What you do to the least

 

Now when the Human One comes in his majesty and all his angels are with him, he will sit on his majestic throne. All the nations will be gathered in front of him. He will separate them from each other, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right side. But the goats he will put on his left. “Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who will receive good things from my Father. Inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world began. I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.’”~Matthew 25:31-36 (CEB)

“I always explain to the sisters, “It is Christ you tend in the poor. It is his wounds you bathe, his sores you clean, his limbs you bandage. See beyond appearances, hear the words Jesus pronounced long ago. They are still operative today: What you do to the least of mine, you do it to me. When you serve the poor, you serve our Lord Jesus Christ.” ~From My Life for the Poor by Mother Teresa

Heavenly Father, when I go out into the world today, help me to see You in Your children. May I only respond with love to those I meet. Amen.

Happy are those

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.  Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called sons of God. ~Matt 5:7-9 (ASV)

“To bless means to say good things.  We have to bless one another constantly.  Parents need to bless their children, children their parents, husbands their wives, wives their husbands, friends their friends.  In our society, so full of curses, we must fill each place we enter with our blessings.  We forget so quickly that we are God’s beloved children and allow the many curses of our world to darken our hearts.  Therefore we have to be reminded of our belovedness and remind others of theirs.  Whether the blessing is given in words or with gestures, in a solemn or an informal way, our lives need to be blessed lives.” ~From Bread for the Journey by Henri Nouwen

Words good or bad have such an effect on the people in our lives. The words we throw around carelessly can never be recaptured, only wounds can be patched up not repaired. But it is also important to be conscious of the words left unsaid. The “I love you” left off of a good-bye cannot be pasted on at a later time. There might not be a chance to. Also words of encouragement are important. Maybe even more important that the I love you’s.

Older church liturgy addressed in the Sunday service, our daily sins and our sins of omission. I wonder what daily things left unsaid I should ask forgiveness for? Did I barely glance up when my daughter left the house today? Was I busy writing when my son needed words of assurance? Did I slow down when my husband walked through the door? How about that skype call I ignored?

The Common English Version of the Bible says verses 7-9 from Chapter 5 this way, “Happy are people who show mercy, because they will receive mercy. Happy are people who have pure hearts, because they will see God. Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children.” I like this reminder. Not only am I slowing down and taking notice of those I love but when I remember to bless those around me I am blessed too.

Heavenly Father, Help me this day to remember to care for those you have placed in my journey. May I not only be careful of the words I say but also be aware of the things that should not have been left unsaid. Amen.

Compassion

Afterward, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at a kiosk for collecting taxes. Jesus said to him, “ Follow me.” Levi got up, left everything behind, and followed him. Then Levi threw a great banquet for Jesus in his home. A large number of tax collectors and others sat down to eat with them. The Pharisees and their legal experts grumbled against his disciples. They said, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”Jesus answered, “ Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. I didn’t come to call righteous people but sinners to change their hearts and lives.” ~Luke 5: 37-32 (CEB)

“To go where healing and love is needed, and give it in a way in which it can be received, often means acting in the in the teeth of our own interests and preferences. Christ risked his reputation for holiness by healing on the Sabbath; he touched the unclean and dined with the wrong people; he accepted the love and companionship of a sinner (that most wonderful of all remedies for the wounds of sin). He loved with God’s love and so went straight to the point: What can I do to restore my fellow creature and how?” ~From The Light of Christ by Evelyn Underhill

Sometimes I forget just what Jesus gave up coming into the world to save us. More than just coming down from Heaven into this hurtful world, he gave up his reputation, his home, a chance for a family, standing in the community and a place in any local synagogue. Instead he slept where ever he could find a place to lay his head; hung out with less desirable people; and went places that weren’t always safe. We don’t see Jesus hesitating and saying, “Maybe I shouldn’t do this, what would people think?”

Compassion is a gift that Jesus gave to everyone he met. We have just a skeletal view of Jesus’ life before he entered into ministry, but when I think about what compassionate people have in common I can’t help but wonder what Jesus’ life was like before his ministry. Some of the common characteristics of compassionate people often are significant suffering or painful life events of their own, a generous heart, a non-blaming and non-judging mind, a passionate spirit, and a love that embraces the oneness of all creation.

Jesus, being God’s Son probably came to earth already with the qualities of compassion. But I still think that the attributes of his compassion were hard won yet freely given to all. He never held back his compassion from others.

Another gift Jesus gave others was his companionship. With Jesus as a friend people began to realize that they could be forgiven for the lives they had previously lived and could begin a new life because a simple carpenter first loved them. Christ is new life. He came down from Heaven just to show the way.

In Christ I too can think of my old life as dead, the words from the Message translation say it this way, “Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.” ~Col 13:3-4 (italics mine)

Out of my thankfulness for Christ’s compassion and companionship I need to in turn show compassion and give companionship to others. Not to make anything of myself, not to say look at how good I am now, but to say instead, if Jesus could love even me, he can love you too!

Heavenly Father, I thank You for sending Your son down from Heaven to personally touch each of my wounds and to spend precious time with me. I thank You for the gift of compassion. I thank You for Your companionship You have so freely given to me. Out of the over flow of Your love for me may I in turn give of Your compassion and gentle companionship so others may find their way home to You too. Amen.

