"Row row row your boat, gently down the stream, merrily merrily merrily merrily life is but a dream!" My daughter and I sing this song together a lot. She likes to come up and sing it to me and then she often tells me "Mama, sing too!" So I oblige and sing along with my kid. It's one of those lovely little feel good songs from childhood that we sing and might even smile along with. I have used this song as listening activities with youth groups and actors, having them keep a rhythm and say the simple rhyme one word at a time. They have to listen to one another, stay together, and stay in perfect rhythm. If any of these things fall apart, we go back to the beginning and start over. It can be very frustrating, but it can also be a very good exercise to help small groups listen to each other and learn how to work with one another, instead of against each other.
I have spent a lot of time thinking about this simple little song in light of reading Sailboat Church. And then I found this picture. These two little characters, gently and peacefully rowing down the stream, eyes closed and smiling. But, the weather around them doesn't look so "dream" like. It looks a bit gray; it looks rainy; and those waves...not so gentle. It looks as though these characters are trying to block out anything negative that is happening around them and they are just going to continue "row row row-ing" down that stream. They aren't recognizing that there might be trouble ahead or there might be any sort of problems because they are just focused on rowing.
Through the past several weeks of the reading Sailboat Church the small group has started to see that so many churches just go into the rowing portion of church, relying on what they have always done and what they already know without seeing the fact that there might be trouble up ahead. If we are functioning, keeping our head above water, and in general, doing what God commands us, what's the problem with rowing? Well, it's the eyes closed part. It's not seeing that all around us the world has changed, the waves have gotten rocky, and yet, we continue to row the same way we always have. We have lost the intentionality of being a church who follows the power of the Holy Spirit, and we are just going through the motions of what we think a church should be.
Harsh man... I know. But this is what so many churches have begun to do in their lives. Worship happens. Small groups happen. Service to the community happen--but it has all become rote. We just close our eyes and move through our spiritual lives without seeing what we could be doing more of.
Yes, of course... I'm speaking in generalities and painting with a wide brush and I will admit that. But it's also time for us, as followers of Christ, to admit that maybe our spiritual lives have become a little too mechanical and we need to be once again ignited with the Holy Spirit to continue God's work in the world and to be able to recapture that power of the Almighty to propel us forward.
In Chapter 6 of Joan S. Gray's book, she talks about the intentionality of being a follower of God and how to grow in our discipleship. She writes about it in a way that reminds us that this needs to be a daily act of putting on the armor of God and being a part of the world. I have to admit, this is probably one of my very favorite chapters in the whole book because it begins to lay out some ground work for what we need to be doing. Her five practices that she suggests are:
1. Keeping Jesus front and center in our lives.
2. Practice of right living
3. Practice of faith
4. Remembering that we have a God who saves
5. Appropriating the power of God's word for our lives and mission.
All of these are things we should all be doing as Christians and it's time to be mindful and intentional about how we are doing this. Is everything we do keeping Jesus at the center? Are we showing people we are followers of God with everything we do in our lives? Are we showing our faith in God in bad and good times? Are we remembering that we are already worthy of God's love, because God has already called us worthy? Are we turning to scripture to guide our lives?
It's time to open our eyes and take a serious looking at whether or not we are going through the motions of faith or whether or not we are being intentional about our spiritual development and our faith journey. If we continue to just row merrily down the stream regardless of what is happening around us, we are going to miss the mark. If we open our eyes and begin to see that changes need to be made, we can change our tune and how we approach our relationship with God.
At the end of the study this week, I made a comment that I had been going through the church songs about focusing on water and boats and I came up with "I will make you fisher's of men." That was about it. Sure there are songs about Father Abraham, and being in the Lord's Army (maybe I'll write about my issues with that song at a different time) but I couldn't come up with any words of songs that would be about sailing with God. A member of the small group sent me this later in the day: "Sail, sail, sail your boat with Jesus at the helm. Loving, giving, trusting, praying, singing as we go!" Maybe I'll start to teach this song to my daughter instead of rowing merrily in a dream like state.