Reaching out to others, being the hands and feet of Jesus, is one of the greatest callings we have in our faith. Not only does it show the love of Christ for the world, it's also an opportunity for us to worship our ever-giving God and for us to grow more into the likeness of his Son.
So for the next 60 days we're going to focus on the spiritual practices of service and outreach. Each morning spend a few moments pondering that day's service and outreach thought or prayer. Then try to keep it in your mind throughout the day, prayerfully asking God to help you apply what you've read, watched, or written, and to form you into a woman with a true servant's heart.
Lord, make me useful for your kingdom. Help me to see with your eyes, feel with your heart, and think with your mind. Let me know clearly what needs you want me to meet and which ones are for someone else to handle. I'm available and listening. Amen.
Reach out to someone today, whether it be a kind word, an errand on their behalf, or a surprise of something to bless them.
Make the words of the old hymn, "Take My Life" your prayer.
"Too often we say, 'I have no talent to teach a Sunday school class.' 'My home is not nice enough to have a Bible study here.' 'I don't cook well enough to help with Meals on Wheels.' 'I'm a businessman, not a carpenter. I wouldn't know the first thing about building a house for Habitat for Humanity.' When we step out in faith and offer all we have, God will use it in powerful ways. How much is enough? Just what we have when God is with us! -Jane Douglas White
Write down why you avoid getting involved in service. Now write out a prayer asking God to help you overcome the root of that.
Check out the article "Serving in the Suburbs" and consider how you might do something similar.
This video "Serving as One" shows a community getting together to serve others. Is this something your church, small group, or family could get involved in?
When the next opportunity to serve comes along, shoot up the prayer, "Lord, is this something you want me to do?"
Latin American theologian René Padilla remembers vividly one of his early encounters with John Stott. "On the previous night we had arrived in Bariloche, Argentina, in the middle of heavy rain. The street was muddy, and, as a result, by the time we got to the room that had been assigned to us, our shoes were covered with mud. In the morning, as I woke up, I heard the sound of a brush—John was busy, brushing my shoes. 'John!' I exclaimed full of surprise, 'What are you doing?'
"'My dear René,' he responded, 'Jesus taught us to wash each other's feet. You do not need me to wash your feet, but I can brush your shoes.'"
"Get Plugged In" and ask yourself, Am I doing everything? In what areas should I back off? Or, Am I not doing enough? In what areas can I get more plugged in?
"Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves." -Jesus, quoted in Luke 22:27
Consider when you have felt that you were serving in your "sweet spot." What were you doing? Where were you doing it? Write about your reflections.
Explore needs around you. Does your church have needs? Your workplace? Your neighborhood? Your child's school? Community groups? After exploring the needs around you, consider which ones match up with your gifts. How could you use your gifts to meet those needs?
Talk to someone who is using his or her gifts well. How did they discover their gifts? How did they come into this role? Learn from their wisdom.
"Mission Accomplished" by Liz Curtis Higgs. How might this author's beliefs about being called be similar to yours? In what ways was she faithful to the calling God placed on her life? How would you apply this story to your life?
"Our deepest calling is to grow into our own authentic self-hood, whether or not it conforms to some image of who we ought to be. As we do so, we will not only find the joy that every human being seeks—we will also find our path of authentic service in the world."—Parker Palmer, in Let Your Life Speak
Offer to volunteer doing something that you feel may use your gifts. Use the experience as an experiment to see how well the role fits your gifts.
Read 1 Corinthians 12. What does Paul have to say about using your gifts? What might happen if everyone in the church served out of their giftings?
"Vocation is where our greatest passion meets the world's greatest need."—Frederick Buechner
In this humorous video we see what we shouldn't do when serving others. Of course it's over-the-top in its message, but do you recognize anyone who acts like that in your own church or family? Do you tend to act that way? If so, what are some ways to serve more authentically?
Take a spiritual gifts assessment. You can find many online for free or ask if your church has one available. After taking it, pray over the results and see if any opportunities to use those gifts comes to mind.
God, sometimes I get so overwhelmed and feel so busy that it's easy for me to push aside opportunities to serve others. Help me to prioritize my time today, then help me to see and act on the opportunities you place in front of me. For your kingdom's sake, Amen.
Who do you know who uses their gifts well for service? What are their gifts and what do they do to serve?
"Heroes: Mother Teresa" and consider how you can reach out to the downtrodden in your neighborhood or city.
Surprise an old friend and call her today.
Lord, help me find secret ways to serve the people I come into contact with today. Enlarge my capacity to extend myself beyond my to-do list.
