19 May, 2020

God at work through community

I don't always (or often?) hear about how my words or this blog have helped someone, but did last week. Let's trace some ripples in a pond and, hopefully, show how God's been at work.

When I was in Australia I spent a little time with a psychologist. She is the same psychologist who did assessment back in 1998 when we started on this missions journey. Each time we go back we're required to do a debrief with her and her husband, it's been great to have a long-term relationship with them, even if we rarely meet.

This time I went back a couple more times. I've written here about how that resulted in me being more intentional about cultivating certain friendships in Australia. 

It turns out that the two friends I stay in contact with daily have spent time with the same psychologist. It's been an interesting element to our friendship, because we occasionally reference this common professional and her words. One thing that keeps coming up, and originated with this lady is the concept of "lily pads". I can't even remember if the psychologist mentioned them to me, but my friend hasn't let me forget this very useful concept.

And so I mentioned lily pads briefly last week in my blog post. Each time I write here I share the link to my blog post on my Facebook page, so often people comment there, rather than here.

On this post last week, a missionary friend commented that she found the concept useful in general too, but that it is a hard part of the current situation. I replied saying that planning smaller things like baking on the weekend, a TV series to work through, or a book to read are helpful, or even necessary to staying healthy. She commented that she'd been trying crochet as something of a lily pad, but hadn't been having much success.

A few days later my missionary friend and I received a message from one of my expat FB friends in Japan who'd been struggling with the lack of plans, especially not being able to see family. She found the lily pad idea amazing and very helpful. That it had been so helpful to her blew me and my missionary friend away. It had been such a small interaction, but one that happened in a place that my expat friend saw and was inspired by. She went on from that and shared her revelation with friends of hers who had similar reactions.

What a fascinating, rippling trail of God's grace.

I think at the moment thoughtful Christians are considering what Christian community is all about. In recent weeks/months many of us have been unable to physically meet together like we are used to. What has community looked like in that time?

For me it has looked like all the below:

  • worshipping virtually with others, while sitting in my lounge room,
  • long and short conversations—planned and unplanned; text, video, or phone call; or even the occasional in-person physically-distanced chat
  • generosity—both giving and receiving
  • being a part of a loosely-formed book club around a book by a missionary that has helped us to reflect on God at this time
  • the giving of grace—in my work, with my family, and with others
  • seeking how to creatively bless other people near and far.
You can probably come up with different ways it's looked for you. I will probably think of more after I publish this!

Before I go I want to share another way that friends and colleagues have blessed me in the last little while.

Encouragement folder

Last week God knew I needed a bit of extra encouragement and I received a few other encouraging emails. After I shared some of the encouragement with my two "daily" friends, one of them encouraged me to set up an encouragement folder on my computer. 

I always pass encouragements related to the magazine I work on to my magazine team when I receive them, but I haven't really collected them. I also haven't routinely collected encouragements non-magazine related for my own benefit. 

I'm so excited to be collecting them now, even a couple of sentences in an email can be something to lift my day, and now they can last longer than a day. And that's important. Not only do I work at the pointy end of publishing at times (having to work with authors who aren't happy or don't understand why we've changed what we've changed), I also live with teenagers who sometimes seem to think it's important that they critique my every move and every word. We're spending more time together in 2020 than usual, so a bit of extra encouragement is not to be discounted!

How have you seen community in your life in recent weeks?

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