Prepare

I sat alone in the cathedral after a long day of visiting the campus. Yeah, I know that because it is a Protestant building it is called a Chapel, but when you are in it calling it a chapel is like calling the Empire State Building a tent. It just doesn’t capture the immensity of the structure. Doesn’t come close to the holiness. Whatever it was, I sat there tired and either prayed or thought, not sure which.

Then and now, I sometimes have trouble telling the difference between praying and thinking.

Prayer for me has always had little bit to much gray matter involvement. I would love to be one of those people who always seem to be able to let the Spirit pour into them and through them as their words rise up to God’s ear. Instead, the synapses will always start firing inside my noggin and I would “think” to God. I am communicating with God so I always count it as prayer.

It’s not always that way though.

There was the time I held my youngest daughter’s head for the first time. (Yeah…just her head, but don’t worry, it will make sense in a few.) It was before she was even born. (I’m not doing very good clearing this up…) Okay, the most precise way to say this is that it was immediately before her birth. the nurses had underestimated the progress of my wife’s labor but after our first child I had picked up a couple of important clues from the woman I love. One of the most important was the moment when she went from labor to transition. On her, it was like a switch going off deep inside her and involved her whole body and face. I knew it the instant I saw it. There were labor pains (that we had been dealing with all day) and then without much warning there was this “Okay, this baby is getting out of my body right now and nothing short of God is gonna make me stop pushing and even if God does show up God had better have a Plan B that works” kind of focus on her face.

I pushed the button to call a nurse and they were quick to respond. When she came in I said, “I really believe she is in transition and needs to push.” She smiled and said, “Let me check things out but after only a quick peak she started hitting other call buttons, turning on lights and said, “I will get the doctor right now. You get her to breath instead of push.”

I would have rather tried to blow back a freight train, but I did my best.

It wasn’t long till a lot happened all at once. More lights were turned on, the room got crowded with equipment dropping out of the ceiling and being pulled from the walls, and a doctor came in and stood between my wife’s legs. It was a blur of activity. the doctor was struggling to get his gown and gloves on when I heard him say, “Dad. I need your help here. I need you to do us all a favor.”

“Ok.” was the best I could muster.

“Put your hand down here and hold your child in a moment while I get ready to catch. Can you do that?”

That was a moment the synapses didn’t fire. I just prayed. I did what I was told but when my bare fingers touched that wet mound of baby hair there was a groan rising up out of me that just was not from me. I’m sure it wasn’t audible. The room was full of medical people and I’m certain if they had heard it, I would have become “patient” instead of Dad. But my heart felt it and I knew that God heard it.

It was prayer as I’ve never prayed before.

When I said, “Thanks,” after the doctor took over for me, I was disappointed when I heard him say, “Thank-you” back to me. I honestly expected a thundering “You are welcome, my child” to fill the room. I knew to whom I spoke even if the doctor didn’t.

I also recall a time when someone very dear to me was on the verge of dying. My brain could not wrap around the concept of her leaving, especially at such a young age. My heat couldn’t contain the grief that I knew would flood over others who were even closer to her. Nothing fired between my ears but somehow or another I heard myself start to hum. It was a stupid tune given the gravity of the situation and the noise of the life sustaining equipment running in the room: “I sing the body electric. I glory in the glow of rebirth…” I knew I was just humming the tune but the words hung in the air all around me and it felt more like a prayer than anything else at the moment. Weird, out-of-place, poorly timed prayer, but prayer nonetheless. I was actually relieved when someone in the room said, “Stop that. No music. I can’t take music right now.”

They had no idea that I was praying. I barely knew that I was praying. Truth be told, in the face of this very unfair death playing out before me, I couldn’t handle even thinking about praying.

So I was relieved to be able to stop.

Prayer still is a funny thing for me. It was that day I sat in Duke Chapel years before either of these other more spiritual moments in life. My prayer that day was my normal think-through of a conversation with God.

Duke ChapelIs this the place God wanted me to go to and prepare to be a pastor? Was Duke the right fit for me to learn about sharing life and death moments with people I would meet later in churches? Would this place shape me the way I needed to be shaped and molded? And God forbid, would they really be able to teach me? Could they reach down to my level in such a way that I would actually learn here?

Somehow through all the firing of neurons in my brain a peace over me in that giant space. I was still thinking. It wasn’t a “Aha, this IS it” sort of peace but more of a “Do you really think I’m the kinda God who wouldn’t be here? I’m mean, look at this cathedral they built me, Scott!”

I laughed out loud at that thought and knew without any doubt that The Divinity School was the place for me. I figured if God didn’t know it was just a Chapel, even my “in my brain God,” I’d do just fine.

