Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Coaxed by The Coach

I watched the job "coach" who stood beside the developmentally challenged bagger he was working with the other day at the grocery store as he encouraged him to look ahead at the next order, think about what questions he needed to ask the customer and to picture what items he might sack together before they even reached his hands.

I thought about him again days later as I was training a new cashier at the same locale, standing beside her at the register to help her deal with any problems that might arise and to show her exactly what her employer expected her to do. The trainee quickly mastered all aspects of the position, but I found she was reluctant to ask customers a particular question that people sometimes react to negatively. When my frequent reminders failed to bring about the desired result, I took to asking the question myself, hoping that my example would coax her into the desired action when my words failed to do so.

A week later I was behind the register myself and in my trainee's shoes. Store management had asked us to give each customer the opportunity to donate to a health-related research foundation. I find it difficult to ask people for money, no matter how good the cause, and have really struggled in the past with making myself do so, sometimes just flatly ignoring the order completely. Again this time I was having difficulty when I suddenly pictured Jesus standing beside me in the spirit and encouraging me to obey my supervisor, not just for the sake of my job, but for the sake of the One I say I serve. My obedience to the former is an expression of my love for the latter. Surely that change in perspective should have been enough to likewise change my actions, but still I struggled. But the next time I failed to ask a customer about a donation, I pictured Jesus saying the words for me, much as I had done with my trainee the week before.

Willingly Jesus covers my mistakes and shows me in a positive and tender way how to do what's right and live the life of service and obedience that I was called to. I saw myself in the disciples' shoes when they were slow to learn their lessons on servant hood. Jesus simply took a basin and a towel and showed by His foot-washing example how they were to live.

That did it for me. My actions changed dramatically and I was rewarded by the look of surprise on my boss' face when I handed her a stack of completed donation forms at the end of the day. How grateful I am to the life coach who didn't limit His instructions to just words in His Book, but literally stepped into our world to physically show us the way.

"...obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men..."
(Ephesians 6:5-7 NIV)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

One-Third Free

Three American hikers who unwittingly crossed the Iranian border in July of 2009 were arrested and have been held captive ever since. Sarah Shroud, the lone woman in the group, was just recently freed after a ransom was paid for her release. Suspected of espionage, her companions are still being held and are told they will remain in captivity to stand trial for their alleged crimes. Sarah tells reporters that although she is no longer physically imprisoned, she is only 1/3 free, as long as the other 2/3 of her group are still in jail. She now spends her time working passionately to secure their release.

Christ paid the ransom for our release from bondage. As we celebrate our freedom, may we have this woman's compassion for those who are still held captive in their sins, working as diligently to secure their freedom, knowing the judgment they face unless mercy intervenes.

Perhaps we'd try a little harder if we likewise considered ourselves only as free as the ones who hike beside us on our journey through life. If we tied our own liberty to theirs, we wouldn't rest until we all were safely Home.

"...Fear not, for I have redeemed you [ransomed you by paying a price instead of leaving you captives]..."
(Isaiah 43:1 AMP)

Monday, October 11, 2010

I took my coffee out on the deck this morning and brushed fallen leaves off the plastic lawn chair I wanted to sit in. For some reason its position didn't seem right to me; whether it was too near the edge of the deck or too close to the grill and other chairs, I'm not sure...I just didn't feel comfortable. So I did a little rearranging to make space for it, and then pulled it a little more to the center of the deck area. I don't think I suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, but I surely acted like it this morning.

Perhaps God was just using the chair to illustrate the state of my spiritual life this morning and to give me some possible remedies for the situation. I feel a little out of sorts with Him today. I had a wonderful time spiritually last week and a great weekend, complete with a wonderful church service yesterday morning and a good evening at home last night. But today I feel strangely out of place, and maybe a little distant, uncomfortably crowded by the duties of the day already pressing in on my spirit.

So I did as God suggested, rearranging things a little bit. I pushed back the to-do list for a little while, and brushed off the worries that had accumulated overnight. And then I pulled myself a little closer in spiritually, much as I would do while sitting around a bonfire on a chilly night - pulling my chair in a little closer to the fire till I felt its warmth once more. I mentally rearranged the events of my day to give me a little extra time with Him.

I'm reminded that each day can be as colorful and vibrant as the changing autumn leaves on the trees, or as dry and dead as the fallen ones on my back deck. What I make of it is largely my choice.

"Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you..."
(James 4:8 MKJV)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

God and I play a game on cloudy days.

Sunbeams have always been a method of communication between the two of us, a visible picture of God's love, flowing down from Heaven into my life. Every time I see a sunbeam, I hear a loud "I love you" from God.

And so on overcast days, I look to the sky and see if I can flash the sign language symbol for those three little words out the window and voice the verbal version of the same before I see sunlight streaming through a break in the cloud cover. And then I look to see what He has to say in reply.

I beat Him today! As I pulled onto the highway, an interesting formation in the clouds reminded me that this would be a perfect day for our game. So I quickly expressed my love in the methods described above, beating Him to the punch. And then I watched for His response.

Funny, it didn't come in the clouds this morning. I got to church, parked the car and hurried into the building for worship practice. Truth be told, I forgot that I was even looking for a specific message from God.

But He didn't forget. An hour later I was standing on the front steps of the church, drinking a cup of coffee and welcoming visitors and regular attendees alike. And suddenly I saw it. Right in front of the building, a car stopped at the stop sign on the corner. And there, written on the front passenger window were the three little words, "I love you."

I couldn't believe it! My mouth dropped open and my heart stopped beating for a second or two, I was so surprised! And then I laughed at how bewildered the owner of the vehicle must've been, wondering what on earth he was doing driving down that particular road at 10:20 on a Sunday morning, unwittingly delivering a love letter from God to a believer on the front steps of that church!

You know, I never really beat God at our game. Oh, He lets me have momentary victories like today. But He told me He loved me some 2000 years ago when He sent His Son to die for me. I'll simply never catch up in the love department, and that's okay. While I'm normally a pretty competitive person, this is one game I'm grateful to lose!

"We love Him because He first loved us."
(1 John 4:19)
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