“I know what I can do to help my classmate,” said five-year-old Indigo to her parents. They had read the school’s note about her classmate’s mother who was in a Toronto hospital, after being seriously hurt in a car accident. “I’ll ask my church family to help me. They like to help people and they don’t want people to be sad.” The following Sunday morning at Keene United Church, little Indigo took the microphone and confidently asked us to join her in raising money to help her classmate’s family with gas and parking for the endless trips to Toronto. That morning, Indigo collected $360 plus a mountain of prayer.
Of course, the Spirit of generosity in our church family is important, but I tell you this story for another reason. Today many parents invest money and time for their children’s participation in sports in order for them to learn teamwork, self-esteem, leadership skills and benefit from the physical exercise. Occasionally one of them is good enough to be drafted for the big leagues or earn a university scholarship.
Indigo’s mom brings her to church because she knows within her church family, Indigo will learn those same values and so much more. Already, Indigo knows when she hurts, her church family cares. Already at the age of five, Indigo knows she can depend on her church family to help her when she wants to help others. Already, Indigo has soaked in the knowledge that she is accepted as God’s precious child in her church home.
As the years go by, Indigo will more deeply understand the strength that comes from being welcomed and loved just as God created her. She will remember that she didn’t have to “make the team” at church. She’s been a part of the team from her very beginning. Through our teaching and example, Indigo will have gained confidence in God’s free gift of forgiveness, discovered the wisdom and comfort the Bible offers her and accepted the assurance that comes from knowing that she is never alone. God is with her always.
Why bring your child to church? The church family offers love, acceptance, assurance, strength, confidence – these are values all parents want for their children. We hope Indigo will cherish belonging to the Keene United Church family for a lifetime. The gift of faith in God is hers to enjoy for always. Already, she has learned a “way of life” that has empowered her to help others.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)
A stranger, in rough, dusty clothes stood at the exit to the shopping plaza holding a sign, “I’m hungry and out of work.”
As we approached the corner in our car, Tom turned to me and said, “Have you any change?” I scrambled through the chaos of computer, cords etc. that cover my feet every time we travel, in search of my purse.
“Only $20, shall I give him that?”
The person behind us honked. Tom pulled away. With my hesitation, the moment was lost. Why didn’t I roll down the window and hand the man the $20? We would all have an answer. It was too much. Was he really out of work? What will he do with it?
A few days later, we parked in front of a stranger looking even more scruffy. He held a sign saying: “Hungry, no money, heading east.” I was desperate for my bathroom stop but I didn’t want to miss this opportunity. “Tom,” I said, “Please give that young man some money and some food from our lunch pail. Talk with him. Find out his story.” and I hurried off.
When I returned Tom reported, “Gave him $5 and some cheese packets which are a good resource for a traveler.”
I know that my faith requires good deeds. I find it easy to donate money to church missions, or other groups because I trust it will be used wisely for people who truly need it. When it comes to giving to individuals, factors like true need, deserving, and my own safety, come into play. I forget to just give without judgment.
Slowly, I’m learning – learning to personally give away money and even my books and leave God responsible for the outcome. With this growth in generosity on an individual level, my faith has deepened. I am learning the truth of the Bible’s word, “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:17)
The news is full of misery. Because millions of people are displaced by the Syrian chaos, the United Nations is asking free nations to commit to accepting refugees, not by the tens and twenties, but by the thousands. Our world is on a direct path to destruction, and there is nothing we can do to stop it. Or is there?
The last few weeks, I have been reading “Stone Soup for the World.” This book is a collection of stories about people, individuals who have stepped beyond the paralysis, the hopelessness of seeing the need of the entire world. For me, reading these stories is my first step in believing I can make a difference. Each day for a few minutes, my mind is focused on hope.
Two weeks ago, I was at North Bramalea United Church for the United Church’s Toronto Conference Annual Meeting. While talking with church members, I learned about the community program Bramalea United runs for children and adults in one of the nearby neighbourhoods. A colleague from Midland spoke of her congregation’s record of welcoming and settling refugees. “We’re only about four weeks away from getting yet another family,” she said, her face radiating delight and excitement. Their words and emotions took me beyond reading about others who are transforming our world, to seeing the possibilities and joy that come with taking action.
