Thankful It Takes a Village for Adults, Too
Thankful

Regardless of your political persuasion or opinion of the author of a book by a similar title, I’ve learned “it takes a village” for adults, too.

It’s been more than a year since I experienced the most significant loss of my life. The loss of my better half left me feeling disconnected. Not only disconnected but helpless and overwhelmed at all the things it took two people to handle over forty years.

That’s when my village stepped in.

It started with the memorial service as friends created the photo slideshow, decorated the church fellowship hall, and provided a generous meal for 300 people.

In the year that followed:

  • A neighbor volunteered to pressure clean and seal my driveway and then repaired and adjusted all the sprinkler heads in the irrigation system.
  • This same neighbor repaired 2 patio doors and my garage door and cleared my gutter of wayward plants.
  • A friend repaired a leaking doorframe.
  • A friend from church repaired a couple of leaking faucets.
  • Another friend from church arranged for the maintenance and repair of my lawnmower – and took care of the pick-up and delivery.
  • Two friends from church trimmed palm fronds and seed pods around my home.
  • A friend from my previous church repaired a broken roof truss.
  • Another neighbor spent hours replacing my garbage disposal and kitchen faucet.
  • That same neighbor arranged for the repair of some minor body damage on my car.
  • Yet another neighbor brought meals many times.

And this list is by no means complete.

Even contractors and service personnel—total strangers—went above and beyond to provide not just what I needed but added little extras with a dose of kindness.

With each act of compassion, my sense of feeling overwhelmed dissipated.

These experiences taught me it’s okay to ask for help. I was so used to helping others that asking for it seemed foreign…and somehow wrong. But what was wrong is the pride that didn’t want to receive what God had equipped others to give. Equally important, by not asking, I was denying others the blessing of being a blessing to me.

That joy and blessing flowed both ways.

In Philippians 2:4, the apostle Paul wrote, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (ESV).

So my question to you is, where are you in your village? Are you feeling overwhelmed, but reluctant to ask for help? Are you wanting to help, but don’t know where to start?

Your village needs you. It needs you to both give and receive. John Donne understood this when he wrote:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.

And the Bible tells us Christians are all members of one body—the Body of Christ. “If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (I Corinthians 12:26 NASB).

This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for being a member of the Body of Christ. And I’m thankful for my village.

Who’s in your village? Are you giving and receiving?


 
Pocketing, Cookie Jarring, and Jesus
Pocketing, Cookie Jarring, and Jesus

Pocketing and cookie jarring. To paraphrase a line from The Princess Bride, “I do not think it means what you think it means.” One thing is for sure: neither phrase means what I thought they meant!

Both terms are now used to describe dating trends.

Pocketing occurs when the relationship seems as if it’s progressing, but your partner has not introduced you to family or long-term friends. They’re enjoying the fun relationship, but they don’t see a future with you. In the words of the owner of a matchmaking service, “Why get friends and family involved?”

Cookie jarring occurs when the person you’re dating keeps you as a back-up, while they’re pursuing a serious relationship with someone else. They consider it to be a practical back-up plan “just in case.” Sort of like keeping the cookie jar full in case you experience a snack-attack.

So who are you pocketing and who’s in your cookie jar?

I’m not talking about someone you might be dating. (And no, I’m not dating!)

I am talking about your relationship with Jesus.

How many professing Christians keep Jesus in our “pocket”? We hesitate to be open about our beliefs because friends and family wouldn’t understand. Even worse, there might be open hostility. The result is a compartmentalized life, keeping Jesus separate from other areas.

Or how many professing Christians treat Jesus like a cookie jar: dipping our hand in when we have a need. The rest of the time, we go merrily on our way pursuing people, interests, and activities that have little to do with a life committed to being a Christ-follower.

Commitment.

It’s a term used in describing relationships with other people and with Jesus Christ. Are we committed Christians or Christians in name only? Is Christ Lord of our whole life or do we limit His reign to certain “pockets”? Do we only seek God’s hand when we need something, or do we pursue His heart?

I’ve been studying and teaching from the book of Acts recently. And I’ve been impressed by the difference between the early disciples of Christ and many of us today. In Acts 4, Peter and John were imprisoned for their faith, yet afterward they prayed, “Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness” (Acts 4:29 NIV). They did not pray for safety, they prayed for boldness!

A short time later, these same men are jailed and flogged for proclaiming Christ again, yet they were “rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name” (Acts 5:41 NIV). Can I say the same thing?

If I’m honest, there are times when I’m less like Peter and John and more like someone who keeps Christ in a pocket or a cookie jar. Times when I hesitate to proclaim Jesus Christ because I don’t want to be that person—the one people avoid because she’s a religious fanatic. Times when I pursue things that are convenient, comfortable, and safe, rather than speaking up about the One who people need even if they don’t realize it.

Then I think about persecuted Christians today. In places such as China, the Middle East, Africa, and elsewhere Christians are imprisoned, beaten, and killed for their faith. These Christians understand Peter and John. What they do not understand are the people who are pocketing and cookie jarring the Savior.

Every Christ-follower has the indwelling Holy Spirit who gives boldness when needed to proclaim Jesus Christ. Let’s not keep Him in a cookie jar.


