Memorial Day Remembered

     Today is Memorial Day. Today, towns all across America will have parades- school bands and VFW floats meandering the city streets, tossing candy and playing patriotic music. Today, lots of folks will be char-broiling a wide variety of meats- charcoal and gas grill tank sales rise dramatically in anticipation of Memorial Day. From the ages of 18 to about 22, I was a part of a community Municipal Band that performed twice a week during the summer- I was among the youngest of the members. We would always participate in the Memorial Day parade and the Fourth of July celebration. It was inaccurate to describe us a “marching” band- we were really much more of a “strolling” band. And although we would stroll…amble…call it what you will…on the parade route all the way TO the cemetery, the tone and mood changed noticeably once we got there. The band just seemed to…understand…the gravity of the proceedings, and our demeanor changed. And then, as we stood there at attention (or at least as much at attention as a band can be!) and heard the lone trumpeter blow taps, it was powerful. As those mournful notes echoed across the cemetery, unimpeded by ANY other noise but the breeze and the birds, I couldn’t help but tear up- thinking about the countless men and women who gave their lives…their LIVES…so that I had the freedoms that I so much enjoy…and all too often take for granted. 

     I wonder, do we really understand and appreciate the gravity, the weight of Memorial Day? Do we truly appreciate the sacrifice we honor today? Memorial Day is traditionally observed on the last Monday of May…today. It was formerly known as Decoration Day. It is intended to commemorate United States soldiers- men and women- who died while serving in military service to their country. It was first enacted to honor Union soldiers from the  Civil War- the date we now recognize as Memorial Day falls near the day of official, nationwide reunification after the end of the Civil War. The observance of Memorial Day was expanded after World War I to include American casualties of ANY war or military action.

     In his now-famous Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln said, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” 

     Today, we honor those men and women who gave their lives for our country. Please remember the ultimate price these brave people paid so that we might have freedom- including the freedom to worship as we see fit. Say a prayer for them and their families! Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and stop by tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

When I Was Your Age…

     We are in the 4th week of our current sermon series- Things Your Parents Said. If you remember, the 1st week we looked at “Wear Clean Underwear”, the 2nd week we looked at “You’ll Put Your Eye Out”, last week it was “Don’t Play With Fire”. Today, as we have every week, we’ll consider 2 “old standards” before getting to the topic at hand. Do you remember this? “Money doesn’t grow on trees!” Well…no…DUH! (But how many of us have wished that money DID in fact grow on trees?) How about this one? “Stop crying, or I’ll give you something to cry about!” Well, isn’t THAT special? Apparently I’m NOT already upset enough- I mean, I’m only in tears! But now you’re going to “give me something to cry about”! Well, I can hardly wait! How about this one? “When I was your age…” You KNOW what I mean! You would be complaining about how bad your life was, and your mom and/or dad would say something like, “When I was your age, I had to walk to school, every day, 8 miles, each way, uphill, BOTH ways, barefoot, in three feet of snow, carrying a thousand pounds of firewood on my back, with rabid wolverines chasing me and biting at my ankles!” Do you ever feel  like your kids just aren’t caring about, even paying attention to your stories about “back in the day…”? Let me let you in on a little secret- technology is the key in that case. If you really want your kids to know how deprived and empty your childhood was, talk about the technology you didn’t have. “In my day, we didn’t have computers, cell phones, IPods, Facebook…”- that’ll get their attention! But be careful- there’s a fine line between garnering sympathy and inviting ridicule. Hunter once asked me if we had music when I was a kid. I assured him we hummed Gregorian Chants will we rode our dinosaurs to school. But perhaps the best example of this is “back in my day” mentality is found in a Monty Python skit where two men are talking about “the old days”.

