Here is a link to our latest sermon. Also available at your favorite podcast app at Ovilla United Methodist Church https://anchor.fm/ovilla-umc/embed/episodes/Spend-Less-enhchc
Have you ever been writing or speaking and found yourself surprised by a sentence that slipped out of you? I know I’ve had this happen many times, the most recent being this morning.
I was updating the “about” page of this blog, when I typed this:
Even when I am not paying attention, God is.
I’m pretty sure I had thought it before I typed it, but as I finished typing it I paused and reread it. Or maybe I just read it for the first time.
Could I have written something without having thought it first? That seems a silly question until I change it to this way: “Could I have said something without having thought it first?”
Undoubtedly the answer to the latter is yes. Which means to me the answer to the former is also affirmative.
Now it seems I’ve lost the original point of this post, which is actually appropriate. When I am chasing logic or some facsimile thereof down the turns of previously established but unidentified mental trails, God’s faithfulness is, to borrow a word I never use in regular conversation, steadfast. I don’t use the word ‘steadfast’ often enough for it to come to mind, yet it did. Almost, or surprisingly, without my having thought about it first.
My mind has always, or at least for as long as I can remember, wandered like a pinball from one thing to another. I waste some time everyday beating myself up for it; for not being able to stay focused. For not paying attention. So, now, to consider that even when I am not paying attention, God is, brings me hope and settles me into God’s ungraspable grace.
And that’s where I really need to be right now. I bet you do, too.
I am sharing this because I had a dream last night I couldn’t shake. It wasn’t a particularly weird dream. No flying, no falling, no sense of hurry but my legs are trapped in slo-mo.
Nope. The dream I couldn’t shake was simply pulling into a parking lot, turning left to back into a parking place. There was one other car on the small lot, and I was backing in to park next to it.
I hit that car as my car arced backwards into it’s space. Even as I hit the other car, I kept going.
There was a passenger in the car, front seat. Beside me. I don’t recall who it was, so let’s say it was you. We were shaken up a little, but I distinctly recall saying something flippant about it after completing the parking job.
I don’t know what happened after that in that particular dreamiverse, because I immediately moved into analysis of both why I had hit that one car and why I didn’t seem really to care at all. Honestly, I think I was still dreaming as I moved into the analysis phase. During that phase, though, I went into that calming state of being awake enough to know I’m awake, but asleep enough to kind of stay in the dream.
(I don’t recall ever entering that state until about 10 years ago, but I don’t know if it is a function of age or not.)
Back to the parking collision. Even though my car has a rear-view camera, I didn’t use it. I scanned the space as I drive into the parking lot, and got a mental image of it. A lto of open space, one car parked right there. I pulled forward, put the car in reverse, and “looked” at a mental image birds-eye-view I had of the area. I backed accordingly.
Turns out my mental image wasn’t accurate. My ability to align my actual movement with the video-game-like image of my car on that mental image may also not have been entirely accurate.
And this, I think, was the point of the dream. I don’t believe every dream is dreamed to make a point, but this one was. The point is: while it is tempting to trust mental models and ideas for “how things ought to work” in our heads, the read world never entirely comports what is in our heads.
But I’m glad you were in the car with me. That way the lesson of this dream reminds me that the version of our relationship that I carry (or make up) in my head doesn’t entirely comport with our actual relationship.
Let’s live in the actual world – together – and not be satisfied with the versions of the world that we make up in our heads. Maybe it’s ok in a dream. but in the actual world, no one wants a fender bender when actually using one’s senses could have kept it from happening.
Here are the images that may help make sense of the audio message from last Sunday’s sermon:
I would like to tell you the answer to that question is “NO!” But that might be a bit hasty.
I recently took the IAT (Implicit Attitude Test) for racial bias. I did not do as well as I wish I had.
The IAT offers a variety of tests, all designed to identify the relative strength of a person’s positive or negative associations of a variety of issues.
I first learned of the IAT earlier this year when I read Blind Spot. It’s a fascinating read and I highly recommend it.
