Love One Another: Receiving Gifts

This is the third of five messages inspired by the book The 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman. The congregation is invited to take out something to write with and the bulletin insert for taking notes. Click here for the Receiving Gifts Insert. The prayer following the message is also located on the insert.  

One of the things I enjoy most about Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages, are the stories he uses to illustrate his points. Here’s a great one from this week’s chapter on receiving gifts. (pg. 76)

I took an anthropology field trip to the island of Dominica. Our purpose was to study the culture of the Carib Indians, and on the trip I met Fred. Fred was not a Carib but a young black man of twenty-eight years. Fred had lost a hand in a fishing-by-dynamite accident. Since the accident, he could not continue his fishing career. He had plenty of available time, and I welcomed his companionship. We spent hours together talking about his culture.

Upon my first visit to Fred’s house, he said to me, “Mr. Gary, would you like to have some juice?” to which I responded enthusiastically. He turned to his younger brother and said, “Go get Mr. Gary some juice.” His brother turned, walked down the dirt path, climbed a coconut tree, and returned with a green coconut. “Open it,” Fred commanded. With three swift movements of the machete, his brother uncorked the coconut, leaving a triangular hole at the top. Fred handed me the coconut and said, “Juice for you.” It was green, but I drank it— all of it— because I knew it was a gift of love. I was his friend, and to friends you give juice.

At the end of our weeks together as I prepared to leave that small island, Fred gave me a final token of his love. It was a crooked stick fourteen inches in length that he had taken from the ocean. It was silky smooth from pounding upon the rocks. Fred said that the stick had lived on the shores of Dominica for a long time, and he wanted me to have it as a reminder of the beautiful island. Even today when I look at that stick, I can almost hear the sound of the Caribbean waves, but it is not as much a reminder of Dominica as it is a reminder of love.

Over the past few weeks we’ve been talking about the ways people best hear and receive love. Dr. Chapman calls them the 5 Love Languages:
(1) Words of Affirmation
(2) Quality Time
(3) Receiving Gifts
(4) Acts of Service
(5) Physical Touch

Knowing how to love others and putting it into practice is important. It’s so important, Jesus commands us to love one another. (John 13:34-35) Some people feel most loved through what we say and how we say it- through Words of Affirmation. Others feel most loved when we set aside time to listen to them, to have a great conversation, to be fully present to them without distractions- through Quality Time. Still others feel loved when they receive gifts from us. Gifts are tangible symbols of love.

Fred is a great gift giver. His gifts are not expensive or numerous; great gifts don’t have to be. Three things make a great gift:
1. Its Personal
Fred was thinking of Gary’s comfort in offering him the drink. He wanted Gary to feel as welcome as possible in his home. His gift said, “I care about you as a person.”

2. Its Thoughtful
Fred was thinking of Gary when he found the stick. He thought Gary would enjoy its simplicity and beauty and the fact that it was so specific to Dominica. It was such a thoughtful gift, that every time Gary looks at the stick “it is a reminder of love.”

3. Its Generous
Great gifts take time and effort. It took time and effort to climb the tree, to find the stick. Fred lives a humble life. He could have probably sold the stick to a store that caters to tourists, but instead he made a sacrifice and gave it to Gary.

How many of us have received a thoughtless gift or even been re-gifted? Do you feel loved when this happens? Now remember a time when someone gave you a gift that knocked your socks off. Every time you remember it or look at it or use it you remember the love and effort of the person who gave it to you.

An old Nigerian proverb says, “It is the heart that gives; the fingers just let go.” Fred’s gifts were from the heart. Ours should be as well. Why? Because some people feel most loved when they receive a great gift.

Several years ago my husband Ed got me flowers for our anniversary. What made them extra special was that he spent time with the florist creating a bouquet of my favorite flowers. That extra effort showed me how much he loved me. The flowers are long gone, but I still remember and value his gift of love.

