Arena Faith

1:33 PMHeather

I love the group Casting Crowns.  I first heard of them through our friend, Todd, when he owned a local Christian bookstore.  At his advice, I bought their CD LifeSong.  I've loved the group ever since.  
I love all their music, and even went to see them in concert a few years back with Steven Curtis Chapman and Chris Tomlin.  That was a great concert in a huge arena.  I somehow managed to get tickets on the fourth row, which made it all that more enjoyable.  Thousands of others enjoying their music and singing along.  It was a fun night.  

Their lyrics speak to me, and many of their songs have inspired or encouraged me in regard to particular struggles.  I've pretty well decided that they are a go-to group when it comes to a new album.  I will like and enjoy whatever they put out there.  Biblically based.  Inspiring.  Encouraging.  

Good stuff.  

So, a few weeks ago, I was sitting in car pool line to pick up my youngest child.  I was scrolling through Facebook, and saw a post about a secret show that was going to be announced at 4:00 that day for the first 100 people who showed up to see Casting Crowns.  It was their way of giving back to fans and connecting to them.

Interesting.  It was a cold Thursday, and I had my evening mapped out.  But I was intrigued.  I was listening to 101.7, Air1 DFW, at the time.  And that is exactly where the show was to be announced.  In just 10 minutes.  

Baby girl and I pulled into our driveway just before 4.  I told her about it, and she agreed we should at least listen to the announcement.  Out of curiosity.  So Mark Hall comes on the radio and explains the secret show.  He then announces the city where the show would happen in 3 hours time.

Our little suburb.  

We looked at each other with big eyes.  

Then, he announces the location.  The fine arts studio where my girl took dancing and one of my guys took acting.  It's about 10 minutes away.

She squealed and said, "Let's go!  C'mon Mama.  Let's go!"  

Listen, if you know nothing else about me, know this.  I am not spontaneous.  I am a planner.  I can be spontaneous if given enough notice.  And it was cold.  And winter.  Which means I'm pretty much ready to huddle in for the night at about 7:00 pm.  Or, in other words, the exact time the show actually started.  

We climbed out of the van to go inside, while she tried to convince me we should go to this secret show.  We walked into the house and explained the situation to my 7th grade son.  He was all about it.  

He gets his spontaneity from his father.

I explained that I was NOT standing in the bitter cold for 3 hours.  Cooper asked if we could just go check it out.  HE would stand in the cold!  And what if we could show up, get tickets, and then come BACK for the show time?  Besides all of these objections, I was in yoga pants and a ball cap.  No make-up.  Just planning to duck my head all day and not be seen.  Like many Southern girls, I am not fit to be seen in public without my face on and my carefully selected wardrobe.

Yet in that brief moment of great debate, I decided to be the fun mom.  

So, we jumped into the van and sped right over to fight off the throngs of people and see if we might actually score a seat for the concert.  We didn't even stop to grab a coat or warmer clothes.  In our enthusiasm, we just went.

We were first to arrive.  We had our picture taken for Air1 and for Casting Crowns.  We were interviewed for the Casting Crowns website, and signed releases. This photo is my 10 seconds of fame, with my two youngest children, posted on the Casting Crowns official Instagram account.

Did I mention it was cold?  Do you see my daughter with no coat?  And my son in shorts?

A lady popped out of the studio and explained that as soon as sound check was over, they would let us in out of the cold.  

Hmm.  At the encouragement of my enthusiastic son, we stood in the cold and waited.  I sent my daughter to the van to stay warm.  I called my husband and other son, and made arrangements for them to join us.  In all the excitement of the moment, I also called my friend Amy who lives about 7 minutes away and told her for-the-love to hurry up and come and be the fifth in line!  Or they may miss this opportunity.  

So they came.  And we sat.  For a very long time, yes.  But after 45 minutes in the cold outside, it wasn't so bad sitting inside the little theater.  We sent the husbands two doors down to Subway to grab us dinner.  And we waited.  

There we were.  About 10 feet from the stage. Anticipation building until we were eye to eye with this group I've heard on the radio.  To say that the secret show was amazing would be an understatement.  I listened to their stories, about their group and their music, and I looked right into the whites of their eyes.  There was a new connection to this group.  And I found myself loving them even more.  

