Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Matthew 9:37-38
We are blessed that we belong to a community and a fellowship of believers who can freely join together on Sunday mornings to praise God and to hear the promise of salvation proclaimed to us in Word and sacrament. But what about those people who have never darkened our door? How do we share the life-changing message of hope and peace that we have come to know so well? What if I don’t feel comfortable talking about my faith?
I have heard someone recently describe the act of public witness as one of becoming a “Gospel Ninja.” Think about it, ninjas blend in to their surroundings. They don’t draw undue attention to themselves because they have a mission to complete. They train themselves to be ready for any situation. They are able to slip in and out without anyone noticing. Yet they leave an indelible impression with their presence and their actions.
Imagine if we took this mentality into our public ministry. Blending in with the people we live and work beside, we would stealthily offer kindness and patience to those we encounter; providing a listening ear to the person sitting next to us on the bus; giving a little more generous tip to the
harried server at the busy restaurant; offering to pray for an acquaintance or even a stranger who shares a fear or concern with us.
We don’t have to stand on the street corner with a bullhorn or picket signs that proclaim our faith. We can quietly and powerfully witness to our community and our families by being people who live out what we talk about in church on Sunday mornings. The power of the gospel is most evident when it is transformed from empty words into tangible actions.
It’s harvest time. There are plenty of people in Federal Way and Western Washington who are in need of some good news.
On Sunday, November 3rd, 2013, Shari Winslow shared her thoughts on Gratitude with the congregants in the Deeper Life Worship Service:
It’s November, which means it’s the time of year when I notice people on Facebook doing the gratitude thing – 30 days of posting the things they’re grateful for, in the spirit of Thanksgiving. I think it’s not a bad practice, although sometimes I wonder if I should do this in January or March — typically long, draggy months full of sinus infections.
But November is a good month for gratitude. Today I am particularly aware of the small moments, the ordinary blessings, the things that require me to stop and breathe and be present in my life exactly where I am. Of course I am grateful for my children and my family and my job and all the pieces of the big picture; what shakes me out of my moods and fits of self-pity or grouchiness, though, are the moments like enjoying chocolate chip pancakes, a surprise from my health-conscious husband. Fresh coffee. An extra hour in bed. Going for a run in the cool morning air, crunching through wet leaves on the street. Nothing clears my head quite like a good run when I’d rather just stay home, and yesterday morning I realized (again — it’s a lesson I keep learning, over and over) that the things that stress me out or turn me into a cranky mama—the kitchen messes, the Legos carpeting the floor in the family room, the noise on Saturday morning, the balled-up socks that never seem to make it into the hamper–are really just reminders of things for which I am grateful. The sources are my greatest joys.
Sometimes I wonder if real gratitude comes through the windows of things that make me feel grumpy and mean — syrupy plates left too long on the kitchen counter, dirt on the floors, the never-ending laundry, or any of the things it seems like only I notice. Because it seems like the times I really get it come after a bout of feeling decidedly ungrateful.
I wasn’t remotely grateful when my family was struck down by the flu, when my daughter didn’t eat a single bite of food for two days. But I was leveled with gratitude when people who love us brought food to our door, unasked.
It’s easy to be grateful for my job when I teach three dream classes of highly motivated, engaged students. It’s such a privilege to work with them. I can ask them to do challenging things and they trust me enough to try. They’re funny and earnest and they work hard and they do everything I ask; they’re polite and cute and every other wonderful word I can think of. I want to give them a huge collective hug every single day. They are still teenagers and prone to fits of absurdity, of course, but it’s totally endearing.
It’s less easy to be grateful when one of my classes is full of kids at risk for all kinds of things. They lead lives I can’t imagine. They are on probation, and not the academic kind. They’ve been jumped into gangs at the age of 15. They live in foster care or they move back and forth between different relatives. They are high-energy and high-needs kids who need a lot of attention. They are smart, sassy, exhausting kids who frustrate and worry me. I can try to make connections with these kids, and I can try to engage them in all the ways that are supposed to work, and sometimes the kids will engage and sometimes they won’t.
But then sometimes one of these kids will admit that The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian isn’t the absolute worst book he’s ever read, and he will show me a page of awkward writing even if I have to beg him to uncrumple it from the bottom of his backpack, and the next day he might bring me a warm scone from his sixth period cooking class and sort of toss it on my desk. He’ll try to act like he doesn’t care whether I eat it or not, but I see him watching, so I do. And I see him smile.
The thing is that the kids in my dream classes will be fine wherever they go, no matter who teaches them. They already have the tools and the support. It’s the swaggering boy who hates to read but tosses a scone on my desk who makes me walk to my car with a big goofy grin on my face and sing all the way to pick up my daughter.
He’ll probably make me really irritated in class tomorrow when he saunters in late without his book and proceeds to cop an attitude with me, and I will find it hard to be grateful for his class at the end of a long Monday. But I guess that’s where grace comes in and slaps me silly, because that’s exactly where I find the gratitude that sticks. It’s in the tough class of kids, in the food delivered when we’re sick and out of groceries, in the reminder that the toys and laundry and dirty socks are pieces of a much bigger, beautiful picture.
I cannot promise that I won’t ever be grumpy and stressed about these things. I know I will. I’m pretty messily human. But I hope they also make my heart a little bigger.
On Sunday, October 27th, 2013, five Calvary Confirmands were Affirmed in Baptism. Each took part in leading worship and made a personal statement of faith. Anna Chamberlain agreed to share hers here:
A reading from Deuteronomy 6:
4Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. 5You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. 6Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. 7Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.
