This article is very cool--a staunch atheist and anti-Christian-activist becomes a Christian after a group of Christians show compassion and help him out. It's the kind of story we shouldn't be surprised by, shouldn't really make the news b/c it should be happening all the time to not be news-worthy, right? Sadly, no. We are all guilty of forgetting Jesus' revised version of the commandments in Matthew 5:43-48
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighborand hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
...and I admit I get angry w/ people/politicians/celebrities and call them names like stupid, unintelligent idiots when they go around bashing Christianity and conservative beliefs and practices and want tolerance from us but won't give any. I get ugly. I show anything but compassion. And it's wrong, and I'm convicted of it. God's been doing a work in my heart about it big time in the last year. I even have a couple democratic friends!
Ok, I said that tongue-in-cheek, but seriously, growing up, I thought there was NO WAY Democrats could believe in Jesus. Republican always = Christian. My eyes have ben opened BIG TIME!
The end of this story is a guy coming to faith in Jesus, not just b/c some people showed his compassion, but b/c GOD did an amazing work in his heart, just like He did in mine. But let's face it--most stories do not end rosy. Most nonbelievers stay in their nonbelief, but Jesus' commandment is still relevant: "Love your enemies."
Lord, help me to show compassion to everyone, to love regardless of beliefs, political views, or associations. Show me how to love outside my comfort zone. Help me not to be a stumbling block to any searching for faith by my lack of compassion toward all men. Give me your eyes to see them as you see them, as sheep without a shepherd. And remind my arrogant heart of where I came from.
Triune God, my Creator and my Savoir, this day belongs to you. My time is in your hands. Holy, merciful God, my Creator and my Savoir, my Judge and my Redeemer, you know me and all my ways and doings. You hate and punish evil in this world and in that world without regard for the person; you forgive the sins of those who ask you sincerely, and you love the good and reward it on this earth with the comfort of conscience and in the world to come with the crown of righteousness. (2 Timothy 4:8) Lord, whatever this day may bring, may your name be praised.
The Bible calls children a heritage or gift, like arrows in the quiver of a rich man, and I am all about that, but I wonder some days if David the Psalmist wrote that not to make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but to remind us on the really bad parenting days, that doggonit, they really ARE a blessing (whether you feel like it or not in that moment)! :) Such are the days of our lives lately, with Thing 3 giving all the nasty gusto he has to make us lose any shred of sanity we have left. (Not just Mom-n-Dad--he's driving his bro-n-sis nuts, too!) Of course we know Harrison is a blessing, a heritage, a gift from God, but the energy we expend trying to mold and shape this little guy saps the life out of us, and we grow weary. The Apostle Paul said,
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)
and sure, Paul may have been writing to the early church planters who were being persecuted for their faith. But I'm convinced that God, looking down the barrel of time, also wrote that verse for all parents everywhere. As awesome as children are and as blessed as we know we are to have these gifts from God, there are countless days when you consider it a hassle, when you just want peace and quiet w/o having to fight for it, when you wish they would just grow up already and get out of the irritating stages they go thru. I've felt all of this lately, and I'm not proud of it.
As tough as any discipline issue is, though, the hardest part of parenting by far is the constant conviction. As I bring the Word of God to bear in the lives of my children, God is showing me my own reflection in the mirror of truth, and it's not pretty. As I tell my 6 yr old that God wants our obedience rather than our nice words and deeds ("to obey is better than sacrifice") I am hit by my own ugly words, my feigning of niceness when my heart is utterly selfish. As I remind my 3 yr old that God expects us to show love at all times, I am jolted by my own mean thoughts towards others that no one but God can see. As I discuss turning the other cheek w/ my 9 yr old, God gets his digs in me about practicing what I preach. Am I all talk, all fluff, all let's-memorize-these-verses-and-then-go-on-our-merry-way, w/o it having any impact on the way we live out our faith? God forbid!
Lord, I'm tired, I'm worn out, I'm weary. I know that you allow these moments of frustration, not to ruin me, but to break me and to send me to my knees. Help me to lean on you as the source of my parenting strength, and not on my own wisdom or ideas. Help me to be patient in my teaching, as you are patient in teaching me. And help me to view my children, not as a disease, but as your precious little ones, on loan to me for only a short while.
P.S. I might need this reminder every day for a while, if you don't mind. :)
Josh Wilson released a new song recently called "I Refuse" and it's powerful stuff. He wrote it after watching his hometown of Nashville, TN flood last year, and how we can choose to ignore people's needs and go on, or how we can jump in and help. The first time I heard this song on the radio, I had just had a conversation with a good friend of mine, and she shared this great story about refusing to ignore the needs of others. It was really powerful. And then I heard Josh's song, and it was as though GOD was really making a point to me. So here is the story...
