Wednesday, July 30, 2014

To Do or Not To Do - helping those in need

 Matthew 25:35-40 (NRSV)

35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

I admit - I'm selfish. I realize friends and neighbors have needs or are going through hardship, but c'mon. So am I. And my problems are worse than yours. Wow, how very unChristlike of me. Normal, and human, but not very Christian. Therefore...here is what I'm going to try harder to do and not do...

What not to do when someone is going through rough times: 


Criticize their decisions - we all deal with things in our own way. We all have our own priorities. If you choose to leave your children with a babysitter so you can be with your spouse in the hospital, that's what is best for your family.  If you choose to stay with your children while your spouse is alone in the hospital, that is what is best for your family. I will not criticize.

Add to their responsibilities - when someone is going through hard times, they're most likely overloaded with things they need to do. I will not ask you to babysit my children, or try to guilt trip you into letting my kids come over to your house. I will not add to your responsibilities.

Wait for you to call me - no one likes to ask for help. We're all good at saying "if you need anything, give me a call." But the truth is, very few people actually do this. I know I don't. I know the people who tell me this mean it... but I still don't pick up that phone.


What to do when someone is going through rough times: 

Offer to help - and by this, I don't mean I'm going to give the "if you need anything, call me" line (see above). Instead, I'm going to call you and say "hey, want me to take the kids for a few hours?" or "mind if I come over and mow your lawn?"

Make sure they're well fed - and by well fed, I personally mean make sure they have a supply of brownies (it's the only thing I can make). But seriously, a plate of food, a pan of bars, a cup of coffee - all of these can go a long way in helping someone out. Even just one meal is one less responsibility for a day that the person has to worry about.

Ask what's up - and yes, I said ask "What's up" and not "how are you doing?" Why? Because when someone is going through something (especially the death of a loved one, or a medical problem of their own or that of a loved one), "how are you" is one of those well intentioned horrible questions. Most people won't even answer it honestly. They feel obligated to say "I'm ok." Instead, I'll ask what's up, or what you've got going on.

Pray with them - I'm not going to say "you're in my prayers." Well, that's not true. I will say that. But, when I'm on the phone with you, or standing in your doorway with a warm pan of gooey brownies, I will also ask if I can say a prayer with you.

I may not always follow these... but I'm going to try... 


We can't be there all the time for everyone. I get that - and I hope others understand that as well. But I can try to be more aware. I can take more time to help the hungry, the thirsty, the naked. I can take the time to welcome the stranger, care for the sick, and visit with those who need a friend.

May we all find the time to be more Christlike to those in need.

God bless

Maybe It's a Me Thing



Maybe it's just a me thing... 


When I was a preteen/teenager, I didn't deal well with my own high emotions (and those who know me, I hear you thinking "you still don't". Knock it off and keep reading...). Anger, hurt, rejection, fear... it was too much for me to handle. And so I took it out on things - usually trees. I'd punch them until the pain and anger subsided.

At times, and often subconsciously, I'd also strike out at people. Not physically, but emotionally/verbally. And throughout my life, I've often also found myself striking out at God. 

In my last post, I talked about how it's okay to question God and be angry with Him. And I do believe this.  While yes, the Bible does warn us about anger, anger is a natural emotion. We all feel it. We all find ways to express it. And this is okay, as long as you're not hurting anyone. Which brings me to my point...

Who are we really trying to hurt? 


When I punch a tree, the tree doesn't feel it. The tree can take it. But me? My knuckles end up scraped and hurting.

When I figuratively/emotionally punch a person, I choose someone whom I know won't feel it. I choose someone I know can take it. But me? Guilt, fear, and loneliness often follow.

When I strike out at God, it doesn't faze Him. He's God. He can take it. But me? With each attack on God, I find myself slipping further away from Him.

I choose to strike out when I know the only thing being hurt is myself.

Self-loathing = Pride?


I used to get irritated by people who were so full of pride in themselves. Didn't they know that pride is a sin? It's selfish, self-centered, and just plain annoying. Thank God I wasn't like that.

