Pastor's Blog

Life in the Stalled Lane

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Born in 1960. That makes me a "late boomer." 

Owned every Eagles album. Nope, can't say their lyrics shaped my life. I liked their sound. I guess you could also say I liked their detachment. Maybe some of their better known phrases etched a groove or two in my psyche.

Glenn Frey got ancy on a L. A. freeway riding in a car driven by a drug dealer. Frey told the dealer/driver to slow down. The drug dealer's reply became "Life in the Fast Lane." The song became something of an anthem for a hard-charging life devoid of joy or purpose; self-destruction lived in a hurry. For boomers and other rah-rah devotees of bigger is better and now is not quick enough, "Life in the Fast Lane" functions like a tattoo you wish you'd never got but, nonetheless, soberly recalls who you were. But you still curl a corner smile whenever you hear Walsh's opening riffs. You know what's coming. 

Quite a few folks grind their jaws feeling their lives are "Lived in the Stalled Lane." Perhaps you've sat there. Lines of traffic moving past you but only red brake lights in front of you. Sitting still, wondering, "Put it in park or keep my foot on the brake?" It only makes the radio louder. You've become an island of immobility splashed by passing waves of action. It's frustrating.

Life in the "Stalled" lane. 

When will my kids grow up? Have I peaked at my job? Having lost traction for advancement am I now focused upon survival? I know there's a sweet spot of financial safety out there but, for me, not right here, not right now. Time to mow the lawn. Another cook-out with mostly the same people telling mostly the same stories. Didn't we make this trip last year? Two years ago? Was it better? I don't remember everything but this feels kind'a stale.

Life in the "Stalled" lane. 

Ripe for self-pity. Gullible to lies of how an affair will improve your life. Only too eager to jump at the new opportunity "guaranteed" to make you rich. Only too willing to dump the ballast of family or faith which, up to now, gave you stability. You're not un-happy. It's just your not as happy as you think you should be. More to the point, you're not as seemingly happy as the people you mistakenly envy. You want to escape from ... well, you.

Snap out of it.

Ask any resident eating n the nursing home lunchroom, "Would you rather be here or back home when your kids were young?" Walk by a playground and watch a toddler gleefully point out to his or her parent the tree, or the bug, or the dog, or the rock, or the mound of dirt at the base of the slide. What is that kid seeing you are not? Nothing. Not a thing. It is the sense of wonder within the child that distinguishes his or her sight from what you see in your your fatigue-lidded, gray-scale world. Life is not boring but you may be.

We carry our contentment within us.If contentment is an outer destination you'll never get there. The same could be said for a sense of wonder or the sense of purpose sprouting from the rich soil of earnest conviction.

If you find yourself fuming because you feel your life has stalled then I offer the following questions: 

When was I last thankful? Specifically thankful. For people, or a person. Did I tell them? For health? For recovery? For a meal, any meal? For the roof over my head or the clothes on my back? For sight? For hearing? For the seasons? For sleep at night? For waking up? I do not deny any harshness of life. Part of life is suffering, sometimes a significant part. But certainly not all of life. We have so much for which to be thankful. 

Whence comes my worth? If you really want to stall out, try outpacing - and then managing - your worth in the eyes of others. Your life is not an episode of American Idol (thank God that noxious show has run its course!) and your worth as a person is not decided by your last song. You are eternally, immeasurably valuable because you are made in God's image. Love prompted God to move heaven and earth for you. 

If you are stalled then I can only assume your sense of worth has been wrapped around the axles of a relentlessly grinding world. You are worth so much more than you can imagine. Don't let the world convince you otherwise. 

This day ... this very day ... is the day you can be thankful for some person or some gift of life. You can be a blessing somewhere to someone today.

I reckon that's pretty valuable. 

 

Posted by Tim Alexander with
in church

Beauty in the Local Church

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In another life Polly and I owned a modest dwelling built on a small rise in a neighborhood of starter homes. We lived on a corner lot and I had an appropriately modest lawn to attend.

Attend it I did.

I fenced it. Weed-wacked it. Watered it. Fertilized it. Mowed it. I sealed the driveway in the middle of it. Trimmed tree branches overhanging it. Shaped shrubbery decorating it. In due season I gathered fallen leaves from it.

I wish I could say such "tending" on my part was love's labor. That "tending my yard" was therapy freeing my mind from it's Dremel-like high revs. I cannot. It was not. I did not do yard work. Yard work did me.

For some, in fact many, yard work is a most effective means of God's personal presence communicated to them. I know people for whom God is best experienced knee-deep in mulch, or pruning roses or jiggling under the sun on a lawn mower. "More power to them," I say. Sincerely. Part of me envies their genuine joy. Such people flourish by exercising dominion over their Edens. It is as though, in such "tending," they are being who God made them to be. 

I understand the pull of it. I see the myriad connections between life's lessons and nurturing a lovely landscape. It just didn't work that way for me. Didn't, in the words of a friend, "make my socks roll up and down." I felt guilty about it. I affirm the depth, skill and labor people (whom I admire) devote to their "tending." God bless them all and may they forever flourish. 

Nothing snide going on here. I really mean it. Although I did it - and was good at it - "tending" my yard was never a joyful outlet in my life. It was always and only a means to an end. I owned a home. I had a yard. Responsible ownership meant "tending". That was that.

Polly and I have bought a condo. My "tending" now consists of ten minutes weed-wacking a courtyard smaller than my office. Yeah verily, my socks surely roll up and down. Thank you, God. 

What does this have to do with the local church?

I see great beauty in the local church. So many different kinds of people. So many personalities. So many stories. So many opportunities. So much potential. Some may see the local church as a necessary duty. Others may see it as an aid to social location. Some may see it as an overgrown relic from an over-burdened past. Others may see in the local church a waste of time or a drain on resources.

I see ... beauty.

Some church people thrive when left virtually alone, as though attention will drown or affirmation will, like too much fertilizer, burn them. Others survive only through constant tending; there can never be too much encouragement, care, touch or tenderness. Some folks thrive year round but, at their appropriate season, are strengthened by extra prayer, or teaching, or a pruning word of conviction. 

Yet I do see beauty in the whole. God plants us. God waters us. God feeds us. God causes His sun to shine and rain to fall upon us. God is faithful in all seasons and at all times, as surely present in moist warm spring as in barren cold winter.

We ought never degrade into some scrubby patch, abandoned and over-run by the encroaching wildness of a fallen world. On the contrary the beauty unique to the church ought to expand, generation after generation, upon the fallen world. The most jaundiced eye ought to see a beautiful difference between life lived under the shaping hand of God and life lived absent that Hand.

I love the local church. It is beautiful to me.

 

Posted by Tim Alexander with
Tags: beauty, church

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