It has been a hard week since the tragedy of those many young lives that were senselessly lost last Friday in Connecticut. This week, I have heard God whisper to me to keep my eyes open for the good things. Yes, there is a lot of tragedy in this world. And, honestly, there are many things that could leave us heartbroken and paralyzed if we opened our eyes to see into the depths of other lives - those around the block as well as those in countries outside our own.
And at the same time, I keep hearing more clearly God reminding me to look around and celebrate the good things - like my friends who are expecting new life and the joyous new marriages that are taking place. We need to find joy in this season by looking to the cradle, even when it is easier to look to the grave. So today, I saw the meaning of Christmas and the purpose of that cradle before my very eyes.
After our lunch and devotion at Gallatin CARES, a new mom and her mother (the new grandmother) asked me if I knew of any cribs that had been donated to the Thrift Store next door and if we could hold one for them. I explained that they just randomly show up and I hadn't seen one but that I would keep my eyes open for them next time I shopped. Shortly after this, I popped over to the store and we found a crib that had been donated just this morning. It was a nice wooden crib, in good shape, that was fairly priced at $75. The mom and grandmother were actually even more discouraged after seeing it and said it was simply out of their price range. We began talking and I asked what their price range was. I had a little cash in my pocket and quickly considered taking part of the burden from them but something held me back from suggesting that immediately. Something had me just wait a moment before suggesting anything at all. Within that moment, a man appeared out of nowhere. He walked up to this new mom and grandmother and asked them if they would allow him to purchase this $75 crib for them.
I wish I could bottle up the emotion that this moment held for each of us. The man, humbly offering to help this family. The women, humbly accepting his help. And me, humbly being allowed to simply witness this gift of a cradle for a new birth.
The scripture we studied today just before these women received this gift was Matthew 2:11:
They entered the house and saw the child with Mary his mother. Falling to their knees, they honored him. Then they opened their treasure chests and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (CEB)
Good things do still happen. Gifts are still being given and love is being shown. Jesus came to teach us this lesson. Let us be the givers and doers and sometimes simply the observers of the good things because they do still happen.
Keep your eyes open my friends, keep your eyes open.
On Sunday night, I was asked to speak at one of my favorite places, Gallatin C.A.R.E.S. This non-profit started by providing basic needs of food and economic relief and has grown into a place that cares for the soul as well. They have a worship service that meets on Sunday evenings and I enjoy slipping in for worship. I usually go alone but I never leave feeling alone.
This past Sunday night was no exception. I arrived in plenty of time (too much really) and looked like a lost puppy as the volunteers prepped the meal for afterward and set up the sound system in preparation for worship. I read my "sermon" for the millionth time (well, probably not that many, but a lot) and waited.
My sinuses and allergies have been troubling this past week (along with nearly every other Tennessean) and so cough drops and water were my friend. I have never shared a full message before. I have been part of a "Youth" or "Young Adult" Sunday where you take turns running the service. But, this was my first "real" sermon. When I was asked if I would speak, my friend had to remind me that I was an "official Lay Speaker" in the church and trained to do this because I was trying to think of someone else who could fill in. But, there was a little nudge that God wanted me to do this. So, I said yes.
The message was on 1 John 4 and Love. God's love. And, I can summarize it pretty easily: God loves us so much that Jesus died for us and we are now to love as Jesus loved. Love one another for God is love. And, that is what Gallatin C.A.R.E.S. is all about. They are God's love to the community every day by offering food, services, health care, worship, family and friendship. They offer this to everyone.
Aren't we all called to be God's love each and every day? I have been saddened this week by some hateful posts people have made on Facebook and Twitter. I really don't think Jesus wants us to treat each other the way we often do. And, history has not modeled for us well how to treat God's people with love and care.
Now, I have learned that you shouldn't say "no" to God. But, at this point in my calling, I do not feel called to pastor or preach. But, as I shared that night, I was reminded that I feel called to share God's love and his message of hope and healing.
Funny enough, I awoke to silence on Monday morning. My voice was completely gone - laryngitis had settled in. I have had a few days to think about this message and why it is so difficult for us as humans to model the love to one another that Jesus modeled for us. And, while, I may not have a voice, I do not feel silenced. Because I do not think that I need to shout God's love to share it. Sometimes, I need to sit back and soak it up in the silence so I can remember for myself how much He loves me. Sometimes I need to step out and share it by telling someone about it with a whisper. Sometimes I need to put God's love into action by doing something that looks more like shouting.
No matter what it looks like for me or for you in any season, I just can't shake the feeling that God wants us to really love on each other. I mean, really love each other and our differences. Not just pretend like we do when we see each other at the local grocery store. I had a friend make a post "complaining" about the service she received at her local Kroger on Facebook and within 12 hours there were 47 responses debating and defending the pros and cons of the rivaling local Publix and Kroger grocery chains. Why are we so ready to defend our favorite grocery chain but so reluctant to defend God's people? We'd rather beat them down and shout how wrong everyone else is. Speck, meet plank.
So, I am going to try to love. I'm going to try to love all of God's people. I will not be perfect at it, I will fail. I will be judgmental and not even realize it. I will be un-lovable at home and away from home. But, I'm going to try and not be silenced. I'm going to try and give God's people the love that God has given me. Even if I have to do it in a whisper.
Whitney R. Simpson
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