"A life is either all spiritual or not spiritual at all. No [one] can serve two masters. Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire."
- Thomas Merton
(stolen from a friend's Facebook wall)

The other day James asked me to look over his math homework. There was a chart of different foods: meats, vegetables, and desserts (I actually do not remember the third category so I am guessing). It looked something like this:

Steak Mashed Potatoes Chocolate Pie
Spaghetti Lima Beans Pecan Pie
Meatloaf Corn Peach Cobbler
Brussels Srouts

Anyway, as I remember it the instructions defined a meal as consisting of something from each category. Then there were questions like this: "Billy doesn't like lima beans or Brussels sprouts. How many meal options does he have?" Or "Jessica is a vegetarian. How many meal options does she have?" James had answered all the questions fairly quickly-- you know, having studied charts like this all week-- but when I got a hold of the thing I was confused. "If a meal has something from each category, and Jessica is a vegetarian, she really has no options, right? She doesn't eat meat." Now, I specifically told James to make sure his mother and her wonderful accounting-type brain checked it later, but evidently he did not. He told me later he changed his answers according to my thinking.

Let's say the grade he received did not live up to expectations.

Thanks a lot, Dad.

Classic overthinking. No, I am not smarter than a 5th grader.

When we commit to becoming part of a United Methodist congregation, we say we will support it with our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. It's been my experience that for the great majority the first four are relatively easy, the fifth one very difficult. "Dear God, I love my church. Please bless its work. Amen." That counts as supporting the church with prayer. Attending worship or participating in a ministry team counts as presence. Supporting financially counts as gifts. Serving the needs of others is service. But witness? Yikes. Many of us have uncomfortable images pop up when we think of Christians "witnessing." But don't overthink it. Being a witness means showing others the light of Christ that is within you. It means being aware of your friends or coworkers without a church home and offering an invitation.

I hope by now you are hearing of two very exciting initiatives this month: small group ministry and Ash Wednesday. February 10 is Small Group Sunday, the day we'll have an opportunity to find a small group and join. It's a six week commitment, once a week, no homework involved. Just some introspection, some sharing, some growing, and some witnessing. You'll have an opportunity to share and hear how God is working in our lives. And it'll be an easy, non-threatening chance to invite a friend to an Oak Lawn ministry that will have a huge impact.

We're deploying teams on Ash Wednesday (February 13) throughout the Oak Lawn and Uptown areas to give folk a chance to witness to their faith. I read about a church that did something similar and reading the comments on the blog I was touched by the members of the church who said it was so powerful to stand in front of strangers, away from the safety of the church building, and have ashes placed on their forehead. It was a way of saying to the community, without speaking a single word, "I am a Christian. My faith makes a difference in my life." You can participate at one of these come and go gatherings to receive ashes, or by being one of those to share the ashes-- it's not a sacrament. You'll literally touch someone else's life for a second or two. Wow.

That Thomas Merton quote above really makes it plain, right? "You are the image of what you desire." You are the image. That's your witness. So... does what you say and do help others see the love of God? Be a witness for Christ. Participate in a small group. Share your witness at Zaguan or a DART station on Ash Wednesday. Help someone else nurture their faith. Witnessing isn't about street corner preaching for 99.9% of people. It's how we live our lives. If our faith is so meaningful to us, don't we want others to see it? And maybe they'll become aware of God's love too? Don't overthink it. Live it.