Saturday, September 18, 2010

The War

The past week and a half hasn't exactly been the brightest and cheeriest of times. What happened, you ask? No specific event or circumstance. It's just that something seemed "off." I wasn't myself. Each waking second seemed to present a new set of challenges. And not big ones, ones that days earlier would have been no problem. But in that time, it took everything I had to do things right. And the thoughts in my head were pretty stinkin' horrible. I felt a warring between my "new creation" and my old fleshly self. Like serious warring. I didn't like me one bit.

Sleep seemed to be the only escape. So I slept a lot. For some reason, however, I'd wake up and nothing was different. As much as I wanted it to be, I just couldn't make it different. And everything was affected. Interactions with family. Conversations with coworkers. My relationship with God. And that was the worst. I'd pray, but I just didn't feel anything. I'd look at the Scripture hanging on my bathroom wall (telling me I'm redeemed, that the God of the Universe knows me by name...some big stuff!) but couldn't bring myself to read it. I didn't feel it. I was ashamed at my own selfishness, at my own lack of interest.

But I learned something this week. I learned that when you don't feel it, you DO IT ANYWAY. You read Scripture anyway. You pray anyway. You worship anyway. Through the course of these days, I found myself worshipping at church in two different services. If you've read just about any of my posts, you'd know music speaks to my soul. So you'd know then how difficult it was for me to be in the worship setting, feeling nothing. But I found myself singing anyway. Did it feel dishonest? No. Because I believed it. My mind knew the Truth. But my heart just didn't feel it. This is not to suggest that we shouldn't be honest in our worship, but sometimes speaking those words reminds us that we believe it. And this past Wednesday, in the midst of serving the middle schoolers in youth group at church, my heart was called back, awakened, reminded of how to feel for our God. My head knew all week what to THINK, but I just couldn't get past that...until I found myself amidst a sea of middle schoolers singing these words:

Change my heart and make it Yours, everything I am for Your Kingdom's cause

Talk about a humble statement. It took a whopping declaration of humility to burst my balloon of selfishness that had been throwing a pity party for days. This life is simply not about me! Yet there is a great God who loves me anyway. That is weighty stuff when you're in the midst of selfish self-loathing. I KNEW the love, but I just didn't feel like reciprocating it. And yet God loves me. Seriously? That is incredible! His love eventually broke through and awakened my heart again. In worship. In giving back. In serving.

I awoke on Thursday morning with a cloud lifted. I felt like a completely different person. Same circumstances, same routine, but an entirely different outlook. I took that experience with me yesterday to a leadership retreat (for the middle and high school youth group volunteer leaders). All the youth pastors, including Brett Moore, pastor of middle & high school at 12Stone's Flowery Branch and Hamilton Mill campuses, spoke some great words. But one sentence he said broke through on a very personal level: "It feels like we are warring with someone (pause for dramatic effect) because we are." We are warring with "...the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Phil. 6:12). Satan is out to cause fear and failure. He doesn't want us to succeed! And when we are on the verge of great things, he has to try harder. But God's love is stronger and unceasing. His peace eventually began rushing into my soul again. It pulled me out of my funk. It showed me two things: there is a very valid war being fought in our midst every day, and that when you just don't do it anyway. I have a sneaking suspicion this lesson may come in handy down the road with a marital relationship...or maybe married couples feel like loving all the time (aaah, if only!).

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Mall Walkers and Senile Old Men

If there's one thing I've learned from working at the bakery - located in a busy mall - it's that the mall is no longer just a place to shop. (You thought I was going to say something about baking, didn't you?) In the early morning hours, the mall is actually an indoor track for the 60+ population. Ask any one of them and they'll tell you that one loop around is a full mile, unless of course you don't go into all the inlets, then it's just half a mile. Oh yes, we've got the power walkers, those that mosey their way around, some clad in tennis shoes and baseball caps, some in khakis and polos. They are certainly of their own unique breed. Quite a few of these mall walkers - who rarely miss a day - make a stop off at some point for their morning cup of coffee, and sometimes a danish or two. I always get pleasure out of seeing them, asking about their morning walk as I ready their usual cup of joe. Sometimes they're late. Sometimes they seem pretty tuckered out from their laps past the risque storefronts (I often wonder if it's more from disheartened spirits than from physical exertion). Sometimes they miss a day. I like to think they enjoy being known and inquired after. So I inquire.

There's one gentleman in particular I enjoy seeing. I've taken him on as my project. Meet Peter. He's an elderly, widowed, hard-of-hearing, borderline senile British man. And he likes his coffee simple. None of that flavored "rubbish" - his face will contort into something dreadful if you even ask him if he wants something other than Columbian. Today he chastised me for opening the gate late. He was sitting at one of our umbrella tables in the hallway; it's his usual resting spot before he comes in for his caffeine fix. I always ask him how his morning is. He typically grunts some answer in response. I've gathered he has a rather despondent outlook on life. One morning his response was particularly cynical. 

Me: "How's your morning going?" 
Peter: (looks at his watch and responds in a defeated shrug) "Well, it's only 9:30, there's a lot of it left."

A few days ago I asked him his name. He seemed surprised and almost looked as if he didn't believe I'd just asked that as he gave his offhand answer. I've made a point to call him by name since. And yesterday he responded that he had a lot of errands to do upon my inquiry to the rest of his morning. Exciting errands? Not even close according to him. I tried to get him to see that it's all in the journey and anything can be made exciting. He didn't buy it. He quipped back something about "you young folks." 

But today I feel like I made a breakthrough. He wasn't gruff. He was almost pleasant. I thought I'd thrown his morning off-kilter when I opened the gate 7 minutes late (which, to be technical is still 23 minutes earlier than the mall actually opens). I noticed, however, that Peter was all dressed up. Far beyond the usual khaki shorts and polo, he was in dress pants, dress shoes, and a button up. I never really got down to why he was so dapper. I commented on him being "spiffy" - which he promptly denied. But when asked how his morning was, he actual responded with "not too bad" and proceeded to comment on my shirt. It's progress, folks! When you only get mere minutes to interact with someone, you've gotta take what you can get. I'm hoping these daily few minutes might just make an impact with Mr. Peter. Not only do I get to hear my beloved British accent, but I get to work towards my mission of being a bright spot in this man's life.

If you ever feel like getting a workout and not having to pay for it, come take a stroll around the mall. And be sure to stop in at the Kneaded Perk - I'll be glad to fix you a cup of coffee. And I'll even ask you how your morning is going.