During a recent conversation with my youngest daughter, I was surprised to find that she had never stepped inside a Hardee’s fast food restaurant. The most shocking part of the revelation was that I was the reason. She reminded me that years ago I had vowed never again to eat at Hardee’s and out of loyalty to me she had never eaten there either. Lest you think I have some undying vendetta against Hardees let me elaborate.
I can only barely remember what happened. When she brought it up, it was a minute or two before a vague memory slowly surfaced. Honestly, I had long forgotten ever making that declaration of war, but she had remembered the shenanigans between me and a less-than-polite teenager manning the drive through window. And my reaction had stuck with her. The truth be told, I am pretty sure I have eaten there a time or two since then.
It’s slightly disturbing to me what I choose to remember about people and situations. (Of course if I’m being honest, what I really mean is it’s slightly disturbing to me that I have no control over what people ultimately remember about me.) What I say and do in my home, my classroom, my community matters because I am representing myself as an ambassador for Christ.
So what does an authentic ambassador of Christ look like? In a word – Love. Looking to 1 Corinthians 13 I can find a very accurate description of who I want to be. A true ambassador is patient, polite and kind. Promoting peace, she doesn’t keep score or have to have her own way. She always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres believing with her whole heart that love triumphs.
I know that every day I fall short of that description. I can only pray that the ones who know me won’t remember me on my very worst day or even on my very best, but somewhere in between. It’s that place in between that my most authentic self lives. And ultimately it is the place where I have the most influence for Jesus. The place in between – where every day the messiness of life has an opportunity to be washed with healing and forgiveness. Where rude drive through employees are forgiven and forgotten and people get to eat at Hardee’s again. Where Jesus assures us that He is with us – on our best day and on our worst day and every day in between.
Her friends recommended that the young woman have her eyes checked. She dismissed their concerns with a vehement, “My eyes are just fine,” and then quickly changed the subject. She’d been wanting to try a popular local restaurant. Each day as she drove down the highway on her way to work she noticed the prominent sign and asked if they knew anything about it.
“It’s called Food, Lunch and Munchies and it must be really good because the parking lot is always packed with cars.” None of her friends had ever heard of it, but told her they would try it out soon.
The next time they got together she was sporting a pair of brand new glasses. They were all relieved she’d finally decided she had a need for them. Then someone asked about the restaurant that she was anxious to try out. Had she been yet?
She told them that she wouldn’t be going there for lunch any time soon. After she had gotten her glasses she had driven by the popular place on the highway and was more than a little chagrined. Suddenly she realized why there were so many cars parked in the lot. The sign clearly read Ford Lincoln Mercury.
Dinner at my house this time of year means garden fresh vegetables on the table. Tomatoes, green beans, radishes, and corn are plentiful. Daily we enjoy the results of my husband’s efforts. Throughout the spring he diligently tended to the generous plot of garden space in our back field. Tenacious tilling, planting, weeding and watering have rewarded us with a delicious harvest.
His work ethic is to be commended. And each day I have the opportunity to apply that same principle of “you reap what you sow” in my own life. I must ensure that I am not a casual gardener of the soil that God has allotted me. For it can be so easy to carelessly sow a crop of hurt with a hasty word or thoughtless action without considering the fragile soil into which it is thrown.
Also I must be aware when seeds of unforgiveness have rooted themselves in my spirit to the point of choking out loving thoughts and words. When I begin to feel “prickly” about someone or react in a way that is contrary to love’s requirements I need to stop and examine my heart. What seed has begun to grow there that would result in bitterness, selfishness, anger and score-keeping? I can be sure that anything that is not creating a bounty of love is a seed sown by the enemy.
Look at the apostle Paul’s familiar words describing love’s harvest, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast. It is not proud, it is not rude. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” There is only one way I can hope to produce this beautiful crop. I must give myself over the to Master Gardener to prune my heart. Painful though it may be, in due time it will yield a bountiful and beautiful harvest for the Kingdom.
Galatians 6 :9 “Let us not grow weary in doing good, in due season we will reap, if we don’t lose heart.”
I was in the car returning home from vacation when I got a phone call from my good friend, Karalee. She is one of the devoted workers that helps provide lunches in the summer to the children of our community. Wanting to fill me in on the details of the previous week I had missed, she was anxious to share an amazing incident.
It was a typical Wednesday at the church as people assembled in the kitchen and fellowship hall making and packing up lunches. Karalee was in charge on this summer morning and was hard at work organizing the troops when her sister pulled her aside. Becky told her a man had wandered into the church and was asking if they could feed him. He said he had been out of work for some time, had no money or food and was hungry. Sadly, he had been to three different churches and no one would help him.
Karalee stopped what she was doing and went to talk to him. Without pause, she made him a sandwich, then packed a large bag with the groceries we had on hand in our church’s small pantry. The grateful gentleman began to cry telling her he would begin coming to our church. He was true to his word and I had the pleasure of meeting him the very next Sunday.
What makes this story so amazing is not the generosity of one woman or one church, but what had happened one hour prior. Before setting up for the summer lunch program that day, Karalee and some of our other church leaders had been in prayer together. They had been specifically asking God to send different groups of people to our church. Having a heart for the poor, Karalee had asked to pray that God would send the poor in our community to our church. God took them seriously.
Isn’t it amazing that when we come to God with open, willing hearts that He will provide us with the things for which we have asked? What a privilege and honor it is to know that when we are sincere in our desires to help others that God trusts us with opportunities to do just that! He trusts us not to try to do everything on our own, but to allow Him to work through us. And when we ask, He generously provides. Ultimately, it is only in His loving provision for us that we may pour that love into somebody else’s life.
Thank-you, Holy Father, for your generosity to me! Help me not to hold tightly to the things you have graciously given me, but to be quick to pass on those blessings to others. Be glorified in the giving, LORD, for truly You are the Generous Giver.