Tuesday, May 7, 2013

What Really Matters

So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me the special favor of God...God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus.  ~ St. Paul's letter to God's people in Philippi

Picture Timothy, much younger than Paul, on the freedom side of a prison door squinting to see what his mentor was thoughtfully and meticulously committing to a parchment. Letter by letter and then word by word the aging apostle's thoughts became sentences and then paragraphs. Once the Epistle got beyond the greeting of familiar style Timothy noticed it took on a mood unlike the many other communications Paul had scribed; it was extremely personal. The aged apostle was laying his heart bare, and it is was clear that he shared a special bond with the Saints at Philippi.

To go along with some other reading and the context of our present situation I chose to focus on this short letter. For the first time in our journey, as far as material wealth is concerned, Sandy and I could not make ends meet. Honestly, we financially came to a place where we couldn't afford to live in a free house, and that is a prison of its own kind. From our point of view our circumstances are the result of a combination of things. Like so many in our country we were hit hard by an imploding economy and watched our equity vaporized. But also, several years ago we chose to sell, or give away most all we owned, and we moved to China. We did this because we believed God would have us do so. Plain and simple. Obedience, as well as disobedience, can be very costly, and we are comfortable to let time, and the Judgment seat of Christ, have the final say as to what prompted the decision of our deepest heart.

I also turned my heart to the book of Philippians because in our time of greatest need Sandy and I, like Paul, have been the recipients of the lavish love of God through the generosity of friends. We are profoundly grateful to a special group of people. When we needed a roof over our head, Mama B let us live in her second home for free. She also let me use the Tahoe she and her late husband, Jim, received as a Fiftieth Wedding anniversary gift from their children. As I tried to make a go of it in China, Mama B was like a mother to Sandy. Other friends gifted us financially enough for us to eke by. Now we have an open ended offer to stay in a beautiful home that sits on 50 acres with a stocked pond and a guest house.

As an aside...

The same apostle who wrote to his friends in Philippi elsewhere quoted Jesus as saying, It is more blessed to give than to receive. Paul's citing of the Savior's words cannot be found in the gospels, so I am presuming that Jesus gave him that beatitude through some sort of special revelation. I can understand why. Paul was an itinerant Witness to the gospel message. He was what we would call bi-vocational minister--he worked making and selling tents to underwrite his ministry. He had to learn to trust that God would always have those in place who would find it a blessing to help sustain him.

If I may, I would like to turn that quote on its side just a little bit and say this--it is (also) much easier to give than to receive. What I mean is, during the 35 years of our marriage, Sandy and I haven't done everything right, but I can say that we have been generous. For us, to step up and help someone in need--to bless them--has always given us joy and satisfaction. That being said, I can tell you for certain that giving is a lot easier than being in a place of needing to receive. To be dependent on someone to step up on your behalf is humbling and is teaching us an entirely different dependence upon God that we have never before had to lean on.

So to those special people, Sandy and I want to say. It is right that [we] should feel as [we] do about you, for you have a special place in our heart. You share with [us] the special favor of God...God knows how much [we] love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus.

Enjoying the Adventure,


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