Sunday, February 27, 2011

#10 – The Best Thing that Happens (I Get it Now!)

We who are followers of Jesus make it our highest aim to please Him in all we do.
Therefore, we pay close attention to the things He told us
about what brings joy to Him.

We've all heard that Jesus said,
“Whatever you’ve done for the least of these, you’ve done for Me.”
And we know that by “least of these”,
He was referring to people who are sick, hungry, poor and in prison
-- people on the fringes of society.

So, bottom-line, those of us who truly want to please Jesus
must make it a priority to care for people
who are weak,
or poor,
or have illnesses
or disabilities.
For He told us that when we do,
we welcome Him... and we give Him joy.

On the surface,
this principle is much easier to understand than many other things Jesus said.
"Do this... and you can automatically check this off your list as well."
Seems simple.

But I confess that, despite the apparent simplicity,
I never really "got" this
until my youngest niece,
The Princess,
was diagnosed with cerebral palsy,
and I saw, with brand new eyes, the public's reaction to people with disabilities.

It goes without saying...
The Princess occupies a rather prominent place in my heart.
I love her so much that
she's impacted my heart,my work, my relationships, my goals, my life
more deeply than any other single individual
... and that's saying a great deal.

when someone makes disparaging remarks
about people with intellectual or physical disabilities,
it feels like they're making demeaning comments about The Princess herself.

They'd never dare to demean my niece in my presence,
but their actions and attitudes toward others with disabilities
tell me exactly how they'd respond to the little girl I love so much.

And when they display harsh or dismissive attitudes toward the little girl I love
...they might as well express the same kind of attitude toward me.

At the same time,
my heart is naturally drawn to those who value people with disabilities.
If people love others with severe disabilities,
they'd also love and accept The Princess
... and that also feels like they'd love and accept me.

It all feels very personal.

So I get it now when Jesus says,
"Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for Me."

He loves each of us intensely,
with an everlasting love.
And He has an especially soft heart for those whose lives are hard,
who live on society's edge.

In fact, Jesus loves them so much that,
when we accept or reject them,
He takes it personally.
Whatever we do for the "least of these",
we do for Him.
Despite my slowness to grasp it,
it really is that simple.

So... let's welcome them.
Let's accept them.
Let's love them.

For when we do,
we welcome,
and love Him.
And we give Him joy!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Month of Life

I missed my first day of work on February 1. This is February 26, and I’m not well yet. I missed four days of “official” work, two full days of unpaid writing, and several partial days. Even when I’ve been back at work, I haven’t felt like myself.

Earlier this week, a local librarian heard me cough and suggested strongly that I should be home in bed. She wasn’t convinced by my assurance that I’d done my time in bed...and this was much better!

As of today, I see big-time progress. I’m still easily tired, but I only coughed a few times today. Woo hoo! I’m nearly well!

In the meantime, I’ve missed a month of my life.

As I'm sure you've figured out, one can do a lot of things with a month. A few summers ago, for instance, I spent an entire month in Thailand. Trust me on this: a month-long holiday in Thailand is better than a month of sickness.

I’ve been inclined to feel just a little bit sorry for myself. Okay, I'll admit it -- more than just a little.

My pity parties last about two minutes -- when I’m brought up short by the reminder that many people are sick for months...even years. They don’t simply miss out on a month of To Do lists before bouncing back to the usual work or school scene.

These people have to give up their entire “usual scene”, because their illness has no known ending. Or because the treatments required to save them from it, make them too sick to be out in public. Some of them wonder if they'll ever have a To Do list again.

I’d never dare to pretend that, after a mere month-of-slowdown, I can understand what it’s like to have a chronic illness.

But I do want to say this...

Hats off to you who are sick, week after week, month after month, year after year. May God give you courage and strength.

Hats off to you who get horribly sick from your treatments... but keep going for treatments anyway.

Hats off to you who care for a loved one for year-in and year-out... but don’t allow yourself to get bitter about it.

Hats off to you who bear a life-long diagnosis with patience and dignity... and refuse to get mad at God.

My greatest hats off, and my deepest bows, go to you who bear chronic illnesses with no family or friends nearby. May you know the Friend you cannot see, but is always with you. May you know how much He cares about you. And may you know that He’s preparing a much grander life for you on the other side.

This life won’t last forever... but that one will! Now that's worth a WOO HOO!!

-- Reenie

Sunday, February 20, 2011

For This...

by Graham Kendrick, Make Way Music, 1994

For the joys and for the sorrows,
The best and worst of times.
For this moment, for tomorrow,
And all that lies behind...

Fears that crowd around me,
For the failures of my plans,
For the dreams of all I hope to be,
The truth of what I am...

For the tears that flow in secret
In the broken times,
For the moments of elation
Or the troubled mind...

For this I have Jesus...
I have Jesus.

-- Reenie

Saturday, February 19, 2011

#9 – Filling Up With Joy

We’ve all heard that it’s better to give than to receive.

In our day,
and our society,
when it’s become downright fashionable to give to those who are more needy than we are,
even those with the toughest hearts have experienced the joy of giving ourselves.

When we welcome people with challenges into the church,
we who are “strong” have a chance to experience the joy of serving.

Whether we're teachers,
program leaders,
program developers,
or simply friends...