We welcome children into our worship services at Community UMC. Often you’ll see them drawing during worship. One Sunday, little Emma gave me one of her works of art. My heart soared when I saw it was a picture of me standing beside the communion table, my hands open wide. The picture also included the bread for communion, a candle, a cross, and a microphone. She was paying attention and she wanted me to know it.

In our congregation we have a group which makes and gives handmade afghans to persons who are going through a rough time or who are ill. Some donate the yarn while others knit or crochet. With every stitch the person is praying for the person who will receive the afghan. The time, effort, skill and intention join together to wrap the recipient in the warmth God’s love and the love of our congregation.

We love because God first loved us. (1 John 4:19) God is the ultimate Gift Giver. The sunshine to welcome us into a new day. A blanket of stars to settle us for sleep. Needed rain and the fruit of good earth and the gift of life itself.

Matthew 7:9–11 NRSV
Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

And the way God most perfectly shows us love? Through the gift of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.” (John 3:16)

Jesus’ birth is God’s love given so we could see it.
Jesus’ life is God’s love given so we could believe it.
Jesus’ death and resurrection is God’s love given so we could receive it and live it.

“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)

In the story of the feeding of the five thousand, we see God’s love at work in Jesus and his followers.

Mark 6:30-32 NRSV
The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves.

Jesus loves the disciples by offering them quality time for conversation, rest and being present to one another.

Mark 6:33-34 NRSV
Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

Jesus has compassion and love for the crowds, offering them words of affirmation and truth.

Mark 6:35-44 NRSV
When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.” But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?” And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” When they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. And all ate and were filled; and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.

Like Jesus, the disciples too are concerned for the people and their welfare. Jesus tells them to show their love by giving the people food. The disciples feel overwhelmed with the challenge, knowing their offering is far too small. Yet they hand it to Jesus, who blesses it and multiplies it and it is enough. It is a good gift- personal, thoughtful, generous.

How many of us feel our offerings of love are too small? Our society says gifts are only valuable if they expensive and if they are many. Take courage! Our loving gifts when combined with God’s are more than enough.

O. Henry wrote a powerful short story called The Gift of the Magi. It’s about two poor, young newlyweds. Della’s prized possession is her beautiful, long, flowing hair. It’s grown almost to her knees. Jim’s prized possession is a shiny, gold watch which belonged to his father and grandfather. Each plot separately to give a Christmas gift that will express their love. Della decides to sell her beautiful hair in order to buy Jim an expensive chain for his watch. When he walks through the door of their small apartment, he sees her hair is gone, but he also sees the beaming smile on her face. She’s so excited to give him the gift. He opens it to find the watch chain. He then hands her his gift. She opens it to find beautiful combs for her hair. How has he paid for them? By selling his watch.

The young lovers’ gifts are personal, thoughtful, generous, sacrificial. They are beautiful because they are from the heart. They have a heart for giving because they know the Great Gift Giver. Like them, when we see all that God has done for us, our hearts overflow with thankfulness, generosity and love.

James 1:17 NRSV
Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

We give because God the Gift Giver is at work in us.

One of the joys of being a pastor is when members of the congregation share with me how God is working in their lives. Chad gave me permission to share his story.

Chad does a great deal of work related driving. He was out last week and saw a man on the side of the road with a sign reading, “Anything.” Chad rolls down his window and says, “I don’t have any money, but would you like my sandwich?” The answer is “yes.” Chad gives him the sandwhich and drives away thinking to himself, “I still have my chips and bottle of water for lunch. That will be enough.”

Chad drives further and sees another person by the road with another sign. His heart swells. He rolls down his window and says, “I don’t have any money, but would you like my chips and water.” The person gladly receives them, opening the water and drinking like she’d just crossed desert. Chad thinks to himself, “I can miss a meal.”

Next a woman asks Chad for help. He’s not really supposed to help while on duty but does. When she’s about to head on her way, she thanks him, hands him $10 and tells him to “go have a nice lunch.”

