May 10, 2015
Happy Mother's Day
Today is Mother's Day, and normally I would have a special day planned for my Mom. Instead, I am dreading the day because it is a reminder that my Mom's condition is getting worse, and that my life is heading into difficult territory. I am not liking "Mother's Day" much this year because it reminds me of what my life is going to be like over the next months and years. Yes, the change in my Mom's condition is progressing rapidly, and I think about what might be as this disease continues to take her memory. It is a struggle to not get angry with her, especially when she repeats herself. I don't normally do this, but lately I am finding that I get irritated by her questions, and her suggestions that I do this or that because what she suggests is not reality. It is difficult to explain, but for children who have cared for a parent with dementia they do understand. You want to be patient with your parent, but often, you snap when you are repeating the same information for the fifth, sixth or umpteenth time.
I know the Lord has my needs in hand, and I know He understands the challenges that I face. I don't mean to complain either. It is just that I find that I am struggling to be a caregiver along with all the other things I have to manage. It is becoming more and more difficult for me to handle the stress, and the enemy knows that when I am stressed, well, I am at my weakest. I am attacked, I am oppressed, and I am accused because this is the time when the enemy knows he can hurt me most. I know that I have to stand up, to defend myself, to use the weapons of spiritual warfare given to me -- yet -- often I am so tired that I fail to do that right away. In the in between time, I just suffer. I digress...
My feelings and the stress I am experiencing are coupled with fact that I am dissatisfied about church right now. I went to Paradise Church today. This has been my home church for the past 8 years. I have blogged about it a lot, but generally, I am still there because I don't really have any other place to go. I have tried to return to Scottsdale Bible Church but I find that I don't really "fit" there either. I have thought about visiting the Cactus campus of the church, but there is part of me that feels like that is not where the Lord wants me either. I feel lost, a bit confused, and generally weakened by the sense of not belonging anywhere.
I prayed on my way home from church today, and I asked the Lord why I felt this way. I mean, why do I have this emptiness inside whenever I am in church (Paradise). For example, this morning, I attended church by myself. My parents attend at the early service, but I prefer the praise band, so I go at the late service. I arrived on time, was handed a rose for Mother's Day, and I went in to the service. I sat in my normal row, and I waited for church to begin. No one came up to me. I waved at a few people I know, said a long-distance hello, but that was it. The service started, and the new gal who is leading worship came out and began to sing. I know this sounds awful but I have worshipped three times with this gal leading and every single time I feel like something is wrong with her. She seems very nice, and she has a nice singing voice. It is just that she yells at the congregation and she doesn't create a "worship" experience for us. Now, I don't think it is the role of worship leaders to be 100% responsible to create worship experiences per se, but rather, I believe that they are called to create an environment where the congregation is "invited" to praise the Lord. I believe they are in the role in order to lead us all in praise and to encourage us to enter into "community" praise and worship. I have noticed that this gal seems to want to do that but she is harsh in her manner. She yells at us, demands we worship with her, and generally doesn't create a desire to worship. On top of that, it seems like she wants to perform. Our old worship leader was very humble, and would invite us to worship. The atmosphere she created with the band was one of sincere humility. She never yelled at us. She just invited us to join the band and sing. Moreover, this new girl sings in a weird key. I find that when I sit there, no one is singing along with her because they cannot sing in the same key. I am a bit distressed over this whole matter. The church has hired this gal to lead worship, and I think they have made a huge mistake. She is not creating the right kind of environment, and from the number of people attending today, it appeared that I am not the only one who thinks this is the case.
I felt very convicted having these thoughts today. I mean, should we really be that picky about worship? I have always been the one who refused to take sides in the "worship wars" in the church. I have always taken the high road and tried to recognize the heart-felt gifting of individuals who felt called to minister through music. No matter if they sang off-key or played out of tune -- I tried to see the value of their service to the Lord -- and I affirmed them in their desire to serve the Lord this way. But lately, I see this sort of performance at many churches and it bothers me. I love to sing and praise the Lord. I look forward to worship every single day, and I want to be ministered to through music. However, I cannot tolerate being yelled at or told how I must worship the Lord. I tend to be slightly charismatic in my worship style. I lift my hands when I sing. I prefer praise or rock music to hymns. In general, I fit this kind of worship. So I think that since I am having issues with her, I must be feeling that something is not right, something is off, and that these feelings are spot on. I should welcome her style, but instead, I find it irritating and annoying. Sigh.
