i talk to myself :: keeping the crazy close

May 9, 2011

“What?  Shut up!”

Needless to say this seemed totally inappropriate.  I wasn’t even talking to her.

“I am not!  You always do this.  Get out of my…  No.  YOU are the one who…  No.”

I just want to get through this grocery line, man.  Buy my bananas and loaf of bread and diet tonic water. I just want to get through the day without arguing with a crazy stranger.  It’s kind of a goal.

“Stop it!  Stop it!”

She’s not looking at me.  She’s looking glassy-eyed straight ahead.  This is at first a relief.  Then it only ratchets up the weirdness.  She’s not talking to me… but there’s no one else around… so…

“This conversation is over.  I’m hanging up.  Goodbye!”

*facepalm*  BLUETOOTH. Couldn’t see the tiny receiver tucked into her ear under her hair.  I don’t like it, man.  The world is full of people talking to themselves, and it’s getting harder to tell who hears little voices in their ear because of technology and who hears voices because they’re a few pickles short of a jar.  I’d like to propose that bluetooth earpieces come with a little stick that extends over your head with a small, tasteful bright orange flag flying, so as to alert the world that you are hip, not simply nuts.

So we’ve established that there is “bad” talking to yourself.  If you’ve ever been around true (as in, non-bluetooth enabled) talking to yourself, we can agree… it’s unnerving.

But there is another kind of talking to yourself that I am sold-out for, passionate about.  It’s the kind of crazy we need MORE of in our churches. Last month I wrote two posts on sermon preparation (here and here).  One of my friends left a comment and shared this quote from John Calvin:

“If the preacher is not first preaching to himself, better that he falls on the steps of the pulpit and breaks his neck than preaches that sermon.”

Amen!  I mean, as it applies to me. I wish no ill to befall my fellow pastors trying to serve their congregations with fresh insights from the Word of God week after week.  I mean no harm to the Sunday School teachers who wrestle their gaggle of 13 fourth graders to attention each Sunday morning.  In no way do I want injury to befall the bazillions of small group leaders who are trying to lead Bible studies week to week with no formal training, wondering if they are qualified to serve but gladly doing it anyway because they love Jesus.

I am you. All of you who handle the Word of God and try to share it’s power and insight with other people.  So I’m writing as a fellow crazy person, believing that somehow God can use me and my limited intellect and wavering allegiance to teach His people.  It’s crazy, because, who am I to be a leader, a teacher, an example?  I’m a broken mess.

And therein lies the mystery and the genius of God’s Church. His Word is alive, and it speaks today.  His Spirit is the true teacher. We human preachers and teachers and Bible study leaders…  we’re just His servants, serving other servants.  Not higher than.  Not holier than.  Side by side.  All sinners in need of grace and all being reformed into Christ’s image for the sake of God’s reputation, not ous.

So as a fellow servant… who happens to teach the Bible some times… I want to let you know something about me.

I talk to myself.

I’m a rookie preacher, you know.  A first year of Seminary under my belt in the next couple weeks.  So as a preacher, I’m got a lot of learning to do.  We all know the difference between a preacher who seems to be “up there,” just doing his own thing, and those preachers who are talking right to you.  Like the Bible is piercing through the religious veneer and the “I’m at least as put-together as the guy next to me” front we wear to church, and messing with our heart itself.  I only have one life, after all, and it’s already half spent.  I don’t want to waste a minute giving random religious self help talks, or even disconnected exegetical Bible lessons that fail to pierce the fog between the pulpit and the pew.

I’m praying the the voice of God and the nearness of His Spirit are unmistakable when I preach.  And that’s crazy. I’m nobody.  But God uses nobodies all the time.

Maybe it’s because the “have-it-all-together” crowd doesn’t feel that reckless desperation for God to be behind the wheel.  I don’t know.  But I do know that God has tons of refining work to do in me.  And the times, it seems, when my teaching makes the deepest impact or resonates with the greatest connection between my notes and the people facing me are the times when what I am teaching has grown out of a deep realization that God is working this truth out in ME.  When His Word has broken through my walls and reached my inner self and shined the light on my dark corners… then I am ready to teach.  When God has spoken to me, then I’m ready to speak to my fellow servants.