1ST MAN: In those days we were glad to have the price of a cup of tea.
2ND MAN: A cup of cold tea.
1ST MAN: Without milk or sugar.
2ND MAN: Or tea.
1ST MAN: In a cracked cup.
2ND MAN: Oh, we never had a cup. We used to have to drink out of a rolled up newspaper. But you know, we were happy in those days, though we were poor.
1ST MAN: I was happier then and I had nothing. We used to live in this tiny old house with great big holes in the roof.
2ND MAN: House! You were lucky to live in a house! We used to live in one room, all twenty-six of us, no furniture, half the floor was missing, and we were all huddled together in one corner for fear of falling.
1ST MAN: You were lucky to have a room! We used to have to live in a corridor!
2ND MAN: Oh, we used to dream of living in a corridor! Would have been a palace to us. We used to live in an old water tank on a rubbish heap.
1ST MAN: When I say ‘house’ it was only a hole in the ground covered by a tarp, but it was a house to us.
2ND MAN: We were evicted from our hole in the ground; we had to live in a lake.
1ST MAN: You were lucky to have a lake! There were a hundred and fifty of us living in a shoebox in the middle of the road.
2ND MAN: Cardboard box?
1ST MAN: Aye.
2ND MAN: You were lucky. We lived for three months in a paper bag in a septic tank. And the one-upsmanship went on from there! “Back in my day” stories can be annoying, but in the end they can be time-worn stories that teach! Look at this New Testament passage-

John 2:1-11- the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied, “My time has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.

     You’ve seen the commercial that asks the question: “Got milk?” Well, today’s question is: “Got wine?” And the answer is: “No!” The wine was gone. The new couple was facing the ultimate embarrassment- not being able to provide. They would be forever remembered as the ones who failed to take care of the needs of their guests. The supply of wine was already running low- Jesus and his boys showing up only put an addition strain on the already diminishing supply of wine. 
Did you notice that the story opened with the words: “The third day…”? There is a strong allusion to the resurrection. John’s Gospel, and Jesus’ ministry, begin where they end- a miracle at the end of three days. With this story, John begins the slow, steady build to the greatest miracle ever- the resurrection of Jesus, when Jesus becomes the bridegroom and the church becomes the bride, adorned for her Husband. Jesus’ first miracle points to his penultimate miracle, the one by which He shows His glory.

     After Jesus and his disciples arrive at the wedding, Mary, Jesus’ mother, comes to Him and says, “They have no more wine.” Some theologians believe that Mary was not actually asking for, or even expecting, a miracle.but was instead saying, “You and your friends showing up has helped cause this problem. Send some of your buddies over to the Casey’s to get some more wine.” But I respectfully disagree with those folks. I think the more likely scenario is that Mary knew exactly what she was doing. I mean, she has known all along who Jesus was…remember, the angel visited HER with the news of the coming miraculous birth. She KNOWS who Jesus is…and what he’s capable of. She knows of His baptism, of His calling the disciples- she understands that His public ministry has begun. She knows that He’s about to do something wonderful. I think she sees this “mini-crisis” and providential. And so, even through His reluctance to start his ministry before its time, she tells the servants: “Do whatever He tells you.” 

     This is a story about miracles…involving everyday, ordinary needs. Miracles happen when we understand that Jesus cares about our everyday needs. Mary knew that- Jesus cares about people, about our physical needs, not just our spiritual needs. Jesus is the kind of guy you want at your party. He knows how to have a good time. He enjoyed himself so much that, in Matthew 11:19, He quotes his detractors as calling Him a “glutton and drunkard”. No one ever accused Jesus of promoting a rigid, serious, emotionally stifling religion- quite the opposite. Wherever Jesus went there was life and joy. In fact, in John 15:11, He states that his life mission is that his joy might be in us and that our joy might be complete. Jesus came to bring His joy…to us. He is the God of irrepressible joy, and He’s come to share it. He offers the wine of joy to all those who are thirsty for life — for all those who are willing to come and drink.  

     This is a story about miracles. Miracles happen when we understand that Jesus transforms our everyday experiences. Jesus didn’t come to give us information; he came to give us transformation. He came to change things. He didn’t come to bring new ideas; he came to make new people. God is in the transformation business. The world wants us to get a new hairdo, a new wardrobe, a face lift. But Jesus doesn’t want to change our looks, He wants to change our hearts. He doesn’t want to rearrange us; he wants to transform us. Jesus is in the business of turning water into wine, sinners into saints, fear into courage, sorrow into joy, defeat into victory, despair into hope and death into life. 

