I recently had the opportunity to experience yet again what it is like to be “held in prayer.” And it was awesome! The precipitating factor had to do with my mom’s eye problems and partial loss of vision for which she came to Wilmer Eye Institute for treatment in June and for which she will return in July. I let that need be known on the congregational email prayer list and almost instantly received a flood of notes offering support, care, and encouragement. Knowing that there were people loving through prayer provided considerable comfort to my mom and to our whole family.
Time and again, I have witnessed this congregation actively demonstrating compassion in myriad ways. By asking how another person is then actually listening for the response. By sending cards, notes, and flowers. By providing food and other tangible support in small quantities and very large. By praying and sending positive energy. By rallying around special collections. By exchanging heart-felt handshakes and hearty hugs. By simply hanging around to talk and socialize, building new friendships and strengthening old ones. Compassion is evident here in so many wonderful and meaningful ways. By all of those acts and many more, we hold each other, sometimes even holding each other up when life’s burdens are bearing down. By holding each other in whatever ways we do that, we become the tender hands, and the loving arms, and the immediate presence of God in each other’s lives, incarnations of God’s love for each and every one of us and for the world.
This past weekend, I was speaking with a few different people who wondered what it is like for people to face hardship and loss and grief without such support, outside the kind of relationship network upon which we can draw to sustain and maintain. Those conversations made me hope that no one would find themselves in such isolated and isolating circumstances, living life alone and lonely. And in the process, I have become ever more grateful for what we have, authentically and abundantly.
So I do offer thanks even as I commit myself to loving more and better, reaching out to those in need, those who are struggling, those who are desperate. And, again, all of this prompts me to seek and find those who need what we have here, who can bring not only their need but their gifts and their love.
When I think of evangelism and church growth from that perspective, the call to spread the good news is crystal clear and unequivocal. I expect we’ll have lots of chances to talk more about that in the near future. What is required of us in terms of sharing what we have here by God’s grace?
Until then, I am looking forward to traveling with my girls to Boston then on to New Hampshire over the next week or so. I might get a chance to offer a portion of the staff training at the residential treatment center to which I dedicated so much of my social work career. I want to show Lucy and Meg the places and some of the people that were important to me during the many years I lived in New England, fourteen summers and four full years in New Hampshire, more than five years in Boston. The trip will be a series of homecomings. We will close out our trip at home in Pittsburgh then make our way back home here by the middle of next week. May all be well here, and all be well there. Until we meet again…