 
Is It a Conviction or a Preference?
Convictions and Preferences

I’m a person of strong opinions. It’s a rare occasion when I don’t have an opinion on a subject.

Lately, though, I’ve been wondering about the art of disagreement. Without meaning to, I’ve come up against passions that run high and emotions that run deep. The subjects cover everything from the national debt to exercise preferences to application of Scripture. While I understand the strong feelings—I have them myself—I don’t understand the hostility that targets and denigrates anyone who believes differently.

A few examples…

Several years ago, I wrote a blog post describing my observations about yoga. Do I have strong feelings about it? Yes, I do. However, what surprised me were the comments that went far beyond thoughtful agreement or disagreement (which I welcome). Many comments attacked those in the opposite “camp.” I found it necessary to delete some because of their uncontrolled vitriol. By the way, the hostility came from both sides—Christian and non.

On another note, friends, acquaintances, and strangers have been posting scathing denunciations of Republicans or Democrats, depending on which side of the aisle they identify with. Hyperbole abounds in an effort to portray the opposing party as unintelligent, elitist, or communist. And those are some of the more civil terms!

Finally, I had a conversation with a young lady who disagreed with something I taught from Scripture. The position I hold is one supported by many well-respected Christian denominations. The position she holds is held by many well-respected Christian denominations. Unfortunately, rather than agree to disagree, she gave vent to vehement indignation at what she pronounced to be “false teaching” simply because she did not have the same view. I should add this was not a matter of interpretation, but simply a matter of application.

These three experiences cause me to wonder: have we lost the ability to disagree without attacking those who hold an opposing view? These days disagreements quickly deteriorate into ad hominem arguments, where the person is targeted instead of the position they hold.

Convictions and Preferences

I am not saying we should compromise our convictions. But perhaps the issue is that we don’t understand the difference between a conviction and a preference. A conviction, according to Webster’s Illustrated Contemporary Dictionary, is “a fixed belief.” A preference is “the choice of one thing or person over another.” A conviction is something we would die for. A preference is not. A conviction is something we would stake our reputation on. A preference is not.

Before we engage with others on everything from politics to shampoo brands, perhaps we should spend some time—and prayer—determining our convictions and our preferences…and deciding which is which. And most importantly, listening to what the Holy Spirit has to say to us about both.

Then we have a series of choices to make.

We need to choose our motive. When we respond to those who disagree with us, are we doing so out of anger, self-righteousness, or love for others caught in error?

We also need to choose our venues. The book of Ecclesiastes tells us “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). A social media venue such as Facebook is not the place for Christians to unleash a torrent of negative comments about non-believers, and then expect to be a witness to our unbelieving friends! Come to think of it, Christians shouldn’t be doing that anywhere!

Finally, we need to choose our words. Some words are more emotionally-charged than others, igniting fires and leaving charred remains in their path. Certainly not what we want to do if our goal is to persuade others to our views.

The art of disagreement does not require compromising our convictions. It does not even entail parking our preferences. It does involve respecting those who disagree with us. Who knows? Someday, they may even be won over to our way of thinking…or we may be won over to theirs!

Your turn:
How might distinguishing between preferences and convictions help you better handle disagreements?


 
How Well Are You Known?
Know and Be Known

Twenty years ago, I moved from New York City to a much smaller city in Florida. More of a small town, actually. I welcomed the fresh air, the slower pace, and the improved quality of life.

But I also needed to make some adjustments…

  • About a week after our move, after a particularly long day unpacking boxes, we tried getting a pizza delivered. Several phone calls later, we discovered nothing remained open after 10PM.
  • The satellite post office near our home closed for lunch each day.
  • I was late for church one morning because a cow stood in the road and a sheriff’s deputy blocked the street with his car while we waited for the cow to move.

One of the biggest adjustments I had to make was in realizing I could not leave the house without running into someone I knew. Someone from church or from our neighborhood. Someone from the interdenominational Bible study I attended or from the non-profit agency where I volunteered. The anonymity of living in a big city disappeared faster than a bag of M&Ms® at a chocoholic’s convention.

But that was nothing compared to what I’ve experienced lately on the Internet. Facebook seems to know exactly what ads fit my interests. One order on the Barnes & Noble website resulted in emails touting products geared to my interests. The website Spokeo.com contains detailed information about me and anyone for whom I might be searching.

Total strangers seem to know me very well.

To know and be known – truly known – is our deepest desire. Even the apostle Paul noted, “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (I Corinthians 13:12).

God created us to know and be known. He created us to be intimately related to Him. He revealed Himself in His Word using a variety of names and attributes to help us know who He is and how He works. We learn from His Word that He is perfectly righteous and just, absolutely faithful and merciful, and truly trustworthy and holy. And because He is who He is, we can trust the most intimate facets of our life to Him. His Spirit resides in His children and nothing surprises Him – He knows the ugliest details and loves us anyway.

When we’re in a right relationship with the Lord, we’ll have the confidence to be vulnerable and transparent in our relationships with others. To know and be known is a gift, not just with God, but with fellow travelers on the road of life.

If you’re not as intimate with the Lord as you would like, what will you do about it?


 
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