I’m Too Good for This

“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘LORD,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your LORD and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” John 13:13-17

Face it,  ladies, aren’t there times when we all feel that we’re too good to waste our time serving others?  Changing diapers, packing lunches, scrubbing the toilet — these are not generally seen as tasks that fulfill us or enrich our lives. Taking time to listen to a whiney teenager, visiting an elderly relative who rambles on and on or cheerfully assisting our annoying boss can become tiresome and irritating. Sometimes we feel unappreciated.  Does anyone even SEE what we’re doing? The effort we put into making somebody else’s life a little smoother? The things we put up with in order to help somebody else?  In the verses above, Jesus reminds us of two things:

  1. He himself was willing to serve.  He was God, yet He not only washed feet, He gave his life for ungrateful, sinful wretches like you and me.  We should never be unwilling to serve others when we reflect upon His example.
  2. When we serve we will be blessed.  Maybe we won’t be blessed with worldly recognition or wealth, but we will be blessed by loving relationships.  Plus we will receive the recognition that really matters when we hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant” from Jesus, our Lord.

Remember, nobody wishes on their death bed that they had spent more time accumulating stuff.  Nobody remembers their parents or friends fondly because they were rich or famous.  In the end what matters most are the many, small, caring deeds we do for others.  The things we think are go unnoticed.

So serve cheerfully.  Develop a servant’s heart. You’re not too good for this.

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Won’t You Be My Neighbor? — Movie Review

My oldest daughter, Beth, loved Mr. Rogers as a child.  When he asked a question on his program, she would actually answer him, just as if he were in the room with her! She was a shy little girl, but his quiet, unassuming manner drew her in and she listened carefully to whatever he had to say.  She and I were eager to watch this documentary about the life of Fred Rogers.  I borrowed it from our local library, she brought the popcorn, and we settled in to learn more about her childhood hero.

Fred was a Presbyterian minister who was able to preach without using sermons or wearing a collar.  He had great empathy and compassion for young children — this was his gift.  His passion was to teach them that all our feelings are normal and can be controlled, and that we are loved and special “just the way we are.”  He felt that television was a wonderful vehicle to spread the message of love, understanding and acceptance;  however, many programs for children at that time were thoughtless and violent (has anything changed?)  He was a true servant of God.  Seeing him interact with children brought tears to my eyes.

He began to work out his vision with a local show in Pittsburgh, before he even completed his seminary training.  Eventually this led to the well known “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”  that my daughter watched.  Fred talked with children about being scared and angry;  he broached difficult subjects like divorce and death;  he tried to teach the difference between real life and the world of make-believe;  he wasn’t afraid to explain big words children might be hearing like “assassination”.  While many shows for children speed things up with frenetic energy, Mister Rogers slowed things down.  It allowed children to become calm, quiet and able to listen.  He became known as an authority on how to talk to children about disturbing public events and an advocate of Public Broadcasting.

In this documentary, you meet many people who knew and loved Fred Rogers.  The man you met on The Neighborhood seems to have been the true Fred.  There was no stage mask or personality, just a real person who wanted to connect with and love others, especially children.

VERDICT:  I give this movie five stars.  If you or your children watched Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, you won’t want to miss it. It’s a beautiful bit of nostalgia and a good reminder to use our spiritual gifts and calling as servants. It does have a PG rating (language in a few instances) and as a documentary will not engage young children.  It will probably resonate most with people like me and my daughter, who remember his work.

Maybe you’ll enjoy revisiting the Mr. Rogers theme song:

 

Who Do You Serve?

Let’s be honest, ladies, we all serve somebody.  So who do you serve?  I suspect the answer for most of us is “myself.”  That’s not only our sinful inclination, it’s what our world tells us to do.  “Look out for number one.”  “Follow your bliss.”  “Do what feels right for you.”  Our culture bombards us with messages like this every day.  Let’s label it with its’ true name –SELFISHNESS.

I don’t know about you, but I struggle with this sin every day.  Here are a few examples:

My husband forgets to pick up the something I needed on his way home from work.  My default response?  How could he!  I do so many things for him, and he can’t remember this one thing for ME?

My daughter calls and asks me to go to the Dollar Store and pick up something for her class (she is a preschool teacher). She lost track of time and didn’t get to it last night.  REALLY?  What makes this MY responsibility?  I have my own plans for the morning.

