (the Church) no matter where I am. The Church is made up of the sons and daughters of God. I am son of God. But I am at work right now, I am also "in Church."

Is this just a teaching of the North? Or perhaps it is just COC? Or perhaps I just misinterpreted a sentence that wasn't really the main point of the posting.

Just curious.

Danny Kaye said...

uh-oh...Codepoke...the spammers have found you.

Milly said...

danny kaye,

Is this just a teaching of the North? Or perhaps it is just COC? Or perhaps I just misinterpreted a sentence that wasn't really the main point of the posting.

In the 80's I believe it was Farrel and Farrel that had a song about how you can't go to church cause the church is you. I think, as I'm typing I'm wondering if it was Keith Lancaster and Acapella.

If it was F&F others for sure believe that if it's Acapella it could be COC, I can't see it any other way we are the church, can't tell me any different. God wants us to enjoy Him in a big building and a small diner. Heck I've held studies in my car.

Milly said...

Out. . . Out. . . Darn spambots!

codepoke said...

Very encouraging comments all. Thank you!

(Especially the spambots. They are such nice little posts, and so helpful. Sure, I could use more money!

My intent with the spambots is to keep deleting their little messages. I figure that if I can save all of you from having to type the silly verification characters just by spending a couple seconds deleting spam, I will. If I ever have to delete 8 messages in a week, I will reconsider.)

codepoke said...

Milly,

I believe you about the milk and honey being on order! And picking up a brother or sister on the way would be a delight.

I'm not talking about letting go, but about which way to go. Thanks for the thoughts!

codepoke said...

DK,

Great history. Praise the Lord! Yeah, we had the same coarse-grain experience, I bet.

Your question about what my target used to be is right on. I will answer that with my next post (probably in 2 days, but it will come. I want to play the Vox Apologia thing, so that will be my next post)

Keep the brick handy. We'll see whether it comes out. ;-O

codepoke said...

Kansas Bob,

Back at'cha. I don't know how your church is living out relationship, but I bet your people love the places you seem to be taking them. I can promise you I'm jealous.

codepoke said...

When did "church" become strictly official meetings of the body of Christ?

Those were the strictly official meetings. I kind of wrote that post in a fit of passion, so it is not very clear. I thought about striking it, but it says what it needs to.

Am I alone in figuring out how I am feeling by outside measures? The hallway here in my office has little markings. If I take 3 paces between those markings, I am feeling pretty good. If I take more than 4 paces to go between markings, I am dragging. I often think I am doing OK, only to find that after 4 paces, I am still not to the next marking.

I assume it's odd to notice things like that, but maybe not. I don't know.

Anyway, yesterday was the first day in about 3 weeks I was 3 paces between markings. I had a long talk with a friend, and he helped me get my head back on straight. Suddenly, I felt like posting again, and that's what came out.

In fact, part of the problem when I had the phone call that led to the post was that I was almost 5 paces between marks when I called him. I would never have made such a phone call in that mood, but I had no idea it would get so heavy so quick.

Anyway, the Lord is good. I will wait on His salvation.

Back to the question I meant to be answering.

Had I written my post more clearly, you would have known that we never had a classic church meeting at all. Those were all the meetings. Nobody preached to us, except in conference settings. Our entire ministry was to each other, and from each other.

More in "M & C - 2"

Milly said...

It is a good post-reminder to some of us. We tend to put a lot into that building.(My husband's ministery is taking care of it, not exactly what I meant)

I started to go on then realized I was writting a post. I'll save it for my sight.