Waiting to hear from God. Waiting to be certain we have heard from God….. I fear that we believe we have to some how figure everything out about what God has planned before we move. I fear we do so with the false belief that we are being safe when safe isn’t safe.
In Acts 1:4, 5 you find the Apostles casting lots to discover who will replace Judas. For me it sounds like they decided on a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors or the equally helpful decision maker, Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe. Surely I’m not the only one?
Now you can explain this in many ways, I have read various explanations, but they seem to want to make this sound a lot more certain than it was. Could it be the real answer is safe isn’t safe? They could have played it safe, we need some angel to arrive or a gust of wind or something so that we are certain who the replacement should be. We need to wait for this to happen. We need an angel or a vision.
I like that they did what they did, they kept the church moving forward.
Another line I like in the book of Acts is, “It seemed good.” The Greek word used there could be defined as, “to be of the opinion, to think, to suppose.” Sounds very definitive doesn’t it.
The word shows up in Acts 15:25. The New English Translation says, “we have unanimously decided.” So we took a vote and it seems like a good idea and we need to keep moving forward. Safe isn’t safe.
Too many decisions have been made because of safe. Safe because of people and what the neighbors might think. Safe because of size and support. Safe isn’t safe.
In Acts 16:6 we find that Paul was forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. How do we know Paul didn’t figure that one out because all of his attempts to enter Asia were thwarted and at some point he just said looks like this is a no go per the Holy Spirit?
I’m not sure but I do know I have to keep moving. Safe isn’t safe. Stop waiting for the ideal or some miraculous moment and get going, safe isn’t safe.
It hit me as I watched the miniseries Band of Brothers. This was several years ago. Yes, I’m not that far behind…. In one episode they are attacking the city of Foy. Before the attack begins the commander of Easy Company Dick Winters, played by Damian Lewis, tells Lieutenant Dike to attack the town by moving the troops across the open field. His one order, keep them moving until they hit the town.
Unfortunately, Lieutenant Dike doesn’t follow Major Winters command and instead stops halfway across the field and regroups behind a haystack. This proves to be a disaster as the troops are picked off one by one. Throughout the scene the words “keep moving” are repeated by everyone involved in the attack.
And it always makes me think. Safe isn’t safe. What the Lieutenant thought was safe, a position behind a giant haystack, wasn’t safe at all. Stopping wasn’t the best way to keep others alive. The answer was motion and movement.
I wish we as followers of Jesus would remember this. Instead we build fortresses in attempts to stay safe. Safe isn’t safe. Then we abandon our positions when they come under attack. Safe isn’t safe. Unfortunately I think we suffer from a misunderstanding of the war we are in. Brothers and sisters in Christ, safe isn’t safe. You must keep moving. If you find yourself hunkered down hoping this will all blow over the war has already been won.
It’s time to hop out and get moving. The days grow shorter. If you want to safe you are going to have to move.
That is what she said. The she being the Assistant Principal at Lincoln Elementary School. I had waited patiently for the call. The one that would let me know I was approved to be a recess monitor at the school.
Since the phone call hadn’t taken place I took it upon myself to follow up. Or maybe it was the fact that my hairdresser, yes I have one of those, mentioned that she had been out for a walk the night before and ran into the Principal of Lincoln Elementary. That they had discussed the blood moon. And no she didn’t literally run into him. I know some of you were out there getting smart, just saying.
Long way to go, I get that, but the information in my opinion was necessary. So after my haircut, yes it looks really good, thanks for asking, I headed up to Lincoln Elementary to find out if I could volunteer for recess duty.
That is when it happened.When they sent me out on the playground to talk to Assistant Principal Tammy Shelton. I have known Ms. Shelton since our arrival here in Delta. She used to be at the Delta Middle School. I headed to the playground because the helpful gal at the front desk told me she would be able to let me know if there was a place for me on playground duty.
And so when I approached her to ask she smiled. She told me that I was needed for 3rd Grade recess. It seems that some of the 3rd grade boys were just asking if someone could come out and throw a football around with them. There you have it. Now you know why I had to give you all of the details. One semi-pro, okay scratch pro and add, what should I add, amateur. One Semi-Amateur Gospel Preacher quarterback spending lunch recess with a bunch of 3rd grade boys, no training required. And yes I get an orange vest. Perks of the job I know. I mean I was the quarterback for my 7th grade football team, that is until I broke my arm.
Tomorrow I begin the challenge inspired by my good friend Mike Couch. Recess duty at Lincoln Elementary School. Throwing the football around with a bunch of 3rd graders. Who knows what will come of this next step in my school challenge.
Pray for me, my arm, and those kids. They are loved deeply by their Maker and I want nothing more to reflect His image. God bless.
