Something John the Baptist said in reference to Jesus has been buzzing around in heart and mind...
"He must increase, but I must decrease."
Often the words increase or decrease bring to mind the mathematical symbols for them. < and >.
They actually mean great than or lesser than.
They way I learned to read them is to picture the wider side being a mouth opening to consume what is alongside it.
If I were going to use it to create a spiritual equation I would have Jesus on the side which denotes greater and me on the side that signifies the lesser.
That is where I want to be at all times.
Truthfully, He is always greater.
Greater than all that exists or ever exists.
In reality puny me seems to forget that equation and thus puts too much store in self.
The past few days I have been in superwoman mode.
If you had been watching, you might have caught a glimpse of me as I zipped through stores, created a sumptuous dessert, decorated, set the table, prepared nearly every item that graced our table; cleaning up as I went (of course), got myself put together in time to greet guests and then engage in conversation while putting finishing touches on the meal.
That recitation of accomplishments did not, of course, include the usual tasks that are involved in running a home and managing the needs of my handicapped husband.
Now aren't you impressed?
I burnt myself out.
Honestly, I feel like I was hit by a truck!
I was so busy that I neglected to have my son pick up the bottle man, who might have been waiting for the ride.
The bottle man is the nickname the local kids gave him years ago. He was known to throw bottles at their cars. I do believe it was after being provoked by said kids.
He lives in a rough house by himself and walks everywhere he goes.
Actually, he walks in the middle of the road and attempts to hitch rides by getting in a car's way.
Since getting to know him I pick him up.
He is not a threat.
When he gets in the car I do ask Papa to make sure that all creatures leave with him that have arrived with him. I don't think he has washed in years. He definitely has not washed his clothing for a very long time.
He has been joining us for holiday meals pretty regularly over the past few years.
Until I forgot to have him picked up.
As I lay in bed last night, I experienced a sense of sadness and disappointment.
I think it was a taste of what our friend felt, as he waited for his ride to a holiday meal.
Many of us have had that sinking feeling at some point in our lives.
We had been forgotten.
I really hate that I was responsible for causing someone to feel that way.
Isn't sad to think that I was so focused on the externals that I forgot a person?
What is also sad is that it is so easy for us mere mortals to do.
We lose our focus.
I had lost my focus.
If Jesus had been running the show without interference from me, the man would have definitely not been forgotten. However, I was too busy with the entertaining part to remember all whom I was to host.
Many years ago I read a book by Karen Burton Maines, "Open Heart, Open Home."
It spoke to me and I made its message my mantra when it came to receiving people into our home.
It taught me the difference between entertaining and hospitality.
Entertaining is putting on a show that ends up wearing you out.
Hospitality is giving your guest the message 'pull up a chair and join my life.'
My mantra slipped a little yesterday, if a mantra can do such a thing.
The bottom line is really that I forgot to look to my LORD and let Him direct the process. Maybe I would have still done much of the work, but, just maybe, He would have helped me to approach it in a way that wouldn't have left me limp! I know He definitely would have enabled me to remember all my guests!
He has called me to follow, to look to Him for direction.
In The Message, Eugene Peterson interprets John's words this way:
"This is the assigned moment for Him to move into the center, while I slip off to the sidelines."
John the Baptist had been to main event for a while. People were flocking to him.
Until Jesus came on the scene.
John's disciples were concerned that their leader would be outshone.
John knew that was appropriate and inevitable.
He knew Jesus was greater than him and worthy to centerstage.
I want Jesus to take center stage in my life.
The sidelines work for me.
I think I have mentioned that I visit a drug/alcohol rehab on Friday afternoons.
Each visit Papa confirms afresh that it is where He wants me.
It is a joy.
However, last Friday was a challenge.
Last week I met with opposition from the enemy. There was a spirit of dis-ease in the place; tensions were high. Two men almost resorted to blows!
Most of the residents could not settle down and they were roaming around from room to room.
Meanwhile, I was drawn into what I thought, at first, was a conversation about the Living God. In reality it was a young Muslim man’s attempt to bait me and expose the error of my ways!
He was not open to discussion, but spoke over my words. This young man became more and more unsettled. I found it unsettling!
Each week I have the opportunity to present the Good News to my friends. This time I had brought a DVD from Jim Cybala’s Bible study on Prayer. One of the segments was the testimony of a heroin addict, who was literally prayed into the kingdom.
Amazingly, all came into the room just as the story began.
Many were moved.
My Muslim friend sat in a thinly veiled posture. I thought he might leap up at any moment.
Before I left for the day I thanked him for talking with me. He seemed surprised.
Fast forward to today.
I told Papa that I was totally wiped out and it was all up to Him; I had to decrease, He had to take center stage.
He had me bring a copy of the Gospel of John for my antagonistic friend.
He also had a message for one of the men who had given me a few requests for prayer.
The air was electrified.
Oh my, the energy was coming from me!
But there was also a receptivity in the air!
When I had arrived my Muslim friend was one of the first people I saw. He seemed restless.
I asked him how his week had been and he told me that he could not settle down all week.
He was surprised when I told him that I had something for him.
Later on he received the Gospel willingly and then we had an amazing conversation.
He was so much more open to listen and receive what I had to say.
Papa lead my thoughts and we spoke about sacrifice and atonement.
Before we had conversed today he had a few chores to tend to, but he kept his eye on me while he tended his responsibilities.
Papa is at work.
As I shared the message that Jesus had for all my friends today and then prayed over all of them, I sensed the Presence and Power of God.
Oh yes, He definitely must increase, while I decrease!
Now Papa how do I reach out to the bottle man??