That Awkward Silence

Had a conversation with God this morning. As usually, I did most the talking. It was a really good talk, though. That’s what I love about God, you know? He’s a really good listener. Oh, it started with the usually chit – chat, most of which centered around me but I caught myself and eventually began telling God about a few other people I knew…said He might want to check up on them today, maybe help them out with a little peace, maybe even show them there was this great Hope to be found. He laughed and said He’d get right on it for me. Then He said something that took me aback. He said “What about you? You seem to need a little peace this morning.” And it was my turn to laugh!

You know it as well as I do: there’s nothing better then a great conversation, is there? Still, I do hate the fact that my conversations with God always come back around to me, but I really don’t think He minds. Ever notice how difficult it is to end a really good conversation? You’ve said everything you needed to say or wanted to say. You’ve finished all of your stories but neither of you is really ready to hang it up. Personally, I think God never wants to end a conversation with us, but we eventually “remember” all of those “really important things” we have to get back to. We may not WANT to hang up, but really… there’s not much LEFT to say, is there. But what if there was? In that moment of the awkward “hang – up”, I feel regret and finally find myself at a loss for words. “Okay, so… thanks, God. Good talk… uh, have a, uh… good day.” Have a good day? That’s the best sign – off I can come up with? Have a good day. Really. I just told the Almighty to “have a good day”. I’m suddenly very embarrassed, to be honest with you. I could have said “I’m not worthy” or “thanks for not smiting me” or even “You ROCK, God!” but all I can squeak out is a tiny, little “Have a good day” that was probably more question then salutation! AAHHRRGG! Thankfully, God understands that I am socially awkward and not His most articulate creation. He doesn’t mind awkwardness. I doubt He’s even phased when we find ourselves at a loss for words. It probably saddens Him, however; we both know (deep down) that there is still quite a lot TO say… I just don’t have time to either SAY it or HEAR it.

Why does silence scare us so? What about it makes us feel so uncomfortable? I had this thought (after I hung up, of course) that maybe next time in that awkward moment where I had nothing left to say that I could just… listen. You know, maybe let God say a thing or too. I mean, I don’t think there’s anything He’s going to want to get off His chest, but… you never know. He might surprise me. There could be some situation in the world or even in my neighborhood that’s really bugging Him and even though He always makes time to get to everyone, maybe He could use just a little extra help from me… if I was willing. What if there was somebody else that another somebody else had brought to God’s attention in THEIR conversation with God and that first somebody else just so happened to be somebody that I actually knew. Maybe God might want me to deliver them a personal message from Him. You know, like… “Hang in there” or “You’re doing a great job” or just a simple “I love you: from God”. Hmm. That’s probably why I flee the awkward silence. I promise you, it’s not completely intentional – at least… not consciously. But my heart betrays itself (like it always does) because within my heart, it most certainly IS intentional. My heart can play stupid, but it’s no dummy. It knows EXACTLY what it’s doing! I hang up in that awkward silence because I don’t want to hear what God has to say; I’m afraid to hear what God might have to say! I know, I know…I’m a horrible person. Believe me I’m not proud about this. It’s just scary when God speaks. It shouldn’t be but that silence is frightening never the less. You never can be sure of what will follow from out of the silence.

I can’t condone silence. It just seems so… unnatural. You see, I haven’t conditioned my heart to embrace silence. I haven’t conditioned my heart to wait within that silence. So my conditioned heart doesn’t know how to trustinsilence. I might be pleasantly surprised to find anxiety changed into anticipation if I can somehow learn to recondition my heart. The heart goes where the heart knows so retrain your heart to wait patiently for God’s voice to break through that silence. Expect to hear His voice. Look forward to hearing His voice. Relish the sound His voice makes as it breaks through the silence. And trust that when your ears do not hear, He still speaks. I know my heart doesn’t always hear His voice. It asks for directions then hangs up before hearing the address! Before God can even reply I’ve already hung up. What am I thinking? How logical is THAT?!

What… is He suppose to e-mail messages, or instructions to me? Is He going to leave me a yellow “Luv Ya! Mean It!” post – it? I think God is old – school. I honestly don’t think He has an e-mail account set up. I don’t think God really needs an I – Phone or a Crack – Berry or has a fax machine. He is a personal God, that’s just how He rolls. He’s all about the whole “word of mouth” way of doing things!

