I had every intent to write a blog last week, but I left my computer at home while I attended a professional development retreat. I was planning on writing a blog on my experience at Sonshine Gymnastics on February 1-2. For two days, I had the privilege of participating in Winterfest, an annual competition where recreational gymnasts come and show off their routines to parents, guardians, brothers, sisters, friends, extended family, and 2-4th cousins.

Seven separate competitions meant many hours hanging out with people. It meant seeing lots of new faces and getting to know coaches at a deeper level. That was really cool. Probably the most significant thing for me was being invited to pray before each competition. I was given a prayer to read, but I decided to make it personal. I think it paid off because I can’t recall receiving an ovation after a prayer in a worship service. I think I was 4 for 7 for ovations, which made me doubt how ‘inspirational’ or ‘charismatic’ I was for the other three.

It was an intimidating place to pray. I cannot remember the last time I felt that nervous leading a group in prayer. Knowing that people of other faith backgrounds- whether religious or areligious- were listening created feelings of both discomfort and excitement. Still, I was happy that the kids heard in a prayer that God made them wonderfully and beautifully, and that they are special and that we can be thankful for how amazing they are. Celebrating and thanksgiving was the theme of the prayers.

After the first prayer, news got out that I am a pastor. I also found out who’s who: who goes to church, who golfs with a pastor, who’s Baptist, who’s Catholic, who does not go to church, and who’s Mormon. From what I observed, the prayer gave people the ticket to start talking about faith in ways that I have not yet experienced at Sonshine Gymnastics. I imagine it will not always be like that, but for good or for ill, people know who I am. My prayer now is that the Holy Spirit will continue to use me to bring Christ to this gym. I am learning to be the ambassador, and allow the Holy Spirit to be the Evangelist. That takes the pressure off me and places it on God who is the one who turns hearts.

Although it was an exhausting weekend, it was a great weekend. It was a whole lot more entertaining than the Superbowl. I would rather watch a kid smile proudly after performing a cartwheel then Payton Manning get pounded by Seattle’s defence.

Being visibly Christian in today’s culture is an interesting experience. It opens the doors to conversations, but it also causes others to shut the door. It is not ‘cool’ to be Christian like it is making fun of Christians. Christians are labelled as politically incorrect, out of touch with reality, and behind the times. That’s at least the message I’m hearing from the media. These are dangerous times for Christians, and the challenge is to be present in ways that are vivid, visible and communicate love, gentleness, peace, hospitality and generosity. This is no easy challenge, and it will put us in awkward and nervous situations. For those of you who are Christians, how is your faith vivid, visible, hospitable, and gentle?