A Sodie Pop Angel

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Genesis 18 speaks of Abraham “entertaining” three holy men. As soon as he sees them Abraham immediately asks the angels to stay and begins to prepare the best meal in the house. Verse 4 says, “Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree.” He also promises to get them some bread and a chance to comfort their hearts.

These verses suggest that the men did not come in full glory with white and delightsome clothing, but as weary, travel-stained men who looked dusty (water to wash their feet) and tired (rest here for awhile and receive comfort.)

The apostle Paul told the saints of his day to “be not forgetful to entertain strangers; for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:2)

I remembered an incident many years ago when I stopped at a gas station and quickly ran in to grab a soda. People were coming in and out and as I grabbed the door to enter I paused momentarily to hold it open for the man who was following me in. I could tell by the way he smelled and a little off balance that he had had more than one drink that day.

I grabbed my soda and stood in line to pay. The man whom I held the door open for had already paid for his 6-pack and had stepped off to the side of the cash register, waiting. When my turn arrived and I set my soda down this man tossed a dollar bill onto the counter and said, “Here. This is for the lady’s sodie pop.”

I was taken aback. I stuttered a bit but finally managed to say (most heartfelt), “Thank you!”

He turned, walked out the door, and needless to say I never saw him again. But that man touched my heart in a most unexpected, extraordinary way.

Could a scruffy, worn out, three-sheets-to-the-wind guy really be an angel in disguise? Who knows? The point is not to try and guess which of God’s servants is playing undercover, it’s that we who are NOT undercover are to use every opportunity to act as His servant.

Holding the door open for someone isn’t necessarily a conscious act, but often we consciously distance ourselves from people whom we (let’s be honest) feel superior to, a little better than, or pull away from someone we don’t feel completely comfortable around. But when we stop worrying about how someone dresses, how they smell, or judging them by the mistakes they have made (and are still making) and instead start looking into their eyes, we will see that behind the trials, pain, and choices that they are just like us – children of God. They are our brother and our sister and no amount of kindness is too small.

I was entertained that day in a tiny little gas station by a humble man who was thick in the middle of his mistakes, but with one simple gesture he made me feel like an angel.

When have you felt yourself stepping out of your comfort zone to serve either a stranger or someone you know?

Embarking on the journey

“‘Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.’ Once you open yourself to God, once God shines a direct light within your soul, your life becomes a journey of faith. Mysteries will seem to fill you to overflowing, but faith and prayer will help you face both the known and the unknown.”

Caroline Myss, Entering the Castle

A Personal Ministry

I’m writing a church talk and in my research I came across a fabulous article about personal ministries. The author speaks of finding our own ministry, one that goes beyond assignments and becomes part of our day-to-day living, a part of our very nature and being. Part of this personal ministry involves listening to the promptings of the Holy Ghost; promptings that lead us to where God would have us serve.

In the article is a tender account of how one individual heeded just such a prompting:

“We fly quite a bit, and [for one flight] when we got our boarding passes, we had been upgraded to first class. This has never happened before, and may not again, but it was a little exciting.

As I was getting on the plane, I saw to my left a young woman in military uniform. The thought immediately came to me, “You need to give her your seat.” It was quite a strong impression, and one I could not ignore. So, not being totally obedient, I went to my seat and put my bag down and sat down. I could not sit there, though, and I walked back to talk to the stewards. I told them I wanted to give my seat to someone I had seen while getting on. Then I went back to get my bag. . . .

About halfway through the flight this young woman came back to my seat and thanked me. . . . She kept calling me ma’am and telling me how grateful she was for this kindness. Then she handed me a little piece of paper and walked back to her seat.

The note said, “Ma’am, I just wanted to say thank you so much! You helped me out in my hour of need. This soldier is forever thankful for your kindness. I am heading home to attend my mother’s funeral. She passed away yesterday in a car accident. I thought God left me and punished me for something, but through this He gave me an angel to help my travel. Thank you. Here is a little something that helped me out. Now I’m passing it to you.” Enclosed with the note was a little metal cross that said, “God loves you.”