To my (very limited) knowledge God has never had a dropped call. He doesn’t take messages (When you answer every call, what’s the point of an answering machine?). He’s had plenty of callers probably hang – up on Him. But personally speaking, my fear seems a bit unfounded when I stop to consider that I have never left a conversation with God NOT encouraged, NOT empowered or feeling anything LESS then wholly Loved. What possibilities could lie within that wonderful, awkward moment of silence? I wonder… And what is there, really, for me to be so afraid of? After all… we were just having a really good conversation.                                                Sean Gutteridge

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Benefit Concert/Ngariam

Finalized our set last night. Huffman and I worked out the kinks and some details. We’ll practice tonight after the MIX until we ALL feel that we’re ready. Honestly, the songs won’t be too difficult – we’re pretty solid on most of them. Just need to go over some transitions. We have a few little surprises for Friday night!

I’m going to have to tell Rene, though, that we won’t be doing “Hallelujah” and she will be VERY disappointed with me! (Don’t worry, babe…we’ll do it…eventually!) her reply would probably be “Yeah…I’ll believe THAT when I hear it!”

In the end, I like the order of sets and the songs. Just need a really good practice tonight followed by two solid nights of good rest. Warm up the pipes, protect all fingers and come out ready to rock, roll, praise and raise lots of money for God’s children in Ngariam. Very excited.

As I’ve started to worry this week about Friday… (hey, it’s what I do!) I realized something that Mike said last night: “Our end objective is to raise money for Ngariam. Period. So we don’t have to be great… we just have to do our very best.” It’s not about me or the Band or how we look or sound or even play. Though we WANT to play really good (actually, our best!) the focus of the night is raising money and awareness for this region and the children in our sponsored village.  [click here to see why we play] ngariam concert

Stay focused on that. Rest in the purpose of God’s directing Spirit. Draw strength from His Power and His Joy… and “let the music play!”

I’m interested to get feedback from people after Friday night. At any rate… it should be very fun! I love what I do! Peace!   SAG

Baptizing Braveheart

My son is the bravest kid I know. Don’t believe me? Just ask his pastor, he’ll tell you the same thing. He gave John the nickname “Brave Heart”. A few years back, we went to Six Flags for the first time and he rode his first roller coaster. By the end of that day, we’d ridden every roller coaster in that park that was operational. (And a few that probably shouldn’t have been operational!) I know lots of kids his age LOVE riding roller coasters, but here’s the thing about John: he will do those things that he is the most afraid of. You gotta admire that in a person. Most of us, well… we won’t stare down our Goliaths let alone face them in battle. And make no mistake about it, when John doesn’t want to do a thing, well… wild horses can’t drag that kid into any situation he doesn’t want to go into! Here’s what I’ve learned about my son, though: he has to be given enough time process his own fear and enough information to access his own situations. And when it’s time to face it, he throws off all the armor I’ve given him, he finds his stones and picks up his rocks and he marches out to do battle. He is so much braver then his father!

I’ll never forget him riding the Titan for the first time. Here’s this seven year old who was too small to even be on that thing (what was that operator thinking?!?) and we get strapped in. I’M scared to death, so I can’t imagine what my sons going through. He looks at me like “Why are you doing this to me, dad?” And when we finished the ride, I look over and the poor kid is as white as a clean piece of paper, with these huge tears flowing down his checks. He was crying so hard he had the hiccups. “Oh great…” I thought. Boy, was his mother was going to kill me. “You okay, bubba?” He looked at me with a ferocious frown, hit me hard in the chest and didn’t say a word. We got out of the Titan and started walking down the stairs. At the bottom, I stopped and I said “Hey, brother, daddy’s sorry he made you ride that thing. Are you okay?” He looked at me with those huge, tear-stained eyes and said “Are you kidding me? That – was – TOTALLY AWESOME, DAD!” The lines were short that day, so we went and rode the Titan again. Only this time, he yelled and laughed the whole way through the ride. When we finished it for the third time in a row, we made our way back down to the bottom of the ride. As we strolled over to where we were suppose to meet his mom and his sister, he stopped me and said “Hey, dad… let’s tell mom it was really boring. She’ll totally freak out on that thing!” Hmm… probably not wise, but… I definitely saw the potential to this plan. 30 minutes later, here comes Rene down the path in pretty bad shape. We were laughing so hard as she slowly walked towards us. She looked like a hung-over weeble-wobble after a three day binge! I think she must have thrown up because she looked very ill and was not at all amused with either of her boys. Needless to say, our day at Six Flags was over!

