A Well-Taught Tongue

Compassion has gone out of style. Maybe not with you, or your small group, but as a society, we are less compassionate toward the marginalized and more focused on a “Me First” mentality. This attitude prevails from the schoolyard to the seats of government. Bullying is common at all levels of society and often goes unchecked. People say and post things aimed to mock others. Nations turn their backs on struggling nations so that their own resources aren’t compromised.

Thank God for Poland, who has graciously received over two million Ukrainian refugees. England agreed to take 10,000. America will receive 100,000. Frankly, we all can do better. Who will stand up for the tired people?

Isaiah reminds us that God has given us a “well-taught” tongue and we are called to use it as we offer COMPASSION to people who are struggling.

Isaiah 50 (The Message)

The Master, God, has given me
    a well-taught tongue,
So I know how to encourage tired people.
    He wakes me up in the morning,
Wakes me up, opens my ears
    to listen as one ready to take orders.
The Master, God, opened my ears,
    and I didn’t go back to sleep,
    didn’t pull the covers back over my head.

All of us have opportunities every day to alleviate someone’s suffering. A kind word, a smile, a card, or casserole delivered to someone who is sick or isolated can go a long way toward easing someone’s burden for even a brief moment. God is trying to open our ears to the people around us whom we can encourage and lift up.

Isaiah found himself being ridiculed and mocked for his prophetic warnings to the people of Israel. Sometimes doing God’s work entails taking on someone’s anger and rejection. In those cases, Isaiah reminds us to set our faces like flint:

I followed orders,
    stood there and took it while they beat me,
    held steady while they pulled out my beard,
Didn’t dodge their insults,
    faced them as they spit in my face.
And the Master, God, stays right there and helps me,
    so I’m not disgraced.
Therefore I set my face like flint,
    confident that I’ll never regret this.

Have you ever been ridiculed or rejected for doing something good for someone? Never mind. God is our only audience when we walk in his instruction and offer compassion to others.

My champion is right here.
    Let’s take our stand together!
Who dares bring suit against me?
    Let him try!
Look! the Master, God, is right here.
    Who would dare call me guilty?
Look! My accusers are a clothes bin of threadbare
    socks and shirts, fodder for moths!

Look, the Master is RIGHT HERE. Are you being called to serve God by serving others? Don’t listen to the nay-sayers. They soon will flit away to discourage someone else. We are called to serve the Master, God. And when we do, WE receive the blessing.

Sunrise Colors by Michelle Robertson

Just Do It

I am getting ready to lead a training in my District for people who volunteer their time and their talent to serve on their church’s Staff Parish Relations Committee. This committee basically serves as the Human Resources group in the church. They are responsible for hiring, firing, evaluating, and supporting the paid employees of the church, including the appointed pastor. It is delicate work. It is important work. It is often painful work. All of our committees are equally important, and it takes a certain skillset to serve on each one.

Those who serve on Staff Parish Relations are usually gifted in administration, leadership, compassion, and faith. It can be one of the hardest committees to serve on, and I am so grateful for each person who answers the call to be part of this group.

We understand that God has gifted us with unique and individual abilities so that when we come together as the Body of Christ, we function well as a whole. Paul gave an excellent breakdown of the gifts that God imparts to each person in order that the whole might benefit:

1 Corinthians 12 (Common English Bible)

12 Brothers and sisters, I don’t want you to be ignorant about spiritual gifts. You know that when you were Gentiles you were often misled by false gods that can’t even speak. So I want to make it clear to you that no one says, “Jesus is cursed!” when speaking by God’s Spirit, and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

 There are different spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; and there are different ministries and the same Lord; and there are different activities but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. A demonstration of the Spirit is given to each person for the common good. A word of wisdom is given by the Spirit to one person, a word of knowledge to another according to the same Spirit, faith to still another by the same Spirit, gifts of healing to another in the one Spirit, 10 performance of miracles to another, prophecy to another, the ability to tell spirits apart to another, different kinds of tongues to another, and the interpretation of the tongues to another. 11 All these things are produced by the one and same Spirit who gives what he wants to each person.

