Standing With Her in the Rain

standingaloneintherain1

“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.”

Galatians 6:2, NLT

By Lisa Schubert, Guest Author

Samantha issued commands to the person on the other end of the line. When she hung up, the rant continued against our church, our staff, the weather, and this meal that would serve as her Thanksgiving dinner. I had to let her go mid-rant, but not before reminding her that I would keep her in my prayers.

Samantha approached me outside the church on Thanksgiving morning with her hair disheveled and her coat covered with dirt smudges and raindrops. She demanded to borrow my cell phone to find if the Thanksgiving dinner she had requested from a charitable organization would be ready for pick-up in an hour. I was in a hurry. I needed to be inside preparing to lead worship. I begrudgingly let her borrow my phone, but I insisted on dialing the number myself and standing with her in the gentle rain.

Cross-in-the-Rain-

My encounters with Samantha have continued over the past few months. She’s almost always confused, angry, and paranoid. She tells stories about growing up with another member of our staff, who never met her until recently. It’s hard to know how to respond to Samantha.

A friend called me recently to ask if our church had any resources for helping congregations to welcome those who struggle with mental illness. I pointed her in a few directions, including the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) at www.nami.org. Even as I offered her the information, I felt uneasy. Connecting with those who have mental illnesses is a complex, difficult journey.

It was raining again on Monday when I saw Samantha. She was sitting in the front lobby of the church. She shouted at me as I walked out the door, “Be careful out there! Two guys tried to kidnap me, and I wouldn’t want that to happen to you.” Unwilling to believe her, I replied, “Samantha, I’m sorry you had a rough morning. I’ll be thinking of you. Hope your day gets better.” I continued out the church doors and opened my umbrella.

I later discovered that Samantha was mugged that morning. Thankfully, the police believed her while I had blown her off. They arrested the alleged perpetrators that afternoon.

I’m embarrassed by my lack of gentleness and compassion toward Samantha, and I know I’m not alone. I wonder what it means for the Church to embrace, accept and listen to those who have mental illnesses. I wonder how church leaders like myself can grow and help others to deepen their care for people like Samantha.

There are no simple answers, but I think the answer starts in a simple place:

We stand with them in the rain.

Lisa Schubert is Associate Pastor of Discipleship and Formation of North United Methodist Church, Indianapolis.

Love as an Action Verb

When I first started writing this post in my head, before I had posted it on my blog, Linda Kruschke’s Blog, back in 2009, in my head the title was “Love Is an Action Verb.” But as I thought more about it I realized there is more than one kind of love, and that love AS as an action verb was just one – and in my opinion the best – form of love.

Four Kinds of Love

In our impoverished English language, we use the word love in many different ways. I love my spouse, I love my dog, I love chocolate, I love my new shoes, I loved that movie I watched last night, and I love God. Surely we don’t have the same feelings about all of these things, yet we use the same word. In the parts of the Bible that were originally written in Greek, there are four different Greek words that we translate as love:

  • Storge – refers to the love that is felt between family members and close relatives.
  • Philia – refers to the love that is between friends.
  • Eros – refers to deep emotion or passion that is felt between lovers and spouses.
  • Agape – refers to the kind of love that God has for us and is what I mean by love as an action verb.

Agape is a kind of love that is about giving, not about getting. God showed us what agape is by His incarnation as Jesus Christ and by His death on the cross to pay for our sins. Agape is not just a feeling, it is what God is. He acts towards us in the way that He does not because of how He feels about us, but because of who He is; because He chooses to love us with agape love.

Agape is a type of love that we can, if we choose, combine with any one of the other three kinds of love. We can go beyond how we feel about others and truly love them in the way that God loves us. C.S. Lewis put it this way in his wonderful book Mere Christianity:

“The rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste time bothering whether you love your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find out one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.”

Agape and Philia

A couple of years ago, I went to the beach with some old friends and had an opportunity to practice agape with someone towards whom I feel philia. Before I left home for the weekend, I received an email from one of my friends saying it would be really great if the house we were renting was all warmed up, with the water turned on and 7-layer bars baking in the oven, when they arrived. These friends had a much longer drive than I did, and she knew I would arrive at the house several hours before they did.

I can tell you that I did not feel like driving by myself at night in the pouring rain to Cannon Beach, I did not feel like hunting around outside in the wind and rain for the water valve to turn on the water, and I really did not feel like baking cookies in the gas oven in a kitchen I am unfamiliar with. But I chose to do all of those things anyway because I love my friends and wanted to make them happy. I combined the philia I felt with agape I have learned from God and received blessings in return.

