“Did Anybody Drop This?”

I was buckled in with my cell phone in airplane mode, and my tray table in its upright and locked position. I was ready for takeoff. We had just started to push back when the PA come on and the flight attendant asked, “Did anybody drop this?” Of course everybody looked up, craning their heads around the seats and leaning into the aisles to see. She continued, “OK, now that I have your attention, let’s go over the safety demo.”

Touché! Well played, Southwest Airlines, well played!

If God could completely have your attention, what do you think he would say?

Here’s one thought:

Matthew 6 (The Message)

34 “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

Whoa. Did you hear that? Are you craning your head around all your problems to see what he is saying? Don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. Whatever it is, God will help you deal with it.

Do you believe that? Do you have a well of trust deep enough that when you dip your worry-bucket in, it comes out filled up to the rim with hope? Yeah, me neither. I mean, it is hard to face your unspoken fears with courage and faith. Instead, our human tendency is to immediately dive deep into fret and worry. It’s normal. It’s natural. It’s understandable. And it’s also useless.

Scripture reminds us that God loves the wildflowers he created, and….wait for it…he loves us even more:

30-33 “If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving.

People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.”

Do I have your attention yet?

So here’s the thing. You know God. You know how he works. Every day you check in here to read, learn, and grow in your understanding of his word. So pick this up today: the best defense against useless worry is to relax in his promises.

Steep your life in God-reality.

Steep your life in God-initiative.

Steep your life in God-provisions.

When you do that, you’ll find all your everyday concerns will be met by the God who loves you, who created you, and who died on a cross for you. Thanks be to God.

Outer Banks Starfish by Michelle Robertson.

A Joyful Noise

I am just going to put it out there. Kids belong in church. I don’t care if you disagree. I once talked back to an usher for telling a hassled single Mom that she should take her fussy child out of the sanctuary. I pulled him aside and corrected him in my best minister-voice. We do not ever tell a tired mother to remove her exuberant kids from the sanctuary. Not for any reason. Not on any occasion. NOT. IN. MY. CHURCH.

His reasoning was that the child was disruptive. So was Jesus.

He was afraid that the noise would prevent others from following the service. That’s why we give out a bulletin.

He didn’t want visitors to not want to come back. They are welcome to find a church where kids aren’t welcome. This is not that place.

He was concerned I would be distracted in my preaching. Buddy, don’t try to hide your gate-keeping bias under some fake concern for me. I love that sound and I can preach in harmony with it any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Like, for real, twice on Sunday.

Babies, toddlers, and old people singing loudly (off key, and several beats behind) are the Lord’s joyful noise. Even the angels rejoice at this noise! I don’t know a preacher who isn’t used to it and can’t ignore it when it happens. The fact that it happens tells us one thing: we have a baby in church! There is a child here! Some parent went to a tremendous amount of effort this morning to get here to worship.

Please tell me how that is a bad thing.

Matthew 19 (New International Version)

The Little Children and Jesus

13 Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.

14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 15 When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.

So if you like to take scripture literally, let’s unpack that one for a bit. Let them come. Don’t hinder them. The Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

Hold up there a minute. The Kingdom of God belongs to the little children? Jesus wants them to come to him? Sounds like all the big people sitting in the pews are the actual interlopers, since apparently we are invading the church that, according to Jesus, belongs to the kids. Ponder that! Maybe it’s a good thing that they still need us to drive them to church; otherwise they might decide to unionize and hinder US from coming. No more Grups! (Some of you may recognize Gene Roddenberry’s contraction of grown ups from a very early Star Trek episode. If so, I salute you.)

And that is so true. We all realize that the future of our churches and our denominations depend on the children who are squirming in the pews and running helter-skelter to the doughnut table, but do we acknowledge that they are also the PRESENT of the church?

