Ridge Burns's blog

1960

I wonder what it would be like if this pandemic had happened in 1960—when there were rotary phones and no internet. We wouldn’t be able to get on Zoom calls with each other—there would be no way for us to communicate except face-to-face. News would be Walter Cronkite for half an hour every night, not constant news coming at you. I would say that two things would happen: the first thing is that we’d stop the information overload. One of the problems we have right now is not knowing who to trust. What news stream should you listen to? Which bias do you take into your life? I don't like that we are barraged with news and everything is live, everything is instantaneous. There’s no time to process or think. There's no time to put things into perspective. The second thing that would be different is that our support group would become our neighborhoods. My support group right now is a group of people who Zoom call together. We share this common experience virtually, but not face-to-face. If this would’ve happened in 1960, our neighbors would have shared their meals with each other. We would have had long conversations on the driveway—with masks, six feet away—but it would be face-to-face. It wouldn't be: rush inside, shut your garage door, and get on the Internet on a Zoom call so you can know what's going on. I think technology has robbed us of some things. It's robbed us of true community. It's robbed us of things that are important towards our own growth. It's robbed us of being human. Don't get me wrong, I’m thankful for the internet. I'm thankful for the convenience, and all the things that the internet and technology gives us, but I need to count the cost...

Kindness

I went to the grocery store recently with our daughter, Barrett, who is weathering the quarantine together with us. The store was very crowded. There was a young lady—probably high school age—who was collecting the carts, sanitizing them, and putting them in order so that people could grab them quickly. While pushing a train of these carts, somehow her finger got jammed between two of them and it hurt her. She stood there, waving her hand, then walked away talking to herself trying to cope with the pain. But what she didn't realize is that she had left the carts in a place where no one could get in or out of the store. Everybody was stopped. She was focused on her finger and people were getting mad and angry because they were being inconvenienced and not able to get into the store. I have to admit I kind of felt that way too and wanted to say, “Can you move some stuff so we can get out of here?” But my daughter looked at the girl and said, “Can I help you?” It was the kindest, nicest thing. It was amazing to watch. The girl said, “No, I’m okay.” But it visibly stopped me and the other people standing around waiting on her—we were all struck by what a kind thing it was to say. It was the right thing to do. It's what the Bible says is one of the fruits of the Spirit: kindness. It was stepping into the other person’s shoes and saying, “Look, I know you don't like what's going on, but can I help you? Can we work together to solve this problem?” That's what we need during this quarantine period. We need just plain good old-fashioned kindness.

Isolation

The first two or three weeks of this quarantine were kind of fun—I had time to do projects around the house, time to do some thinking, lots of great conversations with my wife, RobAnne. It was great. When we got to four or five weeks, things didn’t feel so great. However, I could still go on. But this week is not good. The only word that I can use to describe it is: isolation. I don't feel connected to people. I don't feel connected to institutions. I don't feel connected to our church. It's simply because there's something missing. What is it that causes me to feel so isolated? At times I even feel like God is socially distancing from me—as if He’s six feet away—close but not close enough. I can see him, but I'm not really experiencing Him. I realize that part of this feeling of extreme isolation stems from the fact that we can no longer touch each other. You can't shake hands or do a group hug. You are simply alone with your feelings. I read online that physical touch is an important element of trust. People who you can touch, you tend to trust more. It's a basic ingredient. I've lost my ability to connect with another human being. I mean, I’m having great talking times with RobAnne and my daughter—who’s currently home, but beyond that I am isolated. So I went to the Lord this morning and I asked, “What can I do to break through this isolation?” There’s a lot of spiritual, religious talk that’s saying, “This is the time for you to draw near to God and get away.” But if I'm going to get away, I want it to be my choice. I want to run to God because it’s my...

It's Just Not the Same

I recently joined an online men’s Bible study from our church. Because I travel so much, I’m not usually able to go to Bible studies or even make long-term weekly commitments. But this is one thing I thought I could do and so I got online. There were thirteen of us on the call and we were studying the book of James. We kind of shared our lives together, then introduced the scriptures and discussed it. It was good, but you know it just wasn’t the same. We’re wired to have face-to-face, person-to-person contact. We are wired as human beings to have interactions—not electronically—but face-to-face with each other. I know we can't do it now. But it just wasn't the same. It wasn't because of the people or the content or the leadership—it's just not the same meeting electronically. I'm praying that this current experience will give us a hunger to get together and share significant and real things. As we emerge from this time of isolation, may we have such a hunger to get together that the church will become cells of community—small families of connection—instead of just a large body worshiping together. The other thing that I hope comes out of this time of isolation is that we remember the special places in our lives that we were too busy to notice before. I'm sitting on my patio underneath my umbrella looking at the snowcapped mountains. I just love this space. I feel like God has been meeting me here. I’ve sat in these chairs before at the of the end of the day, relaxing and listening to a ball game, but now suddenly they’ve become a sanctuary to me. They’ve become a place where God meets me—a place where God is. It's become sacred. And nothing changed...

Wisdom

Proverbs 13:10 says, “Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.” I have been in a CEO position for 36 years. I've hired a lot of people. I have to admit that I've hired some who are absolutely amazing, on fire, qualified, highly-motivated, wonderful people. And I’ve made some mistakes with people I’ve hired who I thought were good. I’ve even hired people that other people told me not to hire, but I hired them anyway—knowing that I could “make something out of them” and create a culture that would make them succeed. Pride breeds only quarrels. I can think of several people that I've hired that I just felt like I was always at odds with. But wisdom is found in those who take advice. Brian Mackey is our Senior Director of Human Resources. He's a great guy. He comes from a great family, loves the Lord, and loves prayer. He was promoted from within to this management-level position. I was interviewing him and asking him about his qualifications and his confidence level and all the things you do when you're trying to assess whether this is the right person. I got all done with my questions and, as always, I asked him, “Do you have any questions?” He took out a piece of paper and wrote a chemical equation on it and said, “This equation has to be balanced—each side needs to have the same values.” I thought, “Why is he doing this?” He showed me how to do it. Then he wrote another equation out and said, “Now you balance it.” It was a shocker. I'm not good at math. I didn't know what I was doing. But he helped me by asking me questions and giving me some ideas and doing...