The letter concludes:

I am so grateful that I listened to the Holy Ghost and acted on that prompting. I don’t know her name or where she was going. I really only know that she was a soldier. But I know that Heavenly Father knows her name and where she was going and that she was hurting. He wanted her to know that He loves her and was comforting her at this difficult time. I know that Heavenly Father loves me, too, and that He trusts me. It was such a simple thing to do. I guess that is what most service is—very simple things.

As I continue to grow in my spiritual practice I have renewed my commitment to follow promptings, to minister as Christ did, to “to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; . . . and . . . mourn with those that mourn; . . . and comfort those that stand in need of comfort.” (Mosiah 18:8–10; emphasis added.)

To me, that’s an authentic practice.

How have you heeded a prompting?

Leaving Jerusalem

There is an account in the Book of Mormon where Nephi explains why Isaiah is so hard for people to understand – specifically his people in the New World. When Nephi and his family left Jerusalem they also left behind much of the culture, and they did so on purpose. So much of Isaiah’s prophecies are centered around the culture of that day – the people, the politics, the problems.

The Bible speaks of many people willingly leaving a culture, sometimes physically, others just mentally. Abraham left Ur behind because of its idolatry and human sacrifices. Moses escaped Egypt (and was called back to it a very different man). Saul left behind a life he was fully committed to and knew in his heart was right, until that day that Christ spoke to him on the road to Damascus and he became Paul.

There will come a time when all of us, when we are ready for that step, will need to leave behind our own Jerusalem, our comfort, our way of life that no longer serves us as we try to immerse ourselves deeper into our spiritual practices. Every culture – family, community, state, nation, race – carries something that we may need to sacrifice, something we may need let go in order to progress to develop a deeper relationship with God and with ourselves.

We may need to stand alone. Friends and family may not understand at first. They may never understand but the risk is worth it. We are worth it. YOU are worth it.

Devotional exercise: let’s sit in stillness and honestly evaluate our habits that may derive from a culture we were raised in. Is there one thing we can leave behind? Are we ready to leave our own Jerusalem to find that New World that God has waiting for us?

I am.

Non-negotiable contracts

Part of the beauty of creating intimacy with God is arriving at a point where we take responsibility for ourselves: our actions, our mistakes, our happiness, our relationship with God and with others. This is a quote from theweek.com (reprinted from the New Yorker) from a woman who’s husband told her he wanted a divorce. (You can read the entire essay here.)

“I’d recently committed to a non-negotiable understanding with myself. I’d committed to “the End of Suffering.” I’d finally managed to exile the voices in my head that told me my personal happiness was only as good as my outward success, rooted in things that were often outside my control. I’d seen the insanity of that equation and decided to take responsibility for my own happiness. And I mean all of it.”

As you read the entire essay you identify with her open admission that there were good days AND bad days and just how she got through those bad days.

When we commit to any course of action or change we will always be hit with the, “Okay, what now? How do I get through this pain/boredom/laziness/anger/rage?” I like how she described this “non-negotiable” understanding with herself. As a writer who wants to be a successful writer I can relate with the non-negotiable part of a contract I’ve already made with myself, and it’s the non-negotiable part, the remembering that I’ve already made a decision about sitting down and writing every day. Exiling the voices in our heads is not complicated, it just takes commitment, a remembering of a decision we made to do so back when the idea was much more exciting and doable than on a day that is really, really difficult.

We can find happiness, find an intimacy with God, find a way through a pain that seems like it will last forever but is really only temporary. It is putting one foot in front of the other day after day, week after week even after the fanfare of our contract has dwindled.

Devotional exercise: write 3 things/experiences/relationships/people that you are currently holding responsible for your unhappiness. How will you take ownership of these? Commit today to exile those voices and move forward to be happy in your own skin.

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