Maybe it’s time to count the ways kids are hindered from worship. Like parents who are overcommitted and too tired to make the effort on Sundays. Like churches who don’t make an effort to warmly and intentionally welcome them and make a place for them. Like pastors who continue to use dusty, old sermon illustrations meant for the over-50 crowd. Like worship committees who don’t utilize children and youth as worship leaders.

Where is Jesus calling you to open your heart to the little disciples? Do you need an attitude change? Parents, is God calling to a stronger commitment to consistent worship participation with your family? Or maybe your entire church needs a shake-up?

Let the little children come to Jesus, with all of their joyful noise. When Jesus laid his hands on the children and prayed over them, I bet that is just what he asked his Father to do. Wake up, churches. The future-present is crawling under the pews during the offertory. Make way!

Raising Cain.

Neckties

Consider the history of the necktie. Legionnaires in the 2nd century B.C. wore the first neckwear, according to some historians. Their cloth bands were worn as protection from the weather. Other people cite the 3rd century B.C. terra-cotta statues of Chinese warriors as the first evidence of neckties. They wore neck scarves to protect the source of their strength, i.e. their Adam’s apples.

Most experts, however, date the initial appearance of what led to the modern tie back to 1636. Croatian mercenaries hired by King Louis XIV wore cloth bands around their necks to ward off natural elements and sword slashes.

Today, however, men don’t need to protect themselves from weather, assaults to their Adam’s apples, and hopefully not sword slashes. So why the tie? Most men find them uncomfortable and bothersome. Loosening the tie is often the first thing a fellow does the minute he leaves the office. I mean, even the word neck-tie sounds restrictive.

Neckties are a means of uniformity. Imagine the workplace of the 1960’s without men in neckties. Imagine the church of the 1990’s without men in neckties. Uniformity was the goal, and neckties were the instrument that tied it all together. Blessed be the tie that binds? Not when it is tied around the neck!

Thank God we are over that.

Ties, hats, gloves, and heels have faded away as mandatory “Sunday morning best.” Society has accepted the fact that it is so much more important to show up than to show off.

So with neckties out, what should we wear around our necks?

Proverbs 3 New Living Translation (NLT)

3  My child, never forget the things I have taught you.

    Store my commands in your heart.

2  If you do this, you will live many years,

    and your life will be satisfying.

3  Never let loyalty and kindness leave you!

    Tie them around your neck as a reminder.

    Write them deep within your heart.

4  Then you will find favor with both God and people,

    and you will earn a good reputation.

Loyalty and kindness. The perfect neckwear for any occasion! This type of necktie will help you find favor with God and people alike. When we tie the things God has taught us around our necks, we will have a satisfying life and a good reputation. Now that’s a necktie everyone should have in their closet.

I once had a conversation with a teenager about church clothes. Michael was the son of the school bus driver and never attended church. I knew him from the High School marching band, where I volunteered as a chaperone and band announcer. All the kids knew me, but most didn’t know I am a pastor. Michael had spent the weekend at Taylor’s house, and when they awoke on Sunday morning, Taylor’s mom called them to breakfast and told them what time to be ready for church.

When Michael arrived, he looked around at all the people dressed up for church, and all the men wearing ties. He found me and immediately came up to me. “Miss Betsy, I am so sorry to be wearing my band t-shirt and jeans in your church,” he said. “I spent the night at Taylor’s house and my Mom didn’t know we would be coming to church.”

I looked him in the eye and asked, “Michael, are you in a church?” He replied, “Yes, M’am.” I said, “And are you wearing clothes?” He laughed and said, “Yes, M’am.” “Then you’re obviously wearing church clothes, so have a seat.”

The Gospel is a message of freedom, not restriction. Church is a place of harmony, not uniformity. Come on in and find a seat! We’re just glad you’re here. There is no dress code in God’s house. In my church at the beach, the acolytes wear flip flops and the pastor never wears a tie. Got clothes? Come on in.

This leash is as close to a necktie as I’ll ever get.

