marialing

Archive for December, 2010|Monthly archive page

A big fat cheque/check. Not.

In Uncategorized on December 8, 2010 at 9:55 pm

In my experience, God doesn’t drop a big fat cheque in my lap although I envision it.  The only times fat cheques have fallen onto my lap were times I asked friends and not God.  I didn’t even ask God if it was okay.  I observed my situation and circumstances and figured out how God could provide for me – especially when I was living in NJ and serving as a pastor on a 1/4 time salary with no medical insurance.  One could say, God still dropped the cheques because God provided through my friends.  But it was like I took things into my own hands and helped God provide for my family and me, MY way.

My first “real” experience of God’s provision in these last 10 years was not a big fat cheque but a position in a local church.  The money was insufficient, the accommodation was interesting, the lessons and experience gained – priceless.  I was the lone pastor of a rural church but not alone in loving and caring for church members and those in our community.  The church had a small membership but those who participated in ministry loved hard and loved long.  As their former pastor, I still feel the impact of their love and ministry.

Now I feel awkward about asking for fat cheques.  Asking God is one thing.  But I will not ask my friends and I have not let some friends who have asked, to send me a cheque.  A part of me wants to be like those missionaries who will NOT make their needs known except to God and then watch how God undertakes for them and comes through in wondrous ways to meet ALL their needs.  Then I observe some of my friends in ministry and watch how they talk confidently (shamelessly?) of their needs/wants to those who will listen.  And I catch myself sometimes talking like that because it seems the focus is all on me and not on the ministry of God.

There are some I can make my needs known to and not so that they will be the first to respond financially but the first to respond in prayer to God and encouragement of my lagging spirit.  It is also one thing to be the one chosen to meet another’s need (honour, privilege, humility but maybe also power over) but another to be in need of another’s help and assistance.  Why does it seem some find it so hard to be recipients?  Why does it seem that some givers are so cynical?  I heard on radio that a lady prefers to give to an organisation because it would be a better way to disseminate funds to those who really need it – there is a system of checks and balances.  I know friends will feed a hungry person but not give $5 because of the likelihood of the person spending it on booze or betting.  Yes, that is wise.  But it is also the choice of a person with power to control what the other person receives because we obviously do not want to see our $5 being wasted.  We want to control how the other uses what we give.

I remember giving a lovely handwoven dress (to my perspective) to a friend.  She received it and said, “So nice!  I can wear for sleeping.”  Wow!  I had to bite my tongue.  It was a formal dress.  I was tempted to say, “No, cannot.”  But that moment I learnt an important lesson – a gift given SHOULD be given freely with no conditions.  Whether my friend gives it away, wears it as a nightie or hides it in a bag for Goodwill or Salvation Army – it is her right to do whatever she wants to do with what is hers.  More recently, I gave a thermos coffee travel mug to a friend.  It was a mug with “bling” and other people had seen it and had wanted it.  But I liked it and wanted to keep it.  But with our inter-continental move, I gave it away at the last minute to a friend.  One evening at dinner she hosted for us, I noticed the mug.  She was using it alright.  It was a pencil holder.  Wow!  I had to bite my tongue.  I gave it to her.  It is hers to do with it as she sees fit.

Then why do I feel a twinge of guilt when some of the money some people have given me (love gifts we call them) gets used to treat myself?  Why do I think I am unworthy?  Why do I think it should only be used to pay bills and buy food for the family?  Well, I have heard people say things like “people on welfare shouldn’t be given money for vacations.”  I am not saying I am on welfare and I am not saying I want a vacation (well, just not right now!) but who are we to determine what other people need once their basic needs are met?

Either way, the more I write and figure things out, it seems that it boils down to someone being in a position of power and another being in a subordinate position.  The one with the power wants to call the shots.  The one with the need has to “prove” worthy.

Let’s not do this to each other – even if the world is filled with people who will take advantage of charity, handouts and welfare cheques and food stamps.  Having been on the receiving end of WIC cheques (Women, Infants and Children) even while serving as a pastor, I can tell you that it is humbling to acknowledge one needs the help and support of organisations like NORWESCAP (NJ).  Even the help of friends who are willing to answer a cry for help.

I like big fat cheques.  I think I prefer, though, to be loved and cared for the same way I have been called many, many years ago to love and care for God’s people.  I hear God’s call reverberating in my ear from the 1970s into the 2010s.

I have to relinquish power when I love and care for others.  I have to relinquish power to allow another to love and care for me.

So help me, Lord, to accept whatever means You use to provide for me.  Let me not be ashamed, let me not be too proud.  Let me know You are my Manna in the Desert.  You are my Quail in the Dry Land.  You are my Well of Living Water.

You died for me without asking what I would do for You or accepting You.  You just gave Your life for me before I could even respond to you.

Let me be Your Light.

The Christian Life, The Solitary Life

In Uncategorized on December 3, 2010 at 6:53 pm

I get the impression that many Christians are living solitary Christian lives.  I do also see many Christians living in communion with others in the pilgrim journey.  The Christian life is NOT a solitary life.  There are periods of solitude to be sought and practised in the spiritual life.  There are many who are monastics and who, depending on their vows, practise solitude for varying amount of times over the course of their whole lives.

But what about the majority of us who name ourselves Christians or believers in or followers of Jesus Christ?  We face life’s events, experiences, challenges and find ways of dealing with them – whether learning from them, avoiding them, moving on from having gone through them.  But for those painful or challenging events we sometimes find hard to reveal to others for whatever reason, we need to learn to take the risk discerningly and share it with someone in the communion of saints.  We cannot walk alone, we must not isolate ourselves.  We need to purposefully form community of faith and practice.  We need to learn to “Bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2) from “1 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. 4 Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, 5 for each one should carry their own load. 6 Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.”  Galatians 6:1-6 (NIV)

 

There are many passages I can look up and share now but speaking from my personal experience, I just need to say, “You cannot be a solitary Christian.”  One must not do it alone.  Christianity is a community-based faith and that community cannot become ghettoized either.  The Body of Christ embraces and includes, not closes the circle and shuts out – it should not.  Where Christ reigns, true compassion and hospitality are present, even among fallible, broken, self-centered Christians.

Solitude yes,  Solitary Life, no!

Open your arms and fall into the arms of the Body of Christ.