Monday, August 16, 2004

Comfort (8/16/04)

I was sitting at the Albuquerque airport waiting to board a flight for Phoenix on Sunday afternoon. I was trying to decide what topic to write about this week. The problem was, there were 4 or 5 half-baked topics floating around in my head and I wasn't making much headway. In retrospect, I often look back on situations like this and wonder why I spin my wheels for so long before thinking to pray. As I was sitting there spinning my wheels (and not praying), I noticed a young woman sitting with her back to me. It appeared that she was crying but I couldn't tell since her head was turned the other way. Then she turned her head and removed all doubt - she was definitely crying about something. I noticed the discomfort it was bringing to several people sitting around her. Two guys working on laptops were sitting diagonal from her. They took occasional glances in her direction but made a point of avoiding eye contact. They buried themselves a little deeper in their laptops and pretended not to notice. New people arriving at the gate would eye up seats around her but then divert to other seats when they saw her condition. A string of seats directly across from her remained noticeably empty. Then a couple with 2 small boys came up and claimed the row of seats. The couple ignored the crying woman. The 2 small boys were a different story. In their beautiful innocence, they stared at the crying woman. This eventually made the parents uncomfortable enough to get up and move. I was sitting there through the whole thing trying to think of an unintrusive way of going up and chatting with her. I was thinking of saying something like "You're obviously upset. I'm not the best listener in the world but if you'd like to talk…". But the opportunity passed. It turns out that she was flying out of the gate next door and she boarded before I acted. Psalm 69:20 says:

"Scorn has broken my heart and has left me helpless; I looked for sympathy, but there was none, for comforters, but I found none."

As Christians, we are naturally equipped to be comforters. We are plugged in to the one true source of hope - which is the greatest comfort of all. God calls us to share the source of our hope and comfort. I don't know if this woman was looking for comfort. She may have even been put off by some strange man offering help. We are conditioned to assume strangers have selfish motives for their actions. It's an obvious hurdle but it is also a help. The help is the added impact when the person realizes there are no selfish motives.

There are many people out there in need of comfort. Many of them are not as obvious as the woman at the airport - they put on the happy veneer even though the inside is torn up. A couple things to think about if you find yourself in a position of providing comfort:

1. Just do it. I sat around thinking of the right thing to say for so long that opportunity passed. It can be very uncomfortable going up to a stranger when there is a whole bunch of people doing the opposite.
2. Be authentic.
3. Listen. Don't have an agenda. Sometimes it's hard to just sit back and listen to someone share their grief - especially if they are an unbeliever and the answer to their problem seems so obvious to us. This is when it's important to remember what it was like before we were saved.

So this Wednesday we are praying for all those who need comfort. That if they haven't already, they will find the true source of deep lasting comfort. And that as His servants, we will be comforters to those around us who need it.
Have a great week and a great fast.
Your brother,

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Education (8/10/04)

If you recall, last week's message was about a young mother I met on a flight from Phoenix to Philadelphia. She actually had her high school report card with her which she proudly shared with me.

In keeping with this, our lives are to be about continuous education. Jesus said "Follow Me". He was commanding us to let Him teach us - to learn and grow from His example. So what is it that we are learning about?

1. God - He wants us to learn more and more about His love, grace, patience, mercy, kindness, etc. every day.
2. Ourselves - He challenges us to look inside at the good and the bad. He wants us to discover our gifts and limitations - to use both as a blessing to others.
3. Others - God uses those around us to help us learn about ourselves. And vice versa. Sometimes it's much easier for a friend to recognize strengths and weaknesses you may be blind to. We need to be open to both hearing these from a friend and sharing these with a friend... whichever the case may be.

So as we fast this Wednesday, we are praying for our continuing education. We are praying that we spend regular time with our text book (the bible) and that we are regularly conversing with the Teacher (God) so that we continue to learn more about Him, ourselves, and those around us.

Have a great week and a great fast.
Your brother,

Tuesday, August 3, 2004

Seeing each other the way God sees us (8/3/04)

On one of my recent flights, I was seated next to a young woman with her 2 year old daughter on her lap. Being as I have a little guy at home who will soon be 2, it was easy to start up a conversation. It wasn't long before the young woman shared that she was entering her senior year of high school. She looked young to me but I was shocked to realize how young (I suppose I'm now officially old enough to not be able to tell how old young people are :). It quickly occurred to me that this girl became pregnant as a 9th grader. This particularly struck me because my oldest is entering 9th grade this year. At this point in a conversation, sometimes our non-verbal communication can say 100 times more than our words. A look of shock, a smile that fades, an appearance of discomfort, or even an obvious attempt to go on to some other topic. I don't think I did any of these but I very well may have. If I did, the girl did not let on that she noticed. We talked for quite some time (it's a long flight from Phoenix to Philadelphia). She talked freely about mistakes she had made in the past. She felt she was now on the right path with school and relationships. She had direction and purpose. She even proudly shared her report card with me and pointed out the bad times and turn-around that was recorded in her grade history. She pointed to some bad grades and said "I wasn't such a good kid back then".

I remember an old Bob Myers that might have immediately judged this girl upon finding out she was such a young mom. "Oh how awful that is…" "What a shame…" "You're one of those??...". In our smallness, we categorize, classify, and judge people to make it simple for ourselves (and perhaps to make ourselves feel bigger). The fact is, we are all so wonderfully complicated. The only one who really knows us through and through is Him. He knows me better than I know me. Yet He still loves me. He loves each of us so much that we can't even fathom His kind of love. He doesn't see us as the mistakes we've made - so why do we see each other that way. He sees us as the finished work that He is doing. We make mistakes and learn and grow in the process.

As we fast this Wednesday, let's pray that we try to look at each other the way God looks at each of us. As a wonderful work in progress.

Have a great week and a great fast.
Your brother,