But I’m sharing this now, rather than when I read the book because the challenge of bias came up the other day and I got to be part of a very interesting discussion.
In a group of people who were all my age (55) or older and all of us anglo, we talked about the incredible progress that we have made as a society over our lifetimes. I don’t think there is any denying this, but at the same time, I feel the need to be sensitive to people who don’t feel like we have made enough progress.
So I shared this thought, based on my own taking of the IAT and learning that I have a slight bias against people of color:
The real challenge before us all is not trying to convince ourselves that we have moved beyond bias, but being honest enough with ourselves what bias we do have.
Because you can only lessen your bias if you are willing to identify it. The IAT can be a helpful tool to do this.
I had the great joy the other day of witnessing a good thing happening: a child gave his mother a dandelion.
Then, this even better thing happened. He realized what a good idea it was, and picked a second flower to give her.
Then, the best thing happened: the mother received the flowers exactly the way they were offered – as a gift of love from her son. She could, I suppose, have received them as a couple of weeds he had picked up. But she didn’t.
How much of the value of a gift comes in the spirit in which it is given? How much in the spirit in which it is received?
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
I have used this language before myself, but, when I recently heard someone say “God has closed a door…,” the metaphor generator that is my mind sprung into action.
The next thing I thought was, “I realized I couldn’t open that door because my foot was in the way.”
When you get to a closed door, or a door has been closed on your path, how do you know it was God that closed it?
And I can’t think too long about opening and closing doors without going to this:
The time in my own life I have referred to most consistently was more than 30 years ago. While I was an undergrad, I remember wondering whether or not to pursue a call to ministry. I tell the story, and have for several years, that “all the other doors I tried were closed.”
But, honestly, I don’t know (now) how hard I tried anything else. I am pretty sure some of those other “doors” wouldn’t open because I was pushing instead of pulling or, maybe, I just didn’t try hard enough.
What does it take for you to interpret a closed door as having been closed by God?
Here is a story Andrew Root shares in his Faith Formation in a Secular Age: Responding to the Church’s Obsession with Youthfulness.
A bible scholar meets a young man who claims to have a deep love for Jesus. They talked for some time about his commitment, about matters of faith, and the Bible. When Sunday worship came up, though, the young man explained he rarely went to worship. Compared to the adrenaline he felt from working out (he was a bodybuilder), he said Sunday worship was just too boring.
“I thought you loved Jesus,” the professor observed.”
” I do, I really do” the young man answered.
“Do you think you’d be willing to die for him?” asked the scholar.
The young man’s enthusiasm was lessened. Still, he replied, “Yes; yes, I think I would. I would die for Jesus.”
“So, let me get this straight,” he said, “you’re willing to die for Jesus, but not be bored for Jesus?”
As many as three times a week, I am tempted to argue with my kids. But in that particular setting, I know it won’t do any good. It would be to start an argument I cannot win.
We try always to eat dinner together as a family, even if I have an evening meeting. Then, when I do have a meeting, and I get ready to leave, nobody is happy. I would rather stay home; they would rather I stay home.
Sometimes one of them says something like
You’re always gone at meetings. You never stay home with us.
I know this isn’t true. I am home at least a couple of nights a week! And, what’s more, I know parents who aren’t able to come home for dinner with their families as often as I do. And I know parents who simply don’t come home, even if they are able.
But when my kids say those things, I don’t respond with reasons, or justification, or by attempting to prove to them that I am doing better than some parents. None of those things would help. None of those are arguments I could win.
Instead, I hug them again, tell them I love them, and encourage them to “make good choices” while I am gone. I think they understand when I have to go to a meeting, and I think I understand how they feel.
I am very sure arguing won’t make it any better. In fact, taking up a case against their wanting their dad to stay home would actually work against me. I don’t want to convince them that I should be going to meetings, and I especially don’t want to convince them that they shouldn’t miss me.
So I accept their love and offer mine in return. Which is probably almost always better than arguing.