Monday, June 29, 2015

Prayer Shawls

I love to crochet.  I don't do it as much as I'd like because well, yarn can be very expensive but I love it!  I've been enjoying crocheting for others and am finding God in the midst of it all.  I have a dear friend undergoing cancer treatments right now.  A couple of years ago, I made her a prayer shawl for a surgery she had gone through so I didn't make her another one this time.  I had been worrying over what I could make for her to help comfort her through this time and then one day she gave she me some yarn.  She said she wasn't going to be able to make the shawl she had planned so she wanted me to do it for her.

Oh, it was a beautiful blue yarn that was so very soft.  I couldn't wait to make something of it but I couldn't get her specifically off my mind and the need to make something for her.  She had started noticing her hair falling out so I decided to make her hat.  I hadn't ever made a hat before but I just knew she needed one so I set out to find the right pattern for her and for me.  I had so much fun!  I finished it in a day and couldn't wait to take it to her.  I didn't know if she would like it or not, but it was made with love and prayers.  

She scolded me a bit because I was supposed to make a prayer shawl with it so I set straight to work on that.  I couldn't find the pattern I had used before so I had to search for a new one that was easy and still beautiful.  I think I found a good one.  I thought it turned out lovely and again, it was loving and prayerfully made.  I took it to our church that week to put in our prayer shawl box to be delivered to just the right person at just the right time.

Well, at this point I was hooked!  DD and I went to the store and bought up a ton of yarn!  I immediately started a new shawl and shared a photo of the work in progress to Facebook and soon after received a private message asking if I could make a prayer shawl for someone in need of comfort.  Oh, how I prayed over that shawl as I worked it.  There is something very satisfying about make a prayer shawl or really anything for someone else.  It's moving and well... spiritual.  I'm finding God in the art of crocheting and I'm loving it.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Can one person make a difference?

I've been pretty quiet lately.  I've been busy focused on my family and discerning so many things in my life.  Trying to figure out where I am and who I am and what I need to be doing.

This morning I woke up though, in the midst of a conversation with God, asking him what I can do to change this world, what I can do as one person to stop the violence and the hate.  It is so much bigger than just one person.  

My first thoughts were to love more, but my loving those around me and those I meet, just doesn't seem like enough!  I'm working on a sermon for this week, on John Wesley's 3rd rule of his 3 simple rules, Stay in Love with God.  It all ends up with action, that action being sharing God's love however, whenever we can.  But is that enough to change a world filled with hate, violence, greed, and self-centeredness?

I feel so sad and helpless.  Where can we start?  You know, when I first read about the shooting in Charleston, I prayed.  I prayed for the victims and also for the perpetrator.  I did.  I prayed for comfort for the families and friends of the victims and the community.  I prayed for the perpetrator, that his heart would be changed and for his family and friends.  It's hard to pray for those who make us angry, those who hurt us, but that is exactly what we should do. 

Matthew 5:43-48New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

I love these verses, they challenge me to be a better person.  It reminds me that God loves EVERYONE and honestly, to me it speaks of hope.  Hope that one person can make a difference in this world.  If each person I show love and compassion to goes out and does the same, maybe it could make a little bit of difference.  I don't know, maybe that's a little too idealistic but it never hurts to try.  Right?

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Waiting on the Front Porch

How are you at waiting?  Me?  I'm not very good at it.  I'm rather impatient and when I'm excited, it's even worse!  But in chapter one of the book of Acts, Jesus tells the disciple to stay in Jerusalem and wait, to wait for the Holy Spirit.  Have you been watching the mini series AD:  The Bible Continues?  We have been.  I’ve got some mixed feelings about the show but in some of the early episodes, I was struck with the excitement of the disciples.  Some of them couldn’t wait to go out and share about the resurrection, others couldn’t wait because of fear, they wanted to get out of Jerusalem for fear of being found and killed.  Some just didn’t know what to do!  In the show they looked to Peter for guidance.  Peter looked scared and confused a lot but he was trying to be obedient to what the Lord had told them, so they waited.

I’ve been reading a lot, lately.  Usually I read articles about the church, about faith, about people.  I’ve been reading a lot of articles on evangelism recently.  Now, I have to tell you that I have not ever really been a fan of the word evangelism.  It kind of puts a bad taste in my mouth, well it used to anyway.  I grew up in the 80’s when we were being overrun with TV evangelists, many of whom were crooked.  We heard about them taking money from the poor, the elderly and well, just about anyone that would give it to them.  We heard how they cheated people and told people it would go to good use and often times it went for a new car or an extravagant home. 

We also had the people who went door to door trying to get people to go to their church. And if you didn’t go to their church, well, you were doomed.  They didn’t care if you already went to church, just another church, it wasn’t good enough, you had to go to their church.  We had book and record burnings trying to save people.  We had some crazy evangelists out there.  Not all were like that of course but they are the ones you usually heard about the most.  It was very confusing growing up with that.  I didn’t want to be one of those crazy church people.  It was hard because we know that we are supposed to share God’s message with others but others didn’t want to hear it because they didn’t trust church people.  They were afraid they would be made to feel bad about themselves, that they would be judged, that they would be treated as less than worthy.  It was hard.  I wonder, have things really changed all that much?  I don’t think we see the door to door thing as often any more but I do think we still see a lot of judgment out there, when what we really need to see a lot more love.   But I don’t think evangelism has to have that negative connotation.  It doesn’t have to be in your face, my way or the highway. 

