Compunction to Care

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After the funeral of a friend taken too soon,
And crises looming in several other’s lives,
My attention was directed to the scripture that
States we do not grieve like those who have no hope.

I was reminded people who love God
Have been sometimes counseled not to grieve,
As if grieving is a symptom of non-trust in God’s care for us.
But that is not what this scripture says.

It tells us we will feel grief, but are not deserted.
God is in the middle of our grief, a constant comfort.
But I was also reminded, from other scripture, as people of God
We might even grieve more than those without hope.

Many people care only for ‘me and mine.’
But as we express God’s love,
We have the compunction to care
For people and situations in a way many people don’t comprehend.

I am pleased to hear of some wealthy people who have begun a movement
To give back to the world, but what is my motivation?
God teaches me it is love – As I love the people around me
I get involved in their emotional lives, and love them for who they are.

And even when people I don’t know hurt – but are in situations I understand – I hurt.
When they grieve, I grieve;
Perhaps not in the bottom-of-the-pit place where I find myself When a close companion,
Beloved family or cherished friends dies, but I do grieve.

But I can let God’s love flow through me by being close,
Listening without denying their feelings are real or even appropriate,
Starting where they are when they come for comfort,
And showing God’s love so they will understand there is hope.

Hope God will help us deal with the grief,
Hope things will get easier to bear as God provides strength,
Hope the grief can spur us to action through which to funnel the grief.
Hope we will not always be lost in this sea of grief.

God is the source of my compunction to care.
The love flowing into my heart fills me and urges me care enough
To share it with everyone I meet, and when I care,
I share the grief of the person in front of me as well as people in tragic situations I hear about.

Yet I don’t live a grief-stricken life.
As God is the source of my compunction to care for many,
He gives strength and the wisdom of how to live with the resulting grief.
His help is often flesh covered as people offer practical help, and often it is spiritual comfort.

I don’t deny the reality of that deep sense of loss.
I have experienced it too often, and it is not always related to death.
It is only in facing it for what it is, feeling each stage fully, and giving it back to God
That I become unafraid to nurture this compunction to care.

The more I learn to love God,
The more the compunction to care grows,
The more I care for those around me and am affected by them,
The more strength God will give me to remain effective in expressing God’s love to hurting people.

I Thessalonians 4:13
And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like those who have no hope…

Just One Whine Theory

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A friend told of her daughter who had a set-back in a recovery process:
She set aside one day to just feel sorry for herself.
“I know it’s going to be okay,” she said.
But she just needed some time to deal with it emotionally.

It reminded me of something I’ve taught young teens
And have come to practice.
It’s a theory I have that combines solid recovery practices
With the practice of letting God handle our hurts.

For each situation, I’m allowed one whine:
Just one “Why me?”
Or “No, no, no, no… this can’t be.”
Just one truly emotional response – to get it out of my system.

But it’s more than just that.
It’s acknowledging I accept the situation as it exists.
I’m not going to suppress it, gloss it over, or go into denial.
I will accept its reality and deal with it head on.

One whine, one deep breath,
And
“God, I can’t do this alone.”
And I’ve turned the corner, away from despair.

Maybe it’s just me, but for me, I’m not ready to put in practice
The ‘just do it’ motivational speakers’ messages,
The quotes about victorious living,
The truisms about letting God handle everything,

Until I’ve had my one whine.
And then I’m ready.
I lift my head, and turn my face to God
And give it to him.

Give Us This Day

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Matthew 6:11

Give us this day our daily bread,

 

For years I have prayed for people by making lists of the things I thought they needed.

And when I finished the list, I didn’t know how to continue praying for them. The other day I came across a new idea from the scripture as this verse from the Lord’s Prayer jumped out at me.

I suddenly realized I’ve wandered from the idea of God giving us what we need. I find this idea fascinating and have written about it before. But I have not applied the idea to prayer.

I imagined someone for whom I pray regularly. I could not know everything they might do in one day. I could not come up with a list of things I thought they might need for the day. This scripture suggested I pray that God would fill in the needs.

So, I began to pray for their health and needs and moved to asking God to give them whatever they needed for that day.

I was reminded that we don’t need the same things every day. One day I need courage and the next I need hope. Unless I call and request you to pray for certain things, you don’t really know what I need, but God does. And when I pray ‘God, give them everything they need for today,’ he goes into action.

That is so simple, yet so deep. Everything you need. I really like it. It comforts me and helps my worry that I am not praying for the right things for you, yet I am praying more specific than ‘help her/him/them.’

