Loving One Another

Posts tagged ‘grace’

End of Your Rope?


Rope_knot : rope fastened in knots

Do you need encouragement? Read John 5:1-18. It’s about a man who seemed to be “at the end of his rope.” He had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. For “a very long time,” he had been lying by a pool near Sheep Gate in Jerusalem. The pool was surrounded by “a great number of disabled people,” waiting for the water to be stirred. Scripture teaches that healing would come only to the first person who entered the pool after the water was stirred. When Jesus saw the man, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

For most of us, that question comes across as rather strange. “Well, duh! Why else would I be lying here?” would have been a rather disrespectful answer, don’t you think? A simple, “Yes,” would have sufficed. But the man replied, “Sir, I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

Some people might read that as whining. They might interpret the man as one who lacked creativity or tenacity or sufficient faith or courage. I have even heard pastors and Biblical teachers speculate that he might have made his paralysis a way of life, and was content to just be there, maybe begging for a living or thriving on the sympathy of others. But, I think this man was at the end of his rope, and Jesus saw his tenacity, appreciated his struggle, and His heart went out to the man. He did not chastise him for complaining that he had no help. He simply said, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”

The story tells me, when I am at the end of my rope, it’s OK to complain to Jesus. It’s OK to cry to Him when there is no one to help you.

Imagine your rope is stiff jute, hanging only halfway down from the ceiling. You’ve tied a secure knot and you’re hanging on, but you’re tired of the struggle. Your grip are getting weak. By faith, you DO want to be made well. You rely on Jesus. He changes the rope to a bungee cord and it stretches to the floor where you can get your feet on the ground again. Pick up your mat (or your rope) and walk.

That was today’s message for me. Hang on until by God’s grace, you CAN walk again – or you can compensate – you can rely on other attributes that multiply in you – and make life do-able again. Then – healed by faith, count your blessings, and go out to tell your story! Radiate God’s Hope so that others can keep on keepin’ on when they come to the end of their ropes.

Here are today’s sermon notes (message from Rev. Jean Johnson, adapted – interpreted – and rendered in poetic form through my filters):

How to Get Well

Are you at the end of your rope?
Do you really want to be healed?
What are you doing to create a knot
And hang on where the knot is sealed?

What Super Glue sealed the knot tight?
Your fingers grasp at the end of straws
Looking for what solutions dangle there –
Within reach of your grasping claws.

Are you responsible for catching the clues?
Is healing a matter of finding and grasping?
If we whine and passively hang without doing,
Is this the key to healing that’s lasting?

No, firmly clasping that knot you’ve made
Requires faith and strength and tenacity.
Ultimately, healing comes from God’s grace.
Our gratitude gives that rope elasticity!

That’s the Good News! Bounce on down!
Untie the knot and let go of the rope.
By God’s grace – His goodness alone –
Walk, healed by Faith, to radiate God’s Hope!

Do you need encouragement? Read John 5:1-18. Hang in there!

Begin Anew


It is finished, the finale, the end –
The point of it all is through.
When all is said and done,
We’ll see clearly – when we begin anew.

The end will arrive at last,
But life is not finished there.
God’s purpose is not a finality here.
He sent His Son for life everywhere.

He brought life to an empty world.
He brought love to a world of hate.
He promised us love for eternity.
The point of this world is in debate.

Some think this world is all there is.
We are born, we live, and we die.
When all is said and done,
We are buried and there we lie.

We live on this earth – a botched creation.
God didn’t intend all this hate and crime.
Injustice, cruelty and pain aren’t  God’s plan.
He sent Jesus to show us a loving time.

Easter is a prelude to God’s Kingdom promise.
We celebrate the Victory of God’s Lamb.
When my life is finished – at the finale, the end,
May the Lamb carry me on the promise of who I am.

I am not a top-of-the-class Christian.
I’m a sinner forgiven by grace.
There is no hope for this botched life,
Except by God’s Plan – I’ll see God face-to-face.

When all is said and done,
We’ll see clearly when we begin anew.
Plan for that Grand Finale, my friends.
When all’s said and done, I’ll see you!

Amen?

 

Make Work Play


This month’s copy of HealthMonitor Magazine had a special focus on Senior Health. In it, Diane Keaton shared some tips for aging gracefully. Make work play, the phrase she quoted from a former piano teacher, resonated with me. As I sit at the hospital reception desk, working my weekly volunteer shift, I realize, this is fun!

As I grow older, one of the benefits I am experiencing is that I get to choose how and when I “work.” It’s really all play, because it’s what I choose to do to use my time constructively. But, as I look back at my career in education, I remember feeling like each day in the classroom with my students also was play. I was doing what I loved! I think that’s one of the keys to living happy days, don’t you?

