A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Dave's Deep Thoughts

Here's Pastor Dave McDowell's weekly devotional that he sends out to members of his church. Dave is my brother and serves as the Music Minister at Stewartstown UMC in PA.

It's just a piece of paper.

That's often the comment I hear
from couples who live together instead of choosing to marry.

But sometimes paper is more than paper.

I make several prison visits a year.
Each one involves a rigorous entry screening including
metal detectors, ID checks, and drug screenings.

To my credit, I have always successfully navigated through the process with relative ease.
Each successful entrant is rewarded a visitors pass,
which allows entrance to the visiting center and eventually back to freedom.

The visitor's pass includes my name,
the nature of my visit,
the time of my check-in,
and my age among other things.

Once inside,
I walked down a long hallway,
as I heard the clank of the door closing echoing behind me.
To this day, it remains an unnerving sound.

As I moved into the waiting area,
I realized that I needed to use the restroom.
The guard issued me a lavatory key
and I proceeded inside.

I placed the visitors pass
on the edge of the sink.
Once finished,
I proceeded to wash my hands.

To my chagrin,
I noticed there was no towel dispenser,
just a hot air hand dryer.

I have never liked hot air dryers,
but now I really dislike them.

I pushed the start button
and was stunned how forceful the airflow was.
At least this will really dry my hands
I thought.
As I turned my body ever so slightly,
it must have changed the the direction of the air flow in the small room.

Did I mention that I really dislike hot air dryers?

The air flow changed just enough to catch my visitor's pass,
creating an air foil that caused it to go air born,
until it reached an elevation where the visitor's pass
took a nose dive directly into the toilet bowl.

Now mind you, if I had been aboard an airplane,
an aquatic landing would have been a welcome alternative.

Not so much in this scenario.

There lay my passport to freedom,
in a recently flushed,
but not-so-fresh bowl of toilet water.

I considered whether to curse or cry.
I opted to cry,
at least on the inside.
Throw in a good measure of panic as well.

I did what any lover of freedom would do.....
I fished my passport to the outside world
out of the drink.

I opted not to try to re-wash my hands
as it seemed a pointless task.

As I child,
I am sure that I had more than one shameful miss in the bathroom
But somehow,
this seemed bigger.

As I opened the bathroom door,
I seemed to attract the attention of everyone in the waiting area.
I reluctantly lifted my eyes to meet the guard's eyes
and mumbled....

I had an accident

I do believe I recall using that same line with my mother as a child.
This was not one of my shining moments.

I wasn't sure how to interpret the look on the guard's face,
but he either wanted to laugh directly at me
or rush to his lunch break to share the best prison story of the year.

After a painful few seconds of uncomfortable silence,
he said,

Would you like a zip-lock bag.?

If a thin sheeting of plastic
was my passageway to freedom,
then yes,
I would love a zip-lock bag.

Have you ever tried to insert a wet piece of paper
into a zip-lock bag??
It ain't easy.

It wasn't pretty,
but I got it in there.

And yes, I had a second trip to the lavatory to wash my hands again.

Sometimes paper is more than just paper.

A marriage license speaks commitment.
A visitor's pass ensures passage to freedom.

There is another pass to freedom.
Scripture calls it the Book of Life.
It is mentioned particulalrly in the book of Revelation.
It contains the names of those who confess faith in Christ.

John speaks of it as containing the names of those who overcome the world.
They are those who pass through the soiled situations of life
and come to heaven's gates with the name of Jesus on their lips,
the name that cleanses away all our soiledness.

Along the way, each of us finds ourselves in messy situations,
situations which seek to rob us of our path to freedom.
As we journey through Lent,
as we encounter tribulations and temptations,
don't let the enemy rob you of your pass to freedom.

You might need a zip-lock bag,
but with Jesus,
He guarantees that it is airtight.

To the one that overcomes shall thus be clothed
in white garments, and I will not erase that one's name
from the book of life,
and I will confess his name before My Father,
and before His angels.
Rev 3:5

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