Hit me One more Time

No, this is not a reference to the beloved Britney Spears breakout hit..It is something I hear often where I am employed part time.

An event occurred not so long ago that won’t leave my thoughts.  It has caused me to stop and wonder often, it has mandated that I look inward to examine my own prejudice and incorrect assumptions.  I have to look at myself these days and ask, “How dare I?”

A couple weeks back I was working at a convenience store.  I was working the evening shift when a “regular” came in to spend the evening back in lottery land.  That is a whole world unto itself, where darkness looms and the blinking bulbs beckon.  As is customary with most lottery areas, the snacks, coffee, and other beverages are free flowing.  The idea that providing food and drink will lull one into spending more time and money hoping to hit it big.  Thus, part 1 of my title.  “C’mon, hit me one more time…Let’s win this one.  If I can, man would that be nice.”  I smile, inwardly I hope and inwardly I groan.

I groan because this is not my world, I know nothing of the lure, the lights, the lullaby of beeps.  I do not know what motivates a person to spend hours hitting a button, swearing at a screen, consuming large amounts of caffeine and booze.  I groan because I do not understand the hold, the hunger, or the havoc this world inspires in people.  “Hit me, Hit me. HIT ME!”

Here is where I begin ego checking.  Our “regular” in question was in this night, and obtaining their first and second complimentary suds.  A third, fourth, and fifth quickly followed as I watched a trip to the cash machine slow them for just a moment.  A small win…not much, but enough to keep at it for a bit longer.  A sixth and seventh, now–eight and nine together.  I grow frustrated in my spirit and begin a litany of slurs against this person.  None are over vocalized…none leave my mouth, but they are there–ready for spewing.  A tenth and eleventh one are handed over, and I roll my eyes, wondering…..Silently cursing anyone who has spent their evening in front of a machine with pretty lights and endless beeps…Wait a minute!!!!  Do we do that?  Does that happen in another form?  Maybe I should ask my little ones how many hours they spent in front of a blinking and beeping box this weekend?  I don’t think I want to know the answer.  I probably don’t want to count the hours I spend in front of a lap lighted box which allows me to say that I am “working” at all times.  SHAW!!! We all know that is untrue.

So, eleven seems to be the lucky number tonight…a bit later than before, not early enough to call it a night, they hit….I have seen them “hit me” more than one more time…11 times to be exact.  I grimace thinking of that sitting in a near empty stomach, the car keys that dangle, the later hour, the dark that has settled.  It is not my call, nor my business.  Then, they hit..they hit big–well bigger than before.

They come my way to cash in their earnings….A conversation ensues.  I comment on their attire….they smile and tell me they work in the nearest town.  I smile and ask what they do…The answer shocked me and cut my earlier inward diatribe short.  They work with women on a daily basis.  Women who come seeking answers in procedures they would probably wish to avoid….procedures which will change the course of lives forever.  My spirit stops….my heart breaks.  Of course it breaks for anyone in the moments of that decision…the grief, the turmoil—the THE’S I cannot possibly speak to or imagine–and I won’t.

Then my soul ached for another…the one standing in front of me….the one with a cash slip and a ready smile for me.  We speak and I mention that must be an “awesome” place to work for so many reasons.  They agree.  They shake their head in obvious thought and maybe remembrance.  I pause, knowing there is more to the story…there is always more.

They smile a smaller smile and comment that if anyone in their close circle of living ever knew what they did, they would alienate immediately.  I nodded, believing that to be true.  They then comment on what would happen if the congregation knew what they did daily, they would never be allowed in the doors of the church.  I sniff, knowing that to be more than true, and I am ashamed.  I mention that I am in the process of being an ordained Deacon…I have a ways to go, but have the solid MDIV in my hand.  WHO CARES?????  That slip of paper means nothing as a soul in conflict stands before me, only a counter separating us…..never realizing that far less actually separates us.

I am angry in that moment.  Their comment that they agree to volunteer with groups in the church, but are afraid to set foot in the doors….afraid of the judgment, the ridicule…the hatred.  OUCH.  I know this would hold true, I also know that there would be others who would embrace them with the unconditional love that is deserved….although that would be fleeting.

I am angry at myself in that moment…more than the supposed receipt that they would encounter.  I am angry about my thoughts, the hate that I wanted to sling at one who has spent their night…angry how many times I “hit them”….angry and disappointed in myself.

