Faith in everyday living

Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?

— James 17, The Message Bible

I cannot recall what prompted the visit, but only once do I ever recall the minister of our church entering our home while I was growing up. In anticipation of his visit I know we cleaned. It is what you did…you had to clean up your life to talk to the preacher. Therefore, the green shag carpeting in the living room was carefully vacuumed. Even the giant cluster of fake grapes my mother made at a craft class was dusted before being returned to the coffee table. Knowing Mom as I do, she probably turned on the Perk-o-lator coffee pot. I’m sure my bother and I were instructed to put on the armor of best manners.

The Big Visit occurred over three decades ago and I cannot recall what the Reverend Pruit looked like or exactly what we talked about. My mom speculates that he talked about church finances because she was the treasurer at the time. But one aspect of the visit is clearly remembered. It involves an event surrounding the family dog, whose itchy behind got the best of her. Watching her rid herself of the misery by pulling her bottom across the living room rug, then seeing my mother leap from her chair to stop our beloved pet was, well, priceless.

There are two lessons I take away from the Big Visit. The first: God takes us just as we are. We do not have to clean up to approach Him. That’s because God is a come-as-you-are Being. After all, He created each one of us. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows our thoughts and steps. How silly to think that if we spiff up on the outside we will provide the correct appearances for Him and those around us. The truth of the matter is this: man has always tried to be good enough for God and it has never worked. We can’t be. God is too perfect and too just. We will always miss the mark. But if we come to Him with a heart that understands our failings and accept the gift of His Son — sent to wipe away all our “stuff.” He takes us. All of us. Just as we are.

And there is heavenly celebration. In fact, it’s party time in the universe. The sun shines. The angels sing. The Perk-o-lator is plugged in. All because you—your life right now and your life to come — is worthy of a celebration.

And once we claim God and He claims us — seeing us as perfect and whole because of Christ — He looks to see how we might make use of all the gifts He has given us. Don’t think you have any gifts? It’s time to take a personal inventory. What do you like to do? What interests you? What are you doing when you feel the most comfortable? When people seem to touch your heart and you touch theirs? This is not only the adventure of truly understanding the real you, but coming to see that there is purpose in living out a life of faith with others.

It’s eventful, as long as you stop what you are doing, accept the interruptions that are people and their needs, and live a practical Christian life. A quick glance at Christ’s life—filled with all sorts of colorful characters, some socially despised, some misunderstood, many sick and hurting—and you come to understand that Christ longs for us to be practical in our efforts to live with depth and meaning. He wants us to be ready to set aside agendas, plans in some cases and schedules so we can see that interruptions and service to others are all divine opportunities. To use our gifts. To truly love others in personal and practical ways

If we don’t, in too many cases nobody else will either.

The second lesson I take away from the Big Event in my family is this: don’t segregate your spiritual life. Don’t subdivide or box it up. Don’t take it out one day and tuck it away the next. Why did it feel so strange when the preacher ventured into our living room? It’s because faith was kept at an arm’s distance. We did not incorporate it into our everyday life, into our daily thinking, into our hearts. It was a social choice. A way of viewing the world. It was scheduled. It was appropriate but not too radical. Certainly not deeply personal or relational.

When I look at my children I wonder what kind of world they will face someday when my husband and I are gone. The catastrophic events, seen around the world in the last five years remind me that people need to know that God cares for them. People need to know that people of faith are willing to go beyond themselves. People of faith are willing to be personal and practical. Hospitable and friendly. Supporting and respectful. Patient and honest.

We’re better together. We need each other. God never intended for us to do it alone.

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