So yesterday (Friday) clearly had a significant degree of Jesus on it, but I’m at a bit of a loss to put it into the current context. Maybe somebody else will find a connection that I’m missing.
For the record, I did get another Charlotte yesterday. As I walked into the convention center that I’ll talk about in a moment, I glanced at a TV that was playing in the lobby. The banner at the bottom read: Special Bulletin: Charlotte, NC. It was up there for maybe half a second and in the moment it took me to do a double-take they had moved on to something else. So for the 0.75 seconds that I, the guy who’s been pounded by this ‘coincidence’ for weeks now, took to cross the threshold of this hotel, God shows up with just another small signpost. Go figure. :)
Signs...that threatens to pull off onto a wide and potent tangent...suffice it to say that the topic of signs is a separate (?) thread that God has been pulling at lately. How we perceive them and what their nature is. Perhaps I’ll go there later, but or now I’ll drop this in, a quote form The Silver Chair:
“Remember, remember, remember the Signs. Say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night. And whatever strange things may happen to you, let nothing turn your mind from following the Signs . . . Take great care [the Narnian air] does not confuse your mind. And the Signs which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look, when you meet them there. This is why it is so important to know them by heart and pay no attention to appearances. Remember the Signs and believe the Signs. Nothing else matters.”
Several months ago a friend who publishes a paper called Christian News Northwest asked if I would be a workshop speaker at some kind of conference thingy for a group I’d never heard of, the Evangelical Press Association. I agreed, frankly without praying or even really thinking about it, and almost instantly regretted it. It’s not that I objected to the cause or anything it just felt like at least one too many things on my plate and I was at least mildly irritated at myself for committing myself so recklessly. And as the weeks and months ticked by I was only more irritated. And what’s worse is that I found it near impossible to generate any interest at all in the event. I probably replied to a third of any correspondence that came my way for things like speaker bios or even a title for what I was going to talk about. What was also happening, which seems somewhat diabolical now in hindsight, was a way of thinking about this event that significantly demeaned it. Thoughts like ‘...that penny-ante reporter thing’ and ‘...waste of my time’ and ‘...I should just go [to N.C.] and let them figure it out.’ were all over my mind. So it comes up to Thursday evening and I haven’t been able to really commit more than 5 minutes at a go to even look at the schedule. Honestly, up until 8:00 the night before I didn’t even know when I was supposed to speak or where the event was, even though that had been on my calendar for six months.
As that evening grew older I was thinking more and more about the lesson in all of this and I thought about how I had committed myself to this without giving God even a passing glance and how it made a certain sense that God wouldn’t assent to my breaking my word even for this cool thing in Charlotte. Now that may in fact be a valid and important lesson to learn, but I no longer think that it was really the main thing going on here.
I went to bed that night, with still exactly zero plan for the next day beyond getting up a little early so I could go get breakfast and squeeze an outline out of forty-five minutes and a cup of coffee at J’s. But that said, I was in a significantly more peaceful state of mind when I turned back the sheets and talking to God about what might be going on here.
I slept pretty poorly that night – BUT – that’s not to say the night sucked. In fact, as I first drifted off I asked God, “Please help me here. I know I should be prepared and I don’t want to let these people down, but I can’t muster any interest at all. What should I talk about tomorrow?” And boy did he answer. I spent most of the night in this half-asleep / vivid dream state where I had the next day’s speech basically drilled into my head, then rehearsed several times. Not in a word-for-word kind of pattern, more like several key phrases, and a lot of topical exploration. What’s more is that it was right along the same lines as I’ve been talking about here and in other places – specifically the critical importance of story. The crux of the speech was really how the division between fact and story rides the division between the language of the mind and the language of the heart. It’s our stories, and especially the ways in which our stories intertwine with God’s larger story, that communicates meaning. Without story, we forgo meaning for dry and lifeless information...a particularly germane topic for a bunch of news hounds don’t you think?
Anyway, I show up and...um...wow. This is not what I had in mind (to say nothing or the Charlotte on the TV). This is several hundred people from all around the country, this is huge banquet rooms and suits and ties and the guy who is speaking before me...oh, nobody important... just the president of George Fox University. Honestly, it’s a good thing I don’t really get stage fright or I’d have bolted. Dream or not, I instantly felt WAY in over my head. But there was a worship service going on when I arrived and what was the piano player talking about between songs? Story. What did Mr. Baker talk about (among other things)? Story. So anyway, I’m sitting there feeling really good like I got the good scent in this dream and I’m really encouraged to see it through.
And the speech goes really well. Several people took the time to come up and remark on how it was the same thing that had been on their mind or how it spoke to something they were going through. Not like I changed the world or anything, but it was just another place where I was both unprepared, unequipped, and or the most part unwilling, but God took a simple little prayer and used it to minister to folks...not the least of which was me. What’s more, I wound up running into a gal, who ALSO dropped a line about the power of story to heal, who runs a ministry focused on women who have dealt with significant trauma. Right now, I really don’t know what that's about or where it would go, but I’m certain the meeting was planned by the Lion so I’m interested to see what fruit it bears.
So I reckon that’s the story of yesterday. I think without the Charlotte I’d just say it was an ordained chain of events, but mostly unrelated to everything that’s going on. But I’m not quite ready to close that book. There may yet be something here that ties in with the rest...time will tell.