I know how they spent their evening…they spent it here, with me.  I have no idea how they spent their day…I have no idea what they saw, whose hands they held, whose tears they wiped.  I do not know the stories they heard, nor the inner workings of their story.  We chat a while more, they ask what I do….I tell them….they smile and thank me.  THANK ME????I look and cock my head to the side, like my pug does when she is “listening”.  They thank me for the kindness and the compassion I showed when they talked to me….for the willing ear and the assurance that they are a good person.  They are…a good person.

They leave…the machine has hit big for them, a tip comes my way.  I smile, now I can buy some gas to go to work later tomorrow.  More than the cash tip, they left me with an invaluable lesson.

I have my own vices, my own ways of coping or not coping with the world around me.  I have my moments of avoidance and fear-running.  We all do, don’t we?.  I do not know the road this person travels, the stories they carry, or their joy or struggle.  I do not know them….how dare I?

How dare I sit and judge the number of beverages downed?  How dare I silently curse them for their inappropriate lifestyles.  Who am I to judge that?  Who am I to think because I have a couple more letters behind my name that I am any better than those who spend all night before the money machine?  I gulp down my own pride and admit….I’m not.

So, as they venture my way again, they say with a broad smile, “Hit me Baby, one more time!”


Open REAL EYES to REALIZE what is before us.

According to a recent Pew poll released on in Oct 2012, the United States has dropped below 50% of the population subscribing to a Protestant faith.  The numbers show that the US is now at 48% down from 53% in 2007.  The largest group to see growth is what researchers call, “The nones.”  A similar report dated October 2012, more than 13 million atheists and agnostics and nearly 33 million claim no particular affiliation.   About 20 percent of U.S. adults say they have no religious affiliation, which is an increase from two decades ago when about 8 percent of people were deemed so-called “nones.” Nones are described as young college students, second career individuals, and those just beginning their families somewhere in their middle 30’s.  Most would claim they have a spiritual faith, but as one man stated, “Saying that you are an atheist no longer carries the stigma that it did in years past. More and more are recognizing that you can be good without a belief in a god.”

This leaves the field wide open in terms of Christian faith.  Instead of shrinking back in disbelief at these statistics, I consider this a wake-up call to action for us whom we call brothers and sisters in the faith.  Colin Hay, musician and lyricist offers these words in opposition to this call to faith and may provide the backdrop for many of the feelings society is facing.

All around is anger
Automatic guns
There’s death in large numbers
No respect for women or our little ones
I tried talking to Jesus
But he just put me on hold
Said he’d been swamped by calls this week
And he could not shake his cold

And still this emptiness persists
Perhaps this is as good as it gets
When you’ve given up the drink and those nasty cigarettes
Now I leave the party early, at least with no regrets
I watch the sun as it comes up, I watch it as it sets
Yeah, this is as good as it gets

Can you feel the desperation, the loss of hope resignation in these words?   If the above poll numbers are true, this is the feeling that our young people are experiencing—believing the present conditions are as good as it gets.

BUT!!!!  We know something different, my brothers and sisters.  WE know a different reality and a more solid truth don’t we?  We know that this is not as good as it gets.

Turn with me to John chapter 14

Jesus said to his disciples, “Don’t be worried! Have faith in God and have faith in me.[a] 2 There are many rooms in my Father’s house. I wouldn’t tell you this, unless it was true. I am going there to prepare a place for each of you. 3 After I have done this, I will come back and take you with me. Then we will be together. 4 You know the way to where I am going.”

5 Thomas said, “Lord, we don’t even know where you are going! How can we know the way?”

6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life!” Jesus answered. “Without me, no one can go to the Father. 7 If you had known me, you would have known the Father. But from now on, you do know him, and you have seen him.”

8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father. That is all we need.”

11 Have faith in me when I say that the Father is one with me and that I am one with the Father. Or else have faith in me simply because of the things I do. 12 I tell you for certain that if you have faith in me, you will do the same things that I am doing. You will do even greater things, now that I am going back to the Father.


There is hope and redemption in those words, I invite us to consider what the Message gives us in further? – paraphrased (might be a better word) translation.

1-4 “Don’t let this throw you. You trust God, don’t you? Trust me. There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home. If that weren’t so, would I have told you that I’m on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I’m on my way to get your room ready, I’ll come back and get you so you can live where I live. And you already know the road I’m taking.”

5 Thomas said, “Master, we have no idea where you’re going. How do you expect us to know the road?”

6-7 Jesus said, “I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him. You’ve even seen him!”

8 Philip said, “Master, show us the Father; then we’ll be content.”

And then we’ll be content.  Ah, there it is.  And THEN, we’ll be content.

