Spending time with children brings me joy. My three young friends, Alex, Jake, and I'll call the third, Jane, all of whom are eight years old, fill my home with laughter and fun.
They spend time in the backyard playing kickball or making a little town in the woods from sticks, rocks and dried leaves. They create artwork using chalk on the concrete garage floor or the sidewalk. Their favorite activity occurs in my kitchen when we bake. Baking is the center of our time together; the other activities evolve around this tasty task.
Sometimes Jane comes by herself, as she likes to sew and the boys prefer to be more active. When all three come at the same time, we often pack a picnic and walk to the small park in our housing addition.
Recently, I took Jane to the Indianapolis Museum of Art for her first visit. She enjoys art and had a picture she painted in the school district art show last spring. Touring the museum and seeing art from an eight-year-old perspective brought new vision to a place I've frequented for almost thirty years.
One exhibit, "Floor," by the Korean artist, Do-Ho-Suh, captivated Jane. "Floor" is made of several sections of thick glass plates. Sandwiched between the plates and the hardwood floor of the museum are hundreds of multi-colored, miniature figures. The palms of their hands touch the glass, "supporting" the weight of visitors who step on the display.
Jane ran all over the expansive glass, fascinated by the hundreds of tiny, plastic people. "The people are holding us up," she exclaimed.
"They sure are Jane," I replied.
Community Within A Church
Reflecting on our experience at the museum later in the day I realized "Floor" was an apt metaphor illustrating community - especially church community.
Acts chapter 2, verses 43-47,describes the nature of living in the Christian community:
"Many miracles and wonders were being done through the apostles and everyone was filled with awe. All the believers continued together in close fellowship and shared their belongings with one another. They would sell their property and possessions and distribute the money among all, according to what each one needed. Day after day they met as a group in the Temple, and they had their meals together in their homes, eating with glad and humble hearts, praising God and enjoying the good will of all the people. And every day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved."
Although life among the believers today may not look exactly like the description in the book of Acts, there are similarities. Fundraisers are often held for those who are sick or to raise support for projects within the church. Groups meet in churches each Sunday to study God's Word. Small groups gather in homes for prayer and often choose a book to read and discuss. Caring for each other is also a focus of the small group.
When our daughters, Sarah and Anna, were born, the churches Mike was pastoring at the time were generous with their love and support. Each gave us a shower, filling our baby's room with clothes and equipment. We had two weeks of meals prepared each time. The church people "held us up" as we welcomed a new member to our family. Their support made our adjustment easier during those early days of new and expanded parenthood.
The church community does "hold us up" during times of celebration and through moments of need. Our family has been so blessed through the years with people in our churches who have "held us up" during moments of challenge and joy.
One day at the last church Mike served, he received a phone call from a seminary colleague pastoring a church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He told Mike about a young couple who lost twins at 23 weeks. He did the memorial service, but the family was moving to Fishers, and needed a church and pastor for the burial. Mike got the family's address as well as the day and time they planned to arrive at their new home.
In Mike's mid-week message to those in the church, he mentioned this family, overcome with grief, and relocating to a town where they knew no one. By the end of the day, people responded, offering meals, childcare for their toddler son, and other kindnesses. The grieving family was "held up" by the church community for many weeks after their arrival.
How can we "hold people up"?
How can we "hold each other up" during moments of celebration as well as during times of need? Here are a few suggestions.
1. Pray for each other - a simple prayer, "God I bring you _____," is appropriate for any circumstance.
2. Send a card or write a note - Cards can be read over and over propped on a desk or counter as a frequent reminder of another's care and thoughts.
3. Bake cookies, muffins or make a meal. These expressions of love from the kitchen are always helpful.
4. Some churches offer prayer shawls that are given to celebrate the birth of a baby or to offer comfort to those dealing with illness or other trying times. Another church gives "Pocket Prayer Quilts," to those who are sick. The tag that comes with this tiny quilt square says, "This Pocket Prayer Quilt was made especially for you to slip in a pocket or purse. Whenever your fingers touch the cross tucked inside, be mindful of God's love and grace for you. Keep it as a tangible symbol of God's peace. James 5:16 - "Pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed."
The Return Home
Jane and I concluded our day at the museum looking at the famous Robert Indiana LOVE sculpture located on the grounds where I took her picture. What a fitting way to end the day in front of a visual that corresponded so closely with Jane's comment about "Floor" - "The people are holding us up."
Prayer: Loving God, thank you for Jane's insight that fit so appropriately the nature of community that you have described and Jesus modeled. Guide us in ways we can "hold each other up" as we experience events in life that come our way. Amen.