Gaining Altitude

Steve Liberti performing with Proclaim! International in Macedonia.

Some of you may know that we recently played for a promotional event for Proclaim! International, in support of Steve and Dawn Liberti.  (Steve is the drummer for the Manuel Luz Trio, among other things.)  The event was a dinner concert, and ML3 was invited to back up Proclaim! artists in a mini-concert.  I was excited to be able to play with John Bowers, Proclaim! Co-Director and bluesy guitarist, as well as Proclaim! staffers, Kim (saxophone extraordinaire) and Jeanne Peterson, all of whom flew in from Jacksonville, Florida.

The purpose of the event was to raise awareness for this missions organization and raise support for the Liberti family, as they have felt the call to move to Europe and be full-time missionaries, sharing the good news through their art and their lives.

Proclaim! is a unique missions organization in that they are staffed by artists (musicians, actors, visual artists, video producers, and technical artists) who support local churches around the world to provide high-quality outreach opportunities.  Rather than bring in a musical artist, they will research a given area of outreach, then tailor a musical/video/artistic experience that would appeal to that particular culture.

The music we played was a variety of funk, blues, and Latin (According to John Bowers, Latin music is very popular in Muslim countries due to the fact that Spain influenced both Latin America and Muslim geography.)  Man, it was a blast!  The meal and dessert were excellent, the attendance was beyond expectations, and the program was both fun and soul-stirring.  Justin, my eighteen year old son, used the words “eye-opening” and “moving” to describe the experience.

Certainly, the idea that Steve and Dawn are going to sell all they own, bundle their two little girls, and move to a post-Christian, non-English speaking culture, because they felt a leading from God, is not normative.  Certainly not normative in the secular sense.  And probably not normative even for those who call themselves “Christian.”  Why would someone do something like that?  It doesn’t make any sense economically.  What’s in it for them?

And I think that is part of the point.  God’s economy—both financial and spiritual—is not the same as the world’s economy.  Jesus speaks of things like “love your enemy” and “the first shall be last, and the last shall be first” and “the meek shall inherit the earth” and “whoever wants to find their life must first lose it.”  His economy is upside down.  Backwards.

Theologian and philosopher, Dallas Willard, uses the analogy of the airplane pilot who was lost in the clouds.  Without his instrumentation working, he lost his bearings and did not realize that he was flying upside down.  Trying to gain altitude, he flew into the ground.

And this is the way of the world.  We find ourselves caught up in the anxiety of our economy because we have put our faith in money.  We find ourselves lost in our pursuit of happiness because we think happiness is about the pursuit of “me.”  We believe that life is about seeking wealth, fame, and pleasure instead of more noble things like the development of character, the pursuit of selflessness, the living out of kindness and justice and grace.  Many of those who profess to be Christian are also confused.  We forget that our lives are not our own, but have been bought with a price.  And that includes our finances, our possessions, our families, our comfort, even our will.

And as we try to gain altitude, we fly our planes into the ground.

It is refreshing to be a part of Steve’s and Dawn’s lives, as they share the long process of learning to live in God’s economy.  They are learning in greater degree what it is to follow God, love the world, and live in grace.  They are learning to live freely and in God’s economy.  They are gaining altitude.  And I am learning through them.

[NOTE:  If you are an artist interested in learning how to find your life by losing it, consider a short-term missions trip with Proclaim! International.  Here is their website.  If you want to know more about the Liberti’s or how to support them, bang it here.]

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