Once when I was at my friend Ginger’s house, I saw she was making a small quilt. I was surprised because I know Ginger as a wonderful artist who paints in oils and other mediums. She makes quilts too! She told me they were prayer quilts that she donates to rest homes and other organizations. I hadn’t heard of prayer quilts before, but I asked: “When are you going to make me one? I want one with horses on it.” She laughed and said she would. That was months ago and I had about forgotten about it when she texted me from her Wyoming ranch asking what I needed prayers for. (She’s a horse woman and a real cowgirl too and she and her husband spend their summers working at their ranch.) She had finished the quilt and she and others there were planning to pray over it last Sunday. I told her I was going to be speaking at a women’s conference in California in a few months, and I would really appreciate their prayers. I hope I get my quilt in time to take it with me as a reminder of my thoughtful friend.
This week it’s, “Engage in random acts of kindness for strangers.” We’ve heard that matchstick suggestion before and it’s a good one. I do that every so often but not enough and I appreciate the reminder. Maybe you’ve heard of Jesus tips too. That’s when after a meal out you give your server an extra-large tip (in cash, if using a credit card) on top of your usual tip. And, you tell them it’s from Jesus; it’s a Jesus tip. I’ve done that a few times, and that can start a conversation. Not always, usually it’s just a surprised look, a big smile and a grateful thank you. But sometimes your gift peaks people’s curiosity and they want to know why you’re doing this. Doing random acts of kindness or giving Jesus tips are ways to show my appreciation for all the ways God has blessed me. The name “Jesus tip” is appropriate because God is so generous. It’s part of his godly nature. His blessings fall on everyone, even on those who don’t appreciate them or even believe in him. He is love! I want to be like him.
That’s all it said, Why? I saw it on a church sign out in the country near where I live. Why indeed, but which “why” does it mean? Why suffering and sin in the world? Why did my loved one have to die? Why doesn’t God always answer my prayers? Why me, Lord? Many are the “whys” in our lives and maybe that’s what the sign is pointing out. Here in Texas I’ve seen the sign “Jesus is the answer” tacked to telephone poles or fence posts. Maybe you’ve seen that sign too. On one I saw someone had added, “What’s the question?” Well, many times, as the church sign points out, the question is Why? And, the answer is Jesus. We won’t know why all the “whys” in this world. That’s why we look to Jesus in faith, that’s he wants the best for us, that he’s in control, that’s he’s got it all covered. Jesus is the answer–to all our Whys.
Hmm, “Write a note by hand and personally deliver it.” That’s the matchstick suggestion for this week. I’m of the old school that still writes out thank-you notes by hand, but no personal delivery is involved. Along with the postal system, I also text, email, FB and even indulge in a little Instagram at times. None of these communication systems involve personal face-to-face communication. That includes phones as well, though we can hear each other’s voices. I have used Skype and other face-to-face technology, but that’s still not being there with another person. This is not going to be a rant against the plethora of ways we have to communicate today. But when I’m challenged with writing a note by hand and personally delivering it, maybe I need to at least consider how often I actually connect face to face with my family, friends and neighbors. I like the new technology, maybe a little too much, but is it dividing more than strengthening our relationships. Something to think about.
Our friend Jerry was telling us about his bout last week with a calf he was herding into a chute for vaccination. He said he saw her shake her head at him, but thought nothing of it. Then the little heifer charged and butted him backward. Then, he said, she stood back and did it again! We all laughed, but I said: “You should sell that calf. She’s got a mean streak. And, she’s only going to get bigger and meaner.” I remember a cow my granddad had that would try to squeeze him in the barn door and then kick at him while he was milking her. Some cows are just born mean. You wonder if some people are born mean too. I don’t like to think so, although you do wonder. Of course, we’re all born needing Christ to clean up our lives, and not just that, but to go deeper and change our hearts.
I’m trying to figure this out. “Write down one thing you love about 5 different people.” Does that mean one thing they all have in common or one thing distinctive to each person? I’m going with the latter in this week’s matchstick suggestion. (I tend to want to use my children or grandchildren in this list and sons-in-law and daughters-in-law, but I might be a bit prejudiced. They are all exceptional!) Though I’m a single now, I have a friend who invites me to share in her and her husband’s activities several times a week. I have a neighbor who acts insulted if I don’t ask him for help when I need it. My pastor is Christ-centered and doesn’t mix politics and religion in his sermons. Our county librarian works tirelessly to update our library with the latest technology, creating many more services for people. An 85-year-old choir director writes music, teaches voice, performs at various functions and challenges us choir members with new, complicated choral music. These all have personal traits I love and admire. I like this week’s suggestion. It made me appreciate people’s fine qualities that I may have been taking for granted.
Did I say the right words to him? Did I treat her respectfully? Did I truly forgive them for how they treated me? Did I show enough love in that situation? When I’m praying, at times these questions dominate my thinking. Then Christ says, No, no, no! That’s not how it is. That’s not how it works. You are in me and I am in you. My yoke is easy and my burden is light. Through the Holy Spirit you are living your life in me. Trust me. He reminds me that my primary purpose in prayer is to deepen my relationship with him, my Savior, not focus on my own less-than-perfect performance as a Christian. Jesus says, love God and love your neighbor, and I’m here to help you do that. You’re already forgiven for not being perfect. Relax, come along beside me and watch me do the work. Listen carefully, is he saying that to you too?