Ridge Burns's blog

Drive-In Church Pt. 2

For the foreseeable future our church will be a drive-in church. We come in our cars. We listen to a great sermon. We experience worship. But we are in our own little “sanctuaries”, our own little spaces that become where God speaks to us. In some ways it's absent from relationships. Yes, you can see people—you wave at them—but there's no long conversations. There's no opportunity to go to somebody's car and say, “Hey, can I pray with you? I'd like to take those scriptures and pour them over you.” We can't do that. We simply wave and smile. There is little or no ability to communicate on the level that's basic to us. This week I was asked to pray a blessing over our people at the end of the service. It’s a whole different experience when you're not in your car: you're in this field with around 70 cars all lined up. It’s totally silent because you can't hear the people sing. You can't hear the people pray. The sermon goes over a loudspeaker and you have to kind of strain a little bit to hear it. It lacks something. What it lacks is touch. Somehow part of our faith, part of our community, part of what we do at church, is we touch each other—physically, spiritually, emotionally, and prayerfully. We touch each other's hearts. I'm thankful for what we have. I’m thankful for the fact that we can get together and for all the incredible work that our church has done to make this experience as good as possible. In fact, there were a number of other pastors of larger churches that came to see how our church does drive-in church because they want to move that direction. But I cautioned them that the one thing that...

Breaking Through the Cloud

There seems to be a cloud over our country, and over the church, and over our people. A cloud of loneliness and disorganization. A cloud of insecurity and just not quite knowing how to plan or how to go about becoming normal. It's a cloud that permeates everything. I’ve been asking the Lord, “What is the antidote for this? How do you get to breakthrough that cloud?” I think there are three things that might be helpful to you. Number one: we need to take back the discipline of spiritual and Biblical meditation. The Bible is clear, “Meditate on my words day and night.” And yet that whole concept has been stolen by Eastern religions and mysticism and yoga and a variety of other things. God calls us to look at His Word, to meditate on it: think about it, pray about it, sing about it, read it out loud, read it silently, or read it slowly word by word. We need to meditate on God's Word and meditate on the person of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit will reveal things to you that are powerful and mighty. That breaks through the cloud! Number two: speak up! I'm not talking about volume. I'm not talking about yelling. I'm talking about how your words should be directed up to the Lord—not out, not down—but up. You should be saying, “God, this is what I feel. This is what I need. This is what I'm about. Lord, I want to talk to you about your greatness, your power, and your strength. I want to talk to you about how mighty you are.” That breaks through the cloud. And number three: don't be afraid of honest communication with our God. He desires that. He welcomes that. You may be surprised at some of...

Smiles and Masks

Most of us living through this pandemic have had to wear masks more than we ever have before in our lives. There are a couple of things about masks: number one, they’re uncomfortable; and two, you look funny with a mask on. But the biggest problem I’ve had is that when you're out and about, you can't smile at anybody. Your smile is covered up. It made me realize how much I communicate with a gentle smile. When somebody at the grocery store gets in your way, you smile at them almost to say, “It's okay, it’s not a big deal.” But with wearing a mask, we've lost our smiles. So now we need to look at people's eyes. Matthew 6:22 says, “The eyes are the lamp of the body.” Another translation says, “Your eyes are a window to the soul.” As you look in people's eyes, you begin to get a sense of who they are and what they're dealing with—if they’re struggling, or if they’re at peace. Your eyes are a window to the heart. It reminds me of the story in Mark of the paralytic being lowered down through the roof. It says, “Jesus knew in his spirit what they were saying in their hearts.” And I wonder how He knew in His spirit. I think it’s because He looked them in the eye. I was in a meeting recently with a person who I really respect and he wasn’t looking me in the eye. He was constantly looking at the ground or just around the room. I asked him why, and he had had a really troubling experience with something that I could deal with. I wasn’t part of it, but I could deal with it. We spent time praying together and his eyes changed. They...