Some assure us that simply thinking positive things will draw good things into our lives. I know it takes more than that. I know also that filling my mind with stories of hope will open my heart to see hope in action and eventually lead to seeing my own action or lack of it.
A song says, “Go make a difference. We can make a difference in the world.” I want this song to be my mantra. I truly believe that we, together with God, can transform the world, one step at a time.
This week read Jonah’s story in the Old Testament. Jonah reluctantly brought God’s message to the people of Nineveh, and surprise! The Ninevites were transformed. Jonah made a difference.
This morning, I once again encountered the familiar story of the young girl walking along a beach, methodically tossing back into the ocean the starfish stranded in her path. “Why bother?” another beach walker challenged. “There are thousands of starfish washed up on this beach. You can’t save them all.”
“True,” the young girl replied. Then, she picked up and returned another starfish to the ocean. “But I did save that one.”
Faced by the ocean of need that washes over us every day, many of us feel paralysed. We believe that we can’t make a difference. Of course, some of us respond to relief efforts after natural disasters, or to a chosen charity. That is good, but for me, the starfish story talks about letting of go of our paralysis and cultivating a lifestyle of sharing. It’s the lesson our parents and teachers taught us about sharing our toys, so that our home and the playground could be a peaceful place.
We can’t all be Mother Theresa, but every day, we can all make a huge difference for individuals in this world. We know about supporting our local food bank every time we buy our groceries. We give weekly when we’re at church. We donate our used clothing at thrift shops. During our move, I discovered another way to share.
Instead of holding a yard sale to get rid of our unwanted items, Tom took our stuff to the Reuse Centres, one on Erskine St. near Lansdowne Shopping Centre in Peterborough, another on Mary St., W. in Lindsay. The proceeds of what they resell supports Habitat for Humanity. This organization helps build houses co-operatively with those who need homes around the world.
A life of sharing means that we are the quiet people who respond when leaders like Craig Kielburger start a new initiative and need donations. Without the quiet responders, the Terry Fox Run would not be a success. Without the quiet responders, our local food banks would have no food.
Remember, we really aren’t paralyzed. We can cultivate a lifestyle of sharing our abundance. Opportunities abound around us. Just choose one. Each one of us can be the young girl and save yet another starfish.
“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerfulgiver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7
Our little holiday beckoned us to hurry, Already we were late for our appointment in Toronto. I eased my aching body into the car seat and felt the stress slide away. From here on, the travelling was out of my control. Tom was driving. My back relaxed somewhat. The pain receded to a manageable level. Stress, I thought, makes my back hurt even more. How can I decrease the stress in my life?
On this particular day, I knew the source.
Guilt – Thanks to my recent back injury, Tom had to do all the packing. I tried, It had taken me a half hour just to put a few things into my suitcase. I kept needing to stop and rest. I’d get up and put two or three things in the suitcase and have to sit back down.
I really wasn’t well enough to travel.
We were late leaving.
Once in the car, there was nothing I could do or should be doing. The relief was amazing. I said a silent prayer of thanksgiving that we were finally on the road. I asked for safe travel, and opened my devotional book to do my morning meditation. The writer introduced Psalm 27: “God is my strength and my salvation whom shall I fear.” Immediately, my mind slowed down. Of course, God is with us, I thought. Instead of fretting, I should have gotten this out when I first got up as I do every morning. Start your day with God has been my mantra for nearly thirty years. Now is not the time to change that pattern.
When stress seems to be running your life, I offer this solution:
Identify the source.
Discuss your problems with God,
Read your favourite scriptures
Your faith may not change your life situation but it will change your attitude. Focusing on God’s strength and care helps us face our lives with patience and confidence.
Scripture: “God is my strength and my salvation whom shall I fear.” (Psalm 27: 1)