I thought I heard the universe calling out my name. But instead it was a jury summons in Dallas, Texas.
While I served I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between the court and the local church.
Those serving on a jury and serving in pastoral ministry both are underpaid for their time.
Both jury members and pastoral staff are selected by, and answer to, a higher power.
Neither the Pastor or the Judge pay any real attention to the clock.
Both the Baliff and the Head Deacon act like they are really the one in charge.
The Jury and the Pulpit Search Committee are both made up of people who weren’t smart enough to get disqualified from service.
Both the Judge and the Pastor work hard to get the last word in.
Judges and Pastors are used to working with people who like to argue and struggle to reach an agreement over anything.
Finally, both the Judge and the Pastor are speaking to a
number of people who are not there of their own free will.
I love Psalm 40:1-2. It describes a God who is aware of my predicament. A God who is able to deliver me and sustain me.
But unlike the author of this passage, I rarely wait patiently for anything, much less God’s deliverance.
I am skilled at getting into messes of my own makings. I am adept at screaming for help at the top of my lungs.
Although I am aware of his power and goodness, I am still often surprised by His presence and deliverance.
But God is not surprised. He never sleeps. He is never ambivalent. He loves us.
God, help me to patiently wait on you.
“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” Psalm 40:1-2.
What is that one thing that you were created to do? The one thing that you are passionate about? The one thing that only you are equipped to do? The one thing that you believe that the creator of the universe designed you for?
Take some time to think about it. Write it out. Say it out loud when you get up in the morning. Say it out loud before you go to bed. Allow yourself to dream and envision what fulfilling that call would look like. Note that God has a sense of humor and it will probably look slightly different than what you imagined.
Now look at your calendar. Take a close look at where your time is being spent. Are you spending the precious commodity of time on things that do not support your vision or calling? Do you have family time built in? Do you have a time to refresh and reenergize?
If not, there is no hope of change by your own will or choice. You will continue on the same path you are already on. Maybe, you are content with where you are going. That’s okay.
But if you are not okay with where you are at or where you are going. It is time to make some difficult decisions.
I don’t know what this says about us as a society, but most of us love a fall from grace story.
Usually the story is about someone who made a very public and horrible mistake.
Most of us are ready for the public flogging, the expected excuses, and the blame shifting that is sure to follow.
Excuses and lies lead to contradictions and public shame. And we revel in it.
This is the classic fall from grace story that we know so well.
But occasionally the person who failed genuinely appears to regret their actions and the consequences they created for others.
They take responsibility for their actions and take steps to humbly restore those they hurt.
We can see the death of pride and the beginning of humility and gratitude.
We wait to make sure it’s not an act to garner sympathy.
But over time we surprise ourselves and begin to root for them to succeed.
This fall from grace becomes a redemption story. And we love it.
But there is a better redemption story.
Jesus came to redeem me when I was not deserving of redemption.
He bore the shame and penalty for my failure.
He extended grace when I did not deserve it.
That will always be my favorite story of redemption.
We are so polite in Texas.
I said hello to a friend in an elevator as I got on. Someone else thought I was talking to them and engaged me in conversation for several minutes.
If this happened in New York they would have said, shut up. I ain’t talking to you.
In Texas, this is how we make new friends.
I prefer living in Texas.
Why do they call it Tuesday Morning if it’s open all week?
Why is it called Victoria’s Secret? Everyone knows where it’s located and what they sell.
TgiFriday’s serves food all week long.
Ruby Tuesday doesn’t sell jewelry.
Is anyone really surprised that they sell hamburgers at Whataburger?
I’ve never been tired or sleepy at a Rest Home.
Jack in the Box does not make toys or containers.
Many people claim that they love God. But their actions make it very difficult to believe this claim. Love is demonstrated by our actions.
Sometimes my actions are actually in direct opposition to what God has taught in His word. I know the standard that I should live up to. That standard is God’s love.
Loving God is demonstrated in two tangible ways.
First, I need to love others. I am commanded not only to love my friends but also my enemies.
God commands me to love others because they are created in His image.
This means I love people different from myself. People who I disagree with. People who look different than me. People who have different belief systems than me.
So if my friends do not include people who are distinctly different from myself, then I have failed to love those that God has called me to love.
Second, I need to love myself. Sometimes loving myself is harder than loving God or loving others.
I can’t really love God if I don’t love his creation, and that includes myself.
I’m not describing a love of all my faults or implying perfection. But I am talking about an inherent love and appreciation for the way God has gifted me. Even those aspects of myself that I’m uncomfortable with.
God loves us with an unfailing love that is not dependent on my actions.
This is the kind of love that causes me to want to have a relationship with Him. This is the kind of love that causes me to change my actions and desires. This is the love that the world is waiting for.