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Posts Tagged ‘1 Peter 4:10-11’

Sometimes it’s the simple things, the things we can do so easily, that matter most to people, isn’t it? Sometimes it can mean so much to others, for example, when we actually pay attention to them, when we listen with our whole being, when we respect them as human beings created in God’s image.

I was reminded of this last week when I gave a talk in a secular club environment. I began as usual by engaging with those present and making sure everyone felt included. Several times during my talk, I asked for audience responses—and I also continued to ‘read the room’, checking that everyone still seemed interested and awake! Nothing I did seemed special or new to me—in fact, I thought this is what every speaker they invited would naturally do. After all, who wants to drone on to a bored audience for forty-five minutes?!

Imagine my surprise then when two lovely gentlemen sitting right down the front spoke to me afterwards.

‘That was wonderful—thank you so much! You seem to …’ one man said, groping for words to express himself.

‘Yes,’ the other man chimed in. ‘It was excellent. I like how you … well … connected with us. You’re very …’

At that point, I took pity on them.

‘Inclusive?’ I suggested.

‘Yes—that’s the word!’ they agreed, beaming.

I was stunned and felt almost teary at their sincere compliments. But later, as I drove home, I began to think more about their response. At our church, all our preachers speak in a warm, inclusive way. It is what I am used to hearing and seeing, week by week. And it is also how I have always tried to speak myself—it simply seems natural to me. Yet these men, along with others present, had found it somehow different and were touched.

As I realised this, I began to feel both sad and ashamed. I felt sad that these people somehow seem to have missed out on experiencing similar warm, inclusive input. And I felt ashamed that I had taken such warm experiences of my own for granted, along with my God-given ability to speak in an inclusive way.

After my talk that day, one of these two men also told me with tears in his eyes how he does not practise his faith anymore, although he still believes in God in his heart—and my own heart went out to him. What had happened in his life? Had no one truly listened or shared the things of God with him in a loving way? He bought one of my books—and I hope and pray God will speak to him as he reads it.

But I also hope that, from now on, I treasure my own warm experiences of being part of a church family so much more. And I hope I will be much more grateful too for my own God-given gifts that enable me to speak and connect warmly with others. God has graciously given us all so much—let’s always be ready and willing to share whatever gifts we have with others.

Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words … 1 Peter 4:10-11 The Message

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IMG_20180410_101220307One morning recently, I drove across town to speak at a women’s event. When I arrived, I saw at once how much work the organisers had done. Everything looked perfect—all the tables were beautifully decorated and there was a mound of food ready for the women to enjoy. Later, I was told one lady had made all those scrumptious delicacies herself—her labour of love and gift to others.

Then I noticed one table that looked a little out of place. It was piled high in a kind of haphazard way with balls of wool, ribbons, pieces of lace and containers of buttons of all shapes and sizes, plus a few other decorative odds and ends. Had the ladies organising everything forgotten about it?

After the meeting began, someone explained to everyone why that unusual table was there. This group has undertaken the project of knitting ‘mitts’—thick  hand warmers, sometimes called ‘twiddle mitts’ or ‘fidget muffs’ made of different textured yarns, with all sorts of beads, buttons, ribbons, lace and other interesting objects sewn onto them which dementia sufferers can ‘twiddle’. These mitts often help sufferers stay calm and overcome restlessness, which are common symptoms of dementia. They may also prevent some from pulling their clothes or scratching their skin and can help trigger memories too.

What a lovely idea, I thought—such a good way for ‘crafty’ people to use their gifts to benefit others! And such a good way to use up those odds and ends of wool, ribbons, lace and other bits and pieces too.

Then it was my turn to speak. At one stage, I showed a photo of my lovely ‘soul friend’ Joy and mentioned the fact that she now sadly suffers from dementia. The point I was making was just one among quite a few—but someone was listening carefully with a caring heart and came up to me later.

‘Please choose one of our knitted mitts for your “soul friend”,’ she said quietly. ‘We wouldIMG_20180422_173401196 love you to take one to her.’

I was touched by this lady’s thoughtfulness—not to mention the hours of knitting and sewing on of buttons, beads, ribbons and laces someone had spent making the lovely mitt I chose. What a wonderful treasure to be able to give my friend!

As I drove home, the following verses came to mind:

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 4:10-11

While I used what I believe is my God-given gift of speaking, others had served via baking, decorating the tables beautifully, making cards and gifts for each person attending and of course knitting those calming mitts. In short, we had each in our own way enjoyed the amazing privilege of being ‘faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms’, of enabling that grace to flow through us to others.

How wonderful to be involved in such labours of love and hopefully to bring God praise in the process!

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We live in a designated flood zone. Now we knew that before we bought our home twenty-seven years ago but quickly decided that was fine, since we couldn’t afford anything else near where we needed to be. Besides, the water from the creek over our back fence would never reach the house itself—we could see that.

Well, in all those years, it hasn’t. But it sure is exciting stuff to stand at our kitchen windows after a massive storm like the one we experienced last week and watch our puny, little creek become a raging torrent about four metres deep in the space of about half an hour. It’s even more exciting to watch this same torrent swirl round the high bank between us and our ‘upside’ neighbour’s home into the ‘bay’ provided by our terraced backyard! But when the waters subside, the real fun begins! Then, with no rear or side vehicle access to our backyard, we have to figure out how to get rid of the mass of debris left behind—big logs, bits of wood, sticks of all sizes, masses of dead grass, tennis balls, syringes, plastic drink bottles, an exercise ball, a car battery, a toilet seat lid and many other interesting odds and ends.

The day after this latest inundation, the doorbell rang. Who should be standing there but our son, complete with shovel, fork and rake, with our two granddaughters for moral support! Not long after, our youth minister arrived, along with three young henchmen from the church youth group—also complete with shovels, a rake, a wheelbarrow and other paraphernalia. All afternoon they toiled hard, wheeling barrows filled with debris up our steep backyard, round the house and onto our footpath. I felt so embarrassed at all the effort they were putting in on our behalf and hurried to get a decent afternoon tea together for them.

And then the cavalry arrived! I heard voices outside and opened our front door to find around fifteen more young people streaming into our yard. They were from a training program run by Churches of Christ in NSW and had been enjoying a quiet, retreat afternoon together—until their leader suggested it might be good to come and help us out. Imagine my even greater embarrassment then, as I watched these guys and girls, many with good clothes on, hauling wheelbarrows, carrying muddy sticks, picking up rubbish and getting very messy—all the while smiling and joking together!

Yet along with this embarrassment came great relief and also the realisation of how privileged we are to belong to the body of Christ and have these young people serve us in this way. To me, they epitomised some words from Scripture I had spoken on only recently:

Each one should use whatever gift he [she] has received, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. … If anyone serves, he [she] should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised, through Jesus Christ. 1 Pet 4:10–11.

Just as each one of us is called to receive God’s saving grace in our lives with humility, so I knew I needed to receive this beautiful gift of grace from these young people. And as an added bonus, how wonderful it was to be able to explain to our neighbours where these young people came from and to hear their comments that this was true community in action! As Peter wrote, may God be praised in all things!

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