     In this story, when the master of the banquet tastes the wine, his eyes light up. He can’t  believe what he’s tasting. He says, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests are drunk; but you’ve saved the best till last.” Jesus always saves the best till last. The world puts its best right up front…and then things quickly go downhill from there. But when God shows up, things go from good…through better…to best. Like the water jars, we can be filled to the brim with the blessings of God. The best the world has to offer pales when compared to the new wine Jesus offers. Notice- Jesus waited until their resources had completely run dry before he performed the miracle. Only when the people came to the end of their supply were they ready to receive what Jesus had to give. 

     Today is Memorial Day. Memorial Day is about giving your last full measure of devotion to your country. It’s about sacrificing for something larger than yourself. Its about being willing to lay down even your life for what you believe in. Memorial Day is about sacrifice and service. Faith in God is also about sacrifice and service, about being willing to lay down even your life for what you believe in. When I shuffle off this mortal coil and go to join the choir in Visibule, I want to be remembered as someone who loved others. And I want our church to be known as a church that’s not judgmental and stand-offish, but rather a church that opens up their heart to everyone- even people who are stumbling and falling, a church without judgement in our hearts, a church that says “I’ve got some really Good News for you- I met this guy named Jesus, and He changed my life. I want to share Him with you.” Christian witness, at its’ heart, isn’t about some authority telling everyone how they should live. Instead, it’s about one beggar telling another beggar where they can find some food.

     We need to hunger for the living bread of heaven, instead of the white bread the world offers. Are you satisfied with yourself…and your TV…and your computer…and your job?  Or do you hunger…and thirst…for more? Do you find yourself looking around and thinking, “This CAN’T be all there is…there HAS TO BE more!” Are you thirsty for something more? If so, you’ve come to the right place…the right Savior…because He is the God of abundance, the God of life…new life…new wine. To receive this new wine, you have to come to Him with a legitimate, sincere thirst. You have to stand before Jesus and follow the instructions of His mother, “Do whatever He tells you.” If you do, something wonderful will happen- new wine, new life, a miracle.

     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed Sunday and a GREAT Memorial Day tomorrow! Please make sure and stop then, and stick with Jesus!

Unity…Or Uniformity?

     Remember Junior High? Everybody wanted to be like “the cool kids”…and I was NOT one of the cool kids! We all wanted to wear the right clothes, have the right hair style, say the right things. We wanted to be…alike! The funny thing about that it that even people who want to be different than the mainstream folk end up looking JUST LIKE the people they run with. I once heard someone ask a guy who was wearing all black with eye liner and spikes and chains everywhere, “Why do you dress like that?” The response? “I want to be different.” The irony? They were surrounded by about a dozen people who all looked JUST like them! 

     I just finished teaching a Bible Study on the New Testament book of Romans. (An aside- that is one TOUGH book to get through! Some of the folks in the class said, “We enjoyed that…but could we pick an easier book for the next study?!”) Late in the book, the Apostle Paul talks about unity. I challenged the class to consider what exactly “unity” means. We kicked around several possible definitions, and the ensuing discussion led to exactly the point I was hoping to get to- the difference between unity and uniformity.
     Uniformity is being just like everybody else. Uniformity is wearing the same things, doing the same things, saying the same things, thinking the same things, believing the same things! Uniformity is one small goose step away from the kind of mentality that got Nazi German in so much trouble. Uniformity takes away individuality and replaces it with mindless adherence to rules and norms. Whether we are talking about faith or just…life…uniformity is something that I just can’t stomach.
     Unity, on the other hand, is a whole different ballgame. Unity has NOTHING to do with lock-step adherence to a convoluted group of rules. Instead, it has everything to do with being an individual AND a part of something larger than yourself. It means having a kinship and a symbiosis with a group of people while still being able to hang on to who you are as an individual. Unity is a body of unique individuals united in a common cause. 
     Unity over and against uniformity is one thing I appreciate about the United Methodist Church. I have to look no further than myself to see it at work. I am about to go to Annual Conference, where all the clergy and representatives of the laity gather together once a year to both worship together and have the Church’s “business meeting”. When I attend the clergy session, there will be young clergy and old clergy, male clergy and female clergy, clergy of all colors, races and nationalities, urban clergy, suburban clergy and rural clergy. And in the midst of them will be…ME…a shaved-headed, earring-wearing, rock-drumming United Methodist minister…and I am accepted and welcomed into that gathering. We are NOT uniform, in an way, shape or form…but we have great unity in our goal to make disciples for Jesus Christ.
     I encourage you to always seek unity with the people around you…while holding tightly to your uniqueness. Reject uniformity…but covet unity! Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Duct Tape’s Nerdy Cousin

