Choices: Participation

DAY 9: I choose to PARTICIPATE in life.

A few months ago I DID something that I had TALKED about for years. I took my kids to a local nursing home to visit. I’m not telling you this to brag. In all honesty I am sad that we didn’t do it sooner. I didn’t post about it on FB or IG because of the whole “do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” thing in the Bible about doing acts of charity for the wrong cause- applause. And here I am telling you guys…

But this is why I’m telling you. Visiting the nursing home every month with my kids has opened my eyes to what it means to “love in action and deed.” The first visit we were all nervous. They asked all sorts of questions. “What is wrong with that man?” “Can that lady hear me?” “What is that smell?” We walked in, and smiled at all the faces that had assembled in the “party room”. We introduced ourselves not sure who was coherent.

Andre sat down at the piano and started to play… Music filled the room- Happy Birthday, Amazing Grace, Elvis Presley…smiles slowly spread out across the faces at the tables. Some people were dancing in their seats! The girls worked up the courage to go around giving out hugs and asking questions like, “What did you like to do when you were my age?”

I was overwhelmed by what was happening. My kids were participating in bringing Heaven to earth. I told them so later. There is nothing more important than using your gifts and time to love others. That is true religion.

“Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other, let us show the truth by our actions.” – 1 John 3:18

I recalled a conversation with one of our kids when they were smaller, asking about why we follow Jesus and I was disappointed in my “Sunday school” answer, “Jesus came and died for our sins so we can go to heaven one day.” The words didn’t sound right as they were coming out of my mouth. Really? That’s it?

My own answer didn’t sit well with me. Is it true that I follow Jesus is so I can GO to a ANOTHER place one day? We get to BE with him later, AFTER we LIVE through all the HELL down here?! That’s the gospel? No wonder people reject Christianity.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” – Jesus

“The Son of Man did not come to destroy life, but to bring life to the EARTH.” – Luke 9:55

He came to give us life NOW. Later yes, but also NOW. Right now.

Right NOW healing and freedom are available.
Right NOW joy is possible.

And he’s invited us on the journey.

If Jesus went to prepare a place for us, and then immediately set up camp in our hearts then doesn’t it make sense that we are to ALSO prepare a place for us? For others? For heaven on the NEW EARTH? He intended to use US, the vessels carrying His image & Spirit to prepare a place. He wants US to participate in taking care of His creation and His most prized creation in all eternity: His people.

We can create hell on earth for ourselves and everyone around us, OR we can be image bearers. Encouraging others with our words. Doing for others who are not capable. Feeding the hungry. Sitting with the lonely in the nursing home. Using our hands and feet to be the hands and feet of Christ.

I don’t love Jesus because he promises me a room one day in the clouds. I follow Jesus because he has given me NEW life TODAY. He came to set us free. And he calls us to participate. In our OWN healing and then in the healing of others. Because when we do for others we are bringing Heaven to earth…

to comfort widows,
to free men from the chains of pornography addiction.
to give women clarity from the fog of alcohol.
to give husbands eyes for their wives and the ability to love them well.
to give wives the wisdom to not ridicule or reject their husbands- in private and in public.
to relieve young people of debilitating anxiety.
to give hope to the depressed so they can see the light through the darkness.
to get strippers off the pole.
to heal children from divorce and abandonment.
Free from the hurt of a distracted mother and a distant father.
Free from opioids.
Free from shame.
Free from panic attacks.
Free from the scars of sexual abuse.

He came to write a new story on each of our hearts. To rescue us from ourselves and our propensity towards destruction. And He uses us. He put on skin to show us how its done and he gives us free will to choose Him, to choose LIFE and life to the FULL. (real life!) We have the power of life and death in our thoughts, words and actions. We are co-creators with our Creator.

That is a much better reason to follow Jesus than the one I gave my kids. The promise of Heaven ONE day? I’ll take Heaven TODAY. I will participate in my own healing and I will reach out to others. I will bring heaven to earth to someone who needs it by DOING the next right thing instead of talking about it.

We aren’t some cruel human experiment with a harp for a prize at the end. I think “Well done my good and faithful servant is reserved for those who PARTICIPATE in THIS life for His glory forever.

All three of my kids wouldn’t dream of missing our monthly visit to the nursing home. We know that Ms. Betty will dance in her chair, Ms. Francis will show us her new craft, that Ms. Brenda will have on a different baseball hat, that Ms. Sharon loves Mickey Mouse, and that Ms. Donna will cry when you hug her. We know that there will be heaven in that room.

I choose to PARTICIPATE in life.

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