I attend a Lutheran church affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. There are approximately 40+ Lutheran denominations in North America, but I go to one of the “big three.” I haven’t always done this. It was a journey for me that I discovered, with the help of many, and continue to broaden and explore daily.
Recently, we have been watching and discussing The Chosen. This is an incredible television series which chronicles the life of Jesus. Readers gain insight into the disciples and how they came to be gathered, Mary of Magdala, Nicodemus, and more. I’ve never seen anything like it. If you are looking for something that isn’t holier-than-thou biography and historiography, watch this show. And, hey, it’s free: https://watch.angelstudios.com/thechosen
Today, during Sunday school and the sermon, we focused, among many things, on a concept that really hit home for me, and I need to share that with you. We talked about how common it is for people to feel in charge and control, letting God possibly slip to the proverbial “back burner,” when everything is going great. Maybe we don’t give thanks as often, or we pray a bit less, or whatever it is we do, we just get a bit more comfortable letting it slide because all is well. But, look out, when a tragedy occurs, when bad news strikes, many of us return to and look to God. There’s a line in a John Mayer song that reads “bad news never has good timing.” Right? Have you ever known it to have good timing? And when it comes, what do you do? When I was diagnosed with diabetes at eight years of age, I immediately made it all about me. “Why, God?” “What did I do to deserve this?” It would take about twenty years to get me in a good, by my standards, working relationship with God, and I look back now and know that, sometimes to this day, I still make it about me. I still “let it slide” when things are coasting; I still seek more when things get tough.
I am not much of a gospel music person, but one of my favorite songs is “God on the Mountain,” as recorded by The McKameys. There is such fervor and soul in the performance that all other renditions pale in comparison. Here, give it a listen (and watch, seriously, you must watch): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKiqYkyA3oY
See what I mean?
Let’s revisit some of those lyrics:
Life is easy
When you’re up on the mountain
And you’ve got peace of mind
Like you’ve never known
But then things change
And you’re down in the valley
Don’t lose faith for you’re never alone.
For the God on the mountain
Is still God in the valley
When things go wrong
He’ll make them right and
The God of the good times
Is still God in the bad times
The God of the day
Is still God in the night.
I want us to take this notion of always being thankful, be it a mountain or a valley, and partner it with another thought. Consider this a moment: How often have people come to you and poured out their heart regarding something major happening in their lives? Here’s the key: What did you do? If you are like me, many a time you made the mistake of talking more than listening. I’m bad to think I have the answers. People don’t always want answers. First, recognize the power of how you react for the mere reason that the person trusts you enough to confide. Now, the old adage rings true: Two ears, one mouth — listen twice as much as you talk.
What I am working on currently is the approach of asking the person not only how I can help (don’t be surprised if you hear that they don’t know) but then also connecting with other resources if they are willing and asking if it is okay to follow up and talk more. Remember what we talked about above? This person is in a valley. Maybe they love God, maybe they have no interest, maybe they have never had any exposure. There are a myriad of possibilities, and remember, it’s not about you, and you aren’t in charge, but you can be a vessel of support and change, slowly. If you feel inclined, you can always, if that person is comfortable, pray with them. I learned a long time ago that “being good” at praying is a ridiculous notion. As my daughter would say, “throw that in the trash can.” Just do it.
Some of the folks in valleys will have a mindset I have heard previously. “If you knew what I’ve done, you’d understand that God would never want me.” Watch episode one of The Chosen. You will have a great example of a story you can equip as part of your spiritual toolbelt. Mary of Magdala. Start there. Then, watch some more episodes and gather an understanding of the other called individuals. Best of all, read the scriptures. You get the point. Don’t be pedantic. Don’t make it off like you never sin. That’s what scared me away for years. My point is that, sometimes, it’s a lot easier to help someone tip-toe into the shallow end of something (a television show) than to try and make them cannonball into the deep end (here, read the Bible). I’m not one to quote the scriptures often, but here’s an applicable one of which we all need to be reminded:
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but to save the world through him.
As my pastor reminds us, we often, and rightfully so, focus on John 3:16, but lest we forget the powerful lines which proceed it.
This may not be the blog for everyone, but it was something I felt I needed to say. Maybe it helps you. It definitely helps me. Maybe it will help someone you encounter down the road. Mountains and valleys, my friends. Mountains and valleys.