That's the word that came to my mind this morning as I read Psalm 137. Each morning has seemed as some spiritual assignment required, compelled upon awakening to capture my thoughts and communicate transparently.
My recent book release, "Finding Your Kingdom Sweet Spot," is almost a distraction, as I do a poor job at self promotion. One would think that would be some sort of accomplishment? To me it was another assignment, a means of instruction, perhaps for the next generation. Publishing was not my goal as much as wrestling through my thoughts, the timeline and editor's prompting more discipline than the goal.
I will soon be stepping into my 4th quarter on September 27th, my Red Zone! It seems unreal, as I feel no more aged in my mind than when I was 40! I will admit that after I mow and weed-eat two yards, I am a little stiff!
This morning, I was reading Psalm 137 in my KJV Bible, a gift to me from an old friend in our first church in Lexington; the two Bibles before, a Living Bible gifted by my wife, the second a Scofield by the Student Council to which I was assigned as a teacher. The reason I mention those, it provides a sense of theological trajectory. The next was an NIV, gifted by a pastor who sat on that committee as a representative of the Assemblies of God.
By the way that early friend was Tommy Tysinger. Friends are critical in your early days as a Christ-follower. They flavor those early foundational moments, as have the seven senior pastors with which I have intersected over these 50 years.
Tommy was an early sojourner with me, one whom I met in the first days of our Interdenominational Prayer Breakfast.
He was a hard working young man, touched by the Jesus Movement, and had he been in California rather than Lexington, likely a Jesus Freak. He was from a totally different background, yet in Christ we became brothers.
Why all that, given the title and the aforementioned Psalm?
I was somewhat grieved as read these words, "By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, When we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps Upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; And they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion." Psalm 137:1-3 KJV.
My Zion has been the Institutional Church, early on perhaps an escape from a life crippled by failure, limited by my associations, alcohol and even a divorce.
Church was a fresh start, healthy though quickly isolating me from the world the majority lived in. Raised Pentecostal, I naturally found my renewed affiliation comforting, it was like returning home. I would jump in with both feet and was offered opportunities to minister, likely premature. The gifts of the Spirit became evident in my life.
In those early days of the Full Gospel Businessmen's movement, the charismatic renewal, the Jesus Movement, while many were experiencing a new thing, I had seen most of this growing up as a child.
The word, bifurcation is defined as "the process of splitting something into two parts." That was what was happening in my life, and was in fact encouraged by words like "come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord".
I simply followed the instructions of my early mentors, yet the deeper I moved into the faith the further isolated I became from those leading our community, our town, our schools.
Then while reading the scriptures, I became taken up with thoughts of what the early church leaders were about. Scriptures like Acts 17:6, "When they couldn't find them, they took Jason instead, along with some of the brothers in his house church, and dragged them before the city council. Along the way they screamed out, “Those troublemakers who have turned the world upside down have come here to our city."
I wanted to be more like Jason, rather than those who went to church with me on Sunday, yes, experienced the "charismata" of God, but then made little impact on their community at large, beyond leaving tracts on toilet seats and dining tables. My young readers will think I just misspelled "tracks"!
I recall praying, God make me someone who can impact cities! God's reply, "Wherever I send you, seek that city; if not this one, the next. I'll give you a city!"
So when given the invitation to come on staff at a much larger Assemblies of God church in my hometown, I rationalized, larger church, next city, bigger impact. I resigned my career and jumped in full bore once more.
The first three years were breathtaking, as anything we set out to do happened and with that a notoriety I would never have sought out on my own. Municipal opportunities opened for me in a similar fashion to opportunitites offered by my denomination within those first few days in the church.
I began to realize what God was up to, for the deeper I became engaged in the church, the more limited I was with my time and roles opening for leadership in the community. I had to make a choice, one difficult for many to understand. After 6 years I resigned from my church staff position, this time almost totally seperating myself for my calling to cities. Another bifurcation had occurred.
Master Counsel, Inc. would be the means of offering strategic planning, consulting services, fund development and eventually pastoral coaching. This opened a much broader exposure to the Body of Christ and a new alignment within the marketplace.
I had found my sweet spot (thus the most recent book).
Yet now still it seems, there remains some unfinished business with the church "when I remember Zion" and those early days when Tommy and I would literally drive around in the late evening, asking God to lead us to the right door, to someone that needed a visit.
I recall many a night, when so prompted, stopping and awkwardly introducing ourselves to strangers.
Like, the aging widowed lady who opened her door and began to weep, explaining that she had just prayed for God to send someone to her door. Lonely, just needing another human in her life, so we sat and listened to her play her piano, shared life experiences and then left, knowing God had answered two prayers.
Then there were situations where those answering the door stood and literally shook in disbelief as they sensed the Presence of God that seemed to accompany us. Another, a family literally fighting, domestic violence, a shotgun nearby, whom we interrupted by knocking on their front door. We introduced ourselves, the frightened spouse likely praying for help.
We soon found our way into their living room, I'm sure protected by grace, as I took the gun into my possession and unloaded it. Meanwhile Tommy courageously quieted the raging husband. We counseled the couple, gathered the children together with their parents, and in a circle we prayed.
As I read the Psalm this morning I grieved the loss of those days, perhaps now my life disproportionatley aligned with the marketplace.
Maybe that's why I found myself groaning in prayer this past Sunday, as our team prayed over our pastor. So unlike me of late, though a common occurrence in my early days.
Perhaps the bifurcation was for contrast, eventually achieving a balance of both worlds, such that when this divide is remedied another awakening within?
Yes Lord, and for such a time as this!