Good friends

People brought to him a man who was paralyzed, lying on a cot. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man who was paralyzed, “Be encouraged, my child, your sins are forgiven.” ~Mat:9-2 (CEB)

 

Good friends, everyone should have some. These friends did for this man what he could not do for himself. Jesus, seeing their belief healed him. I can think back to paralyzing moments in my life that friends stepped in or stepped up when I could not.

A pastor friend of mine tells a story of a kid he knew who had gone through some hard times. He told Bob that he had friends who saw the way he had been living. If only they had said something about his life style he would have turned back sooner. They knew the choices he was making and had remained silent.

That story makes me sad every time I hear it. How often have I remained silent when a friend might have needed a gentle reminder of who they are and whose they are? Was there a time I thought maybe it was none of my business and turned the other way? Did I not have enough faith?

Lord, forgive me for my sins of omission!

Heavenly Father, please give me the courage today to say the things that must be said. Forgive me when I am weak and remain silent. Amen.

How they know

“I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.” ~John 13:34-35 (CEB)

It is sometimes aggravating how closely watched we can be as Christians. But after reading this excerpt from Henri Nouwen’s book, Bread for the Journey, I am reminded that that is exactly what we are here on Earth to do.

“Jesus’ whole life was a witness to his Father’s love, and Jesus calls his followers to carry on that witness in his Name.  We, as followers of Jesus, are sent into this world to be visible signs of God’s unconditional love.  Thus we are not first of all judged by what we say but by what we live.  When people say of us:  ‘See how they love one another,’ they catch a glimpse of the Kingdom of God that Jesus announced and are drawn to it as by a magnet.

In a world so torn apart by rivalry, anger, and hatred, we have the privileged vocation to be living signs of a love that can bridge all divisions and heal all wounds.”

I am to be an example of God’s love in the world. By my reactions to others I could draw someone to Christ or I could repel them. That is humbling, especially in light of all that continues to be broadcasted in the news.

Heavenly Father, as I go about my day help me to remember that I am to be a glimpse to others of Your Kingdom. Help me to draw others to You. Amen.

Sharing the news

Many Samaritans in that city believed in Jesus because of the woman’s word when she testified, “He told me everything I’ve ever done.” So when the Samaritans came to Jesus, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. Many more believed because of his word, and they said to the woman, “We no longer believe because of what you said, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this one is truly the savior of the world.” ~John 4:39-42 (CEB)

Because the woman at the well shared what Jesus had done in her life the Samaritans were receptive to hear from Jesus. They had not been receptive to the word before. It is humbling to think that there may be someone out there waiting to hear a story of what God has done. Waiting to hear how Jesus can personally work in someone’s life.

I can think of personal stories that I have heard that have helped me along my way. But we can’t just ride into heaven on other peoples’ stories. At some point we have to make the story our own. We have to embrace the truths for ourselves. Once the story becomes ours then it is time to share it with someone else who like we once were, are waiting to hear good news.

Heavenly Father, please give me eyes to see those who need to hear the good news. Give me the courage to share that good news with them. Amen

Hands to use

Paul went to the synagogue and spoke confidently for the next three months. He interacted with those present and offered convincing arguments concerning the nature of God’s kingdom. Some people had closed their minds, though. They refused to believe and publicly slandered the Way. As a result, Paul left them, took the disciples with him, and continued his daily interactions in Tyrannus’ lecture hall.  This went on for two years, so that everyone living in the province of Asia—both Jews and Greeks—heard the Lord’s word. God was doing unusual miracles through Paul. Even the small towels and aprons that had touched his skin were taken to the sick, and their diseases were cured and the evil spirits left them. ~Acts 19:8-12 (CEB)

God is looking for hands to use and feet to go about His work. I may not have anything special to offer, but if I give God a willing spirit He can use me for His good work. Through Paul’s hands, extraordinary deeds were being done in Ephesus. Sweat-bands and aprons of the working men that had touched Paul were able to be carried on to others for further healing. It is important to note that it is not Paul who does these special acts but God through Paul.

This is not the only miracle of this passage. Paul taught in the hall of Tyrannus from 11-4 each day. This was the hottest part of the day when the people of Ephesus slept. It is said that there were more people sleeping soundly at 1 pm in Ephesus than 1am. Another miracle I see is that Paul was so eager to teach that he worked all morning and evening and taught during the middle hours. Also the people were so eager to hear God’s word they came and listened while others rested and slept.

This surely shames me when I think of how often I complain of not having enough time to get things done. What times could I be seizing that I would otherwise claim as too inconvenient? Sometimes I feel that miracles no longer happen. What would happen if I gave my hands for God’s work? In times that might be inconvenient if I gave my hands and feet for His service would I see miracles around me?

Heavenly Father, Help me to do Your work this day. May I not be too tired in my busy-ness. Out of my thankfulness may I be willing to give up the time I think so precious so that I can see You work miracles. Through me may others see Your love. Amen.

