Tuesday, November 17, 2009

En Vivo #12 – Shhhhhhhhhh… – Tues. Nov. 12, 2009

[The main event of our week here at El Pozo is what we call El Pozo “En Vivo” (which means El Pozo “Live!”), our Tuesday night all-community Bible study. It typically comes complete with preaching, music, videos, skits, free food, the whole deal. After each En Vivo, I hope to blog briefly about the night – what we taught, how it went, etc. Enjoy.]

So as a preacher/teacher, I have lots of ideas. Some I recognize as bad ideas two seconds after they occur to me. Many are very weird ideas. The trick there is to be in tune with God’s Spirit enough to distinguish between “good weird” and “bad weird”, between “this will help them learn something in a fun and creative way weird” and “this will freak people out or make people angry or go right over their heads weird”.

Two weekends ago, I was trying to figure out what to teach at En Vivo #12. It was Friday, and Erin and I couldn’t get wireless signal in our house. We turned on the TV and it wasn’t working either, signifying that it was definitely a cable problem. We checked with some neighbors and determined that the problem was limited to our house, so we put a call in and they said they’d be out to take a look at it in three days or so. Which mean that we’d be spending the weekend without TV or Internet. (Full disclosure, I did later “borrow” some Internet signal from the neighbors for some email and football score checking. I’m of the opinion that if you choose not to password protect your wireless signal, you are basically inviting others to partake…) My initial reaction to the loss of cable services was what one might expect – frustration! I love to watch the NFL and snuggle with Elsa Lynne on Sunday afternoons. I love to follow college games and my fantasy sports leagues on the Internet. We watch NCIS on Saturday nights. Etc. Now, all of those things would no longer be options for us. Frustrating. But then, shortly after this initial reaction, a funny thing happened…

It was very nice! It was quiet! We didn’t even put on music; instead we just enjoyed the rare and precious quietness that suddenly surrounded us. And I don’t just mean lack of noise – I mean we still had kids running around the neighborhood in front of our house and birds on top of it and loud buses and the “El Gas” truck going by behind it. What I’m talking about was more of a freedom from the slavery to checking email, checking facebook, reading the news, and turning on the TV just to have it on or to see what’s on. It was more of a true Sabbath than we usually experience. And we liked it. And it gave me an idea for En Vivo #12 – SILENCE. SOLITUDE. SABBATH. And my idea was a little weird. But after some prayer and reflection, and bouncing it off my teammates, who approved, I decided that it was indeed “good weird”.

So here’s how last night went: First of all, it was a very different night for many reasons. This is the last big week of tests before finals (which begin three weeks from now), so many of our core students who hardly ever miss an En Vivo had already warned us that they would be absent this week. We totally understand when this is the case, and don’t want our regulars to be feeling guilty the few times that they miss! So we anticipated, and indeed had, a much smaller crowd than usual – only about 60 people. And while we always hope to pack the house, these nights with slimmer crowds to offer a certain advantage in terms of “intimacy”. It’s a different vibe which, if we are aware of it and prayerful about it, can be turned into a very positive thing. The night was also different than usual because it was downright chilly outside! For us, the weather these past two weeks has been wonderful – just like crisp Fall weather back home. But for the locals, and somewhat for us as we get more and more accustomed to living here, it was shockingly cold! But nice! So the coffee that we provide tasted extra good, and the general environment in the house felt more warm and “homey” than usual. Like those of us who not only decided to take a break from studying but also braved the cold to arrive were bonded together in a special way just by being present. Again, a nice vibe. The third thing that made the night a little different was the presence of several special guests. We frequently have students bring their parents to check out what they’ve been talking about (and see that it’s not a cult!), but last night THREE people brought their moms with them. Praise God for overwhelmingly positive responses to our ministry by parents and professors and other such adult visitors over the past five years! In addition to the mom’s we have to GTCCF interns visiting this week. So it was quite a different “onda” (vibe) last night than usual, but it turned out to be great!