Will we be content after a tumultuous election?  Will we be content with a higher paying job or a better car?  Will we be content if more people love us or we add more FRIENDS on our Facebook page?  How about when all the moments of frustration cease?  Will we be content?

What will it take?

It takes the command that Jesus gives us in verse 11.

11 Have faith in me when I say that the Father is one with me and that I am one with the Father. Or else have faith in me simply because of the things I do. 12 I tell you for certain that if you have faith in me, you will do the same things that I am doing. You will do even greater things, now that I am going back to the Father.

We become content when we take off the blinders and REALIZE how to look at our world and God’s people with REAL EYES.  That sounds like a tall order, so there is an implicit help given in that command from Jesus.  There is a Spirit (an Advocate) which Jesus promised would always be with us, to empower us to see others as Christ sees them.  WE are not alone, we have power in the Spirit to realize that this is not as good as it gets.  There is more.

There is more heaven here on earth than we allow ourselves to see and hear.  Yet, the louder voices of desperation, rejection, hurt, anger, and hate seem to engulf  our spirits, wanting to fool us into believing this is all there is.  How have we responded?

For some, for the many whom the “nones” are watching, we have embraced the voices of slander, malice, anger, and hatred…creating a hell on earth where we mistrust one another…we operate out of fear instead of the promise that there is more.  We do not serve a God of fear; we serve a God of…redemption, love, and compassion.   I believe that we have forgotten this.

In the non-profit that I work in in Sioux Falls, I have the chance to see in a practical way, the essence of the Spirit moving in places and doing things I could not see otherwise.  I see people coming together in a garden, slinging compost, laughing and building—together.  GROUND WORKS operates out of a mission to practice being a great. does this break off here? …where have we heard this command?

“I tell you for certain that if you have faith in me, you will do the same things that I am doing.  You will do even greater things, now that I am going back to the Father.”

The mission question you ask of yourselves today is answered in that statement.  How do you remain faithful?—by doing the things that Jesus did and practicing the things that Jesus said.

I cannot give you a nice, neat method to perfectly sewing up your faith and keeping it intact.  I would be doing you a huge disservice if I told you that the older you get, the easier it gets.  It doesn’t. I look at my own children, who so easily embrace the world they see and I am amazed at it.  When did my filter become so polluted?

It became polluted when I decided that the world and its opinions means more to me than seeing people for who they really are==as beloved children of Christ.  It became tainted when the voices of the multitudes screaming that getting my own is more important than loving the least, the lost, and the lonely.  It became dirty when I embraced the belief that poverty is shameful and those who are impoverished are somehow less than me.

Have we forgotten that we are all poor and that the poor in spirit inherit the kingdom of heaven?  When did poverty become a 4-letter word meaning something that we eliminate or cut out of our society?  When did following Christ mean that I have the right to sit in judgment over anyone for any reason?

It didn’t.

When I asked my former seminary professor how to write a sermon a number of years ago, he smiled at me and said, “Go, look in the mirror and ask that person what they need to hear.  What does she most need to hear and what does she need to see the most today.  When you are quiet and allow the Spirit to convict you, the message will come to you.  That is the offering you bring-no more no less.”

See, I told you it does not get any easier, the older that you become.  It gets harder to force out the ingrained methods of thought and deed to be present in the Spirit and to do the things that Jesus did.

Ok, so what did Jesus do?  A couple of years ago, I served my first unit of Chaplaincy at Avera Behavioral in Sioux Falls.  I worked over 1000 hours journeying with children, teens, men, and women living in the midst of hell.  I heard their stories and the Lord revealed something during that time.  It is a mantra that I believe is at the heart of all that we say and do.

People want to be seen, to be heard, and to be loved.  Let me repeat that.  We want to be seen, to be heard, and to be loved.  And the third time is the charm—I want to be seen, to be heard, to be loved.

If we take that principle and the command that Jesus gives us –to remain faithful we do the things that Jesus did, the rest becomes pretty clear.  So, what did Jesus do?

Jesus showed up.  At a well, in a garden, on a sea, on the road, and in the home, Jesus was present.

Jesus saw.  He saw the diseased, the forgotten, slandered, abused, and mistaken.  He saw them for what they are==beloved and blessed children of HIS Father, he saw them as brothers and sisters of great potential and light and love.  He saw them for what they could be instead of what the world was telling them they are.