Repentance

I want you to promise me that you will read this entire blog before you draw conclusions. Two Sundays ago, I went to a march in Philadelphia. It started at Eastern State Penitentiary, which is no longer a jail or a penitentiary, and ended at police headquarters. The reason I took part in the march was not really to say anything about the present-day situation, but about my childhood. Let me explain. I went to high school in Detroit in the years 1967-1969. If you know anything about the great city of Detroit, there were race riots in 1967. Then Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. It was a very turbulent, racially divided city with a lot of anger. This was right in the middle of the civil rights movement. I agreed with the movement. I wanted to participate. I wanted to walk down the street with others to say, “We are all equal. We are born equal. Every man is equal.” But you know what? I didn't do it. I worried about what my friends would think or what my parents would think, so I didn't walk. On this recent Sunday I sensed the Lord saying, “Ridge, you need to go on a walk of repentance because you're supposed to stand up for those who are abused. You’re supposed to stand up for those who do not have rights, even if you don't agree with all the things that are said.” So off I went down to Philadelphia and started to march with about 1,000 other people. I was glad that I had a mask on and sunglasses because I couldn’t stop crying. It was like each step was a step of repentance. Each step was a step of forgiveness for not doing what I knew was right in...

Purpose

Psalm 57:2 in the New Living Translation says, “I cry out to God Most High, to God who will fulfill his purpose for me.” Having a purpose is key. It’s so important. That purpose defines who we are. It also defines who we’re not. I don’t purpose to be a heart surgeon; I’d be a terrible one. So, for me to purpose to be a CEO eliminates certain occupations that I just wouldn’t fit into. When I look back at my life choices—moving back to California, where I went to seminary, where I went to college—all of those were choices that I made, but they also fulfilled God’s purpose in me. There's another form of this. There’s another kind of purpose that God is calling us to: each one of us has a specific part of this great mosaic that God is building through His Kingdom on this earth. We have a key piece in it. We may be a bit part player in a big movie, but we have a part! That bit part is our purpose. Whether the expression of our faith is in helping, or maybe it's in prophecy, or in teaching, or any of the gifts of the Spirit; the fruit of the Spirit precedes it. Out of the fruit of the Spirit comes the gifts of the Spirit that become the expression or the manifestation of God's Kingdom on earth. And you have one specific part. Now some people go wacko with this and say, “I’m never sure I'm in the right space and therefore I guess God hasn't really fulfilled his purpose in me.” The reality is you can only do what you know about. So, ask God specifically, “Is this my assignment? Am I called here? Is this what I'm supposed to do?”...

Drive-In Church

Our church in Southern California, like many others across the nation, has been doing drive-in church: you sit in your car and listen on your radio to a special frequency to hear the sermon and the music. In our church there’s also a little cart with coffee and donuts that goes around. It's really quite fun and novel. It's especially exciting for our church because we're trying to buy a piece of property to build a building and the owner of the property has given us permission to have drive-in church there. It looks like we're going to meet like this for church for the foreseeable future. I've been thinking a lot about this different version of church lately. I’ve so appreciated all the effort, work, and planning for us to be able to have drive-in church. It’s really good. But it wasn't enough for me. I saw my friends. I got to wave at them in their cars as they drove by. But we, of course, practice social distancing and so we sat in our car quietly just waiting for the service to start. Which meant that there was no ability to just go talk to a person or have the Lord lead me to walk over and pray for another person. I found this especially hard because what we really long for is human interaction—not electronic, not virtual, not from your car—but face to face, handshake to handshake, human interaction. And when we don't have that, there's something missing. For the last week or two, I've just been feeling off and different—just not myself. I’ve determined that it’s because I lack human interaction. We’re stuck in our house. We can only go to the grocery store or do minor repairs in our house, but for the most part...

1960

I wonder what it would be like if this pandemic had happened in 1960—when there were rotary phones and no internet. We wouldn’t be able to get on Zoom calls with each other—there would be no way for us to communicate except face-to-face. News would be Walter Cronkite for half an hour every night, not constant news coming at you. I would say that two things would happen: the first thing is that we’d stop the information overload. One of the problems we have right now is not knowing who to trust. What news stream should you listen to? Which bias do you take into your life? I don't like that we are barraged with news and everything is live, everything is instantaneous. There’s no time to process or think. There's no time to put things into perspective. The second thing that would be different is that our support group would become our neighborhoods. My support group right now is a group of people who Zoom call together. We share this common experience virtually, but not face-to-face. If this would’ve happened in 1960, our neighbors would have shared their meals with each other. We would have had long conversations on the driveway—with masks, six feet away—but it would be face-to-face. It wouldn't be: rush inside, shut your garage door, and get on the Internet on a Zoom call so you can know what's going on. I think technology has robbed us of some things. It's robbed us of true community. It's robbed us of things that are important towards our own growth. It's robbed us of being human. Don't get me wrong, I’m thankful for the internet. I'm thankful for the convenience, and all the things that the internet and technology gives us, but I need to count the cost...