Standing in Awe

I recently watched the movie I Can Only Imagine, which is the story of how the number one Christian song by the same name was written and produced. The band Mercy Me and its lead singer Bart Millard are the central characters in the story, with a great performance by actor Dennis Quaid as the abusive father. There is a surprising twist of how Amy Grant played a pivotal role in what happened. Those are all the spoilers you will get here, so go find it and watch it.

The song explores what happens when we die. Millard asks the question, “Will I dance for you Jesus, or in awe of you, be still?”

I have a friend who is actively dying. I have lain awake at night trying to process this. I am no stranger to death. My parents are dead, and as a pastor, I have seen more funerals than baptisms and weddings combined. I have been with people at the very moment of death and watched that transition.

A group of Girl Scouts once interviewed me as part of their merit badge program, and the question was asked, “What is your favorite part of your job?” I looked at this pack of giggly girls and I’m sure they expected me to say, “Weddings!” Every giggly girl would think that would be just wonderful, to be part of so many weddings. This is not the case. I told them that ministry with the dying was my favorite part, and their faces fell. I went on to explain that it is in those moments that I feel closest to God and experience the pure and uncomplicated “sacred.”

We understand the word sacred to mean set apart. Things that are sacred are set apart from the ordinary, set apart from the earthly, and set apart for God’s use and his glory.

Death is sacred. There is not one sacrament created by the church that can even touch it. Communion, baptism, and all the other things churches observe as sacramental cannot hold a candle to death.

In the moment of death, the veil is literally torn between this earth and that heaven. The process of transition is that moment of our lives where we experience God in his fullest. Even our birth isn’t as powerful as our death.

When I was a very young pastor, I was called to the hospital bed of my church organist’s mother. She was dying, and we waited. We held her hands and talked in soft voices as she took her last breath. It was the first of many times I would experience the moment of death, and the memory is still vibrant to me. I saw/felt/understood her spirit rise out of her body and linger in the upper corner of the room. It was so real, I turned my head to look up at the corner. When I looked back at her, she was gone.

Gone where?

Philippians 3 (The Message)

20-21 But there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him.

The thief on the cross next to Jesus who believed Jesus was the son of God was promised that he would be in paradise THAT DAY. The moment of death becomes the moment of life, when we enter into our citizenship of high heaven. Our earthly bodies become transformed into something glorious, beautiful, and WHOLE. Death has no victory…death has no sting! No more pain, no more illness, no more confusion, no more tears.

Ponder this today, and make it your life’s goal to enter this paradise. And do not fear death. You will never experience the sacred in this life in the way you will experience it in death. God with us, Emmanuel, in a way we have never felt before.

Can you only imagine?

The Open Portal by Michelle Robertson

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_lrrq_opng

Judging Covers

Living on a canal affords us magnificent views of the sunrise, sunset, moonrise, and the neighbors’ back yards. Think “Rear Window,” the iconic Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly thriller. In that movie, Stewart is confined to a wheelchair after an injury, and spends hours watching his neighbors from his apartment’s rear window. He witnesses what he realizes is the murder of one of them, and the disposal of her remains by her guilty husband. If you have never seen this movie, find it today if you enjoy Hitchcock mysteries. Or just to watch Grace Kelly, who is nothing less than ethereal in this film.

But here in Colington, I have only observed the mundane things of water living; neighbors and their kids swimming off their docks, people enjoying the sunshine on their decks, a lot of waterfowl, lots of fishing, and early morning crabbers going out in their boats to check their traps. On Wednesdays I see sailboats circling in the harbor for the weekly community sail out to the sound. One time I watched an aggressive osprey fight with a large eel that kept slipping out of its talons. The osprey almost dropped it on my head as it victoriously flew over my deck back to its nest to feed the family. That surely would have caused me to list my house immediately, views or no views.

