Dear, sweet, loyal, fabulously stylish friends of JL PARISH- I’ve been missing you. You know it’s true. But, do you? My last “blob” was written in October of this year. Your girl, JLP, has been slacking. The pandemic, while awful in so many ways, gave way for new and old JLP supa’models to dial in to jlparish.com and support our small but mighty business. It was a blessing in so many ways. Of course, you need to make sales in order to stay afloat, but, it was also a time for me to really focus on receiving each order with gratitude, fulfilling it with lots of love and inspiration and sending it on its way with great excitement that someone out there was going to receive something beautifully wrapped up, literally and proverbially, in all kinds of good energy.
After the holiday season ended, as with most years, I was wiped and ready to reset. Business from the year prior is wrapped up, sales taxes are calculated and sent in, inventory is counted and restocked, and I begin to dream of what the next year holds. And, always, I do mean always, I’m inspired to sit down and write a blob worthy of your time. This year, it was different. I’d personally become so tired of hearing people, that I both agree and disagree with, use their megaphones on social media to share their opinions, I questioned why in the world anyone would want to hear mine.
I’m not going political here, don’t worry. Stay with me. After the death of George Floyd, I felt, as many did, that I needed to use my megaphone for social justice. My Mom, who never inserts her opinion unless it’s absolutely necessary, said to me one day, “Jilly, I know how you feel about this. But, I want to warn you that very well intentioned people who are on the right side of things are having their words misconstrued and, then, completely canceled. I don’t want that to be you because I know your heart.” I heeded her advice and kept my opinions to myself. After all, I’d become tired of the opinions of others, what would make mine so worthy of being heard. Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
What I’ve learned matters more is how I live my life. It’s easy to use our megaphones on social media but much harder to actually live out our convictions. While it’s not my responsibility to police people into what I believe is acceptable behavior, it is my responsibility to live in accordance to my own personal belief system. As a Christ follower, I strive to be the light. The Bible says, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 NIV
What light looks like to me is kindness. And, that’s not just extended to those you like and agree with. It’s extended to those you dislike, those you disagree with and those you find no common denominator with. It looks like love. Not the romanticized version of love where you do so when everything is going your way, but, the gritty, ride or die kind of love that gets down in the trenches as eagerly as it gets up on the mountaintops. It looks like peace. You know, the kind of peace the Bible tells us “surpasses all understanding.” It’s unshakable and inescapable. It’s service. That means really being what Christians so often refer to as “the hands and feet of Jesus.” It’s coming alongside those who most need our help, throwing their arm over our shoulder and carrying them across the finish line. Most often, these people are right under our noses, in our homes and our communities.
A couple weeks ago, I was walking into church when a precious friend patted me on the shoulder and wanted to talk in private. She’d been given a new and exciting opportunity that would take her to another church. I was elated for her, of course. In recent weeks, however, a handful of others had left our church for the same reason. But, that’s what happens when you’re a member of a church that focuses on helping their membership find their God given purpose(s) and equips them for it. It’s a very unselfish act on my churches behalf and what has become clear to me as true work for the kingdom of God. As I walked away from her, I had a brief moment of disappointment, not for myself but for the church and, as clear as clear could be, God gently whispered, “Don’t worry about that. I have something for you today.” P.S. This rarely happens to me. But, the few times it has, it’s been crystal clear. Our pastor, Kurt Pressler, in my opinion, preached his best sermon that day. It was on heaven. It gave me insight and perspective that I’d not had before hearing his words. After the service, I walked up to tell him just that. So, I patted him on the shoulder and said, tearfully, “That was your very best sermon.” The look on his face told me that my small encouragement was not only welcomed but greatly appreciated.
The next Sunday, as I walked into the auditorium, you know what these little “hands and feet of Jesus” did? Prayed. Yes, I prayed up every single person in the building and I will continue to do so. It’s a small but necessary act of kindness, love, peace and service. It’s being the light. And, one small light can drive out a whole lot of darkness.
Because it never really occurred to me to pray up the people in our church, it also never really occurred to me to pray up each of you. And, I want to do that today. Prayer is powerful. It’s accessing a merciful, gracious, mighty God who simply wants to be invited into where he already abides. So, let’s pray.
God, we just want to say thank you for this breath. You gave us life, and we’re so grateful for it.
Help us, Father, that we may live into your will by living out our God given purpose(s) for your glory.
God, we just want to say thank you for our family, and we’re not just talking about the ones that we’re bound to by blood or married into but those friends we’ve taken in as family. May we be a blessing to them in the same way the’ve been a blessing to us.
God, we just want to thank you for interceding on our behalves when we didn’t even know we needed it. Sometimes we get so caught up in our own worldliness that we forget you’re an everywhere at all times God. So often, in our own walks, you removed the stone before we tripped over it. Thank you, Father.
God, we just want to thank you for all the times you created a way when there was clearly no way up or out. In our distress, we called on you, and, faithful God, you answered.
God, we just want to say thank you for your grace and mercy. We’re so undeserving of both of these things, yet you lavish them upon us with a generosity well beyond our grasp.
For all these things and so much more, thank you.
May we be bright lights in this often dark world, glorifying you in all we think, say and do.
In the precious name of Jesus, Amen.
Friends, can I just say one last thing? Thank you for being that light for me. Your encouragement and support and likes and shares are beyond my wildest imaginations. Your own personal sparrow stories have helped me to fly when I couldn’t find my own wings. It is true, “For where two or three are gathered in My name, I am there among them (Matthew 18:20 AB).” When we come together in love, shining bright the Big Guy Upstairs gets all the glory. And, isn’t he deserving.