I've had some good conversations recently, the kind of conversations where it's clear that more is happening than simple words between two (or three or four) ordinary people in a ordinary (or even not so ordinary) room or across a phone line. Something moves. Someone joins the conversation and it's like I've been waiting for Him to show up. Or perhaps it's like He was waiting for me to invite Him. All day long we have conversations without inviting Him, after all. At least I do. I talk about this and that, and don't think twice about what He's doing, though I know He dwells within me. I don't think twice about what He's actually doing while I'm talking to Beve about going to see Grampie or taking out the recycling or picking up milk or taking care of one of a thousand things that make up our days. Things that don't concern you and wouldn't seem to concern Heaven.
Except that they do. I was reminded of that twice in the last week. I've been thinking a lot about a couple of conversations I had after the memorial service we went to a week ago. Both were with people with whom we (meaning our family) took short term mission trips Mexico. The first was with the older couple Beve and I felt most connected. Beve and Carlos (the Spanish nickname Beve gave him the first summer) spent their days fetching and carrying water and food for the fifty of us spread out across a large swath of the Baja. M was our kitchen guru--serving up food and hospitality with grace and humility. They became family to us. Talking to them reminded us of a season of service we miss, a season when we gave our lives away in myriad ways, felt like we were impacting the Kingdom with every step we took. Carlos pointedly asked me whether I've done any preaching lately. He sounded like...well, like my dad, I guess, when he told me that it seems a shame that not only have I been trained, but am also passionate and gifted for the pulpit, so should practice it. Honestly, it was like Dad was talking, though I didn't think of that until this moment.
But it really was beyond that. It felt like it was Spirit. Holy Spirit. I don't know what to do with it exactly, but there it is.
Then there was a conversation with the former youth director with whom we also traveled. I led those trips, so worked closely with this man as well. Spent many afternoons talking with him and his wife about life, the ministry, kids, missions, etc. So the conversation after the memorial service was a bit like picking up where we'd left off. And I found myself saying something I've long felt but have never said. They too asked why I'm not in the ministry. And I told them that I've always struggled with the idea of being paid to work for the Kingdom. In fact, I said, I wish no one ever needed to be paid to do God's work. That's the truth. I was a little surprised to hear such words coming from my mouth. But once said, I realized how deep those feelings are.
Don't get me wrong. I have very close friends who are in paid ministry. And I understand the desire to serve God and the need to make a living. And I realize that my idealism isn't realistic in this world. However, it is how I idealistically feel, because I think money absolutely gets in the way of ministry. I think the business side of ministry gets in the way so much that pastors can't pay attention to their work, and those called to mission have to raise funds and those in service organizations worry about providing service. And it all gets messy because people who give begin to think they're owed something. They think they 'own' their pastors, rather than belonging to the Body, and having their own part to do, their own place and responsibility and gifts and work. I think that we get it wrong because we let money call the shots. This is what I think, and I hate that part of it. I really do.
So I've been pondering all this, wondering if the reason I've balked 'professional' ministry for all these years is that I am so allergic to the idea of being paid to do what God wants all of us to do. The revelation of that has felt Spirit-opened to me. I'm still wrestling with it, of course, because there is still--always--the issue of how one actually lives in this world without money. But that's what I've been contemplating this last week. Working out how I am made, and called, and meant to serve out of that calling.
A completely different kind of conversation came over the phone with someone in a very real life-struggle. I sat out on my back deck, spoke into the phone, and realized not very far in that the Spirit was speaking to both of us. Words more profound than I could have possibly thought up out of my own puny brain were pouring out of my mouth in such a way that I was in awe of Him...and His power to speak. Right there on a Sunday afternoon in the sunshine as I threw a tennis ball for our hyper Springer Spaniel, there He was. And though what He said wasn't for me, and therefore, a little too private for me to share here, it was powerful enough that I wanted to fall on my knees and cry for the sheer truth that He shows up and speaks when we need to hear Him. The real story is that we don't ask enough. It's what I said in the beginning of this post: I go about my day, without asking Him to join me in every conversation. I could be more wise and full of peace than I am. I could be more everything than I am because I have the One who defeated death itself living right inside of me. "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His people, and His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength He exerted when He raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right and in the heavenly realms..." Colossians 1: 18-20
Think about this for a moment. The very power that brought Jesus back from where He willingly went on our behalves. The power that conquered Satan, and destroyed death--this is the power available to us. THIS isn't merely a possibility but what we already have if we have Him. It's part of our inheritance. Right now. So if we're going about our days living in defeat, living in sorrow and pain and worry, fighting with the enemy on every front, it's not merely that we're playing into satan's hands but absolutely ridiculous. Because we've already won. And if we don't involve Him who IS that power within us, we're the idiots. Seriously. He's right here, "...Your power made perfect in our weaknesses." That's not my puny brain thinking this up, it's TRUTH.
So live it. Live in it. In every conversation, ask Him in. In every encounter, invite Him, every action, allow Him to empower you to do what you are powerless to do on your own. That's the point.
At least that's what He taught me Sunday afternoon sitting there in the sun.
Or, I should say, in the Son.