36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
We certain treat them that way don’t we? We’ll hand a dollar or some spare change to the man or woman standing at an intersection carrying a sign that reads “anything helps”, but we won’t stop and get to know them. The only reason I’ve given the dollar is it was my misfortune to be stopped at a red light and he/she was standing right outside my window. Guilt or some unnamed discomfort took hold of me and I handed over a dollar. Drove away and prayed I wouldn’t have to do that again.
We all want to help the homeless or street people, but we really don’t actually do any real helping. We leave that to “someone” else. “Let the Government take care of them.” Come the holiday season, our sense of generosity and inclusion collide and we may serve at a “Soup Kitchen”, make donation to a charity or give an extra dollar to the Soul on 28th street. But we really don’t spend much time thinking about homeless folks do we. At least I don’t – or didn’t.
True Story: And I only tell it because it shows my own care-less-ness. I’ve only told this story to my wife Karen. Why I’m sharing it with you now is not for you to think I’m something special. Those of you who know me know I’m just an average guy. And don’t assume I have this open and overwhelming heart for the homeless or street people. It just a story that I had not thought about since the day it happened. Today I’m thinking about it. So here goes.
I was driving into town in mid-August to meet my wife and get a pedicure. (Yes, I get those every couple of months.) Following my “pedi” I was going to go and buy myself a new pair of sandals. I was preparing for my knee replacement and you just can’t go to the hospital with gigantic toenails. And Of course I need some new sandals to wear in the hospital and at home. Mine were on their 3rd year. Still good – but 3 years was enough. So nice toenails and new sandals were the sole purpose of my trip.
As I’m driving down 61st street here on the outskirts of Boulder I saw a strange thing. A man walking up ahead of me on the side of the road. He was walking in the bike lane, on the black top. I thought it odd. One never sees people walking out in this area. There’s not much around. As I got closer I noticed he was barefoot. He was walking barefoot on blacktop in the middle of August in Boulder where the daytime temperatures usually hangout in the 90′s. I couldn’t imagine what the temperature was on the pavement – but it must have been hot. I was instantly faced with a dilemma. Do I stop and offer him a ride? Or do I keep on driving and spend the rest of the day erasing the memory of ignoring a man in possible need? My inner good-guy who I was trying to fight off, got the best of me and I stopped and asked if he would like a ride. I was secretly praying he wouldn’t – But indeed he did.
He got into the passenger seat and off we went towards downtown Boulder. I was about to be taught a lesson. Not in generousity or humility – but in humanity.
I started the conversation by asking his name. He said something appropriately weird, like Rainbow Ukiah or something like that, but quickly added his parents had named him Bryan. I told him I was going to downtown Boulder and I could take him that far or drop him anywhere in between. “Downtown is fine”, he said. We chatted easily. I estimated his age as mid 20′s to early 30′s. Most likely in his 20′s. I didn’t ask where he lived, but when I asked why he was walking barefoot, he said his shoes were back at his campsite. Okay, not something I’d leave at a campsite, but whatever…
We drove about for about 5-10 minutes conversing lightly. As we neared my destination he thanked me for the ride. I asked, “Do you believe in God?” He said something noncommittal and I responded by saying that “I think God wanted me to give you a ride today.” “Well, I sure appreciate it.” He said.
Soon and probably not soon enough for Bryan we parked in front of the “nail salon”. We both got out and as I was closing the door of the car God said; “Give him your sandals and the $10 bill in your pocket.” “What?” I thought. Again, I felt God’s hand. “Give him your sandals and the $10 bill in your pocket.” And so as we stood in front of my car and he was thanking me again for the lift I slipped off my sandals and said, “Here, why don’t you take these.” His look said it all. He was truly stunned by the gesture. “Thanks man, but now you don’t have shoes.” I told him I was intending to go buy myself a new pair after my pedicure. Bryan, somehow didn’t burst into laughter when I told him I was headed for a pedicure.
Instead he slipped his dirty feet into his new pair of old sandals. They fit “perfectly”. I mean – “perfectly!”
Then I handed him that $10 bill and said “Here take this too. in case you get hungry later.” There just happened to be a burritto joint just across the parking lot. Coincidence?
Bryan was speechless. It was obvious no one had treated him as another human being in a long time. He gave me a hug, which I gladly returned. He was such a nice guy, once I looked beyond the clothes, the hair, the dirt and his new/old sandals. Underneath it all was – me. Just another guy who had taken a different road in life. But on that day. 2 distant roads criss-crossed.
And so it was on one hot August day in Boulder 2013, standing outside a nail salon, two of God’s children met and became brothers. When I came out of the nail salon, Bryan was sitting at a outside community table eating a burrito the size of Rhode Island and drink a huge cup of Coca-Cola. He had a huge smile on his face. He thanked me again. He looked happy and well feed.
