Sunday, November 09, 2008

Christianity is not for sissies!

"Just 1", our current series at East Hills weekend services, has encouraged us to notice those around us and begin to pray for them, make points of connection with them and befriend them, and find ways to share the love of Jesus. One way we have done that in the last couple of weeks is to encourage each person to take the "One Minute Challenge". We are each encouraged to pray for one person at 1:00 for one minute. To help us remember we handed out bracelets with "ONE" printed on them. The following e-mail was sent to me by my friend Mary describing the interesting way this challenge is playing out in her life. I know you will enjoy reading it. ~Ann

Christianity Is NOT for Sissies!

During the months of September and October, I prayed, along with many others, for God to find my job for me; one “where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet,” to quote Frederick Buechner. He did exactly that. On October 31st, I began working with Young Life ministries as their Area Administrative Coordinator. I’ve been at work four days, feeling so much gratitude for the opportunity I’ve been given. We met for staff meeting on Wednesday, and began with prayer for one another. How different is that from my previous thirty years’ work experience?!?

But this story really begins with last Sunday’s challenge to take one of the blue “One” bracelets and commit to prayer every day for one minute at one o’clock for one person. As soon as the pastor explained the exercise, I asked God for whom I should pray. The Holy Spirit immediately whispered a name that took my breath away. It is someone I have despised and held in contempt. I’ve built almost twenty years of bitterness and resentment toward this person. They have hurt me in the past, and continue today to hurt people I love very much by their wounding words and actions.

They don’t know, or seem to want to know, the love of God through Jesus Christ. They have always rejected the idea as a “crutch” for “people who need that”. My daughter was sitting next to me in Saturday’s church service. I jokingly pretended to be having to force my hand to write down the name, holding my pen in my fist and practically tearing through the paper. She laughed when she saw the name I was writing, and put her hand over mine to “help” me finish writing.

At one o’clock the next afternoon, it wasn’t quite so funny. I had to begin by asking God to forgive me for my anger, bitterness, resentment and contempt for this person. It took more than one minute. I finally got to the prayer, “I know you love him, Lord. Please help me to see him the way You do. Without your Grace, I can’t pray for him without anger.”

On Tuesday morning I told my new boss about the experience, and asked him to pray for me, and for my “one person”. On Wednesday, the staff meeting I mentioned took place, and the other three staff members, familiar with their routine, shared from their hearts about their prayer need, and one of us prayed for them. Then, I shared this story, with the addition of the confirmation of Scripture I asked for and received that morning before work, during my time alone with the Father.

I had spent some time complaining to God that morning about how many times our family had prayed for this person, tried to show love to them, and been ill-treated by them. Finally, I surrendered my will once again, and asked Him to confirm that I had heard from the Holy Spirit about this assignment, and turned to my book of devotions to select a reading. The passage? 1 John 4:20-21. The Message Bible states: “If anyone boasts, ‘I love God,’ and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both.”

I confessed all this to my new cohorts at my new job, and asked for prayer to be able to forgive him, and for him to find Jesus precious to his heart through receiving His offer of salvation. They were kind and generous, and prayed with amazing insight, even mentioning in their prayers aspects of the circumstances I hadn’t mentioned in telling my story.

Today, I was knocked to my knees again. A letter in the mail from the pastor included a “Just-1” insert with a blank for filling in the person’s name that had been placed on my heart. I did that, not happily, but I did it. THEN I read Step 2! Invite that person to the December "It Would Take a Miracle" series at EHA! Well, my little efforts to get my heart right are like a small bird’s nest on a cliff edge being hammered by the wind and rain. I have to start all over again. It will take a miracle, and immeasurable amounts of God’s Grace, for me to have the courage and willingness to ask this person to come to this series. When I try to imagine them saying, “Yes,” it’s so unimaginable, I can’t get a picture of it in my mind. They don’t speak to me and I don’t speak to them. When we’re in each other’s presence by circumstance, we act as if the other person isn’t there.

God, help me.

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