This is the God we love and serve. Not because God gives pays us back with lunch money for our good deeds, but because God gives us a heart full of compassion and love and generosity. We love because God first loved us. We give because God first gives to us. Love well. Live well. Give well.

Know you are always welcome at our congregation, Community United Methodist Church in DeBary, FL. We worship on Sundays at 8am, 9:20am, and 11am. Dress casual and bring the kids.

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this message in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page

Church as Body Of Christ

1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 18-20 (NRSV)
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many… God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body.

The Holy Spirit is the real extension of the Incarnation; but I also see that he cannot be separated from the life of the Church … He is the Spirit of the continued Incarnation; the Church is the body of it. But the Church dare not claim to be the extension of the Incarnation, except as she is infused and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Without this, the body is dead; and no dead body, however once alive, can be an extension of the life of Christ in the world. – Sam Shoemaker, With the Holy Spirit and With Fire

Insulated from the lives, loves, and losses of those unlike us, unaware of the hopes and dreams, challenges and struggles of others, we miss a multitude of opportunities to be the one body of Christ. What can you do to reach out, in mutual ministry, to those most unlike yourself? – Marian Wright Edelman, The Upper Room Disciplines 2010

When we say that the Church is a body, we refer not only to the holy and faultless body made Christ-like through baptism and Eucharist but also to the broken bodies of all the people who are its members. Only when we keep both these ways of thinking and speaking together can we live in the Church as true followers of Jesus.
– Henri Nouwen

We have not come to compete with one another.
We have come to complete one another. – Bill McCartney

Paul says we’re all parts of one body. Somehow, even without our knowing, when one suffers we all suffer. When one rejoices we all rejoice.  Our sadness and gladness mingle together into one joy. In prayer we enter a deeper consciousness, even if it’s beyond our knowing: the reality that we belong, that we are all one living being.  We enter into the suffering, and the joy, of the world.  We become one with all our body. Our joy is there for others, and our pain is not ours alone.  We receive the gift of their happiness, and help them bear the weight of their sorrows. Our souls are woven with theirs.  In this way, even sitting in our room in silence, by the mystery of God’s grace in us, we become part of the mending of the world. – Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Extremes

Extended quote by Richard Rohr from Falling Into Life
We are not seeking uniformity, but rather unity, which implies differences. Unity created by the Spirit can only be had among people who are different! We are not talking about conformity, which is low-level religion. “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). Our word for this is a “charism,” a gift that is given to you, not for your own self, but to build up the community, to build up the whole Body of Christ.

In 1 Corinthians 12:27-30, Paul explains that you in your togetherness are Christ’s Body, but each of you is a different part of it, with different gifts. Then in chapter 13 he says that love is the greatest gift. When you live in love, in that “vibrational state,” if you will, when you live at that level of communion where you let the life get in and let the life flow out of you to other people, you are living a transformed life. Up to then, it is all play. This alone is what it means to be “in Christ.”

1 Corinthians 12:22-26 (NRSV)
On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

The most honored parts of the body are not the head or the hands, which lead and control. The most important parts are the least presentable parts. That’s the mystery of the Church. As a people called out of oppression to freedom, we must recognize that it is the weakest among us – the elderly, the small children, the handicapped, the mentally ill, the hungry and sick – who form the real center. Paul says, “It is the parts of the body which we consider least dignified, that we surround with the greatest dignity” (1 Corinthians 12:23). The Church as the people of God can truly embody the living Christ among us only when the poor remain its most treasured part. Care for the poor, therefore, is much more than Christian charity. It is the essence of being the body of Christ. – Henri Nouwen

The Rev. Claire Wimbush was born with spastic cerebral palsy. Click here for her moving discussion of faith, perfection, brokenness, and the body of Christ. 

