Tears filled my eyes and some rather violent tugs were pulled on my heart strings last night as I checked my email before bed.
I was taken back a year-and-a-half or so to a time when our community paid tribute to a young soldier who died in the war in Iraq. I never knew him as he wasn't even living in our community anymore. But his mother was, and so was his brother and his wife and kids. They were kind of lost in the shuffle with some of the more major news outlets at the time as the young soldier's wife was more featured in the grieving process.
Times goes by and we forget. We live our own lives, go through our own sorrows and joys, and hopefully along the way we touch someones life. Right?
Billy Coffey shared a touching story of the Ten Dollar Blessing on his blog (What I Learned Today) a short time ago and I was moved. Another blogger on the High Calling Blogs network was moved too and started a challenge - a Ten Dollar Blessing challenge - to others in the network.
I have said before that we worship on Sunday mornings in a former bowling alley turned banquet hall. The gospel is preached by both pastors and lay people in a place where we cover the bar in the back of the room with black curtains and provide a setting in which the unchurched or underchurched in our little community can come, feel comfortable, loved and meet Jesus.
A couple of months ago this family began to come to The Lighthouse. A husband, wife and their five kids. Oh, and his mother and sister also come along. We provide a little breakfast-type item prior to church, worship together and then share in a meal together following the service.
They came back and they have continued to come. Praise God. One of their first weeks to worship at The Lighthouse was my Sunday to teach it - and towards the end of the service a challenge was issued to those who needed prayer to come and pray. To get up, right then and there, to come and pray.
One of the people I got to pray with that morning was the fallen soldier's brother. "Ever since my brother died I have had a hole in my heart," he told me. He went on from there to ask prayer about choices and struggles that accompany his pain, but wow, what a blessing to pray with and for him that morning and since.
Some three weeks ago, this young man lost his job. Remember, he has a wife and five kids at home and now they have no income, but they continue to come to church on Sunday morning. This past Sunday morning, during a time of prayer requests - when people actually take a moment to write them down and then they are all read in the front of church - one came from this young man.
I was home sick, but was sent this email last night. Thus the tears:
I thought I should pass this along to you. It was a prayer request from Sunday at the Lighthouse. Showing you again that you make a difference:) I ask for all to pray for my family, and I would also like to thank God for people like Mike and Chris and all the others at the Lighthouse who have been so helpful in my family's time of need.
I have prayed with this young man, emailed him a couple of times and I talk to him on Sunday mornings. I have spoken to an employer on his behalf, but I haven't given him anything. I haven't really done anything for him.
Or have I?
All I have done is a portion of what just about everyone reading this would already do, but I share this with you for a couple of reasons this morning. A.) I know full well where my ten dollars is going; and B.) Blessings so often come in forms other than money. This young family has seen Jesus afoot in a place we call The Lighthouse and we are blessed to be at work with God in what he is doing there. It isn't about me, please understand that, but it is about what God is up to in the lives of this young family.
At the time of the funeral procession for the fallen soldier I was dealing with enough of my own junk that no one else really mattered. It bothered me that a soldier from our community had lost his life, but that's where it stopped. Today, my heart is so full of compassion and hurt for this guy and his family that I want to sell everything I have and help him and others like him, but I know I can't and am really not even supposed to. That's part of my experiencing grace and peace in this life.
I continue to fall back on II Corinthians 9 where Paul writes that each man should give as he has decided in his heart to give - not relunctantly or under compulsion - for God loves a cheerful giver.
I can't save this family, only Jesus can, but I can give them my heart, my love and my prayers. Perhaps I am even supposed to share ten dollars and ask all of my friends to do the same.
That's my challenge today, and my challenge to anyone who happens to read this. I pray you count your blessings; that you open your eyes to see those around you; that you open your ears to hear those around you; and that you open your heart to those around you to love them more and to show them Jesus each and every day.