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Posts Tagged ‘modern worship’

He wasn’t fond of spending time on the computer, but it was the only way he was able to work from home.  To keep business from infiltrating his day to day life, he kept his computer in the office, and his phone notifications turned off. 

He normally checked his e-mail at the beginning and end of every work day, and didn’t worry about it any other time.  Frequently, his Inbox would get clogged with SPAM, and he’d have to do a purge.  Her e-mail was very nearly a casualty of one of those dumps.

The subject line included the name of the online dating service that brokered the contact, and he knew that he’d never have any interest in that sort of thing; but just as he was about to hit the delete button, he remembered a conversation he’d had with his sister (Candace). 

She’d voiced her concern about how much time he spent alone, and his apparent disinterest in the dating process.  He reasoned that if it was meant to be, he shouldn’t need to do anything to make it happen, while she argued that his solitary lifestyle wasn’t likely to create an opportunity to make a genuine connection with anyone. 

She finished the conversation by threatening to set him up with a profile on one of the popular dating sites.  He didn’t think that she was serious, but apparently she had been.

The message provided a brief explanation, which indicated that this girl didn’t really care for the whole on-line dating scene, but that the demands of her career kept her from having a lot of free time for socializing.  It further expressed her interest in making a connection, which included a link to her profile.

He found himself reluctant to click on the link, as though it might be opening Pandora’s Box.  He loved the simplicity of his life, though he could not deny that he yearned for someone to share it with.  Even so, he couldn’t shake the sense that this wasn’t the way to go about it.  After several moments of hesitation, he finally steered his mouse to the file, and took the plunge.

She loved on-line dating apps.  It was a great way to avoid the most awkward elements of traditional dating.  No walking up to a stranger, asking for a dance, or trying to make some sort of meaningful conversation.  This system allowed her to do some research, and to plan a strategy.  Though people often exaggerated, or flat out lied on their profiles, she had developed a pretty intricate system for checking prospects out. 

When she came upon his profile, it seemed oddly understated.  It was almost as if it were put together as an afterthought.  It had the standard nonsense about loving animals, kids, the outdoors, long walks, holding hands, meaningful conversation…, and she very nearly clicked off it.  But as she scanned through the pictures, she noticed a few details that intrigued her. 

He was definitely a good looking guy, and about the same age, though the latter wasn’t necessarily a requirement for her.  He had a lot of horse pictures, which included some nice shots of a picturesque barn and pasture, along with a deluxe hauling rig (i.e. matching F350 pickup & fifth wheel horse trailer).  Given the area he was from, she guessed that this must be his place, and combined with his claim of being an Architect, she felt certain that he must have some serious money.

After years of dating guys from the city, she felt like finding someone from outside her circle might be a nice change of pace.  She liked that this guy didn’t seem to be going for the hard sell, though she worried that he might be some kind of Boy Scout.  She was able to cross reference his name to a LinkedIn account, and through that she was able to verify that he was both educated, and highly successful.  That was all she needed to know.  She copied and pasted her spiel from the last introduction e-mail she’d sent, and waited for a reply.

He wasn’t sure what to expect, but his screen seemed to explode with colorful banners, pictures, and text.  It appeared to be a pretty intricate web design for a dating site.  It certainly gave him the sense of looking at a magazine spread. 

He discovered that “Linda” was a Regional Sales Manager for a high end department store chain, which was headquartered in the city.  It said that she loved animals, the outdoors, long walks, holding hands, meaningful conversations…, but he noticed that in all of her pictures she was formally dressed, in heels, with full makeup, up-do hair styles, and that she often had a drink in her hand.

Despite the wide array of information contained on her page, he found nothing that would indicate why this girl would have any interest in him.  That made him curious about what his sister had put in his profile.  After navigating through the webpage for a few minutes, he finally found his profile, and clicked on it. 

It was decidedly less spectacular than Linda’s; almost embarrassingly so.  He was glad that Candace hadn’t claimed anything that he would have to deny, but he wondered what this woman could possibly have seen in it.  Again, he hesitated, and again, he could hear his sister’s voice in his head.  Reluctantly, he began to compose his response.

She only scanned through the first paragraph of his response, which explained his sister’s involvement in signing him up for the website, and the confession that he didn’t really get into town much.  Rolling her eyes, she mouthed the words, “Boy Scout” under her breath.  She sensed he was about to respectfully decline, when he mentioned her expressed love of animals, and offered an afternoon of horseback riding at his ranch.  That was all she needed to confirm that he was as loaded as she’d guessed, and she quickly formulated her response.

Though he didn’t see her e-mail until the following morning, he was surprised to note how quickly she had responded.  Upon reading her reply, he was embarrassed to realize that he’d already made a significant social misstep, as she explained her reluctance for their initial meeting to be in such a private and remote setting. 