That’s John. Even when he learned to swim, he took swim lessons for at least two full summers. He was still wearing floaties on his arms and, honestly…it was starting to get ridiculous. But Rene kept telling me “Don’t worry. When he’s ready to swim, he’ll swim.” One day we’re at the local pool and suddenly, he just rips his floaties off in frustration and heads to the deep end of the pool. “John?! What the heck are you doing, son?!” He yelled back at me “I’m sick of those stupid things, dad! They’re making me SOOO mad!” And that was pretty that. The kid turned fish over night.

John under water "The kid turned fish overnight."

So several months back when my daughter, Cate, decided to get baptized, I thought for sure that would be incentive enough to convince John to finally get baptized as well. I mean, having your little sister do something before you? Come on! But John doesn’t roll that way. We celebrated with Cate and were all very excited, and honestly, I thought once again that when John saw what a cool deal we made out of it over Cate, he’d be jumping at the next possible chance to get baptized when baptism services rolled around again. Each time baptism rolled around, each time Rene would ask John the same thing: “So, John, do you want to get baptized tonight?” And each time, John would respond the exact same way. “Nope…don’t think so.” Man, this was like the floaties. It was getting embarrassing.  I’m on staff at the church. My kid’s the only kid who HASN’T gotten baptized. And I knew people were talking. (Not really, but…I’ve always had this streak of paranoia). I’m in ministry. My kids are suppose to be the FIRST kids to do all of that spiritual stuff. I couldn’t take it anymore, so finally I asked John why he didn’t want to be baptized. It made sense once he told me. He was afraid. Not of drowning, not of the actual act of  being baptized. He was afraid of having all those people looking at him. See, John has this fear of being in front of people…except when he’s in a drama. Yeah, it doesn’t make sense except…I get that because – I have this same fear. There is a genetic breakdown in our gene pool that creates a fear of public and social interaction within large groups. I can only explain it like this: while performing in dramas, we are not ourselves. Yet, having to face crowds we feel exposed and vulnerable. I suck in big groups, that’s why I hate parties and social gatherings of any kind – it’s this fear of saying something stupid or feeling that if people get around me long enough, they won’t like me. I think John suffers from some of this, too, but it manifests itself differently and in different situations. Where I hate parties, John can’t stand to be recognized for achievements or singled – out for good deeds. He used to cry at his own birthday parties when people would cheer or clap. When he played baseball he’d get mad at me when he’d get a hit and I’d yell and cheer. God help us if he ever gets his name and picture in the paper, that could be disastrous! So for him, a baptism is the ultimate nightmare scenario. He’s made a really good decision. People are going to clap and whistle and say “Yeah, John!”. Then, after wards, he knows he’ll have to deal with people coming up and ASKING him about it. It’s like having to relive a bad dream over and over and over again. “Dude, I don’t need that kind of stress… I’m ten…I got enough to deal with!” This is probably what’s going through his mind.  I know my son. Yet, being a Christian is letting the world know, “Hey… I’m a Christian!” When we’d have these talks, he’d just look at me as if to say “I know who I am…and  if this doesn’t keep me out of heaven, I’m not going to worry about it!” Rene, meanwhile, would just keep asking “You want to get baptized tonight?” every month and then go about her business upon getting his usual response.

"He was afraid he'd have to give an acceptance speech."

John once got so freaked out after winning a contest at school for a video he had made, he nearly made himself sick. Turns out, he won a few trophies, that night, but Rene and I almost missed the awards ceremony because he didn’t tell us about it. Why? Because he was afraid he was going to have to give a speech. (He’d seen the Oscars a few weeks before.) So he didn’t want to be baptized because he didn’t want to have to PHYSICALLY stand before his church and make a speech. He just wanted to keep being a Christian, quietly going about his own business. He didn’t want all the attention that he knew would go with it. As we discussed what baptism was, the internal struggle grew. He knew he needed to do it because, well… Jesus had said this is a good thing to do. John just hadn’t quite decided WHY he needed to do this good thing… besides Jesus saying you needed to! You can talk and convince and argue and make all the greatest cases in the world for something, but in the end – especially with spiritual matters, only the heart and soul can convince the “self” of a thing. And in all things spiritual, it takes God’s Holy Spirit to do the convincing. John moves at a different pace then the rest of us. And I think God definitely digs that about my son!  I find it interesting (though not surprising) that God was probably more at ease with where John was at in his decision then I was. I also think God probably relishes a spirit like John’s, a spirit that desires more information; a spirit also willing to seek after it; and a spirit willing to leap without hesitation when the moment comes.

