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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Blessing

    I have a large sign that hangs over the kitchen door of my house. I bought it twenty years ago. It simply says, "Blessings." I often think about the people who pass through my back door: my children, their friends, my friends, my family, the girls in my Ish Bible Study, the women in my Thursday study, the workmen who come when something breaks, the installers who come when something is replaced, the neighbors who come calling, the strangers, and the dogs (some my own and some not), who come in and out, in and out. I put the sign up there over the door to daily remind me to be a blessing, but the truth is that I have been the recipient of the blessing by so many who have come through that door.
     I remember in particular a crew of men sent by a contractor who was building the back porch on my house. Those men were with me for the better part seven months. There were issues with the contractor, but never with these men. Over time they developed a love for my peach ice tea, and slowly, but surely, I began to get to know their stories. One by one they would share a bit about their lives with me. Each man on the crew had been in prison and had a rough past, yet each taught me something about kindness, second chances, and the hope of redemption. All of them were trying to walk away from their bad choices, some from even a lifetime of bad choices that had begun when they were little more than children. I was honored to earn their trust. I found joy in watching how they worked together. When one man was injured at another job site, they redistributed the workload so that he could still get his hours in. They gave him more breaks and lightened his load and no one complained. I learned a lot about sacrifice and teamwork just watching them. I also learned that life after prison can be very hard as some of the men talked openly about their struggles to find people who would trust them enough to let them on a job site. I don't know where they are now, but I have thought of them often. They gave me more than an honest day's work -- they blessed me and they built a beautiful porch that is one of my favorite places. These men would be welcome in my home anytime.
    I thought today about Paul. And the record that followed him. I guess it's all in the way that you look at it. There were members of the Sanhedrin who likely affirmed him when they learned he was there at the stoning of Stephen, thinking murderous thoughts and seeking to persecute the people of The Way. And then when he did his 180 degree turnaround, there had to be some in the church at Jerusalem who raised more than an eyebrow with skepticism as the news of his conversion. They probably wondered if this was not some bit of subterfuge, some hidden plot on Paul's plot to destroy them. How could they know then that this learned scholar, this student of Gamaliel, would himself be beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, chained and more as he shared the Good News. They could not then know that this man would willingly walk away from a life of relative ease and luxury to take up a life that brought him hardship upon hardship. Why? For the sake of knowing Jesus. For the sake of the cross and Him crucified. Yep. Paul had quite a record.
   I have not been to Rome to see the tiny and cramped stone room where Paul was held. They say the roof would not even allow a person of small stature to stand to full height. Paul was chained there. Paul wrote his letters there. Paul, a prisoner and yet not a prisoner, through his divinely inspired words, brought freedom from chains to many, including me. Romans remains my book, the one to which I turn and return over and over again. It calls to my heart in a way that defies explanation.
   Paul's incomparable and sustaining faith in the face of all that he endured is enough for me.
    Let's remember in this New Year to pray for people in all circumstances of life and when given opportunity, let us offer hospitality, kindness, and a cup of cold water in Jesus' name. It's the very least we can do.
            

1 comment :

  1. How do you make your peace ice tea? Sounds delicious!

    ReplyDelete

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