Month: May 2015

The Piano Lesson

Since the beginning of our relationship, she has been staring at me from across the room. Every now and then, I would open her up and run my fingers along the ivories, hoping the years of lessons would come back like riding a bicycle. Unfortunately, the piano is not a bicycle and my fingers don’t remember the dance that they reluctantly practiced all those years ago.

See, two years ago, I acquired this piano. She is quite possibly the most beautiful of all my belongings. She made the move with me from a four bedroom house in the city to my one bedroom suburban apartment. And yet, since being in my care, she has never lived her purpose. Instead, she has served as a shelf, a home for books and photos and the dvd player. The piano has played the background of many photos and she does it well. Still, a piano is meant for more.

I had the best of intentions when I acquired her. I planned to sit and force my fingers to find their way again. I pulled out my old lesson books and my music theory text book. I had good intentions.

But good intentions are not the same as intentional actions.

I don’t know your story, but perhaps you are feeling like my piano. Perhaps you have been aching for the more you were made to be. It’s a story we all have lived, waiting for someone to recognize that we are meant for more than a pretty picture. We wait for permission to share the song locked up in our souls, aching to be played. A piano must wait for someone to come along and put her to use, but you and I…what are we waiting for?

You have good intentions to serve in your church but no one has asked? Be intentional in your actions and offer your help. You have good intentions to make friends in your new neighborhood but your neighbors stay locked away behind busy schedules and drawn curtains? Be intentional in your actions and knock on a door. Always meant to write a book, learn that skill, make the phone call? Whose permission are we waiting for?

If the answer is anyone other than the One who created us, then it’s time to stop waiting. And if the answer is the One who created us, then let us be very sure we are not putting words in His mouth. He may very well ask us to wait, but He will not ask us to let our strings grow rusty and our keys sticky beyond use. So let us not mistake our fear for His forbiddance of living within our purpose.

I sold my piano this week. I had to be honest with myself about the reality of our relationship. There are many skills I’d love to learn. I do not have the time nor the mental capacity to learn it all and do it well. So, I am sending my beloved bookshelf off to a home where she will live her purpose. She will belong to a piano teacher and the fingers of children will learn to dance along her keys.

You may have many passions and the thought of choosing a path may paralyze your heart. It’s time, friend. Be honest about what you are made for. Be honest about what is the envious dream of another life and what is wired into your being. And when it still feels there are a million streams flowing from your soul, make a choice and take a step. You may find that the streams cross a ways down the road but if you keep waiting for permission, you will most certainly find nothing but bitterness towards all those who withheld it. No matter how much you plan to live with purpose, it is in the walking that purpose is found.

What are you waiting for? Be brave. And remember, good intentions are not the same as intentional actions.

Letters to The Family: Scott

Meet Scott. I haven’t seen this friend since 2007 and back then he was one very impressive middle school student. Scott was member of a student ministry for which I interned. Actually, his dad was my boss and the entire family is just so dear to me even though our paths intersected for only three short months. Recently, via the wonderful world of social media, I reconnected with this sweet family and discovered that Scott is a writer. The first time I read his words, I was floored. It’s an amazing thing to think back to middle school students you used to know and find that they have grown to be articulate, mature, godly young people. After you read this beautiful letter he has written to us (which happens to echo some earlier conversations), please go bookmark his site. I know you will continual be encouraged by his wisdom and ability to articulate the sweet, true things of life.
In his own words: Hey people! I’m Scott Shaver, and I’m a 21 year-old student at Texas A&M. Originally from Austin, I’ve grown up around the idea of adventuring – in life, with my feet, alongside my friends and family – and it’s been a joy the whole way through. I’m an awkward (but avid) dancer, a mountain hiker and a Fightin’ Texas Aggie who is trying hard, and often failing, to chase after Jesus. I hope these words are an encouragement, a challenge and a good time all wrapped up in a nice, 800 word package. Enjoy!

Friends, Church –

I think we were meant for a lot more than this. I think we were meant to be more than consumers shopping around for the best church-going experience.

I’ll start with myself. My three years in College Station at Texas A&M have been beautiful, the best three years of my life. I’ve experienced community in ways I couldn’t have dreamed of before. I’ve made friends that I will walk the path of the rest of my life with. I’ve made an impact on this campus, and this campus has absolutely made an impact on me. But I haven’t done church well. Not even a little bit.

I showed up in College Station three years ago on a Sunday, and, in one way or another, I’ve been looking for a church home ever since. I’ve hopped around from service to service, comparing worship and preaching, beliefs and the fantastically insignificant church-measuring metric of “vibe.” I’ve tried most of the churches in town, and though I’ve been consistently going to my current church for about a year now, I still wouldn’t call it my home.

I’ll never be able to call a church home if I’m only attending as a consumer. I’ll show up on Sundays, consume worship and teaching and maybe even a little community, and give absolutely nothing back. I try not to think too much about the way I do church. It makes me a little sick.

For so many of us (at least for college students), this method of churchgoing is standard. We show up, contribute nothing, and go home unsatisfied. But that’s not how the church was formed! Acts 2:44 says that, “all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had.” They didn’t meet once a week and consume. They worked together, lived together, ate meals together, enjoyed fellowship together. This original Church, the church so many claim as a model, was far from what we call church today.

So what can we do today to change this? What can we do to start being contributors and stop being consumers?
  1.  We can pick a church and stick with it. There is great wisdom in consistently sitting under the preaching of a pastor who knows where his congregation stands. This is a man who’s entire job consists of leading you spiritually. Hopefully, that means knowing you, living with you, and working to teach you in ways that you need to be taught. This is a good thing.
  2. We can serve The Church. Whether it’s working with homeless people on Sundays at Church Under the Bridge, stacking chairs after service or leading a Bible Study during the week, there is immense value in serving the church. It takes you out of the consumer mindset, and, more importantly, it provides the church with a very valuable resource: you.
  3. We can give generously to The Church. This may be the simplest, and at the same time the most difficult, method of overcoming consumerism. Consumerism, both inside and outside The Church, tells us to hold on to our money. It tells us there might be something we need it for down the road, like a new TV or house. Jesus tells us something different. “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” – 2 Corinthians 9:7. You’ve heard this before. I struggle with it mightily. Let’s work to get better at giving cheerfully.
  4. We can live in community with The Church. This is a big one. The latter portion of Acts 2 is all about community. Church isn’t a place you go on Sundays. It’s not even a place you go on Sundays and Wednesdays. The Church is the people who make up the body of Christ, and those people are called to live together in community. Sometimes that looks like sharing a meal together. Sometimes it looks like playing mini-golf on a Thursday afternoon. Sometimes it looks like praying desperately together, and sometimes it looks like serving selflessly together. The people you go to Church with should be the people you do life with. Doing life together is a big, broad term that basically captures the spirit of the first church. Acts is a great place to start for tangible examples of what “doing life together” looks like.
So, we’ve established that I attend church as a consumer. Many of us do. We’ve established that consumerism in the church can’t continue. Until we start working together as a church, living together as a church, loving this world together as a church, we won’t be The Church God called us to be. Friends, we were made for more than consumption – let’s go be more.