If there is therefore any encouragement in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any tendernesses and mercies, then fulfill my joy, that you may be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord and of one mind.(Phillippians 2:1-2)
Last week, I was part of a rummage sale at church, and I was in charge of praying at the beginning of each day of the sale. One of the things that I felt led to pray for was that we as a women's ministry would show the love of Christ to each and every person who walked through our doors. I asked that God would send His Holy Spirit down upon us so that we could fulfill this calling and that others would be touched by our presence. As the day went on, I felt uplifted and positive that we were fulfilling this mission. We gave the people walking into the sale a sense that they were welcome. We let them know that we were glad that they came and invited them back for other events. We were also able to share about our ministry and its mission to support the women of our community, no matter what, if any, religious affiliation they had.
This in itself is showing the love of Christ.
I was so pleased with the success of weekend, not only financially, but in the community spirit that was built with God's power...until the end...when I screwed up.
I spoke the prayer...I felt the call...but when it was all said and done...I let my frustration bring out the worst of me.
When my friend was tired and aching from the physical strain of the work we had put in. When she was frustrated and feeling beaten down...I didn't show the love of Christ. I should have shown understanding. I should have asked how I could help. I should have been more gentle. Instead, I told my friend to go home because she was miserable and she was pissing me off (yes, my words exactly).
I didn't show the love of Christ to my friend.
Why is it easier to be kind, understanding, and gentle to those people who we don't know. Why does it seem that we can put a smile on our face for those that are acquaintances or strangers? Maybe we want to put on a show for them, so that they walk away with a good impression of us. But when it's our loved ones, we let our guard down and we snap at them.
I have heard it happen in a million different relationships. Kids who are perfectly respectful and well behaved at school, talk back to their parents at home and disrespect them. Husbands and wives who take each other for granted, laying burdens on them and criticizing things that we would never admonish someone else for. Parents so willingly to tell other parents that it's not a problem when another child makes too much noise or runs wild, but they would never allow their own son or daughter to do the same without reprimand. Why is it that we take our frustrations out on those that we love?
If we are going to be Christians, whose mission is to show the world the love of Christ, then we should show it to everybody...to our friends...to our spouse...to our parents...to our children...as well as to strangers and acquaintances.
God tells us in Mark 29:29-31 that the greatest commandment is, "The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these." Merriam-Webster defines our neighbor as not just "one living near another," but also as "one located near another" and "fellow man." Our neighbor is every person we come in contact with...the person across the street, the man in the car next to me, my own flesh and blood, my friend, my spouse. And God calls us to love each and every person as we would love Him.
And so I challenge everyone, including myself, to show the love of Christ to EVERYONE, not just the "strangers" we encounter each day, but also to make an extra effort to show understanding and patience to our loved ones. Especially, the ones who push our buttons :) Those are the people who see us at our best and worst...and if they see us showing the love of Christ to others, but not to them, what is that teaching them about being a Christian?...about us?
I know that we can't do this on our own, we are human...it is not always within our power to love unconditionally, but the scriptures tell us in Philippians 4:13 that we "can do all things through Christ who gives (us) strength." We need to take the time to think (and pray) before we speak.
To share the love of Christ...we need to show the love of Christ...in the world and in our homes.
Monday, February 20, 2012
How often do you think God nudges us? How often do we pay attention? I can think of many times that I prayed to God for Him to give me a sign, particularly one that was loud and clear since I am not very in tune with the soft nudgings that He gives us. But tonight while I was studying, I realized that maybe my prayer needs to something different.
Who am I to ask my Lord, the God of the Universe, to be more obvious?
Who am I to think that Jesus should have to beg me to listen to His will?
Who am I to expect the Holy Spirit to smack me across the head when I need to pay attention?
I realized that I shouldn't be going about my day thinking that if God wants to tell me something, He'll get my attention. How pompous is that line of thinking? I realized that what I need to be doing is spending my day looking and listening for God's nudgings. Those soft whisperings in my heart and mind that could guide my day, if I let them, if I listen. I have found that the Lord is much easier to hear if we are in tune with Him. He shouldn't have to get louder just because I'm not paying attention!