     WE all know the power of Duct Tape. Carl Zwanzig said, “Duct tape is like the force:  It has a dark side…and a light side and it holds the universe together.” (Perhaps Darth Vader could say, “The Duct Tape is strong in this one!”) I found a website that lists things you can do with Duct Tape. Here are just SOME of them: make a decorative book cover, fix a broken tail light, repair a cracked windshield, patch clothing, repair a broken hose, wallpaper your house, make a hinge for a cabinet door, repair upholstery, roll into a ball for hockey practice, mark lines on a sports field, use to pull unsightly hair, patch holes in vinyl siding, make jewelry, make shoes, close chip bags, fix vacuum cleaner hose, repair eye glasses, make a wallet, hold a car hood shut, make a belt, use as handcuffs, remove lint from clothes…the list goes on and on! Dave Barry said about it, “Magnetism is one of the Six Fundamental Forces of the Universe, with the other five being Gravity, Duct Tape, Whining, Remote Control, and The Force That Pulls Dogs Toward The Groins Of Strangers.” While G. Weilacher said,  “One only needs two tools in life: WD-40 to make things go, and duct tape to make them stop.”

     Much has been written about Duct Tape. Much has been done with Duct Tape. Duct Tape is seen as the glue that holds the world together. But what about Duct Tape’s nerdy cousin…Masking Tape? Today is the anniversary of the patent being issued on Masking Tape.  It was invented in 1925 by 3M employee Richard Drew. He visited auto=body shops, trying to sell sand paper. While there, he watched auto-body workers getting frustrated when they tried to remove butcher paper they had used to mask cars when painting them. The adhesive on their tape sometimes peeled off some of the paint they had just applied. Drew realized they needed a new tape with a gentler adhesive. So he set out to make one. He worked on it so long, his boss at 3M finally told him to stop and get back to his sand paper. He obeyed…for one whole day! He went back to it and was eventually rewarded for his efforts with the first successful Masking Tape!
     If you have ever done any painting, you know JUST how invaluable Masking Tape is. No other tape works like Masking Tape when it comes to…well…masking!! (I mean, it IS called MASKING Tape…after all!) On this, the anniversary of Masking Tape officially entering the world, we would be remiss if we didn’t take a moment and hail the unsung hero of tapes. Duct Tape may get all the press, but Masking Tape comes through when the paint brushes roll out! So today, be thankful for a sand paper salesman who met some disgruntled auto-body workers and had an epiphany. Bravo, Masking Tape!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and stop by tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Riding the Kindergarten Bus

     When I was 5, I contracted Rheumatic Fever, an inflammatory disease that occurs follows a bout of things like strep throat. It can impact the joints, skin, heart and brain. I was in the hospital for a month, in bed at hour for some time after that, and had to learn to walk again. Because of all that, I was rather late starting Kindergarten- I didn’t start until after Christmas! When I first started, I was not even allowed to play outside. So when the other kids went out for recess, I had to stay in and watch them. It was NOT fun! I also didn’t know anybody. The other kids had the entire first semester to meet people and make friends, so I was definitely “behind the curve” when I got there. But that changed rather quickly.

