April 25, 2013
Lent is not too far behind us and we are in the midst of the Easter Season. It’s quite an interesting time because the Bishop of the Memphis Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, Bill McAlilly, has called us to forty days of prayer before our Annual Conference.
For those of you who don’t know what an Annual Conference is, it’s a general meeting of United Methodist ministers and church leaders that occurs every year. We go over budgets for our area, clergy appointments, and a variety of other things. Honestly, it seems to me to be a lot of boring meetings with a few sermons squeezed in to try and keep us awake during business sessions. (Oxymoron, anyone?) There is a Bible study or two but I often spend this time catching up with colleagues. Hooo, boy, brutal honesty here, right? Hopefully, the Bishop doesn’t read my blog….
So, the Bishop has called me to prayer before Annual Conference and I don’t like it. I’ve just gotten through Lent where I really experienced some great things and now I’m being asked to intentionally pray for another 40 days? And I’m being asked to pray for a conference I find boring?
My heart grumbles and moans at this but since the Bishop has went to the trouble to put together a prayer guide on his daily blog, I can at least look at it. After all, he’s in my blog stream so maybe this will help me out, right? Plus, it is using the same technology which has really helped my devotional life so I guess I will go for it. Heck, it even seems he is using guest bloggers so it should have some variety.
So, here I am at Day Two of this time of prayer and this is the question that comes up in the blog:
When was the last time you felt bathed in God’s majestic presence? When was the last time you recognized God’s presence in the ordinary, mundane circumstances of day-to-day living?
And I don’t like it…at least the first half of the question. In fact, the story shared made me feel out of sync with God. I tried to remember one of those majestic moments and nothing recently came up. Oh, I’ve shared how God has graciously provided for me of late and there was definitely a sense of the Divine Presence but nothing so grand and majestic as described in the article.
My thing is that, for some time now, I’ve been finding God in the most mundane of places and events. It hasn’t been any great or overwhelming feeling of presence but, rather, a sure and steady recognition of presence in the world around me.
As I read Reverend Bettye Lewis on the Bishop’s blog today, I began thinking about where I’ve seen God’s presence most recently and I began to remember yesterday evening. My wife, Kindergarten teacher supreme, purchases caterpillars for her class every year so her children can watch them eat their food, spin a chrysalis, and then transform into butterflies. It’s an amazing and wonderful thing and she is often known as the “Butterfly Lady” because of it. (I remember one year when she took our daughter to a butterfly release and their picture was in the local paper. She’s been doing this for some time.)
This year my wife did something I don’t remember her doing in the past. She bought an extra set of caterpillars and kept them at home. She’s been showing it to our 3.9674 year old son and, last evening, she took the chrysalis’ out of their little tub and put them into their butterfly garden. When they come out of their cocoon, we will be able to see their beautiful wings open up.
It was a wonderful time and, as a minister, I find it filled with wonderful metaphor. I mean, come on, it’s Easter season. This is a simple one, right? I should go into the story of death and rebirth. Isn’t this a resurrection? At the very least, it’s a transformation. We see this when the caterpillar becomes a butterfly so, naturally, this is where any preacher should go.
Where did I see God in this moment? Did I see God in the miracle of a transforming caterpillar? No, in this most extraordinarily mundane moment, I saw God in my wife’s smile and my son’s curiosity. Yes, it’s that simple. No real deep metaphor or super spiritual statement. Just the joy my wife has in doing the same thing year after year. She’s never bored with it and loves watching it every time. Her excitement never wanes. My son is seeing this for the first time and I’m amazed at his gentleness and curiosity. In these moments, I find God looking back at me and asking me, “Derek, where is your curiosity? Where is your gentleness? Where is your excitement in the ebb and flow of daily life?”
I’m not bowled over by God’s presence but I’m humbled by the questions that arise in my heart. I’m not sent to my knees weeping tears of repentance nor am I jumping to my feet shouting and full of joy. I’m just sitting back and smiling knowing that God is right there in the room with me smiling back through the eyes of my family.
Thank you, Jesus.
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