So if you’re me… a fellow teacher in the Kingdom, trying to rightly handle the Word of God and realizing how daunting that responsibility is, rember this:

It IS as crazy as you think it is that God would speak the truth of His Word through cracked pots like you and me.  Lunatic fringe crazy.  But that’s part of the genius of His plan.  He knows that we’re a mess, and that leaves lots of room to teach us about His character and power and grace.

Don’t spend this one life you have making religious speeches.  Get into the Word where God can break our heart and make it soar.  Be moved and changed… and THEN teach.  Not before. The church needs more preachers and teachers and Bible Study leaders who think it’s crazy that God would use them.  That crazy keeps us desperate.  And His power is made perfect in weakness, not in self-reliance.  That’s why when I get get up in that pool of light in front of my friends and fellow servants, notes in one hand and Bible in the other, I pray and pray and I remember that I’m not up here simply to talk the talk in their direction…

I’m talking to myself.


Creative Commons License
“i talk to myself :: keeping the crazy close” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

jskogerboe

Posts Twitter Facebook Google+

Psalm 24:7 & Luke 10:42 >> Like David, and Mary, I'm in pursuit of my one thing. I'm the Pastor at St. Olaf Lutheran Church in Montgomery, IL. Pastor, teacher, writer, communicator, designer, and drummer. I definitely got the better deal in my marriage to Amy. And I couldn't be any more proud of my five amazing boys. Deeply grateful.

5 responses to i talk to myself :: keeping the crazy close

  1. Praying this too when I speak or sing … “I’m praying the the voice of God and the nearness of His Spirit are unmistakable…” And this? “I’m nobody. But God uses nobodies all the time.” Such Truth. If you’re starting from that place of knowing, you are in a good place, my friend. A lot more could get done if we first realize we bring nothing to the table and are only vessels through which we can pour out His grace and love He lavished on us. In thankfulness for that fact, we rise up and follow in obedience to the stage, the pulpit, the Bible study, the neighbor’s house, or the next place He sees fit for us to minister. Keep on talking to yourself – it’s working.

    • Mela – thanks for the encouraging words. I love that you joined the conversation as a musician and an artist. You have made such an important connection here… Art that is given and used for Kingdom purposes has a totally different impact when the artist is (A) humble, and (B) “singing” (or dancing, or painting, or writing, or playing…) out of a deep and personal and authentic response to the revealed character of God and His work in their heart. When I sing or play drums or play piano or (fill in the artistic blank here) in church, I would do well to remember that when Jesus rescued me, I wasn’t just floating free in a hostile sea, fighting for life… I was dead on the bottom in the blackness 2 miles down. He reached down into that darkness and pulled me up and filled my lungs with breath and restored me to full heath. It was a miraculous revival, not just a close-call rescue. I hope my art reflects that joyful, amazing truth, too.

      Bless you Mela. May your song be full of Spirit-fueled AWE. 🙂

  2. The broken messes make the best teachers Josh. I want to learn from someone who has been through some stuff! Keep up the good work friend.

    • Heidi – I’m so glad you added your thoughts. I love this forum. We have some great discussions here, and this is another opportunity for me to clarify something that i think is really important… but i have an idea…

      Can I have permission to use this comment you just left as a starting point for another follow-up blog post?? You inspired a new, clearer thought that I’d like to follow up with. If you haver any hesitation or want more info, let’s talk off-line. Email me, or Facebook message. Or tweet. 🙂 I won’t jump on it until I hear back from you.

      Thanks Heidi. Bless you everyday. High five your daughter for me.

  3. Go for it! As for tweets, HA! I’m nowhere near as hip and cool as you, so no tweets from me. High five will be delivered to Sarah. Looking forward to your spin on my comment.