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I got a phone call from a dear friend this morning, and I’m sure that God was listening in and guiding our conversation, because we both came away with new lessons for each of our unique situations. She just had heart surgery; I lead a small group.

“Wait,” you say. “How are these the same?”

Well, obviously, they’re not. What was the same, though, was that God cares about both situations. She and I are sisters from the same Abba Father, and you know what? He doesn’t play favorites!

I’m actually not going to discuss what God had for her in this conversation; that’s hers to share or not. But I am going to show you how

she met my need in the moment, even as she dealt with the aftermath of her surgery.

Let me tell you the scenario and then show you how shining the Light of Christ on it taught me lessons God had for me today.

I lead two small groups in my church. One has a messianic focus and one is a creative group. The last meeting to end the creative group for the summer came, and I had anticipated a small party and sharing the results of what we had done over the last five weeks. I had emailed all the members and asked them to consider bringing some goodies to share and to be sure to bring their project with them so we could all see our progress.

But when everybody showed up, no one had brought anything to share and no one had done a single thing with what we had been learning about for better than a month. Swallowing my disappointment, I simply welcomed everyone and we began to share our week. (In both of my groups, I always start off by allowing everyone to tell us how things are going, what they are doing, and enjoying treats, drinks, and lots of laughter. But I’m the one who provides the snacks and beverages, every time.) I guess I had groomed them to expect me to do it all. And why wouldn’t they? I doubt that I ever even one time asked someone else to contribute (although one dear lady in my other group brought something twice, unasked). 

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You know, I tried to forbid the disappointment and it wouldn’t obey the “delete” button. So I sent it to my “examine later” cubby in my brain so I could continue my group without letting the emotion of the moment affect me.

During the course of the group time, one of the participants continually talked over everyone else. Her attitude made people feel as though what they were contributing was insignificant and she was the authority—on everything. At one point, she actually stood up and left the room because another member wanted to show a You Tube video she didn’t agree with.

The poor lady trying to show the video got up, suddenly “remembered” she needed to be at home right then, and walked out the door. Shortly thereafter, the meeting ended and everybody left.

“What just happened, Lord?” I asked. He chose to answer me by shining His light through the gentle words of my friend who called me this morning. Here’s what I learned.

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“Romans 12:9-10 says: Love must be sincere. . . Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”

1. Love one another.

My gracious friend reminded me that before everything else, love. Perhaps I had lost sight of the fact that I had started this group to give women a place to create something that would glorify God. That it was through His great love that we were
being drawn together and if nothing else got done, loving each other was worth the time we spent in each other’s company. When you gather people together, Christians or not, there are bound to be conflicts. The plain fact is, we don’t always like each other’s style. But to honor each other as Christ asks us to, we must allow enough room for each person to grow in their own way. Some of us are daisies, some are roses, and some are mighty oaks. But we all flourish under the same sun. Can I look at that sister who always rubs me the wrong way and realize that she, too, is made in the image of God? That to dishonor her is to dishonor God Himself? Am I content to be quiet when she says something I don’t agree with, or is it impossible for me to not give my opinion? Maybe my opinion is right, and maybe it’s not, but it isn’t always necessary to voice either way. I could just quietly watch God growing her according to His agenda and timing for her, because He is doing the same with me.
“Romans 12:11-12 says: Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

2. Honor each other in prayer.

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My sweet, gracious friend asked me, “Have you prayed for them?” I had prayed for them, but perhaps my prayers could have been more along the lines of “what does she need, Lord?” instead of what would cause the group the least problems. According to God, our zeal—our fervency—is what makes prayers powerful. God is not the quick-fix-man. Snapping out a general prayer for your group members reminds me of the scene in The Sound of Music where Maria remembers who it was she forgot to pray for among the many children and quickly says, “And God bless Hans.”

I don’t want my prayer time to become a ritual. I want to know God’s heart when I pray. In fact, each day I approach Him by saying, “God, please draw me to Your heart. What is on Your heart that You want me to pray for today?” If you pray what’s on His heart, you will definitely be praying according to His will. Pray with zeal, and you release His power in the situation. If you don’t know what words to say, pray a scripture or give the Holy Spirit access to your voice and pray in the Spirit.

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“Romans 12:13 says: Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”

3. Let others participate more.

My main spiritual gift is teaching. Frankly, I lack somewhat in the hospitality area, although I enjoy sharing my home with others. My friend reminded me that allowing others to participate by bringing food was an easy way to share “ownership” of the group. Even better, she suggested that

during the first meeting, I choose someone to keep notes, not like minutes of a meeting, but so that a recap could be sent out to make sure we’re all on the same page. Parameters should be set, such as start and end times, what will happen during that time, and so that I have an easy way to get people back on track if things start off down a rabbit trail. For my situation, if anyone wants to stay afterward and discuss things, that’s fine with me.

Letting other members of the group share their gifts actually fills a need in them. Everybody needs a place to share what God has gifted them with.

Taking on all the responsibility myself was neither honoring to my group members, nor to myself. And you know what? I already knew this. Satan, though, is able to cause blind spots that we don’t see until something goes awry and we wonder why.

Most of the members of this group had been in other groups with me and we had developed a very relaxed manner together. But new people had different expectations, and since this was not a Bible study but a creative class, I should have made the expectations clearer.

“Romans 12:15 says: Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. ”

4. Sharing our hearts.

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Honor others by allowing them to share their hearts. But make it an absolute rule that what happens in group stays in group. Don’t share their stories with anyone they have not specifically told you to share with. (It is so very easy for gossip to be passed off as “I’m telling you this as a point of prayer.” Unless you have been given permission, believe me, girl: it’s gossip.)

An honorable person does not gossip. Don’t allow your members to dishonor others by sharing others’ “prayer needs” unless you know it is okay with the one being prayed for, either.

Honoring others means that what they think, say, and do in your presence is kept private unless they want it shared. All members of the group should understand this and be honoring in what they decide to share, too. Remember, you can’t unsay it!

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“Romans 12:16 says: Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.”

5. Live in harmony with each other.

Have you ever listened to the Gaither group sing? They harmonize so well it makes my soul tingle! At one time I was part of a church choir and sang alto. I love making harmony
with all the other voices.

When we live in harmony, we are like a choir of angels to God, who sees us making beautiful music together. Harmony takes more than a single voice. You can’t have harmony if everyone is a soprano. You need the other tones to blend together to make your special brand of worship rise to the heavens.

Yes, I said worship.

Because when all is said and done, our lives are acts of worship that we offer to God. Perhaps you think you can’t sing, but your life poured out in honoring others is a symphony that our Savior loves to hear.

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