A Change in Direction

When I broke my collarbone, I pretty much stopped doing the online Bible study (OBS). Studying the Bible isn’t something that comes naturally to me, so this whole scheme to read, write, and podcast about what I was reading was there to keep me motivated and moving forward. I elected to organize the study by book, digging into the verses and pressing through, with the goal of researching even verses that seem mundane to find out what they really mean.

Unfortunately, I never had the time to do this. Even the barest research on a few verses would take 2-3 hours, and then add an hour or so for writing plus half an hour for recording the podcast… that wasn’t so bad during the summer before I broke my collarbone. For a month and a half I had a sling on that prevented me from moving much, and once I took it off it still hurt too much to type more than fifteen minutes. Once I could type regularly, the school year had started and my weekly schedule exploded.

All this to say, I haven’t done the OBS in a while (in case you hadn’t noticed), and I’m not going to pick up where I left off. 1 John, as it turns out, was incredibly repetitive and somewhat boring, and while there is most certainly value there, there isn’t value in the way I was doing it. More importantly, it needed way more time and research than I could give it. The last OBS I wrote, which I never published, I spent quite a bit of time on only to discover I was completely wrong. I hadn’t done enough research, and when I realized how wrong I was and how much more I needed to learn, I begged off. It’s not really fair to the text or to you, but those are the circumstances in which I find myself.

In addition, I feel like my focus needs to shift from a general idea of, “Let’s read the Bible and write about it,” to a more specific topical study. Namely, I need to start focusing in on what the Bible has to say in regards to spiritual warfare, and I’m shifting my writing to that topic as well. Rather than picking a book and pushing straight through it, I’ll be reading for this topic and sharing what I find.

For those who are curious, the OBS won’t be the only place for information about spiritual warfare. When I was seeing what other people on the ‘Net had to say on the topic, all I found were platitudes, ambiguous or vainglorious statements, and long lists of Bible verses. I don’t think any of that is particularly helpful in regards to fighting demons and defending against Satan. So while I’m studying the Bible and podcasting about it, I’ll separately be sharing stories about my past experiences, suggestions for what to do, and some how-to guides (some written, some video).

I don’t know why these resources don’t exist on the ‘Net yet, but maybe it’s like Samson told me about worship. He said that when someone dances, raises their hands, and sings loud in worship, they give everyone else permission to do the same. Maybe someone’s too scared to step out on their own and raise their hands, or they want to sing but are afraid of what others might think. When they see someone else doing it, they’ll be less scared and maybe they’ll join in.

Maybe the reason no one talks or writes about this stuff is because everyone feels the same way I do: a bit silly, a bit scared, and that it’s easier to either go it alone or just ignore it. Hopefully by studying the Bible with this topic in mind, sharing my stories, and giving suggestions, others will be inspired to join in and share their words, thoughts, hearts, and strength.

I’ve got no timetable for the OBS, in regards to how often it’ll happen. Hopefully once a week again, and my plan is to start reading Isaiah and write when I come to something. I don’t recall what all is in Isaiah (though expect a follow-up to this article later this week), but something’s telling me to check it out. Maybe that urge is unfounded, in which case I’ll quickly end up in another book, but it’s worth following to see what happens.

Permission

I remember the kitchen of the Potter’s House, all natural wood cabinets and a tiled floor, with a white countertop of that cutting-board material right in front of the angled freezer where they kept fresh fruit. Several blenders always waited for smoothies or frozen coffee drinks, and the giant refrigerator/freezer hummed quietly, filled with ice cream and more fruit. The bar was of a dark material with several oak stools beneath, and a college student generally stood on the other side to take orders or brew espresso for mixed drinks. A stack of IOUs sat beside the cash register, left by those who didn’t have any money but who weren’t turned away, and a similar stack of textbooks rested nearby where weary students had left them so they could play some Chinese Checkers or Chess.

And there would be Samson, that bald, powerfully built black man, dancing in the middle of the kitchen with his arms raised, singing to Jesus as if only the two of them were around. “Lord, yes!” he’d yell, his feet pounding back and forth as he’d swing blenders, scoop fruit, pour flavoured syrup, exclaiming with love when anyone called his name. Samson was almost always worshiping, and I swear his energetic smile powered the lights of that little house.

It was watching him worship the Lord, dancing like nobody was watching, arms raised in the middle of a coffee shop kitchen, dark skin gleaming with sweat while taut biceps strained at the tight shirts he always wore, that I found the grace to worship God. In Samson’s boldness I was given permission to serve God with all my heart, all my mind, all my soul, and all my strength. I got a glimpse of what it would be like to live free and honestly before my God, and it was good. I wanted that, I wanted it so badly, I just needed to figure out how to get there. Learning from Samson, it seemed appropriate to begin by dancing.

When I worship God, I’ve got to move my feet. When I pray, I’ve got to sway. I can’t hear a beat without dancing a bit to it, and I know that I’ve really been connecting with Jesus only when I’m sore, sweaty, and filled to overflowing with joy. This is what I have learned from Samson.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

-Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love, 1992