As a teacher, I get very upset when my students are not in tune with me. I even tell them (usually after someone has missed an important bit of information) that when they hear my voice they should instantly listen because it is probably important. But I am convicted in knowing that I do not give my Savior the same respect that I demand in my classroom. And goodness knows, Jesus has much more important bits of information than I announce to my students.
To be in tune with my Lord, I not only have to slow down, but I have to ask for His guidance. Not that He will be silent without my asking, but then I will be waiting and listening.
Sometimes (okay, usually) I think that God needs to be the one to change, but it is me who needs the change. And so my prayer tonight was not for God to send me a flashing bulletin board to remind me of His presence. It wasn't for a fog horn to blow every time He has something to say to me. But it was that I will slow down and listen, that I will remember to ask for His guidance, and that I will practice listening for His loving nudgings, ready to receive them at any moment of the day.
Sunday, January 15, 2012
I shouldn't admit this, but I can be really bad at brushing my teeth...especially in the summer when I don't have a regular routine. So if (and when) I skip 3 or 4 brushings (yuck...I know...it's one of those things I need to work on), my teeth start to remind me by getting this grimy feeling that I can't stand. So I brush them and I keep remembering to brush them for a while...until one night when I'm too tired and just want to crawl into bed, so I do. Then the next morning rolls around and I don't bother with the “morning routine” because I'm just going to spend the day at home. And the pattern continues...
On the other hand, I am really good at remembering to eat. I don't ever have the problem of forgetting 3 to 4 meals. My body reminds me to take care of this when I give it the chance, but more often than not, I'm on top of it before the grumbling starts. I have never been physically malnourished.
But what about spiritually malnourished? Well...it's more like the teeth brushings than the eating for me. In fact, this too happens more often than I'd like to admit. For me, spiritual malnourishment happens more during the school year...when I'm in that routine...a busy one. Many days are just too busy to take the time to reflect on God's Word or pray. I probably get those reminders from day 1, but God seems to whisper before He starts making the kind of commotion I need to stop and take notice. I start getting that grimy feeling that I want to scrape out of my life. I become frustrated more easily. I lose motivation. Negativity creeps in and sets up house in my mind. Gossip doesn't bother me as much, and I even pass some along...
I've been there. I'm there now. I can't seem to make my spiritual life a priority. I have been him-hawing about starting a Bible study at church that would take a 24 week commitment. I know I need it for myself and I know that others want me to start it. But my motivation to get anything (except read a fictional book) done the past few months has been terribly lacking. I am even “planning” a retreat for the woman’s ministry I am involved in at my parish...it is three weeks away and I have done virtually nothing to get ready for it.
But this morning during Mass I was convicted...I shouldn't be surprised...I asked for it. In fact, before Mass began my prayer was something along the lines of, “Lord, send your Holy Spirit down to light a fire under my butt...” I prayed that I would renew my relationship with God and be motivated to share the Good News with others. During Mass, God spoke to me in my heart and mind. I know now that I am to start the “big commitment Bible study,” but offer it in four 6-week sessions. I love Jesus and I want that to shine through to other. I have some fixing to do in my own spiritual life and leading this Bible study will help me with that. It all makes sense. I'm sure that God has been nudging me to get my life back on track for a while. That's probably why I have kept considering this study in the first place instead of opting for a shorter, less in-depth one. I've also had that grimy feeling that I need to get back into God's Word, but it hasn't been bad enough to do something about it. Today, I felt God speaking to me...I am sure of it. I can admit that I haven't felt His presence in my life for a while...sometimes we go through spiritual “dry-spells”...even Mother Teresa did.
God “brushed” my heart today to get rid of the grime...I am re-energized to let Him lead me. I still think this Bible study is a scary big commitment, but I know that the Lord wants me to take it on, and He will be there beside me to carry me through it.