Yesterday was a special Sunday for many reasons and it is likely that the blessings and grace which filled my heart and soul from that day will be mentioned many times . . . there were too many to count. Just now I am here after spending some quiet time with Jesus. The topic of discussion before I stopped to listen to Him was “but what if” and “Oh, but if I can’t” and of course “how will I manage if I can no longer” and the other famous “but what if I’m not good enough at” and in the quiet I expected an answer. I was very quiet. So was He. Then something came to mind . . . it is my answer and it is a story of something which happened at church yesterday.
Our much-loved and totally Spirit filled bishop was at our church yesterday. The brand new junior choir consisting of 6 tiny girls, some likely don’t know how to read yet, dressed up extra special and sang a song they’ve been working hard on for weeks. As they stood there smiling and singing their hearts out for Jesus, they sounded like angels! Clearly, not a thought popped into their heads that they might not be “good enough” or that they might get a note “wrong” or might need Miss Kim to prompt them with a forgotten word here and there . . . and any or all of these things may have taken place, but all I saw and heard was 6 little angels singing and reflecting their love for Jesus! It brought tears to my eyes and as I looked down to find a tissue in my purse, I noticed Miss Kim’s little two-year old grandson sitting in a nearby church pew dancing and smiling for Jesus in time to the music. Jesus doesn’t expect us to be perfect – only He is perfect. He just wants our hearts! The children knew that. I’m learning it too!
WOW! I just “heard” a conversation . . . okay, read it on Facebook, which I found so disturbing. Sadly, as I say this I realize that we could all be convicted of the same thing at some point or points in life. Perhaps that is the reason it troubled me so.
Someone had stated an opinion on a comment made by a political candidate. The individual was clearly not a fan and the comments made by others in response were, all but one, equally opposed and eager to be critical on the candidate. I must say that not one person mentioned issues or policies, and all used only vague statements like “idiot” and “stupid” and worse. Then there was one comment that in my mind and heart was set apart from the rest.
This person quickly stated that said candidate “goes to church every Sunday” spent the rest of a very long comment SCREAMING at all who might read it about “I bet YOU don’t go to church at ALL. Well I always do and anyone who does knows that I’M RIGHT WHEN I SAY” and on he went raving and accusing and judging. Wow. There was no expression of faith. There was not one actual fact stated. His comment was rudely expressed assumptions and opinions based on those assumptions.
Consider for a moment that, as impossible as it is, he actually knew who did or did not attend church on Sundays. Relevance? Consider as well that, since our faith regardless of denomination or religion, does compel us to reflect it in all we do and draw others to faith. Being a Christian, I have to ask, which is more likely to draw others to faith, how much piety I show in a church pew or in the grocery store, the parking lot, the highway as you speed by me, cut me off . . . Does my behavior when I knew I’m being watched convince you to change? Does my behavior when I think nobody’s looking reflect the same?
Anyone can behave well in church, but if we simply define church as a building in which we sit on a regular basis, we’re missing something. The church is US. I can quote Jesus, mention something I read in Paul’s letter to Romans . . . but if I put the Bible down, leave the room and chew you out for rushing to the checkout counter ahead of me in line . . . curse you out to “keep that kid quiet” or pitch a fit because you worked a few minutes late and “I slaved over this dinner!” and more . . . are you likely to want to learn more about this faith that I’m trying to get you to believe in? I don’t think so.
This poem was inspired by a man who loves the Lord and inspires others by his example . . . it is a conversation between such a man and the one who holds his heart . . . This man truly does inspire others to live more deeply than they ever knew they could. I know from experience.
Where does love lead me?
Oh, the many sleepless nights
followed by long days.
I can’t . . . I wish . . . I want . . . but . . .
in your eyes I find my soul.
by Martha L Shaw Copyright July 25, 2012
Life is crazy sometimes. We rush here and rush there. Our “list” seems to get longer and longer. The demands on us keep coming and if we stop a quick second and think about it, we might admit we do it to ourselves. Ever found yourself saying “how long has that been there?” only to find that what you just noticed has been there a long time but you were too busy rushing to even notice?
There is more to life than increasing its speed.
– Mohandas K. Gandhi –
Then there’s the subject of diet. Whether you live alone, are a caregiver of an elderly parent, or have spouse and kids to feed, to please . . . quick meals on the run, unhealthy and packaged food, unhealthy and packaged life . . . keep ’em happy and life goes better. How’s that working for you? It wasn’t working for me.
