LIfe as a Lightning Rod

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What a spectacular show that early summer evening — we sat on a rise and looked out as a distant thunderstorm generated repeated lightning strikes across the valley vista.

“Beautiful… like God’s fireworks!” someone exclaimed.

And then another asked, “Yes, but what if you were right at the impact point of one of those lightning strikes?”

We watched those loud and violent flashes of lightning and shuddered.

In my pastoral experience of 30 years, I have stood at the impact point of lightning strikes multiple times. Just like lightning from a thunderstorm, the emotional discharges of angry, hurting, or anxious people can strike unexpectedly and with stunning impact.

Pastors of any church or tradition live as lightning rods, drawing continual, even constant emotional static and damaging discharges from those around us. Sometimes, we deserve a reaction or criticism, but more times, we serve as convenient targets for pent-up, displaced fears.

Not just pastors, but anyone in an exposed, visible position, especially anyone who takes a principled stand — public officials, parents, teachers, for examples — knows the impact of anger and anxiety directed (more accurately, projected) toward them.

These personal “lightning strikes” hit us suddenly, stunning us. “Where did that come from?” Even when we prayerfully and conscientiously do the best we can to obey and serve God’s will, we draw the ire and raw anger of others.

But such is the life of a lightning rod. And such is the life of a Jesus follower. Just as the world directed such scorn at Jesus, so at his disciples. Yet Jesus pronounces, “Blessed are you when people heap scorn on you and persecute you and utter slander against you on my account…”

How do we take the strike, bear the brunt? How do we remain standing, faithful, hopeful, and unbowed?

grounded

Simple… effective lightning rods remain grounded. And so must we who seek to serve Jesus. Surviving the daily lightning strikes is entirely a matter of your grounding.

As we hear in Ephesians: “… so that you, being rooted and grounded in [his] love, may be full of strength to apprehend with all the saints what the breadth and length and height and depth are and to know the knowledge-surpassing love of Christ, that you ma be filled unto the fullness of God.”

How Sweet It Is

candyTrue confession: I stood in the drugstore yesterday and said, “Thank you, Jesus, that Easter is coming!” I wasn’t kidding. You see, I saw the pastel gleam of the candy aisle, and I knew that my first chocolate covered marshmallow egg was coming soon.

I felt no guilt.

Well, I felt a little guilt when the lady near me gave me the stink eye, but there was no guilt for being excited that the most important celebration in the Christian calendar is only three weeks away. And there was no guilt that we celebrate the sweetness of Jesus’ resurrection and our salvation with treats so sweet that they make your teeth hurt.

We are almost half way through the season of Lent. (Yahoo!)

yummy eggYou’re worried because you’ve been told that Lent is supposed to be full of doom and gloom? Repentance and self-examination and fasting and prayer? It can be, but what about the anticipation? Where’s the hope? What about the joy?  “Oh, Caroline! You’re confused. Advent is the hope and joy season, silly. This is Lent, the holy season of self-flagellation.”

No! I’ll admit that this is a pet peeve of mine. I think many of us forget that Lent and Advent are parallel seasons. Advent isn’t all about babies and mangers and candy canes, it is about remembering that the savior of the world came as one of us for all of us. Lent isn’t all about betrayal and shame and giving up chocolate, it is about remembering that the savior of the world came as one of us for all of us. Lent, like Advent, is a time of joy, even as we consider who and whose we are called to be, and what that entails.

dafodilBy the way, do you know what the word Lent means?  It means springtime. It is the beginning of the beginning, the glimpse. Lent is a time to anticipate all the good that is to come, just as Advent is. Lent is the frustration of past failures and the fresh start. It holds the same potential as early jonquils in a slush of melting snow, and unseasonably warm weather just two weeks after astounding cold. Like spring, like Lent, like the chocolate covered marshmallow egg that sits sealed in the wrapper just waiting for Easter morning- we are living in an exciting time: the almost, but not yet.

“Thank you, Jesus, that Easter is coming!”