Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What Really Matters

What an interesting day. It ran the full spectrum of numerical possibilities.

I began the day at a nursing home. I was there to visit a very sweet 92 year old woman. Elsie has seen a lot of life. Her smile has a hint of a devious personality that has been rather dormant of late. Elsie is not well. She is combatting bone cancer. It was a bit of a shock to see her today. It's only been two weeks since we last visited. But today she had virtually no voice and she was very concerned that she didn't look appropriate for a pastoral visit. But her memory is far better than mine and we had a wonderful conversation, raspy though it was. Elsie kept telling me that she would be alright if she can "just get back to Belleville." I so wish that were true. But Belleville cannot fix what is wrong with her. Jesus can. And He will. But He will do it His way. He always does.

And then I picked up a young man to share lunch with. Ben is 14 but looks and acts a bit older. He could easily pass for 15. I know, I know. That's not much. Unless you are 14. And then it sounds like an eternity. I ate a Chicago hot dog and Ben ate a chili dog. We both had fries and shared a basket of ... don't throw up ... deep fried macaroni and cheese. It was marginally interesting. I think it needs to be dipped in something but I have no idea what. Ben is everything that Elsie is not. Young. Energetic. Vibrant. Hopeful. He's only a high school freshman but he's already thinking about what college to attend. And he's in the process of selecting precisely which mission event he will volunteer for this summer on our youth mission trip. The time spent with Ben was like rewinding the clock 5 years. I still think being a Youth Pastor is the best job on the planet.

When I arrived back at my office Adam pulled in behind me. He is 29 years old. On Friday he will move away from our church, our small group, and our community. Adam is returning home to Florida where he will live with his brother for a while. He is somewhat a victim of the recession. He went from fully employed to unemployed to way behind in his bills in very short order. We talked together, prayed together, and shared a guy-hug before he climbed into his car and headed back to pack up his apartment.

Six hours and three people. Each living very different lives. Each living through a different era. Each deeply in love with Jesus. There's a lot of discussion going on in the evangelical world these days. Questions about heaven and hell are rocking boats. Analogies about the differences between "doctrine" and "story" are creating battle lines in places where battle lines are wholly inappropriate. I have clearly defined thoughts about these differences. And I grieve the battle lines. But through it all I find joy. The joy is in the people. People who just love God and want to learn more about Him. People who have bright eyes when they talk about knowing this God and the way He is working in their lives. I don't back away from controversy. But neither will I allow it to disrupt the mission. And the mission is clear.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Love your neighbor as your self. And let's not forget doing justice. Loving mercy. And walking humbly with our God.