It was a cold January morning when a violinist walked into a local metro station in Washington, D.C.
The temperatures were not conducive to any kind of receptivity from the passing travelers, but he came anyway. The idea of busking in this kind of environment would roll the eyes of any serious musician (and this man was more than just your average musician). This was to be an experiment, however, so he willingly obliged.
Standing by a concrete wall in the corner of the subway, he pulled out his violin and began to play. The chilled air made it difficult for his fingers but he played along nonetheless. As he played, the concrete cave was filled with the sound of music written many years before. Effortlessly, he plied his craft. It was not modern or contemporary music that he played. These pieces were classical songs that would be difficult for the most accomplished of violinists.
Over the course of 45 minutes, he would play through six Bach pieces. Because he was playing during the rush hour period, it was calculated that thousands of people walking by him during this time. Most of these people were busy. They were on their way to work or focused on the day ahead. They were commuters that were familiar with the bustle of a DC metro station and they were used to ignoring busking musicians.
A few minutes passed and a middle aged man slowed his pace to listen. He stopped for a few seconds but then quickly picked up his pace so that he would not miss his train. A minute later, the violinist would receive his first donation. Without even stopping, a woman would throw money in the violinist tip jar as she hurried past without thinking. A few minutes after that, one individual would lean against a wall, listening, but after glancing at his watch would hurry off, clearly late for some appointment.
Others listened, paused and smiled but quickly moved on. The most attention received by the violinist was from children. One particular child stopped to look at the man playing his strange and enchanting song. His mother pushed hard to get the child to continue moving and the child walked off all the while turning his head back to look at the man playing. This was repeated by several children whose parents hurried along the way, determined to reach their destination.
During the course of his performance, only 6 people stopped what they were doing and gave the man the attention he deserved. Very few gave him any money although that was the least of his concerns that morning. Most, in fact thousands, walked right past this violinist without giving him a second thought.
After completing his last piece, the musician packed up his violin and left the station. There was no applause, no hands shaken, no music sold. The concrete cave returned to its silent musings as commuters continue to wander on their way to their destination.
What most of these commuters were completely unaware of who it happened to be playing for them.
Months before, the Washington Post had asked Joshua Bell, one of the worlds leading violin players, to join them in an experiment. They wanted to create a unique situation to determine peoples perception, taste and priorities. In a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do people perceive beauty? Do they stop to appreciate it? Do they recognize the talent in an unexpected context?
They asked Joshua Bell to play for 45 minutes in a Washington DC Metro station. He would play some of the most intricate classical pieces ever written on a violin worth 3.5 million dollars. This was in stark contrast to a few nights before when he sold out a theatre in Boston for an average ticket price of $100. On this day, however, he would walk away with $32 and no applause.
What they discovered was more than just a lack of appreciation for talent. This was an inability to disconnect from the moment to appreciate something unexpected. This was a disregard for the beauty that surrounds because of things that were far more pressing.
In a common place at an unexpected time, do we have the capacity to perceive beauty? If thousands of people can walk right past one of the worlds leading violinists playing some of the most intricate pieces ever written without even stopping, how much more are we missing out on? Worse still, if we are unable to perceive the things that are natural, how much more are we missing when it comes to things of a more spiritual nature?
The election here in the U.S. is finally over. At least we thought it was. Half the country was disappointed and the other half rejoiced. Democracy happened. But then began the protests. And the riots. And the walkouts.
And all of a sudden we began to wonder – what the heck is going on? Is this really what democracy looks like? Are people really sore losers? Are the winners really gloating like that?
I get it. People have a right to be upset if they “lost” and happy if they “won”. People have a right to protest if they disagree. But it feels like there is something deeper going on that goes far beyond the election. People are in pain and they don’t know what to do about it.
People are increasingly having a lot of trouble with the fact that others think differently than they do. And it’s occurring on both sides of the political spectrum. They can’t understand why anyone would have an opinion that disagrees with theirs and because they can’t understand it, they react in anger instead of acting like adults. People on both sides are frightened and worried and anxious and all that pent up concern is manifesting itself in emotion and violence. Everyone is fighting to be heard not realizing that if everyone is screaming then no one is listening.
Rather than sitting down at the table and engaging in healthy discussion, people would rather resort to pointing the finger and accusation and acts of anarchy. Healthy dialogue and adult conversations are rarely found. If you don’t like what someone thinks or believes, if you don’t like what they stand for, just find an inflammatory title to throw at that person. That will fix it, for sure!!
