Thursday, June 11, 2015

Birthday Wishes and a Thank You

Why in the world would someone take the response to reply to some 600 or so birthday wishes on social media? For me the answer is quite simple and something that recently took me almost a full day to figure out how to do it, (with facebook settings it can be tough) and then get the effort done.

You see it is like this, some years ago I was serving as pastor at United at the Cross in Southwest Wichita. One day while out doing home visits, that is visiting the folks in the community, I would often go door to door introducing myself. I will never forget the conversation with this small widow lady and her reasoning's for not attending church.

I knocked on the door, introduced myself and the lady rather quickly stated after figuring out who I was, "I'm not interested in church!"

Now understand, I have never been the hard recruiting type because I truly think I understand some of the reasoning's some have issues with the Church. This lady confirmed my thoughts as I responded, "Ms. I am not here to recruit you to church but to let you know I live in the community and if there is ever anything I can do to assist or help with I want you to know I and our church are available."

Now serving others, in the community has always been a part of the ministry I believe God has called the Church to do. It is one of the reasons that at Mosaic, as small as we are, we help take care of the orphans, widows, widowers, poor, handicapped and the needy among others in our neighborhood as we can. I believe it is a part of the call of the Church to care for the community of which they exist. It is one of the things I have said over the years about the Catholics, they seem to understand the community or parish concept.

The lady, in her early to mid 60's, small and frail, but feisty, was shocked. "Well I appreciate that and it is the first times a church has offered to help me with anything." She went on to tell me and the person with me, "My husband and I used to go to church, (she was specific to the name and one not far from our church in Southwest Wichita) but he wasn't doing well, not that anyone at that church would know. It was near his birthday and I asked the pastor if the church could sing him Happy Birthday. The pastor responded that if they did that for him they would have to do it for everyone and they just didn't have the time for it. Truth is, that was the last Sunday I ever attended church."

I grieved for this woman but also for a church that was to be a representative of the work of Jesus, the Bride of Christ. How could they Biblically justify this type of action for a family in need? My response to this lady, was "What would have been wrong with that, we sing Happy Birthday all of the time and so what if you had to do it for everyone? That's a part of celebrating the life of those in church."

For years, I have made a point that at churches I have been involved in to sing happy anniversary, happy birthday, celebrate days of recovery from addictions and to find reasons to celebrate the things God has not only given the church but the individuals that make up the church.  Recently we had an entire service to celebrate the graduation from High School for one of our members who has Asperger's. It was a great service and a service that I think let that person know they are important. Unfortunately, sometimes the church is more caught up on the programming than they are the people. I understand why some have issues with that. Can you blame them?

Long story made short, I later found out this ladies husband died from cancer and this event kept them from ever attending church again. While we all, (speaking of the church and the members of the church) have issues and at times fail, we have to be careful I believe to make sure to say things like, "Thank You," or sing happy birthday or show an interest in the life of each other. The flip side of this is everyone expects this to always be the pastors job, even though the Bible clearly speaks about the role of the pastor to teach and equip those within the church to carry out the work of the church. This doesn't excuse the pastor for not doing it, but neither should we condemn the pastor when others participate. The bottom line is the church is a group of people, not just a singular one.   

Now on a side note, my time on facebook is largely ministry related time for me through The Virtual Pew. It is why I challenge some to search deep for answers, share my heart, and just try to be honest. It has also been a time though that has been a blessing to me and those I love. For that, I am grateful.

Now let me say a few things, please, never take lightly the "Happy Birthday," comment you leave for someone at facebook or the kind words you may share with another. For some, those who are lonely, hurting, or down and out, it may be the boost to get them over the hump they are at in that point in time of life. For others, like me, it is worth it to also take the time to try as best as I can to respond and at the least say thank you.  For me, I try to genuinely respond, for those I know well, to add a note of thanks, blessing or a personal note of where God may be leading me. Does it take up time to do so? With approximately 600 responses, you bet it does. Do I regret it? Heck No! These are people who took the time to offer a well wished thought. I am honored that real friends as well as FB friends would take the time to do this. 

Now in conclusion am I saying everyone should do this? No I am not, I am saying though, that for a community of believers, a church if you will, it is important to take the time to give the individual the time they need, as we can, even if that time involves singing happy birthday to a dying man looking for the comfort of friends. I am also saying there are those in the church who can find ways to make special days special. I will never forget at United at the Cross the effort to sing Happy Birthday to each individual but I am also reminded of a lady named Katie Flores who each year took the information from each member, or participant, and writing out and addressing a birthday card to them.  All I had to do was put a stamp on it, sign it and mail it. It was a practical way that those of us in the body let each other know that we loved each other. So there are ways to do it, we should never be answering questions on things like this on why we can't do it, instead, may we search for ways that we can. 

In that regard, for those taking of their time, to show and share love and the kind words to me. I know, I can say with all sincerity, yes it was worth it to take the time to personally thank you and if I failed to do that with anyone, forgive me, it was never my intent to leave out anyone.  Now there is another reason to share this though, that is to let you know, that you actions matter and saying Happy Birthday to someone like me, or anyone for that matter, may have more of an impact than you will ever know. 

Once again I say to all of you, Thank You and all of God's Blessings!

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