Paul’s Message: I Wish…

As the spring season progresses, as I sit in the shadow of stunning green mountains with just a touch of winter snow left at the peaks, as I look out over a valley just waking up to a new day, as I look forward to a day of meaningful work (and a little play too), I find myself wishing.

I wish the Lakers are able to reconfigure their team and win another championship next year (I wish for the Jazz to make it to the western conference finals. ;-)

I wish Timber would stop barking at the neighbor’s dog who seems to be relishing her walk in front of our/his window.

I wish for time and weather to hop on the bike and get a good ride in today (I think this wish will come true :-) .

I wish safe and blessed travels for all who are heading this way or that (including my daughter Lydia coming home to the US after a semester in Oaxaca, Mexico. Yea! says mom and dad).

I wish for blessed arrivals for summer citizens. May your travels be filled with refreshing experiences, meaningful work, or happy reunions.

I wish for wisdom for those who have questions that are profound.

I wish for a summer of wonderful worship and meaningful ministry for First Pres (Faith doesn’t take summers off, it makes summers better)

I wish for a warm welcome for the new associate pastor the Lord has already chosen (even if we and she/he don’t know who it is quite yet!)

For those who are looking for work, those who don’t know where this month’s rent, or next month’s mortgage payment, or tonight’s dinner is going to come from, I wish they discover a path to just what they need.

I wish for healing and strength to come to those who are hurting. I know that many are struggling with brokenness in mind, body, and spirit. Many are wrestling with relationships or wallowing in loneliness (sometimes both). Some are seeking to overcome past hurts, or to deal with the demon of an addiction. I wish for you to take steps toward wholeness.

I wish for peace inside ourselves, in our homes, in our communities, in our government, in our churches, and around the world. Boy do I wish for peace.

“I wish” is, perhaps, not the right phrase. “I pray” is a lot more like it. Praying is a lot more (and a lot mo ‘betta, as they say in HI) than wishing. Wishing is more for pipe dreams. Praying is more for children of God who hope and work for wholeness to come. Praying is aligning ourselves with that divine love that desires to move the whole creation toward Sabbath peace. Praying makes things happen. Maybe it’s not as quick, or not in the way that we’d choose. Maybe those stubborn prayers seem to remain forever on our lists, especially the larger and/or deeper ones. But I believe prayer eventually brings hope, and hope (combined with love) makes things brighter and moves things forward. I not only wish, I pray … for you.

Peace, Paul

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  • Breakfast Encounter

    Last Friday morning, I stopped by my GP’s office to let them draw some blood for a test and to get my flu vaccine for the year. Because of the blood test, I had to ‘fast,’ arriving for the blood draw without having any food that morning. When the phlebotomist had drawn the blood and given me the shot, I went to a nearby diner to get some breakfast. Little did I know I was about to witness something extraordinary.

    While I was eating my pancake, egg, and piece of sausage and reading a book about Oscar Romero, a young man went up to the counter to pay. I didn’t notice any of this, of course (occupied as I was with not only Oscar Romero’s life and ministry to the poor of El Salvador, but also all that butter and syrup…) until the young man started yelling at the woman behind the counter.

    “Swipe it again!” is what drew my attention.

    She did, and the card must have been denied a second time. She ran it again, and the look on her face told me the same thing happened. Denied.

    The young man was getting more agitated and saying things to her under his breath. I was paying more attention now, and she asked if he had another card she could try.

    “No! I don’t have another bleeping card!” he yelled at her. Except he didn’t say bleeping.

    Now I’m not a stranger to harsh words. I’ve said them myself. Usually when I’m trying to get a rusted bolt off an old machine and it finally comes loose, taking some of my knuckle skin with it. And I think I quietly swore under my breath in January of 1988 when the Washington football team beat my beloved Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl, 42-10. There have been other times too. But never, ever at a person.

    Upon being sworn at, the young woman stared at the man like she didn’t know what to do (how could she?). Tears were about to appear. And the air in the room went real still. Like in the movies. I’m sure the background music was still playing, but it seemed deathly quiet at that moment.

    I was about to get up and walk over to the counter—not exactly sure what I was going to do once I got there—when another man who had been eating nearby wandered up real slow, eyes staring at the young man. He was a tall guy, with white hair under his old IFA ball cap, probably in his sixties. He asked the young woman, “What seems to be the problem here?”

    And that’s when the young man made what I thought was a fatal mistake: he answered when he hadn’t been spoken to. “It’s nothin’. My card won’t work,” he spat back.

    I thought a fight was about to break out, but the older man, his eyes searing into the young disgruntled one’s face, reached for his wallet and said to the cashier, “Aubrey, I’d like to pay for this young man’s meal, if that’s okay with him.” And after getting out some cash, he put his hand on the young man’s shoulder, not one of those friendly pats on the shoulder, but one of those firm grips that, well, made me think he was making sure the lesson was going to stick.

    I’ve had those kinds of hands on my shoulders a few times over the years. Perhaps from a coach, maybe from my dad once or twice; they happen when a boy or young man really needs to start paying attention.

    And after staring at him for what seemed like an eternity, the old guy said, “Be kind.” And then walked away.

    The young man left the restaurant and climbed into an oversize truck that was parked right out front, cranked up the volume on his radio, and left some rubber on the road as he departed.

    I went into the church office sometime later to finish my sermon, but I kept thinking about angry people and hurt people and kind people and people who teach lessons to those who could use them. I also thought about people who have a head full of kind words who refuse to tolerate ugliness.

    I hope I can be someone like that.

    I have a feeling Aubrey earned a whole lot of tips that morning. She deserved them.

    Be kind.

    That’s all for now.

    —Pastor Derek

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