What Just Happened

In the most recent edition of Under the Church (Oak Haven newsletter) I promised an extended version of my article. Yea, I know: Thanks, John. Whoopee! Still, here it is. First, so we’re up to speed, I’ve written monthly newsletter articles as Pastor, Associate Pastor, Lay Ministerial Assistant and all around good guy for four churches. That’s not nearly as much as some of my older other colleagues, but it’s not something I’m putting out there for comparison. It’s been about eight years worth. So you figure 12 months in a year times eight and there you have it.

All those articles have mostly followed the same format—most notably always being exactly 200 words. That has remained somewhat of a discipline for me. It can be difficult to say anything remotely worthwhile in exactly 200 words. But it can be done. Sometimes I’ve done pretty well. Other times not so much. It also helps our faithful, underpaid, but your reward will be in Heaven church newsletter editors know how they’re going to fill up pages. God bless ‘em.

This month I wrote on something I think is very important to all of us. Just like other months there was no way I could cram everything I wanted to say into those two small paragraphs. But this was something I really wanted a chance to share.

I cannot recall when I last watched the ball drop on New Year’s Eve. However, ever since I was a kid, I always try to watch a year-in-review program. It’s interesting to remember events that happened or people who stood out (for good or bad), and even hear about things I overlooked. What I’ve learned is that is an important part of faith development. No, not remembering all the scandals or sporting champions of the year. Rather, taking time to reflect. Reflection is a valuable and important tool for faith. Our world of hurriedness though doesn’t help us use it.

When everything is due yesterday a tendency arises to get things done and quickly move on. Of course, that spills right into our spiritual life. You know what I mean: Flip through the devotion book. Check. ThankyouJesusforthis…food. Check. And so on. What are other reasons we aren’t very good at reflecting? Maybe it reminds us too much of, “Go to your room and think about what you’ve done!” Ouch. Perhaps our “Is that going to be on the test?” mentality has left us with a bunch of memorized facts that we don’t know what to do with. I had a professor who wrapped it up best with her question: So what if you know it; why does it matter that you know it? In other words, what does being Jeopardy or Trivial Pursuit champion have to do with understanding why you know what you’re bragging you know.

Without reflection, spiritually speaking, the danger is that Bible reading, for example, becomes and remains just boring reading. On the same note, going to church is just something you do before the game—that is if church doesn’t interfere with the game! God forbid a night service or study be held during the NFL season. Oh, the choices you’ll have to make. Oops. That’s another article. Let’s regroup. Take time to consider what we (not just you) read in Scripture, what we sing about and what is preached to us each week. Reflection offers insight, wisdom and understanding. Sign me up!

Maybe your church is different from many of the ones I have been to. Maybe not. Have you ever experienced the post-sermon shift? Well, it’s not limited to the sermon as there are reports of this phenomenon after prayer time, too. It can be quite deafening. Immediately after a minister finishes a sermon how many times do we immediately hear the congregation reach for the life support (bad sermon joke there somewhere) to check what is next on the agenda? Oh, the great and powerful bulletin. Never mistake free, always changing and always folded just a little crookedly. That drives us OCD people crazy!

Now, ministers have some part in this if they haven’t made an effort to make reflection time. So, let’s make a deal. After your next sermon experience, keep your hands off the bulletin for thirty seconds. For one, you already know what happens next. Chill. Secondly, you just might throw everyone around you off their rocker as you bring it all home and use that time to close your eyes and ask God to help you hear the voice of God. Now, if you’re minister doesn’t have that kind of time in the service, when you open your eyes you might get put on the Sleeps During the Sermon list. Consequently, you will always be a story for your pastor to share with her/his pastor buddies about those kind of people, but you’ll know better. If, however, your minister shares this insight with you, as you both open your eyes you can share a quick wink: Praise God.

Some of us might not have the slightest idea how to begin learning how to use reflection. Glad to meet you some of us; I’ve got a few words for you. Realize that a great part of reflection starts with asking questions: what does this mean? How do I or my actions fit into any part of this reading/sermon, etc? Ask these kinds of questions in your praying. Yep, you can’t get out of praying.

Here’s a simple exercise for you to try. Read Philippians 4:8-9. Now, stop and “think about these things.” Think about people who demonstrate “these things.” Think about stories you know of that illustrate “these things.” Figure out how where your life matches those “things” and also where it does not. When you get real into it you’ll notice you might want to write these things down, but we’re in no hurry right now. The God of peace is waiting for you. Happy New Year! And I said it all in only 1,004 words. Stay blessed…john

What do you think?

3 Responses :

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john said...

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Anon #2: Happy New Year to you.

Stay blessed...john