Somebody from church calls.  We’re selling  cobblers at the local Peach Festival and need somebody to work at the stand.  OH NO!  I’m an introvert and I’M JUST NOT COMFORTABLE around a crowd of strangers.  Don’t ask me to do that.

My friend is totally uninterested in the new project in which I’m so involved.  She’s MY friend,why isn’t she being more supportive of ME?

Anyway, you get the idea.  My first response is to think of myself, what I want, and what seems most comfortable and convenient for me.  Here’s what Jesus says about that:

“He answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Luke 10:27

That means our priorities should go like this:

  1. God
  2. Others
  3. Me

This doesn’t mean we can never say no.  Sometimes we must say no;  sometimes it is better for the other person if we say no;  sometimes we need to say no because something is definitely out of our skill set. It also doesn’t mean we don’t hold folks accountable or express our feelings — but we need to do this in a gentle, respectful way, not in anger.  It does mean that as God’s servants, we can’t allow a selfish mindset to control our actions.  Following our own impulses (i.e. serving ourselves) will lead to conflict and broken relationships.  Serving God and doing His will leads to peace with God and others. So who do you want to serve?

 

 

 

The Spiritual Gift of Service

Well, ladies you know that this year my focus is on spiritual gifts.  I thought it would be appropriate this month, as we talk about servanthood, to examine the qualities of the spiritual gift of service.  All of us are called to serve, but some have a particular talent for this.  Here’s the definition:

SERVICE: The gift of service is the special ability that God gives to certain

members of the Body of Christ to identify the unmet needs involved in a task

related to God’s work, and to make use of available resources to meet those

needs and help accomplish the desired goals. Contributes: Skills.

You may have this spiritual gift if you:

  • Serve behind the scenes wherever needed to support the gifts and ministries of others
  • Seek the tangible and practical things to be done and enjoy doing them
  • Sense God’s purpose and pleasure in meeting everyday responsibilities
  • Attach spiritual value to practical service
  • Enjoy knowing that you are freeing up others to do what God has called them to do

You can study more about this gift by looking up the following passages: Romans 12:7 and Ephesians 6:5-9

 People with the gift of service will often tell you, “I didn’t really do anything important.”  That’s not true.  Every ministry depends upon the everyday support of average people like you and me.  Serving in quiet ways builds up the whole body.  How can you serve this week?

 

Your Calling

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”  Ephesians 4:1

I hear quite a few people speak about their church as if they are merely consumers, making a choice about what is best for them.  They belong to a church for reasons like these:

  • I love the Pastor
  • It has a great youth program for my kids
  • The music is fantastic
  • My friends go there

I’ve also heard people reject a church because:

  • I don’t feel uplifted
  • I’m not being fed spiritually
  • I don’t like someone who is a member
  • I prefer a different kind of music

Now I am not saying there is anything wrong with loving your Pastor, the music, the programs or the people in your church.  There is something wrong with making a choice that’s all about you.  I personally believe that the lay people of the congregation are called to be there every bit as much as the Pastor.  We’re part of the body of Christ.  We all have gifts and talents to build up the body.  We’re all needed.  We are to be worthy of that calling.

That means our choice of a congregation should be based, in great part, on where God is calling us to serve.  It means once we have accepted our call, we need to be humble and bear with others even when we don’t agree with them.  It means we don’t change congregations just because we liked the old Pastor better;  we don’t get mad and leave in a snit.  We settle in, we become family and we work together.

“Look careful then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best of the time, because the days are evil.  Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”  Ephesians 4:15-17

You’ve been called.  Are you blooming where you are planted?  Are you walking in a worthy manner?  Are you God’s servant in the place He has placed you?  Or are you just a religious consumer?

What is a Cha?

“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!

Image result for images of christ's hands in action

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?

 

Servant Relationships

This song has been a favorite of mine for a long time. It reminds me of a quote from one of Martin Luther’s  earlier books, The Freedom of a Christian (1520). In it, he wrote,

“[A]s our heavenly Father has in Christ freely come to our aid, we also ought freely to help our neighbor through our body and its works, and each one should become as it were a Christ to the other that we may be Christs to one another “