Monday, February 20, 2012

Planting Hope in a Cowboy's Heart {between Buffalo & Portland}

"Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’" Matthew 22:37-39

My grandfather died and I prepared for my first solo flight. Leaving my husband behind, I clutched my boarding pass, slipped into the middle seat between a balding, middle-aged businessman and a tall, retired Texan cowboy straddling the aisle seat and prepared for take-off.

Ninety minutes into the two hour flight, after reading the contents in the seat pocket, the Texan cowboy and I decided a conversation might be nice.  We exchanged pleasantries like where we're from and why we're headed to Portland. He confirmed, beyond the obvious pointed snakeskin boots and cowboy hat, his Texas origins. And then he asked, "What do you do?" I pulled out a business card, certain that when the Texan cowboy layed eyes on the title "youth pastor" he'd pull the reigns back and stop all conversation. But he didn't.

The pilot announced ten minutes to landing and the cowboy pulled and E. F. Hutton on me. You know, the question that focuses everyone's attention on your answer? (The 1980's commercial that said, "When E. F. Hutton talks, everybody listens.") Cowboy looked at my business card and asked, "So, you're a pastor. What is our purpose in this life anyway?"

People spend lifetimes searching the answer to that exact question and I had ten minutes to make a difference in Cowboy's life (and everyone else listening around us). I didn't have my Bible handy and I couldn't just throw Scripture at this guy so I simply said, "Our purpose is to love God with everything we are and love each other the same way, like Jesus taught us. He created us to live in community with him and one another and to love as he loves."

"That's it?" Cowboy challenged. With less than ten minutes to landing I replied, "Yes, that's it. It's that simple." 

And yet it's more. Oh, I don't mean a list of do's and don'ts or liturgies and sacraments. It's about knowing and being known by our Creator and grasping the height and depth of God's love. It's about Kingdom living - understanding God's Kingdom is here and now and at the same time, not yet - and understanding our place in it. It's all about carrying the hope of life to others - day by day - because of Christ's Resurrection Day victory.

Between Buffalo and Portland, on the way to bury the dead, God's resurrection hope planted life in the heart of one Texan cowboy. That's Kingdom living!

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