Loving People

Wow, the folks I run into sometimes just make me scratch me head and wonder… I’m sure you’ve experienced that too. It can be easy to sit in a crowded mall or at Starbucks and people watch, adding my own commentary about what people are doing or wearing. I bet most of us have seen the “People of WalMart” website. Here’s the thing: people are often times “weird”. And here’s the other thing: I’ve probably had people making that commentary about me at certain times of my life too.

It’s no fun being the subject of scorn or ridicule or humiliation. At one point I got to be front page news in my home town for about a week and there are still plenty of folks out there who haven’t yet decided that I am worthy of forgiveness. As attenders at Celebrate Recovery I am sure that you have probably all know how it feels to be an outcast. Sometimes it can feel like the only group I belong to is “those people”. So as I was listening to Pastor Todd’s sermon this week I began thinking about loving people. It’s easier to just make fun than to love people like me, but it’s more important to love those unloveables.

I noticed my daughter and son-in-law playing with their new baby. He’s cute, and pudgy, and has dimples in his fat rolls. When I complemented the kids on how great it was to see how much they loved little Luc my daughter replied that “he’s pretty easy to love.” It’s obviously true. Yet, shouldn’t that be true of all of us? At some point we were all cute little babies who were easy to love. As we age, we become more independent and start acting in ways that takes some of the luster off of our cuteness. I try to convince people to see my “overweightness” in the same way they see Luc’s, to no avail!

So how do we love “those people”? How do we push through their brash behavior or break through the walls they’ve constructed to keep us out? It isn’t easy, but it is basic: we just keep loving them no matter what. I once went through a period of months working in awkwardness with one of my best friends. I had said something that offended her and she reacted with hostility and anger that lasted for almost half a year. My other co-workers all noticed because the two of us had been so close and jovial before. One of them asked me how I was able to maintain and keep pressing forward. My response was that I had no control over their reactions and feelings toward me, but that I did have control and responsibility over myself. I chose to exercise that control by continuing to love my friend no matter what. Unconditional love is just that simple: it has no conditions. I cannot make a person love me, but conversely, they can’t make me stop loving them. Let’s go into these last weeks before Easter and be intentional with our love. Don’t limit it to the people who already surround us, but start adding strangers to the mix. There are about 7 billion people in the world, most of whom I don’t know, so the hunting should be easy!

Rise Up!

-Paul

The Numbers Game

Like a lot of Americans, I have had my phases of fascination with movies about the mafia. Plenty of us have seen “Goodfellas” or “The Godfather”. I was always trying to figure out what they meant when they talked about “running numbers”. So as I got older and “wiser” I found out more about what it was and learned about these private lottery systems. All that to say, in ministry it can be easy to get caught up in my own “Numbers Game”. As I prepare for our weekly Celebrate Recovery meetings I get visions of large crowds and multitudes coming through the door. Then on Fridays at 7 I stare plaintively at the door waiting for all those people to come in and when they don’t I feel a bit of the air in my balloon release…

It was brought to my attention this week, after another less-than-hoped for crowd, that Jesus spent three years just getting to know twelve men. As I ponder this fact I have come to realize that he was not getting to know them (after all Jesus knows us all and knew us before we were formed in the womb!) but rather they were getting to know him and each other. The disciples were in training for the ministry to come, and even after those three years they were found lacking.

So as I sit and type to my internet audience this week I am trying to remain mindful that God is preparing me and you for greater things to come. It won’t be all at once, if it were I would likely fumble the ball. No, it will be a gradual learning and growing that happens and that this process will achieve far greater long-term results for us all. So I will embrace the crowd I have, small or large, and rejoice in the knowledge that even just one soul reached, even one life changed, even one heart renewed is worthy of my all.