Reading the newspaper every morning has been a practice of mine for my entire adult life. Strong, black coffee to accompany the reading is essential. Nothing has changed about that in retirement, except much of the reading is now done on a IPad, rather than on newsprint. And rather than looking at the clock knowing I have to get ready for work, I can relax and indulge in another cup and yet another interesting article.
It surprises me every morning both how serious the news is and yet how much space is taken up with what seems so frivolous. It amazes me what gets front page attention and what gets buried. Take for example, two recent stories interesting to Christians in the United States. The story of Rev. Creflo Dollar who posted a YouTube video asking for 200,000 people to send him $300 so he could purchase a $65 million private jet. Project G650, the effort was called, until it was quickly taken down off the Internet because of social media’s rampant reaction to the latest stunt from another prosperity gospel preaching, custom-suit wearing, luxury home living evangelist. What would Jesus think about this Gulfstream for God?
In the same time period, a cherished Christian leader, teacher, and preacher died with much less fanfare and media coverage. But then, Dr. Fred Craddock wasn’t known for his flash, rather he was known for his sincerity, humility, story-telling grace, and both preaching and living the message of compassion. In the words of someone who both loved and respected him: He” takes us up slopes we have feared to climb, opens out vistas we never thought to explore, ..” I was privileged to have met him and to have learned how to find my own preaching voice through his writing and from professors who were fortunate enough to be his students. Contrasting with a ministry that asks for $65 million for a luxury jet, Fred’s family asks for contributions to the Craddock Center whose mission is to enrich the lives of the people of Southern Appalachia — heartfelt work that was always part of his ministry.
And yet both men claim Jesus as their savior. And though both men have large followings, I hope both would say that it is not them that we are to follow, it is Jesus. It’s part of the adventure of being a Christian, I suppose. As Maya Angelou once said, “I’m always amazed when people walk up to me and say, ‘I’m a Christian. I think, ‘Already? ‘Cause I’m still working on it.”
I’m one who has been working on being a Christian all of her life. Admittedly, the intensity of the work has its ups and downs. It seems that it’s during the transitions that the intensity heightens and the joys of the discovery deepens. It’s what gets me through the changes. Divorce. Death of my eldest child. But not just through the tough times. The good times too. David and I together these past 11 years, knowing that it wasn’t enough for us to be so extraordinarily happy. We felt called to look beyond ourselves from the very beginning moments when we were falling in love. Our first opportunity to answer the call was our first mission trip. Clean-up work in New Orleans gave new focus to our life together. From that came a new desire to give. To give back and to give away. Time. Expertise. Energy. And money.
And the strangest thing happened. As we committed ourselves to giving more away, we became less fearful about not having enough for ourselves. Of any of the above. We started paying more attention to the times when Jesus told his followers not to be afraid. We started trusting in God’s abundance, rather than wringing our hands about some imagined ghost of scarcity.
I see clearly that this trust led us to yet another transition. Retirement. It’s real, and it’s all new landscape for me. But in the wise words of the man sitting across from me in this newly shared home office space, …. you don’t have to have it all figured out today.
Hmmm. Sounds alot like being a Christian. And, thank you God because I do not. Have it figured out. But I promise, I’ll keep at it.
Pastor (Recently Retired). Parent. Activist.