My friend called me one day, asking me to pray for another friend of hers who had shared a need with her. He wasn't one to share his problems, but for some reason that day, he shared the situation he was in. He even went into detail about what his specific need was, and it struck her as odd b/c he never mentioned personal things like this. And he wasn't asking for a handout--he was just opening up about it. So she told him she would definitely be praying.
She called me just to talk out some ways we could help him together. His immediate need was financial. There was a specific amount he needed in a short timespan, quite a large amount, and we spent some time brainstorming some ways that we could help. I told my friend how neat it was that he had shared his need, b/c when God puts something specific in front of you, He wants you to act in a specific way. It was no mistake that he had told HER. And sure, she could just pray for God to meet His need, but what if *SHE* was the answer to that need? I told her, "There's a reason he had this conversation with YOU." I didn't know yet how she was equipped to meet the need; I just meant that this is how God works. Her finding out about the need was no coincidence.
And then GOD the Holy Spirit jumped in, and prompted her to say, "You know what? I have that much money in my savings. I can meet his need. I AM the answer to his prayer!" And without any hesitation or any worry about needing that money the next day, she called her friend back and gave him what he needed to jump the hurdle he was facing.
I don't know the long-term impact of her gift to this guy or how it will impact his life, and no one else will ever know about this situation or give her a pat on the back for this. But I know that she was very powerfully impacted, and me right along side her! Prayer is commanded, and obviously we should pray for needs that people have. But what if you're the only one who knows of a need? What if God placed the knowledge of a situation in front of you so you have the opporunity to ACT, not just "say another empty prayer" for someone else to act? We should be as quick to act as we are to pray. We should refuse to only pray and then go on with our lives, when often times *WE* are the anwer to that prayer.
If your friend is short on cash, by all means pray with him, and then check your wallet and give what you have. If your friend is struggling to afford groceries, pray for God's provision, and if you're able take him to the grocery store, or raid your pantry and share your food. If your friend needs reliable transportation to work, don't just say, "I'll pray for you"--See what you can arrange to loan your own vehicle!
If we live out the reality that everything we have is God's anyhow, we will not hold tightly to our possessions--we will be ready to give. If we see people as God sees them, we will refuse to ignore needs or assume that God will send someone else to meet needs--we will ACT. We are the hands and feet of Jesus, and He has given us everything we need to meet needs. The question is, are we willing? My friend gave her savings to a friend in need b/c she recognized that it was not her money to begin with--it was already GOD's, and really He gave it to her so she would be ready to meet this specific need at this specific time. And I believe her reward will be far greater than what she gave; her reward is the pleasure of her Heavenly Father who loves a cheerful giver.
Lord, help me to hold loosely to what I have, to recognize needs around me, to pray , and then to ACT instead of passively waiting for YOU to act. Help me not to "say a prayer and just move on like nothing's wrong"as Josh wrote. Help me to be your hands and feet!
Ok, so I blogged too soon. Will I never learn? :) Every time I think the worst of something is over, it gets worse. Such was the case w/ Harrison's flu. Wednesday morning he seemed improved, wanted LEGOs and drank some milk. 3 hours later he was lethargic on the couch, staring into space, with a fever of 104.8, the highest reading I've ever seen on our thermometer. I was on the phone w/ the pediatric nurse the next minute, feeling panicked b/c the phone nurse sounded panicky, then putting him into a cool bath, and praying outloud instead of just in my head. God, heal this boy! Five days is too long, Lord. What if it's something more? What if it's not just the flu? ...
Turns out it was indeed the flu--the awful cold and congestion kind that settled in his ears--and we got antibiotics that are currently kicking the infection and just like the nurse said, 24 hours later, my boy has perked up. He's got that goofy look in his eyes again. Still not eating, still resting a lot, but his smile is back. And let me tell you, that smile is priceless. :)
But I won't lie. I was nervous yesterday. Not just tired and worn out that comes from mothering a sick child, but worried. When your little boy just stares at you, doesn't want to move, doesn't want to do anything, lies limp in your arms and cries his eyes out as you bathe him, it hits you that it's serious and you're not in control. Not that you ever were, but as he normally bounces around the house being all boy and all 2 yr old, you feel like you have a grip on things. And then suddenly you don't.
Last night Grace had an ear ache, and I held her tight and sang to her. Today Harrison coughed a whole bunch, and I held him and rocked him. Tonight after the little ones went to bed, Jacob and I watched a movie and snuggled on the couch under a fuzzy blanket. Jacob looked over at me and said, "These are my best times--when my Mom is with me." And after he went to bed, I just sat and cried.
