All You Zombies

In just a few hours, the zombies will be at our door. They will be joined by ghouls, ghosts, and more than a few very pre-teen Ninja Turtles.

And, I proudly note, I have not yet raided the candy basket. We are prepared for All Hallow’s Eve.

Zombies are all the rage, especially the week of Halloween. Somewhere tonight, someone you know may celebrate All Hallow’s Eve by paying to have a zombie, ghoul, or just your run-of-the-mill maniac chase them. “Zombie Runs” combine fitness and charitable fund-raising, for instance. Or were you a Zombie chaser?

Thanks to a local “Zombie Pub Crawl,” the zombies were out in force just down the street from our church’s sanctuary one night this week. Only later did it occur to me that our downtown congregation could have hosted a Zombie Service that night.

And, since you are probably thinking it — yes, we have had our share of zombies in worship before.

And that’s as it should be. The Church of Jesus Christ exists to receive and REVIVE us when we are shuffling along mindlessly, going through the motions, grasping for something, anything to fill our inner emptiness.

Just as a sugar crash inevitably follows the Halloween sugar rush, so much of what we imbibe and consume leaves us wasted, weary, or worn out.

This dark night, like all of them, will give way to a new day — All Saints Day, thankfully. And by the grace of Jesus Christ, all us zombies have a place among all His saints.

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It Isn’t God’s To Do List

My 'to do' list sitting on my desk.  Hmm... maybe 'clean off desk' should be added to the list

My ‘to do’ list sitting on my desk. Hmm… maybe ‘clean off desk’ should be added to the list

How long is your ‘to do’ list? Mine feels like it is ever-lengthening, and I regularly settle into panic mode. Anyone else know that feeling? Sinking and scrambling until, so late that I should be embarrassed, I stop and remember, prayer! “Yes! God will help to make this happen. But oh, no! I haven’t put a lot of thought into it. Pause. Center. Ok, here goes…”

Gracious God, full of mercy and blah and blah, please help me out. I need this and that done and I don’t have time, and I should do this, and I sure would love for you to help with that, err… if that be your will, of course, and uh, so, yea… thanks for all you are, all you do, for your son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, in whose name we blah blah blah, and whoops, I forgot about this and this too.  Amen.

You wouldn’t know it from that, but I’m pretty good at praying. I do it a lot, and when it is out loud, with other people nearby, I do it well enough. But, in the rush of daily living, I fall into a terrible trap. And I wonder if I’m not the only one. You see, I find that I offer prayers as if they were a ‘to do’ list assigned by me and given God. I’ll make some kind of demand, and then try to cover it with an, ‘in your grace’ or ‘by the power of the Holy Spirit’ or whatever word or phrase pops into my mind that might smooth out those rough edges.

How quickly I forget how well God knows me. How quickly we all forget. God knows the games we play (pray?) and the motivations deep within us. God knows our needs, well. In fact, God knows them much better than we do.

“And when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. Do you think God sits in a box seat? …the world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant… Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need.” –Matthew 6:5-6 The Message

Prayer is not what we turn it into. As I’ve heard before, but so need to be reminded, “God is not a cosmic vending machine.” Prayer is intimacy. It is a conversation with our oldest, most loving friend and advisor. Yes, we are invited to call on God, because yes, God will help us, but that isn’t really what prayer is all about. If we knew someone who was nothing but needy, always talking and never listening, would we call our interaction with him a relationship? Hardly.

Please God, hear my heart over my words, my devotion to you over my self-serving behavior and my whining about all I’ve (or we’ve) got ‘to do’ today. Help me to shut up and listen, to remember who and whose I am, and who you are. Amen.  

A Turning Point

This could be your story —

As he tells it, he was caught in a downward spiral. When he saw wicked folks doing wrong and yet prospering, he almost gave up hope.

When he saw how the proud and arrogant seem to get ahead… how the self-indulgent seem to get more… how the irreverent bad-mouth God and demean the faithful and seem to get away with it… he almost lost it!

This is the story and the dilemma we hear in Psalm 73. Weighed down by a world of skewed values, the anguished psalmist pleads: All in vain I have kept my heart clean… all day long I have been plagued…

He confessed that as he saw people get rewarded for being bad, he nearly lost his way. He almost gave up his beliefs, his hope, himself. He was headed to, as we call it, a “bad place.”

But then came his turning point:

He almost lost it until he entered God’s presence… until he remembered who God is and what God has done and how God reckons with evil… until he worshipped the One who makes all things and will make all things right.

When he reached the turning point, repenting and turning once again to God, he began, with God’s help, to shake off the shackles of cynicism and despair:

On occasion, I have found myself taking a wrong turn in my car, realizing I am lost and headed down the wrong road. I immediately begin searching for a place to turn around safely and as soon as possible.

Every one of us can be tempted to give in when unfairness and injustice all around us seem to flourish. To give in to this thinking can lead to giving up, and that is the worst path to follow. Drawing near to God, we reach our turning point and find our way through the bad places.