Listening to one another’s experience of Christ

I imagine the disciples; men and women, sitting around the desterkhan with their tea and dry bread, reminiscing about the man-God who changed their lives. As they shared their stories, they drew him closer to themselves and they drew closer to one another.

John, the one who leaned against Jesus chest, knew that by sharing, his joy and the joy of his companions would increase until it filled them all – until it filled us as well. He knew that our true fountains of joy are found only in God; thus, he began his own testimony.

He chose to talk about light. An odd place, perhaps, given that Jesus was born to a woman on a dark night in Bethlehem. Still, he chose light.

Where would you start the story?

And if you did, if you sat down with your Journal and gently shared the story with your own heart, would you also draw Jesus deeper into yourself? Would your joy increase?

Perhaps you have a small group of friends, of companions who have each also experienced Jesus in their lives. I invite you to have them over for dinner, and when the meal comes to an end, invite your friends to take a few moments to share something of the Jesus you’ve each experienced in your own life.

You might start with a simple prayer; “Lord Jesus, open our hearts to share, to declare what we have seen and experienced in you.”

Perhaps, you might set a loaf of bread and a cup of wine in the middle of the table and when each person has shared their story, you might invite them to tear off a piece of bread; the body of Christ broken for them.

Eat. Enjoy. He came from the realms of glory to give this to you.

And you might take the cup which is the blood of the new covenant, the agreement, the promise that he has made to us for all eternity. Drink it. Remember your own agreement in that covenant.

Perhaps, as you do, you might draw Christ deeper into yourselves and draw yourselves closer to one another. Perhaps, your joy, like our brother’s joy, might be full.

Have you decided who to invite?

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Rich in people

I am a woman who is rich in people. There’s my family, first. Family is usually first, isn’t it?

Well, perhaps not always. Perhaps not for you.

In truth, my own immediate family was not always gift-like. Still, I’m a woman who is rich in people.

When I was small, my grandmother took me to the library every week and filled a little bag with colorful children’s books for me to read. When I grew older, she encouraged me to write my own little books.

My grandfather was a man who hung the moon. He also taught me to whistle, sit up straight and never run past the old ladies hobbling up the church steps.

My cousin taught me to ride an old dappled gray mare she kept in the barn. An Australian exchange student taught me how to swim the butterfly and my uncle taught me how to throw football.

I had a math teacher once who helped me learn to add when I’d fallen behind and another teacher who found the gaps in my education and helped me fill them. I had a manager who took a chance on me and an older coworker who mentored me.

I am, indeed, a woman who is rich in people. Are you?

When you think back through the years, can you find them?

Perhaps, as you’ve read this, you’ve just remembered someone. Wait, don’t rush a way too quickly. Remember. Allow the scene to unfold in your heart. Do you recall what she looks like? Can you hear the sound of his voice? Can you picture the room, or car or woods in which you’re standing or sitting? What does it smell like? What do you hear?

What’s happening in this little story? How do you feel?

Don’t rush a way too quickly. Take a moment. Let it unfold. If not now, perhaps when you’re driving to work or home or running out to the grocery store. Just take a few moments and look at the scene; remember.

And when the scene has played its course, consider how that small gift affected you. What did you receive? How is it shaped the person you are today?

Perhaps you sense a gratitude for the gift you’re remembering.

Are you rich in people, too? I’d love to hear your story.

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Simple conversation

Wikihow’s got an 8 step process for sharing the gospel with a complete stranger http://www.wikihow.com. I’ll admit, I laughed when I read it. Here’s the steps;

  1. Find someone who’s alone and engage them in conversation.
  2. Swing the conversation into the spiritual – you could ask them if they go to church, like that’s a normal question to ask a stranger on the street.
  3. Try to show him they’re sinners.

If they’re still willing to talk to you, they’re likely to say; “But I don’t believe in hell,” or, “Yeah, I’m a sinner, but I’m still going to heaven,” or “Yeah, I’m guilty and I’m going to hell.” I’m not sure what you’re supposed to do if they say something else.

  1. Now, tell them about the Holy Spirit. I’m not quite sure why, but there’s the advice.
  2. Finally, if you done your job well, they’re ready to hear about Jesus. If they’re not ready, it’s just their fault so don’t worry about it.

Okay, I’ll agree, my interpretation is a little irreverent. So perhaps I’ll offer my own rewrite;

  1. See someone and engage them in conversation. You could start with a simple, “how you doing?”
  2. Take an interest in who they are or what they’re doing. I asked a young man if he was still in school. “Yeah, I’m graduating soon.”
  3. Find something you can affirm. I said, “Hey, congratulations. You know what’s next?”… He told me his college plans and smiled while he was doing it.
  4. Bless them. Yup, I really mean that. It’s not hard. “Hey, that sounds great. May God bless you as you do it.” He grinned from ear to ear.
  5. If they tell you about a problem, offer to pray for them.

