Play ground in the trees Nice shady place for a playground in the trees. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
When we were kids, there was a invitation offered on many days. There was no plan, no agenda, no schedule, and no parameters. The invitation was to play. The play was whatever the group came up with. For me it could be freeze tag, riding bikes, exploring the woods just beyond our neighborhood, climbing trees, swinging, playing house, or the universal “hanging out”. We wanted to do something with someone. We wanted connection. We wanted socialization. We wanted to relieve our stress, or at least our parents. It all came down to a simple question, “Wanna play?”
Somewhere along the way, many of us seem to lose the ability to offer this simple invitation. Our grown-up invitations must be invitations of purpose. We invite others to consume something or do something. We have parameters. We have to have a reason for doing. We don’t know how to simply be with others the way we were with them as children.
Look around you. There are many adults just waiting for an invitation. They are waiting to be invited to be a part of your social circle. They are waiting to be invited to be with you and your friends at church. They are waiting on the sidelines, hoping to be included. Our job, as Jesus followers, is to invite others to be a part of the group. We are to find ways to invite others to be in God’s presence. Sometimes this invitation is to worship. Sometimes this invitation is to “hang out”. Sometimes it is explicit in mentioning that Jesus will be present. Sometimes we offer the invitation hoping that the invitee will discover Jesus’ presence.
Offer the invitation. Do you wanna play?
Wedding Dress For Happy Couple in Love (Photo credit: epSos.de)
God calls each of us to witness to God. We are called to share the transformational love of God that is offered to all of the world. We talked about this in worship recently at Palmyra United Methodist Church. The challenge was given to look for ways to witness to God in the world. My prayer was to find ways to witness to God’s love.
God answered that prayer. Monday morning my phone rang. A couple I had never met wanted to get married. Could I? Would I? They did not have any financial resources, but they wanted a Christian wedding rather than a civil wedding. I had a meeting at 2:00, but I could do it before then. They showed up. We went in the sanctuary. They were married. We took a couple of pictures. They left. It was less than ten minutes, but sometimes the witnessing is not a time consuming event.
Are you open to the possibilities? Are you willing to witness?
Waiting for Judgement Day Looking East (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Most, if not all of us, have our own lives and experiences as our reference point for normal. It is normal because it is what we know as normal. It is normal because it is our experience. It makes sense to us because it is what we know. We become so a costumed to defining normalcy by our standard that we can become judgmental about those whose version of normal is different from our own.
Recently I went to visit a friend. She lives in a different part of the country, she likes different things, and she has a different lifestyle. Her life choices, experiences, and preferences are not bad, they are just sometimes different from my own. None of these things really define her as a person, but I realized that I focused on the differences. The different choices became things that I started thinking of as wrong because they were not the choices I would make. This is a good friend and a good person, but I started making judgments because of little things. It was not intentional, but it did happen.
We all need to guard against the part of us that seeks to judge. We have to be diligent about reading that our way is not the only way to do things. It is when we focus on the outward things that we exclude others. God has called is to see beyond the outward things to realize that all of us are created on the image of God.
Apostle Thomas, one of 12 Apostles of Jesus Christ. Russian Orthodox icon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This past Sunday, many of us heard the story of Thomas in our worship services. Thomas reminds me of a distant, someone who we experience once a year. Just like our relatives, this is only a small glimpse into Thomas’ life. It is his response to one incident. We don’t know how he lives on a day-to-day basis. We know that when Thomas missed seeing Jesus with everyone else, he had doubts.
Just like a relative, we are willing to allow behavior from Thomas that we would not allow from others. We allow for “colorful” behavior from family members that we would never consider appropriate for other people. We love our family, and we seem to understand the family eccentricities far more than we understand the behavior of others. We have far less tolerance for those who are strangers.
