July 27, 2015

The Hand of Hospitality

"Our first Ebola patient looked up at me weakly as I knelt next to her bed of blankets...."
"Dressed in full protective gear, I offered the young woman my right hand protected by two surgical gloves. She grabbed hold. 'Felicia, my name is Dr. Brantly,' I said. 'This is David. He's one of our nurses." David greeted her. 'We are going to take good care of you here,' I assured Felicia."

I was on page one of Called for Life the newly released book of Kent and Amber Brantly and I was already being challenged.

I have always LOVED reading accounts of missionaries and spiritual greats. I have read and re-read Hearts on Fire, the Autobiography of George Muller and The Simple Path by Mother Teresa. From my couch with my cup of coffee I can be jolted through words on a page to look beyond myself and my world.

We have inspiring biblical accounts of Paul and his missionary journeys, Ruth and Naomi setting out together, and Abraham leaving his homeland just to name a few. All of these stories teach me great truths about the faithfulness of God and what great things He can accomplish through people who will walk in the path He has set for them. I love these stories. They have stood the test of time, thousands of years and they are still riveting.

However, through modern day accounts of people who have let God have His way with them we can also be inspired. Modern day accounts of God showing us He is alive and active though his people, here and now, builds my faith in exponential ways.

The Holy Spirit will ask me the question when I set down a book like Called for Life once I have turned the last page. So what? Are you going to let this book change you in some way or are you going to stay the same?

I have had several days to think about what my take away would be. I am not a missionary doctor, my vocation is not one of working in a church. How does one translate holding out a hand to an Ebola patient in Liberia to living and working in Abilene, Tx? I think what I love so much about the account of Felicia is that Kent probably knew that he could not take away her Ebola. He knew that she would continue to become more sick each day. His job would be to help her medically how he could, but equally (or more) importantly was to let her know that she was not alone. The team at ELWA would walk it out with her. They would offer her dignity and assurance through her illness. This love that Kent and the team at ELWA would offer would be a supernatural love that comes from being a vessel of Jesus.

In scripture, just like the Good Samaritan stopped when the others had passed the beaten and broken man, maybe I can stop more often, too. It might not be convenient, but it probably wasn't convenient to move across the world to be a hand to hold for Felicia as she was dying. We can pray for God to bring people into our lives that could use a hand. We might not be able to fix or heal them, but we can walk beside.

There are worse things than struggling through life,... struggling alone. I cried the hardest when reading Called for Life when I read about the times Kent was alone as he was getting sicker and sicker. A friend or helping hand brings comfort even in the darkest of times. God was certainly with Kent, but he needed a physical presence in the room with him, too.

There are times that I have been able to walk along with others and just a physical presence has eased their pain. Many times other people have been that for me. God does not ever let that desire subside, He has lots for us to do. He has so much love to share and to be the vessel that the love flows through to others is such a gift. In the words of Samuel..."Here I am, Lord,.... I am listening...send me."

To sum up where I think God is tapping on my shoulder is to simply live a life of hospitality. What that means to me is welcoming others. Holding a hand out like Kent held his hand out. Offering a smile and kindness when there might be some discomfort for me, making others feel welcome and not judged or as though they have some sort of standard to live up to. Just being a friend.

July 01, 2015

Could I Be a Person of Peace?

It seems like our world has gotten really noisy this last week, month, year... This last week especially I have avoided television, lightly skimmed Facebook to be able to look past all the political and moral condemnations, but still trying to keep up with friends and family. I have prayed for a heart centered on God and His greatness to keep me from swaying to and fro with the loudness of other voices. Voices on social media are so loud, even though I can't physically hear them, it seems as though they are screaming for or against a cause with deafening clarity and force.

The entity of politics has a gift of taking the faces, emotions, life circumstances, heartbreak... and turning it into a faceless mass that is easy to condemn. There is a book I was required to read in my Christianity in Culture class with Dr. Jerry Taylor. It was written by a man in politics that spoke to the way that the political machine plans carefully how it wants to swing it's followers. (I wish I could remember the name and author of the book). Since then I have made myself be more aware to the stories that I latch on to. If I hear a news story that starts up my adrenaline I will take a step back and try my best to think through what the agenda is of the story teller.

A couple of questions I ask myself before hopping on a cause:

1. Does this cause line up with the message of Jesus?
2. Does this cause bring people to Jesus and exhibit the love, mercy and grace that He so freely offers?
3. Is there a possibility that I haven't humbled myself to see all aspects of the cause? Have I tried my best to put myself in other's shoes?
4. Am I spinning my wheels...wasting emotional energy when I could be doing something more effective?
5. Do my words encourage people to be their best and helping them see themselves through the eyes of Jesus? Or would they be condemning?
6. The world is so noisy... could I just be a person of peace and hold the hands of those around me, letting Jesus do His work of inviting people to be closer to Him?

Words of condemnation never bring people closer to Christ. It is through the fruits of the Spirit that we can be His people, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control that we can be used by Jesus.

I look back to my former self that was a follower of politics (many years ago) and it was through the conviction of the Holy Spirit that I saw that it many times brought bitterness, anger, judgmental-ness, fear, condemnation. I was convicted to step out of the noise. I have tried my best to become a listener and prayer, not a talker when it comes to political/moral causes. The times I am a talker...I almost always regret it.

Maybe it is just me but it seems like the entity of politics has a great way of separating us from our neighbor...