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 12, 2016

Dave's Deep Thoughts - When We Grow Up

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.

They always ask you what you want to be when you grow up.
How come no one ever asks you that question anymore when you are grown?

I have always loved my birthday.
It comes at a great time of the year....
leaves changing, crisp fall weather, football,  baseball playoffs. 

As a child, birthdays were always an extended holiday,
particularly when they fell on weekends.

While in elementary school ,
birthdays always meant inviting my two best friends, 
Craig and Bobby over to the farm for the weekend.

As a young child,
48 hours of non-stop adventure on the farm with Craig and Bobby
was the best gift a kid could receive....
there was always something new to be explored on a 70 acre farm.

One unusually warm October, we became aquatic engineers
by building a dam in the stream that passed through the farm.
This took an extreme amount of time, energy, lumber, and clumps of soil.
Although, we had a great time building our own personal reservoir,
I doubt that the neighbor downstream appreciated it very much.
Nor did my mother, who by the look on her face, refused entry into the house
without us passing through a well-deserved hose down in the yard.
The cattle, however thought it was a very nice gesture to build them a personal wading pool.

One frosty October birthday weekend,
we decided that our engineering efforts 
would be better applied to home construction
 so we built a straw fort in the barn,
complete with three bedrooms and two and a half baths.
While much was learned about architecture and interior design that weekend ,
I think what I learned most was that it is best to wear long sleeves 
when building with straw bale construction.
Scratches on the arms  really itch 
when sitting at your school desk the following week.

Another year, my parents must have anticipated a career for me in aeronautical engineering
as I received a boomerang and a model airplane kit for my birthday.
All I will say about that is that if you are going to give gifts like that to your child,
you had better plan on boarding up all windows within a half mile radius.

Then there was third grade.
I now remember it as the "loss of innocence" birthday.
The month before, at the start of the school year,
I sat at 3rd grade lunch eating a ham sandwich,
only to be mortified to learn from Craig,
that Santa Claus was not real.
Once this was verified by Johnny, who was sitting two seats down,
I knew my world would never be the same. 

Let me say, it takes a lot of courage for a 3rd grader not to cry
while eating a ham sandwich and receiving very bad news.

And so, as any self-respecting 3rd grader would do,
after having had his upcoming Christmas season destroyed,
I planned the theme of my upcoming birthday weekend.....

No engineering feats this time. Oh no.
I was going to achieve payback for this heart wrenching revelation,
by convincing my now-demoted-to-2nd best friend, Craig,
that I was a Martian.

With the help of my new number one friend, Bobby,
a coat hanger, some tin foil, and a floodlight
the farm was transformed into an alien launch pad.

With my foil wrapped, coat hanger antennae
(seen only from a distance),
and a mysterious flashing light emanating from the barn,
(that could only possibly be explained as my spaceship),
I fully convinced my Santa-buster friend Craig,
that I was extraterrestrial.
Oddly enough, this explanation is still be being passed around to this day
to explain my strange ways.

Maybe I wasn't going to ever sit on Santa's lap again,
but I was determined to take over the earth.

As the years passed,
my birthday wishes became much more mature and practical.....

I wanted to become a grown-up junior high school student,
I wanted to win a dodge ball game in gym class.
I wanted a mini-bike.
I wanted to become a licensed driver,
I wanted to become a college student.

Most of those wishes came true,
well, except for the dodgeball.

What happens when we are grown?
What do we wish to become that we haven't already attempted or achieved?

Birthday weekends are still fun.
Time with friends and family,
Tailgating on a beautiful fall day.
Taking stock in how good life and God has been to me.

For me, birthdays are still celebrations of life,
but they are more so,  barometers of what I wish to achieve while still on this planet.

The apostle Paul's birthday wish list 
changed soon after his Damascus Road conversion.
After that, 
he gave up all previous wishes and accomplishments....
to be considered elite,
to be consider a zealous champion,
to be considered obedient as to be found blameless.

All wishes quickly blown out like the candles on a birthday cake,
because he met the One who was the author of all his birthdays.

After that, the only thing that mattered was to know Christ,
and to live a life that faithfully served Him,
even to the point of suffering and death.

How's that for a birthday wish?

Once Paul's false pride had been stripped away,
all that mattered was obedience and surrender.

The mystery of such a birthday wish 
is that one never fully achieves it in this life,
but the intent to achieve it is what prepares one for the life to come,
a life that isn't measured in years, 
but that is lived eternally.

I will never be an engineer.
I will never be a Martian.
I doubt I will ever win at dodgeball.

But what I hope is far more than a wish in front of a candlelit cake,
it is to be conformed this year even more to the likeness of Christ.

And  when I finally grow up into the fullness of what God wants me to be,
and am in that place where there are no more birthdays,
then there will be no more need for wishes.
Brothers, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet;
but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind
and reaching forward to what lies ahead,
I press on toward the goal for the prize
of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
                                      Philippians 3:14

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