Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Anything Can Be On Fire

[The following article was published in the Sept/Oct 2015 issue of Live Magazine. Check them out at  www.baptistwomen.com ]

“My father says that almost the whole world is asleep.  Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to.  He says that only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement.” (Joe Versus the Volcano)

I think the Holy Spirit is talking to me through Frank Sinatra.  It isn’t even my favourite Sinatra song. I had turned him off mid crescendo in irritation on the road trip back from my summer holidays, only to flip the stereo on again a few days later while waiting at a red light. Same song, but suddenly God was talking; and, when the Holy Spirit starts talking, I listen. That is my official position, anyway.  

It’s a bit weird to think of God sounding like Frank Sinatra and I wonder if I am the only person to hear the Holy Spirit speak through the somewhat overwrought lyrics of, “Call Me”.  It isn’t the medium that we expect. I was raised on the preeminence of Scripture and any ‘Thus sayeth the Lord’, talk without a reference got looked at sideways. I certainly never expected secular song lyrics to fill me with awe at the presence of God while waiting to make a left turn. But then, the burning bush never expected to burn with His presence, either. It was, after all, on the back side of the mountain.  

I was taught about personal devotions at summer camp, seated cross legged in the tall grasses of southern Alberta with my Bible heavy on my lap and the sun burning the part in my hair. The camp is nestled against the storm blue water of Travers Reservoir in rolling prairie gold where an unlikely tornado has been known to wander nearby and charismatic thunderstorms born of summer heat light the sky from east to west in a hair-raising display of grandeur. The stars shine with all their might and send their streamers across the black. Truth feels more true in a place like that; in a place of such unrestrained beauty. I loved my counsellors, who loved God so much and I wanted to be like them. But personal devotions are hard and more often than not, time spent reading the Bible demonstrated that I was more like the man in James who looked in the mirror and then forgot his own face, rather than someone who was being transported from glory to glory.  

If the number of devotionals and books advising how to get alone with God are any indication, I’m not the only one who finds it hard. We need routines to keep us accountable. The morning is the best time to spend with God. You should read the Bible, pray, worship. You should love it, because you love God, right? But you feel guilty when it feels like just another thing on your list of things to do. Or, maybe you do love it, but you just can’t seem to get your act together. Like exercise, if we could just get a habit going, then we could have the transformation. Stubbornly, routine isn’t always our friend. Any personal trainer can tell you that if you always perform the same circuit over and over, it gradually ceases to bring results since your muscles have learned to complete their tasks so efficiently that it no longer challenges you. It no longer improves you.  

One of the most beautiful features of a relationship is the way that the other person can still surprise you after years of friendship. A joke, or a thought--that upon reflection is perfectly in line with their character, but you never could have anticipated it--lightens our hearts with delight.  Relationships are better than efficient routines. And when we really want to see someone, we will fit them in as soon as time and circumstances allow. Better yet, we bring them along and experience whatever may come together.

And so, I think again of Moses tending sheep on the backside of nowhere and turning aside in wonder at a physical marvel that turned into a spiritual conversation. When God saw Moses had stopped what he was doing, He called out him by name and a relationship was ignited with holy fire. Wonder breeds worship and worship ushers us into the very presence of God. Alternately, Balaam the prophet heard God’s voice, saw an angel of the Lord and even had a donkey speak to him, yet he manifested less wonder than Moses did at what might have been disregarded as the makings of a wildfire. After all, Moses had a job to do and arguably, it would have been more prudent to move the sheep away from the danger of fire than go in for a closer look. But his willingness to wonder is the reason we know his name.

Neither Frank Sinatra nor the writers of ‘Call Me’ will ever know that God spoke to me through that song. I could have disregarded it as well.  But, miraculously, I didn’t and so instead I heard:

 Now don't forget me, `cause if you let me, I will always stay by you.
You got to trust me, that's how it must be, there's so much I can do.
If you call, I'll be right with you. You and I should be together.
Take this love I long to give you. I'll be at your side forever, call me, call me.

How do I hate thee, Hair Salons? Let me count the ways.

(I published a previous version of this article earlier this week in which I tried to be measured and composed. Turns out, it did not nearly...