Give them everything they need for today. And tomorrow I pray for that day.

And when we need wisdom in making decisions that will affect the future, God sends the kind of help we need to make the best decision today.

Tomorrow we will pray for what we need and God sends what we need to follow through .

Enough Contempt

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Enough Contempt

Psalm 123

(A Song of Ascents. A song pilgrims or travelers sing as they journey to places of festival.)

 

1 I lift up my eyes to you, to you who sit enthroned in heaven. 2 As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he shows us his mercy.

3 Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy on us, for we have endured no end of contempt. 4 We have endured no end of ridicule from the arrogant, of contempt from the proud.

 

 

      I shrink a little when I encounter Scripture’s allusions to slavery, and I often put it aside without digging any deeper. But the prayer’s use of the word contempt caught my imagination.

      First, let’s put the slavery issue into perspective. Its origin has nothing to do with inferiority of race or gender. It has to do with helplessness. It results when someone feels they are superior and have rights (because of who they are) other people do not have. Therefore, they have the right to consider those people as objects …. To do with what they please….own or sell even.

      Contempt for the people who don’t share those rights is just next door. Many people in today’s secular society don’t take that step, merely wandering into arrogance. But most arrogant people regard other people who are not like themselves with contempt.

      What gives us the right to regard others with contempt?

      I’m reminded of a couple of television shows with atheistic scientist characters who assume their way of looking at things is the only logical way of looking at life, therefore, only science is the true ‘religion.’ Anyone who believes in a deity is clearly out of step, deluded, and not important. Literature has given its characters forms of a God-is-out-of-date attitude since the nineteen-twenties, but on a much more subtle level.   

      And I think that is why the word contempt leapt out at me. We have had enough contempt. Today’s Christian certainly know what it feels like.

      Although this scripture puts it in the slave/master relationship common in that culture, we certainly understand the proudly accomplished/uneducated, homeless/wealthy, working/welfare, professional/civilian, or the proud people who insist they no longer need a deity/believer – many of us deal with the scorn that leads to contempt. (Politics is not even on the table.)

      But no one gets off the hook.

      Christians often scorn the people around them who, no matter what happens, or how bad things get, they just never catch on to the possibilities of a better way of living. They never quite get that they should seek instead of blame God.

      The weak often scorn the strong because they assume the strong have been given more than they have or had more opportunities. Or the wealthy have been given their wealth rather than working and scratching for every penny, or they don’t fulfill their obligation to share their wealth.

      Abusers of systems meant to help the truly needy, scorn those who work so hard for so little, and, in turn, scorn the government because it doesn’t take better care of all of us.

      So, overcome, we turn to God: “God, I understand you feel no contempt for me. I know your very nature is love, and I put myself in your hands, trusting you, like a someone who trusts another person who has proven over and over his only concern is that their relationship is for the betterment of them both, we have had enough contempt. Show us mercy.”

      And God does. When we fall into the trap and regard another with contempt, God will forgive when we repent of the error. When we encounter contempt, God gives us power to overcome it.

      May we seek God’s face in the light of today’s world of sometimes quiet, subtle, and sometimes in-your-face contempt filled existence and begin to counterbalance it with God’s gift of mercy. It’s possible. After all is said and done, God has proven from the beginning, his mercy is unending, bountiful, and stronger than man’s contempt.

      May we seek God’s mercy for all.

 

A New Dictionary

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I sometimes struggle with the basic religious language in today’s way of thinking. I hear it in secular productions – books too – the terminology of worship. But the ‘one’ they worship turns out to be men, ‘false gods’ or cultic.

As a result, I sometimes struggle with terms like surrender, giving oneself up for God, giving everything to God, live for the glory of God, and righteous. They are often presented as unreasonable demands of false gods.

I realize these terms have been taken from the Christian dictionary. But I’m afraid when I talk about them I end up sounding like the fantasy/magical culture of today. And the non-religious already have trouble understanding our intent.

I ask God help to find new ways to express the concepts to kids and people who see the fantasy, and lead them to the God of all gods. I feel like I’m starting all over. Perhaps we are back to the many gods culture of Paul’s time.

In my own personal relationship with God, I realize I cannot avoid these concepts for myself. I find myself stepping back before I remember they borrowed our dictionary, I didn’t borrow theirs. They are valid concepts for me.

There is a difference I need to remember: magic/fanciful false gods end up being selfish, with self-serving motives. People end up being mere tools for accomplishing goals. In the end, all the pretty words are harmful.