Whether we help regularly
or once in awhile...

Whether we serve face-to-face,
or up front,
or in the background...

Whatever we do,
however we serve,
it brings us joy,
as long as we serve with an open and generous heart.

It’s even better,
when people who have
and mental health challenges
also get a chance to experience the joy of serving.

Why should serving be limited to those of us who think we’re “normal”?
Why do we always have to be on the giving end?
It’s not so bad for us to be receivers occasionally.

Each of us can find a place to serve,
a means to serve,
a unique way to make a difference for each other.

Let’s open our minds,
and our hearts,
to create opportunities for us all to be filled up with the joy of serving each other.

It’s still better to give than to receive.
Humbling ourselves to let others serve us is another way to give generously.

#10 – Next Up – Most important....!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Auntie Valentine*

Tomorrow, I celebrate Valentine’s Day with two friends. That’s right – three of us.

Three isn’t traditionally considered the best number for this particular festival,
but in this case it’s just right.

We three single women are celebrating the friendship God’s given us.
As our host-friend said in an email, “It’ll be a low-key affair, but filled with all the love we have.” I’m grateful to tell you – that’s a lot of love.

I have the joy of being loved by many friends!

The other single women I know are as I am -- surrounded by loving friends, much-adored nieces and nephews, parents and other family members.
Our lives are rich, full-to-overflowing.

Most of us are a lot freer than married people.
No one expects supper when we’re not hungry,
no one wakes us with his snoring,
no one waits for us to come home.
We come and go,
eat and sleep,
talk... or don’t talk.
As we please.

We also have freedom to give back in ways married people don’t.
Married folks’ energy is primarily focused on those at home, as is right.
Most single people can give more broadly.

For us and the world around us... Tis a gift to be single!

But for all of its wonderfulness,
singleness is a gift none of us wants.

I promise you:
none of my dozen-or-so single friends prayed she’d be unmarried
in her 30’s,
or 50’s.

Being a single woman is like giving God a one-item wish list every Christmas.
Marriage, it says.
That’s all.

And we hope-upon-hope He’ll decide,
this year,
to put that oh-so-elusive gift under the tree for us.

But, every year,
the same awkwardly-wrapped, knobbly-shaped gift is placed into our hands.
Yet again,
we unwrap the unwanted gift of singleness,
biting back tears,
trying to hide our disappointment.

Then, throughout the year,
we're required to carry that awkward and weighty gift.
We shift it from arm to arm,
shoulder to shoulder,
wishing we could put it down somewhere.

But to have and to hold, for better, for worse....
the gift is ours.

Everyone we meet can see that we were chosen to receive the gift we didn’t want.
Virtual strangers wonder aloud why we have it.
Friends and family hint at strategies to get rid of it.
Certain groups even exclude us because we’re carrying it.

As the year progresses, we see more and more of the ways it’s a gift,
but it’s still lumpy and awkward, heavy and unusual.
We still don’t want it.

So, when Christmas rolls around again,
put that other gift on our list just one more time.
Please, God?
Maybe this year?

We wait for that day and peek under the tree in vain...
and, when the big day comes,
we’re handed the all-too-familiar knobbly-shaped package once again.

As we wearily unwrap it,
we see our unasked-for gift has come with redesigned accessories...
a brand new set of sorrows and delights
that weren't attached to it last year.

We’d give away the delights so that we could get rid of those sorrows,
but it is not for us to choose.

Reluctantly, we pick up our beautiful and ungainly gift
and begin to carry it for yet another year.

-- Reenie
*Thanks to my friend I.S. for today’s title.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

#7 & 8 – We Give the World a Truer Picture of the Church
and We Give the World a True Picture of our Lord

It won’t surprise you to hear that
today’s media typically colors the Church in harsh, dark colors.

We’re often painted as judgemental,

But when churches welcome people with special needs
(and a myriad of other challenges),
people realize that the media’s stereotype is a false one.

When they watch us
accept children, teens, and adults,
regardless of the challenges they face,
and regardless of the challenges they bring to us,
they see what the Church truly is –
a welcoming place.

They see that the Church is an all-encompassing,
differences-can’t-separate-us kind of place.

When individuals’ lives are touched,
and they see people’s lives changed
because people in the Church have cared,
all the negative stereotypes in the world
can’t refute their experience.

More important,
when we welcome people who have challenges
(which means all of us),
we show the world what our Lord Jesus,
Whom we believe in and love,
is really like.

We show everyone that Jesus
is still the gracious Teacher, Healer and Friend
in the New Testament Bible stories.

We show them
that He is truly accepting,
and forgiving.

We show the whole world that Jesus
really does welcome everyone into His Family,
that He does have a special place in His heart for those who are weak,
living on the fringes.

And we show them that He’s real.

We don’t have to shout from the rooftops.
We don’t have to rent flashing billboards.
We just have to do what Jesus told us to do.

We need to take care of those who are sometimes considered unimportant,
but whom the Bible calls “indispensable”.
(2 Corinthians 12: 22,23)

We need to widen the door,
save a seat,
set a place at the table,
and reach out a hand in friendship.

It’s not always easy,
but it is that simple.
-- Reenie

Next up -- "Filling Up With Joy"