Above all, love each other deeply because love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8
Every now and again I feel like I’ve “got it all together.” My prayer life seems to be in order, I’m knee deep in loving and helping and serving and I can get a little “inflated”. I should know by now that is the time when he’s gonna grab me with a lesson. The story in this post isn’t mine. I don’t know who wrote it but it fell into my lap and I really believe it was God saying…hey Sheri…what about this? Read this and see what I might be asking you to work on. It’s about relationships not just rules and procedures. Being a disciple is tough work. This story left me examining my heart in a giant way. I think that’s something he likes us to do. Maybe this story will hit you as hard as it did me.
We were the only family with children in the restaurant. I sat Erik in a high chair and noticed everyone was quietly sitting and talking. Suddenly, Erik squealed with glee and said, 'Hi.' He pounded his fat baby hands on the high chair tray. His eyes were crinkled in laughter and his mouth was bared in a toothless grin, as he wriggled and giggled with merriment. I looked around and saw the source of his merriment. It was a man whose pants were baggy with a zipper at half-mast and his toes poked out of would-be shoes. His shirt was dirty and his hair was uncombed and unwashed. His whiskers were too short to be called a beard and his nose was so varicose it looked like a road map. We were too far from him to smell, but I was sure he smelled.. His hands waved and flapped on loose wrists.. 'Hi there, baby; hi there, big boy. I see ya, buster,' the man said to Erik. My husband and I exchanged looks, 'What do we do?’ Erik continued to laugh and answer, ‘Hi.' Everyone in the restaurant noticed and looked at us and then at the man. The old geezer was creating a nuisance with my beautiful baby. Our meal came and the man began shouting from across the room, 'Do ya patty cake? Do you know peek-a-boo? Hey, look, he knows peek- a-boo.’ Nobody thought the old man was cute. He was obviously drunk. My husband and I were embarrassed. We ate in silence; all except for Erik, who was running through his repertoire for the admiring skid-row bum, who in turn, reciprocated with his cute comments.
We finally got through the meal and headed for the door. My husband went to pay the check and told me to meet him in the parking lot. The old man sat poised between me and the door. 'Lord, just let me out of here before he speaks to me or Erik,' I prayed. As I drew closer to the man, I turned my back trying to sidestep him. As I did, Erik leaned over my arm, reaching with both arms in a baby's 'pick-me-up' position. Before I could stop him, Erik had propelled himself from my arms to the man.
Suddenly a very old smelly man and a very young baby consummated their love and kinship. Erik in an act of total trust, love, and submission laid his tiny head upon the man's ragged shoulder. The man's eyes closed, and I saw tears hover beneath his lashes. His aged hands full of grime, pain, and hard labor, cradled my baby's bottom and stroked his back. No two beings have ever loved so deeply for so short a time. I stood awestruck. The old man rocked and cradled Erik in his arms and his eyes opened and set squarely on mine. He said in a firm commanding voice, 'You take care of this baby.’ Somehow I managed, 'I will,' from a throat that contained a stone. He pried Erik from his chest, lovingly and longingly, as though he were in pain. I received my baby, and the man said, 'God bless you, ma'am, you've given me my Christmas gift.’ I said nothing more than a muttered thanks. With Erik in my arms, I ran for the car. My husband was wondering why I was crying and holding Erik so tightly, and why I was saying, 'My God, my God, forgive me.’ I had just witnessed Christ's love shown through the innocence of a tiny child who saw no sin, who made no judgment; a child who saw a soul, and a mother who saw a suit of clothes. I was a Christian who was blind, holding a child who was not.. I felt it was God asking, 'Are you willing to share your son for a moment?' when He shared His for all eternity. How did God feel when he put his baby in our arms 2000 years ago. The ragged old man, unwittingly, had reminded me, 'To enter the Kingdom of God , we must become as little children.’ If this has blessed you, please bless others by sending it on. Sometimes, it takes a child to remind us of what is really important. We must always remember who we are, where we came from and, most importantly, how we feel about others. The clothes on your back or the car that you drive or the house that you live in does not define you at all; it is how you treat your fellow man that identifies who you are.
