How Many Times?

How many times
have I wanted to hide away,
have some peace,
some me time,
chance to recharge,
to just be,
to listen,
to pray?

But I have been needed
and called on
and had to go,
to give,
to be
in a difficult place
where I am wanted.

How many times
have I wanted
to keep something special,
for the few,
for those who deserved it,
or who I thought did?

But I have been called
to meet need,
to reach out in love,
to step outside
what I thought were my boundaries,
what I was called to,
because there was need
and hope
and a reaching out.

How many times
has God worked,
in ways I don’t understand,
can’t comprehend,
am not sure I agree with?

But he steps in
to meet people,
to hold them,
to heal them,
to reach them.

In their pain,
their fear,
their anger,
their questioning,
whatever their need.
Whatever their background,
their origin,
their appearance,
wherever they are coming from
or going to.

And he asks me to join him

My God

Mark 7:24-37 (CEV)

A Woman’s Faith

24 Jesus left and went to the region near the city of Tyre, where he stayed in someone’s home. He did not want people to know he was there, but they found out anyway. 25 A woman whose daughter had an evil spirit in her heard where Jesus was. And right away she came and knelt down at his feet. 26 The woman was Greek and had been born in the part of Syria known as Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to force the demon out of her daughter. 27 But Jesus said, “The children must first be fed! It isn’t right to take away their food and feed it to dogs.”

28 The woman replied, “Lord, even dogs eat the crumbs that children drop from the table.”

29 Jesus answered, “That’s true! You may go now. The demon has left your daughter.” 30 When the woman got back home, she found her child lying on the bed. The demon had gone.

Jesus Heals a Man Who Was Deaf and Could Hardly Talk

31 Jesus left the region around Tyre and went by way of Sidon toward Lake Galilee. He went through the land near the ten cities known as Decapolis. 32 Some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk. They begged Jesus just to touch him.

33 After Jesus had taken him aside from the crowd, he stuck his fingers in the man’s ears. Then he spit and put it on the man’s tongue. 34 Jesus looked up toward heaven, and with a groan he said, “Effatha!”[c] which means “Open up!” 35 At once the man could hear, and he had no more trouble talking clearly.

36 Jesus told the people not to say anything about what he had done. But the more he told them, the more they talked about it. 37 They were completely amazed and said, “Everything he does is good! He even heals people who cannot hear or talk.”

You’re My Favourite

It can be so easy to have favourites.  People who are easy to deal with, look nice, smell nice, have things in common with us, are no trouble to us…  But it would be a pretty poor life if we only let in those who we think we will like, are initially drawn to or look good.  We would miss a lot of richness and diversity in our life – and we know that looks go for nothing in terms of what is going on in someone’s heart.

In a reminder if you needed it that in the UK this weekend Strictly Come Dancing returns to our tv, I am reminded of Bruce Forsyth who always used to tell dancers who had had a tough evening or the judges were laying into,

You’re my favourite

In true British tradition, the underdog is backed, the one who is not doing so well is supported and cheered on.

That is the kind of attitude God is asking of us.  Not a patronising act, but genuine love and concern for those who may not be popular or may be rejected if popular criteria are employed.  We are to see no person as fundamentally any different to any other.

God’s Kingdom is for everyone.  It doesn’t depend on wealth, appearance, good manners, worship style, life style or any other criteria we might employ, it is for each and every person.  We expect to be accepted and we should be ready to accept others.  God’s love is the same for everyone – and ours should be too.  Treating people differently is not an option.

Sometimes we want to put others down because it makes me feel better about myself, I can maintain my moral and social high ground if I keep everyone else below it, if they don’t fit the criteria I create.  But I don’t need to do that.  I am God’s favourite, just as you are as ‘they‘ are.  God has plenty of room in his heart for many favourites.  He loves each and every one of us.  I am asked to stand from my place of assurance of his love and pass that assurance on to others, not feel the need to separate others out.

Each person, in front of us, that we hear about in the media, that other people talk about (in glowing or disparaging terms) – they are each God’s favourite.  Can I look at them that way too?  Because that is what God does.

Lord,
I thank you so much
that your love,
acceptance,
welcome
and care
are for everyone.
that each person is your favourite,
special to you,
known
and loved.

I pray
to have
that mind
and that heart,
to look at each person
and see
not outward experiences,
but a person
precious
to you.

May I treat no one
by how they look,
what I may have heard about them,
whether they fit societies criteria,
or my ridiculous standards,
but as your child,
unique,
welcome
and loved.

Forgive me
for the times I have done otherwise
and help me to act
from your love for me,
that I too can stand as your favourite
– but you have plenty of room
for everyone.

All Are Welcome

James 2:1-17 (CEV)

Warning against Having Favorites

My friends, if you have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, you won’t treat some people better than others. Suppose a rich person wearing fancy clothes and a gold ring comes to one of your meetings. And suppose a poor person dressed in worn-out clothes also comes. You must not give the best seat to the one in fancy clothes and tell the one who is poor to stand at the side or sit on the floor. That is the same as saying that some people are better than others, and you would be acting like a crooked judge.

My dear friends, pay attention. God has given a lot of faith to the poor people in this world. He has also promised them a share in his kingdom that he will give to everyone who loves him. You mistreat the poor. But isn’t it the rich who boss you around and drag you off to court? Aren’t they the ones who make fun of your Lord?

You will do all right, if you obey the most important law[a] in the Scriptures. It is the law that commands us to love others as much as we love ourselves. But if you treat some people better than others, you have done wrong, and the Scriptures teach that you have sinned.

10 If you obey every law except one, you are still guilty of breaking them all. 11 The same God who told us to be faithful in marriage also told us not to murder. So even if you are faithful in marriage, but murder someone, you still have broken God’s Law.

12 Speak and act like people who will be judged by the law that sets us free. 13 Do this, because on the day of judgment there will be no pity for those who have not had pity on others. But even in judgment, God is merciful![b]

Faith and Works

14 My friends, what good is it to say you have faith, when you don’t do anything to show that you really do have faith? Can that kind of faith save you? 15 If you know someone who doesn’t have any clothes or food, 16 you shouldn’t just say, “I hope all goes well for you. I hope you will be warm and have plenty to eat.” What good is it to say this, unless you do something to help? 17 Faith that doesn’t lead us to do good deeds is all alone and dead!

Safe – Psalm 25

Oh Lord,
how I long to be safe,
secure,
sheltered;
to be in a place of protection,
that will never be shaken.

You hold your arms around me
and hold me secure,
known,
loved
and cherished.
You are that place
of safety.

I pray
that knowledge of peace
for all people:
for the lonely,
the lost,
the storm-tossed,
the frightened,
the running,
those with no energy to run,
nowhere to run to,
or no way to go.

May they know your peace
and presence,
know that you hold them tight
and they can rest in you.

Not Be Moved

Psalm 125 (CEV)

(A song for worship.)

The Lord’s People Are Safe

125 Everyone who trusts the Lord
    is like Mount Zion
    that cannot be shaken
    and will stand forever.
Just as Jerusalem is protected
    by mountains on every side,
the Lord protects his people
    by holding them in his arms
    now and forever.
He won’t let the wicked
rule his people
    or lead them to do wrong.
Let’s ask the Lord to be kind
to everyone
    who is good
    and completely obeys him.

When the Lord punishes
    the wicked,
he will punish everyone else
who lives a crooked life.
    Pray for peace in Israel!