Wednesday, October 12, 2005

When God does the little things.

Have you ever noticed that big things stand out? I mean… when you see that startlingly beautiful sunset or those tremendous snow covered peaks you just can’t help but stand there with your mouth agape. I remember the first time I saw the Grand Canyon. “Wow” was about all I could say for days.

But then, what about the little things? You know… the things that happen every day that you and I hardly take notice of. Things like, the light turning green at just the right moment, or your wife taking an extra minute to start the coffee pot in the morning when it’s generally you that does it. Or maybe just a little bit bigger things, but not too big or you’d actually have to notice they were special.

Take this evening for instance. There I was; sitting at my desk working away when the home phone rang and my wife picked it up. She pulled the phone away from her face and said “It’s Mike Lloyd honey”. Now I hadn’t heard from Mike in almost a year. He had decided not to attend the church we go to some years before, but we maintained our friendship. Mike had worked at the local video game store and I saw him whenever my son and I stopped in. Mike has a big heart and a gentle soul and I am always encouraged to talk with him. So anyway, he called. I said “Mike… it’s good to hear from you. I haven’t seen you in quite a while”. He said, “You probably won’t either. I’m in Georgia”. What followed was a nice long conversation that encouraged my soul. But here’s the miracle of it all. At the end of the call Mike said “I really miss you. You’ve helped me a lot tonight brother”. Somehow, in the process of encouraging me, Mike was encouraged. We hung up and my wife called me to dinner.

We had leftovers tonight and I was the last one to eat because I had to step out to drop off a package for work. I was eating at the kitchen table watching my wife gather the flowers she picked from our front yard to give to her friend Gloria for her birthday. Suddenly, she jumped back with a start as if she’d been bitten by a snake and gasped. I thought she’d seen a giant spider and got to my feet with a lurch. Then, as if by magic a calm came over her like a wave and she said “Aaah… it’s a praying mantis”. There upon the giant leaf she had clipped from our bird of paradise in the front yard was a beautiful praying mantis about three inches long. I took the leaf outside with the praying mantis clinging for dear life and set him back upon the plant he called home. As I walked back into the house to replace the leaf in the vase my wife said “Gloria really is getting a special flower arrangement for her birthday. It already been prayed over”.

As with the poor widow with her two copper coins (Luke 21:2) or the boy with his lunch of five small barley loaves and two small fish (John 6:9) God uses the little things to encourage us when we’re down, lift us up when we’ve stumbled and give us his love when we need it most. Blessed are those who take the time to notice.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Silence is not always golden

For many years now, I have been troubled by some things that have occurred and are still occurring in my church. There have been times when I have spoken up in the past regarding some of these things, but lately, over the last couple of years I have remained silent for the most part unless talking with someone who feels the same way.

Today, I just did not have a good morning. So, when I got my family to church, I stayed outside in the little park area and spent the time reading the book of Matthew and praying. The words of Jesus we pure joy to me. The quiet and beautiful setting gave me a chance to focus and it was the best prayer time I have had in a while.

It came to me during my prayer that silence is not always golden. You see, I have voiced my concerns to other leaders in the church before and asked for advice on how to approach the minister about them. In many cases, I was told that the minister would not take it well, that he had problems and issues himself and that I probably should just be a good friend to him. I took that advice and kept my concerns to myself for the most part. The problem is, that the minister, with whom my concerns lay has never been made aware of them. Imagine, if someone could see that you were failing in a certain area and never told you about it. How would you ever know and how would you ever change.

As I read through Matthew I came to realize that Jesus would not have let this rest and he would not have been silent. He would have gone to the brother in a loving way and spoken the truth. So, I resolved to be like Jesus. I decided to go to the minister and suggest that we have lunch the following week, fully expecting him to make himself unavailable to me. In the past he has always been very busy when I have tried to speak to him. Yet, this time he was eager to get together and offered three different days this next week for me to choose from. We have a lunch appointment for Tuesday.

Will he listen? I don’t know. Will he understand my perspective? Once again, I don’t know. Will he be defensive and point out all my faults rather than addressing the issue? I have no idea. All I know is that if I never tell him I have denied him the opportunity to grow and I have allowed a negative feeling about my brother in Christ to fester in my heart. This is why Jesus told us in Matthew 18:15 "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over”. If he doesn’t listen, then there is more to that scripture that tells me how to handle that.

Scripture doesn’t just apply to the fellow who sits in the chair next to me during service. It applies to the deacons, elders and pastors as well and we should not protect them or insulate them from it. We are all equal in the eyes of God and it is to him that all of us must one day give an account. So, as the average “Joe Christian” is it for me to approach the minister about something I see in his character that is harming not only him but the ministry as well? Absolutely! Nowhere in Matthew 18 did Jesus make an exception for ministers. Be gentle, be loving, be kind, be generous, be Godly and then speak the truth as Jesus would.