Well That Was Different…Gulp!

I had a slightly different set of experiences Saturday night. Pastor Don had invited me to preach in his place at the Saturday night service, since he was going to be at a conference in Charlottesville that day and not getting back in time. Sure, I can do that. It was supposed to be bowling night, but hey, I can get there late. Then our teammate Ken announced he would be travelling this weekend and could we pre-bowl. God was starting to move things out of the way for this night. Little did I know why.

Whenever in the past I’ve been asked to take part of a weekend, I’ve always picked my own scripture and theme: I’ve never tried to work off the same as the pastor has for the rest of the services on a weekend. But this time, I tried doing just that, because it was the concluding sermon on a series he’d been doing on “renewal.” It didn’t feel right to have had the Saturday night service attendees get four out of the five topics covered, and then just leave them hanging on the last night.

So I checked out the scripture, Matthew 18–the whole chapter–and was floored. It’s just so rich, so full of things to preach on–hey, Don, where were you going with this? He explained that he was preaching on the Kingdom of God and how it’s already present with us…didn’t really say much more. So I went off and came up with a sermon to try to follow that headline lead. I was working on my usual path, of coming up with rough notes and lines to take that would be the basis for my text, when I kept getting a nudge. “Just go with an outline. Don’t write it all out.” Gulp. OK, I’ll try.

Saturday came and by midafternoon the promised “wintry mix” was materializing. Sleet, snow, rain, we had it all…I kept waiting for the message from the school district that they were closing campuses for the night: since the church follows the school’s lead, we would then be cancelling services. But no message came, and so off I went.

You can imagine my surprise to see Pastor Don was there when I walked in! The weather had cancelled his conference, he explained. But he came out to hear me preach–wouldn’t hear of taking it back. Gulp, take two. I’ve had the luxury of preaching without a professional present for years…and one whose topic I was trying to work off of, who has the “textbook answer” already ready to go for tomorrow morning! Gulp, again! To add to the nerves, my Emmaus brother Charley and his wife–one of Mary’s Emmaus sisters, Kathy–decided to come check me out. Gulp, once more!

In the end, I did pretty decently. Not the best I’ve ever done, but also not the weakest. The technique of just using major outline headings worked pretty well: I can’t think of something I missed saying as a result.

But all the more, Charley and Kathy were very complimentary, and I had someone else ask the regular question on her way out the door (“Are you going into ministry?” To which for the first time I equivocated: “It’s not an immediate plan…”). But the report card from Pastor Don was all smiles. “You’re a preacher,” he said. “No doubt in my mind.”



Reassuring Dreams

Do you dream?

Well, maybe that’s the wrong question; after all, we all dream. But do you remember your dreams when you wake up?

I rarely do. Most mornings I have no recollection of any dream; at most I might have a vague sense of having dreamed…something? And it was…anxious? Pleasant? But not much more comes to mind.

Our daughter has been struggling with anxiety over all she has to do if she’s to finish high school a year early this year, as is her plan. (Or should I say, her dream?) It’s been hard for us as parents to watch her struggle, wanting to take it all away and make it all better the way we used to be able to do for her when she was tiny. In some of my own darker moods I fear her dreams of going off to college won’t come to pass, at least not now.

The other morning, I woke and was immediately aware of a dream I’d had in the night. In it, I was watching as from a drone as a Saturn V rocket–the ones the old Apollo program used to go to the moon, still the most powerful rockets we’ve ever made–slowly came to life and began, majestically, rising on a pillar of fire past me and towards the heavens. And somehow in my dream I was aware that my daughter was on that rocket, and I remember I felt relieved that it had launched and that it was flying the way it was designed to fly.

On reflecting on it when I awoke, I chose to interpret that as a reassurance from God: there won’t be a “failure to launch” here, he said. She’s gonna be OK. I got this, he conveyed to me.

Fly, young lady, fly!