     I attended Afternoon Kindergarten, and I had to ride the bus home every afternoon. My bus had kids from High School all the way down to…ME…and that was pretty intimidating. But within the first few days, I saw this kid who seemed to be my age, but seemed to be more comfortable than I was…so I gravitated toward him. Turned out, he was in the OTHER Afternoon Kindergarten class- that’s why I didn’t know him. Also, he lived EVEN FARTHER out into the “hinterlands” than I did, so we rode the same bus. 
     We became fast friends, playing together at recess (once I could go outside), sitting together on the bus…we was like peas and carrots! But between Kindergarten and First Grade, the school system re-districted the area, putting me in a different school. I was so upset… was going to lose my new friend! BUT…on the first day of First Grade, there he was, in my class!! In fact, he and I went all the way through Sixth Grade in the same classroom! And then we went to the same Junior High, where we had many classes together, were in many of the same after-school activities, and continued to be best friends. Then we went to the same high school where, again, we had many of the same classes and were involved in many of the same activities. Then  we went away to college…but did NOT go to the same university! We kept in touch, however, and got together in the summers. Since, we have both gone on to do post-graduate work- me earning a Master’s Degree and him earning the title of Doctor! We have both since gotten married, had kids and gotten heavily involved in careers. And, amazingly enough, we have ended up 60 minutes away from each other!
     Yesterday, he was in the area and so we made arrangements to have lunch together. He came by the church and we walked across the parking lot to a local restaurant, where we had good food but better conversation! 2 hours passed in the blink of an eye and we had to both “get back to life”! I can’t describe how good it was to seem him, spend time with him, get caught up. The only people on the planet who have known me longer than him are all related to me. Those types of friends are rare and special.
     Who in your life is that sort of person? Who are the people who go way beyond “friends” into something so much more? Who has impacted your life like so few others have? Take some time today and contact them. Take some time today and let them know how special they are. Take some time today and thank them for the impact they have had on your life. Let them know what they mean to you. And stay in touch with them. Don’t let the time just…slip away (like I am prone to do) without devoting some of it to the people who matter in your life! By the way, to my friend who I had lunch with yesterday (and who reads this blog)…thanks…and I love you like a brother!!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and stop by again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Free To (Carpenter) Bee…You and and Me

     My youngest son and I were planting flowers the other evening (we waiting until after dinner to try and avoid the heat…it was MILDLY successful!) We planted several flowers in the flower bed we have in our front yard. When we were done, we had several flowers left over (amazingly enough…all part of my plan!) so we carried them around back, lugged them up the stairs and put them on the deck. Then, we set out to plant our tomatoes. I have tried what I call “Pot Tomatoes” ( and NO…it has NOTHING to do with any illegal substances, but instead means I plant them in big…ready?…POTS on the deck!) the past few years, with VERY limited success. So…I have officially jumped on the Topsy-Turvy bandwagon! Yep, I went to the local Wally-World and bought three of them. I ALMOST left without buying tomato plants. (The Topsy-Turvy is rather useless without the actual plants!) 

     So we got them out of their boxes (the planters, NOT the plants) and grudgingly read the directions. (I am, after all, a GUY, and guys, as we ALL know, DON’T read directions!) It seemed easy enough, so we set about trying to actually plant the tomato plants. It really is quite simple- even a 49-year old pastor can do it! (I should be on their commercials!) 
     But, in the middle of all that, I noticed sawdust…FRESH sawdust…on the deck, right under the wooden shelf built into the side of the house and jutting out into the deck. My first thought was the “T” word- termites. I got down and looked under the shelve, but couldn’t really see anything. So, I made a mental note to check that out later, after the tomato-planting was complete. So, back to tomatoes we went. However, all of a sudden, along comes this Jurassic bee. I mean to tell you, this thing could have carried off a small child!! My son got a little panicky, and I immediately went into “dad” mode- moving him farther way from the bee while assuring him “it won’t hurt you if you don’t hurt it!” (I wonder if Daniel Boone ever told HIS kid that when a bear lumbered out of the forest? I find it somewhat hard to swallow when we’re talking about a bee. I would find it absolutely ridiculous in relation to a bear!) The bee flew around us a bit, causing us to run around like stunt doubles from a Jerry Lewis movie, and then it flew over the the previously-mentioned shelf, landed on it and crawled under it. Now, I am seldom accused of being the sharpest tool in the shed, but it did NOT go unnoticed to me that the bee crawled up under the shelf RIGHT above where the sawdust was. Coincidence? I think not!
     So we finished planting the tomatoes (with me planting and my son serving as “bee lookout”) and went inside. The next day, I happen to see the man from Terminex who does the bug treatment at my church, so I asked him, “Is there a bee that bores into wood?” And THAT’S when I learned about the Carpenter Bee! Turns out, the Carpenter Bee bores into untreated wood (this deck is TECHNICALLY treated…but I believe it was treated sometime during the Carter Administration) and lay their eggs. The other thing I learned was that, even more so than most other bees, they WON’T sting you unless you do something really stupid like grab them out of mid-air or something. So all of our running around like chickens with our heads cut off (I am SO thankful no one was videotaping…I GUARANTEE it would be on YouTube by now!) was for naught- the bee REALLY wasn’t going to hurt us unless we hurt it! Who knew?
     How often do you “judge a book by its cover”? How often do you make decisions about people based solely on their appearance, without giving them the benefit of the doubt? My challenge to you is this- spend the rest of the week REFUSING to judge people- see what happens. Who knows? You may come across a shaved-headed, earring wearing rock drummer who turns out to be a United Methodist minister! Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day. Please make sure and stop by again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Sitting With the Bishop

