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

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Dave's Deep Thoughts - Selected to Do Good

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.

I know that is has been said that nice guys finish last,
but no one ever said anything about ending up in the hallway.

The first trip to a prison is quite an ordeal.
There are a lot of rules  for visitors to learn.
Things like:
know your license plate number before you take the long walk from the parking lot,
if you have a metal plate inside your body, you’d better have a doctor’s verification note,
and most of all, metal detectors do not like wire supported brassieres.
(The latter, I learned through observation only.)

Having been through the entering process many times,
I have the routine down.

So there, I was, sitting in the waiting room,
having easily passed through the inspection process.

3 ladies entered the lobby.
1st timers.
They were easy to spot.
One was in a wheelchair,
one had a cane, 
and the other was the traffic director.

I quickly learned that the traffic director wasn’t afraid to speak her mind.
Especially when she found out
that the purses would have to go back to the car,
that all the jewelry would have to come off,
and that everyone needed photo ID.

After three trips to the car,
and several rants with the admissions officer,
they reached  the metal detector phase.
The traffic director had just about had enough.

The cane lady breezed through with flying colors.
Even the wheelchair lady made it through on the first go.
The traffic director, not so much.

3 trips        3  beeps

The battery of questions ensued….
Are you wearing any other jewelry?  No!
Does your belt have a metal buckle?  No!
Does you brassiere have wire in it?    Emphatic No!  (accompanied by a look to kill)
Did you touch the detector as you passed through?    Long pause……..Yes

The fact that the cane lady had been able to make it through
without grabbing onto the detector
seemed to give hope to the traffic director.
Led by the cheers of the wheelchair and cane ladies,
the traffic director eventually walked through the detector 
like a beauty pageant contestant on a runway.
On the 4th try……….silence.

After 30 minutes,
the three ladies had made it to the waiting room .

Now I have a sympathetic heart for 1st timers.
After all, I have been there.
So I began to converse with them, 
allowing them to vent their frustrations,
sharing war stories from my previous visits.
By the time I was done with them, 
I had them smiling and laughing at life.

Meanwhile, several other people entered the waiting room…..
but none nicer than me.
I should have been elected chair of hospitality.

We lined up along the wall for pre-entry.
I even offered to wheel the wheel chair lady.
And that’s when I got it……..

The tap

If you have never visited a prison
let me say there is nothing worse than getting the tap.

The tap means you have been selected for the random search and drug screening.
Now I have never won a raffle in my lifetime.
Never won a door prize.
I don’t think I’ve even won  game of BINGO

But lucky me.
I was picked for the tap.

The tap sent me to the hallway behind a screened divider.

Did it matter that I was a pastor?  No
Did it matter that I had an innocent face? No
Did it matter that I was the only one in the waiting room
who was nice to the cane, wheelchair, and traffic director ladies? No

I will not go into detail as to what happens 
when one is taken to the hallway behind the screened divider…..
that is private…… between me, the prison guard, 
and all the prison staff watching the event through the security cameras.

What I will say is
that one tap is one more tap than any nice person should ever get in his life.

When I got back to the pre-entry line,
the traffic director looked at me and said  “They gotcha!”

Being nice doesn’t guarantee you anything in life.
In fact, the word nice is not even used anywhere in the Bible.
Being nice is not the primary intention that God has for His children
At best, it is a sanitized contemporary understanding 
of how believers are to live with one another.

The apostle Paul, gives more teeth to how we are to live
by saying “be kind to one another, tender-hearted (compassionate),
forgiving each other, just as God in Christ Jesus also has forgiven you.”

The intention is not for us just to live with each other out of a superficial politeness
but out of profound appreciativeness for how God has treated us,
and to expect nothing in return 
except that we have pleased the Father’s heart by doing so.

And one day, we will all understand that that  in itself, is enough of a reward.

As the line began to move toward the visiting room, 
the traffic director noticed a tray of cookies on the admissions desk.
Despite being told that they were for the staff only for staff appreciation day,
she sneaked a cookie as she walked by.

Pretty sure she will never get tapped.
As for me, I’ll continue to focus on kindness,
tap or no tap.

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