Jesus heard.  He listened to the words of the heart, the ones we keep hidden and he responded.  He heard the stories from people desperately wanting healing, to those empowered to simply touch his cloak, he heard and embraced their humanity and spoke to them in it—not content to allow the lies of the world to fill their heads, he came to deliver a promise of something sweeter—something more divine.

Jesus loved.  Pure and simple.  There is no other act of love than to see us through REAL EYES and REALIZE the way to save us would be to die—to give up his own humanity so that we might believe and do the things he did and follow the things he said.

Sounds like pretty easy application, right?  So, you’re saying if we show up, see, hear, and love===all the rest will take care of itself….RIGHT!!!!!

To do this requires more of you and me than we initially believe.  It requires all of us.  The song that you heard this morning as we were walking in speaks to this.

I am the only one to blame for this
Somehow it all ends up the same
Soaring on the wings of selfish pride
I flew too high and like Icarus I collide
With a world I try so hard to leave behind
To rid myself of all but love
to give and die

Where are we in this?  Where have we given in to selfish pride, to arrogant love of self and what we can do?  Where have we forgotten the ultimate sacrifice of love covers the world’s hurts than any amount of money or man power can?  When did we begin believing that we alone can do anything?

Do we really want to do the things that Jesus did?  Do we really want to see people with REAL EYES and realize them as precious human being that a Savior loved enough to give up His own life?  Do we really want to hear their voices and to love with the same love that Jesus loves us.  Do we even want to admit that Jesus loves “them” with the same fervor and passionate love that He lavishes on us….we are the chosen ones, aren’t we?

In the gardens in Sioux Falls, Jesus has shown us Himself.  A couple of weeks ago a young 13 year old girl who resides at the Children’s Home Society came to a catered meal and took center stage to share a poem about what a garden means to her.  She talked of a seed being planted and
watching it grow.  She talked of a place where she can go when the entire world is happening around her.  She said, that (a garden) is, “A place that needs me to stay alive.”

Does she realize that she is the seed- that place of great potential and opportunity?  Does she see herself as the seed in need of care and love and growth?  Does she know that Jesus can be the place where she can run and hide a place to go when sad or glad?  Does she know that Jesus needs and wants her to stay alive==that HE desires for her to live and BE alive—to be seen, to be heard, and to be loved?

Do we know the same?

Do we know that to be faithful means to believe that GOD wants to see us, to hear us, and to love us?  Do we believe that to realize that promise means that we are to see with Real eyes the world around us, and we are to respond.  We are to love with the heart of Christ and to do that we have to adopt the heart of Christ.

We have to see with the eyes of Christ, eyes that see beyond poll numbers, political affiliations, social and economic strife to the heart of each individual person…to recognize that their soul is to be cared for and loved==just like ours.

We have to hear the words that are said and to those unspoken.  We have to listen beyond the rhetoric and the pat and easy responses we give on a daily basis.  We must hear their stories, to hold those stories, and to honor them as precious…after we have heard them—really heard them we can hear how beautifully our stories intersect with one another.  We have incredible impact==we have the chance to turn the tide toward Heaven instead of Hell.

We have to love with the love of Christ; fierce and on fire and smoldering and peaceful all at the same time.  A love which consumes all the darkness and forces light into the hate and drives it away.  A love that embraces poverty as desirable because it means we are in the presence of the Risen Savior.  A love which knows no limit to compassion-knows that no amount of money or power or control can take the place of being held and seen and heard and loved.

Ladies and gentlemen, let us not grow weary in the race set before us, my same seminary professor has become a life mentor to me and reminds me often that what we are doing is a Marathon, not a Sprint.  This is not a race that has an out the gate running start or an ability to maintain that pace for the duration.  It is a marathon of building of seeing with REAL EYES what we can REALIZE in Christ.

I end with an adaptation of the Jars of Clay lyrics you heard earlier.  May this be the prayer to remain Faithful—doing the things that Jesus did, in the manner in which He did them.
We look beyond the empty cross
forgetting what our life has cost
and wipe away the crimson stains
and dull the nails that still remain
More and more We need you now,
we owe you more each passing hour
the battle between grace and pride
we gave up not so long ago
So steal our heart and take the pain
and wash the feet and cleanse our pride
take the selfish, take the weak,
and all the things we cannot hide
take the beauty, take our tears
the sin-soaked heart and make them yours
take our world all apart
take it now, take it now
and serve the ones that we despise
speak the words we can’t deny
watch the world we used to love
fall to dust and thrown away

Take our world apart.

Consumed by Pride…response to my last blog.


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