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Many of life's lessons happen in informal settings

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Minister's Forum

As a pastor for several years, I’ve had the pleasure of sharing a cup of coffee in kitchens, cafes, job sites, vehicles, parks and other places too numerous to mention.

Some professionals call it "informal counseling," and that term fits well with me, but I received as much help as I was able to give during most of those sessions.   
Recent events in my life caused me to remember one such meeting, where in the course of our conversation, my friend mentioned that his father had taught him everything he needed to know. I don’t dispute his claim, and even though his father had been a good man, it is difficult for me to comprehend such a sweeping statement.
Perhaps that’s because my father didn’t come close to teaching me everything I would need the rest of my life.
However, after our conversation, I did sit down and make a list of some important things that my father taught me before his untimely death. He taught me good, valuable and helpful concepts that still guide my life today, though not nearly as well as my father had envisioned.  But my father never told me about God, or the value of reading the Bible, or the importance of attending church services.  He couldn’t teach me what he didn’t know.
After he became a Christian, he confessed to his pastor that his children had to teach him what he should have been teaching them. But spiritual ideals are not just a parent/child thing. It is really that those who know Jesus should be telling those who don’t know him.
Quite often, I discover something from someone that enriches my life. That’s why I keep on reading, studying and visiting with people. There are still things I need to learn.
But back to the recent events I mentioned earlier. I’ve known this lady for several years, and we often discuss spiritual matters in a social setting. As a young adult, she had joined another church, one much different than mine, but that didn’t – and hasn’t – affected our fellowship at all. Now, several years later, we still respect each other, and each other's faith.
I recently saw her at a funeral that we both attended. Just before the services began, she and her husband, hand in hand, made one last walk up to the casket to view the body of a young man, who was her nephew. They stood quietly for a moment, and then she knelt, with one knee touching the floor,  since there was no bench, for a brief time of prayer. We talked later that afternoon, and I mentioned that though others at the service might have prayed, she was probably  the only one who knelt and prayed. Her response: “I just feel more connected if I kneel when I pray.”
Thank you, Debbie, for showing this old man that it is all right to not be ashamed of one’s faith. And even though I’ve known this truth for a long while, a gentle reminder now and then is not only helpful, but also welcome and appreciated.
The Bible tells us that we ought to pay close attention to the words of God, lest we drift away from them (Hebrews 2:1).  Most of the folks I’m acquainted with and meet from time to time, are a lot like me. We tend to lose touch with those important truths that were at one time such a valuable guide to our style of living.
So be ready. Just around the corner, the Lord may have someone who will help you learn or relearn. It probably won’t be a professor, or some well-known guru – though it could be. It most likely will be someone who is just going through life, living their faith.
Or it could be like in my case: A daughter, who was not even aware she was teaching her father.
"Informal teaching," I call it.  It may not be the best kind, but it sure is a good kind. It's living what we believe.