Following Directions

Last weekend, United Methodists from across Mississippi gathered in Jackson for Annual Conference. While there was much excitement about seeing old friends, there was also much work to do. This was an election year, and all clergy & laity had to vote on delegates to next year's General & Jurisdictional conferences.

While electronic voting is the norm in most venues, the United Methodist Conference in Mississippi still uses an old form of voting: Scantron sheets and #2 pencils. At registration, I received a packet of ballots, a pencil, and a list of numbers assigned to each clergyperson. There were also 25 ballots in the packet. We had to be careful to use the right ballot at the right time and fill in the right number of circles for each election. It was so simple and yet so complicated. If we used the wrong ballot or blackened out the wrong number of circles or used an ink pen instead of pencil, our vote was automatically disqualified. One small error could mess up the whole ballot and affect the results of the vote. When voting times arrived throughout the three days, the large convention center became eerily quiet with only whispers as most people focused on following directions.

What if we approached our walk with God with as much attention as devoted United Methodists filled out their Scantrons? The Bible abounds with instructions of how to live our lives--what God requires of us. But do we follow those Scriptural directions as carefully as other details of our lives? Do we take time to consider whether our actions are right or wrong? Do we realize that our lack of attention to our spiritual lives affect not only us but others as well?

I've never cared for Scantron sheets and No. 2 pencils. They remind me of standardized testing, and I know that God does not look at God's children in such a black-and-white way. But God also wants for us to make wise choices and to be attentive to those choices. Take time today to think before you speak, listen before you judge, and most importantly, pay attention to God's directions.

grace to each of you,
Pastor Darian