We changed things up by doing no worship songs at the beginning. We usually have two sets, but tonight we saved all of the singing for the end. We started with a jam song, an informal welcome, and then straight into a video to introduce the mini-talk, which if you’ll remember I called “Shhh…” Here’s the video, which I used because it made me laugh and because it illustrates my life. Too often my life is just NOISY. I talked about this and how it’s a result of both others’ actions and my own. I mentioned the power of taming the tongue, and the need for silence and solitude. I basically made three very quick points about why silence/solitude is important and what these terms mean from a biblical perspective. And before I go any further, let me just say that if you are a Christ-follower and you’ve yet to read “Celebration of Discipline” by Richard Foster, just drop what you’re doing and purchase or borrow or steal it and read it NOW. Amazing book; I try to re-read it at least every three years or so.

1. It’s important not to just empty ourselves, but to FILL ourselves up with God’s Spirit. Buddhism, for example, is ultimately about emptying and escaping and disconnecting, but that is not enough. I shared the story from Matthew 12 and Luke 11 in which the evil spirit cast out from a man leaves, finds no new home, and comes back with six even more evil buddy spirits to occupy the same soul that he left, now swept clean and even more ready to play host. The point of silence is not lack of noise. The point of silence is HEARING from God, seeing more clearly, more self-control.

2. Silence and solitude were an integral part of the RHYTHM of Jesus’ life. I fear that we the leaders of El Pozo probably do, generally speaking, a crappy job of teaching this. We work hard and always strive to do the best activities and serve the students so much and so well, that we often forget to teach them the value of Sabbath and silence. We push community and togetherness so much that we often neglect the value of solitude. Even when we are living balanced and restful lives, our students probably don’t see it as much as they should. How do you model Sabbath when Sabbath means, to an extent, avoiding the people you’re trying to teach? I pray that the fact that they don’t see me much on weekends sometimes will somehow translate into an understanding of the reason for that – and that God shows us more and more how to teach this. Anyway, last night I read a paragraph from Foster’s book in which he points out how Jesus frequently escaped to lonely, solitary, quiet places – especially before and after crucial events in his life and ministry – and taught his followers to do the same. And if our goal is to live like Jesus, we can’t ignore this important aspect of his life and teaching.

3. Silence and solitude are really about FAITH. They are bout trusting our loving Father. To illustrate this point, I passed along a story from my friend and pastor in Johnson City, Aaron Wymer. Here it is in his words (Meghan is his daughter, another friend of ours who is graduating high school this year):
“You have probably heard me say that I think one of my greatest moments of insight into silence was when Meghan was little and feeling talkative. I knew to appreciate that chatter, but I don't naturally take to it. Then one day she just walked into the room, without saying a word, and climbed up on my lap and rested her head my chest. The bonding of that moment was completely silent, and richer than any words we've ever spoken to each other.”
This, I explained to the students, is what silence is really all about. Yes, God loves to hear from us. He loves our chatter. But it is also important, and perhaps even more profound, to just climb up in His lap on a regular basis and just BE with Him.

So at this point we all did an experiment. I passed out earplugs and a piece of paper to everyone, we spread out around the campus house, and I started the timer on 19 minutes and 12 seconds of COMPLETE SILENCE. Why 19:12? In honor of 1 Kings 19:12. On the paper I handed out was a quote from a U2 song (“Hear me, cease to speak that I [God] may speak. Shush now.” – U2, from “Unknown Caller”), followed by 1 Kings 19:1-18, followed by several examples (taken from the aforementioned paragraph by Foster) of times when Jesus went away to silent, solitary places before and after key moments in his life and ministry (Matthew 4:1-11, Luke 6:12, Matthew 14:13, Matthew 14:23, Mark 1:35, Mark 6:31, Luke 5:16, Matthew 17:1-9, Matthew 26:36-46).

It was a great experience – a gift, really – to just sit and be silent. Even more so during a time of exams and stress as people see the light at the end of the semester tunnel and, for many of them, realize that it’s a train.

Next week: Talking about the revolution of Jesus and a rebel named Paul in honor of Mexico’s Día de la Revolución.

No comments:

Post a Comment