If we are not interested in the minds, the feelings, the hopes, fears, sorrows and joys of everyone with whom we come in contact, we are not interested in Christ. Whatever we do to anyone, we do to him. If we are impatient with the mental suffering, the doubting, the questioning, and the wrestling with the angel of the more sensitive minds, then we are impatient with the mind of Christ bleeding under the crown of thorns. If we shrink from the broken lives of sinners, then we draw away from Christ fallen and crushed under his cross. If we will not go to the sick and the poor to help them, we will not help Christ. -Caryll Houselander, The Comforting of Christ

I know there is strength in the differences between us.
I know there is comfort, where we overlap.
– Ani DiFranco

I used to call myself a Jesus-follower, unable to identify with all these Christians. I wanted to rid myself of my affiliation with the Church, emphasize Christ as the centre of my faith without the baggage of the Church. But I couldn’t be a Christian by myself, and I am the Church, too, and here I am, there you are, there’s room for all of us. Part of what restored me to the Church was this: learning that the Body of Christ is bigger, wilder, far more glorious, than my own narrow ideas and personal experiences with her. – Sarah Bessey, In defense of the cafeteria

Reconciliation, then, is not an agenda item. It’s not something we can save until next year’s budget like renovations to the fellowship hall. It must be more than another serving on the buffet of conversations at the next conference or workshop. Reconciliation is the physical demonstration that God is at work in the world. Any fool can put people at odds. Only God – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all – can bring those opposed to one another together as sisters and brother. When we lose reconciliation, we lose the purposes of Jesus. If your church is all one thing – white, black, Hispanic, gay, straight, Democrat, Republican, whatever – then you may have failed at joining God in loving the world. – Sean Palmer, Missing the Point

Ephesians 4:11-13 (NRSV)
The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.

Varieties of Gifts by Steve Garnaas Holmes
To one God has given the gift of good humor,
to another the gift of resilience, to another courage,
to another the appreciation of beauty,
to another truth-telling, to another soft-heartedness,
to another the ache for justice,
to another quiet presence, to another exuberance.

What gifts live in you? What passions and callings,
what energies consistently rise up in you,
leave people blessed in your wake,
lean toward the healing of the world around you?
They may seem small, odd or ordinary,
but they are the bricks with which God builds
the Realm of Joy and Justice.

God gives to each of us gifts of God’s choosing.
What gifts does the Spirit of love activate in you?
Name them, give thanks, and devote them this day
to the Great Work of the mending of the world.

Click here for another prayer by Steve Garnaas Holmes entitled One Body.

Extended Quote by Nadia Bolz-Webber
Sermon on Spiritual Gifts (which, unfairly, doesn’t include snarkyness)

This ended up being one of my more difficult weeks in recent memory and I found myself having no choice but to rely on the prayers and faith and wisdom and compassion of those brothers and sisters in Christ whom God has put in my life – because frankly I was tapped out. Which is hard because I’d so rather have all the gifts myself and not have to rely on others. But when it feels like a failure on my part that I don’t have the faith or compassion or prayer life or wisdom that I need, I just have to remember that the only real failure is when I fail to recognize that I do actually have all the faith and compassion and prayer and wisdom I need – it’s just that someone else in my life is holding it for me. See, I believe that it is God’s intention that we need each other. Not in a creepy co-dependant having no boundaries type of way. But in a bearing the face of Christ kind of way because when I can not see goodness. When I can not see hope or beauty or the face of Christ in my own heart in my own life and through my own eyes I need you to do it for me.

Help me, dear God,
to see my brother with the eyes of Christ,
to hear my sister with the ears of Christ,
to taste my neighbor’s hunger with the mouth of Christ,
to smell creation’s beauty with the nose of Christ,
to touch the world’s pain with the hands of Christ
and to love life, each life, every life,
with the heart of Christ.
– Sam Hamilton-Poore, Earth Gospel: A Guide to Prayer for God’s Creation

Click Here for Steve Harper’s discussion as to why ‘churchless Christianity’ will never work, even though some of the concerns it carries are valid.

