Start!

Starting LineI didn’t go to church yesterday. Before you gasp, gasp or tsk, tsk, let me explain. I firmly believe that meeting together weekly with my partners on this journey of faith is crucial to my spiritual health, my intellectual growth, and the mutual encouragement that flows between my brothers and sisters. But I also know that the sharing of germs is definitely not part of God’s plan for my life or theirs!

Fortunately our church “livestreams” the morning worship services so I was able to virtually pray, sing and worship in front of my computer. (Well, I didn’t do the singing part.) I particularly didn’t want to miss out on the first sermon of a current series with the simple theme, Start. I wasn’t disappointed. The premise of this series is that God asks us all to start something in our walk with him. The race isn’t over until life is over so no matter the age, we’re all, at all times, at some starting point. The text upon which the morning’s sermon was based was Mark 1:1: The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah. That first “the” isn’t in the Greek text so it’s as though Mark explodes, Beginning! I’m about to tell you the greatest story ever told. Pay attention to how it was done then so you’ll know how to do it now! (The Marilyn Translation.)

I repeat: we’re all, at all times, at some starting point. Maybe not for some grand and glorious endeavor, but—at the minimum—for each day God gives us. Unfortunately for many, waking up to the new day doesn’t seem like the start of anything special. Get up (slowly!), attend to the body’s demands, assume that this day will be much like many or most of the past.

But is it possible that God may have undiscovered nuggets for us in the morning’s devotional reading? (Nuggets, of course, are only unearthed when what is read is pondered upon and that demands quiet, unhindered, uninterrupted thinking.) What or who comes to mind when the head is first bowed in silent prayer? Could this person or circumstance be where God is leading this day?

Many years ago I worked in Women’s Ministries at our church and in a meeting of leaders of small group Bible studies, I almost casually mentioned that I was looking for a woman to begin organizing a new program. A few minutes after returning to my office, Gwen* arrived at my desk. “Marilyn, I don’t think I’m the person to take that job but I’ll pray for the right woman.”

I was dumbfounded. Gwen was in her eighties and while healthy and involved in her small study, in no way did I entertain the thought that she would be the person I was looking for. I hope I was gracious in my response, thanking her for the offer and grateful for her years of ministry. “Oh, that’s OK, Marilyn. It’s just that whenever an opportunity for ministry is voiced, I ask God if it’s a place for me.”

Knowing the details of Gwen’s life, I knew this attitude of instant and willing availability didn’t emerge overnight. She had experienced many races where she was on the starting line. She and her husband worked with suburban teens before they were challenged to move to the inner city of a major metropolitan area. Gwen told me how she nearly stumbled spiritually when faced with the reality of raising five young children in that turbulent culture, but then finally decided this was exactly where God wanted her children nurtured. Other challenges followed, especially after their “retirement” when they moved to an African country to train youth workers. It was during that time, and in that place that another unexpected and difficult start occurred: Gwen’s husband died and she started on life as a widow.

And here she was in my office, willing to start again!

What kind of woman starts over and over again? What is in her “DNA”? What is her view of God? Her view of herself? Her view of her circumstances? Let’s discover this woman together…

*Not her real name.

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