Recently I received a Facebook message from a very good friend. It contained a challenge. My friend had seen my activity volunteering in schools and he wanted to up the ante. This is what Mike Couch, the Superintendent at Republic County School District USD 109 in Belleville, Kansas, had to say.
message: I think it is time you are challenged: How bout a post telling how you volunteered for recess duty! You would be a hero w/ the teachers! I love you being in the lunchroom. I what a perfect way to minister and just shine the light! You are doing so much for Christ in simply living Christ. I think you taught that lesson once. Thanks man.
So I accepted the challenge. I told Mike I would get right on it. Here in Delta schools started last Wednesday and so I gave them a few days to get settled in before I pounced. And pounced I did. I headed to Lincoln Elementary on Friday to see if they needed any volunteers on their playground. Recess volunteer at your service.
When I arrived at the front desk I explained to the helpful assistants that I wanted to see about volunteering to be a monitor on recess. It really is a strange request. I decided before I arrived to make sure and tell them that it was Mike Couch the Superintendent’s idea. Here is the cool part. The Principal Paul Rodriguez happened to be standing in the office at the time. As I shared the challenge he reacted immediately. He informed me that Lincoln Elementary was forming a volunteer group of men to help during recess.
So here I am wondering how this request will go and they are just waiting for someone like me to show up. I had to fill out some paperwork but once that is done I will officially be a recess monitor. So Mike Couch consider the challenge received and acted upon. I will keep you up to date on how it goes. I just hope I get an orange vest. You know I’m going to look good in an orange vest.
I was sitting at my desk when I thought I heard the front door of our church building jingle. A couple of years ago for Christmas someone put bells on the door to be festive. This way throughout Christmas there would be ringing when anyone entered. I liked the bells because they warned me when anyone came in the building during the week so I had them leave the bells up.
This morning I was sure I heard them ring. I would have checked to see but I received a phone call from a good friend about the same time as the ringing bells. I figured if the person wanted me they would find me and so I began to have a conversation with the friend on the phone.
A few minutes into the call I began to hear someone sing. My friend on the other end of the phone suggested it might be the cleaning lady. I let him know she comes in on Monday and that I had never heard her sing, never ever while she cleaned.
So we ended our phone call and I went to find the singer. When I peeked around the sanctuary doors I recognized our worshiping friend. Definitely not the cleaning woman. Just a woman that comes by from time to time. A woman up in years. A woman who isn’t always there.
So I let her go on singing. It was nice until I needed a cup of coffee. Then I was going to have to pass the back of the sanctuary. I thought I could do it quietly so as not to disturb her time of worship.
I failed. Miserably. She stopped singing and turned to see who was passing by. It really wasn’t my fault, our old building creaks when you walk down the hall. Anyway, she had me cornered and so she began to share.
It was in that moment, when I was thinking about how I could extract myself from the conversation as quickly and politely as possible, that it hit me. This is the most important conversation I will have today. That I needed to change my view of this exchange. This wasn’t some nuisance that was keeping me from something more important, the class I was working on for CCYC Youth Camp. This was the most important event of my day.
So I asked God for forgiveness and I listened. I listened to a woman share stories of her family and friends. Her background. Her life. Yes at certain points I wasn’t sure of the information I was receiving but why did that matter?
So I sat and listened to a woman share her story and I was blessed, and I thought I should share it with you as well.
“The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:7-10 NIV
I want to pose a question. I hope you will appreciate where it is coming from. It comes from a place of frustration. My last fellowship was everything I dreamed a body would be. Focused on showing love to others, we were creative in everything we did. I was not constrained with so much of the baggage that existed in the tribe of my youth. We had the freedom to do so much and I leveraged that freedom.
Clothes closets, medical clinics, tutoring for the disadvantaged, if there was a way to show people love we had the freedom to do it. It was my absolute dream church. And it almost killed me. Spiritually. Almost turned me into a mumbling, unusable saint in the Kingdom of our God.
Doesn’t even seem logical does it? You might question my sanity. You had the church of your dream and you walked away? Yes. Well, I would like to think God called me away before it destroyed me.
I hear the echoes of what almost killed me in so many places. I was invited to share our churches story. To go around and try to inspire others congregations to follow our lead. No one was really interested. They loved the stories. They were really impressed. They usually became even more amazed when they discovered the size of our fellowship. But none of them started their own construction ministry for the elderly or car repair program for the disadvantaged.
No. They said thank you, you are inspiring, now will you allow us to return to our regular scheduled Christian experience. Here is the thing. In the end after seven years it wasn’t even the people at “other” churches who were saying this. It was the people in my own fellowship. Darin can we go back? Can you stop. We have had enough. Not all of the people. Don’t misunderstand. There are a great core group of people at the church that I will always love. But the majority of people over those years? Not even close. And it was killing me. Can we get with it and be about what a church is supposed to be about and knock off all of this love other people selflessly stuff. Tell us how God wants us to be happy and filled. This whole love your neighbor is getting old.
