We Like Us

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I’ve been very blessed with a large extended family–in-laws, cousins, step-cousins, half-cousins, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, second cousins–well over 600! (and counting). I’ve spent a lot of time recently attending family events, and each one has been happy, encouraging, and invigorating. I know that is not always the case in families. Some families argue; some won’t even speak to each other. And there is not perfect harmony, even in the best of human families. We’ve had divorces and divides, too; but mostly, as my one cousin is fond of saying, “We like us.” We like belonging to a family, but even more, we like belonging to our family. As our family grows, it is becoming more diverse, and we like that, too. Many years ago, most of our family members were farmers from a small area in southwestern Michigan. Now, our family includes truck drivers, mechanics, teachers, architects, coaches, doctors, office managers, car salesmen, nurses, dispatchers, accountants, chefs, shopkeepers, ministers, photographers, cosmetologists, pet groomers, medical transcriptionists, cinematographers, artists, dancers, contractors, factory workers, and yes, some farmers, too. We have family members with varying skin tones and ethnic backgrounds, and differing physical and mental abilities. And we LIKE “us.”

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Jesus likened the Kingdom of Heaven to a family– it is made up of many members, but we are all brothers and sisters “in Christ.” And, like a family, we are supposed to like “us.” More than that, we are supposed to LOVE one another! We are to be there for each other, in good times and bad; in mourning and in rejoicing. “For better, for worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health..” It shouldn’t matter if our brothers and sisters live close by or halfway around the world; whether they belong to our local congregation of “that other church across town.” And it SHOULD matter when we see some of our family members being persecuted or facing hardship while others live in comfortable apathy.

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But Jesus went even further. We are to love those who are not “US.” We are to show love and mercy to those who don’t “belong.” We are to reach out to those who dislike, despise, and even persecute us. The way we treat each other as “family” and the way we treat those “outside” will either attract or repel others, and it will show whether or not we have learned to love as Jesus did.

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God “Likes” us. He wants to share life with us –any of us who will respond to His call. And God LOVES us. He treats us with the same compassion and love, regardless of who we are or what we’ve done, or how we’ve responded (or failed to respond) to His outreach.

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Clearly, there are those who do not like us; who do not wish us well. And God does not call us to be victims, dupes, and doormats for abusive relatives or strangers. We are to Love– but wisely, and with the strength of God. Liking someone does not obligate us to betray our conscience, or enable abusive and immoral behavior in others. Loving someone may mean setting boundaries where they are needed. But it also may involve tearing down false walls of fear and “inconvenience” that we’ve been using to excuse action.

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Who can we reach out to this week, extending the kind of welcome and acceptance we give our family? How can we begin seeing more of “us” in the people we meet, and less of “them?” And, if there are family members (either our birth families, or our church families) with whom we have a broken relationship, are there ways we can make a move to try to mend fences? How can we set wise boundaries, while tearing down false ones? One sure way is to begin praying– pray for those we meet, whether or not we consider them “family.” Pray for those who have hurt us– and those we have hurt. Pray for those who seem different and hard to understand or accept. Pray for God to bless them, encourage them, meet their needs– Pray that God will give us wisdom, opportunities, and strength to reach out.

Praying in Tune

I have a song that Jesus gave me,
It was sent from Heaven above;
There never was a sweeter melody,
‘Tis a melody of love.

I love the Christ who died on Calvary,
For He washed my sins away;
He put within my heart a melody,
And I know it’s there to stay.

‘Twill be my endless theme in Glory;
With the angels I will sing;
‘Twill be a song with glorious harmony,
When the courts of Heaven ring!

In my heart there rings a melody,
There rings a melody with Heaven’s harmony;
In my heart there rings a melody;
There rings a melody of Love.

Hymn by Elton M. Roth (1891-1951)

My grandfather had perfect pitch–he could hear a musical note and tell you what the note was or whether it was “in tune”.  He loved music and taught himself to play several musical instruments, including trombone, ukulele, auto harp, thumb harp, saxophone, violin, flute, banjo, dulcimer, trumpet, penny whistle, ocarina, and harmonica.  My grandmother played piano, organ, and a host of percussion instruments.

close up of ukulele

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My grandfather could hear perfect pitch, but he rarely sang.  He could make wonderful music with instruments, but not with his own voice.  He might have done so, but he never bothered to practice.  In fact, while he could play a multitude of instruments, he never became proficient on any of them.

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Prayer is accessible to anyone, as is music, but tuning and practice are required if we want to pursue prayer as a discipline and a means to develop a more harmonious relationship with God.  Prayers that are out of tune can be sharp– nagging, complaining attempts to bargain with God; or they can be flat– lifeless and empty of trust and affection.  Prayers that lead to growth, healing, and change are those that are “attuned” to the heart of God.  What a sweet song of praise when we live in harmony with God and others– working, growing, sharing, and singing together.

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I don’t have perfect pitch– I can usually hear if my voice or my flute seems out of tune with another instrument or other voices, but sometimes I need help.  The same is true of my pursuit of prayer.  I need help to keep in tune– a prayer journal is one tool I use.  But it also helps to have a prayer group or prayer partner, a prayer list, or a book of prayer.  For more ideas, see:  Proactive Prayer Points  and Prayer Journal.

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