"Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." (Matthew 22:37-39 KJV)
Terri scrambled toward an unfamiliar podium, searching desperately for her opening speech within a handful of carefully scribbled notes. The couples who gathered for tonightís Valentine dinner in the crowded church fellowship-hall were busy talking among themselves. Most of the crowd was oblivious to the frantic state of their guest speaker.
A sigh of relief left Terriís throat. The speech she had carefully laid out appeared among her pile of scribbles the moment she stepped behind the podium. She reached for the microphone in an attempt to pull it down from a level seemingly set for someone of far greater stature than her 5í3" frame. The screech that accompanied her successful attempt at rearranging the microphone also brought the entire crowdís attention to her.
"Well, that was not the opening I had intended." At least she could tell the crowd had some sense of humor as they laughed over her beginning remark.
"Now that I have your attention, let me thank you for inviting me to speak to you tonight."
It still seemed strange to Terri that she had become a very popular guest speaker among the local churches. Speaking in large groups would never have been her choice of things to do in her spare time, and yet the offers kept rolling in.
The speech she had prepared was now carefully laid out in front of her. After a quick glance around the room, she opened her mouth and tried to go forward with the words she had prepared, but no sound would come out. Panic began to grow inside her and threatened to take over.
Preparing for tonightís speech had been no different than any other.
Each and every time Terri had prayed over a speech, she felt that God gave her the words to say. It had never failed to lift her spirits when someone would come to her and let her know the speech she had given seemed custom made for them. She would use the opportunity to let them know that God really loved them enough to speak to them through her.
She had been certain that this speech was directed at someone special and now she realized who this message was for, before she even began.
Words began to flow from her mouth effortlessly as she stared directly at the young couple who had become her neighbors only months ago. The couple smiled and responded sweetly as she continued to expound on the second greatest commandment, unaware of the effect their presence had on her.
Tonight God was speaking to the speaker.
For the past few months, ever since the young couple had moved next door, Terri had been avoiding them. She had fussed to her husband over so many small issues created by new neighbors. She actually had a running list of complaints.
They didnít mow their lawn as often as they should.
Their dog jumped the fence once and stomped through her flowerbed.
They were always running somewhere.
They had never come over to introduce themselves.
The list had grown much longer, but tonight Terri realized how trivial her complaints were. The truth was that she hadnít wanted to bother with meeting anyone new. She had intended on meeting the couple when they first moved in, but never took the time. As time passed with no introductions, she began to create a list of offenses against her new neighbors instead of following Godís second greatest commandment.
Terriís prepared speech was nearly completed.
"We all can agree that loving God with all our heart, mind, and soul only gets easier as we trust in Him and get to know Him more each day. It is the second commandment that stumps so many. As a matter of fact, as I look around this very room tonight and see a precious young couple that lives next door to me, I realized I have failed in this area. Although a neighbor can be anyone we have contact with on a regular basis, I am guilty of neglecting to show love to these people that really do live right beside me. Please allow me to close in prayer at this time.
Heavenly Father, I want to thank you for allowing me to know your love. I truly love you more each day as I discover more about you. Thank you for the love that you have given to each and every couple here tonight. I pray that you will help us all to continue to grow in your love and learn to show your love to others in a way that pleases you. In your precious son, Jesusí name. Amen."
After the final amen was spoken, Terri quickly began to work through the crowd to find her neighbors. She was determined to put her words into actions before the end of this night. As the young couple appeared in front of her, she quickly reached out to them in love.
Ah, the blessing of those times that "He speaks to me, through me" as we all know. Easy to read, the flow (tempo) was in context with the message and that is not always easy to do. There is one point I would like to share, however, and I'll quote you: "the opportunity to let them know that God really loved them ENOUGH"
Be very careful with qualitative and in this case "quantitative" words...the use of "enough" implies that up until that time His love was withheld and He had to love them more, more so that He then acted on that love. You see? Let me illustrate: "Honey, I love you enough to wash the dishes tonight." he announced. "Well, you didn't wash the dishes last night, does that mean that last night, you didn't love me as much?" I hope this helps, it's been beneficial to me. I will tell you as I have told other writers as I explain why I seem to over-scrutinize their work, and I'll say it as I always do: A sharp arrow flies further. Sharpening one another as writers we become a part of their arrow flying further, getting more distance, reaching more people and piercing their soul, for better or for worse.