Just how healthy does a person need to be to enjoy Kentucky Fried Chicken? I guess the general consensus is ‘not very’. But for this weekend only, I would contend with the five-a-day munching masses.
This weekend there has been such a stark contrast in Annie’s health compared with the previous few days that the best way to describe it is to quote a four word request Annie made on Saturday evening:
“Can we get KFC?” – Annie
During the latter half of last week, Annie has neither managed to keep down more than a piece of dry toast nor get up for more than a few minutes before needing to sleep. Nausea, fatigue and pain have simply operated on a relentless shift pattern that has rendered Annie drained, discouraged and at times, disoriented.
In the past, I’ve never been lacking in excitement and motivation when Annie says: “Let’s go out to (your favourite fast food restaurant here)…” but I don’t know that I often ponder the many blessings that those words afford.
Going out to KFC requires leaving the comfort of your home, getting into your car and having enough fuel to drive the less-than-a-mile journey, it means having enough disposable income to afford a meal that you yourself will not have to prepare; and let’s face it, it means having the intestinal strength and health of an ox! What’s more, we went with a dear friend who actually paid for us! As we waited for our meal, I was just so thankful to God that He had blessed Annie with so much health on Saturday that we could be sat in KFC together with a common appetite for processed chicken. We always like to give thanks to the Lord before we eat regardless of whether we are home or away but if you were sat near us at KFC on Saturday you might have wondered whether we were having a prayer meeting as there was so much to thank the Lord for.
In a blog entry earlier last week I mentioned how on one particular night Annie wrestled with pain, fatigue and nausea all at once; well this weekend, it was as if the Lord sent all three packing. She has been wearing a drip-fed device feeding some anti-nausea medicine into her but it doesn’t explain why she has been mostly absent of pain and fatigue. In fact, the nurses warned that the anti-sickness medication would have the side-effect of making Annie very tired; and with Annie’s track-record with side-effects, we were preparing for a wiped-out weekend. But the Lord had graciously planned otherwise.
It’s been a wonderful weekend. Who needs expensive weekend breaks when you can enjoy health and fellowship like we did this weekend? But I know that there was one thing that saddened Annie and I over the weekend, and that was not to be with the young people and fellow youth leaders who were serving over 60 needy folk with a four course Christmas meal on Saturday night.
Over the last 4 years we have run a black-tie Christmas banquet for the youth as a means of sharing the gospel with their invited non-Christian friends. It’s sort of become a tradition that requires a lot of hard work but we always enjoy and look forward to it – and so do the youth! But like all traditions, it sometimes requires breaking, either permanently or just for a spell, for a greater good.
In youth ministry, when it comes to preparing young people for service in God’s kingdom, we’ve always tried to follow a pattern that we see in the ministry of Jesus:
- Serve them
- Serve others with them
- Release them to serve others
If you look at the New Testament you will see that basic patten in the ministry of Jesus, the Apostles and of the early church.
This year we wanted to shake things up a little bit and ask the Lord how we could use this Christmas tradition we had, in a way that blessed others; in a way that lovingly responded to Jesus’ call to serve the needy; in a way that rather than just serve the youth, we could serve others alongside them.
The event had been in the planning for a couple of months and Annie has not always had the strength and health to be part of that process; and as a consequence I have not been as released to assist as I would have liked.
That has been very difficult for us both.
It’s not about pride. It’s about just wanting to be there. It’s about the love of serving others alongside your fellow and younger brothers and sisters in Christ. When that kind of service is going on, Jesus is present in a very special way. We know that the young people and the leaders will have experienced that this weekend. We made a brief visit on Saturday afternoon as they were all setting up and we could see it; we could sense the presence of Jesus among them: the joy, the unity, the fellowship, the laughter, the commitment to serving others with their best, to the same degree as they themselves would hope to be served.
Yes, we really did miss not being able to be part of it but there’s a season for everything. This time it was a season for Annie and I to see others released to serve.
Last week we bought an advent candle. We don’t usually do that. I went into the Christian bookshop to buy an advent calendar, but I took a shine to the candles as well (with a bit of prompting from the Bilson family!) The candle itself means nothing to us, neither does the lighting of it. But on this candle, each day is written a different biblical name given to Jesus. When we light it each day, our aim is to turn to the part in the bible that relates to the particular name given to Jesus for that day. We read it through and meditate over what it means. The bit we lit this morning was ‘The Vine’.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” – John 15:5-8
Not being able to be part of Saturday night’s service event was something we really missed out on but as ever, there are always blessings to be gleaned. When things for God’s glory happen at a distance it’s a good reminder that God’s work is GOD’S work. We are not the vines. We are branches. Jesus is the vine. From Him comes all the gifting, all the power, all that is needed to produce fruit. The vine can still produce fruit with a few branches cut back but without the vine, the branches are dead.
We are so thankful to our fellow youth leaders who prayed, planned and prepared the youth to continue to serve others even though we were not able to. We are so thankful that the Lord Jesus was evident in the young people, especially in their attitude towards not having a black-tie event this year; we have not heard one single complaint. They looked as joyful in service on Saturday as they did in previous years when they were the ones being served.
We trust that the Lord, The Vine, will bear much fruit through this.