Because, you know, we are like practically BFF's now.  I got to shake their hands and say hello to each of them, and Mark Hall even gave me a high five during one of his songs.  

Yeah.  He and I go WAY back.

Their new CD, Thrive, has new meaning to me.  It feels like a deeper connection to the music because of my personal experience.  That secret show was such a once-in-a-lifetime experience that our whole family came home in disbelief.  That really happened, didn't it?  We really got to just do it?  We were on cloud nine.  We felt so privileged and honored.  It was just awesome.  And so worth stepping out of my comfort zone to be spontaneous.  To respond to the call.  To stand in the cold and be uncomfortable.  To call a friend to come be a part of it.  Because I wanted her and her family to share in the greatness.

This whole thing has been rattling around in my head since it happened.  

Because I've realized that for most of my life, I've had an arena faith.  I'm happy to buy the ticket and sit with the crowd and experience it all.  Clap along with the rest and maybe even sing along.  And there's a personal connection, but not too personal.  It's safe.  There in the big arena.  With all the others who are experiencing the same thing I am.  We see the show.  We think it's good.  We are fans.  At a safe distance.  

Don't ask too much of me.  I mean, I'll pay the set ticket price.  I'll check the schedule and decide if it works for me, then put it on my calendar.  You know--squeeze it in and make time for it.  Every now and then.  Because I love the performer!  I'm a fan.  So, put on a good show and make it worth my time.  Give me the songs I like and just the way I like them.  And then, maybe I'll even come back again. 

In other words, I'm a consumer.  Give me my commodity.  And we're all good.

But, this was different.  This secret show required an immediate response.  It required me to forgo my jammies and warm house and evening plans and to go stand in the cold.  Without knowing the details.  Without knowing the expectations of me.  Without knowing what was required.  Would I do it?  Would I be willing to go at a moment's notice?  

It was a little step of faith.  

Listen, bloggy friends, I know.  I wasn't asked to move to Africa.  But, it was still beyond my norm.  

And the pay-off was unbelievable.  Being there, invited to sit near them, to listen, to be part of it myself--it was unlike any other experience I had.  

And Jesus is asking the same of me.  Will I leave my arena faith behind?  Will I go when He calls, where He calls?  Will I sit, in His presence?  Near enough to experience Him as NEVER before?  Changed by that connection?  Changed by that intimacy?  Answering His call to come, just as I am.  Yoga pants.  Ball cap.  Make-up or not.  No pretenses.  No dress code. 

Because that's what He wants.  He doesn't want me to fill a seat in a big arena with some shallow faith.  He doesn't want me to just sit in the pew and clap along and then leave and say that was nice. Maybe even play his CD from time to time.

He wants me.  With Him.  Intimately.  Sitting in His presence.  NEAR Him.  Listening.  Soaking it all in.  Seeing the wonder of Him and the story of Him as never before.  Feeling it in a new and real way.  Changed by it.  Inviting my friends to join in.  To come sit.  Maybe in the cold.  Or maybe for a long time.  Pushing our plans and agendas aside.  Simply because He invited us in.  To sit at His feet.  To quit being a fan.  And to be a participant.  To fellowship.  And meet Him.  And to be changed by that.  To not just sit at a safe distance, but to interact with him.  Sit with Him.  Abide in Him.  Dwell with Him.  Be near to Him. 
Because He knows.  He knows that in so doing, I will experience something that will make me say, "Did that just really happen?"  I will experience something so new and mind blowing and amazing, and it will change me.

It will make me never want to have an arena faith again.  Because I realize how much better it can be.  And I no longer want to just sit with the crowd.  I want to move closer to Him, respond to His call, sit at His feet.  And listen.  

He is eager to throw a secret show for every single one of us, all the time, every day.  He is calling us to Him.  Just as we are.  And He says, "Come.  Sit with me.  Near me.  Be satisfied as never before.  It will make you want more.  You will want to invite others to this encounter with Me.  Because it will be amazing."

Arena faith no more.  I'm cashing in my ticket.  I'm lining up in the cold, just as I am.  And I'm saying, here I am.  Ready.  To meet you.  To be nearer every day.  Reveal yourself to me.  I want nothing but more of you.  Up close and personal.  Because all the other seats are just cheap seats.  I don't want to sit in the nose bleed section any more.  I want the relationship that grows from answering the call to the secret show.      

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