Our little inside joke around the ABC office is that we put out two publications every week, the BULL and the MESS. Of course, their full names are the Bulletin and the Messenger, but the nicknames we use keep us humble about our work.

I’m thankful for the fact that Pastor Connie lets me write the lead article for the MESS each week, because I really love doing it. It gives me the opportunity to explore ideas about Biblical texts and spiritual issues that can’t easily be shared in a sermon.¬†This is one of the best parts of my later ministry years.

Normally, I’m thinking about MESS articles long before I write them; sometimes they brew for weeks. But this week something different happened. Several promising ideas were bubbling around, and one surfaced and held my attention. I looked at some key Scriptures, searched online for relevant discussions and tried to organize my thoughts. This took several hours, over two days. Finally, I started writing. About two paragraphs in, I had a sudden deja vu feeling: “I’ve written about this before, and it wasn’t too long ago.” No wonder expressing my thoughts seemed so comfortable; they were thoughts I had had before, and I was mentally wandering down old familiar paths.

I tabled that MESS idea for further study later, and I went on a YouTube journey to stimulate new thoughts. In the process, I stumbled on a familiar face, that of a Christian leader who taught some things I didn’t agree with. I became fascinated with unraveling the source of his errors, which I had been following for over 50 years. I had a few Aha! victory moments as I realized where he had made wrong turns in his thinking. In my mind, this was emerging into my MESS article. Then it struck me how indulgent this was. People reading the MESS weren’t interested in where this guy had gone astray or in why exposing him was such a cause for me. This would not be edifying to an average person reading the article for a spiritual blessing or a faith challenge. Another couple of hours wasted.

Floundering for inspiration, I opened an online document that I keep adding to when I come up with random ideas, quotes, intriguing Bible passages, etc. I’ve entitled it “Potpourri” because it contains all kinds of stimulating ingredients. Often, browsing through my “Potpourri” document will cause a light to go on. But this time, nothing jumped out and grabbed me.

A conversation with Pastor Connie about concerns for some ABC members pulled my mind in another direction. Then, a phone call from my friend in prison put my thinking into a different context. This was followed immediately by a call from a close friend to talk about recent TV shows we were both interested in. During that call, I shared about my frustrating journey in coming up with my weekly MESS article. And then it hit me: my frustration would be the article!

So, here I am. What I have to offer for this week’s MESS is a mess. I hope sharing how confused my life can be is an encouragement to readers who are experiencing their own version of wilderness wandering.¬†May the journey be the joy. Happy trails!

– Pastor George Van Alstine