As I was looking for a filler to finish off our church newsletter this morning (yes, I am the editor), I came across this poem I wrote years and years ago. I thought I’d share it as it speaks to our many roles in life and how to handle them.
A Modern Day Psalm
Does life really have to be this hard?
I just want to be myself for a change instead of someone else’s
Whatever it is I spend most of my time being.
Sometimes my relationships seem to be strangling me instead of fulfilling me …
I want to be free
I want to please myself.
The trouble is I’m not really sure who I am or what pleases me
I’m to accustomed to being all of those other people instead.
Maybe I can find myself and You, too, if I really pray.
Maybe there’s a place for me in Your plan. Me the wife, and mother and daughter and sister and all the other Mes.
Maybe You’ll tell me if I listen.
“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am in to be content.” Philippians 4:11
Part of good stewardship is being contented. After all, how can we share what we have, if we’re convinced it isn’t enough? Everything about our society seems based on consumerism and having more, more, more. Ads constantly barrage us with the latest or better new product we need to purchase. The lifestyle of a family on the average television show would require an income of $200,000. Styles change quickly so we feel compelled to add to or change our wardrobe. Phones and other technology are constantly updated, so that older models become “obsolete.” We’re always sure we’ll be satisfied when we get one more raise, the next new car, the slightly bigger house, and so on. Unfortunately as sinful humans, that little bit more doesn’t satisfy, it just whets our desire for the next thing. We never reach the point of being content, so we’re never thankful for what God has given us, and we’re never willing to be generous with what we have. We don’t have time to serve others, because we’re so busy chasing after the latest and greatest toy on our list. According to the apostle Paul, this kind of discontent leads to disaster.
“Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into this world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. It is through this craving that some have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” 1 Timothy 6:4-10
If you’re an older person, you’ve seen that money, jobs, hobbies, trips and all the fancy trappings we try to surround ourselves with don’t last. When we’re gone, people won’t remember what we had, they’ll remember what we did with what we had. Did you live a life of integrity? Did you serve God? Did you love others? Those are the things that will be important. So practice the art of contentment — it’s one of the keys to good stewardship.
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of Gods’ varied grace….” 1 Peter 4:10
My devotional reading today was on the book of Jonah, and I’m actually going to be teaching about that book in adult Sunday School in a few weeks … funny how God sends us these little messages, isn’t it? He knows just what we need at any given time. Anyway, the gist of the article was grace. God extended His grace to Jonah, even though he was a sulky and reluctant prophet. He saved him from the belly of the whale, he sent a plant to shade him … Jonah didn’t deserve those things. He tried to run from his calling. He wasn’t very appreciative of Gods’ care. The very worst thing about Jonah — although he accepted Gods’ grace, he was angry when God extended that same grace to the people Jonah hated, the Assyrians.
I think there’s a lesson in this. In the verse above, Peter calls us stewards of Gods’ grace. We’ve all received gifts. I know that I have certain talents, and I also have my health, a good bit of free time as a retiree, an adequate income. Since all these are gifts of Gods’ grace in my life, I need to share them willingly when I see a need. In fact, I should be excited when I can spread some of Gods’ grace around. Most of all, I should be excited to share the good news of the sacrifice of Christ for our sins. That’s truly amazing grace.
Unfortunately, I’m often like Jonah. I may be willing to share with those I love, or those I find deserving. I’m less willing to share with people I don’t know, don’t like or find unworthy in some way. Why should I serve them? They don’t deserve it and may not appreciate it. However, here’s the thing — it’s only grace because we don’t deserve it. If we could earn grace, we wouldn’t need God (or anyone else) to give it to us.
So today, let’s spread some grace around: lend a hand; forgive; bake some cupcakes for your neighbor; give up your place in line. You need it; I need it; everyone needs it, whether they know it or not.
“When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, ‘Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also out to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” John 13:12-15
If you go on a Via de Cristo (or other type of Cursillo) retreat, you will find a group of people who are there just to serve you for the weekend. They bring you drinks, supply any need you many have (tissues, snacks, aspirin, etc.), run errands for you, and so on. In Via De Cristo we call them the chas, which stands for Christ’s hands in action. Everybody loves their cha, and often say they wish they could take their cha home with them!
Well, guess what? You don’t have to be on a retreat weekend to be a cha. Of course, it’s true, we all have many responsibilities and we cannot dedicate all of our time to fetching and carrying. We can, however, be Christ’s hand and feet and voice in the world every day to the people with whom we interact. We can help a neighbor carry her groceries, we can give up our place in line to a harried parent, we can say “have a blessed day” to the cashier who rings up our order, we can serve dinner to our family with words that are kind instead of complaining. Jesus gave us an example when he washed the feet of his disciples — he didn’t have to do that. It wasn’t expected, and it wasn’t his “job.” He did it to show us that good stewardship means using our time, our bodies and our minds to serve others.
Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all became chas?
A friend at church loaned me a book I’ve been using recently for my morning devotional time. It’s called “Lessons I Learned in the Light” by Jennifer Rothschild. This morning’s chapter was titled “Carry No Baggage” and it got me thinking about how as good stewards, we need to travel light. We can’t take care of God’s stuff if we’re too worried about our own stuff. Maybe you’re thinking about now, didn’t the Lutheran Ladies say it’s all God’s stuff? Well, here’s the thing …all the good things are God’s, but there are still plenty of bad things that belong to us alone. They start with that little word SIN. Do you notice what’s in the middle of the word sin? The letter “I.” Sin happens when we’re turned into ourselves, when life becomes all about me, me, me.
What baggage are you carrying around? It might be selfishness (that’s a big one for me), failure to forgive, anger, destructive habits you don’t want to give up, pride, lack of trust and more. All these things weigh us down and keep us from focusing on God, the good gifts He gives, and the people He wants us to serve.
Thankfully there’s a simple way to get rid of that excess cargo. Confess. Let God take care of your stuff, and then you’ll be free to take care of His. We get to do this every Sunday in our worship service, not as a work of our own, but as a reminder that God has already forgiven all our sins for the sake of His son, Jesus.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
Confess so you can focus on the good things of God. Travel light.