The fronts of our houses face the water, so when you travel along the streets of Colington, you are actually looking at the rather plain backs of houses. I remember taking my Mom on a boat ride on the canals and she exclaimed, “Oh, the houses are so pretty! I never realized I’ve been looking at the back of the houses all this time!” Indeed, the fancy decks and staircases, the covered porches, and the tiki bars that people have constructed all face the water. It’s like the houses have turned their backs on the street in order to face the prettier view themselves.

There is a saying that comes to mind: Never judge a book by its cover. This is just a reminder to us to look deeper and don’t make assumptions about books, houses, and especially people.

There was a time when a man named Samuel was sent to select the next king of Israel. When he looked at the fine young men standing before him, all of them Jesse’s sons, he naturally selected the biggest and most handsome one, but God said no. He continued down the line, and each time God rejected the obvious selection:

1 Samuel 16:7 New International Version (NIV)

7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Finally, the smallest son was called from the field where he had been tending sheep. This one, the runt of the litter, was the one whom God chose. His name was David, and he became one of Israel’s greatest kings.

The Lord looks at the heart. People focus on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks inward.

What can we glean from this today? Is there someone in your life who needs and deserves a deeper look? Are you guilty of making snap judgements about people you meet, based solely on their appearance? Where is God calling you to take a second look, and this time to look at the heart?

I met an elderly lady once in the lobby of a very fine restaurant. We were surrounded by all sorts of people, nationalities, and ages. The younger ones were tattooed, as most younger ones are today. Within the first three minutes of meeting this woman, she expressed outrage at all the girls and their tattoos. I live on the Outer Banks and don’t even SEE tattoos on people anymore. It’s wearable art. Everybody has at least one. This lady was dressed to the nines, but would have been highly offended if someone had criticized her choice of scarves and fake pearls. She would have wanted people to see the real her. So do the tattooed girls.

Take a look around you. The down-and-out person might be just the one Christ is calling you to befriend. The uppity church lady wearing too much perfume might be shielding a life of loneliness and heartache. The frantic, hassled guy at the gas pump might have just been told his wife is dying of cancer. The rude teenager might be having suicidal thoughts.

Look deeper. Ignore the wrapper. Be like Jesus and look into the HEART. What is on the outside is just window dressing, but what is inside is a real human, deserving of your kindness and consideration. That tattooed girl just might be royalty under all that ink. After all, she is the daughter of the King.

This tattoo is on the arm of a girl with a heart of gold.

Be the Light

A dear friend is going through a pretty mean divorce, and the constant wrestling with her husband over the children’s schedules, whose turn it is to have them, and other parenting issues are really wearing her down. He is constantly pulling the rug out from under her, so that she never quite knows whether she is coming or going. His latest trick is to change arrangements by text minutes before an appointed time. She is worn out.

She has tried to be upbeat and positive through it all, and to accommodate him as much as possible. Their children love and need their dad, and she works hard to ensure that they have regular access to him. When he has asked for more time, or needed to switch to a different time, she has gladly given it. But after describing yet another very tense interaction with him, when he refused to take the kids as prearranged in order to get back at her for some imagined offense, she looked at her hands in her lap and said, “It is getting so hard to be a light in this darkness.”

We know we are called to be the light. Jesus came to be the light of the world, and we are called to reflect that light into the darkness of our surroundings:

Matthew 5 (New International Version)

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.

16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

In over 20 years of counseling, I have noticed a certain myopia that comes over people when a relationship breaks apart. The daily hurts and struggles, the shock of I do’s turning into I don’t, I can’t, and I won’t, and the sheer energy drain that it puts on people is exhausting. Folks in the midst of this often get lost in the daily battles, and can’t see the long view.

When something like this comes into your life, it is important to keep your eyes looking upward and outward. There you will find Jesus looking straight back at you. His word assures us that he will never leave us or forsake us, even to the ends of the earth. It is also important to not lose sight of who you are, which is so easy when you are being pushed and shoved at every turn. Regardless of what the other person is doing, remember WHO you are, and WHOSE you are. You are the Lord’s beloved. You will get through this, with God’s help.