Look, I have no idea if the young guy loves Jesus or not. For all I know, he’s an acolyte or president of his youth group. If so, then he’s been warmly encouraged. If he’s completely unchurched or hostile to church, then he’s probably thinking, “Hey, check it out. That was kind of a nice church lady. I guess church people aren’t all that bad.”

Regardless, he’s not likely to say, “D**n! What’s she shoving religion down my throat for?”

I’ll admit, it’s not the whole story, but it’s a nice gift. Try it, let us know how it goes.

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Christ in me, in you – Glory

We each walk through our days wrapped in whatever presents itself to us through the context of our lives. We’re busy; moving, facing, reacting and sometimes, we’re barely able to do even that.

We think if we don’t keep going, then somehow, we’ll fail. We’ll drop our responsibilities. We’ll confuse people in our stumbling and maybe, we’ll find ourselves on the wrong end of someone else’s desires or fears or disappointments.

We’re afraid, too, of the mirror. What will we see? Will we like ourselves? Or, really, are we at core somehow as deficient as our self-recriminations tell us we are?

So we keep moving. We keep dealing and reacting and everyone is happy or at least comfortable in the norm we’ve projected of ourselves.

All the while, we grope for the seam of God’s grace; the space where God is honored and the world spins on a right axis. We look outside for ourselves – to scripture, to culture, to the faces of loved ones or strangers and the long memorized demands of internal ‘shoulds’.

We create effective strategies to look good or smart or kind or wise. We wear masks, not because we want to hide, but simply because we need to get through the day. I need to get through today and today is just so demanding!

At some point, we begin to hear the unbroken invitation; come, be the person I’m creating you to be. Come.

If we are brave, we take the risk. We pause and listen to the breath of our own real selves. In the quiet, we get to know our contours and composition, the precise and unique creation that we have always been. And if we listen very, very carefully, we hear the Spirit breathing in us; God’s breath woven into our own.

We realize, slowly, that this shared breath, this unity, this Christ in us and us in Christ is the promised hope of glory. Ah, life, truth, love, wholeness; Christ in me as Christ can only be – the unique expression. I am a word of God spoken in your life and you are a word of God spoken in mine. And I so desperately need to hear both!

Ah, and when I do, I am struck with wonder and love.

Are you listening?

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God loves people

God doesn’t love Muslims or Afghans or Syrians. God loves people who happen to be Muslim, Afghan or Syrian.

God loves Ahkmed, Aziza, Gul Afruz, Taj Muhammad, Jane, Nancy, Bob and even George. God loves people – all people.

Who will you love today?

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Fear

There’s the sharp, time stopping fear that drives the brake pedal into the floor. There’s the icy, creeping, fear that warns a person off the dark road and into the light. There’s the slow, spreading fear that forces a pizza lover to take up salads.

There are times, situations, when fear is a gift. When without it, we would react too slowly and careen into the car in front of us. We would miss the warning that tells us the stranger following is dangerous. We would continue in habits that destroy us.

Fear is not evil, or at least, it’s not always evil.

Jesus said, “Fear not!” And so we miss the context and categorize all fear as evil or as a failure or as something that ought be foreign to us. We face terrible situations and rebuke ourselves for being afraid. We demand of our trembling hearts an absence of fear that would only destroy us.

Perhaps we would do better to embrace fear that is good and discard that which isn’t. After all, Jesus never condemned fear. Instead, he redefined its practical applications.

Fear God, first, because he can destroy both body and soul.

And then, don’t fear God because he counts you as precious. He’s numbered the hairs on your head. He’s called you more valuable than sparrows that die in the field. He’s promised to give you the kingdom.

Don’t be afraid of those who are capable of killing the body; terrorists, murderers, crazy men with guns. Don’t be afraid of the future you can’t predict; sickness, hunger, homelessness. Don’t be afraid of those in the world who would judge you, mock you or even condemn you.

And here’s more…

Don’t be afraid of the manifestation of Christ; when you see him walking across waters upon which no human being should be able to walk, when he appears in your midst though the doors are closed and locked, or when you see the life of another transformed, healed and delivered.

Jesus never said fear was categorically evil. Instead he said there are things of which we ought be afraid and we are not. There are others of which we ought not be afraid and we are.

So once again, he invites us to consider; what are you afraid of?

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Why the scarf?

Have you ever thought about why Muslim women wear headscarves? Recently, I asked a group of Americans that question. I heard a number of responses; to hide their sexy hair, to submit to their husbands, because it’s required.

Finally, an American woman of Indian descent brought forth the most fundamental answer; Muslim women cover their heads to honor God. By wearing a scarf, a Muslim woman says; I am submitted to God.

We, who are Christ followers also say; we are submitted to God. We recognize Christ as our covering and our faith in His suffering, death and resurrection as the sign that we are his.

So, next time you see a Muslim woman in a headscarf walking down the street or purchasing supplies at the local store, look at her scarf and recall your own submission to God. Remember your faith.

Then, maybe you’ll be able to see the same desire in her that you carry within yourself – the desire to know God and live your life in him.

Perhaps, with that in mind, you might find the grace to smile and say; “Salaam Alaykum. May God’s peace be upon you.”

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