Companions

 

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” ~Matthew 26:36-38

“When Jesus begins his public ministry, one of the first things he does is to find companions, those individuals who will share his life and ministry in a special way. Whenever Jesus faces a difficult situation, he gathers these companions around himself- sometimes all twelve, sometimes only a few. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, needed the companionship of others. Even he, as strong and powerful and food as he was, couldn’t go it alone.” ~From Abundant Treasures by Melannie Svoboda

Isn’t that comforting? The Son of God did not go through his time here on earth alone. He was not intended to. If one of the Trinity, who had a part in the creation of the world, needed friendship and companions don’t you think we need this too? It is so easy to fall into a trap of believing that I need to do this journey called life on my own. Then get mad because I fail miserably.

We were not meant to face the challenges of life without the support of others. The need for companionship is not something to be ashamed of. It is part of the very fabric of our human psyche. This need for others is not about being weak, or immature. This need for others is one more way that we are made in the image and likeness of God.

Jesus didn’t include everyone in his personal business. He had lots of followers, but only 12 were in his inner circle. There is wisdom in this as well. Just as we were never meant to travel through life alone, it is also best to not disclose every detail of your personal life with everyone you come in contact with. Not everyone can be trusted. Even in his inner circle Jesus knew who he could trust. Only Peter, James and John got the privilege of seeing Jesus for who he truly was, the Son of God (Mark 9:1-8).

There is much value in seeking friends to walk life’s journey. They help center us, encourage us and support us. It may seem weakness to seek out companionship, but remember; when we are weak we are strong.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for companions you send to travel this journey with me. May I add strength to others journeys too. Amen.

Forgiveness

Early in the morning, well before sunrise, Jesus rose and went to a deserted place where he could be alone in prayer. ~Mark 1:35 (CEB)

It is that time of year again when I begin to live out that which I have planned out. There is something comforting in the laying out of information and the putting plans on a calendar for me to follow. There is nothing like having “life” laid out on paper (or computer) and knowing where you will be and what you will be doing when. At the same time it is very daunting as well. Sometimes after getting into the new schedule I find there is little or no margin. I have learned just because it works out on paper doesn’t mean that it will work out in real life.

So as I look at lesson plans, art projects, Bible studies, music lessons and gymnastics, I am reminded that I must allow some breathing room in my schedule for the “what-ifs”.  I am reminded that a schedule that I am able to begin with is not necessarily the same one that I can keep up with. I need room to breathe. I need margin in my schedule before I begin to feel that there is not enough of me to go around. As I plan out how I am going to take care of those around me, I need to also remember to give myself some space.

Jesus realized that he needed times to have space to breathe. He regularly took time to slip away for time with God. No matter the needs of the people there was still his need for quiet to spend time with his Father.

When I don’t plan some margin in my schedule so that I can find places of rest and times to connect with God I find that I can’t keep up with things. Then I find that it is tempting to cut rest and quiet to make up for my lack of time to get other things done. How crazy is that? The most needed things, rest, quiet, time with God are the things that slowly get left out when we scramble to keep up with our life.

Heavenly Father, in my planning help me to stick to the need for margins that will allow me the time I need for quiet, rest and most importantly, time with You. Amen.

A neighbor not like me

A legal expert stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to gain eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What is written in the Law? How do you interpret it?” He responded, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live.”  But the legal expert wanted to prove that he was right, so he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” ~Luke 10:25-20 (CEB)

I grew up watching Mister Rogers.  One of my favorite parts was him singing “won’t you be my neighbor?” I would have given anything to have a neighbor like Mister Rogers living next door to me. He was after all looking for a neighbor. But I never really knew my neighbors growing up. We moved too often to get to know any neighbor really well.

Getting to know your neighbor sometimes requires that you are the one to seek out a relationship. You can’t rely on the other person to be the one to do the seeking. Often times these days our closest friends come from school, church, the work place or other group of people similar to ourselves and this seems enough. Our own circles seem to complete us. When we stick to familiar ground and people we know we cannot grow in our understanding of others.

“We become neighbors when we are willing to cross the road for one another.  There is so much separation and segregation: between black people and white people, between gay people and straight people, between young people and old people, between sick people and healthy people, between prisoners and free people, between Jews and Gentiles, Muslims and Christians, Protestants and Catholics, Greek Catholics and Latin Catholics.

There is a lot of road crossing to do.  We are all very busy in our own circles.  We have our own people to go to and our own affairs to take care of.  But if we could cross the street once in a while and pay attention to what is happening on the other side, we might become neighbors.” ~From Bread for the Journey, by Henri Nouwen

It is hard to think that today we still keep ourselves separate from people who are different from ourselves. Only when we cross the road can we widen our horizon of understanding. The more variety of people I meet the more understanding I have for others. I don’t always agree with other views but my world has been enlarged beyond myself. Sometimes though I learn that I may have been wrong in a pattern of thought I have held.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for always pushing me out of my comfort zones. I thank You for the people You have put in my life to help me to grow more in Your understanding of the world around me. May I walk this journey with Your eyes and Your ears and may I have Your heart in all my dealings with Your people. Amen.

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