August 21, 2016

Loving Others and Yourself

For me, the hardest part of Jesus' command to "Love the Lord you God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength; and your neighbor as yourself" is the loving of me. Like many women of a 'certain generation', we were trained to put others needs first as a way (the way) to be good and proper. Taking care of husband, children, friends' needs, etc. was supposed to come first and was the way to be a 'good' person.
There is nothing wrong with caring for others, of course. However, it can come at a cost to our own care and health. Then sometimes God has to really get our attention in ways that can be uncomfortable.
God did that for me just recently. Two weeks ago I thought I had a tummy bug, but pushed through to get some work done. A week ago I was in the hospital and last Monday I had unplanned surgery, Now I'm sitting at home recovering and evaluating what really is important and needful going forward.
I had allowed myself to overspend my personal resources and so I find myself having to let others take care of me. I'm on restriction from lifting over 15# and doing housework for at least 6 weeks. I hope I can use this time to listen to God and hear what really is important in my life and ministry going forward.
One blessing has been the many messages of love and affirmation from people telling me to take it easy and take care of myself because I am important to them in some way. Helps take the pressure off to prove myself by being all things to all people...
So...if you are caught in the cycle of putting everyone else ahead of your own needs, you might take a second to step back and consider Loving Yourself First.

And...because I need to listen to my own good advice...I'll be taking a small break from the weekly postings here. See you in September. 

August 14, 2016

Loving others Where they Are

Recently in the news there has been a lot of talk about ‘black lives matter’, ‘blue lives matter’, etc. Each of those is true and valid. The reality is that every life matters and as children of God, we are called to treat each other as co-children of God. Each created in the image of God and beloved by God. Jesus didn’t distinguish between Jew and Samaritan in healing, or interacting, or preaching. In fact, many parables point to the fact that it is the least expected who know God better.
We’ve been considering ways to love one another-through notes, listening, serving, friendship, etc. The basis for all of these is recognizing that we are all equal in the sight of God, and all therefore all are equally worthy. It is not always easy to see beneath the surface to the image of God. Some people are prickly, or boring, or angry, or ‘too’ different.
How do we see the imageo dei (the face of God) in someone? By understanding that they are, deep down, as important as we are. And perhaps that is lived out in this graphic borrowed from Facebook.

August 7, 2016

Loving Others with Friendship

Last time we considered the idea of Hospitality as being Present with someone else. Hospitality is taking time to listen and spend time learning what is in someone’s heart. Abraham in the Old Testament and Mary of Bethany were our models.
From hospitality might spring the opportunity to Love someone by offering Friendship. When you hear another person’s story, you may discover that your friendship has given them a shoulder to cry on or a friend to rejoice with. Perhaps you can suggest an idea, or a new perspective to help with a difficult situation. Or maybe just being a listening ear is all they really need.
As friends we have the chance to walk through difficult times with another. Perhaps it is the illness of a spouse, or death of a child, or loss of a job. Maybe it is celebrating a milestone or birth or marriage. Both joys and sorrows are better when shared with someone who cares.
Last Sunday I joined in a Bible study at a church I was visiting. The topic was the Friendship of David and Jonathan found in I Samuel 18. We hear that “As soon as [David] had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul…Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt” (1 Samuel 18:1, 4-5)
Jonathan’s friendship, his love and support of David caused him to stand up to his father and to help David escape from King Saul’s jealousy and rage. After discovering that Saul was set on killing David, Jonathan meets him in a field and sends him away. “Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.’” Then David left, and Jonathan went back to the town.”  (I Samuel 20:42)
Much later, as king, David repays his friend (by then dead in battle) by caring for the only remaining relative of Saul and Jonathon. “David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” Now there was a servant of Saul’s household named Ziba. They summoned him to appear before David, and the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?” “At your service,” he replied. The king asked, “Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?” Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is lame in both feet.”
When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honor. David said, “Mephibosheth!” “At your service,” he replied. “Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.” Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?”
Then the king summoned Ziba, Saul’s steward, and said to him, “I have given your master’s grandson everything that belonged to Saul and his family. 10 You and your sons and your servants are to farm the land for him and bring in the crops, so that your master’s grandson may be provided for. And Mephibosheth, grandson of your master, will always eat at my table.” (Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants.) Then Ziba said to the king, “Your servant will do whatever my lord the king commands his servant to do.” So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table like one of the king’s sons.” (2 Samuel 9:1-3, 6-11)
We don’t have to form deep relationships to offer a form of friendship. We may not know the life story of the clerk at the grocery store, but we can be supportive of their efforts by a friendly smile and a ‘thank you’ for their work. Even if we are perhaps frustrated by the speed, or lack of speed, at the checkout, we can be friendly. After all, you don’t know what the person behind the counter is dealing with. Perhaps her feet and back ache, or he just got bad news, or is feeling ill. Your patience and understanding friendliness might just be the boost to help get through the rest of the day.
Our friendships may not be tested to the extent that David and Jonathan’s was. We may not have to defend the life of a friend or take a stand against someone else for our friend. However, whenever we are available to listen, to sympathize, to pray, to hold a hand, we are offering friendship. When we set aside our own needs or wants for someone else's good, we are friendship. Jonathan gave up his inherited place as prince of Israel so that David might live and become king.
True friendship looks beyond the surface and overlooks or forgives many things. Our model for true friendship is Jesus. The Casting Crowns song Jesus Friend of Sinners reminds us that too often we are the ones “Always looking around but never looking up…A plank eyed saint with dirty hands and a heart divided”. It is easy to point out what is wrong with everyone else. Real friendship looks for the good in others. The song begs, “Oh Jesus, friend of sinners Open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers Let our hearts be led by mercy Help us reach with open hearts and open doors Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks yours.That is how we can learn to be friends to the world in union with Jesus. We know and “remember we are all the least of these Let the memory of Your mercy bring Your people to their knees Nobody knows what we're for only what we're against when we judge the wounded What if we put down our signs crossed over the lines and loved like You did”. We are not really better than someone else. No matter how much we try to make our live look pulled together we are “that lost cause and I was the outcast But you died for sinners just like me, a grateful leper at Your feet.” When we remember that Jesus is our truest friend, we can learn to act as better friends to others in our lives. 
How can I be more of a friend this week? How can I be more Christ-like in my interactions with those I know well, and with those I know only slightly?