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Worship Resource: Love is Here

Worship Resource: Love is Here
Instrumental music begins and continues underneath the readings and the singing.

ONE SPEAKING: Isaiah 55:1-3a NIV
The Lord God says, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live.”

Love is Here (CCLI Song # 5325139)
Made popular by Tenth Avenue North
Verse 1 and Chorus

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’ ”

Love is Here (CCLI Song # 5325139)
Made popular by Tenth Avenue North
Verse 2 and Chorus

ONE: Luke 4:16-21 NRSV
When Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Love is Here (CCLI Song # 5325139)
Made popular by Tenth Avenue North
Bridge twice and Chorus 2 twice

Love is Here compilation © 2013 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia. You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

For more information on the art, scripture translation and the use of this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Love One Another: Quality Time

Quality Time by Ashley Goldberg

Quality Time by Ashley Goldberg

This is the second of five messages inspired by the book The 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman. The congregation is invited to take out something to write with and the bulletin insert for taking notes. Click here for the Quality Time Insert. The prayer following the message is also located on the insert. Click here for another version of the prayer.

God is love. We are able to love God because God first loved us. We are able to love others because God first loved us.

Loving relationships are so important, Jesus commanded us to love one another. Let’s read it together.

John 13:34-35 NRSV
Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.”

If we’re going to love others as Jesus commands then we’re going to need to learn to communicate love in the way that’s easiest for the other person to hear it and receive it. Dr. Chapman researched this and identified 5 different ways in which persons best receive love. He calls them the 5 Love Languages
(1) Words of Affirmation
(2) Quality Time
(3) Receiving Gifts
(4) Acts of Service
(5) Physical Touch

Dr. Chapman’s research supports Jesus’ claim. Loving others is essential.
Married or single, young or old, every human has the emotional need to feel loved. When this need is met, we move out to reach our potential for God and our potential for good in the world. However, when we feel unloved, we struggle just to survive.
– Dr. Gary Chapman

Does a person need love to survive? I heard of a study years ago in Russia to test this theory. Infant orphans were fed, cleaned and changed but received no other human interaction. No cuddling. No soothing. The infants did not thrive. Like food and shelter, love was proved to be a basic human need.

Last week we discovered the first love language, words of affirmation. Love is often expressed in what we say and how we say it- words of encouragement, genuine compliments, and praising someone, especially in front of others. “I know you can do it. That color really brings out your eyes. Did you hear Johnny got an A on his science fair project?”

This week we’re exploring the love language of quality time.

When our girls were small there was a gap of time between when I picked up our oldest daughter Elyse from elementary school and youngest daughter Laura from daycare. So I’d stop at the local donut shop to buy us a snack. We’d munch and drink our milk and Elyse would chatter away about her day. It was much later that I realized how important that time was to Elyse. I thought we were just hanging out, biding our time, but to her, I was speaking her love language. At that time in her life, she needed quality time with mom in order to feel loved.

If you read through the Gospels, you’ll notice Jesus spends a great deal of time expressing love through quality time.

The Walk to Emmaus, Luke 24:13-33                                                   
It’s Easter Sunday. Jesus is dead along with the hopes and dreams of his followers. Now there are rumors his body’s been stolen. Two of the disciples decide they’ve had enough. They’re heading home. On the road, a stranger comes up alongside them. He begins to ask them questions, drawing them out, listening to their heartbreak. Then he begins to share with them the scriptures about the Messiah, how he must suffer and die for the salvation of all. Time passes. It grows dark. The disciples are going to stop for the night and invite the stranger to spend more time with them over a meal. Towards the end of the meal, the stranger takes the bread a breaks it. Their eyes are opened. Their hearts soar. Jesus is alive.

Jesus could have shared the Good News in a much quicker fashion, but he knew spending quality time with these men was the best way for them to hear and receive his love.

