Note: Consider this a part-two follow up to last month’s blog, I wonder if I’m supposed
to really learn this message, because it keeps coming back to me in
one situation after another. Here it is:
So much of life is just about paying attention.
I wonder how many “sacred” moments I might have missed just because I’m flying through life, some agenda for the day or some project to get completed. This lesson is on my mind because of a lesson I got to share recently and a memorable day-in-the-life-of experience serving at COM. As for the lesson, I got a chance to help share recently on one of my favorite stories in the lives of the early Christ-followers, it comes from Acts 3:1-6:
One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”
A couple of things strike me about this story: first, I love how Peter and John were able to be fully present in the moment, with the people right in front of them. I wonder how many religious folks walked by this crippled man “on the way to church” and didn’t give him a second thought. But Peter and John did the opposite: they began just by feeling the pain and irony of a man’s life that was anything but beautiful, sitting right in front of the temple gate called “Beautiful.” God intends the people and places of his worship to be sources of beauty, life and light and sometimes we are just as oblivious to the darkness and pain as anyone else. But Peter and John stopped, took in the tension and pain, and “looked straight at” this man. They gave themselves fully to the moment they were in and the person they were with.
The second observation that strikes me is that they didn’t take the easy way out. It’s easy in the face of other people’s pain or struggles to focus on what we don’t have (all the answers to people’s questions, the wisdom to figure everything out, the power to change the circumstances), and then do nothing. Peter and John could have taken that approach—the man was asking for money and they didn’t have it. Instead, they asked themselves the question, “Is there anything we do have that could serve this man’s need? They offered what they did have to him: a prayer and a Story of a Man who wouldn’t stay dead. They simply gave him a prayer and resurrection power—and the man was never the same.
Maybe living life with a purpose in today’s world is just that simple. As a chaplain and just as a person in today’s conflicted world, I can quickly feel overwhelmed and wonder, what could I ever do to make a difference here? Maybe it’s this simple: we actually open our eyes to the lives and needs of those right around us and offer whatever we do have to them.
I got a chance to see this happen just the other day at the Detention Training Academy put on by the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office. For years, they have given Corky and COM the honor of teaming with the Sheriff to teach one day with our newest batch of officers. We got to do that again this time, but what I realized is that even when we are present for one reason, if we keep our eyes open, we can see God at work for other higher purposes in those moments. In addition to getting to hear Corky’s vital presentations on critical incident stress that our officers face and the work of chaplains on their team, and sharing a couple of presentations myself, I realized other important things were happening as well. I got called out for over half an hour as a man from our Unleash ministry was facing one of the most fearful and formative moments of his life—I got to listen and pray into that time as I saw his courage and leadership rise up. Then I was pulled aside for nearly an hour to spend with one of our deputies in the building who shared his dreams for the future and some critical moments of his life right then. And, later after lunch I got to see one of our many able leaders in the WCSO and Corky just listening to and speaking encouragement and wisdom into the life of another deputy.
I step back and realize, the three moments I will remember and treasure most about that day were not on the agenda at all. They were all just a lot of real people, willing to open up their eyes and lives to each other to make a difference in that moment. Each person giving what they had: a prayer, some time, a bit of wisdom, a smile, or whatever else. When people do this, in the hands of a God who raises the dead, lives will never be the same.
So, on behalf of Community Outreach Ministries, thank you for living lives of purpose in your places of influence and for helping us do the same in ours.
-Dean Barham, Community Chaplain
Community Outreach Ministries is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization that shows up in the critical moments of people’s lives. Please help us hit our goal this year of 1000 people joining Club 60—with a simple $5 donation each month you will enable us to provide a consistent presence with those who need it throughout the year.
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