How you make them feel

I’ve joked that if you want to plan a weather event in Corpus Christi, plan it for the third Saturday of the month. That’s when my church hosts its monthly food pantry distribution. Each month we are able to offer a box of food to around eighty families. Lately, that number has dwindled.

We aren’t sure what’s happened. Of course, a global pandemic can disturb any plan. At the same time, we’ve had heavy rain pour in and freezing temperatures stick around on Saturday mornings. We’ve still had a group of church members able to prepare and show up to help. But many of those we serve don’t have transportation. So, it might be more difficult for them now.

I mention that local ministry for two reasons today. First, I’ve appreciated how the group of church members has responded to the situation. They’re considering what changes they need to make. What can they do to ensure we’re serving our immediate neighborhood. That’s how you keep ministry going!

The second reason is because of a conversation I had this weekend. At our food pantry, a man approached me. He got out of line to ask me a question.

He asked, “Where’s the lady?”

I asked him to be a little more specific.

“She’s the one who yells, ‘hello,’ to everyone and always has a smile.”

My heart sank.

I hadn’t thought about her in a few weeks. He was talking about Elizabeth. Right now, because of COVID, people line up outside to receive a box of food. Before, we’d gather inside. There’d be music, conversation, coffee and some sweet bread. When it was time to get started, Elizabeth would corral everyone’s attention.

She did so with a loud hello. Then she’d say a few words about how she loved seeing everyone. She’d tell them she would only miss the food bank if she absolutely had to because they were like family to her.

I took a moment to gather my thoughts when the man asked about Elizabeth. She died last year from COVID. His eyes teared a little when I told him; he had no idea. He went on to tell me how loving he thought she was and that he missed seeing her.

Me, too, brother.

When I left I thought about a quote from Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

The world has enough trouble. There are too many people who want to be respected, to be honored. Too many people suck the joy out of life because they always want to be right. None of us need any more of that.

And Christians surely do not need to be those people. We are resurrection people. Christ is risen, and has raised us to new life. He gave his life for us out of love. Now, as people who follow Christ, we lead with love. That’s who God calls us to be.

That’s our witness. That’s our ministry. That’s how we speak to one another. That’s how we treat each other.

So, may we be witnesses to the love of God by living with the love of God.

Stay blessed…john

Why I keep wearing masks

Do you remember how you felt last year when the reality of the pandemic was unavoidable?

If you and I had conversations when it all began, remind me what I felt, please. I don’t quite remember. It’s a blur. I know I had to make tough decisions that affected our church. And I do recall thinking a lot of my family.

Other than that, I may have been too occupied learning how to be a video evangelist to feel anything more.

I also remember taking time to read about the last time our nation endured a pandemic. I wanted to see what we learned from that experience. If there was anything worth bringing to mind this time around.

In a nutshell, I took away that what helped us before was cooperation. It was the willingness of communities to engage in an array of social distancing practices. Those places willing to do so for extended periods of time helped the nation curb the spread until a vaccine was available.

Nothing new under the sun.

We used masks back then, too. As you can imagine, the masks people used then weren’t as helpful as some we have today. But it was something.

Now, I’m thinking about all this because recently my state governor informed us about his decision to rescind social-distancing mandates.

First, let me assure you that I understand the concern many people have about allowing governmental entities to mandate such practices at all. There are obvious lines we approach with these kinds of decisions.

Second, let me also share with you why I continue to wear a mask and keep with social distancing practices. It has to do with an illustration from our scripture reference today.

When I read from 1 Peter 2, I can’t help but think of the stones erected in the Jordan River after the people of God had passed through.

I’ll let you read Joshua 4 yourself to fill in all the details.

But do recall now that those stones were a reminder to future generations. They would remind all people of God’s faithfulness and mighty works.

As standing stones ourselves, we are witnesses to the same power.

The love of God in Christ Jesus is the ultimate power of God that we experience. His sacrificial love is what saved us. As a result, Christ has taught us that the most important way to live is to love God and to love people.

In that light, as I continue to wear a mask, for example, I am keeping in mind that we have learned this is an easy, albeit imperfect way to care for other people. To demonstrate the love of humanity while we endure such a crisis together.

Masks and social distancing were never about fear. They continue to be about care. Pandemic or not, I want my life to be a standing stone.

It’s been over a year now. By most credible accounts, there is still about another year left before we can say we are past the dangers of COVID-19. Government mandates or not, we’re going to have to decide how we best care for each other. 

Standing stones point to the power of God, the love of God in Christ. Peter also called Jesus a living stone. And look what Jesus did with his life.

Stay blessed…john