So today, when John stood in the water of that baptismal, I began to cry as his words were being read. So simple.  So powerful. So profound. Just this simple declaration: “I’m John Gutteridge. And I’m ready to tell the world…that I’m a Christian.” And then down went Brave Heart.                     SAG/April 25, 2010

Inspired

“My agenda can wait on God…” I decided today. And then I just sat there for what seemed like an eternity… doing nothing but waiting for inspiration to transpired. The only thing it ended up doing was expiring which really pissed me off. Though thinking about it more carefully, can something really die that wasn’t there to begin with?

What’s REALLY inspiring is God. You know, He still works quite often…AND each day, though silly us, we rarely take time to stop and recognize His hand. I went to go get a doughnut this morning and I saw this guy carrying out boxes of doughnuts for some lady. Thought they were married, didn’t think twice about it. “Good for you, fella…that’ll keep things friendly on the home front!” while at that very moment I’m thinking of how I didn’t unload the dishwasher for MY wife this morning… and I KNEW it. Yeah. I AM that husband, on occasion. I just didn’t do it. I look up and this guys standing behind me. Hmmm. Guess they weren’t married. And I’m pretty sure he wasn’t hittin’ on her because she wasn’t like, some super-model, if you get what I’m saying here.  We almost got into a fist fight because he wouldn’t let me pay for his doughnuts and coffee. Guess I got kind of a mean look when I get pissed because this guy was pretty dang big and I think I actually scared him. He finally relented – which was probably good for us both, in the end. The only saving grace…I forgot to tell him that I’m a worship pastor at WCC.

Not 30 minutes later, I’m sitting in pastor Kevin’s office, we’re having a really good philosophical talk about redemption and golf and other stuff when I get a wrong number call on my cell. No big deal. That stuff happens. I get it. What I don’t get is the three names this guy called me when I replied, very nicely I might add, “I’m sorry, sir, you must have the wrong number.  (pause) No, I’m pretty sure I’m not chuck.” Then he rhymed a couple of  things with my new name and hung up. Hmm. Don’t know what to make of that, except…KARMA maybe?!? It’s a crazy world. Far short of inspiring, with even fewer inspiring people in it. But that’s why we’re suppose to be here – not to be inspired and not really even to BE inspiring. We’re here to know the One who inspired all of creation to bow down and worship Him. Wanna get inspired? Read your bible. It’s not called “The Inspired Word of God” just for kicks, you know.

What’s inspiring to me is that God decides to use me every single day…if I’ll be obedient.  That’s inspiring! What’s inspiring is going into a prison facility and watching God move – I mean, genuinely move – in the hearts of harden criminals that everybody else writes off. What’s inspiring is watching God use ordinary people to feed, clothe and supply a village in Ngariam, Africa. What’s inspiring… is knowing that, despite being a crappy husband from time to time, I’m getting ready to go home to a beautiful wife who really does adore me (even though I’m gonna catch it from her in the morning if I don’t unload those dishes again!). What’s inspiring… is just how much God loves me. That’s pretty cool.

Hey, we’re headed in the direction. And that’s all that really matters.  So when you ask God something and He doesn’t answer you, be prepared for a reality check. Especially if you have the guts to actually ask Him again, only louder. Saul did that in 1 Samuel 14:37. “Hey, God…you gonna help us out?” And God’s answer… silence. THAT spoke volumes, man. “Something’s wrong!” (v.38) Uh…ya THINK?! Have the courage to recognize when God’s silence is like thunder. If He’s not replying, maybe you need to ask why. It could be that He wants you to realize something you may be doing or have done is or was wrong. Or maybe, He just wants you to seek Him deeper, quieter, more fervently – so He can spend more time with you. Maybe He wants ALL of your attention. Or maybe… He’s still thinking about the question, pondering, considering, weighing the best way to answer you. We can’t really know. But I do know this: either God’s answer is worth waiting for, or it’s going to be worth my benefit to seek Him further. Because if there is something I’m missing, I want to be at a humble enough place to have God correct me so we can get back on the right track.

“Hope Rises”

Overlooking the Sea of Galilee

When falling sun begins one last attempt…

Where shadows grow braver in contempt…

While humanity crumbles in the valley far below…

One sun sets for rest… as

One prepares for death…

Both will come again when shadows lose their courage and fall

Both chasing darkness to bring forth Light…

Where Hope Rises…

With the sun… new day…

With His Son… new Life…