On the other hand, the end results of God’s words, are aimed at redemption. Of preserving and transforming me into my best, and helping others find their path to God. Not making everyone into ‘little gods,’ but people who know God.

The way our secular thought uses worship is giving one’s self up for God. But its tone is negative…. The person is gone…. Really gone. But in the Christian’s experience, there’s something mysterious about it.

The self we offer in worship takes a risk because of trust, and is not lost, but returned to us as a transformed, beautified person.

 

 

 

 

 

God’s Adult Children

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Romans 8:12-17
So, then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh – 13 for if you live according to the flesh, you will die: but if by the Spirit, you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are Children of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs with Christ – if in fact we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified.

I John 3:1
3 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

 

As we celebrate mothers one month and father’s day the next we often study the scriptures Paul writes about us being God’s children.

God is father, and adopts us into the community of the children of God, and joint heirs with Jesus. And if we can grasp that, it changes our approach to God and life. We use terms like Christian confidence and boldness in approaching God and life. And that is good.

We also speak of being like children in trusting implicitly, without reservations, in God’s love. And that is good.

I don’t know about you, but when I was younger, when I was around my parents I sometimes reverted to feeling like a child. And I think that is natural. But as I grew up, my relationship with them changed. And as an adult, the element of friendship entered. I still was their child, I still trusted them, loved them, cared deeply for them, but my maturity was reflected in the relationship.

As I read this scripture, I wondered if our relationship shouldn’t change as we mature as a Christian. And this is not how we normally like to think. We want to remain as youngsters in Christ. That simple trust. That totally true or totally untrue world we live in as a child. And that was good. We don’t want to think about our relationship. We just want to feel. And we set about our lives based on what makes us feel good.

We choose our church, our activities, and service according to what fits our needs to feel fulfilled. As lay people we tend not to ask God to show is where he wants us to serve. That is an adult this to do. Learning to love as God taught us…others come first.

As youngsters, our love is based on what parents do for us, and we gradually begin to understand love is the basis of their actions. We all have seen the conflicts that results when either the parent or child fail to have a healthy view of the love interaction. It is a sign of maturity when we begin to respect who our parents are and learn to love them for who they are.

But in all of this, we remain their children.

As a young person, we are first drawn to Christ because of the things he does for us. As we begin to mature in Christ, we learn to love God because of who God is.

But in all of this we remain God’s children. We just become God’s adult children. But the emphasis the relationship changes. It is no longer primarily about what God does for us. It becomes about the fellowship, the joys of life, and the courage to persevere. And we come to see God at work even when he doesn’t do things our way.

Obviously the child parent illustration breaks down at some point due to age, but no matter the dynamics, we still remain our parents’ children.

And we remain God’s children. While retaining the childlike trust and wonder at the depth of God’s love, we should become the adult Children of God.

 

 

Compassion

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God, I drove through what some cities call ‘the district,’

And saw the homeless, the down and out, the dirty,

Standing in doors of bars and cafes, looking out at something I couldn’t see.

And I thought to myself

These are your creations too

You love them as you love me.

When I drove through the rougher neighborhoods

With their little kept houses, motorcycles and souped up cars,

Where people drink and fight at home.

And I thought with an ache in my heart,

God, these are your people too.

As your church we – I – need to be reaching them.

As I walk through my territory

I look at the streets, apartment complexes,

Small homes … family places.

And I think to myself,

Here, too, they love and fight, sometimes in quiet desperation;

Many not knowing they too are your people.

Give me wisdom to know how to put love into action,

To what groups to give financial support,

In what causes to get involved.

I cannot reach everyone personally,

But I can give out pieces of your living Spirit

To anyone, everyone, with whom I come in contact.

Help me not to withdraw into my business like a shell,

When dealing with those different than I,

But always share your warmth and acceptance.

ON THE WAY

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Matthew 9:18 – 22 (NIV)

18 While he was saying this, a synagogue leader came and knelt before him and said, “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.”19 Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples.

20 Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. 21 She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”

22 Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.

 

On his way to another healing Jesus was interrupted.

On his way to helping someone, another asked for help.

His thoughts were focused ahead to the one at his destination

But as he went he stopped and helped the woman in front of him.

 

Some became impatient.

Some were puzzled.

Very few knew what was happening.

But she did – and so did Jesus.

 

Some also have suggested the scriptures at the end of the gospels

That say go ye to all the world….

Are better understood as saying

As you go to all the world, take the good news with you.

