Profiled at Walmart

 

I’m being profiled at Wal-Mart. I am sure of it. Should I contact the ACLU or AARP? Perhaps I can rely on my own legal expertise. See if you think I’m being paranoid.

My bags are never checked when I leave Wal-Mart. No matter how many bags or who I am with, I leave the unlucky recipient of a smile and a polite, “Have a nice day.” What’s a guy have to do to get a thorough check out?  It’s embarrassing when the mom with five kids in front of me has every bag checked while the kids scream. I cringe when the old couple behind me is frisked. That one may be an exaggeration, but not by much.

Why me? I have some theories:

I am old. I am 69. Perhaps the Wal-Mart profile includes notices that older folks are more trustworthy. NOT TRUE. Ever play cards with an old person? Ever hear their stories about walking 5 miles to school in the snow, both ways uphill in South Louisiana. Old folks are not more trustworthy.  Besides they have motivation. Most are trying to live on social security. That will make you want to slip a little something extra into your shopping bag.  Besides, old folks should be made to spend as much time as possible in the store. Our lives are not that exciting and we have plenty of time on our hands. It would be great to tell the kids about how we got harassed at Wal-Mart. Give us a break. 

I am a Christian, full of the Holy Spirit. Can’t be that.  Sadly Christians are NOT always trustworthy and how would they know. Wal-Mart is a megastore, not a mega church. They wouldn’t recognize the Holy Spirit if tongues of fire sat on top of every register. 

I look honest. Really? check the picture. I’ve seen more comforting mugs in the post office.

I am a lawyer. Really? Every store should frisk every lawyer every time. Besides, I don’t go to Wal-Mart dressed like a lawyer. Again, look at the picture.

I am frightening. This might be it. Again look at the picture. 

All I can say is that if you see a guy that looks like the picture at Wal-Mart. Watch him carefully. He’s probably ripping them off with full knowledge he’ll never get caught and that even if he is, a life sentence isn’t that daunting anymore. 

My Best Day Ever

Tomorrow should be my best day ever. That should always be true. As a follower of Jesus, I am promised a life of peace and joy, (for the Kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. Romans 14:17). With God, there is always more, so each day there should be more peace and more joy. It’s peace and joy that flows from the righteousness of  God and not my feeble attempts to do and be good. Something must be wrong because that’s not happening. 

In fact, there seems, as each day goes by, less peace, less joy, less contentment and hope for the future. Obviously, the peace and joy is not automatic. What does it take on our part to secure it?

Seek First.  I need to seek first the kingdom to enjoy peace and joy.  This is a literal thing. It’s not just priority, but timing.  We should do kingdom business each day before doing anything else. Doing this makes God a priority. I know we are busy. If it means getting up earlier, we need to do it. The days I do this, the days are better. Yesterday, I realized when I awoke that I scheduled to go to Prayer and Share on death row. I went last week just because friends were going, but I couldn’t miss my assigned day. I rescheduled my day and went. I was blessed for that. 

On the days I begin by putting my thoughts out in a blog post that centers on Christ, my days are better, more joy, more peace. I don’t do this every day and I can tell the difference. I can focus on the response or any good it might do for someone else. I can only know what good it does for me.

Abide.  The analogy of the vine and the branches is so simple and so powerful that we tend to minimize it. The First Seeking is ineffective if it arises from us. It has to flow from our relationship with Jesus. If I sit down and try to “work out” something to write, the product, if it is produced at all, is ineffective. My best posts are the ones that come to mind as I close my eyes at night or open them in the morning. They arise from my times with Jesus. They are sap rising from the vine. 

Rest.  Resting in the Lord seems archaic, lazy, even presumptive. “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him;” Psalm 37:7. Resting in the Lord doesn’t necessarily mean inactivity. It means His agenda, His time frame, His power. For us, there is obedience, trust and rest. We need to set aside the anxiety and restlessness of daily life for the rest that flows from Kingdom Priority and Vine abiding. 

Tomorrow I am determined to Put First, Abide and Rest. I expect my best day ever.

I Can Only Imagine

Rosemary and I had one of those rare nights out at the movies. We had heard so much about I Can Only Imagine that we had to see it.