A Seed to Plant: Read the story more than once…get past the whole stranger holding your baby thing and really feel what the message of the story is.
Blessings on your day!
…I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, Deuteronomy 30:19
October is the month we are called to “respect life”. We are reminded during this beautiful month to think about life in all it’s ages and stages and realize each of us is a precious child of God. Many of us are very passionate about protecting the unborn and we will fight like mama bears if we find out someone is mistreating the elderly. Those are causes we pray and fight for in many ways but what about respecting the life we are surrounded by every day. How are we at respecting our neighbors and co-workers and those folks who annoy us? October is a call to think about the way we respect ALL life. Last week during Adoration I challenged all the students at school to do four simple things to respect the people around them. The message was for the kids but I suppose a lesson in respecting others is good for everyone.
Each of us was created in the Image and Likeness of God. I used to teach the first graders that meant when God made us, he put a little piece of himself in our heart so he was always a part of us. If we realize God is a part of everyone we meet, and all his children are precious, we realize when we disrespect or hurt someone we are also offending the Creator. Nearly three hundred kids agreed that was a very bad idea! Here are four things we can do to respect each other.
K - Know that each and every person was created and is precious to the Creator. Saying or doing hurtful things to others hurts the Creator.
I - Invite and include others. We love to get invited to parties and weddings and celebrations but inviting others to sit with us, eat with us, pray with us or spend time with us makes them feel noticed and valued.
N - Notice the people around you. Notice if someone is sad or lonely or hurting. We weren’t made to be alone in this world, we were made for community and we all need to know we matter, so be on the lookout for the people who need a little friendship.
D - Decide to show everyone the mercy and love Jesus did. We decide dozens of things every morning why not add this important decision to the list.
When we put all four of these actions in motion, our hearts will change. We were created for life and good. When we hurt or disrespect others we aren’t choosing life. Life is full of enough difficulties and frustrations, we should be about the business of making life a little easier for those we share our days with. The lesson was a simple message for kids but there might be some nuggets of truth for the kid in all of us.
A Seed To Plan: Pick one of the four ideas and put it in motion today.
Blessings on your day!
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
1 Peter 5:10
There is a great story about a little girl whose mother sent her to the store to pick up an important item. She told the little girl to come directly home after she picked it up. Much to the mothers dismay, she was nearly two hours late returning home. When she arrived, she apologized for taking so long and explained that she ran into her friend who was crying because her doll was broken and she was so sad about it that she just had to stop and help her. Her mother asked her how she helped fix the doll and she told her that she didn’t. She didn’t know anything about fixing dolls so she just sat down and helped her cry.
I’m feeling a lot like that little girl lately! As we wait to return to something; anything that has even a smidge of familiar, the days are getting long and the rules are getting heavy. I’ve chatted with several folks this week and it seems all I could do was help them cry. We’ve cried about disappointments, missed occasions, watered-down celebrations and flat out dismay. We’re frazzled, contained and running out of cheerful creative energy. Parents are tired of teaching and working and juggling a house full of needs, wants and worries. If we’re being honest we may be getting a little sick of each other and blanket forts and sidewalk chalk have lost all appeal. We cook 432 times a day, we can’t seem to get enough toilet paper and for crying out loud why are we out of Cheez-Its and apples AGAIN? It will get better but maybe the best thing we can do right now is just sit down and help someone cry! At our core we want to be compliant, we want to be obedient, we want to be logical but most of us just want to bail off this crazy bus!
I can make a list of a bazillion great things that have come out of this quarantine but right now it’s ok if we’re feeling a little “over it all.” My mom used to say the best thing to do with feelings is just sit still and feel them. Let them wash over you and spit out what you’re thinking. Make a list of all the things your mourning, mad about, disappointed about and feel you were cheated out of. Feel it all…acknowledge it all and realize we have all felt this thing deeply and differently. It’s ok if you’re toast…it’s ok if you’re enjoyed the quiet…it’s ok if you are worried and fearful enough to not want to leave home yet. IT”S OK! Let’s stop judging reactions and just cry or laugh or pray with each other right where we are.