So, I have slowed down a bit. I discovered that when I take better care of me, I still get things done. I get them done BETTER and I feel better. “They” complain sometimes since “they” have grown accustomed to their unrealistic demands on us being met. When that doesn’t work so well, they take a different approach, too. It doesn’t happen over night, but it happens. Those whom we “give in” to will eventually learn to either live without or take initiative.
So, in the past month, I’ve taken moments to cook meals I like even though the other member of my household prefers junk food. I’ve added more healthy fruits and veggies, baked more, taken time to read inspirational writing in between my tasks, “stolen” moments for quiet time where I had thought there were none to find . . . and I’ve gotten everything done anyway. I’ve also slept well, felt better, and lost weight . . . to name a few. There are lots of complaints. Just as I write this I’m getting darting looks from someone who resents my “playing with that thing” instead of their own agenda for my minute or two with you.
I’m doing what I need to do. Those who need my care are more than adequately cared for, but I have also realized I need to take care of myself. So, I will take an extra few minutes in the shower, I’ll play my Christian music, I’ll bake the brownies, I baked home-made muffins for my breakfast. I will make a spinach pie because I love it! If others would rather eat a fast food burger, go ahead. I release you to your choice. I’m learning to take better care of me and it’s the right choice to make. Try it. It’s hard, but it gets easier. I think it’s another way to lead by example.
Meanwhile, have a muffin!
She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple. – Proverbs 31:22
Read these words and ponder them. We are called to do God’s work in this world, but that does not mean we are to toil for others yet neglect ourselves. What good can we do for God or His people if we do not take proper care of ourselves? He wants the very best for us. We do not draw others to Him if we appear heavy-hearted, dressed in tattered attire, and physically beaten.
Work hard? Yes. Give to others? Sure. Take care of yourself too!
“Spirit is an invisible force made visible in all life.” These words were spoken by poet and author Maya Angelou. To me they speak highly of what life in Christ, and most importantly life as His disciple, really means. There are a number of facets to this, but I’ll center in briefly on the key points as I see them. In general, we become spirited about something that we hold dear. Our high regard is reflected in us and shown to the world both when we know “somebody’s watching” and most importantly, in my personal opinion, when we think we are alone and unseen. Classic example, new husband raves over the delicious dinner he’s served by his new bride, but slips bits to the dog under the table when she turns away. She’s going to catch on and have doubts about his feelings for what she does and possibly about his feelings for her. Am I putting too much value on a caring “little white lie” about meatloaf? Maybe, but how often to we sing in church, shout “Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!” in church and then curse at the car in front of us at the exit from the church parking lot saying “Go, already! Waiting for an invitation?” when they don’t get on the road quickly enough to suit us. “ . . . made visible in all life.” Spirit, that vital principle that links body and soul together, is that life-giving force at the core of our being and cannot be hidden from view. It is our honest and real “self” and no matter how we try to present a false image to the world, this invisible force will be made visible through us.
How does this relate to Christian discipleship? What we truly hold dear in our hearts and deeply in very soul will shine through us in everything we do. How we dress, the words we speak, the way we carry ourselves and image we endeavor to present to the world will pale if we are not being authentic. None of the trappings that this world values will mean anything if we are living a lie. If, however, Christ is at the core of our being and if our spirit is His Holy Spirit, and if we truly strive to focus entirely on His heart, and making it our own, this cannot fail to be seen. The word evangelism is a scary one and gives us an image of loud talking individuals on late night television who appear to seek our money and often make claims to sell us eternal life for a “love offering of only” $100.00 or $1,000.00. This is not what evangelism means to me. The true evangelist – the true disciple for Christ – who inspires me does so when they’re tired, when they’re hungry, when it has just been one of those days and they don’t think they have anything left to give, but the heart of Christ and His light and love still shine in their eyes. As Angelou said “made visible in all life.” This is what I strive for. I desire to be so in love with the Lord that no words need to be said to reflect His splendor. I want people who see me to know how amazing He is because of that invisible something that is made visible in me. I want to be a positive example of life in Him, and on my bad days as well as my good ones. I pray that when you see me, you’ll somehow see Him and be drawn closer to Him. I truly met Jesus in a deep and personal way because I saw Him in the eyes of one of His own. The love of Christ! Pass it on!