Instead, I'm a horrible person. I'm bad. I'm a sinner. I can never be good enough. I can never do enough good. I hate who I am. I hate how I am. I deserve the pain I inflict on myself. I... I... I...

am selfish and self-centered (and probably just plain annoying).

The point of this post...


There isn't one. It's just a personal rambling because I realized that the things, people and God I beat on don't feel it. They don't care. All I'm doing is hurting myself and driving myself further into my own little world of isolation, and driving myself further from God.

It's a me thing.

God has a Plan My A$$

A parent gets cancer.
A child gets pregnant.
A spouse gets sicker.
A self drowns in depression.
A loved one dies.
A couple drown in debt.

But it's ok! Just hold on. God knows what's He's doing. He has a plan. All your torment and suffering and worry and grief are part of this plan.

Comforting words, aren't they?

Just have more faith. Just trust in God's will. Just keep holding on. Just pray more. Just get more people to pray. It'll all be okay.

Yup, sure. Thanks for the advice.

Have you ever felt this way? You hear the beautiful words of comfort from friends and loved ones. They tell you they're praying for you. You know they're praying for you. But you can't help but think...

"God has a plan, my ass!"


Yup, that's right, I said it. And call me whatever you want for saying/thinking it, but I'd say everyone whom has suffered one hardship after another has felt this way - even if only for a very brief moment before they smacked themselves upside the head for such a horrific thought. Before the guilt settles in for the lack of faith in, and unwavering love for, God.

I truly am glad we have such a loving and forgiving God. With how many times I have questioned, and still question, God's ability to plan... I know I am still a beloved child of His. Granted, He'd probably like to ground me to my room or wash my mouth out with soap for my distrust, disrespect and disobedience. But, He loves me all the same - or so a trusted friend of mine keeps telling me. Of course, I also often question this friend... probably more often than I question God. But, I digress...

We all go through hard times... We all question God


At some point in all our lives, we're going to go through rough patches. Sometimes we have a "lucky" life, and these hard times aren't too serious (although, as most can probably attest, it isn't until after the rough patch that we recognize it wasn't too horrible). Sometimes we aren't so lucky, and we're plagued with something more serious, or a series of rough moments. Sometimes our way is paved with rocky terrain for miles... or for the entire trip.

During these rocky miles, we often find ourselves starting out by clinging to our faith. We pray fervently. We hold onto those offering prayers. We seek comfort and peace in the Lord. But eventually, especially when the road remains tough, and we've stumbled and skinned our knees repeatedly, we question God. We feel as though we're losing faith. All those sentiments that brought us comfort now make us scoff.

Something as beautiful as the Footprints in the Sand poem (you know... the one where the guy notices only one set of footprints during rough patches in his life, and the Lord tells him that's when He carried him?) becomes a mockery in our own minds. I mean, c'mon... He's God. He shouldn't have to carry us - He should be able to wave His magic wand and make the hard times go away all together.

It's Okay!


I've written on this topic before, and probably will again. Why? Because many people still say it is wrong to question God. It is wrong to be angry with Him. It is a sin that will send us to hell.

And I say - it's okay! God is tough. He can handle a little anger thrown His way. He can handle a lot of anger thrown His way. He can handle the cursing and biting remarks - the distrust, disrespect, and disobedience.

And, I think it's healthy. It's our way of dealing with life when life gets unbearable. It's our way of coping in a world full of pain and anguish and evil.

And in the end, when the terrain starts to even out again, we often find ourselves closer to God. So go for it - yell at God for a while. And then... when you're feeling a bit better... embrace Him back, as He has been embracing you the whole time.

Peace and comfort to you all..




Thursday, July 24, 2014

What is Wrong with Christianity?


If you haven't already done so - please read the image above. The top part is something someone had posted on Google+. The bottom shows one of the comments written today in response.

A supposed Christian promoting the bullying and suicide of homosexuals - and using God to justify this decision.

Apparently, it's okay to punch a homosexual. Apparently it's okay to call him names. Apparently we should celebrate him being a "pansie" and killing himself.

