Be Open to God: Be Open to Conversations...

Last weekend I was walking into our local library when I saw a big rainbow arch of balloons over the entrance to the park across the street. There was a banner that read: “Pride Celebration” or something gayish like that. I went into the library and got a few books. On my way out, I saw the balloon arch again, and thought, “I should go walk through there and see what they’re doing…” Then I thought, “Why would you go over there? You probably don’t know anyone there. You don’t have anything to do there, or anything to offer.” So I got all the way to my car and put the books away before I decided to turn around and walk through the park.

Why? Maybe mild Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Or maybe it was the Holy Spirit… but really, I realized that weird things always happen to me – I always find myself in interesting conversations with people I don’t know. So why not tempt fate?! I walked back over to the park, walked casually past all of the informational booths and artists’ displays, smiled a big cheesy grin at everyone I saw (I didn’t recognize anyone) and was tempted to stop and say “hello” at the non-denominational “welcoming communities” booth. I decided not to. And I didn’t find anything particularly interesting or profound as a take-away. But I’m glad I walked over. I’m glad I gave the Holy Spirit or God or the universe an opportunity to make new friends and new connections.

Some of the best moments in life are in conversation. That’s been my experience. And I find that the more open I am to new experiences, the more blessed I am by lovely people and wonderful dialogue.

A few days ago I had coffee with a women I barely knew (trust me, our generational separation kept the scenario entirely free of scandalous implications). She had a “Yale Divinity School” sticker on her bumper, so I was intrigued and asked if we could meet and chat about her experiences.

I’m sad to say that I’ve had very little experience with women in church leadership roles. In my churches of origin, women were usually confined to children’s and women’s ministries, so women who preach and administrate and preside over entire congregations tend to be a sort of captivating anomaly to me.

She had lots of good stories. She went through some very difficult trials, and is no longer in ministry. “No regrets” either, but hard lessons learned. I won’t share for the sake of privacy, but I was blessed to get to know “the story behind the bumper sticker.”

As you read this post, I hope you’ll feel inspired to dig deeper into the stories of people who might otherwise be little more than brief acknowledgements, casual waves “hello,” or strangers passing by in total anonymity. It’s a big world out there, but the world right here is pretty big, too…


Al said...

For some reason, most of my best opportunities for great conversations are when I am just about to catch a bus, or some other planned appointment. Too often I have missed the opportunity because I chose to carry on instead of seizing the moment.
Thanks for the encouragement to take advantage of the chances to connect with people.

Existential Punk said...

Great story and a great reminder, Peter! i have had some of the most incredible encounters because i LOVE talking to people. Katryna is always amazed at me and the people i will talk to about anything!

Peter said...

Adele, I'm an open book too! Every once in awhile it gets me into trouble, but more often than not, I am just deeply and chronically blessed!

Anonymous said...

Peter said:
In my churches of origin, women were usually confined to children’s and women’s ministries,

I say:
Wow? So women who "only" work with mere "women" and "children" are confinded to that post? This statement displays your true feelings toward women. Somebody saying that women are "confinded" only to teach women shows that that person believes an audience of "mere" women is not a good thing. It is like somebody saying, "Yeah, my ancestors owned slaves, but they were good to them" Both comments show an attempt to elevate a minority and break bigotry but reveal a prejudice attitude.

Peter said...

The word "confined" means other roles are not an option. There were no other appropriate roles. Ministry to children and women is clearly noble, and vitally important for the church.

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