Updated: Oct 14, 2019
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I can remember my mom saying 'now just keep still... you hear me? Just keep still back there' as her short arm swung over the front bench seat of our Pontiac, with her little hand just going like a fly swatter, separating my brother and me.
But today I want to say the opposite to you:
You mustn't keep still.
Three times in the past week, I have chosen to take another step forward in conversation and it was absolutely the right thing to do.
But first, I must bring us back to Paul, who while shackled, asked his fellow believers to whom he wrote to "pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains."1 I am riveted, fixated on the thought that the very thing that caused Paul to be imprisoned still impassioned him to forge ahead in like manner, understanding that Paul was neither dumb, dim-witted or in denial.
Friends, you and I live in a day and age where many are closed off to church or to 'organized religion' a term which frosts me.2 Sixty percent are uninvite- able to church because they have made up their mind they want nothing to do with church. And yet, they are interested in spiritual conversations.3
But to use Paul's terminology, I do not want to miss open doors to talk about Christ; and the fact is, God may just open that door through personal conversation.
As I mentioned from my D-FW airport encounter the other night, real and meaningful conversation only came about as a result of my asking the next question. It happened again at the gym on Monday morning, when the woman on the elliptical trainer next to me commented about her disappointing Mother's Day. *pause* there it is - hanging in the air *pause* will I ask the next question or let it be? Before the conversation, I did not even know her name; we just recognized each other as familiar.
Here's the thing--no harm, no foul in letting it be; no sin, nothing like that. However, without the next question there would be a missed opportunity that would lead to greater understanding of each other--meaningful conversation and most importantly, a chance to speak of God. Again, I think of Paul's asking: "Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains. Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should."4 He is asking for more opportunities to share the gospel even though that is why he was imprisoned! Yes, sign me up. Such devotion to God moves me mightily.
Just before, he says to "Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart."5 So, included in my morning prayer is 'God, put someone in my path today, someone I might point to you' . . . could be through an act of kindness, words of encouragement and hope, or an invitation to experience both.
The greatest way of turning conversations toward spiritual things is through asking questions. Questions are indicative of Humility - (I don't know everything, especially about you); Curiosity - (a desire to know more); a desire to engage, to learn, to clarify.
Here's the thing - it is all about connecting about meaningful things - and there is nothing more meaningful than turning our thoughts toward God. So, at the park when my kids were little, I would ask another mom or on the soccer sidelines: 'hey, do you go to church around here?' Boom.
And I suppose my go to question to strangers, given an opportunity, is 'are you a person of faith?' Almost without exception it opens doors to great conversation.
With all of the drivel--clamoring for 'likes' on social media, and more serious concerns like loneliness, anxiety, searching for meaning and purpose--you and I have the opportunity to dialogue about matters of substance. Oh, we must not keep still when we have the opportunity to ask questions that will turn thoughts toward God. No, no - let's not keep still.
God, would you set us up? We will not keep still.
1 - Colossians 4.3
2 - Organized religion? The fact that it is 'organized' is the problem? Of course not. No one steps up to a meaningful part in something that is not organized; organization is not the issue.
3 - Pew research
4 - Colossians 4.3-4, NLT
5 - Colossians 4.2, NLT