It lived up to every expectation. It did a beautiful job of tying together themes. I loved the memories of eras of Christian music that have been so meaningful in my life. The challenge and power of forgiveness was vividly portrayed. It’s important never to give up on anyone or any dreams.

Perhaps most powerful of all is the image of the title song itself: that great mystery and expectation of what it will be like when we take our last breath here and have our first moment with Him. It’s a thought that should underlie and motivate our every action. Satan tries desperately to push it aside as he distracts us with so much of life that is of no eternal significance but can seem so monumental. 

I think tonight when I crawl into bed I will stick in my ear buds, and log in to some of my favorite Christian music, old and not so old and drift off to dreamland and try to Imagine.

 

The Monastery

I spent a couple of hours yesterday at The Monastery. Not the one pictured above. The monastery I visited is better known as “Death Row” at Angola. “Death” doesn’t seem an appropriate name based on the residents I have come to know there. 

I have met only ten of the eighty plus Monastery residents. I have no idea if these ten are representative of the whole. Perhaps, they are not. It would be understandable if the administration put forth the ten most impressive inmates to take part in the first ever Kairos in the facility. I’m pretty sure there are some meaner and nastier customers inside who are in no way followers of Jesus. 

I was recently asked if I thought “any” of the ten had really given their lives to Christ. I am as convinced that they all have as much as I am convinced about the spiritual state of those in my church. These men are incredibly impressive. They are students of scripture and display an authentic love of the Lord they follow. I wish my prayer and share meetings on the outside came close to the ones in The Monastery. In the groups I am familiar with outside, most of the conversation is about sports or hunting or health. You are lucky if Jesus is even mentioned. Participants seem satisfied with a little “lite” fellowship.

Discussions at the Monastery are focused and deep. To a follower of Christ, life on Death Row could seem like life in a monastery. A resident has lots of time alone. There is freedom from the “distractions” of family life, making a living, and maintaining a social calendar. There is plenty of time, just you and God. There is unlimited time to know Him and His word. From that comes the focus and the depth. We could all use a lot more of that. 

On Sunday, we had lots of kids in our Resurrection Sunday service. Our pastor fancies himself a magician. He’s actually pretty good. He produced three ropes of different lengths. He explained that if each rope represented a list of our sins, most of us would proclaim that the shortest best represented our sin list. Through slight of hand, he made the ropes all appear to become the same length. He pointed out that this is how God sees our sin lists, all the same. All have sinned and fallen short. 

Yesterday at the Monastery I was asked the difference between Christians inside and outside. I used the three rope example. On the outside, we tend to think our sin lists are short. In the Monastery, most view their sin lists as very long. It’s easier to minister to someone who recognizes their sinful state and need for a savior. The biggest challenge out here in the “free world” is the lack of recognition of our depravity and a compulsion to believe that God grades on the curve. 

We could all use a little more monastery time. We could all use a little less pride and a lot more recognition that there are better followers than us out there: some live in deplorable poverty, under constant persecution or in monastery-like prison confinement. If you think your sin list is short, think again and get thee to a convent or a monastery. 

 

Resurrection Week – Don’t Skip the Preliminaries

Thursday of Easter week was big. Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with His disciples. He tied the traditions and prophesies of the Old Testament to the birth of the New. He demonstrated the importance of servanthood by washing the feet of those who would run away and deny him within 24 hours. He prayed with an intensity that pushed blood through his skin. He contemplated the betrayal and the most horrible of deaths to come. 

We love Easter or as we call it now, Resurrection Sunday. Well, we should. Who can resist the victory over sin and death, the hope of eternal life, the bright sunlight on the rolled away stone? 

We would do well not to skip over Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. They represent the struggles of a life of following Him. Our parades of homage are brief and rare. We are prone to honor Him one day and forget Him the next. His examples of servanthood are easy to trivialize and forget. The memorial of his body and blood is likely to become routine and habitual. Suffering and death are the things we most ardently and unsuccessfully avoid. 

In the days before the joy of Sunday, let’s remember with Israel the years of hopeful waiting, the servanthood we are called to, the cross we are to take up, and the cold lonely tomb which too often mirrors our spiritual lives.  Sunday is new life party time; all the more appreciated if we carefully and prayerful walk through the days that precede it.