Paul’s Message: From Messiness to Hope

messy rainbowOur house is a mess.

We are trying to get it ready to put on the market, followed by a two stage move out to our new home in Port Townsend, WA. We have boxes both filled and empty all over the place. Furniture has been moved around. Closets and nooks and crannies that have stored our lives for the past eight years have seemingly exploded. Hala (our retriever) is wearing her questioning “nothing good can come of this” expressions that says, “What’s going on?”

And this is just to get our house ready to list. In addition, we are loaded with things to take care of. We have threads to tie off here, and doors to open there. WE have pieces that we need to let go of here, and pieces that we need to pick up there, with all of the steps in-between. We have tough goodbyes to say. Life is messy.

We will get through it and a new stage of our lives will begin. We are hopeful and excited. But right now life is a little messy.

Perhaps your life is all squared away, your corners are tucked, your lamp shades are dusted, and the dishwasher is in the final rinse with your sink clear.

Perhaps you are discouraged by your life’s messiness (and I’m not just talking about the dried crusties on the dishes piled in the sink).

Perhaps your life is a mixture of messiness and order, of chaos and cleanliness, of uncertainty and thanksgiving.

I don’t have any special wisdom for you, whatever your life may look like right now. But I myself try to cling to these nuggets when I face the messiness of my own life (and I also try to not to forget them when things seem dandy):

“Blessed are those who trust in the LORD,
Whose trust is the LORD.
They shall be like a tree planted by water,
Sending out its roots by the stream.
It shall not fear when heat comes,
And its leaves shall stay green;
In the year of drought it is not anxious,
And it does not cease to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

And “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you.” (Jeremiah 29:11-12)

This is the last Pulse message I will write as pastor of FPC Logan. It’s a tough one to write for me as this place, and you, have been a real blessing for me. Now that new times have come, and I am leaving, there might be some moments and places of messiness around here. But I believe that FPC Logan is like “a tree planted by water.” The messiness is opportunity for new growth and discover. I believe that when the heat comes your leaves will stay green, and that the Lord has plans for you to bear much fruit for all of Cache Valley.

My life, right now, is too messy to clean up all the different metaphors in this message. Whatever your circumstance, know that God loves you and is focused on your shalom. “Blessed are those who trust in the LORD.” I believe that your messiness (individual and corporate), your love for God and neighbor, and your trust in the Lord and in each other will lead to a future filled with hope.

Peace my friends,
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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