"Taking God to the Grocery Store" by Lara Krupicka. This author discovered a unique way to use her money, time, and skills to serve others and glorify God. In what ways can you think differently about how your shop?
Write about the ways others have helped you spiritually, physically, and emotionally. What are the character traits you notice within each of those people and how can you apply them to your life to become a better servant?
If you are able, take a walk and pay attention to your steps. Pray for those who aren't able to serve on their feet, and thank God for blessing you with a life that is able to serve.
As you do the dishes and other daily chores, praise God for your hands and for the multitude of ways you use them to serve others. Ask him to sanctify them—to help use them for his good purposes joyfully.
This video, "Serving Others," takes a humorous look at what to do when you don't receive proper recognition and thanks for your service. Although you probably won't go to these lengths, are they times when you get upset because you don't see immediate rewards for helping others?
Take 10 minutes to jot a handwritten note to someone in your neighborhood. Let them know you're thinking of them.
God, who can I serve today? Show me who needs a touch from you, and help me slow down enough to offer it.
Pick up the newspaper and read the front page stories. Pray over each situation and ask God if and how you should respond to the world's needs.
Lavish someone in your household with affection.
Is there someone in your life who is just a nudge away from accepting Christ into his or her life? Take a moment and pray that God would gently and persistently work right now to draw that person into a decision toward God.
Whenever someone serves you today, take a second to thank him or her specifically for their service. Be specific if you can. For instance, if a restaurant server shows joy on the job, acknowledge it: "I really appreciate your upbeat demeanor. You made our meal so fun."
Take time to really listen to those around you today. Sometimes the best way we can serve others is simply to allow them to talk uninterrupted and for us to listen.
"Service" is one teenager talking about service means to her. Listen to her thoughts and see if you agree.
Based on the video from yesterday, write your thoughts on what true service is. In what ways do you fulfill those ideas? In what areas do you fall short?
"Start Spreading the News" by John Ortberg. In what ways does the author appeal to your giftedness in sharing your faith? In what ways can you apply his advice?
Think about something you need today—a kind word, a hug, some extra time, money, a helping hand—and meet that same need for someone else.
Pray and act:
Purposefully deviate from your planned routine today and pray for an outreach opportunity as you do so. When God brings it before you, act on it.
"Don't be selfish; don't try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don't look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had" (Philippians 2:3-5).
"I Am Love" and consider how God may be moving you to "be faith, be hope, be love" to others.
Ask your church who needs something from you this week. Meet the need anonymously if you can.
Ask God to help you be a calm, courteous driver all day today.
"10 Non-Obnoxious Ways to Share Your Faith at Work" by Kelli B. Trujillo. After an honest assessment of your "faith-sharing style," would you describe yourself as an Alice or as a person who goes to the opposite extreme? In what ways can you apply one or more of the tips from this article?
"If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn't love others, I would have gained nothing" (1 Corinthians 13:3). Ask God to give you a genuine love for the people you serve today.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you notice each stranger you encounter today, to see everyone as someone God loves, and to treat each person with love and dignity.
Give away something you don't need but do want.
Write out your faith journey. Then write ways that you could share that with others.
"You and I, we are the Church, no? We have to share with our people. Suffering today is because people are hoarding, not giving, not sharing. Jesus made it very clear. Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it to me. Give a glass of water, you give it to me. Receive a little child, you receive me."—Mother Teresa
Taking It to the Streets" by Renee James. Renee felt God call her to service in a unique way. Is this a way that God may be calling you to serve your neighborhood?
God, it's tough to be a servant. Some days I just don't like it at all. I'd prefer to be served—or just to be left alone. Would you do a work in me? Give me your eyes and heart of service. Help my hands to itch to get involved. Help me see beyond my own needs and complaints to the needs of others.
Consider when you have felt completely out of your element while serving. What did it feel like? Why did you feel out of your element? How did the task/role line up with your gifts? Write about your reflections.
Consider the ways God has allowed you to be the hands and feet of Christ for people in your life. Praise him for these opportunities.
Each time you have a conversation with someone today, include a word of encouragement or a compliment.
Love cannot remain by itself—it has no meaning. Love has to be put into action, and that action is service. -Mother Teresa
God, thank you for giving me these 60 days to focus more on your heart and love for others. May I not forget the lessons I've learned about serving you by serving other people. And may I never be afraid or too busy to lend a hand or share encouragement so that others can see Jesus through me.
Copyright © 2011 by the author or Christianity Today/Kyria.com.
Click here for reprint information.