Last weekend I was blessed to be able to attend the Linger Conference in Dallas, TX. Linger is a conference devoted to reigniting a desire for and developing a sensitivity to God's presence, and to learning the discipline of lingering in that Presence. In the Western Church, we're big on church attendance and service, reading our Bibles (not to mention hundreds of other books), talking the talk, and gathering in "community." But we're not quite as good at or intentional about being still and knowing that God is God. We're pretty good at being "Martha" and getting things done for Jesus. We're not as good at being "Mary" and doing what is truly needful: sitting and lingering at the feet of Christ (Luke 10:38-42). The irony here is that Jesus, Himself, has told us that it is knowing Him and being known by Him that is most vital, above and beyond merely doing things in His name (Matthew 7:22-23). The Linger Conference is designed to reignite a passion to linger, and provide some tools and Scriptural context to help us do just that, as well as helping Christ Followers acknowledge and address areas in their lives and walks that hinder our ability to linger in -- or even enter into -- the presence of God.
We're pretty good at being "Martha" and getting things done for Jesus. We're not as good at being "Mary" and doing what is truly needful: sitting and lingering at the feet of Christ (Luke 10:38-42).
The heart child of Shane Bernard and Shane Everett (Shane& Shane), worship leaders/songwriter's extraordinaire, Linger is two full days of worship, teaching, and lingering in God's presence. Assisting the Shanes in this are some of the greatest teachers and worship leaders ministering today, including Christy Nockels, Phil Wickham, Tod Wagner, Matt Chandler, Dr. Eric Mason, and others.
One of the ways the conference format helps provide and facilitate times of lingering is via the "Linger Room." This year (the third annual) the conference was held at BentTree Bible Fellowship in Carrollton, TX. BTBF is an amazing facility with a wide variety of multi-purpose spaces. One of these spaces called the "Family Theater" (bigger than most churches' main sanctuary/worship center) was designated the "Linger Room." In this room, there was live acoustic worship being led non-stop throughout the conference, interspersed with Scripture readings, provided by the folks at People & Songs.
The music was soft, slow, and gentle. The lights were dim, just enough to read by, but no brighter. Scattered about the room were a few regular chairs, but mostly pillows, comfy couches, beanbags, and Xorbees (huge, overstuffed beanbags that can hold multiple people). In a corner by the platform on which the musicians played and sang was amazing "live artist" Robin Oas, painting beautiful pictures in real-time as she was inspired by the songs being sung and the Scriptures being read. Just watching the strokes of her brushes on the canvas was calming and meditative. Scattered unobtrusively around the room were volunteers (who themselves were worshiping) that could pray with and for anyone who needed such ministration during their times in the Linger Room. I cannot imagine an environment more conducive to attuning your heart and mind to the presence of God and then lingering in that presence.
During the conference, attendees were encouraged to respond to the Holy Spirit's leading and spend as much time in the Linger Room as was wanted or needed. There were special times set aside for this before and after the main conference hours and during breaks, but the room was open and available even during main teaching and worship sessions. Everyone knew it was okay to skip a session and "linger."
I was worshiping in the Linger Room after lunch on the first day of the conference, soaking in the presence of God in a way I had not done in years. Tears flowed unchecked, and instead of singing I grew silent, letting The Spirit sing to me -- and for me -- for a change. It was a sweet, sweet time. But in the back of my mind was an ember of anticipation that was threatening to flare into anxiety.
Tears flowed unchecked, and instead of singing I grew silent, letting The Spirit sing to me -- and for me -- for a change.
Ever since I was first introduced to Shane & Shane some 15 years ago, the duo have been a fixture in my ministry and my personal walk with Christ. More than merely my favorite worship leaders and Christian songwriters, the Shanes have been used by God to deepen my own worship, give me fresh insight into God's Word, and reveal new intimacies of our relationship with Christ as His bride. What's more, their music has empowered my own ministries of worship and discipleship. I have friends that joke about how I can apply a Shane & Shane lyric to virtually any and every Bible study or devotional.
In the Linger Room, I pulled my focus away from God to my watch. Shane & Shane would be taking the stage in about 45 minutes! I would have to leave soon to go to the main worship center. I wanted to be close to the doors at least 30 minutes before they opened so I could get a good seat. I wanted to get close to the stage, close to the Shanes. I wanted to have a good view, get some good pictures and video.
I was about to gather up my things when God whispered, gently: "Lee, you have not come here to meet with Shane & Shane. Or Christy Nockels. Or Phil Wickham. You have come here to linger in My presence, to meet with Me, your God. I am just as present in the back corner as I am on the center of the front row. My Holy Spirit through My Word can bring Me into sharper focus -- closer proximity -- than the most powerful zoom lens. So don't leave My presence now to go and get closer to your idols. (ouch!) Linger with Me a while longer. And when the time comes for you to go the worship center, I promise that I will meet you there, no matter what seat you get. You will hear Me, no matter who is singing or speaking."
So I lingered...
I confessed and repented of my idolatry and my anxious thoughts, and I lingered in God's presence, letting Him minister to me, realign my thought processes and priorities (transform?). I invited Him to "create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me" (Psalm 51:10).
...it's easy to linger in the Linger Room. Lingering in the living room or the conference room or the waiting room or the hospital room is something else entirely.
As with any mountaintop experience, the challenge once Linger is over is to take the disciplines learned and the truths revealed with us back to the valley, where people dwell and God works. No one lives on the mountain, after all. Let's face it, it's easy to linger in the Linger Room. Lingering in the living room or the conference room or the waiting room or the hospital room is something else entirely. But God is God is all of these rooms, and He meets us there.
So my prayer for myself and for you every day is this:
Create in me a clean heart, O God,And renew a steadfast spirit within me.Do not cast me away from Your presenceAnd do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.Restore to me the joy of Your salvationAnd sustain me with a willing spirit.