I’ve been a fan of singer songwriter John Prine since I bought his self-titled debut album back in 1973. He is admittedly an acquired taste. Early on, he was regularly compared to Bob Dylan. As a singer, he’s no threat to anyone in the music business. His great gift is as a songwriter. His melodies are deceptively simple. As a lyricist, he easily holds his own with the best of his generation. His songs move easily between whimsy and melancholy, from warm and nostalgic to achingly sad.
His songs have been covered by some of the best. Johnny Cash. The Everly Brothers. John Denver. Carly Simon. George Strait. Kris Kristofferson. Tammy Wynette. You get the idea.
One of John Prine’s better-known songs is called Spanish Pipedream, better known by its subtitle – Blow Up Your TV. The song tells of two aimless people who find one another in a lonely honky tonk in some unnamed town and who end up dancing together. Just as the juke box breaks, the woman whispers a subversive challenge in the ear of her dance partner.
Blow up your TV
Throw away your papers
Move to the country
Build you a home
Plant a little garden
Eat a lot of peaches
Try to find Jesus on your own.
And that’s exactly what the aimless couple decides to do. By the time the song ends, we learn that their escape plan has been a wild success. “To this day we’ve been living our way, and here is the reason why – we blew up our TV…”
That’s what Jim and Sally Hohnberger did. Here’s how he describes their decision back in the 1980’s to move to a log cabin near Glacier National Park and to live as a family on $500 a month.
"We were young and educated. We owned a successful business, a beautiful home, and expensive vehicles. We even had a great reputation in our church.
"But underneath the veneer of success, our lives were busied, pushed, and stressed. Our marriage was troubled, our Christian experience was superficial, and we didn't really know our children.
"Convinced that pursuing the "American Dream" was robbing us of an authentic walk with God, we sold everything and set off for the Montana wilderness in search of the 'Enoch experience.'"
The Enoch experience would be a reference to one of the sons of Cain in the book of Genesis. We are told that Enoch walked with God. That’s what the Hohnbergers were searching to experience when they exited the fast lane and moved their family to the log cabin.
Jim Hohnberger says that he and his wife were responding to Psalm 46:10 when they made their decision to move to the country. That familiar verse calls us to find God by “be(ing) still.”
But I don’t think the Sons of Korah who wrote Psalm 46 had the 21st century pace of life in view when they wrote what has come to be seen as a prescription for serenity and solitude as a way to find God. In fact, I don’t think Psalm 46:10 is a call from God to a personal retreat day (as beneficial as that may be).
The New American Standard Version helps us understand what’s at the heart of Psalm 46:10 by offering an alternative way to translate the phrase “be still.”
Chuck Swindoll writes “the command ‘Cease striving’ comes from the Hebrew imperative verb meaning "sink down, let drop, relax." Most people quote this verse in a soothing, reassuring tone, like a serene invitation to enjoy the fellowship of God. It is, in fact, a rebuke.”
Swindoll goes on to explain how the Hebrews were warring against their enemies. “There's a subtle suggestion,” he writes, “that their aggressive attempts to defend themselves are making matters worse rather than better.”
“Does this sound familiar? Do you live in strife and panic? Is there a fretful spirit about you? Have your self-protective attempts caused more harm than good? …God has called you to "cease striving," to end the perpetual, frenetic grind to overcome difficulties too big for you.”
Martin Luther knew what the Psalmist was getting at when he told the Hebrew children to “be still.” When Luther turned Psalm 46 into a hymn, he wrote this:
Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing.
Were not the right man on our side, the man of God’s own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He.
Lord Sabaoth (The Lord of Hosts) His name, from age to age the same
And He must win the battle.
So if you’ve followed me this far, from John Prine to Jim Hohnberger to Chuck Swindoll to Martin Luther, here’s the point.
If you’re overwhelmed by life’s circumstances, you don’t need to simplify or downsize or blow up your TV and move to the country and grow peaches. There’s nothing wrong with any of those options. And any of those choices might help you reprioritize your life.
But in the end, the key to dealing with the strife we face in our lives is to surrender. To cease striving. To rest in the love and sovereignty of God.
I have to believe there is someone reading this newsletter who needs to be reminded to be still and to find your rest in God. And as Dave Harvey reminded us on Sunday, there is a connection between being still and walking by faith, believing that God is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
So take a deep breath. Relax. Be still. And cease striving. God’s got you.
I know most of you have your RCC Spring Calendar in a place where you can see it regularly. But we’ve added a few events that we want to make sure you’re aware of.
First, on Sunday, March 3, we’ll be heading down to our new church home right after our worship service. We’ll take Sharpies with us so we can write prayers and scripture verses on the wooden studs before the sheetrock gets hung. And everyone can begin to get oriented to our new church home.
By the way, here’s a sneak peek inside our new worship center:
Then the following Sunday, March 10, we’ll once again stay after our worship service for an all church meal, followed by our annual church business meeting and an update on our transition plans. Here’s the info:
It’s not too late to join with other women from our church to study the book of Ephesians every Monday night.
It’s just seven weeks away. We’ll have more details very soon.
It’s Kid’s Small Group week. Thursday night, February 7, at 5:45.
A lot of people over the years have understood a couple of short parables Jesus told about patching holes in your clothes storing new wine as meaning that Jesus is advocating using culturally relevant ways to communicate the old message of the gospel. But is that what Jesus was teaching with these parables found in Luke 5?
We’ll find out this Sunday.
See you in church.
Soli Deo Gloria!