Welcome to Mid-Week E-Lift —
a Message in the Midst of a Busy Week
“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.” Matthew 5:45 (The Message)
LISTEN TO: Lisa Page Brooks, “I Want to Say Thank You” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gw7k55mSmjU
This past Monday, Memorial Day, Forrest and I, Andrew and Hannah, were involved in the festivities of the church where we are Co-pastors, the Community Church of Little Neck. Every year the community puts on one the biggest and best Memorial Day parades. The day was started with an inter-faith service at the Community Church. In the past the church always had a cook-out after the parade. This year we decided to up the ante. As a way of giving back to the community, of saying thanks to God, we made significant changes in the cook-out. We BBQ’d on the front lawn, not in the hidden garden, so people could see the church in action. We gave out flyers, balloons. We hired a clown– there was face painting, music, balloon animals, cupcake decorating, bubbles…etc….It was exciting!
We didn’t know if anyone would come. To our amazement, the place was packed! It was a true snapshot of the community: inter-generational, multi-racial/cultural. We were kept busy greeting people, keeping the water filled. It was funny–this was what we were hoping for — but at one point I found myself getting a resentment. Why were so many plates laden with several servings of hamburgers while others still had none? Why did only four people say thank you, and the majority eat and leave? It made me think of the story of Jesus healing the ten lepers, and only one coming back to say thank you (Luke 17:12-19). In a instant I felt God asking me, how often do I say thank you? Think of all the things God gives us that we don’t thank him for. What a revelation.
If we paid attention to God’s presence in our lives, and were focused on God, we would automatically say thank you. The ability to be grateful and thankful is a gift we usually obtain when we are spiritually aware. God had me look around the room once again. All those people I was judging? What did I know of their situation, their spiritual health? I saw the single moms, looking for a nutritious meal for her kids. I saw the elderly, on fixed incomes. I saw people whose lives hadn’t developed to a place where thank you came automatically– or were too guarded to speak. And whatever their history, they were experiencing, whether they knew it or not, the unconditional love of God, with no strings attached.
We have a lot to learn from this experiment. What I came away with is this challenge; the transformation we want to see in our churches, in our communities must begin in our own hearts. We must practice saying thank you to God, throughout the day. Giving thanks is the foundation of a healthy spiritual life. As we practice the discipline of giving thanks, God helps us see with compassion, and not judgment, those who are stuck in a material world, of getting what you can, and haven’t learned the liberating action of a thank you. May the gift of Thank you be always on our lips and hearts, setting off a process of healing and change in others we serve.
PRAY: “Thank you, God, for all you have done for me. Help me to name them. Help me to thank you frequently, and may I also act lovingly, with no strings attached, to all those around me. Amen.”
HAVE A BLESSED WEEK!