Virtual Church Vs. Fellowship

Because of the pandemic, we have not gone to church for multiple weeks. The first week, before we knew the full force of the virus in the U.S., we gathered a group of people together and had a great time of singing and praying. In the following weeks, RobAnne and I have spent the time prayer walking, asking the Lord to show us certain things and to be able to understand His will. It’s really pointed out to me how addicted we are to church. I’m not talking about the big C “Church,” I'm talking about our local churches. We have positioned our local churches and buildings into the place where we get our spiritual food and blessing, where we understand the body of Christ and live out Kingdom promises. All of that is true about the local church — but the problem I have is that if we're not careful, it becomes our only source. God wants to deal with each one of us individually. He wants to talk to you as a person. He wants to know you and have a conversation with you — not because someone else has invited you — because He invites you. There's something wonderful about the last few Sunday mornings as RobAnne and I have invited the Holy Spirit and the person and work of Jesus Christ to fill our thoughts, our minds, and our words. As we’ve walked, we’ve been able to declare His glory and His majesty. As well as bring questions and concerns to Him and lift up people who are hurting and those who need to be healed. It's been a great time when nobody has told us what to do but God. Could it be that maybe God has brought us to this place where we can't...

The Difference Between Being Alone and Aloneness

I must admit, I’m not really excited about this self-quarantine. I like my freedoms. I like to come and go. I like the outdoors. I love crowds. So being holed up in our home has been a little bit of a difficult stretch for me. It's made me feel an aloneness—that I’m isolated from the world. I can’t quite get my bearings with other people. There’s a big difference between aloneness and being alone. God calls us to come to Him alone, quietly, so He can speak to us. “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” the Bible says. This idea of seeking God alone is much different than aloneness. Aloneness is when you feel isolated, like I do. So, what do you do if you’re in this “aloneness” stage? Let me give you four things. First, create a time of worship where you listen to Christian music and speak out themes in the Bible and just worship our God. Second, get involved in a ministry. Find out which of your neighbors are struggling and help them. Write a note to someone who you haven't seen in a while but who has been impactful in your life. Do a surprising amount of ministry, even when you can't go outside. Third, build a strong prayer life. Talk to the Lord, seek Him, know Him so that there is a sense of communication that takes place. Finally, separate time to dream. You have more time. So, dream about what God wants to do in your life and the ministry you’re involved in. Dream a little. Cut loose. Don’t let the routine of life, which has been shattered by this crisis, rob you of the opportunity to dream of the future.

The Crisis Has Focused Us

With the reality of this crisis, we at InFaith have begun to think about what it is that we do that is currently unnecessary. How has this crisis altered what we think is important and what we know is strategic for us to do? We decided that the care of our missionaries is the most important thing we can do. We are a mission agency that loves, cares, supports, and walks alongside our missionaries on the field. So this crisis has caused us to laser focus on that care and cut away what we are doing that doesn't accomplish that particular goal. This crisis has also had us focus on our own self-care. It's amazing when you begin to be defensive about who you touch, who you stand next to, who’s riding in the airplane with you. You can get selfish or you can realize, “I'm doing this because of the care I have of my own being and for my family.” It's amazing to me how many people have just simply denied there is a problem with this virus and meet in groups and hold parties – all of which I believe are selfish acts because they could be spreading the virus around. Finally, this crisis has focused us on the unseen. There are probably a million bloggers that have written on Ephesians 6:12 which reads, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers and authorities and against the powers of darkness and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” There is a sense that we are being attacked by something we can't see, we can't control, we can’t hedge around it. It will take major self-discipline on our part to slow down this virus because it’s unseen. But what we need to...

The Crisis Has Brought Us Together

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” It then proceeds to list a whole variety of things. I believe we're in a season where being apart has really brought us together. This is happening in our staff. We looked at the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity to turn our work toward each other and toward worshiping God. We spent some time in His Word, some time listening to God, and sharing what God had revealed to us during our time alone with Him. The most amazing thing happened—even though we were meeting virtually, and not in the same room—we felt a deeper unity. When people shared, they shared more deeply than they would in the regular rigors of our daily work life. We can tend to go to our desks and cocoon ourselves, maybe not physically, but emotionally and sociologically we isolate ourselves. But this crisis has brought us together because there’s a little more time for us to slow down. The pace of life has necessarily been reduced because we can’t do things as quickly and efficiently as we have in the past. So, it causes us to work together as a group. The crisis has brought us together.

Forty-Eight Percent

In doing some research on the state of young people and church in the United States, I discovered that of the students who were in evangelical church youth groups, went to camp, and did mission trips, only 48% of them still value their faith by the time they're thirty years old. That's pretty disturbing. If you dig deeper, you find out that they are often hurt by theology. Some kids who grow up in charismatic situations really struggle with how to live out their faith as adults. The students who grew up in a more evangelical mainstream church often struggle with the relevancy of the church to what they deal with in everyday life. Another interesting thing to consider is that the way we do worship—with so much supporting material, lights, and projected words—has overshadowed the simple Christian life of being by yourself, spending time alone, and allowing God to speak to you in personal ways. We as Christian leaders need to really consider how we capture this generation. What are we going to do to bring our people together in a way that allows them to see the glory of God without distraction? We need to go after that forty-eight percent.

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