Devotional Thought

Back in the mid 90's when bookstores were still a thing – Christian bookstores in particular – I would spend afternoons after school perusing the CD shelves for music I hadn't heard yet. I was the annoyingly unaware customer who spent hours walking around with the store's only CD player in a double, sometimes triple, elimination tournament between 6 or 7 CDs, the winner of which I would crown with a place on my cd shelf. One afternoon I came across a multi-colored CD in the “Alternative” section (the catch-all for everything your parents were sure to hate) called “Five Iron Frenzy: Upbeats and Beatdowns.” I could tell from the album cover they were a ska band: bright colors, weird fonts, cartoonish drawings. They had the makings of everything I was sure to love. Or hate. Or be indifferent to. Quality control was lacking in mid 90's Christian music. The mindset from the few Christian rock/alternative labels seemed to be “let's throw as much stuff up against the wall as we can and see if any sticks.” Most didn't, but some did. And a couple really did.

Five Iron Frenzy was different than most bands. I remember the very first song on their first album was all about how American Indians had been mistreated at the hands of settlers and American westward expansion policy, often in the name of Christ. You know - typical lead-off song for a Christian band. But, it was mid 90's ska; they could've just as easily been singing about how they named their hot dog “Tom” and took him to the church potluck to work on his retirement portfolio – “the more outrageous the better” seemed to be a driving theme. By by the third or fourth song, however, I was hooked. They were different than a lot of other Christian bands I'd heard. There was no “Jesus” count to their songs. They could just as easily write a song mourning a lost blue comb as they could a song mourning the often-factious nature of the church, calling for unity between ecclesiastical movements. Topically, they could turn on a dime, putting the same energy and devotion into either. And, their lyrics were occasionally controversial; the kind of controversial which challenged deeply-held political opinions and pushed against Christian macro-trends. I found myself disagreeing with them more than once, but, even as a 16-year-old, I somehow appreciated their ability to intelligently and creatively push me to think beyond the buzz words of the “local authorities.”

I didn't know it at the time but, looking back, I've come to realize they were teaching me, perhaps in the most efficient way, some valuable lessons regarding what I would only years later be able to articulate – truths like, everything is spiritual. Nothing can be truly be compartmentalized out of reach of the parameters of worship given to a holy God. And, as such, all things are holy - even a series of CD bonus tracks, comprising an 8-part rock opera about pants. Or truths like, Christianity is not a liability to one's artistic endeavors. Allowed to take their appropriate place, the Kingdom of God and the person of the Holy Spirit can not only be the paint, the canvas, or the brush, but become the right angle, the compass, the plumb line which brings both bearing and meaning to every straight and swirling line in an infinite number of directions, revealing art throughout the cathedral of creation.

If we're not careful, we can easily miss the ramifications this all-encompassing, fully-empowering, ever-creative Holy Spirit can have in our own lives. It's easy to take a 2 dimensional approach to the work of the Spirit today, as if His only purpose is to make temptation less formidable, Bible studies more interesting, and the occasional extra person appear in the Sunday morning service. But, the Spirit desires infinitely more than this. He desires to unleash trail-blazing, rich creativity and powerful, practical innovation. He desires that we might find ourselves embroiled in robust and risky lives of love. He desires that our enjoyment of His presence and ready obedience to His will produce a deeply attractive and fully-engaged existence.

We see this within the shaping of the early Church in Acts. Not only do they find themselves empowered to speak boldly of the Kingdom, but, in languages they didn't even know (Acts 2:4-8). We see a church not only preaching the gospel but innovatively caring for the widows and least-of-these, a practice which ultimately shaped all of Western society (Acts 6:1-7). They brought miraculous healing to the sick (5:12-16), the lame (3:1-10), and even the dead (9:36-43) – all while upholding the holiness of a God who will not settle for a sinful church (Acts 5:1-11). They were fearless, tireless, and limitless in their mission, not because they themselves were extra-special people; they were fishermen, tax-collectors, tanners, and business women. But, they understood the truth that the Holy Spirit's transforming power – in much the same way to how we understand nuclear power today – can take simple, ordinary people and, in their transformation, turn them into radically dynamic sources of Holy energy.

As we approach Pentecost (May 20), we are asked not only to recall and celebrate the work of the Holy Spirit on that day nearly 2,000 years ago, but, to ask, how is that same power working in my life? Am I allowing the transforming love of the Spirit to renew my life? in passion, purity, creativity, drive, and vision? Will I allow the Spirit to have His way in such a manner that there might be great joy in our cities (8:8) because of His presence in us?

Father, may it be so.

Your District Administration



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