We’d do just fine.

And we did.

 

Peace!!

Ready!?!

“Therefore you must also be ready…”  Matthew 24:44a

Ready

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Those who follow me on Twitter might well recognize this photo.  It’s not a new one.

Getting ready for any day can be a challenge and on the day this photo was taken, well I was apparently more challenged than others.  The fact of the matter is that I found one black right shoe and one black left shoe and put them on.  Granted, these two shoes feel quite different from one another when I am wearing them but it took me close to five hours to realize my fashion mistake.

Oh well…my feet were covered.  I made it that long.  So I guess I was ready.

I think that sometimes I believe being ready for Christ’s presence has something to do with how I might “look” or “appear” to him.  Most of the time, I know better.  I know that he loves me regardless of what I look like at any moment.

Being ready for me is more about remaining in a state that allows me to see Jesus even as Jesus is present in the everydayness of life.  Shoes don’t matter nearly as much as noting the possibility that Christ could meet me in any person or situation that I face as I walk through my day.

I pray during Advent that matching shoes or not – I am ready!

Watch

“Therefore, keep watch…” Matthew 24:36 (NIV)

Watch

Watch

This is Rascal.

He is the youngest cat in the Sears home.

Sometimes, well, we wonder about his sanity.

Other times, I think about the family he is with and realize he just fits in nicely.

Rascal likes to watch for water.  He will come running if you turn on the sink.  Truthfully, there is some debate (in our household and apparently among cat owners on the internet) as to whether or not cats can see water.  My personal opinion of Rascal is that he cannot see it.  He hears it.  He occasionally sees the rippling of the water in the sink.  But running water seems to be beyond his vision.  He can poise himself on the side of the sink and get drenched when you turn on the water.  It’s quite a sight actually.  Cat shaking and meowing at something he can’t quite figure out.

It doesn’t stop him from watching for it, though.  Once that faucet is on or the ice dispenser makes a sound, he is all over that sink – waiting and watching.

I know that the Kingdom of God is often out of my line of vision.  I know where it should be – with the people of God, with the poor, with those who are in need of any help.  But at times I just can’t see it.  I might notice the ripples around it but it is just as likely to knock me flat on my behind before I know its there.  I look a lot like my wet cat at those moments – shaking my head and making weird noises about something I quite understand.

But I do watch.  I just pray that I have the attention and tenacity of my cat.  (Without the “distraction disorder” he also has…If something shiny goes by him while he is watching for water, he is off on a new chase!)

Alas, though, I am often distracted as well.  I know that this week, a plugged up shower/tub, a problem with a car and a couple other little things have kept me from probably seeing the great and awesome power of God in the world.

But I will keep watching.  Maybe one day I will do it with feline determination!

Bound

"Friar Folk" Ordination Gift

“Friar Folk” Ordination Gift

These little guys have been hanging around my desk for quite some time now.  “Word” (the little guy with the book), “Sacrament” (yeah, with the wine bottle and bread) and “Order”, (the guy in the dark brown robe and the puzzled look toward the sky) were all given to me on the occasion of my ordination by one of my sponsors, Rev. Judy Fisher.  She is even responsible for naming these Friar Folk for me and explaining that the best thing she could think of for ordering the life of the church was a whole lot of prayer.  That’s probably why I have, through the years, purchased the other two praying Friars, appropriately named “Uh-Oh” and “What-do-I-do-now, God?”

Whenever I look at any of my Friar Folk – and yes, there are more of them – I am reminded that I am connected not only to God through my ordination but to many other sisters and brothers in this “order” we call Elders.  I am bound to them by something more than mere words that I said in my vows. I am bound to them by more than just words that appear on any page.

I am bound by God to be in covenant with these brothers and sisters by the very Word of God.

Our denomination has been going through a whole lot of upheaval lately.  I could describe it in detail but that’s not necessary and it really isn’t helpful.  The fact of the matter is that those of us who are “bound” together find ourselves disagreeing with one another.  Some think one way…some think another.  Some are even willing to call the others “wrong”.  (As an aside, I do not have a Friar Folk name “Wrong” or “Right” for that matter.)

I think about my ordination often  and I think about the problems we as Elders are having with one another.  I am glad I have these three guys and their friends around to remind me that I am bound to others.  I also have a great group of Elders that I am in a Covenant Group with that are always there to remind me of the tie we have.  And yeah, sometimes it even gags us!

I don’t have all the answers to what we are facing together but this much I know…I do not have to be “right” about anything.  And you, my sister or brother, do not have to be “wrong.”

There is something bigger than what we can know, understand and figure out that holds us together.  We are bound…Thank God…we are bound to one another.