We expect strangers to follow all of the rules and believe all the “right” things, even when they venture into our faith communities. We expect, sometimes even demand, perfection from the beginning. We don’t allow room for questions, doubts, or uncertainties. We say that we want new people to come into the church with a complete set of acceptable beliefs. Yet, we would allow room for one of family, even our church family, to have doubts. Maybe we should be giving those who are a part of our daily lives more room to explore who they are and what they believe. Maybe we should get to know them beyond the yearly visit. Maybe we should treat them as brothers and sisters in Christ rather than a distant cousin.
shuttle van, Leslie Street Spit (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I rarely use public transportation. In my rural community, there are very few public transportation options. Yet I was able to experience a small taste of sharing a ride today. My vehicle is at the dealership for service. The dealership offers a shuttle. I told the receptionist that I would need the shuttle, but I was going farther out of town than towards town. She stated that I would probably need to go alone since it was so far out of everyone else’s way.
Her statement led me to think about how many other journeys we must take on our own. The journey of faith is one of those journeys. We must have a personal experience of faith. No one can give us faith. Even so, there are things that others can do to help or hinder the journey.
Are you helping or hindering the faith of others? Are we showing love and creating an environment where others can experience God, or are we heaping on rules about behavior and decorum? Are we affirming that God loves others, or are we passing judgment about their life choices? Are we saying with our words and actions that everyone is created in the image of God, or are we sending the message that only those who are like us are created in the image of God?
We cannot give faith to another person, but we can facilitate an experience. The receptionist made sure that I would be able to have access to a ride. Our job, followers of Jesus, is to make sure everyone has access to God.
Polski: Świeży śnieg na cienkiej gałązce English: Fresh snow on a thin twig (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Often we are forced to repeat a lesson until we learn the lesson. If we do not learn to multiply correctly, we fail the test and must take the test over. So, it continues until we master the lesson. The same is true for life lessons. God keeps reminding me that I am not in control. It is a lesson that I am struggling to learn.
It was supposed to be a very busy day. I had multiple off-site appointments. I had to present information, seek approvals, and all sorts of other things. I had my reports prepared and my plan of action was clear. I felt ready and a little anxious. Then God decided to remind me that I am not in control. The reminder came in the form of a surprise snow. Last night the weather predicted no snow. Then a dusting when I woke up. I could not get to my office, much less my appointments. I was frustrated. Then, I could not get home. My car is now at a nearby church, and I am home thanks to a friend with four-wheel-drive. As I continued to watch the snow fall, I realized that there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.
There are a lot of things in life that we cannot control. While we cannot control things, we can choose how we respond to them. We can choose to be angry about the things we can’t control, or we can accept that none of us are in control. I choose to put my trust in God. I choose to accept that there are many thing that I cannot control.
Maybe the lesson will stick this time. As I watch the snow continue to fall and eat snow cream, I am praying that I learn the lesson this time. God is in control.
Jesus Christ Crucifix (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Have you ever noticed how much we can talk about something without actually doing anything about it? I remember one incident in particular. I was in the Emergency Room. I was having my first and only gall bladder attack. The health care professionals were waiting to decide if I would be having surgery that day. I was miserable. I was in that state where you are wishing for everyone to go away and stop talking. My husband was with me, and he was quiet. However, I was separated from the next patient by a thin curtain. I never saw her and the woman with her. I just heard their conversation.
She was talking and talking and talking about various lifestyle changes she should make. The woman with her was agreeing with the assessments. As I listened to this other patient talk about a need to drink more water, eat more fiber, etc. I wondered how likely she would be to make the life style changes. She is probably like most of us. We talk far more than we do. We say that we want to make life style changes, but we don’t actually make them. We stay that we will keep in touch, but we do not put forth the effort to remain in contact. We say that we want to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, but we do not do anything about it.
During this week before Easter, we remember what God did and does for us in the person of Jesus. We recall his passion and death which was an act of grace for us. As we think about this, let us do more than just think and talk. Let’s do something in response to God’s love and action.