My friend is a light. She is radiant, and glows with joy and the delight of the Lord. I know that she will get though this, and by remaining true to the God who created her, she will retain her sense of self even when darkness tries to invade.

Are you in the middle of a battle? Do you feel as though the darkness has taken away your shine? Are you losing yourself? Take heart. Stay focused on God’s commandments, his blessings, and his light. Sunrise breaks through the darkness for good people. Grace, mercy, and justice will come.

Psalm 112 The Message (MSG)

1-10 Hallelujah!

Blessed man, blessed woman, who fear God,

Who cherish and relish his commandments,

Their children robust on the earth,

And the homes of the upright—how blessed!

Their houses brim with wealth

And a generosity that never runs dry.

Sunrise breaks through the darkness for good people—

God’s grace and mercy and justice!

Sunrise at Avalon Pier by Michelle Robertson

The Heat is ON

There comes a moment in everyone’s life when a stark reality…one that has been impending for days…suddenly rears its ugly head. You have to give in, you have to respond, and finally, you have to turn on the furnace. No longer can you pretend that late summer is lingering, or Indian summer is still hanging around, or even that we are enjoying a mild fall. Nope, when your feet hit the floor as you slide out from under the warm covers and your whole body yells “SNOWSUIT!!” it’s time to turn the furnace on.

I hate first-time-furnace day. The SMELL, ugh. All dormant furnaces smell the same the first time they are turned on. The long months of rest that they enjoy allow every manner of dust, musty particles, dirt, etc. to collect, and these things burn off within the first few hours of firing up your furnace.

Dormancy, accumulation of dust, and sudden burning. This sounds like what might happen in my brain if I sat down to take the math portion of the SAT right now. Some things really do come into a “use it or lose it” situation.

It can also happen to our faith.

What if we went for months without firing up our faith? Can you really take a break from your relationship with God, corporate worship, acts of service, fellowship with other believers, or scripture reading?

Romans 11 (The Message)

11b-13 Keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

14-16 Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.

17-19 Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”

20-21 Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.

Gosh, this is so good. Keep yourself aflame. Be alert. Be cheerfully expectant. Bless your enemies, feed them lunch, discover beauty in everyone…the list of ways to stay fueled up is long and incredibly helpful.

I suspect as you read that, the Holy Spirit highlighted something for you in a neon yellow color.

What in particular speaks to you today? Laugh with happy friends? Cry with sad ones? Don’t hit back? Stop being stuck-up? Don’t insist on getting even? Stop judging everyone?

Whatever has hit you this day, take it to heart. God uses scripture all the time to fire up our dormant furnaces. Focus on that one thing and make it your mission. Do it with all of your passion. It may smell funny for a moment, but soon you will be fired up again for God’s work and his people. It’s time to burn off your dormancy and light the fire of Christ in you. Bring on the heat!

Morning Heat by Michelle Robertson

Moving Sidewalks

The instructions are clear. If you choose the moving sidewalk at the airport, you need to step carefully on and off. If you want to stand on the moving sidewalk, please stand on the right, so that others may pass you on the left. I think this is good counsel. After all, they are SIDEWALKS, not SIDESTANDS. So if you want to stand, at least stand to the side so that the walkers can actually MOVE on the MOVING sideWALK. The calm and soothing voice of the announcement that plays over and over is non-confrontational, polite, and instructive.

If this same announcement played in other parts of the country, it might sound different. I grew up in South Jersey, where I imagine it would sound a little more assertive. Think The Sopranos-assertive. If Tony Soprano recorded the announcement it could sound like, “YO! Youze are on the moving SIDEWALK. I SAID SIDEWALK, as in MOVE A-SIDE so that others can WALK. What bozo doesn’t know to move ovuh? WHADDYAZ think this is, the turnpike for cryin’ out loud?? Ah, fuhgeddaboutit.”