The Restoration of Peter, John 21:1-19                 
Peter and a few of the disciples have gone back to fishing after Jesus’ death. Peter’s heartbroken, scared and dealing with all that grief over denying Jesus in his time of need. They fished all night and haven’t caught a thing. As the morning breaks, they notice a guy hanging out on the beach. He calls to them. “Throw your nets on the other side of the boat.” Suddenly there’s a huge catch of fish. They haul it in and he’s still hanging out on the beach. He’s even got breakfast ready for them. Over the course of the meal, Peter’s faith and calling are restored by the risen Lord. “Feed my lambs… Tend my sheep…. Feed my sheep… Do you love me?” Jesus expresses love, forgiveness, and hope. Love as I love Peter. Words of Affirmation. Quality time.

Woman at the Well, John 4:1-43                                                           
In the ancient world, men didn’t speak to women. Rabbis didn’t teach outcasts. Jews and Samaritans were enemies. Yet Jesus takes a radical step to spend quality time with a woman at a well and as a result, her whole village comes to faith.

Mary and Martha, Luke 10:38-42              
The home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus was a safe place for Jesus and his followers, a place for great food, rest and conversation. Mary appreciates the gift of quality time. She’s always found listening at Jesus’ feet. Martha, however, is wired differently. Acts of Service may be her love language, but it’s gotten twisted. It’s not about expressing love anymore. She’s trying to be Martha Stewart. Jesus says, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” (vs. 41-42)

Worry and distraction have gotten the best of Martha and Jesus gently talks her back down. Worry and distraction are the enemies of quality time. They steal our joy and our ability to be present to another human being. A loved one is sharing an important feeling, but our mind is far away from worrying about the project that’s due, the bills yet to be paid.

At its heart, quality time is loving someone enough to lay aside the worry and distraction in order to be fully present. The Biblical understanding of quality time is abiding. Drawing near and drawing the other person out.

God doesn’t just show up once in a while, God abides. Presence. Incarnation. God draws near in Jesus’ Christ and draws us out through the prompting of the Holy Spirit. God is in it for the long haul, through the good and the bad and the ugly. God desires a deep, intimate relationship with us, a relationship rooted in being present to one another, in quality time.

1 John 4:11-16 is printed on your insert. As I read it, underline the promises of presence and abiding for those who believe.

1 John 4:11-16 NRSV
Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. By this, we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.

Quality time often results in quality conversation. Words of affirmation focus on what we are saying whereas quality conversation focuses on what we are hearing.

What does Quality Time look like:

  1. Listening intentionally – eye contact, undivided attention, focused attention

I saw a cartoon recently of a typical family- dad watching TV, mom’s reading, son playing a video game, daughter texting, and the cat watching the fish tank. The caption read “at least we’re all in the same room.” We live in a world of distraction, but it’s also a world that’s increasingly isolated. Quality time is a critical and counter-cultural expression of love.

  1. Asking questions to show interest
  2. Togetherness: spending time doing special things or everyday things

What can you do this week to offer your full attention, your ministry of presence, to someone you love? Eating at a dinner table, taking a walk together, family game night or craft time, doing the dishes together… the possibilities are endless. It’s such a small thing, but so important.

What can you do to offer the same to God, the One who loves you most?

In A Mile in My Shoes, Trevor Hudson says:
Let me describe what it means to be truly present. Being present involves letting go of our constant preoccupations, immersing ourselves in the here and now, and giving ourselves wholeheartedly to whatever is at hand. … It’s about becoming more aware, alert, awake to the fullness of the immediate moment. If we are with another person, it means engaging with him or her with all of our heart, our mind, our soul, and our strength. Such wholehearted attention requires patience, time, and disciplined effort. And it is one of the greatest gifts that we can give to those around us, especially our suffering neighbor.

Jesus practiced a ministry of presence and we are commanded to do the same. God’s love shines through and our love shines through when we sit with someone while they grieve, wait with them at the doctor’s office, take someone out for coffee who’s out of work or going through a family crisis.

