Sometimes it’s hard to put your finger on what is changing in real time.
In countless ways, the past two years have been difficult, thanks to COVID. A lot has changed - including human attitudes.
Six years ago, my friend Marilyn taught me to have an “attitude of gratitude”. Even though she had a terrible time physically moving around because of her severe arthritis, she was grateful for everything and everybody around her. That was her heart. It’s how she lived. It was beautiful.
This past week, I spent several hours working at a local coffee shop. Person and after person came through. There were a few smiles. But more often than not, baristas were met with scowls, grunts, and even some words that would make Richard Sherman blush. I saw two baristas leave in tears, a manager lose it, and at least three customers storm out.
Maybe it was just a bad day. . . and everybody is normalizing new levels of stress, anxiety, and tension.
But as we move into the holiday season, I would expect joy and cheer coupled with selfless thoughts, thankful hearts, and grateful words.
So much for moving into a season of selflessness, thankfulness, and gratefulness.
I did go and encourage their staff and offered to buy them a mid-afternoon treat.
STU is a deadly combination.
Selfishness. Thanklessness. Ungratefulness. STU.
STU is like cancer. It starts small. It spreads quickly. It kills everything in its way when it becomes out of control.
The scary part is that it hides in places people cannot see (like our heart) until it’s too late.
So what do you do if you notice you or people you know and love are suffering from some STU?
Let me share three ways you can be good news to the STU-infected.
I get it. We’re all busy. But, perhaps, that’s part of the problem.
Busy-ness contributes to stress and anxiety. Stress and anxiety builds up and without friends, it just bottles up. Sure, we all have our coping mechanisms, but self-care and self-coping is not enough.
STU’s need to not be “on”. To sit and not be the professional, the parent, the worker, the responsible one. With all of the demands of life today, we need to just be who we are (and who God created us to be) - human beings.
I’m not saying add something new to your weekly schedule (unless you’re not already gathering for worship somewhere).
I am saying to reframe what is happening when we worship.
God chooses to meet us in our STU moments.
Through Jesus, God forgives us with simple words; washes us in the water of baptism; feeds us with bread and wine in communion; melts our STU-infected hearts with His Word, and then says, “you can be selfless, thankful, and grateful like you have just experienced me being that to you.
“Go and do likewise.”
God does this to us everytime we gather together.
We will take this truth further when we gather for worship on Thanksgiving Eve (Wednesday, November 23 at 7pm).
All of worship is for those who know STU all too well.
There is always help for those with STU.
In fact, Jesus himself says that he didn’t come for the healthy, but for those with STU of the heart, mind, and soul.
STU is not who you are, it is what you choose to do.
If you struggle with STU or know somebody who does, here are some simple truths to remind yourself about who you are, today.
I can have a selfless, thankful, and grateful heart and attitude because…
And may who you really are shape what you will do.
And What Happens? Our Hearts and World Changes
Think about how much stress can be lifted off of your shoulders by reframing just “being”, focusing on worship, and being defined by Jesus, not STU.
All of this can change our hearts.
It can also make selflessness, thankfulness, and gratefulness contagious in coffee shops and everywhere we live, work, learn, and play.
And that would be a great change for everybody.
I know that this post can become a lighting rod, so let me bring some clarity to why I’m writing this.
As your pastor, I get to share the words of Jesus and let His Holy Spirit encourage and inspire your thoughts and feelings when it comes to how best to faithfully follow Jesus in today’s world.
To be clear, it is not my place to tell you how to vote or what it means for you to “vote your values”.
So, as a follower of Jesus, our heart beats to hear and live out the words of Jesus: love God back with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself - like God has and continues to love you. (Matthew 22:37-39)
Or, to be succinct, Jesus said it best on the night he was betrayed: I give you this new command: Love one another as I have loved you. (John 13:34)
Here’s the dilemma: Simultaneously loving God and people has never been more important or challenging.
It’s never been more important because at times, loving God and loving people can sometimes feel so diametrically different.
And we are called to both - love God and (all) people. Equally. Wholly. Completely. No exceptions.
And it’s never been more challenging because we know that the only thing that can transform a heart of stone into a heart of flesh is the love of God through Jesus. (Ezekiel 11:14-21). And, people experience this love through echoing Jesus’ human words and actions like, “I forgive you”; “I’m for you”; “I am with you”; and “I love you”.
Afterall, Jesus - the complete and total love of God becomes human and changes the world with His words and actions. (John 1:14)
It is no surprise to me that many Jesus followers today have become cynical and apathetic or increasingly vocal and active when it comes to politics (on all sides, everywhere). As a result, so much of what we hear and see are emotional topics tied up in religious phrases.
Where does that leave most of us feeling? Exhausted? Overwhelmed? Disappointed?
It may surprise you that Jesus does not give instructions on how to vote.
However, Jesus does remind, renew, and restore our understanding of the role (or vocation) we have as citizens and neighbors in our communities, nation, and world.
Here are five things Jesus said that are worth considering when it comes to following Jesus in our current politicized reality.
Want to have a deeper conversation about your vocation as a child of God, a human neighbor, and citizen of your community, nation, and world? Reach out and let’s plan to grab a cup of coffee or lunch.
Meet Pastor Tim
Tim Bayer has served as Our Savior's Lead Pastor since September 2019. He also serves as an Adjunct Instructor at Concordia University - Irvine, a National Leadership Facilitator and Resource, and a Community Mental Health First Aid Instructor. Tim studied sociology, psychology, and theology prior to earning his M.Div at Concordia Seminary - St. Louis. He has also is a candidate for an Ed.D (ABD) in Transformational Leadership. He is married to Beth and they have three young children. Together, they enjoy exploring the outdoors, experiencing culture, and pizza and movie nights.