Traveling through the magnificent Atlanta airport recently, I encountered several opportunities to observe the moving sidewalks. They connect the ticketing lobbies, baggage claims, and all of the terminals, spanning miles. If I have time, I prefer to walk on the non-moving concourse, but the sidewalks are a good alternative if you have just enough time to use them, and you don’t have to default to the train. You just hope that you can move forward quickly and people won’t get in your way. ATL is huge, with multiple concourses. It processes about 300,000 people a day. A DAY. That’s a lot of moving sidewalk violations right there.

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul writes about moving sidewalks. OK, he writes about metaphorical moving sidewalks:

Philippians 3 (The Message)

Focused on the Goal

13-14 Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

15-16 So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.

17-18 Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal. There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them. I’ve warned you of them many times; sadly, I’m having to do it again. All they want is easy street.

Paul encourages us to keep moving forward with our eyes on the goal. He warns us that others, who are looking for the easy sidewalk, will block us and stand in our way. But we are to walk forward and NOT TURN BACK.

I know a woman who is struggling with two significant family relationships. She can’t move forward with the situation as it is, and so she has addressed it with them. They are a stumbling block to her, blocking her spirit, her joy, and her goal of pursuing a life that reflects her relationship with God. She has chosen sobriety, while they have chosen to take other paths. She has chosen honesty, while they have chosen avoidance. As she keeps her eye on the way forward, she has no choice but to not look back. If she were to do so, she would surely fall off the moving sidewalk.

Does this resonate with you? Is God calling you to a way forward that means you have to leave the past behind? Is God inviting you to pursue him at the cost of everything else? Do you need to shed toxic relationships in order to attain the goal of the abundant life offered by Christ?

Wherever your moving sidewalk is headed, step on with care. Keep your eyes always looking forward. Carefully make your way around others who try to block your progress. And no matter what, don’t look back.

Passing on the Left in Concourse B.

Surround Yourself

The founder and creator of LARABARS shared her secret to success on NPR recently. After telling her story of how she made protein bars in small batches in her kitchen with her father, she goes on to explain that bringing in revenue of over five million dollars in the second year (!) was due to the fact that all the way along, she “surrounded herself with people who believed in her.”

That really hit home for me. All of my life’s joys and moments of feeling accomplished were times when I felt the tangible support of people who believed in me. I am blessed to have a family who believes in me. They might not always agree with me, or believe in the same things I believe in, but they believe in me. I am also blessed with two best friends who have run alongside of me for ten years who believe in me. I have a third who walks dogs with me and uplifts me in the same way. They have gotten me through some very rough times when I was under attack professionally, personally, and spiritually. They also don’t always agree with me, but they have stood by me through thick and thin. Their steadfast faith in me carried me through times when I felt weak, unsure, and insecure. I would have just up and quit several times, had it not been for all these blessings.

I often think of Jesus and his devotion to his disciples. They were a motley crew, who at moments really came through for our Lord, and at other times, failed miserably.

We all know the story of Peter’s heartbreaking denial of Jesus the night before his crucifixion. Lest we be hasty to judge, do you think you would have done any better? With soldiers and swords challenging you, with the impossibility of who Jesus REALLY was looking more incredible by the moment, wouldn’t you have wanted to flee as well? Doubt is a part of the faith journey. It helps us get to where we are going.

So let’s take a look at Peter’s redemption, and see if we can recall a time when we, too, were doubtful, and then believed:

John 21:15-25 New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Reinstates Peter

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.

These words reinstated Peter, and he went on to become the rock and the foundation of the church. They gave him a chance to reclaim himself as someone who DID believe in Jesus, even though he let Jesus down in the final hour. You see, Peter didn’t always believe in Jesus, but Jesus always believed in Peter. And he believes in you, too.

This causes us to reflect on the fact that even our closest supporters can fail us. They can miss a cue, misread a moment, respond out of a selfish place, or just not see our need.