What would happen to the emotional climate of a household, a workplace, a congregation, a neighborhood if we left behind the distractions and the isolation for being truly present to one another, to loving each other by spending quality time?

Someone once said time is money, recognizing its value in the marketplace.
Time is valuable, but not so much for this reason. Time is valuable because time is love.

Please consider patronizing today’s featured artist, Ashley Goldberg.

Know you are always welcome at our congregation, Community United Methodist Church in DeBary, FL. We worship on Sundays at 8am, 9:20am, and 11am. Dress casual and bring the kids.

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New Testament Reading Plans

I’ve spent years looking for the perfect Bible reading plan-
1) not too much reading per day, not too little
2) easy enough for a beginner, challenging enough for a seasoned saint
3) five days per week so you can catch up if you miss a day or two

The search did not bear fruit; it only delayed me reading the Bible at all. (Excellence is a virtue. Perfectionism is its evil, twisted shadow-side.) There is no perfect reading plan. The important thing is to just read, to connect with God through God’s Word on an intentional and regular basis. It’s the best way to learn what God’s voice sounds like and to hear God speak into your life.

So, let’s get reading. Here are three simple reading plans to get you started. Each will take you through the New Testament in one year:
1. New Testament Reading Plan- Bible order
This plan will take you through the New Testament in the order in which it is printed in the Bible. Easy. Just read straight through.

2. New Testament Reading Plan- event order
This plan will take you through the New Testament in the order in which the events most likely happened. You’ll jump from chapter to chapter in different books in this plan. Is it scholarly perfect, no, but it is helpful for those of us who want a chronological approach to Jesus’ life and the lives of the first believers. (We aren’t getting caught in the perfectionism trap again. If this sounds interesting, go for it.)

3. New Testament Reading Plan- mixed
This plan spreads the Gospel readings throughout the year with the other books mixed in between. Even though you skip around the New Testament in this plan, you will read a book at a time.

So now that you’re reading, how do you get the most out of it?
Here are two simple, effective methods:

1. Lectio Divina
as explained by Bishop Ken Carter, Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church
“My general practice is to read the chapter through once, then to read it a second time, underlining words or writing notes in the margins, and then to use a yellow highlighter to note the most significant phrase for me on this day. I try to carry this phrase through the day, and connect it with what is going on around me. This is a very simple form of lectio divina, an ancient practice of meditating on scripture.”

Hint- Since most Bibles have thin pages, consider using colored pencils for writing and highlighting so its less likely to bleed through.

Hint 2- Consider purchasing an inexpensive Bible to mark for the duration of your reading plan and a new one for the next reading plan. This helps you to approach God’s Word fresh each year.

We join with the saints of the ages in practicing lectio divina–a prayerful reading of the Bible in order to find and follow the will of God.  This includes what we call “Bible study,” but that is not the goal in lectio; the goal is “Bible living.” – Steve Harper

The SOAP Method for keeping a spiritual journal is practiced by thousands of Christians. I first learned of it from Wayne Cordeiro, pastor New Hope Christian Fellowship in Hawaii. For more information on this simple and powerful way of engaging the Word of God, click here for the video on their website.

Here’s a brief summary of the process.
S = Scripture
Read the Bible passage for the day. Copy the verse which catches your attention word for word into your journal.

O = Observation
Write a brief description of what is going on in the passage you read.

A = Application
Write about how your life will be different today because of what you have read.
• Lessons to be learned
• Examples to be followed or avoided
• Promises to be claimed and enjoyed
• A character trait of God revealed

P = Prayer
Write out a prayer for yourself and others based on what you read today.

One last thought, check out Steve Harper’s post entitled A Transforming Use of Scripture for insights on our motivation in approaching the Scriptures and the process God uses through Scripture to make us new.

Well, there you have it. The best practices and plans I’ve found. I’d love to hear what works for you.- Lisa <><

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