What is your spiritual gift? Are you using it to serve the Lord? Just as it is important to volunteer in an area where you have an affinity for that kind of work, it is also important to recognize places where you aren’t gifted, and say no when asked to volunteer. I once knew a man who served on the Finance Committee until he revealed that he never filled out an estimate of giving card and he gave his offering according to how much he liked the sermon. The spiritual gifts that this man lacked were faith and generosity. He voted down every budget the Administrative Committee proposed and had no business leading the church’s financial efforts. He wasn’t a bad fellow, but he was just not suited for that particular work in the church.

I hope and pray that you are serving God with your gifts in places were you are suited to work. Perhaps 2022 can be the year that you put your talents to work for the Kingdom. Do you like to sing? Join the choir. Do believe in the mission of your church? Volunteer for your Administrative Council. Are you a good, empathetic listener? Join the Care Team. Is holding babies your jam? Become a nursery volunteer so that tired parents can worship.

When you serve in areas where you are called, not only will you bless others, but you will be blessed!

BTW, check out this great post by my friend Shannon on the Imposter Syndrome.

Starfish and Paw Prints by Stacey Hanf

Essential Work

I have complete and total admiration for the parents who became overnight homeschool teachers when schools were closed all over the world due to the pandemic. My hat is off to you. To quote the Brits, I am gobsmacked! I can’t begin to fathom what it is like to sit at your dining room table, trying to complete your own work from home, and teach your children coursework that normally requires well-educated, highly trained professionals. My kids are grown now, but they would have been LOST. Not so much with the English, history, and social studies classes, but can we talk about math? Good Lord. Today’s math would have toppled me. I don’t think I could get past about 2nd grade math with a child. And I am being generous with myself.

Each of us has different gifts, given to us by God at our conception. I do well with words. My friend Greta is an amazing painter. Wende is a math wizard. (I would have needed her to FaceTime with my kids every day if she ever wanted to see me alive again.) Carol is a suburb musician. Everybody has something they are good at doing. We call these abilities spiritual gifts.

What are you good at doing? Do you use that ability to serve God in some way? What is your special spiritual gift?

1 Corinthians 12 (Contemporary English Version)

Now I want you to know that if you are led by God’s Spirit, you will say that Jesus is Lord, and you will never curse Jesus.

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but they all come from the same Spirit. There are different ways to serve the same Lord, and we can each do different things. Yet the same God works in all of us and helps us in everything we do.

Many of you have a gift of giving. You are the ones taking casseroles around to people who need help. Others have a listening ear and offer compassion easily. Some build, some plan, some speak, some heal. When we pool our gifts together, we make our community stronger.

The Spirit has given each of us a special way of serving others. Some of us can speak with wisdom, while others can speak with knowledge, but these gifts come from the same Spirit. To others the Spirit has given great faith or the power to heal the sick 10 or the power to work mighty miracles. Some of us are prophets, and some of us recognize when God’s Spirit is present. Others can speak different kinds of languages, and still others can tell what these languages mean. 11 But it is the Spirit who does all this and decides which gifts to give to each of us.

The pandemic has brought a new phrase to our society. We all know what it means to be an ”essential worker.“

Did you realize that in the Body of Christ, YOU are an essential worker? We can’t do this without you.

12 The body of Christ has many different parts, just as any other body does. 13 Some of us are Jews, and others are Gentiles. Some of us are slaves, and others are free. But God’s Spirit baptized each of us and made us part of the body of Christ. Now we each drink from that same Spirit.

Take what you are good at doing and offer it in God’s service today. When we drink from that same Spirit of God, all are refreshed and renewed. God has already equipped you to employ your gift in his service. What are you waiting for? Somebody out there needs help with their math.

School’s Out for Summer by Carol Riggin