Thursday, 4 April 2013

After Easter...

I'm in the middle of a study of Luke, with Good Morning Girls.  I'm finding it quite hard to 'go back in time' after the trauma and joys of Easter - but it's interesting rereading what Jesus was saying, too.

The challenge this week has been to show Jesus' love in action. I've been part of 40acts during Lent - wonderful inspiration for 'doing Lent generously' - but of course I am sure we all try to do this anyway.

Following Jesus has to be about giving up of self, putting others first: loving my neighbour. The parable in Luke 10 of The Good Samaritan. Going out of our way to love others.

I am praying for a prompt to do something 'unusual' - something I wouldn't normally think of or do. As Acts40 says: "There are opportunities to be generous all day long, if you keep your eyes open.... But sometimes when opportunity knocks, you’re just not prepared."

They talk about creating a 'Generosity kit' - a bag of useful items you could give away.   But my 'generosity kit' has to start with a generosity attitude - all too often I don't notice an opportunity until it is, quite simply, too late.  
And, to be brutally honest, I find it hard to do even the things which are right under my nose: loving those people who are part of the fabric of my life, being generous towards them.  
Having a more easy-going attitude: forgiving others easily, overlooking irritations and failings, being considerate: especially to my husband and colleagues, those nearest to me.
Responding with kindness, not anger - even if it is 'justifiable anger'. I need to remember there are always three sides to an argument: mine, theirs, and the way God sees it.  
Even when I DO notice I could do something to help someone else - whether usual or unusual - I find myself making excuses:
It's too much trouble.
I don't have time.
I'll have to go out of my way.
I can't be bothered.
They don't really need my help.
What will they think?
I shouldn't butt in on other people's business...  

So there I am, praying for extra generosity when I am not even able to do the basics.

And feeling guilty for it.

This week, I had the privilege of spending a couple of hours with Renee.
Renee is my closest righthereinreallife friend.
She befriended me when I arrived to live on this island 9 years ago.
She asked my family - before she had even met us - to lunch in her beautiful home.
She left a basket of a prepared meal and home baked treats
I can tell her anything and everything that is on my heart - she has heard as many confessions of my failures and shortcomings, perhaps more, even, than my husband.
We have shared more gospel stories - the joys and struggles of following in Jesus' foosteps - than I can remember.
She is warm chocolate sauce, hot fudge, freshly made lemonade, spiced wine, green curry.
Our friendship has been characterized by smiles and giggles - often naughty.
She is thirty years older than I am - but that has never made any difference.

Until now.
Renee has now become very elderly and frail, to the extent that, after several falls and needing 24 hour care, she now lives in a residential home. I still chat, but she doesn't respond in quite the same way any more.
Her memory is flaky.
I am wary about tiring her out with my ramblings.
Let alone that she now uses a wheelchair full time, her body causes her more distress than I am aware of.

This has, I am embarrassed to admit, been something of a barrier to my visits (apart from the logistical ones of a busy working life).
With memories of my mother's difficult personality and increasing (but undiagnosed) dementia in the last decade of her life, I am afraid that our conversation will become difficult.
I am afraid of the distress I will feel when she cannot follow or contribute to a discussion.
I am afraid that I will not be able to ask her questions about her family - because she won't remember what they are doing.
I am afraid I will not be able to cope with her physical needs.

I am unwilling to be generous.

This post started off as a reflection on MY generosity and what I could do.

Ugh. I am grateful that God has reminded me about the loving generosity of a dear dear friend.
I am grateful that this week, while enjoying the break from school, I have gone over to see Renee. I took her out to her favourite beach. We sat inside the car, in bright sunshine but safe from the cold blustery winds, drinking tea and gazing at the waves breaking on the rocks. And we talked. The time went all too quickly, but I still carry the sweet memories of being blessed by her presence.

And I did do something else out of my comfort zone. I invited a family I don't know very well to tea, in celebration of the children's recent exam success - achieving scholarships to secondary school. It was good. It was fun. It felt, at times, awkward. But I'm glad I did it.

So, how did I do it? How did I stir myself out of selfishness?

It wasn't easy. Partly, it was sheer determination. I KNEW I needed to do these things. I made myself pick up the phone, send the text. I took myself by the scruff of the neck and hauled my unwilling body out of the door.
But I couldn't do it just in my own strength.
The key, of course, is Jesus: When I truly do keep my perspective on him, my selfishness decreases somewhat and I "do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above myself, not looking to my own interests but the interests of the others." (Philippians 2:2-4, NIV)

I can do this because I begin to "Think of myself the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion." (Philippians 2:5 - 8 The Message) Or, more briefly, in Hebrews 12:1-3: "let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

What next, Lord?

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