Though he didn’t really have a desire to make a trip into the city, he was now self-conscious about turning down her offer to meet at a more public place; afraid that it would appear as though he had indeed been trying to lure her into some sort of compromising situation.  It was probably his eagerness to demonstrate that this wasn’t the case that caused him to respond, “Pick whatever restaurant you’d like, and I’ll make a reservation”.

She smiled when she got his message, sensing that her plan to shame him into an expensive dinner had worked.  This was also a chance to see how well connected he was, as reservations for “Au Clair De Lune” weren’t easy to come by.  Being seen there, with a good looking guy that no one really knows could only do good things for her social stature.  She typed in the place and the desired date, then punched the send button.

Her response confirmed to him that the pictures he’d seen on her profile page were probably a better representation of who she was than the words she’d used to describe herself.  It wasn’t really the expense of the place she’d picked that bothered him, but he had a special dislike for French Nouvelle cuisine.  He tried to restrain his skepticism, but it was hard not to feel as though he’d walked into a setup.  The one upside to her choice of restaurants was that he had done some work for the owners of the high-rise it was in, so getting a reservation wasn’t too difficult.  After messaging her with the information, he added it to his calendar, and tried not to dread it.

His apparent ease at getting a reservation for a Friday night only served to raise the stakes for her.  “Good looking, loaded, and connected,” she thought to herself.  Smiling, she began to formulate her strategy for the evening, and to think of the social media posts she might do. 

In the days leading up to the date, she coyly spoke of the “new man in her life” to friends and co-workers, giving no hint that they’d never actually met.  On the day of their dinner, she picked an outfit that she felt sure would attract his eye without coming off as overly provocative.  She was still convinced that he was a Boy Scout, but she wore some lacey undergarments, just in case she might be wrong.

He left for the city right after getting the horses fed that morning, figuring that he could do some work from his office there, so as to avoid driving in during the evening traffic.  Since both of their offices were fairly close to the restaurant, he briefly considered suggesting that they walk over, but he felt sure that she wouldn’t be in walking type shoes, and decided against it.  As he pulled into the circular drive in front of her office building, he smiled as he noticed her large spikey heels.  Rolling up to the curb, he quickly put the car in park, and jumped out to greet her.

Walking up to her, he said, “You must be Linda”.

Somewhat startled, she answered, “Oh, and you must be Paul”.

Reaching toward her, he extended his hand awkwardly.  She hesitated for a brief instant, and then grasped his hand and shook it.  “It’s a pleasure to meet you” he said.

She still looked a little bewildered, so he asked, “This is where you wanted me to pick you up, isn’t it?”

“Oh, yes,” she stammered.  “I guess I was looking for a pickup truck, and not a Lexus”.

Opening the car door for her, he responded, “Yeah, it’s a little tough trying to maneuver a truck around these streets, so I figured this might work a little better for us.” 

As she slid into the passenger seat, she smiled to herself.  He was sharper and more attractive than she’d imagined, and the Lexus was a nice surprise.  She half expected him to show up in cowboy boots and a bolo tie, so she was relieved to see that he knew how to dress, and carry himself.  Of course, the clumsy handshake was pure Mr. Rogers.  Even so, she felt confident that he was going to be a fine accessory for her evening.

As he made his way around the car, he tried to shake off the awkwardness of the moment.  He’d never been on a blind date, and he was at a loss as to what to talk about.  As they pulled onto the street he made a comment about the downtown traffic, and she shared that she never drove in the city, opting for Uber’s or cabs instead.  She chuckled at his confession that he’d never been in either one of those before.  Though the restaurant was only a few blocks away, it took several minutes, and a lot of forced small talk, to get there.  Thankfully, the restaurant had a Valet, so he didn’t have to find parking.

As the Valet opened her door, she slowly stepped onto the busy sidewalk. Paul quickly came alongside her, and she hooked her arm to his.  Absorbing the envious stares of onlookers, she made her way into the cordoned entryway. She felt like a celebrity as she passed through the velvet ropes toward the doorway, and imperceptibly looked for familiar faces amongst the crowd.  Stopping, she handed the doorman her phone and asked him to take a picture of them.  Though it seemed a bit uncouth, she knew that she’d need the shot for a social media post.  Once inside, the noise of the street gave way to the low murmur of a busy eatery, with a cool jazz soundtrack.  It took her eyes a moment to adjust to the lowlight.

Paul was surprised by the way Linda had grabbed hold of him, and pulled him close to her.  When he saw their reflection in the door, they looked very much like a couple, which seemed odd given their brief and bumbling introduction.  He didn’t sense any warmth or affection in it, so he wondered if she wasn’t just nervous.  He briefly considered that she may have been doing it for effect, but he quickly dismissed that idea as overly cynical.