Did God put us together to teach me a lesson? I think he taught us both a lesson. He loves us all. Equally! Unconditionally! As we parted I said “God loves you, Bryan.” Bryan hoisted his cup of Coca-Cola in a salute or was it praise? I haven’t seen him since. But I’m hoping someday he remembers me. Not for the sandals and the $10. But that I was the stranger who showed him God’s love and drove away.
A powerful & beautiful song by my friend Dave Pettigrew of New Jersey. On a day none of us will ever forget, we can be comforted to know “There’s A Hope!”
Sorry I have been out of touch but knee pain is killing me. Making me crazy. Unable to write. TKR or Knee Replacement surgery today. Should be back at it next week. Sorry for being away for so long.
Life is cruising along. Everything is perfect. Husband, kids, finances, career. Then one day you find a lump. Where do we go from here?
Your career is blossoming. People are taking notice. Up the ladder you climb. Everyone’s counting on you! Then one day you lose your job. Where do we go from here?
You’re everybody’s buddy. The life of the party. Everybody wants to be you. Or, so you think. Then one day your temper flares out of control and you hit your wife. Where do we go from here?
You’re away on a business trip. The convention is going well. Then one night you have a few drinks too many and fall into the arms of a man you’ve just met. He tells you how beautiful you are. He asks you to come up to his room. Where do we go from here?
You’re a model Christian. You attend church regularly. Tithe your 10% happily. Serve your community faithfully. Raise your family honorably. On the outside you present a compelling faith. But on the inside is emptiness, pain and despair. Walls closing in. Time running out. Then one day, alone in a car on a deserted highway, you stop and remove the gun from the glove box and put it to your head. Tears stream down your face. Where do we go from here?
Everyday good people face bad situations like this. Everyday we are faced with – Where do we go from here?
In the deepest pit of emotional hell, in the face of mortality, at the end of the road and in the arms of a stranger – Jesus is there.
He waits. Hoping we’ll make the right choice. Waiting for us to fall, He holds out His arms with understanding and forgiveness. Calling with a voice as gentle as a breeze. Guiding us home with a touch as soft and comforting as the pedal of a rose.
“I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you. Not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future. I have seen you struggle. I know how hard you try. I understand the pain. I understand your fear. And I feel your hurt.”
“My child, you are so special to me. You are the reason I laid down my life. I am the living water you thirst for. The love you’ve been searching for.” Oh, if you could only see yourself as I see you. If you could only imagine the celebration I have planned for you, if you would just lay down your sword — and follow me. For my path is easy, smooth and straight. And I know where to go from here.“
My dear friend, sometimes the troubles of this life seem just too much to bear. The thorns and thistles of today rise up to choke out the beauty and the hope of tomorrow. There is an unspeakable joy waiting for us if we would only lay down our burdens and rise up with God. Let the war in you and let the war in me be over. Let today be the day we discover where we go from here.
Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section below.
Todays Song: “Jesus Will Still Be There” – Point of Grace
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
One of my favorite bloggers, Michael Nichols – who turns 40 today – Happy Birthday! (http://www.michaelnichols.org) – posted a blog this morning touting a new book by Jeff Goins (another blogger) called “The In-Between.”
In the video promo for Jeff’s book (the link to which Michael included in his blog) the narrator talks about how we’re missing all the in-between time we have. In-between time such as - waiting for the water to boil. Waiting for a bus or a train or a plane. Waiting for the cookies to bake. The light to change. The sun to rise. And the book seems to take the stance that we need to “embrace the wait” and seek out these little delays. And I agree. Sort of…
My take on the “in-between” is a bit different. I have almost no in-between. And I think that’s the situation for most Americans. We fill our lives with so much “stuff”, there is little to no in-between time for any thing or — any one. Especially God.
I know people who are “so busy” they wouldn’t have enough time to go to the hospital if they had a heart attack.
Busy, busy, busy. Don’t believe me? Just call a friend right now and invite them over for dinner or out to coffee. “Uh, let’s see. Sure I think I can have coffee with you any day during the 2nd week of August — 2014.” And on it goes until one day you hear, your friend moved, went to prison for tax evasion or passed away.
And it’s not just you and I who are so busy. We’ve passed the busy gene on to our kids. Soccer. Band. Baseball. Video Games. School. Piano lessons. Dance class. Summer Camp. Youth group.
All worthwhile endeavors – but we let our kids and therefore ourselves become so consumed by busyness that we frantically race from meaningless point A to meaningless point Z and then collapse into bed, only to rise again and begin again tomorrow.
True story… Several years ago I, along with a few thousand other guys, left our families behind to attend a 3 day mens conference. You know what the main topic was? How we’re neglecting our families and need to spend more time at home.
When I talk to family members and friends, I usually ask “How’re you doing?” The usual answer is – “I’m exhausted.” How can someone 16 or 35 years old be exhausted.
