A word from the interim minister 50 years ago this third week in August (when I am writing this), I moved to Wilson to begin my college career a few blocks from here at Atlantic Christian College (I'm not one of the alumni who still don't accept the change: “a rose by any other name”. I tell you this only because it was the beginning of my relationship with this city which has played such an important part in my life.
This place saw some of the biggest changes in my attitudes and practices that have ever happened, and planted seeds that are still producing. I drive around the neighborhood sometimes and think, "Didn't so-and-so live there?" or "I remember a party we went to there!" and "I helped move a fridge, stove, washer, and dryer up those stairs."
And so on.
Houses have changed, as has the person having these memories. Everything changes. Some things appear to stay the same. Whether we like change or not, change is the way that we stay alive. Refusing to change things in our lives can literally kill us. We can fuss about change all we want, but the truth is this, as my great-grandmother used to say: "If you're not changing and growing, you're either dead or dying!"
Churches are like big ships: it's difficult to get them turned to go in another direction! Some changes we make are superficial, like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. There are times when we need to slow the ship down a bit so we can figure out which direction we need to go.
At other times we have to flip a coin and pray for God's protection as we venture into a dark and foreboding sea. At still other times, we have to make immediate changes just because there is danger ahead.
There are some approaches I want to suggest for weathering these changes. They won't only help us in our church life, but may even effect our daily living in good ways.
Here are my suggestions:
1. Pray daily.
You don't have to be a saint or a mystic, just be totally honest as you talk to God or sit in silence with God.
2. When anger and frustration strike wherever you are, take a deep breath (maybe your mom or dad or teacher told you to count to 10 before acting in anger?). Put a picture in your mind of Jesus loving you. Say a faith word: love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, kindness, etc.
3. Talk calmly with people you trust. Actually saying some of the things that bother you out loud, and having a trusted friend or relative nod and say, "I understand, but also consider..." can help you work it out. It's okay to reply, "I know that, but still..." and so on! It might even turn humorous, like every time Renae reminds me to be a Christian, and I pout, which can be a funny sight!
4. Pray again.
It's okay to say to God, "HELP!" But listen and watch and feel for God's reply.
5. Pray again.
Nothing's so small that you should leave God out of it. No, this will not solve all your problems or frustrations. However, I believe that when we try to approach life in a Christian manner, we begin to practice in our daily life real Christianity.
If we stand on faith that God lives with us, we discover that God really does! It's an amazing and wonderful and scary thing to encounter the living God; after the shock wears off, we find always that God was there all along.
That's a change we can, literally, live with!
With the heat usually comes a need for more rest, for a slower pace, perhaps a sense of idleness; yet here at First Christian, very little of that is happening!
Still, there is a need for a slower pace. I recommend to everyone, "Go slower."
Years ago, my kid brother, Joel, taught at the Eastern NC School for the Deaf. I worked at the Wilson Mall, at B. Dalton, Booksellers. Perhaps you and I passed each other in the store! Joel was close to a group of young high school students at the school who seemed, almost weekly, to show up at the bookstore, signing to each other the sign for "Joel's brother," which I seem to recall was a combination of sign's meaning, "Joel - boy - same." They would run to me excitedly at the cash register and begin talking to me in signs, and I would hold my palms out to them, shaking my head "no" and saying that I did sign. They were kind, laughing hysterically and continuing to sign to me, as though I would somehow, miraculously, be able to understand them.
So, I asked Joel to teach me to sign some basic things, and to try to understand when someone signed an answer or a statement back at me. "How are you?" What are you doing?" "Are you all having fun?" "Do you want to buy a book?" All of which were seldom answered with anything but more hysterical laughter at my attempts to communicate, which usually came out to a sentence like, "How are you having a book?"
So, I asked Joel to teach me how to say, "Go slower." It is, perhaps, besides "good," the only phrase I remember.
As I've gotten older, the phrase is more important to me. It's something I want to try to do. It's something we all need to try to do. Our culture wants us to cram more and more "experiences" into our lives, so we drive to a waterfall in the mountains, jump out, take selfies or family photos, thus recording our experience at the water fall, then jump back into our cars to drive quickly to the next scenic view. We fill our time with being present for a few minutes, then are off to be present somewhere else; but we are never really present.
So, go outdoors for a few minutes. Feel the heat. Maybe there's a breeze: feel that, too. Breathe. Bask in the warmth, in the air moving around you. Look at grass, trees, flowers, stars, clouds, birds. Listen. I think God lives in those spaces "between."
Remember the scripture: "Be still, and know that I am God."
These thoughts and reflections come from our Senior Minister, Minister of Music and Board Chair. We hope that they provide both challenge and inspiration for your spiritual life.