Worship ended and our lead Pastor came up to preach. His message was on fasting, and it was part 8 of a series on the Sermon of the Mount. It was a good message. He gives a good sermon, and I do enjoy listening to him. I couldn't help but pray during the message, though, and I asked the Lord about my attitude and my heart. I mean, I was still smarting from the worship time, and I found that my attitude was carrying over to the message. I wanted to give him my full attention, to show my support for his efforts. I found my mind wandering, and I ended up praying through most of the service. In specific, I prayed about my dissatisfaction over Paradise Church. I asked the Lord if there was another church that would be a better fit for me. I wondered if there would be a place where I would feel good about attending, and where I could get plugged in to minister and to serve.
The Word of the Lord came to me, and this is what I thought He was saying to me. Frankly, I know He was saying this to me because it is truth, plain and simple, truth. The Lord said to me that I will never be satisfied in church because I long for a worship experience like that of Hillsong, and I seek teaching at a level that is scholarly and academic. Ouch!
I thought about the words, and I realized that the Lord was telling me the truth. I do prefer contemporary worship, and I do value worship that is well-done (meaning performed well). I also prefer a spirit-filled type of worship, and that means, a worship service that is filled by the Holy Spirit. I am not talking about Pentecostal or charismatic services, but a service where the Holy Spirit is welcomed and where He is active in His presence. I can tell the difference between a staged service and a true worship experience. I long for true worship, and staged services have no value to me. I don't care if the people think they are worshipping the Lord or not -- clearly the Holy Spirit is present or He is not.
Second, I asked the Lord about my need for high-level teaching. I wanted clarification and this is what He said to me. I think the fact that I am studying for my PhD has a lot to do with it, but it also is a fact in that I have not been fed, deeply fed for many, many years. I value theological and deeply biblical teaching. I value seminary professors teaching the Word from Hebrew and Greek. I value the historical context and the word when it is preached to deepen understanding. I heard the Lord say to me that what I am receiving is "porridge" and not "solid, tasty and satisfying" food. I asked for clarification, and this is what He said to me. Porridge can sustain you, but it will not satisfy your craving for good tasty food. Once you have been fed on a buffet of excellent food, it is very difficult to accept a milky or watered down substance. This is what I receive at Paradise. Now, no fault to the pastors and teachers there because they are giving messages that the masses can accept, and for most Christians today, pablum and soft foods are all they can tolerate. My problem is that I am used to eating solid food that is seasoned well, it tastes good, and it so nutritious and satisfying. When I get less than that kind of food on a regular basis, I am left feeling empty.
I asked the Lord how I would find this tasty food, and where I could be ministered to in this way. I said, "Lord, lead me to this kind of place where I can be fed deeply." The Lord said to me that there is no place like this so that the only way I can eat this kind of food is to spend time with Him alone. Now, I don't believe the Lord was saying to me that I should leave the church or not attend church -- no -- not at all. Rather, I think He was telling me that I would need to feed myself, worship myself, and then find a church where I would develop relationships in order to serve Him and serve others. In short, church or Church would not be about being fed or where I could experience true Spirit-filled worship, but rather, it would be where I would minister and serve other people for His Name sake.
I think this has been the problem for me for years. I am a mature Christian, and I have always attended strong Bible churches. I have studied the Bible for many years, and while I have been out of the Word for a while (as in not doing a formal study), I still spend a significant amount of time reading and writing about the Lord. I guess this is why the Lord has been pushing me to read more significant spiritual texts, to study theology, and to spend time studying His Word at a scholarly level. I assumed it was simply to help me with my studies at Regent, but now I think it is because I have such a need for solid food, that I cannot stand eating anything less. I don't want any kind of food that is less than solid -- solid Biblical teaching, solid Biblical foundation, and solid Biblical understanding. I want solid teaching and nothing less.
As I consider my life today, and I wonder about the next few months, this one thing is for sure. I know that the Lord is preparing me for my eventual move and settlement. I have prayed and I have blogged about this for a while, but I am more convinced today than ever before that the Lord's plans do include a move to a new state. I am not sure where I will end up, but I believe I will end up in the state of His choosing, working in the job of His provision, and living the life of His calling. I know this for certain. I must be patient, and I must wait for Him to move me. Until then, I rest. I do what I can do, and I let go of the rest, the stress, the annoyance, and the dissatisfaction. I let it all go, and I wait upon the Lord for His movement in my life. He is good. He is God, and He is capable of doing whatever He decides is best for me this good day. Amen. Selah!