As they waited to be seated, she quickly scanned the room, trying to take in every bit of the ambiance, and hoping to see someone she knew.  As they made their way to the table, she recognized an older gentleman, who was an executive at the corporate office, and she stopped to greet him.  He introduced his wife, and she introduced Paul, before they continued on.

Paul was caught off guard by her unannounced stop, and he sensed that this man’s wife wasn’t exactly thrilled to have their meal interrupted.  He also felt as though Linda was speaking rather loudly, as people from other tables seemed to be looking at them.  Again, he had to push away the suspicion that this was intentional, and excused it as nerves.

As they reached the table, he pulled out the chair for Linda, and she smiled brightly as she slipped into it.  She seemed to be sending decidedly mixed signals, at times giddy, and at other moments, aloof.  When the Maître D asked if they would be needing wine service, she looked to Paul wistfully.  Though he wasn’t much of a drinker, and he knew that he had a long drive home at the end of the evening, he didn’t want to make their shaky start any less stable, so he nodded that they would, and offered that she pick the wine.  This seemed to please her.

When the Wine Steward listed the various vintages that were available, it was clear to Paul that Linda had no idea what to order, but before he could step in, she asked the Steward what he recommended.  Given that the server didn’t inquire about what they planned to eat, Paul was confident that this bottle of wine would be pricey.  Again, he chose to say nothing, and to allow things to play out.

Linda watched Paul carefully as she selected the wine, looking for any hint that he might be concerned about the cost.  His lack of visible reaction only spurred her sense that she’d hit the jackpot.  Though she wasn’t particularly hungry, she ordered a full five courses to enhance the experience of being “wined and dined”.  Paul tried to make small talk, but she was more interested in soaking in the ambiance. 

A few times he seemed to hit on a topic of interest to her, but she inevitably turned the conversation back to the restaurant, and how great everything was.  She continued to scan the room for familiar faces, and at one point, she took a picture of Paul, for a “Check-In” post on social media.  She was delighted to hear her phone buzzing with reactions throughout the rest of the meal.

As the meal went on, Paul became fatigued by his attempts to sustain a conversation.  He found that Linda was willing to briefly talk about work, sports, and entertainment, but that she had little interest in discussing anything personal, or that had any sort of depth or meaning.  The only question she asked of him was about his work, and as he tried to answer, she looked both distracted and disinterested. 

She did appear to be enjoying both the food, and the wine, even though she only seemed to sample each course instead of actually eating it.  With most of her dinner still on the plate, she ordered dessert, coffee, and aperitifs.  Paul welcomed the coffee, while passing on the liqueur.  Though he found himself ready for this meal to end, she seemed to be doing her best to keep it going.

Linda thoroughly enjoyed the food, as she took pictures of everything before trying it.  She wanted to make sure to have plenty of photos for her posts, documenting her evening at “Au Clair De Lune”.  As the meal wound down, she was tempted to order a second dessert, but she had to admit that she was completely stuffed, and didn’t want to seem greedy. 

Because they were having such a good time, she wondered if Paul might be willing to take her to a club, or bar to meet some friends.  It also occurred to her that he might want to go back to her place.  Though he didn’t seem the type, she wondered if he wouldn’t expect a little quid pro quo for all money he’d just laid out for dinner.  Though she didn’t find herself exceptionally motivated in that direction, she did believe that it was probably fair, and was willing to entertain the idea.

Paul nearly choked on his coffee when Linda chirped, “So what’s next?”  He was more than ready to call it a night, and take her back to her car.  Though he tried to be careful of her feelings, he was absolutely resolved that he wasn’t going to extend the evening.  Politely, he mentioned the early start to his day, and his long drive home, before indicating that he probably just needed to get her back to her car.

He was relieved that she didn’t seem offended by that, but was a little disappointed when she reminded him that she didn’t drive into the city, and that she would need a ride home.  Going 40 minutes in the wrong direction wasn’t good news, but knowing that this date could be over within the hour provided a needed boost of energy.

Linda tried to sneak a peek when the waiter laid the bill on the table, but Paul picked it up before she could get a good look.  Again, she noticed that he didn’t seem to flinch at the amount, which made her smile.  She excused herself to go to the ladies room, in order to “freshen up” just in case things escalated at her place, and his noticeably more upbeat countenance as they left the restaurant made her feel as though that was a real possibility.  Though she wasn’t wildly attracted to him, she liked the idea that he might feel that way about her.

