I gave a little talk to the Seniors at our church the other day. Aside from the fact that "some people" said I pace too much while I talk and therefore could not be heard because I was talking to the dry erase board, I think it went really well. (I did not have a mike and many of the audience members are "hearing impaired.")
I wanted to try to educate them a little on the activities and underlying concepts of the Outreach Ministries Team, which I chair. A few weeks earlier, the men had sponsored a BBQ after church to raise money to purchase devotionals for individuals in the armed services. Those attending were asked to give a love offering for their meal.
Two of the men in the group made a point of extending an invitation to the rehab ladies through me for them to stay for the BBQ. So I secured permission from the powers that be and even gently "suggested" to the ladies that they should fore go soft drinks and contribute as much as possible to the love offering.
The next day, I was informed that "some people" were really disappointed that the rehab ladies did not contribute more money for their lunch.
(Man, "some people" sure are outspoken! But what a blessing that "someone" always informs me of their valued opinions!)
I responded that I wanted to speak at the next Senior's lunch, and don't you know my request was granted!
OK, 1,000 words later I get to the point of all of this. I discussed three main ideas that serve as guiding principles for our outreach ministries:
1) Make a conscious decision to love
2) Practice sanctuary
3) Risk being a warm body in the room
"To know me is to love me." Well I'd like to argue that to love me is to know me. When you make a conscious decision to love, you find out people's names, get to know them, express interest in their lives, where they're from, their story, etc. Even if the people are a little scary or different looking from you, you do it. (That's where the conscious decision comes in.) The rehab ladies think I am an angel (many have said as much), but those of you who know me know better. I have a big mouth, I get angry, I'm critical, I have vicious mood swings. But you know what? In response to my conscious decision to love, they have made a conscious decision to love me back.
See how that works?
I've been trying to cram the concept of "sanctuary" down my congregation's throat for a good six months through various newsletter articles. (I sure hope "some people" are reading them.) It's pretty simple really. When I asked the group for a definition of sanctuary, they piped up, "A safe place, a refuge." Ding, ding, ding -- 50,000 bonus points. Practicing sanctuary means accepting people as they are. When you accept and welcome and communicate, "you belong here, you are significant, you are welcome, you have worth," you free people to more easily accomplish the goals of faithful living: loving the Lord God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength and loving their neighbor as themselves. When you get to the "advanced" stages of practicing sanctuary, you go so far as to recognize yourself in them. Ahhhh ... now you have arrived.
We are really good at convincing ourselves that we are not clever or talented enough to do this activity or that. Hog wash. Ironically, people who embrace this belief are highly overrating the value of individual gifts; or perhaps the source of those gifts, yes, that's a better way of expressing it. To risk being a warm body in the room means I choose to place myself into an activity that requires me to rely on God's indwelling power and equipping. I use the word "conduit" quite a bit to convey this idea. Vessel is another good word picture. I choose to place myself in the room with the rehab ladies every Monday morning and trust God to do the rest. Oh sure, I prepare a lesson plan complete with scripture verses and activities and music, but if God wasn't moving through me during that hour of teaching, the words would exit my mouth and go SPLAT right onto the ground. Besides, I know my best lessons are the ones that God spoon feeds me anyway. He was good enough to give me an ability to teach, to present ideas, but I understand very clearly that this is how he was equipped me. I am less able to perform the jobs of the other three members of my ministry team (who also have chosen to risk being a warm body in the room,) because what they do is how God has chosen to equip them.
Oh sure, it all sounds a little super spiritual, but if you can get beyond that, it's so basic. So simple. So Nike "just do it."
Jesus teaches in the parable about the sheep and goats that when we serve the least of these brothers and sisters, we are serving him. That sounds an awful lot like making a conscious decision to love, practicing sanctuary and risking being a warm body in the room.
(There, I wrote all that without getting up once to pace!)