Now, when I was younger and struggling with this, my daddy told me that the best evangelism was the way we lived our life.  The way we live our life out loud in front of the world.  We should be real and honest.  A neighbor of mine says we should be the same inside the church as we are outside of it.  Daddy said if we were living right, we never had to say a word, or at least we never had to force it.

Now back to that waiting.  I’m sure you are wondering what waiting and evangelism have to do with one another.  Well, remember those articles I’ve been reading? Yes, well, the ones on evangelism where quite interesting and are changing my views on that word.  Evangelism doesn’t have to be loud, it doesn’t have to be preachy, it doesn’t have to even be in words.  I think this is where the waiting comes into play.  I think the waiting and the going out and doing, and being work well together.  Sounds kind of weird to say wait and do in the same sentence.

I think as we are out doing, as we are out serving, as we are out in ministry, sometimes, we have to wait.  Waiting sometimes can mean, just being present, just listening, just waiting for the right moment.

I think I’ve shared the story with you all about my neighbor who was an atheist before.  She let me know very quickly after we met, that she was an atheist who didn’t believe, so I chose to just be her friend, to just be with her and listen.  Inevitably, she would end up moving the conversation towards religion, towards God, towards what I believe and my faith, by asking me questions.  I seldom ever brought the subject up myself, she almost always did.  I waited.  Let the power of the Holy Spirit do the work for me and then when it was time, I trusted that that same Spirit would give me the words to share with her.  I think by my waiting, she felt safe to talk to me about these things. 

Now, I’ll be honest, I didn’t do any of this purposefully.  I never felt qualified to do any talking about faith, religion or God and I was always terrified that I would say the wrong thing or turn her further away.  When she would ask a question, I remember almost always pausing, waiting and taking a deep breath before I tried to answer or speak.  As I am writing this, I'm thinking how interesting it was that I always took a deep a breath.  In retrospect, I wonder if that wasn’t me breathing in the Holy Spirit so that maybe God could speak through me.  It wasn’t ever something I thought about at the time though. 

I wonder if our evangelism wouldn’t be more effective if we always did this, if we always waited, if we always took a deep breath as if to breathe in the Holy Spirit so that it can work or speak through us.  Sometimes in our excitement we want to rush out and as the song says, Shout it from the mountaintops!  We want to change hearts and make disciples so badly that we end up alienating people instead of drawing them near.

Evangelism isn’t easy, it’s tricky; even this quiet kind.  Evangelism requires us to go out, to get out, to leave our pews, to leave our comfort zones.  I’m the first one say that I really like my comfort zone and I really don’t like leaving it.  It’s, well, you know, comfortable!  We like our pews.  It’s much easier to come into the church building, be with like-minded people, greet one another, sing hymns together, be in communion together.  We need that!  It fuels us.  But I wonder if sometimes we aren’t a little like the disciples in Acts 1:10, looking heavenward, instead of looking around us seeing where we need to go and do, to go and be, to be those disciples growing the kingdom and maybe we can do it with some quiet or soft evangelism.

One of the articles I read recently asked the question, “Is the church, whichever church you attend, a front porch church or a backyard church.”  Interesting question.  I’ve always been fascinated by front porches.  I love them and hate that they have gone to wayside.  Front porches kept neighborhoods connected.  One of my favorite scenes from “The Andy Griffin Show” was when he, Aunt Bea, and Opie are on the porch after dinner.  Aunt Bea is crocheting, Andy is pickin’ at his guitar and Opie is playing with a toy and then a neighbor or friend appears and joins them on the porch and they have dessert together!  I love that!  Since the demise of the front porch, neighborhoods have become somewhat cold.  Neighbors don’t seem to know each other much.  They keep more to themselves now. They are more of backyard people where they are separated by fences, sometimes by really tall, private fences.  We can hear each other but we can’t see each other, we aren’t so much apart of each other’s lives.  

Front porches kept us connected.  They were welcoming, inviting, they invited people to come over and get to know each other.   So as a church are we a front porch church?  Do people see us?  Or are we a backyard church?  Doing everything behind a privacy fence, where people on the outside can hear us but not see us.  Where people know we are here but don’t feel that sense of invitation, of welcome from the outside?

Being a front porch church can be soft, easy evangelism.  When we are out where our neighbors can see us they become intrigued.  If we are in mission, we become a front porch church, outside where people can see us, where we share Jesus with them.  Even if we never say a word about Him, He can be seen through us and neighbors can become curious and wander over to visit on the front porch. 

The thing about front porches, the important thing about front porches, is that they help us to get to know our neighbors.  When we get to know our neighbors, they get to know us too and then through us hopefully they can see love and kindness, a family that cares and takes care of one another.  Hopefully they will see something that they want to be a part of and hopefully, that something is the body of Christ.  Like my daddy said, “It’s how we live our life that is the best evangelism.” We need to be present, on that front porch, we need to be listening, and we need to be waiting for the Holy Spirit while we are doing all of that to open doors, doors of conversation or even just open doors for others to see what it’s all about.  That waiting is hard, sometimes we want to push through and just share and be heard, but sometimes we need to wait, on the front porch of course, and let the Holy Spirit lead us.