One of my colleagues, Jerry, seemed not only to always make each work day a play day, but his joy was infectious. I used to wonder if he got tired of laughing all the time, being the one that everyone looked to for funniness. Do you know people like that?  Here in my place of retirement I have a friend whose laugh is infectious the way Jerry’s was. She finds joy in living – joy in places others might find a reason to grumble. Being around her makes life fun, makes work play. Do you have the privilege of knowing someone like that?

Diane Keaton cited in her list of tips for aging gracefully a new study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry. She shared that researchers “found that people who had a strong sense of purpose in life experienced a 30% slower rate of mental decline compared to those who had less purpose.” Work that is joyful, work that makes us smile, work that is meaningful often seems more like play than a job. It adds purpose to our lives – and at the same time it infects those around us with the joy we radiate. So, when I retired, I didn’t stop working. I just found a different kind of work. Volunteer activities that use my skills, provide encouragement to others, and share the joy of living constitute work that’s play. They help me age gracefully.

Go to HealthMonitor.com and see the entire article. Look at Diane’s other tips. I love the fact that she embraces aging with vim and vigor. She says, “I love life!” I do, too. What tips might you add to her suggestions?

Increased LOVE, like FAITH, takes EFFORT


Yes, I want to be more kind, more loving, more at peace. Don’t we all? In my quiet meditation time this morning, I stumbled upon 2Peter 1:2-7 and the question that starts that scripture caught my heart. “Do you want more and more of God’s kindness and peace?” I was reading the Living Bible, paraphrased – a large print copy that used to belong to my father-in-law. Gratefully, I inherited it when he passed on to his eternal home. This passage was underlined. Grandpa had double-underlined the next sentence, “Then learn to know Him better and better.” Yes, that’s what my sanctuary time is all about each morning. Study God’s Word, and get to know Him better. What are some of the benefits? The rest of this passage spells it out – and I easily connected the idea of “increased faith” with the reality of “increased love.” But there is a long pathway that leads to increased love (which equates to more of God’s kindness and peace). It takes plain old good, hard work!

“For as you know Him better, He will give you, through His great power, everything you need for living a truly good life: He even shares His own glory and His own goodness with us!”

I have added the capitals to “Him.” The Bible doesn’t capitalize it. For me, the word requires a capital case letter when the him is not just any old him, but the One HIM, our Lord and Savior, God. So, when I share in His glory and goodness, it is special indeed! The scripture doesn’t stop there, though.

Verse 4- “And by that same mighty power, He has given us all the other rich and wonderful blessings He promised; for instance, the promise to save us from the lust and rottenness all around us, and to give us His own character.” Wow! What a promise!! How can I attain such blessings? Some would say it is totally by His grace. I don’t have to DO anything. Just because I BELIEVE I am His “chosen,” I will receive all these blessings. Well, not according to 2Peter 1: 5-7. Read on!

“BUT, to obtain these gifts, you need more than faith; you must also work hard to be good, and even that is not enough. For then you must learn to know God better and discover what He wants you to do.” (That’s always a trick to discern what He wants me to do!)

“Next, learn to put aside your own desires so that you will become patient and godly, gladly letting God have His way with you.” (I am reminded of my oldest grandson, Mikey. He’s now 20, but when he was barely able to pull himself up by his mother’s apron strings and stand knee-high next to her, he would tug on that apron as she warmed his bottle in hot water on the stove. Sure he was starving to death, he would cry, “Paaaay-shuns! Paaaay-shuns!” Ah, we long for it even as we are barely able to verbalize a sentence!)

“This will make possible the next step, which is for you to enjoy other people and to like them, and finally you will grow to love them deeply.”

Grow to love. Grow in faith. Work at it. Take the path that has “exercise stops” along the way. Exercise your goodness first – the goodness Christ has given you. Then stop to exercise wisdom – the knowledge we gain as we study God’s Word and practice being more and more like Christ. Next, exercise selflessness and self-control, the fruits that the Holy Spirit has planted in you. Practice patience and gentleness. Your next stop on the exercise trail is labeled “Gratitude.” It is there that you learn to be grateful for the gifts you have been given while you focus on the gifts in others. You see their goodness, compassion, and faithfulness as God sees them. Put on your Jesus glasses and appreciate all that is unique and wonderful about others. You see them as God’s creations. You have exercised enough now to love them. Love takes effort! It is a gift worth working for. Thank God, He has freely loved us long before we knew how to love Him back. But now we do! We are getting to know God better and better. Praise the Lord!

Yes, the bottom line is the key: Love One Another.

Amen?

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