How do I know this? They voted with their feet. In droves. I haven’t even mentioned the community. Don’t you know what a church that loves the poor does? Exactly, it attracts poor people. We are the cool community. The up and coming community. The destination place. Leave the poor at the feet of the Statue of Liberty, let her have the huddled masses. Too far? Tulsa will do.
If you are still with me, here is the question. What is your focus? Because for me my focus was wrong. I was wrong because I allowed a community to kill me. The core group loved the mission but I kept looking at all those who said no. I allowed them to starve my soul. To pull me so far down that frustration became my life. My focus was wrong.
If you are there, can I be blunt? Can I tell you something that might spare you? You know who I sounded like? I sounded just like Elijah as recorded in 1 Kings 19. I began to look at what wasn’t, instead of on what was. I began to think it was my job to move people instead of to faithfully follow God and the direction of the Holy Spirit.
Elijah whined. I whined. Elijah complained. I complained. Elijah listed all that he did for God’s glory. I have listed my efforts for God’s glory. Elijah thought he was the only real follower of God. Well, I think you get my point. I saw the apathy of the American Church and I threw up my hands. The comfort of life in America. Suburbia. I have pointed to what I saw as apathy.
How did God respond? He gave Elijah further instructions and let Elijah know that even though he felt alone, he was not alone. That even though he saw apathy and unbelief he couldn’t see it all.
I rejoice today because I know of so many who have not bowed a knee. Who seek to bring honor to the name of Jesus. Those across our nation who seek to love their neighbor in extravagant ways. Those are the people I’m worried about. Focused on. I am thankful for the gentle reminder. Not in a storm or fire but a whisper. A whisper that says get back in the game. I have a plan.
As a school year ends I am thankful. Thankful for the opportunity to read with students in need. The chance to serve lunches and give away donuts. Thankful to be involved with the entire community of faith. Thankful that I get to go fishing with members of the church.
I am thankful that I’m no longer worried about fixing all the Christians. I’m thankful my job is loving in my little corner of the world like Jesus would. It took me awhile and a turn that I never saw coming but I’m glad. I’m glad because I feel at home where I live, trying to love these people. What about you?
That should at least make you wonder, right? I went in search of Nerd Jelly Beans on Tuesday. I was hoping that I could find some on clearance. How I arrived there, and the events that transpired because of the trip,moved me to add to my blog today.
You see I was at the alternative school at my usual time, 9:00 a.m. I was planning on working with my usual student. Last week when I went the teacher was gone and so my student was in a different class room. My helping him wouldn’t work so I just headed back to the office. This week I was informed that they were changing things up, my student was going to be working with a different teacher on his math and so everything would be different these last few weeks of school.
I had a decision to make. Do I try to keep working with my student, find someone else, or just bail and say my work here is done, see you next year. What made this even more interesting is that I really didn’t want to go tutor that morning. I had this internal debate in front of the mirror as I did my hair. I have so much going on. I have a lot to get done before the Pepperdine Lectureships next week. It would have been so easy to just skip tutoring, but I couldn’t. I have a responsibility. They didn’t ask me to take it on, I volunteered. I know in these situations the importance of being consistent. Caring enough to show up is half the battle, so I went. They need to know that I care and that I won’t just bail. I made a commitment.
So I was only there after a lengthy mental battle over responsibility and now this. What to do? They were giving me the out I sought. New teacher, new program, he has been handed over to better hands. Here is what made it all interesting and changed the trajectory of my day. While we discussed my options I noticed that the young lady in the back row was eating green Nerd Jelly Beans. My wife loves Nerd Jelly Beans. This event made me think, “I wonder if Walmart has any Nerd Jelly Beans on clearance? I should go and check after I am done tutoring.
Sorry, that is just how my brain works. So, I decided to stick with my math student, to dive in to some Algebra, scary stuff for me, and keep on keeping on until the school year ends.
Upon finishing our time together, math shouldn’t have letters, just saying, I headed out to Walmart. This is when, for me, it all gets interesting. Did I mention this is going to be a ramble? It got interesting when I arrived in the Walmart parking lot. You see I decided to wear a T-Shirt that day. I don’t like to dress up but Monday at work a woman mistook me for a vagrant and so I decided that while I wanted a t-shirt to wear, I needed one that was a bit nicer. An upgrade. Now for me nicer means something that connects to my line of work, so I’m throwing in a picture of the shirt.
I made this shirt several years ago before we went to see U2 in concert. I just thought it worked for the concert and besides we had used their song “One” for our theme at the church that year. So I have this shirt that says “Love Revolution” because of U2. I know, if you thought this story was going to get less random you will be disappointed.