Kindness

I went to the grocery store recently with our daughter, Barrett, who is weathering the quarantine together with us. The store was very crowded. There was a young lady—probably high school age—who was collecting the carts, sanitizing them, and putting them in order so that people could grab them quickly. While pushing a train of these carts, somehow her finger got jammed between two of them and it hurt her. She stood there, waving her hand, then walked away talking to herself trying to cope with the pain. But what she didn't realize is that she had left the carts in a place where no one could get in or out of the store. Everybody was stopped. She was focused on her finger and people were getting mad and angry because they were being inconvenienced and not able to get into the store. I have to admit I kind of felt that way too and wanted to say, “Can you move some stuff so we can get out of here?” But my daughter looked at the girl and said, “Can I help you?” It was the kindest, nicest thing. It was amazing to watch. The girl said, “No, I’m okay.” But it visibly stopped me and the other people standing around waiting on her—we were all struck by what a kind thing it was to say. It was the right thing to do. It's what the Bible says is one of the fruits of the Spirit: kindness. It was stepping into the other person’s shoes and saying, “Look, I know you don't like what's going on, but can I help you? Can we work together to solve this problem?” That's what we need during this quarantine period. We need just plain good old-fashioned kindness.

Isolation

The first two or three weeks of this quarantine were kind of fun—I had time to do projects around the house, time to do some thinking, lots of great conversations with my wife, RobAnne. It was great. When we got to four or five weeks, things didn’t feel so great. However, I could still go on. But this week is not good. The only word that I can use to describe it is: isolation. I don't feel connected to people. I don't feel connected to institutions. I don't feel connected to our church. It's simply because there's something missing. What is it that causes me to feel so isolated? At times I even feel like God is socially distancing from me—as if He’s six feet away—close but not close enough. I can see him, but I'm not really experiencing Him. I realize that part of this feeling of extreme isolation stems from the fact that we can no longer touch each other. You can't shake hands or do a group hug. You are simply alone with your feelings. I read online that physical touch is an important element of trust. People who you can touch, you tend to trust more. It's a basic ingredient. I've lost my ability to connect with another human being. I mean, I’m having great talking times with RobAnne and my daughter—who’s currently home, but beyond that I am isolated. So I went to the Lord this morning and I asked, “What can I do to break through this isolation?” There’s a lot of spiritual, religious talk that’s saying, “This is the time for you to draw near to God and get away.” But if I'm going to get away, I want it to be my choice. I want to run to God because it’s my...

It's Just Not the Same

I recently joined an online men’s Bible study from our church. Because I travel so much, I’m not usually able to go to Bible studies or even make long-term weekly commitments. But this is one thing I thought I could do and so I got online. There were thirteen of us on the call and we were studying the book of James. We kind of shared our lives together, then introduced the scriptures and discussed it. It was good, but you know it just wasn’t the same. We’re wired to have face-to-face, person-to-person contact. We are wired as human beings to have interactions—not electronically—but face-to-face with each other. I know we can't do it now. But it just wasn't the same. It wasn't because of the people or the content or the leadership—it's just not the same meeting electronically. I'm praying that this current experience will give us a hunger to get together and share significant and real things. As we emerge from this time of isolation, may we have such a hunger to get together that the church will become cells of community—small families of connection—instead of just a large body worshiping together. The other thing that I hope comes out of this time of isolation is that we remember the special places in our lives that we were too busy to notice before. I'm sitting on my patio underneath my umbrella looking at the snowcapped mountains. I just love this space. I feel like God has been meeting me here. I’ve sat in these chairs before at the of the end of the day, relaxing and listening to a ball game, but now suddenly they’ve become a sanctuary to me. They’ve become a place where God meets me—a place where God is. It's become sacred. And nothing changed...

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