I read a little something that said during times of great testing (like right now!) three things happen. God is able to reveal, to purify and to strengthen. In order for those things to happen we have to “sweep the emotional porch”. Let it all out and then take a look at what God might be doing or might be wanting to do. That purging of emotion will allow us to move forward so we can receive the gifts from our suffering. Through our suffering, Almight God…
*Reveals…what have you learned about yourself during this trial? What is more clear to you now than before? Where are you stronger than you knew and more tender than you thought?
*Purifies…If I want this suffering to bring me closer to God I have to think about where I place my hope? The place I put my hope reveals the source of my security. Am I looking to the Governor or my spouse or the newscaster to bring me hope or am I seeking the pure and true hope of the Father.
*Strengthens…Where is my strength coming from? Do I feel strong only on those days I’m able to pull myself up by the bootstraps and slap on a happy face? Strength isn’t defined by not yelling at the kids or screaming at the screen about the latest goofy prediction or scenario. Strength comes from the Praise and Honor we give the Father in the middle of all that. Strength comes from the Father, not from ourselves. The more we ask, rely and beg for his strength the more we step out of ourselves and into his loving protection. The trials are not without purpose and maybe the three gifts of suffering might help our perspective a little.
A Seed To Plant: Feel your feelings and find someone to help you cry or yell or pout your way through it all so you can see the work he’s waiting to do through the three gifts of suffering.
Blessings on your day!
…shake the dust from your feet…Luke 9:5
My mom used to have a famous line. She’d pull it out any time I was trying to make a big decision or plan something. Instead of telling me what to do, she would say, “Well, you could do that but then what happens if…” She would let me think and ponder and look at different sides of the issue. She might repeat that statement a dozen times as I worked my way through the possibilities. She taught me to think about the possibilities and the consequences and then she let me see them through. She was such a wise woman! Today it seems that there is no shortage of folks who want to tell each of us exactly what we should believe and do and think and support. I’m beginning to see two really big problems with that. First, they aren’t offering balanced information steeped in truth and mercy and second, too many folks are letting others do their thinking for them, believing anything they hear.
As I’ve prayed and ached a little over the past couple of weeks about things happening in the news, I was searching for some truth and peace. As always, God pointed me to a passage I’d read dozens of times, but he helped me see it with different eyes. The passage is from Luke’s Gospel and it brought peace and clarity to the mess filling up my newsfeed. When Jesus sent out the disciples their job was to bring the message of love, peace and hope. They weren’t asked to beat people with a stick until they believed exactly what they told them to believe. They were speaking truth and planting seeds. All to often today if someone doesn’t believe what we believe things turn twenty shades of ugly!
Jesus told the disciples if they and the peace the brought with them was not accepted or welcomed they were to shake the dust from their feet and move on. Nowhere in this Gospel did Jesus tell them to stay and beat folks silly until they agreed. He didn’t instruct them to shame, belittle or humiliate them, just shake the dust and move along. He also didn’t teach them to move to the next house and bad mouth the place they weren’t welcomed. It was a simple, gentle motion, shake and go. But before they shook and left, they gave the peace of Christ. It made me wonder how many times we get into an argument and desire the other persons holiness or offer them the peace of Christ?
The other thing that struck me was the dust. Dust is dirt right? And things grow in dirt right? So while they gently shook the dust and moved past, what was left in the dust? The disciples left in that dust seeds of peace, seeds of compassion, seeds of gentleness. As they quietly slipped away they demonstrated what Christ taught us; love one another. I wonder how many times the disciples shook the dust from their sandals and those left behind were inspired by their example of gentleness and non-judgement? I wonder how many people pondered on it and changed their attitude or behavior? I wonder how many through the seeds left in the dust actually came to follow Jesus after all?
As I’ve prayed with this Gospel for several days I’m reminded of that famous line from St. Teresa of Calcutta; the thing that needs to change most in this world if it is to be more peaceful and Christ like is ME! I suppose it would be a great idea if we did a little more dust shaking and less tongue wagging and finger pointing. And I know I need to work harder at desiring the holiness of all those people in the news making me crazy. My words for the week…shake, peace and plant seeds of hope in the dust!
A Seed To Plant: Read Luke 9:1-6 and see if the Lord has some direction for you in regards to creating peace on earth.
Blessings on your day!
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