When you are convinced that the way you believe is the only way that everyone should believe, you set yourself up for a battle rather than a conversation. And, if you lack the correct social and cultural tools to engage in healthy dialogue, you will react out of emotion due to the inability to deal with the pain of feeling misunderstood and unheard.
It’s a good thing that never happens in the church…
I wish it never happened in the church. But my history would tell me a different story.
I have spent many years traveling to churches all across the world. I have yet to meet a perfect one even though I have met some amazing people during that time who are genuinely doing amazing things for the Kingdom of God.
But over and over again, I notice this strange idea creeping up in the heart of individual churches. It is this strange idea that a particular pastor or a particular movement or a particular church are the only ones with the “real truth”. They have it down. They have the solution to the problem. If everyone just followed the way that they do things, then everything would change.
What’s worse, though, is that if you think differently, you will find yourself subjected to things that are not even remotely “Christian”. Now, it might not always be preached from the pulpit but it certainly manifests itself in the community culture. They love to try to convince everyone that they have it “right”. They get incredulous when others disagree and they can’t understand why everyone else can’t see that they are right.
The way that you really discover this underlying philosophy is at work, though, is by watching what happens when the ideology is challenged. Emotions begin to run hot. Defense mechanisms go up. The finger of blame is pointed anywhere but at themselves. Healthy dialogue and adult conversations are replaced with accusations and emotion and manipulation. Backstabbing and undermining suddenly become acceptable behavior to justify the end result which is typically to get the opposition to walk away by any means necessary. Then, self-justification creeps in, absolving anyone of any guilt and allowing the culture to remain intact.
People have a lot of trouble with the fact that others think differently than they do. They can’t understand why and because they can’t understand it, they react instead of trying to understand and working to find a common ground. When you are convinced that the way you believe is the only way that everyone should believe, you set yourself up for a battle rather than a conversation. And, if you lack the correct social and cultural tools to engage in healthy dialogue, you will react out of emotion due to the inability to deal with the pain of feeling unable to communicate your point of view effectively. This will lead to being misunderstood and ultimately unheard. When someone begins to feel like they don’t have a voice, they typically use more emotion to gain attention and the tension escalates and the cycle continues.
We live in a culture, inside the church and outside the church, that is in trouble. We don’t just agreeably disagree anymore, we strongly oppose. We feel that we have the “right” to an opinion, not realizing that a right to be heard is not automatically granted to you, it is earned. Social media and this “instant” culture have created a social dialogue that immediately produces inflammatory arguments that quickly lead to character assassinations within moments. Respect and honor have been long forgotten at the price of “rights” and “prerogatives”.
Everyone is fighting to be heard not realizing that if everyone is screaming then no one is listening. If we are going to change this, we need to learn some basic skills both inside and outside the church. I can’t speak to anyone outside the church with authority, but I can to those inside it. I, with utmost respect, submit these thoughts to you.
Firstly, we need to learn to listen before we speak. James 1:19 and 20 says:
“My beloved brothers, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteousness that God desires.”
Secondly, we need to learn to honor people even if we disagree with them. This means that you need to sometimes just let your zeal and passion for what is “right” be put aside to actually engage in love before you have a dialogue. Romans 12:10 says:
“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”
Lastly (although this is not an exhaustive list) we must, I repeat, must let God be bigger than our churches or organizations. We must put aside the false idea that any single organization or church or group has all the answers. We have to stop fighting among ourselves over petty things and let love and respect for one another rule our thoughts and actions. Paul, in his letter to the Corinthian church strongly opposed any form of sectarianism. 1 Corinthians 2:10-13 says:
“Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”
The world is desperately in need of answers and the church has lost its voice in the dialogue because we have taken up the sword instead of laying down our lives. Perhaps it’s time we began to look to our own houses, make the necessary changes within ourselves and begin to ask the Lord to help us regain the love that we so desperately need to display if we are to reach a world that is currently in great pain.
Tomorrow, I will vote in my first U.S. Presidential election. In light of this historic event, I decided I should remind myself (and in turn, all of you) the immense amount of pain, suffering, and fighting that set the stage for what we have the right and privilege to do today. Democracy did not just fall out of thin air. It was bought with the blood, sweat, and tears of generations who demanded the freedom to choose who was given the right to govern.
