Murphy Belding

I love the summer. Maybe it’s my upbringing in the warm climate of South Georgia—minus the gnats and mosquitoes. Georgians view gnats and mosquitoes as extra protein for your diet … just kidding.

Summertime allows for more leisure opportunities: picnics, celebrations and connecting with people whom you might not have a conversation with during the colder winter months.

Christians are called to be “salt and light” in this dark world. So, I thought I would share a few tips or reminders to help guide interactions with friends and family this summer.

Remember, if you are a believer, the non-Christian is listening to every word you say and definitely watching your actions. Believers, be the kind of person who gives a seeker a reason to lean into Christ because of what they hear and see.

Be an authentic Christ-follower. The Holy Spirit will take care of the rest.

Be aware of your words

Are your words true, kind and helpful?

I love Ephesians 4:29, which says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

We all know the power of a timely, well-spoken word that lifts the heart.

While on the way to your next summer outing, offer a prayer for God to give you wisdom with your words. Be ready for the Lord to open doors. Make it a goal this summer to say one encouraging thing to at least one person every day.

Be a listener

Use your ears more than your one mouth.

One of my great loves of ministry is that I get to hear people’s life stories. They share their hopes, dreams, expectations and disappointments. I have observed that when we listen, we encourage.

When we encourage, we give others courage.

I heard this quote by Pastor Gabriel Salguero the other day: “To love your neighbor is never safe. But, it is always good.”

Honestly, we need more people to give courage. Learning to listen is a small action that can make the biggest difference in another’s life.

Be loveable

I tell my senior adults all the time, “Be a loveable senior.”

Be easy to love and be easy to care for in all stages of life. Don’t be grumbly or cranky. No one wants to hang out with that kind of person.

Throughout our lives, we must remain soft-hearted, joyful in spirit, expressive in gratitude and willing not to sweat the small stuff.

One senior told me the other day, “As I get older I just want things my way, and I’m not very kind if this doesn’t happen.”

I get it, but how much really goes our way? And, is our way the best way?

For years, I carried a marble in my pocket. It reminded me to have a soft tone, to speak words of love and be sensitive to others, rather than hard and impenetrable like a marble.

Self-reflection helps me understand that my heart has often been kinder than my words. I don’t want to bounce off of others as I get older. I want to absorb what they are going through (in a healthy way) and try to extend compassion and service as the Holy Spirit leads me.

In my humble but accurate opinion (my daughters groan when I say this), the world needs more squishy grapes that produce the fruit of the Spirit rather than bouncing marbles!

Focus on the big picture

If you hold a small glass of water above your head for five minutes, your arm gets a little tired. If you hold that same glass of water over your head for three hours, fatigue sets in and you become weary with a terrible arm ache. What if you hold that glass of water for 10 hours? You get it. Bad things start to happen to your arm, shoulder and back.

What little thing could you release to make your life better? A small pebble of resentment turns into a boulder of trouble the longer we hold on to it.

Perhaps making a “stop-doing” summer list would serve you well.

Be spontaneous

The Apostle Paul wrote, “‘And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there’” (Acts 20:22).

I think it’s safe to say that Paul wanted to live his life as one directed by the Spirit.

Galatians 5:25 says, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

I like to think that the Spirit is working inside us and prompting us to respond to His direction.

Think about how many times you casually think about calling someone, but don’t and then that person connects with you in some way.

This summer, follow your heart’s nudges and reach out to folks. You may be who God will use to do a mighty work in their lives.

I’m not saying call someone and say, “God told me to call you,” but I am saying reach out, loosen up and express your love for others by letting them know you’re thinking about them. When folks do this to me, my heart is warmed by God’s love. I am encouraged—given courage!

Well, friends, have a fantastic summer with family and friends. Remember who you are and whose you are.

Let me leave you with two heart-prompting verses.

Galatians 5:13: “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”

Colossians 4:5-6: “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

Murphy Belding is Southeast Christian Church’s Senior Adult Minister.