Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Week 3 "Called to Love as God Loves - Unconditionally!"

"Why are you trying to do all this alone?..."This is not good!" his father-in-law exclaimed. "You're going to wear yourself out-and the people, too.  This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself.... They will help you carry the load, making the task easier for you.  If you follow this advice, and if God directs you to do so, then you will be able to endure the pressures, and all these people will go home in peace."  Exodus 18: 14b, 17, 22b-23

Our final week in this series is called "Supporting one another".  What a wonderful way to wrap up this study of learning to love as God loves. 

Have you ever taken on a task, job, project, or life-stage alone?  Take a minute to really recall that time and your mental, physical & emotional state during and afterwards.  How did it work out for you? 

In this lesson we look at how Moses was trying to be teacher, leader, jury & judge for all of the Israelites.  I am often that for my three children and I find it tiring - I can't imagine doing it for an entire nation!  He must have been exhausted and not had much time for his family or himself.  Thank goodness God sent him some wise advice through his father-in-law, Jethro.  Wise advice not only for Moses, but for all of us. 

As you read 'empowering others' and 'biblical reflection' based on Exodus 18: 13-26 think about all the different areas of your life where Jethro's advice would be helpful.  I'm sure you've heard the saying, "if you want something done right, do it yourself".  I tried this and found it counter productive to the way I want to live my life - with some time to do something other than housework!  And while things aren't always done 'my way', at least they are done and I can do something else.  Don't get me wrong, there are some things that I insist on doing myself, like folding laundry even though my finger is jammed and in much pain!  But, choosing a few things to 'do myself' is better than trying to do it ALL!  There just aren't enough hours in the day! 

We are called to live in community, and when we do this we need to offer support to each other.  Creating an environment where we empower, rather than undercut, one another is part of loving our neighbor and ourselves (have you ever realized you sabotaged yourself? I have!).  As you read the passages in 'for further reflection' you will find several people who were embraced in an empowering environment.  Consider the varied ways this environment was created.  We are all individuals and require different styles of encouragement & support.  And offer it in our own unique way, too.

This final lesson offers lots of food for thought as we bring to a close our Spring Bible study session.  Thank you for joining me over the last 5 months of growing closer to who we are in Christ.  Supporting one another and loving as God loves brings together all we have revealed over this time together.  Although this Friday is our last in-person meeting of the Spring, I will continue to post over the summer months.  I hope you will engage in a conversation, in person and via this blog, to keep the community we have created alive & vibrant!   I plan to revisit the two books we have read, "It's No Secret" and "My One Word", so keep them handy.  Keep your One Word in front of you and share how you are doing with it.  I am going to ask, you know!  I can't wait to hear (read) how your word is having an impact on your life.

Your Partner in Ministry,
Shelly (honey)

"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Week 2 of "Called to Love as God Loves"

"Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  You must make allowance for each other's faults and forgive the person who offends you.  Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.  And the most important piece of clothing you must wear is love.  Love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts.  For as members of one body you are all called to live in peace.  And always be thankful."  Colossians 3:12-15

This week's lesson is subtitled "Loving my Neighbor".  If you ask a small child who her neighbor is, she'll probably tell you 'the people who live next door', she might include the family across the street, and maybe even those who live in her entire neighborhood.  But rarely does it include 'the whole world' unless she's been specifically taught that idea.

As adults we recognize that "neighbor" includes anyone who is not considered family or close friend, though it includes them,too.  And if we thought last week's message of loving ourselves was difficult (it is), loving our neighbor, may be just as tough.  I'm not just talking about the "group" at church, the nice lady in the neighborhood who bakes delicious cookies, the hungry, the homeless, or the names on the Christmas Giving-tree.  I'm also referring to the co-worker who gets on your nerves, that woman on the PTA who thinks she has all the best ideas, the guy in church who is always asking "how are we gonna pay for that?", and that kid down the street who plays his music WAY too loud.  Yep, they are our neighbors, too.  And Jesus commands us to, "love your neighbor as yourself".

Once again, the author approaches this by looking through the lens of spiritual gifts.  Even if we don't know what our own spiritual gift is, we recognize that everyone has different gifts and uses them differently.  It is this God-created diversity that we will discuss in the lesson.

Diversity can cause strife, but that is not what God intended.  God created diversity for a reason.  Spend time in the scripture exploring God's creation and then do your best to answer questions 1-3.  Continue with all the questions, up to #10 and the summary statement.  Question #9 refers to the passage quoted at the beginning of the blog.  In it Paul is urging us to "clothe ourselves...", so I'm wondering, if you had to design clothing that reflected this passage, what would it look like?  If you're not much into designing, what clothes would you buy or choose from your own closet?  Share you thoughts in the Comment Section :)  I can't wait to see what what you imagine it looks like!!

And while we are trying to understand & accept diversity and love our neighbor, don't forget that we must first love ourselves!

Your Partner in Ministry,
Shelly (honey)

"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24