The Next


Turning a corner in life seems more difficult as one ages. Not physically, in case you just envisioned this writer navigating some narrow hallway with a walker, though that day may come. Not even emotionally, for I have come to grips with my pride, at least to a higher degree than in my younger days.

This morning and in fact for the past few months, I have sensed a spiritual transition occurring in my being. How do I move into the next window of my life of ministry, aspiring to finish well and yet finding my journey to be more precarious than ever. My earlier days seemed quite orthodox, though Pentecostal (oxymoron), driven by a need to serve in places my family members and fellow believers had not yet ventured. I found myself engaged at a level of impact that brought considerable esteem, for not only was I providing for my small family but adding value to my community, in a way that seemed a stretch given my background. This in no way is to take away from my heritage but simply to build a case for my conversation.

I now want to finish well, yet leave no stone unturned when it comes to things that I now question. I am cautious for I know how fickle we humans are, and how quickly public opinion can change regarding one’s leadership. When public opinion swings, simple mistakes, words ill-spoken or even attempts to speak truth are no longer received and in worse case scenarios, seldom forgiven. The capital that decades of service may have earned, can suddenly be brushed aside, leaving one with little recourse but exit from public engagement. Thus the precarious nature of even this post, for retiring from the scene is furthest from my mind at this time.

Paul the Apostle obviously had some of the same struggles. As he closes his second letter to Timothy, he states: “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom.” Getting home safe is a promise. Delivering one’s heart on the way home is the challenge.

This a.m. one of my Facebook friends took issue with Rick Warren, apparently working hard to open dialogue between Christianity and Islam. Warren, now drawing fire from his brothers and sisters in Christ, though having made huge impact globally with his ministry. He seems to have crossed a line, tagged as falling victim to Chrislam, a perceived consolidation of two religious streams of thought. Though both religions grew out of a history with Abraham, the struggle is around the identity of the God each profess. Both are monotheistic, only one God, yet to the Judeo Christian disciple it is Yahweh, while with those who practice Islam it is Allah. One takes its lineage from the narrative of Isaac, the other from Ishmael.

I know I am on a slippery slope here (my earlier comment about navigating as I age) but last week, I found myself half-way across the globe, in a large room full of Christians, Muslims (both Shiite and Sunni), Kurds, Syrians, mostly refugees in Lebanon. The room represented an array of socio-economic demographics; I met a physician, an architect and I am sure a few paupers. All were together reaching out to God, worshiping in a tight quarter tucked away alongside a dark alley way. For many, only the clothes on their backs remained, along with the children they held close, husbands perhaps left behind, some even murdered in a religion based, political revolution.

A well meaning clergy was directing the “service” with an opportunity to sing songs about God in the most common language, Arabic. What were they after, experiencing hope? Yes, God. The room was full of generosity, fellowship and love. They for that moment had found God, regardless of their belief system. As I stood along the wall observing this mass of some 200 people, in a potentially volatile setting (there were no metal detectors at the entry just a welcomed respite for weary refugees), I could not help but wonder what God was seeing.

Can I be open to a new thing that God might be doing in my life, the “next” for this 65 year old, with forty years invested in the American Church? Might God, who is love, and yes, I believe was Christ, be doing a new thing among descendants of both Isaac and Ishmael.

His promise of a great nation was offered both.

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