This is Christian behavior??? This is what we're teaching others? This is the message we're spreading?

I have many friends whom are atheists. And one of the most common reasons they give me for not believing in/following God is not scientific in nature, but is love vs. hate. Religion - including (and perhaps specifically) Christianity - teaches us to hate, and they don't believe in that. They want the freedom to love everyone... to accept everyone... to help everyone. Ironically, they want the freedom to be what Christ wants us to be (although, they don't exactly word it that way).

If we want to bring people to Christ, we need to follow Christ ourselves. We need to mimic Christ's actions. He did not hate. He did not tell us to punch those whom we disagree with. He did not teach us to cause the suicide of someone different.

We don't have to agree with another person's choice of lifestyle - but it is not our responsibility or right to judge that person; and we are specifically told it is not our right to hate that person and wish harm upon them.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Bib or Apron?

In 1999, I started a three year position as a waitress at a restaurant. For those who've never been a waiter/waitress, I highly recommend it.

It's often a thankless job - screaming children, spilled milk, angry customers, getting blamed for a steak too well done or not done enough, drunken patrons getting into fights, large groups coming in without warning and leaving little or no tip.

It also has it's perks - serving others, getting to know the regulars, sharing in the joys of patrons, sharing in their times of sorrow. 

One would think that after a long week filled with long hours of working in a restaurant, the last place one would want to be on their day off would be at this restaurant. And yet, that's where many of us ended up on our days off. Why? Because sometimes it's just nice to be served. And having worked at the restaurant, it taught me to appreciate those who do serve us (in other words - leave your server a good tip! It's not an easy job). 

"Bibs & Aprons

Bibs are for people who only want to be fed.
Bibs are for those who are not yet ready or willing to feed themselves.
Bibs are for those who are more interested in being served than in serving.
Bibs are for those who insist that the church exists for them and their needs.
Bibs are for babes in the faith, those who haven’t caught God’s vision for the church, or those who are not yet of the faith.

Aprons are for those who have a heart to serve others in Jesus’ name.
Aprons are for those who know that they are the church.
Aprons are for those who don’t mind getting their hands dirty.
Aprons are for those who take the time daily to feed their spiritual hunger.
Aprons are for those who are growing in faith, and hunger to help others grow."
(taken from http://offerthemchrist.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/bibs-aprons/)
I recently stumbled on the above quote and it reminded me of when I worked at this job. It reminded me of those who insisted they always be served - those whom I could tell had never lifted a finger to serve another person. It reminded me of those who consistently served others, never asking for anything in return. And it reminded me of those who got so burnt out from serving others because they forgot to let themselves be served every now and then.

Life in the Church... and as the Church...

In my opinion, life in (and as) the Church is the same way.

 I'll be the first to admit that up until a couple years ago, I figured if a Church could not feed me (or any other person sitting in those pews), it wasn't doing it's job. I figured it was the Pastor's responsibility to feed me. And, I figured pretty much every church failed at this. I never saw the Church as the Body of Christ, all working together to serve. I never saw myself as part of that body. It was just a building which failed at meeting my needs.

And, I will also be the first to admit that there are times (such as the past couple weeks) when I still feel it is the responsibility of the Church and pastor to do this feeding. There are times in all our lives when we feel we just can't serve others any more. We're burnt out, tired, angry, frustrated, grieving, depressed, exhausted, and more. We need to sit down and let someone else serve us.

But the rest of the time? We should be serving. We've been called on to serve. We've been called on to be the Church - not to just be a hungry person sitting in a pew waiting for someone else to feed us. When all we do week in and week out is sit there, a bib around our neck, waiting for someone else to feed us, we will never truly be fed. Yes, there are times we need this help, but it should not and cannot be a constant expectation.

So rip off the bib, don the apron, and go feed others. Open your Bible, immerse yourself in prayer, and feed yourself. Recognize that most often, the surest way to feed your hunger is to serve others in the name of Christ (and hopefully that hunger never goes away. It's a great kind of hunger.)

God bless!