Confessions of a Broken Tool

A Cone of Silence?

Even Amazon cannot sell me a cone of silence.

Perhaps you’re not familiar with the concept. You can get a quick explanation here.

Suffice it to say that the idea is a device that would create a soundproof barrier between you and everyone else around you. If you don’t understand why anyone would desire such a device… I don’t really know what to tell you except that many of us have a hard time finding moments without noise.

It seems that, even for a guy like myself that has a great appetite for quiet, it can sometimes be very difficult to shut out all of the noise and truly listen. And I don’t think I’m unique.

I’ve observed that many of us are actually addicted to some kind of noise. For some it’s their go-to binge on Netflix or default playlist on Spotify, for others it may be Fox News or a podcast that clogs the air. For some it may just be the inner recitation of the to-do list that rattles on in an unending directive of productivity.

But, whatever the noise, it’s something that appears to be epidemic in our society. And it keeps many of us from hearing the voice we most desperately need to hear.

As followers of Jesus, there is no greater need than to be attuned to the Spirit of God. It’s the voice we need to recognize, respond to, follow.
When God was teaching Elijah some hard truths in 1 Kings 19, He spoke in a low whisper. When Isaiah was describing the way God would lead his people, he wrote:

“And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ when you turn to the right or to the left.” (Isa 30.20)

Through the New Testament we’re instructed to walk in the Spirit, be filled with the Spirit, and yield to the Spirit. But it seems that, as a voice within us, it can easily get confused for our own voice, but they are not the same. And discerning one from the other becomes so very much easier when we simply spend some time focusing our hearts and minds—or more our spiritual ears—on God.

This is why I so would like to find some functional cone of silence—to block out everything else and tune my spiritual ears to the voice of the Spirit. But this is not the way the world works. Even Jesus stepped away from all of the crowds and busyness to spend time alone with the Father. So we know we need it as well.

But maybe it’s not as complicated as we make it.

Maybe it’s as simple as the psalm instructs:

“Be still, and know that I am God.”

Maybe I don’t need a cone of silence. Maybe all I need is to switch off all of the voices I can and listen for the One that I most desperately need. Maybe I can trust Him enough to just be still.

Well… of course I can.

Father, teach me to sit down, shut up, and be still… and know that You are God.

The Ripples of Fear

When a big rock drops into the pond, it makes a lot of ripples.

Yesterday a very big rock dropped into the small pond that 23,000 or so of my friends and I call home. The ripples started big like shock waves with “active shooter” and “multiple fatalities” and the terrifying “suspect still at large.”

The ripples of fear radiated.

There were frantic calls and texts to account for loved ones and friends as the worst of our imaginations ran wild. So many thought instantly of their children and were quickly assured that the local schools were all locked down in wise precaution.

The ripples radiated on and on.

As the initial waves passed and more information became available, the waves began to settle. But fear often leaves a nasty hangover.

In small town Oklahoma, we expect stories like the one unfolding here today to be set in big cities out west or back east. But too many times over the last dozen years we’ve had to swallow the words, “That could never happen here.”

It did happen here. The reports confirmed a “double murder-suicide.”

I didn’t know these people. I know they were hurting, broken people because, in one way or another, we’re all hurting, broken people. And on this day one man’s hurt and brokenness boiled over into this tragic event.

But the ripples of fear keep rolling.

If it could happen in the parking lot where all of us have to go from time to time, it could happen to us or happen in front of us or we could get caught in the mess.

The truth is that it’s not any more likely to happen tomorrow than it was yesterday. But today we were faced with the cold reality that these kinds of things can happen here to our neighbors, our friends… us.

But there are some breakers to the ripples. There are those who refuse to let the ripples of fear roll over them.

There are the law enforcement and emergency responders who have sworn to rush in when fear says to rush out. They break the ripples by the bravery.

There are the educators that calmly engage their lockdown procedures to ensure the safety of our kids. They break the ripples by their calm preparedness.

There are the men and women—just everyday folks—who recognize this horrific event as the exception and not the rule in our mostly very peaceful home. They break the ripples by choking down the “what-ifs” and going on to do their jobs or buy their groceries or whatever they know needs to be done. They break the ripples by their steadfastness.

There are the people of deep faith who are convinced at the depth of their soul that there is a God and he is good and that these things do not disprove his existence but underscore our desperate need for his grace. They break the ripples by calling out to the God they know is listening—independently, collectively, earnestly asking for peace and calm and hope. They break the ripples by their faith.

There are so many things that jar us out of our comfortable delusions that we are safely insulated from these heart-shattering experiences. Since the day that Abel was murdered by his brother in a jealous rage, domestic violence has been an all-too-common part of human society. Those rocks of offense will continue to trigger these ripples through communities just like ours all around the world.

But what will we do with it? Will we determine to be breakers that face the ripples without being deterred in our bravery, our preparedness, our steadfastness, or our faith? Yes, let’s do that.

But what if we try to do more? What if we pay enough attention to our friends and neighbors and coworkers to recognize that the small stone they’ve been carrying suddenly seems to be getting a lot bigger? What if we strive to become the kind of neighbors that can be trusted to listen with compassion and help without condescension?

What if we do what we can to make mental health help available to everyone that needs it and crush the stigma that surrounds it? What if we were to live out that whole “love your neighbor as yourself” business to the point that we could come along and help someone put down their rock before they throw it in the pond?

There will always be ripples of fear in one form or another. What can we do to help break them? 

Remember… “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4.18)

Giving, Praying, Going—GROWING

Not all of the instruments play at the same time.

But they all have a part to play.

This morning the going section has taken the lead in this beautiful symphony of serving. But this is not the beginning of the piece… or the end.

This particular movement has been months in building with the generosity of the  giving section. Over and over we have made them aware of the need and the opportunity and they have given faithfully, liberally, and cheerfully.

It has built as we have drawn closer and closer to this day with the stirring and strengthening of the praying section. They have interceded continually and gathered around the going section to do so.

And the going section has itself given toward this and prayed over this and prepared hearts and minds and hands to do this.

In this giving and in this praying and in this going there is a common motif. We give and we pray and we go that the kingdom of God and the impact of the gospel and the people and churches involved will grow.

This morning we took this picture before we set out on our journey. In it you see givers that pray and prayers that go and goers that give. It’s not all of the folks that were there this morning just as it wasn’t all of the folks who made this possible. But it is a sampling of the magnificent orchestra through which God plays this glorious symphony for His own great glory.

Big group selfie as we set off toward CityReach 2019!

As these sections converge on a city in need of the hope of the gospel, we give thanks to all of you that have given to make our part in this symphony possible. We rejoice for the many who have been and continue to pray for the journey and the impact and the experience of this powerful cooperative kingdom effort. We lift up our partners who will meet us in Madison with hearts and hands ready to demonstrate the grace of our great God together.

And we look with hope for the dimensions of growth… as the kingdom of God increases, as the servants are stretched and strengthened, as the local partners are encouraged and emboldened, and as we all lean into the opportunity to join in where we see God at work. 

This is not a new idea at all. In fact, this growing by working together is exactly what Paul taught us about in his letter to the Ephesians:

“… we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body,… when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

Ephesians 4.15-16

When we each lean into our part, the body grows. That means that God’s kingdom grows—bigger, stronger, more effective. But, more than that, we grow into an ever more effective representation of Jesus himself.

As our Conductor has orchestrated the many parts together to ring out His own great praise, let us each play the part before us for His glory. Let us embrace our role in this work of obedience and honor… giving, praying, going—GROWING.