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Speaking In Tongues: A Reflection on My First Experience.

 

This reflection came as follow-up to a recent sermon I preached about speaking in tongues.

Speaking in tongues isn’t a gift I have ever experienced personally. But I have been in services and groups where people were speaking in tongues. I’ll never forget my first experience of being in a worship service of speaking in tongues. In 1999, I was asked to be a music leader for a little congregation in a little building in backwoods east Texas.

I was new to leading music in worship so I jumped at the chance to serve to gain experience. I confidently began leading “Lord, I lift Your Name on High” (an easy go-to song for someone new like me).

As I began playing, people clapped along and called out to me to bring it loud and bring it faithful. The sounds of praise filled that tiny little building in a mighty way. But at the end of the first verse, I heard something different from the lyrics I was singing and leading. It was a sound I had never heard before.

one woman’s eyes were partway closed, her hands in the air, and was loudly singing something I cannot completely describe. I didn’t understand the language coming out of her mouth. I was so taken aback I didn’t realize I had stopped singing and was just standing there staring! Oops. I regained my composure and just focused inward on what I was doing so I wouldn’t get tripped up further.

Well, that voice started a chain reaction and by the end of the song I was about the only one of us who was singing lyrics. The same thing happened the next song. I went from shocked, to puzzled, to weirded out thinking in my immature mind “what did I get myself into?!” But by the end of the songs, I was the weird one out as I was about the only one not trying to speak in tongues. The pastor was engaged in tongues as well and encouraging others to experience that deep expression of the Holy Spirit. He told me after the service I shouldn’t be ashamed or worried I wasn’t speaking in tongues because it would come to me one day and I would know the Spirit in a much deeper way. It hasn’t happened (yet?) but I have gotten to know the Spirit much deeper than my 18 year old self did.

My Reflection and How I look at worship practice differently today

What do I make of that? Was I not being faithful? Were they not being faithful? Could I truly not experience the Spirit deeply without speaking in tongues? After this experience, I thought to myself “what a load of bologna.” And, I have to admit, in that instance, by biblical standards, I think things were a little off in that setting and it helped form an unhealthy assumption about tongues for me at the time. I didn’t understand it. Nobody interpreted; we just had to trust the Holy Spirit was present by way of “tongues.” Since then, much has transpired in my life through experience and through study that leads me to believe the Holy Spirit moves and lives and empowers people in many different ways.

I’ve learned in worship that as soon as we become gate-keepers to the power of the Spirit one way or another, we let way too much of our need for human power and human control (typically over others) take over. Whenever we condemn and judge another person’s faithful experiences as valid versus not valid—no matter how foreign they are to us—we become judge and jury about God’s work and revelations to this world. If God is going to work in us, and through us, we have to check our ego and anxiety at the door to the throne and humble ourselves in worship. It’s the only way we can see where we are united in Christ, not divided by how “we” or “they” think worship and faith is to be practiced.

Now, plenty of guiding and accountability is needed in the community about understanding how we worship and receive the Spirit, but not to where we tear down another’s—or an entire community’s—faithful expressions. We have to take our experiences personally and collectively, and reason them with Scripture and traditions, human faculties and discernment tools that are God-given in our lives.

When we truly try to see with eyes of grace, we can become more aware of what Paul the Apostle wrote about the subject of tongues and Spiritual gifts in his letter to the Corinthians (especially chapters 12, 13, and 14), that Spiritual gifts are of God and they are meant to build up the Body of Christ, not destroy. They are not meant to place us above or below another sister or brother (a problem Paul felt the Corinth community was having with a variety of practices). They are not meant to be taken in isolation, but collectively as the Body. They are to be tested and observed to discern God’s will through prayer and discussion, through study and more prayer. How do you experience the Holy Spirit?


final-bridges2Rev. Matt Bridges is an ordained elder in the United Methodist church and currently serves in New Mexico as the pastor of First United Methodist Church in Lovington. Matt has served in ministry in one form or another for the last seventeen years. In particular, he has a passion for music ministry and other types of worship ministry. In all of the things he’s learned in ministry, if he were to write a book on worship right now it would most certainly be titled1001 Times (and counting)  I said “Well, I’ll Never Do It ThatWay Again” in Worship. He is joined in ministry by his wife, Corinne, and daughter Emilie. And they all love being the church together.

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3 Things I Would Tell My High School Self by Jake Tatarian

 

I graduate from Seminary in May. It’s a strange thing being on the precipice of the end of my foreseeable future as a student and seeing a future that is not filled with homework assignments and sitting in a classroom, looking at a clock, counting down the time until you can leave. Nearing this crossroads of a major transition in my life, I have found myself looking both backwards at what you’ve accomplished and forward, to a future that is full of boundless opportunity.

Looking back, I can see the personal transformations that I have undertaken and continue to experience, especially in recent years as I feel I have undergone the most radical transformations since I left high school. In light of this, I have decided to write this letter to my high school self: three things my current self would tell my high school self in the hopes that you, too, might find some encouraging message within.

 

  1. Take School Seriously…But Not Too Seriously.

School is important. Your education is important: it lays the foundation for the rest of your life and, in my case, is a prerequisite for beginning the career I want to build. Doing well in school and making sure you do your work not only establishes good work habits during your formative years, but getting good grades allows you to continue on in your education to college and beyond.

However.

School should not consume your life to the point that you never have any fun. Life is meant to be experienced and there are a whole lot of fun things that you can do instead of spending all of your time outside of a classroom with your nose buried in a book. Class time is a serious time for soaking up what the teachers want you to learn, but it’s OK to keep it a little bit light-hearted too. Enjoy it—you’re not a student forever.