 

On the way to work or play, or eat out or meet your accountant,

One the way to funerals, or weddings, or births, or the hairdresser,

One the way to your desk, or worship, to serve or be served,

Stop and see the person in front of you.

 

See the person whose stress shows.

See the person who just needs a listener.

See the person who faces a challenge.

See the person who needs something you can supply.

 

A smile, shared laugh, a pen, a few extra dollars, a word of appreciation,

Your jacket, the ability to pick up a dropped item, a hand to open a door.

A push so someone’s shopping cart, a word of encouragement,

Better yet, recognize the person brimming over with good news – celebrate with them!

 

As you go along your way,

Take the good news of God’s presence in the world with you.

Scatter blessings and be the reminder things can be different

Remind people all is not negative, cold or impersonal by being personal, warm and positive.

 

The conversation between Jesus and the woman he healed on his way to another healing

Took but a few minutes – perhaps he had stopped to let someone pass,

Or got slowed down by the traffic and she took advantage of the moment to touch him,

But her courage and his response changed her life and leaves us with this reminder.

 

As you go,

On the way to the next thing, when you get slowed down,

Don’t forget to respond to the person in front of you.

When they are in need, or reach out – reach back.

 

Additional reference:

Matthew 28:19

New International Version (NIV)

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, 

baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

 

 

A New Creed

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I believe from the beginning
God’s plan to redeem all men and things to Himself
Has been His purpose since the beginning.
And through the power of Jesus Christ this is being accomplished.

I believe through Christ, who died, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven,
And now sits at God’s right hand, all God’s blessings are ours.
I believe through the power God gave Christ,
He holds – not only our hope, salvation and blessings – but power over all forces.

How can I help but believe?
As the Jews were the first chosen people, you have selected us –
Those who believe in Christ also are chosen to become your chosen people,
Holy, blameless, before you with all the blessings of the adopted sons of God.

How can I not believe and rejoice in your redemptive plan?
As men of old ransomed valuables that had been lost to them
Christ ransomed, by his sacrifice of life and blood on the cross,
The child-parent status we lost through sin.

I believe when I first believe in Christ, confess and seek forgiveness,
My heart is changed, and I am returned to that relationship as an adopted son.
All that I am: all I become; how I perceive, treat, and love people around me,
Through Christ’s power, with God’s Spirit’s direction, are brought into harmony with God.

Ephesians 1:3-7
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight….

Perspectives

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It is a fact of nature that big things come from small.
Trees and adults alike start as seeds and embryos.
Songs are often born of feelings, poems of a passing conversation
And many a good marriage is born of a smile.

God help me remember who I am today didn’t happen just yesterday.
Yet what I am tomorrow is happening today.
That seems a contradiction, but life is made up of small steps.
Daily reactions and decisions from the situations you put me in.

Help me be sensitive to your leading in small things,
The way I react to a person, what I say to him or her,
How I decide to act on any given situation
Can begin molding my character and determine opportunities for witness.

Planning and looking to the future are good and necessary.
But help me attend to the sacredness of daily growth.
Give me wisdom to identify and implant the best daily activities
For me to grow into what you have for me in the future.

LIVING LIFE BACKWARDS?

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The speaker told the congregation about a rowing team she was on in college.

The rowers sit with their backs to the goal, facing a person.at the end of the boat.

The rowers’ job is to row, following the directions of that person,

And the person who faces forward guides the rowers to the finish line

In their final race, with qualifying heats over, they finally were neck and neck,

When their guide crashed them into a bridge.

 

Her text was God’s words “for I know the plans I have for you…”

Using her illustration, God sits at the end of the boat

And we are the rowers who have our backs to the goal.

We cannot see what is coming but the one facing forward, God,

Knows the future and directs us from that point of view

 

We talk about stepping into the future, facing the future,

But really all we know is the present and past,

So in reality, we are facing the past and stepping backwards into the future.

All we really have is hope, trust,

And faith in someone who will not crash us into a bridge.

 

Starting with Old Testament stories, through Revelations,

We gain an understanding of how we can expect God to handle our trust.

And if we insist on crashing into bridges, which we sometimes do,

God doesn’t withdraw,

But allows the trouble and then supplies wisdom and strength to endure.

 

As I consider the past, I can trust that the God who worked then still sees the future.

He still knows the plans for a hopeful future he had for them, us – me -

Have not changed since he first promised Israel’s exiles he had one.

And he will hear my prayers for courage when

- keeping my eyes on him – I step backwards into the future.

 

Jeremiah 29:11-12

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray I will listen.”

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