Showing posts with label Devotional Tidbits. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Devotional Tidbits. Show all posts

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Serving the Poor Through a Tarnished Lens

As soon as the strap hit my shoulder I knew something wasn’t right. Heart racing, I unbuckled my bag only to find that my wallet had been stolen. Stolen? Yes-stolen. I was heart-broken; it was most likely pocketed by one who came to our office seeking shelter, funds or food. 

The church's community meal was the next day and unlike previous shifts, I was not feeling this one. My heart was bitter. Needless to say, the disappearance of my wallet gave me a resentful filter through which I viewed the entire evening. My usual common courtesies of small talk or topping off waters were non-existent. 

Despite my sullen mindset, I remained faithful to my volunteer hours. The following week was Christmas, and each family would receive a gift from us. With my prickly attitude and low expectations, I began lining up these twenty-plus bags of groceries.

The fake Holiday-cheer of mine quickly faded with the first person who fought me on the “one-per-household” rule. It also did not help my morale when families would send different children through the line to get an extra bag.But I remained faithful. I kept showing up to serve.

My infant daughter joined me at the following meal. I wore her in a carrier. She and I weaved through tables giving refills and taking trays. Similar to before, I was not emotionally present until a voice shook me out of myself. “How old is your baby?” I turned around to see a round-faced, brunette in her mid-twenties with a messy pony tail and pastel sweats. She was surrounded by a flock of children. 

Our paths had crossed before, but the extent of our conversation was her prefered amount of gravy. “One,” I said. “She walkin’ yet?” She asked. “Yes. On Christmas day, she just decided to take off,” I replied. After sharing a chuckle, she did something unexpected. She went around the table and shared the early milestones of all of her children. Sharing at great length, she spared no detail. Her cup over-flowed with pride and love.Her memory far surpassed mine and I only had one child. Prior to this moment I had sinnfully doubted her competency as a mother. In fact, since the wallet situation, I had been viewing all of the guests in a disrespectfully inferior way. 

Shame for just showing up with my low expectations of her and the others overtook me. As I walked back into the kitchen, the Holy Spirit humbled me. My heart was convicted at the thought that while my lens was temporarily tarnished, God’s perspective is always grace-filled. He looks at me and her in the same exact way. Regardless of social-class, He sees through a filter of love. Instantaneously, my negative lens was wiped clean, and my bitter dehumanizing thoughts vanished.

Before any conversation regarding the education or accountability of the poor can begin, we must first assure that we are viewing each unique situation through a grace-filled lens of understanding and acceptance. 

Resources to assist us include: Ruby Payne's Bridges out of PovertyandCIRCLES USA

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Discipleship: It's Not All About You

        "It's not about you." My grandmother corrected over the phone. A rookie on the job, I had found myself in the midst of a monumental personality clash with a coworker. I was livid and was seeking a hype-man of sorts-or at least a pan on the back. Neither did she deliver. "It's not about you, Meggie Lee." She said,"You gotta get your ego out of the way so God can move in that church." this was not the starched sheets and cornbread kind-of love for which she was known;and while it took some time, I was eventually convinced. I was so wrapped up in myself-my talents and preferences for ministry-that I was oblivious to what the Holy Spirit was up to.

       This is similar to when Jesus washed Peter's feet.  At his first attempt, Peter protested.  Then when Jesus persisted , Peter refuted that Jesus' plan for merely his feet would not suffice.  Peter was missing the mark.  This teachable moment was not about him, his past mistakes or dreams of greatness.  It was about what Christ could do through  him.  It was not about Peter, just like it was never about me.

       And this paradoxical truth is what makes following Jesus so overwhelmingly joyful one moment and heartrendingly difficult the next.  As children of God, our Creator thirsts to be in relationship with us; hence Jesus.  This sacrificial love is life-giving.  Furthermore, the Holy Spirit enables me to live like Christ. I am guided in ways, humble ways, that are contradictory to my nature.  What once seemed uncomfortable becomes innate in me as the Holy Spirit takes the reigns.  It is so refreshing to know that the heavy lifting is covered as long as I trust in Him.

     This is, of course, easier said than done.  Christ calls us to trust in him at all costs.  Fearful are we, because our trust has been broken before.  This leads to another bump in the road-our world is broken.  God's voice isn't easily heard here.  Impure voices drown it out; voices of vanity, voices of greed.  And herein lies the greatest challenge of all.  In order to become true disciples who trust that Jesus will take care of the heavy lifting, we must accept that we, in some small way, helped to make the mess. Ouch. No more displacing the blame, no more delusions of grandeur; for we are imperfect without Christ.

