(originally posted 1/18/20)
Boiling a frog is not complicated because frogs are…well…stupid. The hardest part will be to find one; the rest is easy. Simply put enough water in the pot (not too hot or cold), so its little head won’t be submerged. Place the frog in the pot and set the flame on low.
That’s it! You don’t need to watch the pot, cover it with a lid, or tie an anchor to froggies feet. The frog will not move a muscle. In about twenty minutes, you will have tender succulent frog for dinner. You’ll find great recipes online too. (By the way, it really does taste like chicken!)
We are so like those frogs! Seriously. Just hanging out, and not even sure why. And when life gets a little sticky or uncomfortable and starts to boil over, we just stay stuck in our misery.
If you find yourself going through life day after mundane day, repeating the same routine to ad nauseum, perhaps God is trying to get your attention. WOW! Do you realize what a great segue this is to the miracle and magnificence of the Incarnation? No? Well, hang on…
We’re in mid-January. By now, the decorations are down, trees shredded into mulch, ugly sweaters returned or regifted, and everything packed away for another year. Now we can focus, not on the miracle of Christ’s birth, but on fixing all the stupid, unhealthy things we did over the holidays: Drank too much, ate too much, and spent too much.
What are you doing right now? Okay, you’re reading this. But what were you doing before that, for…say… the thirty or so days leading up to Christmas? What about the weeks and months, and years before that?
Wanna know what I was doing? I wasted much of Advent doing nothing that really mattered. But, I did have an AHA moment thinking about Mary’s pending parenthood. Do you think she lived her life like a typical teenage girl today? Polishing her nails at sleepovers; giggling about the little Jewish boy her girlfriend sat next to on the bus; texting, tweeting, and posting selfies all day?
Do you believe for one minute that Gabriel just popped in on her at the eleventh hour and dropped that bomb, “Guess what, Mary, oh favored one, do we have a surprise for you!” Are you kidding me? Even though Mary may not have known what was coming, you can be sure that her entire life was preparation for it. Let’s go back a little further – to her parents. They likely had no clue, either. But, we can be sure the Spirit guided them to parent her well. That was their calling, and they were well prepared for it.
The takeaway for me is that we are all called to holiness, called to use the gifts and talents already given us for God’s kingdom work. But it takes awareness on our part. (I would highly recommend Anthony DeMello’s book, Awareness, if you need some help climbing out of that boiling pot.)
See the segue now?
I know so many people, and I’ll bet you do too, perhaps even you yourself, who just can’t believe God has a plan for them. Over the years, I have encountered people who don’t believe me when I tell them my story. “Oh, really?! God told you to do that, huh? Right!” To be honest, I wouldn’t have believed it myself if God hadn’t gradually brought me to a place where I could trust him, even if I had no earthly idea what he was up to. For years, little promptings proved to be pretty awesome if I was paying attention.
If you have come out on the other side of Christmas and find yourself back in your old routine – schlepping through the same habits, STOP IT! How about starting over? Right here. Right now. How about starting with your perception of “church” because that’s often the source of our stuckedness (yeah, spell-check, that’s a word)?
See if any of this rings true for you: In some faith traditions, we have what is called, “Ordinary Time” – the times before and after Easter and Christmas. But, sadly, there are way too many Christians out there called the C&E people who only attend church on Christmas and Easter, and they’re probably not even sure why they go then.
Perhaps the word “ordinary” is the problem. “Hey, I live ordinary, monotonous, unexciting every day of my life! So why on earth would I want to get up early, dress up, squeeze into a pew full of strangers, and listen to irrelevant “stuff” that puts me back to sleep and causes me to snore and drool out the side of my mouth? Why?”
Megachurches have tried to fill the gap with music, and light shows that could rival “Jesus Christ Superstar”.
The problem is, while we were swinging and swaying and belting out forty-five minutes of music (albeit beautiful music), Jesus left the building, and no one noticed.
Is it the church’s responsibility to turn our ordinary lives into extraordinary – which is what God meant for us, you know! My own faith has grown from non-existent to something beyond my imagination. My God-filled AHA moments and the breathtaking adventure God has me on did not develop while I was sitting in the pew on most Sundays.
Don’t get me wrong. I love being a part of a church community. It keeps me grounded and enhances my faith. When we receive the Eucharist, we are reminded of Jesus’ words at the Last Supper, “take this bread and never forget me. Never forget how much I love you!”But, there is more that must take place the other six days of the week. We are told by Jesus to “never forget,” Then, at the end of the service, we are told to take that love out into a hurting world. That’s what Jesus meant by “Follow me”. He never said, “Worship me”.
Don’t sleepwalk through life, it’s too important, and frankly, it’s way too awesome to miss!
I won’t tell you where or how to worship or give you a formula or a checklist to send you on your way to sainthood. But I will tell you this: you cannot love and serve others (which is our greatest calling) until you can love yourself. And you can’t love yourself through any of the myriads of self-help books on the market or the number of “likes” on your Facebook page.
You can only do that by growing in the knowledge that you are deeply and passionately loved by the God who created you! And you can only do that by being in relationship with him, which requires your time and attention.
You are his son/daughter with whom he is well-pleased (Matthew 17:5). Let that sink in.
Take the time to read scripture, pray, and…big AND...LISTEN. Geeeezzzzz, we’re so bad at listening.
Then, a year from now, on Christmas morning, I pray you will be sitting with me to witness in a new way what a profound mystery we behold there!