I have worn this shirt many times but I can’t remember anyone ever commenting on it until Tuesday. Someone at the Opportunity school asked about it but that was only the beginning. It happened in the Walmart parking lot. I am walking along and this guy looks at me and we make eye contact. You know the kind of contact I’m talking about. The kind that has familiarity wrapped within it? The, ‘don’t I know you’ kind of look.
So he looks at me like I know him and I look at him like, I don’t know you so why are you looking at me like you knows me? I didn’t want to be rude so I looked at him again and he smiled. Then he approaches me and he does it. He asks me about my shirt.
“What does it say?”
My response, “Love Revolution.”
“Does that mean you are you a Christian?” he asks.
“Yes, I’m a follower of Jesus,” because the word carries so much baggage and I like to over complicate everything.
“I thought so.”
We then have a conversation in the entrance of Walmart. He tells me he likes my shirt and I tell him I like his bandanna. At some point we discuss me giving him the shirt and I let him know that that is probably a bad idea since that would leave me walking around Walmart without a shirt. Not a sight anyone wants to see, certainly not me. I can see the headline now, “Local Preacher Arrested Walking Around Shirtless in Walmart.” Not good at all. We then discuss trading the bandanna for the shirt, but we agree that still leave us with me walking around Walmart without a shirtless. I didn’t think adding an orange and black bandanna would solve anything.
At this point we moved further into the Walmart discussing our mutual faith. He told me about several experiences he had as a security guard at a City Market in Grand Junction where people have given him a word from the Lord. As we were finishing our conversation I noticed a woman pass by. I don’t know what it was but something about her gave me pause.
I finished the conversation with my new friend and set out to find some Nerd Jelly Beans. They didn’t have any. None. Not one bag and I know because I searched everywhere in Walmart. This search of course brought me by the same woman several times. This is when it hit me. Something inside me told me I needed to approach the woman and tell her I was praying for her. All I could think was really? This seems oh so familiar. Like my failure in the airport in Denver.
I know it was similar because all of the same thoughts and emotions came to mind. “She is going to think you’re a stocker.” “As a man and minister you do not approach young women unannounced, it doesn’t look good.” Then there was the one where she calls the cops or security or she sprays me with mace. All of this is rushing through my brain. Approaching this woman is a bad idea and whose to say that this thought is from the Lord?
But I waited this time. I didn’t talk myself out of the conversation. I decided that I was going to do whatever it took to tell her I would pray for her. Just let her know and be on my way. So I waited as she checked out. It turned out that I knew the woman in front of her in line. Maybe that is the real reason I am in line, to say high to her…. No, I was not deterred. She paid for her items and headed to the restroom. Restroom? Seriously? Now I am going to look like a stocker. I can’t believe it, but I still wait by the exit. I stood there feeling strange, like someone who needed a restraining order but it didn’t matter.
She came out of the restroom and for a moment I missed her because I wasn’t paying attention. But I could tell it was her because of she had a very unique bag. She then headed the other way. I was planted firmly to engage her as she passed but she headed for the other door. At this point I am all in. I didn’t follow her thought, instead I headed out my exit so that I could meet her on the other side.
She was crossing into the parking lot when I arrived. And so I ignored the voices that told me what could happen, mace spray and all, and I said “excuse me.”
She immediately looked over. Not with a face of fear or concern, but one that was open to my approach. And so I said what I felt prompted to say.
“I feel like I need to add you to my prayer list.”
What happened next was a bit unexpected. I suppose I assumed it would be a curt thanks, appreciate it, now get away from me you religious freak or this is uncomfortable and the polite thing to say is thank you. I was wrong.
She almost collapsed. She was stunned. Tears welled up in her eyes. You could see she was visibly shaken. She stammered and told me that I didn’t understand what this meant. She was amazed. How could I know she needed prayers at that moment? How could I know what she was going through? That she was so in need of prayers? That she was seeking guidance and direction?
She was blown away and I was too. The Holy Spirit moving this Church of Christ preacher raised to believe the Holy Spirit doesn’t do that. A guy who for all of his boldness often times clams up at the most inopportune time. The guy in front of Walmart stalking some young lady because God badly wanted her to know that He cared. That He knew she needed prayers and he knew that if he had the right young lady eating Nerd Jelly Beans, if the right guy would like a shirt and if he could get a guy who had clammed up the last time the Spirit called. Then there would be a holy moment. A God ordained time. A thin place where God could speak through a broken, messed up vessel like me. He had a guy who owed him one and wanted to make up for it in the worst sort of way.
“I will add you to my prayer list.”
You know I have been praying for her non-stop ever since. I also think you know what is coming next….. would you mind praying for her too? Mindy. I have no doubt that God will know exactly who you are praying for.