Forgotten people…the Call of the Gospel

Sunday morning looked about like the usual, rushing and more rushing, throwing a bagel or a baggie of cereal to my children, and doing a fair amount of hollering to get out the door, always five minutes behind. It is, and probably always will be, controlled chaos trying to get to church. I walked through the church doors and grimaced at the louder than necessary slam of the church door, while the strains of the first hymn play, my small parade of little ones behind me. We make it through the children’s message without incident, we raise our voices in praise, and then we begin the weekly wrestling match that is the sermon. I have three small people in my house that can (mostly) listen to the sermon or color quietly. I have one that requires a great deal of patience, multiple bathroom trips, a bundle of threats upon dessert, and sometimes more than a little heartache.

The tears begin to roll down my cheeks. I feel overwhelmed, exhausted, and in so much of it, very alone. The last hymn comes and I wipe my eyes quickly. I paste the smile on my face and cheerily greet my fellow believers in the narthex. Do you know who I am? Am I a single mom, the parent of a special needs child, the pastor’s wife? I could be anyone. 

The question is… do you know me?

The church is full of people silently struggling. In fact, most of us are struggling with something. Maybe it’s the health of a loved one, our own health, our marriage, finances, job stress, whatever. We all have junk. The reality is, though, that it is easier for some members to go by unnoticed. Maybe it’s because their quiet. It’s easy to shout out an expectation that they should just share their burden, let us help with the load, but there may be reasons we cannot even begin to understand that are holding that person back from getting the care and fellowship they need.

Look around you. Who is sitting in the pews with you that you do not know? There are hidden shames and struggles that leave people in the margins. Imagine the margins of a book, or this magazine. They are blank, yes, but more importantly they are the place where the words don’t go. It is hard for us to find, much less accept, that which we do not know, or even more, where we do not go.  God calls us to go there. To reach across the aisle to someone.

There are many people that the world has forgotten. The list is endless, but may include:

Widows

Single parents

Those recovering from abuse

Those caught in domestic violence

The poor

Women trapped in the shame of a past abortion

Those battling addiction

Parents of children with special needs

Children and adults with special needs

I could go on and on, but I’m not sure that’s helpful. Your story may help you identify the forgotten ones to be on the look out for.

The world’s response to trouble is the leave it bottled up. To keep it tucked away and unrevealed. It’s too painful, to much work, just plain too much. God’s response is to reach out. To heal together, to let it unite us. We are the bridge between the two. Christ reached down to us from Heaven. The Prodigal Father runs to us on the road. Their love and acceptance and willingness to come down to seek out, spurs us on to reach a little further than we ever thought possible.

So how do we start?

#1 –

    Be aware. Whose smile doesn’t quite go to their eyes when you’re talking? Who looks tired and world weary and in need of a bit of care? Who is crying silently during the Gospel reading?

 

#2 –

    Sit a little closer.  Introduce yourself by being honest, “I don’t know you, but I’d like to. My name is __________.” We can worship all our lives with people that we don’t even really know. Let’s change that.

 

#3 –

    Foster intimacy. It’s ok to ask questions in a gentle and loving manner. People are allowed to have boundaries, but we’re also allowed to reach out. “Can I help in some way?” Be persistent in your love. Relationships don’t form overnight, even though we’d like them too. People who have been hurt or are hurting may have a difficult time letting people in and trusting, but God reaches down to us, time and again when we say “no thank you.”

 

#4 –

    Walk alongside. Life is wonderful and hard. Life together means inviting in someone else’s wonderful and hard stuff. There are times you will feel overwhelmed. Times you will be tired and weary. But…you’ll be tired and worn and carrying the load together, with a Savior who is completely ready to bear the weight.

Maybe you are the forgotten one. Maybe you feel a little bit lost in a sea of people, wishing someone would reach in. The good news is, someone does. Jesus comes to us in our hurt and pain. He wraps Himself around us with His Word and fills us with His Spirit. Then He gives us a church. He gives us a people who are fully capable of sharing the joys and the burdens of life, commissioned by Him in their baptism and ready to go.

Praise be to Him, who remembers each and every one of us. Let us spur one another on in remembering the forgotten. Believe me, His people are always worth it.

Foot in mouth, rams horns, and blessed silence



Day 3 – Foot in mouth, rams horns, and blessed silence


Keeping silent is not in my nature. It is not necessarily opposed to my nature, but we all have things that God asks for us that are a tad harder than they would be for someone else. This is mine.

Patience, gentleness…and silence. These are my challenges.

One time in college, one of my professors turned to me and said, “I want you to count to ten before you answer a question in this class. Let’s just see if anyone else answers first. Ok? Just wait and see.” She was speaking the truth in love, for sure, and at the time, as hard as it was to hear, those words of truth cut straight to my heart and change began. To this day, I usually count to ten before answering anything in a group situation. And I still praise God for that admonishment to grow up. I didn’t get it instantly, but I got it eventually. And I’m still a work in progress.

God tells us there is indeed a time to keep silence. I love the language of the translation. I can picture holding silence as a precious commodity. In a world filled with noise, we have the opportunity, the gift from God, to hold silence close.

The Hebrew verb root “chashah”, for keeping silent in Ecclesiastes 3:7, is an active word. We are not simply silent out of happenstance, but we have chosen silence, we do silence, we choose inactivity even.

In a house full of small people, we try to teach the value of silence every day. My children, like myself, love to fill the void. Most of us, as moms or grandmas, or siblings, understand the value of silence. Noise, laughter, arguing, and daily living all compete with silence. And there is a time for these things as well, which is part of the essence of Ecclesiastes 3. The back and forth, the seasons and cycles of life.

What else does God have to say about the value of silence?