Love them anyway. Forgive them anyway. Offer a way back with open arms. And surround yourself with others who do believe in you.

People who are close to you who don’t believe in you can be a millstone around your neck. It’s up to you to shed them, or forgive them. But in either case, keep on keeping on, aligning yourself with those who uplift you and cheer you on no matter what. And better yet, be an encourager for those whom you believe in. It makes all the difference in the world.

Friends on the Beach by David Bevel Jones.

Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing is a way of outsourcing a task or obtaining information for a project by using the input of a large group of people, typically on the internet. Social media, smartphone apps, and electronic surveys are just some of the means by which interested parties can source work or gather information. People are invited to collectively contribute ideas, time, expertise, or funds to a common goal. For example, traffic tracking apps such as Waze use driver/rider generated reports to communicate accidents, objects in the road, construction, and police on your journey. Uber pairs drivers with people who need a ride, an example of crowdsourced transportation.

Lays Potato Chips has really maximized the concept of crowdsourcing in its campaign “Do Us a Flavor,” where they asked people to submit ideas for potato chip flavors. Then the public was invited to vote on the flavors they would like to try. The top four submissions became actual products. So new flavors such as Crispy Taco, Flamin’ Hot Dill Pickle, and Beer Cheese have been crowdsourced from inception to having the final selection available at your local Wawa. I don’t know who came up with the idea of Flamin’ Hot Dill Pickle potato chips, but I want some.

At the heart of crowdsourcing is the notion of people coming together to help each other. I once traveled to Florida using Waze, and saved close to two hours in traffic. Others ahead of me reported a crash that had shut down the highway, and WAZE suggested a faster route.

Crowdsourcing existed in the early church, but they didn’t call it that. Martin Luther was an original crowd-sourcer. His frustrations with the institutional Church led him to write his “Ninety-Five Theses: A Disputation on the Power of Indulgences” and nail them on the door of the church in Wittenberg, which was located in the heart of the city on the public square. People read it, printed it, translated it, and shared its ideas with others throughout Germany and the rest of Europe, and thus the Reformation began.

But Jesus, of course was THE original crowd SOURCE. He spent a good deal of his ministry among the crowds. In the wonderful miracle known as the “Feeding of the Five Thousand,” we see him at his crowdsourcing best:

Matthew 14 (The Message)

Supper for Five Thousand

13-14 When Jesus got the news, he slipped away by boat to an out-of-the-way place by himself. But unsuccessfully—someone saw him and the word got around. Soon a lot of people from the nearby villages walked around the lake to where he was. When he saw them coming, he was overcome with pity and healed their sick.

15 Toward evening the disciples approached him. “We’re out in the country and it’s getting late. Dismiss the people so they can go to the villages and get some supper.”

16 But Jesus said, “There is no need to dismiss them. You give them supper.”

17 “All we have are five loaves of bread and two fish,” they said.

18-21 Jesus said, “Bring them here.” Then he had the people sit on the grass. He took the five loaves and two fish, lifted his face to heaven in prayer, blessed, broke, and gave the bread to the disciples. The disciples then gave the food to the congregation. They all ate their fill. They gathered twelve baskets of leftovers. About five thousand were fed.

Did you notice how that went? The disciples were expecting Jesus to come up with the meal. Jesus told the twelve to figure something out. They came up with five loaves and two fish, and lunch was served on the lawn. So Jesus sourced the miracle, and the crowd sourced the “re-source.”

What resource are you holding onto that would be better shared with the crowd? Where can you offer your expertise, your ideas, or your opinions in a way that constructively benefits others? Where is God calling you to take the Good News out into the public square and re-form the people?

Whatever your resource may be, God calls us to break our loaves and fish open and offer them to the world. And whenever you have served the least of these with whatever you have, you have served the Lord. And don’t forget to pick up the leftovers.

Fishing off Avalon Pier by Michelle Robertson