To me my faith is best experienced through community: my friends, family, the congregation. Whether it’s my Papa saying the prayer at Thanksgiving, my Grandma singing with me in church, or way back when we first came to Calvary with my surrogate grandparents and automatically meeting my first best friend Avery—who has been a part of my faith journey my whole life, and now is confirming her faith beside me.
When I think of my faith, I could say so many things. Growing up in this church has made it easy to see God in everything I do. Whether it’s being outside with the warm fall colored leaves, or serving others at Shoshone. I’ve been going back to a scene in my head where I was having a lousy Sunday morning, so I go to the front row in Deeper Life, standing there holding my Mom’s hand and praising the Lord through singing my heart out. I remember the time my older sister told me I could wear jeans to church because God doesn’t care about small things like that. He loves you no matter what.
Which brings me to another point: At first, I struggled with my faith, feeling like so much was expected from me being the pastor’s kid. I wanted to not go to church, push everything away, including God. For some reason it didn’t work. I’m sure you know why too. God doesn’t leave your side. When you don’t believe in him for whatever reason, he still believes in you. And that’s what happened. Notice (most Sunday mornings) I get out of bed for church. There’s a calling for me. Not only was God calling me back to this place where I feel most at home , but I heard everyone who’s been part of my faith journey calling: The constant texts from Avery, “Your coming to church, right?!” Or, my Mom telling me how, no matter how much homework I had, it’s still important that I get to Confirmation. I’ve not only maintained my relationships with people who are a part of this journey, but also having friends come to worship with me has been important too.
All of you have been a part of my faith journey, and now that I am here confirming my faith, I understand that God was at work through you to meet me where I was. And I am sure he will continue to do that. And for that I am thankful.
Janet Freeman-Daily spoke to the Calvary congregation in October 2013, as part of the Stewardship Season on the theme for 2013: Gratitude.
My name is Janet Freeman-Daily, and I’m grateful to be here. I’m grateful to be ANYwhere. I’m grateful to be ALIVE. The fact that I’m alive is a modern-day medical miracle.
In May of 2011, after a few months of a persistent cough, I was diagnosed with pneumonia caused by advanced lung cancer. No, I never smoked anything except a salmon. Five months after diagnosis, despite chemo and radiation, the cancer spread outside my chest and I was given at most two years to live. A year later, after more treatment and another recurrence, I learned my cancer had a rare mutation. Last October, I found a clinical trial that could treat that mutation with an experimental pill, and I flew to Denver to get it. In January, I achieved the dream of all metastatic cancer patients: No Evidence of Disease. My cancer is no longer detectable.
I am overwhelmingly grateful for everything and everyone that has brought me to this state of grace: medical science that discovered new ways to treat my condition, insurance that paid for most of my care, family and friends who supported me, a knowledgeable online lung cancer community, and all the prayer warriors lifting me up throughout my cancer journey. Thank you. I am truly blessed.
I am not cured. The trial drug only suppresses my cancer, and I have some permanent side effects. I’ll be in treatment for the rest of my days. Clinical trials will hopefully keep me feeling relatively comfortable and capable for many months – even years. I am satisfied with living however long I might have.
Being given a second chance at life tends to give one a different perspective. Colors are brighter. A warm breeze rustling the trees makes the whole day worthwhile. Time spent with family and friends becomes precious.
A second chance also makes one introspective. Why was I spared when others died? Why does my mutation have an effective treatment when others don’t? Why am I able to see one of the best lung cancer doctors in the world when many patients can’t afford proper treatment?
Why am I still here? What purpose does God have for me?
Part of the answer to why I’m still here is, I am blessed with gifts that help me survive my cancer journey. I’m able to understand the medical science and my treatment. I’m able to explain what I’ve learned. And I’m able to advocate for myself with healthcare providers.
Yet I am just a steward of these gifts that God bestowed on me. Understanding my gifts has led me to God’s purpose for me: I am here to help other lung cancer patients. I strongly feel this is my calling in the time I have left.
Lung cancer has a stigma attached to it. Few people know that 80% of those newly diagnosed with lung cancer are nonsmokers or never smokers. There is more to lung cancer than just smoking. Yet we are the lepers of the cancer community.
For this reason, some patients are ashamed to admit they have lung cancer. Most don’t know about the new treatments like the one I’m taking–even some doctors don’t know. Patients don’t know where to turn for answers.
Lung cancer patients need more than compassion. They need information. They need HOPE.
After considerable thought, I decided the best way to use my gifts was to go public about my lung cancer. At first, I only shared my story online with friends and lung cancer communities. Eventually I started blogging — which is essentially a journal open to the world on the Internet — and began speaking publicly about my cancer.
Going public with my lung cancer experience has already had an impact. As I’d hoped, it shows patients that people can live with metastatic lung cancer, and encourages them to ask questions about their treatment.
But going public has also brought completely unexpected blessings. It helps families understand what their loved ones who have lung cancer are experiencing. It gives hospital chaplains insight into their patients’ needs and feelings. It demonstrates to doctors that patients can be partners in their own care. It reveals to researchers how their work makes a difference in the lives of real patients.
In addition, I’ve realized a personal health benefit in sharing the gifts God gave me to steward. Having a purpose gets me through the tougher parts of cancer treatment. It won’t heal my cancer, but it does help me live a healthier, happier life.
And it all started with being grateful that I’m alive.
~ Janet Freeman-Daily
Janet’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/janet.freemandaily
Janet’s Blog: http://grayconnections.wordpress.com