Joshua 6 contains a fun story many of us remember from our youth – Joshua and the Battle of Jericho. Read below and see how God worked in the silence and in the shouting.
Joshua 6:8-16 –

And just as Joshua had commanded the people, the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the Lord went forward, blowing the trumpets, with the ark of the covenant of the Lord following them. 9 The armed men were walking before the priests who were blowing the trumpets, and the rear guard was walking after the ark, while the trumpets blew continually. 10 But Joshua commanded the people, “You shall not shout or make your voice heard, neither shall any word go out of your mouth, until the day I tell you to shout. Then you shall shout.” 11 So he caused the ark of the Lord to circle the city, going about it once. And they came into the camp and spent the night in the camp.
12 Then Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of theLord. 13 And the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the Lord walked on, and they blew the trumpets continually. And the armed men were walking before them, and the rear guard was walking after the ark of the Lord, while the trumpets blew continually. 14 And the second day they marched around the city once, and returned into the camp. So they did for six days.
15 On the seventh day they rose early, at the dawn of day, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times. It was only on that day that they marched around the city seven times. 16 And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout, for the Lord has given you the city.”


Verse 10 above says that the people were instructed not to shout or open their mouth until they were instructed to do so. These instructions may seem odd to us, but God has that right. He has a plan and sometimes surprising, or contrary to our nature. Many times God works in the silence. When we seize the opportunity to hold our tongues in a stressful situation in particular, we let God do His work instead of getting in the way. God may call on us to speak, just as on the seventh day the Israelites shouted, but the time in between can be used to seek God, to pray for the words, to be given wisdom and insight.

Jesus took many opportunities to remain silent. When you read some of the examples, they are just beautiful. When the pharisees charged him, he sometimes answered and sometimes kept silent. Isaiah 53 tells us that He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, but did not open His mouth. And perhaps one of the stories where Jesus’s intentional silence is most clear is found when Jesus comes before Pilate.

Read the passage from Matthew’s Gospel in chapter 27:11-14, below:
Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” 12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” 14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

Three times, Jesus keeps silence in this passage. Why? I don’t know, but what we do know is that God had a plan and Jesus was walking in and through that plan. Jesus was not looking to testify to skirt around the plan. He chose silence and left pilate amazed.

Finally, I discovered this beautiful verse at a time in my life when silence was my only option. When life itself had taken away my speech, when I was world weary, trampled on, and exhausted from the battle of it all…I could only be silent. Pay close attention to verse 14 below…a balm for the soul, sisters.

Exodus 14:13-14
And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again.The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

There are battles that are truly not ours. They are God’s. He would have us hand them to Him and let Him do what He does best.

A time to keep silence, it sounds restful to me. I pray today, sisters, that you find some rest in God, a moment to be silent in His presence and with His Word. You speak, Lord, we’re listening.
Discussion questions:
Are you naturally a talkative person or quieter?
When was a time you felt it difficult to stay silent and you should have (insert foot in mouth)?
When have you been blessed by a period of silence?

Declaring it! Why Generational Faith Matters

A little commendation from the next generation. 🙂 Can you see Jesus in this little heart?

Session 5 – From Generation to Generation
Psalm 145 is beautiful and declarative. And I love any thing declarative, it’s true. Read with me below, verses 1-9:
I will extol you, my God and King,
    and bless your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless you
    and praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
    and his greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall commend your works to another,
    and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
    and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,
    and I will declare your greatness.
They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness
    and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.
The Lord is gracious and merciful,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
    and his mercy is over all that he has made.
Find the word “commend” and highlight that verse in your Bible if you have it open, and are so willing. 

This is an amazing work of the church on earth – the work of every congregation and every family, and every individual. Passing down the faith from generation to generation.
Don’t miss the significance of the verse, though. We talk all the time about passing on the faith, or handing down the faith, but this passage tells us HOW. We commend the faith from our generation to the next. Wait, no we commend the faith to anothergeneration. 
It doesn’t matter the generation. We aren’t married to sharing with those younger than us, or even those in the same life stage as us. We can share with those younger, and older, and all the places in between. But we do it by commending the faith. Talking highly of the faith.
Isn’t it a great Faith, after all? Isn’t it exactly what the Psalm tells us?
How has God shown Himself in your life? How have you seen, literally seen, His Greatness? What mighty acts has He done in your generation, your lifetime? What splendor do you see around you, created and sustained by Our Great God? When has He been slow to anger in your life? Where have you seen and heard and senses His abounding Love and Mercy?
This is how we can proclaim His Name to every generation. Declare it.
My friend, Sarah, just recently published a novel called Penelope’s Hope. In it, the main character, Penelope, has a conversation with her friend, Violet. Violet exclaims to her, out of the natural disposition of her heart something like, “God is good, is He not?”
Penelope’s response is not unlike that of the hurting world around us, “I can not speak for God’s goodness, Violet, for I have seen but precious little of it.”
Can you hear the hurt, the struggle? This is the story of so many. We are taught by the world to look for goodness in what seems good, feels good, looks good. Sometimes God works in those very things, but sometimes, very often times, He works in the struggle, in the pain, in the weaving of mercy where it would not otherwise be found.
Let’s declare it, friends. Let’s boldly proclaim to a world in need where we can see God’s goodness, God’s mercy, God’s abounding forgiveness and love. Let’s do it gently, for the world may feel they have seen precious little of it.
Point out in conversations the Hope you are anchored in. Give a hug and remind someone of his or her value. Give a tiny piece of your story and share how God has been and done and worked and loved in your life, in your walk.
We have seen what is precious, not a precious little bit. Proclaim it girls. Commend away!

Discussion questions – Which verse stands out to you the most in the reading from Psalm 145? What are some ideas or ways we can individually and corporately commend the faith from generation to generation?