The conversation seemed to flow more easily as Paul took Linda home.  This was probably because he gave up on learning more about her, and simply talked about traffic, the rapid transit system, the length of her commute, the neighborhood she lived in…  Without the distraction of the restaurant, Linda seemed more engaged, and strangely warmer than she’d been.  The noticeable change in her countenance caused Paul to suspect that she was beginning to feel all the wine and liqueur she’d had with dinner.  As they pulled onto her street, he wrestled with the best way to handle his, “Good-night”.

As the ride home went on, Linda found herself even more receptive to the idea that Paul might come in, and stay for a while.  Though it had been a long day, the idea of being cuddled was appealing, and she was getting the vibe that he wanted her.  He clearly wasn’t her type, but with him not being local, it might turn into a nice little side benefit when he was in town.  When they pulled into the driveway, Paul jumped out to open her door, and she wrestled with the best way to let him know that he was “invited”.

When Paul pulled the door open, he expected that Linda would simply get out, but instead, she extended her hand to him.  When he grasped it, she pulled herself to her feet, and then toward him. 

With her face uncomfortably close to his, she looked into his eyes and seductively said, “You’re welcome to come in if you’d like.” 

Not wanting to offend her by pulling away, he lowered his eyes, and softly replied, “I think it’s best that I head home.” 

Seemingly undeterred, she said, “I guess that means we’ll have to say goodnight out here.”  With that, she pressed in to him, and kissed him passionately on the lips.

Paul was not at all expecting that, as he stared at her in stunned silence.

Linda could see that she’d rocked his world, and she could feel his temptation to give into her.  She smiled at him knowingly, and said, “We’ll have to do this again sometime.” 

Slowly, she pulled away from him, and made her way towards the front door.  She could feel his longing eyes on her, and wondered if he might change his mind.  But when she got to the stoop, she turned to see him backing out of the driveway, and she gave him a little wave. 

Entering the house, she decided that she wasn’t really disappointed.  She didn’t really want him, she just wanted to feel desired, and she’d gotten that from him.  This gave her time to draw a bath, relax, and to work on her social media posts. 

As she did those things it occurred to her that this had been the perfect date.  A good looking, well-connected, well-financed man; a Lexus; a table at an exclusive restaurant; wined, dined, and delivered to her front door.  No messy complications; no drama, nobody’s clothes to pick up in the morning…  What more could a girl ask for.

Paul found himself shaking his head as he drove down the interstate, wondering how he’d let himself fall into such a convoluted mess.  If this is what dating had become, he was amazed that anyone ever really got together.  Linda’s actions completely baffled him, as she was distracted and disinterested all night, only to passionately kiss him and invite him to consummate their relationship at the end.  When he got home, he immediately went to his computer, and deleted the profile his sister had made for him.

When I first got this story, I understood that it was meant to demonstrate a relational dynamic, where two peoples contrasting motivations and perceptions caused them to interpret the same situation differently.  Though that seemed very practical, and non-spiritual, I sensed that it was somehow associated with our relationship to God. 

In writing in out, switching back and forth between the perspectives was necessary to demonstrate the disparity in these two characters perceptions.  By the end, one had concluded that it was a smashing success, while the other felt as though it had been a complete disaster.

As I finished the story, I sensed that on some level it was representative of the Lord’s relationship with His Bride.  While He seeks a deeply personal, and committed relationship, He often encounters “followers” who are distracted, disinterested, and simply pursuing comfort, affirmation, and blessing.  That reduces Him to being a means to an end, instead of the end that is being pursued.  While I do believe that is addressed within this tale, I feel like the Lord eventually provided an even more specific context.

In the midst of praying about this writing, and what to do with it, I felt as though the Lord said that it speaks of the modern worship movement, and why it isn’t having more of an impact.  Certainly, if someone had told me years ago that arenas across America would be filled with “worshippers”, that worship groups would be doing international tours like rock stars, and that worship music would permeate the airwaves of every major radio market in the country, I would have thought that our culture, or at least “the church” would have been significantly impacted in some tangible way.  Yet, it’s hard to claim that it has been.

Though I do not sense that this is an indictment of the entire movement, I do believe that He is saying that many of those attracted to worship gatherings are like Linda in the story.  They are not really interested in a long-term, deep, meaningful, committed relationship; opting instead for something to make them feel special in the moment. 

Indeed, we generally gauge the value of a worship experience by the degree to which we are moved (emotionally, and spiritually) by it.  While in truth, it is only the object of the worship who can really judge whether or not the worship was “good”. 

There is little doubt that the Lord means for His people to be profoundly touched within moments of worship, but if our motivation to come is rooted in how it makes us feel, He can become incidental in the process (i.e. a tool to get what we really want).  In such cases, it becomes difficult to characterize the activity as worship; or at least not worship of Him.

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