You may not like the current nominees, but knowing that you have a right to choose, a right that did not exist for many over thousands of years, should at least give you the impetus to go out and vote.
Lest we forget… (note: pulled from the web, I did not do all this research myself…)
It was not until 1689 that The Bill of rights was enacted by the Parliament of England The Bill of Rights 1689 set out the requirement for regular parliaments, free elections, rules for freedom of speech in Parliament, and limited the power of the monarch.
1707: The first Parliament of Great Britain is established after the merger of the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland under the Acts of Union 1707.
From the late 1770s: new Constitutions and Bills explicitly describing and limiting the authority of powerholders, many based on the English Bill of Rights(1689). Historian Norman Davies calls the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth Constitution of May 3, 1791 “the first constitution of its kind in Europe”.
The United States: the Founding Fathers rejected ‘democracy’ as defined by the Greeks, preferring instead ‘a natural aristocracy’, whereby only the landed gentry were entitled to a place in Congress. The Americans, as with the English, took their cue from the Roman republic model: only the patrician classes were involved in government.
- 1776: Virginia Declaration of Rights
- United States Constitution ratified in 1788, created bicameral legislature with members of the House of Representatives elected “by the People of the several states,” and members of the Senate elected by the state legislatures.
- 1791: the United States Bill of Rights ratified.
- 1790s: First Party System in U.S. involves invention of locally rooted political parties in the United States; networks of party newspapers; new canvassing techniques; use of caucus to select candidates; fixed party names; party loyalty; party platform (Jefferson 1799);
- 1800: peaceful transition between parties
1780s: development of social movements identifying themselves with the term ‘democracy’: Political clashes between ‘aristocrats’ and ‘democrats’ in Benelux countries changed the semi-negative meaning of the word ‘democracy’ in Europe, which was until then regarded as synonymous with anarchy, into a much more positive opposite of ‘aristocracy’.
1789–1799: the French Revolution
- Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen adopted on 26 August 1789 which declared that “Men are born and remain free and equal in rights” and proclaimed the universal character of human rights.
- Universal male suffrage established for the election of the National Convention in September 1792, but revoked by the Directory in 1795.
- Slavery abolished in the French colonies by the National Convention on 4 February 1794, with Black people made equal to White people (“All men, without distinction of color, residing in the colonies are French citizens and will enjoy all the rights assured by the Constitution”). Slavery was re-established by Napoleon in 1802.
The United Kingdom
- 1807: The Slave Trade Act banned the trade across the British Empire after which the U.K. established the Blockade of Africa and enacted international treaties to combat foreign slave traders.
- 1832: The passing of the Reform Act, which gave representation to previously under represented urban areas in the U.K. and extended the voting franchise to a wider population.
- 1833: The Slavery Abolition Act was passed, which took effect across the British Empire from 1 August 1834.
1848: Universal male suffrage was definitely established in France in March of that year, in the wake of the French Revolution of 1848.
1848: Following the French, the Revolutions of 1848, although in many instances forcefully put down, did result in democratic constitutions in some other European countries, among them Denmark and Netherlands.
1850s: introduction of the secret ballot in Australia; 1872 in UK; 1892 in USA
1853: Black Africans given the vote for the first time in Southern Africa, in the British-administered Cape Province.
1870: USA – 15th Amendment to the Constitution, prohibits voting rights discrimination on the basis of race, colour, or previous condition of slavery.
1893: New Zealand is the first nation to introduce universal suffrage by awarding the vote to women (universal male suffrage had been in place since 1879).
It is astounding to imagine a world where we do not have the right to choose who governs us, but it did exist. Thankfully, it does not exist any longer in many nations all around the world.
So, in light of the many who have fought for the right to vote, in honor of the many who have died so that we might have the freedoms we enjoy, in remembrance of the many who struggled to allow minorities and women to have the right to vote, GET OUT AND VOTE.
Perfect. That’s what I heard them say. 73 degrees, no humidity, no clouds. The day was perfect. And it was.
They were putting together a birthday party on the tables next to me and I kept hearing the same comment.
“It’s a perfect day, isn’t it? Perfect! Nice amount of breeze, not too hot.”
The people at the table were as diverse as any place in the country. A smattering of different ethnicities, income levels, age groups, even hair colors. All of them smiling and all of them, one after another, remarking on how beautiful the weather was.
