Exactly what do your actions on the outside convey about who you are on the inside? This past week we had terrible storms on the very afternoon that I had to return a rental car and get my car back from the dealership. Let’s just say the afternoon did not go very smoothly. I found myself driving through torrential rains and winds praying the puddles would not bring me to a grinding halt. I pulled into the rental car place only to realize I had failed to fill the tank up with gas. I pulled back out onto the highway in the horrible rains.
When I arrived at the only gas station I could see the power had gone out and knocked the card readers off line. Cash only. I was trying to explain I needed to fill the tank up and I had no idea how much that would cost to the limited English speaking employee behind the counter. My patience started wearing thin. I paid him $20, put $4 in the tank and had to fight my way back into the store to get $16 back.
I make my way across surging streams of water on the highway and pull back in to the rental car place. I walk in only to discover that their power outage knocked them offline as well and their computers were not booting back up. I sat down and waited. They finally decided they could return me to the car dealership without completing the paperwork since the dealership was paying for the rental. (That is because when I brought my car in two days earlier for the appointment they did not have any loaner cars available like they had hoped and had to send me to the rental car company to begin with- frustrating!)
As I climbed into the car the driver started chit chatting about the crazy weather. I was sitting there thinking how grateful I was I didn’t have any other appointments that afternoon because what should have been 15 minutes was at 45 minutes and counting. But we chatted about his family and a few other things.
And then he asked where I worked. As I told him I was a United Methodist Pastor I was saying a prayer of thanks that I had not answered truthfully his question of “how are you doing today?” Come to find out he and his family grew up CME (Christian Methodist Episcopal) and he started asking me questions about our church worship services. By the time we arrived at the dealership I had extended an invitation and explained all of our worship opportunities. I have no idea if he will show up but I will certainly look for him.
It is a 24/7 witness. How we handle ourselves matters. Especially how we handle ourselves when things aren’t going our way. It is our opportunity to show that we are wired not as the world expects us to be, but as Jesus would want us to be. What message do you convey when folks hear what you say and see what you do?
By the way- on the way back to the office a wreck brought the traffic to a grinding halt on the highway. Thankfully no one was in the car with me and I could “witness” to myself…
Grace and Peace,
I have had a dramatic faith meets life experience the last 36 hours. Thanks to the UNC Basketball team I think I know how Simon the Zealot felt during Jesus’ ministry. Hang with me because I know it’s a very loose analogy. For those who do not follow the world of college basketball and didn’t realize that the UNC Tarheels played the Duke Blue Devils on Wednesday here’s what happened. UNC led 98% of the game- most unfortunately though, not when the clock ran out and lost 74-73 in the last seconds..
Carolina should have won that game. We have a deeper bench of very talented players. Multiple offensive threats and Duke could not stop our player Bryce Johnson. But apparently our own teammates could- by not passing him the ball. I’m sorry- I digress. Watching that loss was stunning and gut wrenching. I was literally speechless. Something I so believed in and had such high hopes in had failed me right before my eyes. Something I so wanted to see happen and that I thought was going to happen, did not.
Simon the Zealot was one of Jesus’ 12 disciples. A zealot was someone who politically hated the Roman authorities and actively worked to support efforts to undermine or overthrow the Roman influence on Jewish culture. Simon believed Jesus was the Messiah and would bring freedom to the people and be a different kind of leader. He was hoping and expecting one thing of Jesus and did so with great passion and anticipation.
And yet, it did not happen. The one whom he followed and had so much faith in did not do what he was expecting. Jesus ended up being a different kind of Messiah than most expected him to be. But can you imagine the level of frustration Simon must have felt as he waited expectantly for Jesus to make a power move? Not die pathetically on a cross.
And that was what it felt like the last 10 minutes of the basketball game. Expecting one outcome (UNC winning) and it never happened. Inexplicably. And so today, I feel like Simon the Zealot. Disappointed again but hoping for a different future outcome (in about 2 weeks…)
Grace and Peace,
Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Season of Lent. For those long steeped in church worship and tradition we know exactly what that means. For others from less traditional churches or no church at all wonder what that could possibly mean. In fact as they see various people today with something blackish on their forehead they may be wondering what is going on.
Our Ash Wednesday service is at 7:00 in the auditorium- Emergent Style!
I love Ash Wednesday because it is so visual. As we start the 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday we enter a season of 6 weeks in which we are supposed to be more inwardly focused, prayerful, reflective, and repentant. We are given time to bring our heart to a place of deeply appreciating what Jesus did on the Cross for us on Good Friday. A place in which we can confess our sins and brokenness and seek forgiveness in order to bring healing and wholeness. And on Ash Wednesday, we do this in a very visual way.
As the burnt palm branches from Palm Sunday the year before are rubbed onto our foreheads with the words “From dust you have come and to dust you have returned. Repent and believe in the Gospel”, we are reminded of our humanity. We are reminded that we are made of God’s created dirt. And we will return to that dirt at some point in our lives. Something about hearing those words invites deep humility to consider we are in fact not “King of the world!”
But what is most powerful is the opportunity to sit in a room and see all of the other foreheads with ashen crosses smudged on them and be reminded you are not alone in your brokenness. And that God is full of so much love for you and for all of us. And by letting someone rub a cross on your forehead you are saying, “Lord forgive me, too.”
I hope you get some time today to pray a prayer of confession. To ask God to forgive you. To start your Lenten journey on your knees in the presence of the one who can do something about your brokenness. Let the 40 days begin now.
Grace and Peace,
Last week I had the chance to sit at the feet of Pastor Kevin Myers from 12 Stone Church in Atlanta at a Continuing Ed event. One of the things he said that resonated with me is that our path towards mature spirituality is completely backwards from what is normally expected of us. If you think about parents parenting their children, the whole goal is to move a baby from complete dependence on you to adulthood independence. Culturally and physiologically we are moving from dependence to independence. Until we encounter Jesus and that gets turned upside down.
The journey of maturing spiritually means we go from a place of complete independence to a place of total dependence on Jesus. It’s heading in exactly the opposite direction than we have been working our whole younger years in life. This struck me in a couple of ways.
First of all, it is counter intuitive to all of us to move towards a place of dependence on anyone or anything. No wonder it is hard for us to practice our spiritual disciplines. We are having to learn how to pray for dependence. We are having to learn how to lean on others and on God as signs of spiritual maturity and that is difficult for many of us. Except maybe older adults who are starting to experience the trend back towards dependence on others for every day living. Then faithfulness may coincide with their maturing process.
It also strikes me as a spiritual reason why the generation in their 20’s are always hard for the church to reach. That is the crossroads stage of life where young adults are in their prime of flexing their hard earned independence and the last thing they are interested in hearing about is spiritual talk about depending on God. They have just gained independence from their earthly parents and from many societal laws. They are trying to make sense of it all. It’s a message that is hard for them to hear.
Quite frankly, I’ve never made that connection before. Part of young adult’s natural pull away from church is because that crossroads of independence/dependence is pretty hard to navigate and figure out which direction you are supposed to be heading.
Well, regardless of how old you are, how are you doing with that pathway towards spiritual dependence on God? Are you able to take leaps of faith knowing God will cover you? Have you figured out the pure joy and comfort in resting in the arms of Jesus and yielding your life and your spirit to Him? It takes practice and diligence to overcome our inner messages of independence. But when you figure this out, yielding brings deep peace and contentment and ultimately, aren’t those common goals in life for most of us?
May your path lead right into the loving arms of Jesus with the sweet knowledge that yielding your life to Him is the most mature decision you can make today.
Grace and Peace,