     As disciples, we look out over the world for how He is calling us to heal; while also looking within to find our own need for healing.  Granting all this, discipleship is not all about me, but it's about me nonetheless.  It's about my willingness to answer the call and my acceptance of His grace.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Being Known By God

John 4:1-30| Preached during Lent of 2011

          Do you think she had any idea what the day would hold when she awoke that morning? What are the odds that the same time she was retrieving water, would be the same exact time that Jesus decided to take a breather on his trip to Galilee. This scene is painted beautifully in the testimony of John.  Jesus was alone.  His disciples had ventured to find lunch, so there he set by the well. 

          He asked for water.  This left her shocked, not because she was a woman, but more importantly because of their religious differences.  Due to noon not being the most popular time to retrieve water from the well, chances are there were not many others around.  With this, she called him on it, “How come you a, Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan, for a drink?”

          He answered her, “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.”  As we just heard from Julie, this response of Jesus’ led the woman to doubt and refute him with sound arguments. This should not surprise us that she was capable discuss the origin of the well so comfortably with a Jewish man, for “ In contrast to the Rabbinic law exempting women from certain observances- Samaritans did not make any distinctions between [genders] in reference to their common obligation to carry out the Law.  Due to the Samaritans interpreting the Pentateuch strictly, the injunction of Deut.31:12 indicates that the Samaritan practice of educating children of both sexes in the law and Samaritan traditions…probably dates back to their origins” [1]

          She knew her faith’s foundation, and probably fed up with the pharisaic traditions, she was more than ready to reject the words of “this Jew”.  In hopes of never having to come back to this well again, she simply gave in and requested this “living water” he spoke of.  He then said something unexpected.  He revealed to her that he knew of her five husbands and that the man she was living with now was not her husband.   He knew her   He Knew Her.

          “How could he have known that?” She thought…“A prophet?!” She then continued on with her questioning and inspecting his thoughts on the differences in worship between the Jews and the Samaritans.  In the bustle of her own words, she almost allowed the words of Jesus to float right over her head. Perhaps Jesus slightly interrupted her a bit and said, “The time is coming-in fact it has come-when where you worship will not matter.  It’s who you are and the way that you live that count before God…That’s the kind of people the Father is looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him”. (Message, John 4:22-24)

          The woman replied, “Well I don’t know about that.  I do KNOW though that the Messiah is coming.” She took another drink of water.  “I am he” Jesus responded, “you don’t have to wait any longer or look any further”. 

As the disciples returned, shocked to see him speaking with a woman, something he hadn’t done since the wedding at Cana in John 2, the Samaritan woman became uncomfortable and ran back to the village.  She proclaimed to everyone, “Come see the man who KNEW all about the things I did, He knows me inside and out!”

          One of the great theologians and scholars of our time, Henri Nouwen once wrote that, “For most of my life, I had struggled to… know God…. I have tried hard to follw the guidelines of the spiritual life, pray always, work for others, read the scriptures- and to avoid the many temptations to dissipate myself.  I have failed many times but always tried again, even when I was close to despair.  Now I wonder whether I have sufficiently realized that during all this time God has been trying to KNOW me.  The questions is not, “How am I to know God”, but “How am I to let myself be known by God?”[2]

The God who made us, loves us, and continues to make us, daily takes    

great initiative to know us deeper.   Though some times we hide from

God…..or we are very selective as to what we chose to reveal ….In our

brokenness we retreat in isolation from a loving faith community….or in

the competitive world we live in, we hide behind our talents or

accomplishments, praying and hoping that no one will ever discover

who we truly are, what we truly think, how weak we can sometimes be. 

With a smile on our face, we secretively doubt our own inner goodness.

“Instead of experiencing their outward success as a sign of their inner

Beauty” Nouwen teaches, “they live them as a cover-up for their sense of

personal worthlessness.” [3]  But oh, if we only could wrap our hearts

around how VERY much God not only loves us but achingly yearns to

KNOW US deeper.  What is the difference between knowing God and

being known by God?

          “None of us have perfect scores.”  Benedictine sister and Author, Joan Chittister writes, “All of us have been saved from ourselves and through no merit of our own.  And that’s the problem; If we have to merit heaven, we’re never going to get it.  Because we can’t We aren’t made to be perfect ; we’re made to be us. “We’re made to grow slowly .  We’re made to begin again and again.”

We’re made to be us, children of the most high God, ones who God longs to know inside and out, if only we would allow it. 

During the remaining days of Lent, perhaps it shouldn’t be about “how much we know” or “what steps we are taking to know more about God”, but maybe our Lenten journey should be more about ……….how well we are allowing God to know us..inside and out….may we allow God to know us.

[1] Maccini, 41
[2] Nouwen, 106. 
[3] Nouwen, 108