Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles, and refuse to let the world corrupt us.” (James 1:27 NLT)
We’ve had a lot going on this month. Our church made its monthly visit to the elderly and infirmed at a neighboring nursing home, serving them cake and ice cream, and in a few cases actually feeding those who couldn’t feed themselves (which gives one a whole new perspective on Jesus saying, “For I was hungry and you fed me.” Matthew 25:35 NLT) A few of our talented members played the guitar, sang lively hymns and all of us belted out “Happy Birthday to You” to those celebrating a birthday this month. For the last couple of weeks we also prepared for and hosted more than 30 homeless folks, including almost a dozen babies ages 2 years-old and younger as part of a city-wide church partnership called CARITAS (Churches Around Richmond Involved To Assure Shelter). We cleared out every available Sunday school class to make room for the small bed mats where our guests would sleep each night. Our volunteers arose each morning around 5:00 AM to serve breakfast and pack the lunches that had been prepared the night before by another set of wonderful volunteers. Each evening more volunteers would serve a delicious dinner. After dinner, the real fun began as those precious babies would need to be held. Of course the one time I tried to pitch in, one of the babies peed on me, and just smiled. Others played games & led activities for the children. This allowed the moms to take a quick shower or do their laundry or just smoke a cigarette outside, alone. (All of a sudden I found myself a little less critical of smokers and thought, “Yeah, I get it.”)
During all the serving and being served, our volunteer coordinators, church secretary, and I sent out and received a lot of communication: updates, social media posts and requests for supplies, donations and especially more volunteers. For the most part people stepped up and in the end God, as He always seems to do, blessed this ministry initiative with bounty from the meager proverbial fishes and loaves we (as a small church) have, from food to helping hands.
A few responses, which probably says more about me, than those who responded, just rubbed me the wrong way. Two of my many philosophies are “When you have a “great idea,” be willing to help facilitate it.” And, “If you see a problem, also identify a possible solution that you’re willing to help implement.”
I received some “great ideas,” and unsolicited coaching, and of course promises to pray for our efforts (something we Christians sometimes do when we really don’t have an excuse not to help, but it sounds more righteous than, “No, I don’t want to do that.”) I did what I often do when I’m “rubbed the wrong way.” I stewed over it a while and then complained to God during my “not so” quiet time. God knows what I’m thinking and I’ve been a Christian long enough to know that I can’t hide my thoughts from the Almighty, so I just whined that “I needed those folks, who were able, to do more than just pray.” “Lord,” I complained, “Please send your Holy Spirit to convict those who flippantly promise to pray, to actually do something.” And so He did. He convicted me – the worst of offenders.
A few weeks earlier, I had sent a young widow a quick note on the anniversary that she tragically lost her husband. “I’m praying for you” I said, and I actually prayed for her. I guess, perhaps at least subconsciously, I was thinking , perhaps hoping, that would be enough, but when I opened my big mouth to God, complaining that I needed folks to do more than “just” pray, He opened His big heart and convicted me to do more.
I reached out again and asked what I could do to serve her, and obviously God knew she was struggling with several things that her husband would have taken care of, had he still been alive. I guess Jesus told His half-brother James to tell me and every other able bodied Christian, “Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles, and refuse to let the world corrupt us.” (James 1:27 NLT) I guess I had let my selfishness and self righteous indignation corrupt me, and once again, as He always seems to do, God provided the solution – a reluctant me and those He calls to be His hands, His feet, His voice, and His heart. I suspect He’s calling you as well, to do something. God bless.