Friday, October 16, 2015

Paying it Forward

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"All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. ... There were no needy people among them.."
Acts 4:32, 34a
Sometimes parenting a child with unpredictable behaviors can feel... lonely.  The crowd that flocked to look at his cute, chubby cheeks has disappeared.  Now, 17 years later, I still notice their absence.   And I wonder who else notices... I have weeks of resentment.  Then, sometimes I wonder "if it feels this way for me, what about the parents on the periphery of community?  What about the ones who don't get to come to church at all (not the once every 6 weeks I might make it!), or who doesn't leave home unless their child is at school?"  My heart is gripped by their loneliness because it is mine.   
Maybe we can pay it forward, and start to build the tribe we need.
One dictionary says a community is a group of interdependent people. That means mutual give and take, people meeting each other's needs.  Exactly like the picture described in Acts 2 and Acts 4. "God's grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them." (Acts 4:33b - 34a). But how does this happen? Is it some miraculous working of the Holy Spirit that creates the community, like when God said "let there be …" in Genesis? Yes, and well, no.

Yes, the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives empowers us to lovingly serve each other (Gal 5:16-26). And no, it's not like magic. Paul encouraged the Galatians to allow the Holy Spirit to lead them. Jesus encourages us to let our light shine (Matt. 5:13-16). That means that we can NOT let our light shine.  We have to be intentional. 

What about being intentional in 3 ways this weekend?

1.    Notice people. Pay attention to the people around you. I notice all the parents who have
children with any kind of ... well, with anything.  I notice the cringe and embarrassment of socially inappropriate behavior, of loud behavior... I notice the life I live mirrored all around. me.  Notice. Make eye contact. Smile. Say hello! People are drawn to a genuine smile and crave connection, even if they don't show it. The more you notice, the easier it will be to …
2.    Create a genuine connection. We have more in common with people than we think. Conversations are easy when it's about our common interests, passions and concerns. And not just about the kids.  Where are they from? Do they have kids? Where do they work? The more common ground we recognize, the easier it is to …
3.    Meet one of their needs. No, don't go on a campaign to "save" people. But, maybe start with prayer.  I love it when people tell me they prayed for me.  And, if you stay with the areas you have in common, it's easy to offer suggestions and support that's been helpful to you. Offer that ride. Text them the name of a good plumber.  Text them just to say hello. 
Be the friend you want to have to another, maybe discouraged, tired, lonely parent.  You never know what may happen.  God could use you.

Lord, Even on the lonely days, in the lonely weeks, our children are your gift to us.  
They soften our hearts to you and to each other and help us learn the purity of your unconditional love.  
They also give us insights into other people's lives and help us to understand their pain in deep ways.
 I pray that our understanding will not go to waste. Give us your eyes to see others who could do with your touch from our hands.  Fill us with your courage to touch them, even when we feel like we are the ones in desperate need.
Amen.

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