 

  1. You Have to be Intentional About Your Friendships

I remember the summer between my high school graduation and the beginning of college and all of the pacts that were made that we would always keep in touch and my friendship with certain people would withstand the inevitable tests of time and distance…and those friendships faded over time. There were never any fights we just quit…talking. Now this is a two-way street, but for your friendships that you want to keep from your high school years, you need to be intentional about maintaining communication and finding time to get together for lunch or to simply hang out and enjoy being in each other’s presence. You spend a lot of time cultivating relationships throughout high school—it would be a shame to lose those because you quit finding time for each other.

 

  1. The Best You is the Real You

Far too many high schoolers spend way too much time trying to be someone they’re not for the sake of popularity or friends. I have news for you, though, that’s very difficult to maintain. Faking an interest in a band or sport, dressing in a fashionable sense where you look cool, but can’t breathe (I’m looking at you, skinny jeans), even picking up on the hip lexicon that all the cool kids are using, but you would be embarrassed to have your parents hear, can become toxic to the real you. Don’t be afraid to let the real you come out of its shell, to let the person God created you to be breathe and experience the world. I’ve found that the more authentic and up front I am about who I am, the easier it is to make friends and foster relationships that are built upon trust much more quickly. Plus, you don’t have the added burden of trying to juggle the masks that you keep in your back pocket depending upon who you’re with at a given moment.

So there you have it. Three things that I would tell my high school self which can be boiled down to this: Throw away the masks, make lots of friends, and enjoy life. There are many wonderful people and experiences to see and God did not mean for our lives to be miserable where we await the day that we might depart this world. So, close your computer screen, go call that person you’ve been meaning to check up on, and plan a get-together to catch up and continue strengthening your friendships.


Picture1.pngJake Tatarian is a soon-to-be seminary graduate and pastor currently living in Oklahoma City. He is a basketball and soccer fan, of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Brighton and Hove Albion, respectively. Jake does not follow baseball, but if pressed for a favorite team, and in keeping with the tradition of this site, he would say his favorite team is the Seattle Mariners.

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No Chocolate. 46 days. by Kelly Carpenter

Haters gunna hate and it makes me a little sad each time someone slights the practice of giving up chocolate fornochocolate.jpeg Lent. I do it. I’ve done it since the 6th grade. I cannot come up with anything else that I have elected to do by choice every year since the 6th grade. So, why stop now? Shake it off.

The bigger question for me and Lent is WHY chocolate. When Lent and the concept of fasting was first described to me around 6th grade it was more about what would provide a daily (or more) reminder to connect to Jesus. It was also about giving up vices which is why soda took the Lenten road in the 10th grade and just never came back.

I LOVE me some chocolate. ALL chocolate. Except when it is ruined with mint.

I reach for chocolate at least several times every day. During these seasons of withdrawal abstaining, I find myself reminded to re-center upon God in little moments that might otherwise pass by unnoticed. I become glaringly aware of how often I think about, crave and do something about my love of chocolate vs. how rarely in a day I actively think about, crave and do something about my love of God.

Okay, I confess, it is not just chocolate or soda, there was one year without meat and those years sacrificing all things sweet. But Lent is about more than food (is anything not about food though?) But seriously, I also take up a spiritual practice during Lent each year as well. Anything from new daily devotionals, walking meditations, photo meditations, Hatmaker’s 7, and so forth. This year I’ve taken on a daily prayer of self-examination. I feel that I am in a place of both contentment and complacency with God and am feeling the need to very intentionally ‘check-in’. Life is in a crazy phase with job responsibilities shifting, my first nephew arriving and our own first baby on the way (hence the obsession with food?), so in practical ways God is doing a lot in my life right now.

At the same time, God also seems pretty quiet.

I just feel complacent when it comes to my own faith journey.

Then on that 13th day my Lenten journeys collided. During a committee meeting lunch.

I routinely filled my plate answering mental question as I picked up each item: will I feel averse to the taste of chicken today? Will the baked beans give me indigestion? Can I eat potato salad or is that a pregnancy no-no? Grabbed the big ole’ classic church meal chocolate chip cookie and went to my seat. After finishing the meal that passed all the tests for pregnancy eating, I cleared my plate and took a huge bite of that cookie….

Ah! Mouth. Full. I realized instantly what I had done.

My journeys had collided. I spent great mental work to determine every bite related to the development of Woodchuck (that’s our fetus’ name). I was grateful to those who prepared the meal. I was intentional to eat enough to nourish but not too much to upset the delicate balance of the pregnancy digestive system. I spent no time. No mental energy. Not the slightest thought to my spiritual practice. My complacency hit me right between the taste-buds.

So, once again I’ll let the haters hate because chocolate has opened the way for God and I to have more unexpected moments than I could ever account for. (yeah, I spit out the bite, washed my mouth immediately and waited a solid hour before going for one of the oatmeal raisin cookie…give a pregnant woman a break!)

What is keeping you from God? What could you do for these remaining days of Lent to encounter God in surprising moments throughout the basic tasks of daily living?

Do it. Give it up. Take it on.

Own it like Marion Kelly walks into a room.

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KellyBioPhoto.jpgKelly Carpenter works in Faith Formation at the Center for Leadership Development of the North Texas UMC. She also serves as co-executive director of Reaching Others Through Christ Jr High Missions (ROTCmissions.org). Kelly attended Texas Christian University where she received her BFA in Theatre Scene Design. She attended Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA where she received her Masters of Theological Studies in Religion and Art. She grew up in the United Methodist Church serving on local and conference councils as a youth, working in camping and campus ministry through college and serving on local church staffs for over 10 years.