Agape and Eros

In our society today a high percentage of marriages end in divorce. Often the reason cited is that one spouse doesn’t love the other anymore; that feeling they had when they met is gone. The type of love that can disappear in a relationship is eros.

Now eros is important for couples to be attracted to each other and get married, but it cannot, by itself, sustain a lifelong commitment. To create a lasting marriage, a couple must combine eros with agape. Each spouse must act as if they love the other even when they don’t feel like it or are angry or annoyed by the other spouse. A simple text to say “I love you,” a special dinner that your spouse likes, doing housework to lighten the other’s load, a hug and a kiss at the beginning and end of each day – all of these actions are examples of agape.

Who do you need to love (agape) today?

Each day we need to make a conscious effort to incorporate agape love into our interactions with those around us. Who is God calling you to love today? Don’t feel like it? As Nike would say, “Just do it.” After all, love as an action verb can be a blessing to others that is returned to you in an even greater measure than you give.

 

The Good Shepherd’s Oil

Post by Heart Prints

I have to admit, I always wondered what this part of Psalm 23 meant. I thought “He anoints my head with oil” was figurative language for God keeping the Psalmist healthy. I never knew this parallel.

“You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.”

Psalm 23:5, ESV

“Sheep can get their head caught in briers and die trying to get untangled. There are horrid little flies that like to torment sheep by laying eggs in their nostrils which turn into worms and drive the sheep to beat their head against a rock, sometimes to death. Their ears and eyes are also susceptible to tormenting insects.”

So the shepherd anoints their whole head with oil.

“Then there is peace. That oil forms a barrier of protection against the evil that tries to destroy the sheep. Do you have times of mental torment? Do the worrisome thoughts invade your mind over and over? Do you beat your head against a wall trying to stop them? Have you ever asked God to anoint your head with oil?”

He has an endless supply!

His oil protects and makes it possible for you to fix your heart, mind, and eyes on Him today and always! There is peace in the valley! May our good good Father anoint your head with oil today so that your cup overflows with blessings! God is good and He is faithful!!”

Posted by Heart Prints

“But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.”

1 John 2:20

Oh How He Loves You!

Our Salvation Is Quite Sure

My favorite of all the apostles is John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” I love his Gospel, the three epistles that he wrote, and of course,  Revelation.

There are a couple of things I love about John’s writings:

  1. He reminds his readers that he was an eyewitness to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
  2. He clearly sets out the evidence for Jesus’ divinity.
  3. He focuses, particularly in the epistles, on the love of God.
  4. He reveals the power and purpose of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers.
  5. He provides believers with an assurance of salvation.

It is this last point that I want to write about today. Early in the history of the Christian faith, deceivers had come into the church who taught that one had to achieve sinless perfection to be saved. John wrote his first epistle to combat this heresy. The same type of heresy has crept into many legalistic denominations even today. By outwardly following the rules, such people claim to be without sin. But as John writes:

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

1 John 1:8-10 (NIV).

John here provides assurance that the fact that the believer sometimes sins does not negate their salvation, because Jesus is faithful and forgives our sin. One of the definitions of assurance on Dictionary.com is “full confidence; freedom from doubt; certainty.” Throughout this epistle, John provides further assurance that those who trust in Jesus can be assured of their salvation even though they are not sinless and perfect.

The word “know” appears 42 times in this short epistle because John wants to make sure believers know that God loves them and that they can rely on His promise of salvation. In each of the chapters of the epistle, John includes his assurance:

I am writing to you, dear children,
   because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.
I am writing to you, fathers,
   because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
   because you have overcome the evil one.

1 John 2:12-13 (NIV).

“Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.”

1 John 3:21-24 (NIV).

“If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.”

1 John 4:15-16 (NIV).

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”

1 John 5:13-14 (NIV).

None of us is perfect and completely sinless. If we were, we would not need a Savior. But we do need Him, and we thrive best knowing that He is faithful in His promise of salvation for those who believe.

John does not advocate living a life in which we sin ‘willy-nilly’ simply because we know we can be forgiven.

Now don’t get me wrong. Those who truly believe in Jesus, and trust in Him for salvation, will desire to keep God’s commands. His Spirit living in our hearts will help us to overcome the temptations of the world and to love as He has commanded.

You may be struggling today with worries that you are not good enough, or that God will give up on you and you will lose your salvation. But remember – God is faithful in His promises and He has promised eternal life to all who believe in Jesus and allow His love to live in them. He has not hidden the truth from us but has made Himself known through His Son and the witness of the apostles so that we can be assured of our place in His Kingdom. Your salvation is sure.

aasignLinda

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