It was after 11AM and she was counting out loud. I listened carefully to see if my number would be called. All she needed was fifty-four people and she now had forty-eight of them selected. Maybe they would not need me after all. Then I heard my number. I was selected to be part of a jury pool as juror number forty-nine. We had been told that this was a criminal trial, but nothing else. As I followed the other potential jurors into the small courtroom, I wondered if I would actually survive the jury selection process and end up on the jury or would I be dismissed somewhere along the way. After being seated, we were told that the judge would be with us soon and let us know if we needed to serve or not. Having spent the entire morning waiting, it seemed anticlimactic to hear that we might not be needed after all.
Our waiting continued in the courtroom as the judge took nearly half an hour before she joined us. Once she was seated, she proceeded to say something that none of us expected to hear. With a very serious look on her face, she said, “You should thank your lucky stars that you did not have to serve on this jury.” Given the fact that this same judge had spoken to us earlier in the day about the importance of serving on juries and how vital we were to the legal process, this seemed like the last thing she might have told us. After that opening statement she went on to say that the defendant had just plead guilty when the weight of having to face a jury of his peers finally sunk in that morning. Apparently this was a very nasty case that was one of the most challenging this judge had ever had to deal with and she was encouraged that the case did not have to go any further. I was relieved that this man would face justice for his actions and that I did not have to be exposed to details of his shocking crimes.
Waiting to hear if you will be selected to be a part of a jury can be an anxiety producing process. You don’t know what kind of trial it will be, who will be on the jury, who will be the judge, how long will all of this take and what kind of emotional toll will be inflicted on those who have to hear the details of the crime that was committed. Looking around the room this past Monday morning, I could tell that I was not the only one with a lot of questions on my mind. At moments like that, I have found that reading a good book is a wonderful antidote to anxiety and it is a great way to redeem the time. Apparently, a few other people felt the same way as many had brought reading materials with them as well. My book of choice was selected from a bag of books we received at our annual conference and it was called, “Surprise the World” by Michael Frost.
This engaging little book was a just what I needed at that very moment. I had prayed that God would help me to select the right book for this occasion and my prayer was answered. The premise of this book is simply this, “If all believers are leading the kinds of lives that evoke questions from their friends, then opportunities for sharing faith abound.” As a person committed to sharing my faith, I often struggle to find ways to do that in the Christian bubble that is my daily experience. Frost expounded on a unique method of developing new rhythms in our lives that center around five important habits. He calls this practice – BELLS.
BELLS stands for Blessing, Eating, Listening, Learning and Sending. He challenges the reader to consider blessing three people each week, one of whom is not someone in their local church. This was not just a Christian version of committing to random acts of kindness, but an intentional choice to make a positive difference in someone else’s life. Frost makes the important point that if the person does not “feel” blessed by our actions, then maybe we have not actually blessed them. His suggestion that we should try to eat with three people each week, one of whom is not in our local church, was deeply impacting as I thought about how many meals I rush through or eat in silence. Listening was a chapter on being intentional about setting aside time each week to listen to the “still, small voice” of the Holy Spirit and to imagine what being Spirit-Led might actually look like. Learning was a chapter on really getting into the gospels each week and “learning Christ” in a deep and sustaining way. Sending was a great admonition to take time to journal about our activities of the week and who God had sent us to interact with.
This powerful little book started with stories about Roman Emperor Julian who had been disturbed by the reports of the “Galileans” taking care of the poor and feeding people who were not a part of the Christian community. This kind of “subversive” activity was a hallmark of the early church and was a major reason for the explosive growth of this new religion. Time and time again, these Christian did the opposite of what was expected by the local community. They took care of the sick even when they were exposed to devastating diseases and shared their wealth rather than keeping it all for themselves. One of the most provocative questions in the book asked what it would look like for Christians today to lead surprising lives that did not fit the stereotype. As our world continues to typecast Evangelical Christians as hateful, small minded bigots, these habits of blessing, eating, listening, learning and sending seems more relevant than ever.