Lay Your Burdens Down

BSSM logoMy wife and I are on the cusp of beginning as students at a school called Bethel School Of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM), based in Redding, California. Whether you have heard of it or not is hardly relevant to me, but suffice it to say: Five years ago, I wouldn’t have considered applying to such a school.

That statement begs a very natural question: Then how did you end up there?

The answer is rather lengthy, and I will forgive you entirely if you bail on the next set of posts. I will strive for a balance of concise yet detailed — I can’t guarantee whether I’ll hit either. But for those of you who have been asking for some of the back story on our current season of life, I’ll offer what I can.

A few pieces of background information might help those of you who don’t know me personally. I grew up on the Canadian prairies, attending church at least once a week within a conservative Evangelical denomination known as the Churches of Christ. (Many inside and outside of our movement might debate my use of the words “Evangelical” or “denomination”, but they can sort that out on their own blogs. :-)) This heritage was a real gift, fostering in me a love and reverence toward Scripture, and a desire to seek after the simple Gospel.  My church settings have always been rather small, and even near the age of 40, I’ve never spent significant time in a church numbering more than 200. I was baptized at age 15, and the whole time before and since, I’ve been surrounded by genuinely good people who have desired to seek God’s will with sincerity and follow Jesus in faithfulness. More people than I can count have directed love and kindness my way.

fork in roadAround the age of 18, I began discerning a call toward ministry as a profession. It began quietly and increased in volume until I could no longer shrug it off, despite my best efforts. I remember quite vividly a “fork moment” when it felt very clear that God was allowing me full freedom to choose my path. Even so, I felt a strong conviction that if I pursued any future other than full-time ministry, I would experience future regret every time I looked across the gap from the path I’d chosen to the path I should have. That was over two decades ago. Certainly, there have been days along the way when ministry has provided mighty challenges, but I’m not sure I’ve ever looked back with regret. I think I’m right where I’m supposed to be.

As for where I am specifically these days (BSSM), let’s see if I can sketch out the first few steps of that journey before this post is done.

robin markIn January 2010, I attended the largest Christian conference in Western Canada. Sitting in a darkened assembly of 2000 worshipers, I sought the Lord in the songs of Irish worship leader Robin Mark. One of his best loved tunes at that point was a song called “Revival”. Its lyrics look like this, as the tune builds from a single wistful voice all the way to its full-on fiddle-fest, whistle-blowing, belt-it-at-full-volume climax:

I hear the voice of one calling, prepare ye the way of the Lord.
And make His paths straight in the wilderness
And let your light shine in the darkness
And let your rain fall in the desert.

As sure as gold is precious and the honey sweet,
So you love this city and you love these streets.
Every child out playing by their own front door
Every baby laying on the bedroom floor.

Every dreamer dreaming in her dead-end job
Every driver driving through the rush hour mob
I feel it in my spirit, feel it in my bones
You’re going to send revival, bring them all back home

I can hear that thunder in the distance
Like a train on the edge of town
I can feel the brooding of Your Spirit
“Lay your burdens down, Lay your burdens down”.

From the Preacher preaching when the well is dry
To the lost soul reaching for a higher high
From the young man working through his hopes and fears
To the widow walking through the veil of tears

Every man and woman, every old and young
Every fathers daughter, every mothers son.
I feel it in my spirit, feel it in my bones
You’re going to send revival, bring them all back home

I can hear that thunder in the distance
Like a train on the edge of town
I can feel the brooding of Your Spirit
“Lay your burdens down, Lay your burdens down”.

Revive us, Revive us,
Revive us with your fire!

By this point in time, I had been working at my current job with the Glen Elm Church of Christ, for approximately 4 years. Since beginning in 2006, they had been a caring congregation with whom I was grateful to spend my days. My wife and I enjoyed a satisfying marriage, with our second child on the way. Life was full of good things, and if you would’ve interviewed me about the state of my heart five minutes before “the moment”, I would have replied, “I’m doing quite well. Thanks for asking.”

“The moment” arrived somewhere in the midst of that song, with not a second of forewarning. It was an experience of revelation. That’s the feeling when a veil gets lifted or a light pierces darkness. You see what you never saw, despite the fact that it might have been right in front of you. Or right inside you. In the singing of the lines “lay your burdens down,”  I was hit  with an overwhelming and undeniable realization: My heart was heavily burdened — bent over and breathing raggedly and in a state of distress. I returned home seeking understanding. Like any person, I had stresses in my life. My wife and I both worked jobs that didn’t really turn off at the end of the day, we were raising a young family, and our church was in a season of change that involved care and wisdom. Still, it boggled my brain that my heart might feel so heavy, while my mind – less than a foot away – was oblivious. If something was so wrong, what was it?

Boy, I was about to find out.

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