     In the United Methodist system, the country is broken down by Jurisdictions. The jurisdictions are broken down by Annual Conferences. The Annual Conferences are broken down by Districts. The Districts are broken down by Clusters. The Clusters are broken down by Charges. And the Charges are broken down by individual congregations. (And individual congregations are broken down by arguing and backbiting! Boo-Doom-Ching! Oh, I’ll be here all week! Try the veal! Tip your waitresses!) No, seriously, us United Methodists never met a structure we didn’t like. (We are, after all, METHOD-ists!) Well, if you noticed, in the midst of that list was the Annual Conference. In my case, the Annual Conference is basically the entire state of Illinois south of Chicago. And every Annual Conference is governed by a Bishop, who serves as the spiritual leader of the Annual Conference. For a time a few years ago, the resident Bishop would come to every District once a year and meet with the clergy. It was intended to be a time of prayer a sharing, as well as an opportunity to take care of any “housekeeping” that needed attention. 

     One year (about 11 years ago), I was preparing to attend just such a meeting. I was serving a church as the Associate Pastor (technically half-time, but in the ministry there really isn’t any half-time work, just half-time pay!) while going to Seminary full-time. I literally met myself coming and going most days during that period of time, and this particular day was no different. I HAD to attend the meeting with the Bishop, but I had a great deal of work to do, between church and Seminary. What to do? So, I decided to take my laptop to the meeting and sit in the back. I could LOOK like I was engaged in the meeting and taking copious notes while all the while trying to get caught up on mounds and mounds of Seminary-related work. Perfect! So, I got there early (because if you don’t make it to ANY Methodist function early, you will NOT get the back row- it is the first to go!) and laid claim to a seat. The room was set up with round tables, seating eight people, so I chose a seat at the table farthest away from the front, but with a seat that FACED the front. There was a plug nearby, so I was set! I got some coffee and settled in. The Bishop got up and began the meeting. She did what she was there to do, which took about 30 minutes, at which time she turned things over to someone else who would be leading the next part of the meeting. Meanwhile, I was working, working, working- delighted with the way things were going! (To quote that great theologian Hannibal Smith from the A Team, “I love it when a plan comes together!”) 
     As the Bishop completed her opening segment and left the dais area, I watched her. She walked past the first row of tables…past the second row of tables…past the THIRD row of tables…and toward my row. It was at that moment I realized the one tragic flaw in my master plan- the chair right next to me was…EMPTY! Oh…SNAP! “But”, I thought, “there are still other tables with empty seats between her and me. Surely she’ll take one of them.” But, one by one, she passed the other available seats at the other available tables until she ended up…right next to me! She greeted everyone at my table and asked, “Is this seat taken?”- indicating the one right next to me! What was I going to say at that moment? “I’m sorry Bishop, but my imaginary friend Brian R. Mate is sitting there. He is just on an extended trip to the bathroom!” So, the Bishop sat RIGHT NEXT to me…AND…I closed the file I was working on in my laptop, opened up another file on which to TAKE NOTES, and dutifully participated in the proceedings the rest of the day!! 
     I never asked the Bishop if she did that on purpose or not. It FELT intentional on her part…but I also know that God has a marvelous sense of humor…so it could have easily been Divine Intervention at its best! What are you trying to get out of today? I doubt if the Bishop will come and sit next to you and ruin your plans for avoidance, BUT…perhaps today is th day to STOP avoiding that one thing and just (to quote Nike) DO IT! It probably won’t be as bad as you imagine it to be. And once you do it…it’s DONE! 
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!