Compassion

SunkissedWhen I told my mom that I thought God was calling me to be a missionary, she wasn’t that surprised and mentioned something about my always having a compassionate heart. She told me the story again about when I was a child, I would always put my coins in the little charity boxes for kids with disabilities, for people fighting disease, or for abused animals.

I do think that God has given me the gift of empathy and compassion, but these traits didn’t develop naturally; they were learned and cultivated. It was my mom who taught me to be compassionate, and it was through her deeds, her lifestyle, and not merely through words.

When I was around 10 or 11, there was a tragedy in our small town. A drunk driver hit and killed a person; I don’t remember the details at all, but I believe it was a young person he killed. This drunk driver became the bogeyman of our town; he was reviled and hated for what he did. Mom’s heart went out to the family who lost their beloved member, but Mom felt God was also calling her to visit the man, this murderer, in jail. She was obedient and did so and started ministering to him in jail. This started my mom’s jail ministry that continues to this day, and my dad joined in years ago too. Together, they have been ministering to inmates in the local county jail for more than twenty years.

In our society that is more or less compassionate and Christian, inmates are a forgotten group and are thrown away. But our Lord loves them just the same, and my mom was opened to being a vessel of this love. It’s not a “sexy” ministry; nobody really applauds those who ministers to people in jail, but it is an important and vital ministry. Did not our Lord tell us not to forget those in prison?

Through mom’s actions long ago and through a lifestyle of giving and showing compassion to others, often to the forgotten of society, Mom has taught me to have a compassionate heart. I still strive to be more and more like Mom in this regard, as I have a long way to go. But I thank you, Mom, for your example of faith, obedience, and compassion.

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Rejoice

When I can’t sleep at night, I know that I am super stressed or overwhelmed and that it is time to make a change. Last night was one of those nights. But around 3:00 in the morning, in the midst of tossing and turning, I heard a voice speak to my spirit, saying, “Rejoice.” As I continued to drift in and out of sleep, I would repeat to myself as a half-asleep breathe prayer, “rejoice” and “peace.”

I know the voice I heard was God’s, and I have been reflecting all morning on what God is trying to tell me. Why rejoice? 

Over the past few weeks, I have been trying to tap into God’s strength. In no other point of my life have I experienced what it truly means to be weak and to depend on God for total strength. But I’m still struggling to figure out how to be strong in God. I know prayer and scripture reading serve as the foundation of our relationship with God; but to be perfectly honest, I don’t exactly experience a bolt of strength when I spend time with God. Perhaps God’s working is more internal, strengthening me in ways yet unknown.

Joey
Joey isn’t my pet; he belongs to my sister. But he is teaching me loads about unconditional love and rejoicing.

A couple of weeks ago, I ran across this scripture verse: “The joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10, NRSV). I remember thinking, Hum. That’s interesting. How does that really work? After last night’s experience, I have decided to spend the next few days rejoicing in God’s goodness and not focusing on my endless to-do list. I am reminded of one of my favorite scripture passages (and Henry Purcell Anthems): “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”  (Philippians 4:4-7, NRSV). Perhaps the “peace” part of my half-asleep breathe prayer came from my subconscious memory of this scripture passage.

I’m going to give this “rejoice” thing a try, and I believe by delighting in God I will find the strength for which I’m looking. Won’t you join me?