It struck me that the very reason the conversation kept coming back to the weather was probably due to the fact that the humidity levels and temperature had been a little less than desirable the last few weeks. The reason they were so aware of the weather was simply because it had been so bad previously.
The awareness of something so beautiful only came because of the contrast to something not so beautiful.
I spent most of my formative years on the Gold Coast in Australia. The Gold Coast has a sub-tropical climate with around 300 days of sunshine a year. The average temperature ranges from the low 50’s in winter to the high 90’s during summer. Yeah, it was rough. The problem with being in such a great climate (if you could find a problem) is that you never really experience the seasons in a way that makes you truly appreciate how “perfect” the weather actually is.
Our awareness of good things in life is actually enhanced by the tough things we have to endure. Climbing to the top of a mountain is exhilarating because of the energy you have to exert getting there. If it was as easy as walking down the street, I am not sure it would be as exciting to do. That doesn’t mean everything has to be hard to be worthwhile, but it does give a little more initiative to keep working through hard things to get to the reward of that hard work.
Proverbs 13:11, the message version, says this:
Easy come, easy go, but steady diligence pays off.
Steady diligence through good seasons and through bad seasons pays off. The days of “perfect” weather are far more satisfying when they come at the end of a time of harsher weather. The satisfaction of seeing the top of a mountain is far greater when you have to climb it. Are there days I wish I lived by the beach again? Certainly. But that is not the place that God has currently called me. So, while I await the call to go back to the coast, I will celebrate what He is currently doing through whatever season I am in.
Maybe today is a perfect day for you. If it is, be thankful for the tougher days that made you more aware of its perfection. Maybe today is a hard day for you. If so, take courage in the fact that things will change and you will be all the more thankful for it when it does. We all have days of hardship and days of ease. My confidence comes from keeping this verse always before me, no matter what the circumstances are:
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:3-5
1. the state of being stretched tight.
2. mental or emotional strain.
apply a force to (something) that tends to stretch it.
Tension is the result of opposing forces acting at the same time, often in opposition to each other.
In life, tension is also the result of opposing forces. Our lives are meant to be lived in some measure of tension. Tension reminds us that there is more than we are capable of and also helps us to see where our limits might lie. Tension ensures that we do not remain stagnant but it also enables us to find the edges of our capacity. If you have never stretched a bungee cord as far as you can, you have never lived… unless you accidentally let it go at the limit of its tension, then you possibly died.
Tension is both exhilarating and frustrating at the same time. We experience tension in many different places – our relationships, our finances, our careers, our spirituality, even in our health. The tension is a reminder that we have not yet arrived at rest.
Sometimes, however, the tension is telling us that it’s time to let go. Sometimes tension is an indication that something is wrong and the very thing that we are holding onto needs to be released. Have you ever had your jacket or a sweater catch on something as you moving past it? First comes tension, and if the tension is not resolved, then comes tearing.
Tension is fine but tearing is destructive.
For the last six months, I have been working among a group of people in Kansas City that have a very strong and clear vision for their community. Initially, we felt welcomed and even celebrated for our contribution to what they were doing. Never at any time did I feel like I was not given the freedom to be myself but over the course of time I began to feel more and more tension in my spirit. That tension, as it became clearer, was the result of differences between what I was called to do and what they were called to do.
I am okay with tension for a season, but tension is a signpost that is trying to tell us something. There is a conflict at work here. If you ignore the signs too long, you are going to end up tearing.
So last Monday, I decided to release the tension before it became a tear. I resigned my position at the community I was a part of and once again embraced the unknown that comes from living a life led by the Holy Spirit. Though there were some unresolvable differences that led to the decision, making the choice to leave when we did allowed it to remain amicable.
One of the greatest challenges in life is deciding between what is good and what is best. Sometimes it is hard to tell until the decision is made and everyone has moved on. A week later, I know we made the right decision for our family and for the church we were a part of.
The question from many of you who have followed our journey over the years will be, “what now?”
I have some things in the works at the moment but nothing concrete. Both KC and I have some work that can fall back on for a season (so, no this is not a support letter!) and we will continue to trust the Lord as our source of provision. All I can really say is that KC and I feel the wind at our backs for the first time in a long time. We are genuinely excited about the future, hopeful, and thankful that the Lord really does know what He is doing.
Thanks for your continued support and encouragement over the years…
Ben and KC Woodward