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Archive for February, 2015

Thinking of You

Recuperating from surgery naturally affords one a unique perspective of what it means to experience limitations, to exercise patience, to be dependent on the love and care of other people. I have always said that it should be a requirement for every minister, doctor and healthcare professional to experience firsthand what it feels like to be a patient in a hospital or to be recovering from an illness. Clearly, though, we wouldn’t want every minister, doctor or health care professional to have to undergo surgery or contract an illness in order to empathize with a patient. Still, for what it’s worth, if any ministers, doctors or health care professionals do have surgery or get sick, they would do well to write down and remember their experience so that they can be more understanding to their members and patients.

While important, that thought is tangential to another insight that I had following my recent surgery. Taking it easy and allowing one’s insides to heal opens up a lot of time in which one can pray for others, but also a lot of time in which one can think about others.

For most of my ministry, I have had a standard “tag line” (for lack of a better description) in which I write or tell people that I am keeping them in my thoughts and prayers. Truth be told, I have always considered prayer to be slightly better than thought. It sounds much more spiritual to say “I am praying for you,” than to say, “I am thinking about you.” “You are in my prayers,” sounds more certain and located than “you are in my thoughts,” which has sounded vague and kind of “out there.”

But I have had a change of heart—and thought—about relegating “thinking of you,” to being the second-best thing I could do, rather than the best thing I could do.
It came to me first, on the eve of my surgery, when I received emails from friends who wrote a line or two which brought to mind some shared experience we had, and even if they mentioned they were praying for me, I realized that they were also thinking of me. Now considering all that we humans have to do every day—male or female, employed or retired, with or without children—taking a moment of precious time in which to think about me, and share those thoughts—well, that’s a pretty big deal! After my surgery, I received gifts that indicated the gift-giver hadn’t just gone to Walgreens and bought whatever was the featured item of the day, but had thought about me and bought something which reflected knowledge of what I would find amusing or fun or beautiful. Then, once I came home, as I opened up cards and notes that had come in the mail, I realized that every one of those people had taken time to choose a card with me in mind, took time to write or sign it, made sure it was mailed. I have received food from people who thought about my food preferences or what might taste good on a cold day or what would be easy to serve. And that often-maligned social media tool, Facebook, has brought instant thoughts of people who live in faraway places but who have known me for 30 years or more.

“Thinking of you,” is the sentiment, and as grateful as I am for all the prayers (make no mistake about that!!), I am equally grateful for all the thoughts. It’s humbling to be thought about, and it’s very uplifting. Prayers sustain and support me but thoughts—well, they keep me connected and encouraged.

And while I do pray for people, specifically and generally, I also find myself just thinking about a person at times, not really praying for that person but thinking about particular person: how courageous, how griefstricken, how lonely, how happy, how selfless, how lovely, how faithful. If I scan the church directory for one address, I find myself thinking about dozens more people.
I may pray for them when I am at prayer, but right now, a thought carries equal weight and godly weight. Maybe, as children of God and disciples of Christ, we are called to think about each other, to consider each other’s personalities, to reflect on one another’s joys and sorrows, to ponder other people’s lives that may be very different from our own and in so doing, live out these words from the Apostle Paul:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Thanks for thinking of me; I’m thinking of you!

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