Lord, may I never take for granted all that you have given me.
When is the last time you cried w/ a friend, shared in their tears over some struggle they were facing? This is something new to me. I hate crying. Most people say that, I know, but crying in front of others has always been at the top of my I-try-to-avoid-that-at-almost-any-cost list. But lately God is teaching me a thing or two about tears and how He can use them. He's thrown me into various situations where I'm suddenly in the same room w/ someone who is visibly crying, and I'm given a choice--1) Walk away and pretend I didn't notice, or 2) Come alongside. And thanks to some prodding from the Holy Spirit (and completely to His credit alone!), I responded correctly. A friend of mine was crying a while back, I didn't know about what and didn't even ask. I just told her I was upset to see her upset and asked if I could do anything. And as I spoke, my own eyes filled w/ tears, and I didn't even try to blink them away. I let them flow. She couldn't share her struggle just then, and I didn't need her to tell me. But we sat together, crying quietly, and when I had to leave, I just said, "I love you." It seemed so simple, but she told me later what a blessing it was for me to cry w/ her, to share in her pain, though I knew nothing about it, and not to try and solve all of her problems. Just being there.
I'm not tooting my own horn by telling that story b/c as I said, this response is very UNnatural to me, and God obviously used me in spite of myself. But I thought about it later, about how God used my tears to encourage someone else, and how sometimes the simplest moments are the most profound.
Everyone knows that John 11:35 is the shortest verse of the Bible ("Jesus wept.") but have you really thought about what was going on? Was he sad that his dear friend Lazarus had died? The people watching said, "Oh look, how he loved his friend!" But that wasn't it. He wasn't crying for Lazarus--he knew he was going to raise him from the dead in a few minutes. He was crying for those who were mourning, for sisters Mary and Martha who were in deep pain, who missed their brother, who were sorrowing w/o knowing what Jesus was about to do. He was crying b/c the people he cared about were crying. He felt their pain.
Do you feel other people's pain? Do you come alongside and be present w/ people who are struggling? Do you weep when your friends weep? Or do you avoid uncomfotable situations, things maybe you don't want to get invovled in?--and hey you've got your own problems! The simplest thing a friend and brother/sister in Christ can do for another is to just be there. I know I'm failing in this way! I know that often I talk too much--you know, the nervous talking we all do when we aren't sure what to say--and other times I just avoid people b/c I'm not sure how to handle it. May it not be so! Perhaps this is part of what Apostle Paul meant when he wrote in Galatians 6, "Bear one another's burdens." The context is dealing w/ sin issues, but it certainly applies to comfort and encouragement. We need to love others as Christ did, we need to feel their pain, we need to be willing and available to bear their burdens.
Lord, help me to show love and be available for others! Opportunities to encourage others are literally all around me--lots of people are hurting, Lord! Help me to be your listener, your encourager.
I'm pretty sure the hardest thing I've had to do yet, is to watch someone I love repeats my mistakes, fall into the traps I felt into, to take the wrong paths that I took as a young person trying to find my way in life...and it's absolutely heartbreaking. It's like standing on the side of the road, waving a flag about the dangers ahead, but the cars behind you don't see you, and you can't prevent what's going to happen as they drive on. It's not my child, but I imagine this is some of what parents feel when their grown children run off into the cares of this life.
...feel like God is pushing your buttons? I do. Here is a fact: every single time I am scheduled to work extra, covering while my coworker is out, something happens that makes it a nightmare. Not kidding, every single time. Either one of the kids is puking (like last night) or the work servers crash and I have to call a bazillion people since email isn't working, or we lose power just on our block, or armageddon happens just as I log in for the day. Seriously. Whenever I get really busy at work and need to be at my best and have to work certain hours (instead of whenever I can fit it in) and have a bunch of deadlines, all of this *stuff* happens here at home that creates chaos.
And it is absolutely not an accident. You might think that God would see how busy my week is getting and might hold off on the little girl getting the stomach flu and might get rid of my insomnia so I can sleep when she is not puking, or he might lighten Hubby's workload so he can be here to help more. But did God do any of that when he saw my busy schedule? Nope. He saw it all and decided this pressure I'm feeling is good for me. And I get it. I really do. Intense pressure creates diamonds, the most precious gem on earth, but maybe I don't want to be a diamond, Lord? Maybe I like being just a lump of carbon...
God seems to have me in a one track mind lately and is orchestrating my reading, my devotions, my conversations with friends, my worhsip in song (today from Josh Wilson to Kutless) all around one thing, His love. Here's another song to share from Kutless. I hope you capture these words. It's way more than a nice tune; it's a prayer of praise.