Hey, I’m staring down the barrel of 65. I have a”right” to be exhausted. But you newcomers. You “kids” (to me anyone under 35 is a kid.) have zero right to be exhausted. If you are – well – it’s your own fault.
Here’s a scenario of the average young couple in America.
They awake at 5am. Change the baby. Feed the baby. One watches the baby and slams down breakfast (coffee, 2 donuts and a 5 Hour Energy) while the other showers. Then they switch. Then it’s off to drop the baby at daycare. Followed by a race to work. The J.O.B.
At 5pm – they do everything they did earlier in the day – only backwards. By 8 or 9pm the baby is asleep for the night (they hope) and they literally collapse into bed.
Ask them “How’re they’re doing?” I dare ya…
Here’s another scenario. This time it’s the average older couple in America.
They too wake up at 5am. But have no idea why.
Because they’re “Empty Nesters” they get to have breakfast together. Breakfast for these folks consists of toast, coffee and a heaping bowl of prescription medications. One for the heart, one for the bladder, one for the – oh what was that other one for? Oh, now I remember. Memory.
At the end of the day, they too reverse the flow of activity. Dinner at 4pm. News at 6pm. Meds to help them sleep at 8:55 and lights out at 9:00pm. I forgot to mention the 3 naps they each took during their busy day. Ask them how they’re doing and they will also say. “We’re exhausted.”
Don’t worry you older folks. There’s a pill for that too.
So here’s the bottom line… Slow down dear friends. For what are we in such a hurry? Work? A root canal? Yard work? Driving the kids to “fill in the blank”? The Annual Checkers Tournament down at the Senior Center?
I promise you, if you don’t create more in-between, you’ll wake up like Mr. Nichols and go “Yikes! I’m 40!” Or 50, 60, 70, 90!
Cherish the in-between. It might be the only chance you have to be the real you for a few precious moments. Or is that what we’re all really afraid of???
(Charles Stanley has an excellent post on Beating Busyness. http://www.intouch.org/magazine/content?topic=beating_busyness#.Ufk3yha0Z8M)
Today’s Song “Do Everything” – Steven Curtis Chapman
“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. (NLT)
Question: If you were brought to trial on the charge of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to find you guilty?
Interesting question isn’t it? Most of us would say “Yes, of course.” And we’d be right. If one calls him or herself a Christian who has the right to say “prove it!” Well… Maybe the world does.
It’s not easy or popular to be a Christian on 2013 Earth. Media moguls, Hollywood types, and lots of other religions routinely persecute Christians and Christianity. And the world doesn’t bat an eye.
Christian bashing has become somewhat of an art-form. In the early 1990’s I attended a few Promise Keepers conferences here in Boulder and the demonstrations, signs (both hand-held & aerial), posters, banners and placards that were professionally and tastelessly designed, were visible for all to see.
Shouts of hypocrites, homophobes, women-haters, child-abusers and worse were hurled at the 50,000+ Christian men and boys who quietly and courteously filed into and out of the stadium each day. Men who were attending an event, designed to help them become better husbands, better fathers, better neighbors and better Christians had to endure insults and religious slurs that other groups would have responded to by fighting and rioting.
Not one Christian man or boy was arrested for retaliating. We didn’t have to be told to “turn the other cheek”, although event organizers reminded us of that several times, just in case someone felt an uncontrollable urge to kick the rear-end of some folks who were there specifically to provoke such a reaction. Or so it seemed.
Personally, I struggle constantly with the “turn the other cheek” thing. My natural instinct is to fight back, with fists, if that’s what the situation calls for. I especially boil when non-christian media types blame everything from global warming to GMOs and drought on Christian men and women. But as a follower of Jesus, I have to “let it go.”
The world doesn’t see and the media doesn’t cover the too numerous to mention acts of love carried out by Christians all over the world on a daily basis. And do you know why?
Well one reason is the media wouldn’t cover that kind of stuff and two – these acts of love and kindness are supposed to go unnoticed.
Matthew 6: 1-2
1 “Take care! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired, because then you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. 2 When you give a gift to someone in need, don’t shout about it as the hypocrites do — blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I assure you, they have received all the reward they will ever get.
Here’s the thing about being a Christian. We’re supposed to hold ourselves to a higher standard. Not to brag or puff up when we help an old man across the street. Why? Because as followers of Jesus – that’s the way it is. Can’t handle it? Well…
The hardest part of trying to follow Jesus is He set the love bar impossibly high. Remember Jesus on the cross. He called out and said, “Father, forgive them. For they know not what they do.” It that had been me up there, I’d be screaming, “Father, get me down from here and let’s go crack some skulls!”
The other double-whammy of Christianity is this… We are natural born sinners, trying not to be. Temptation stalks us relentlessly. We pray for strength to overcome our tendencies to be less that perfect or even cordial. But we come up short time and time again. That’s not a matter of conjecture. It’s fact! And that’s why we need a savior.
I can just see the devil and his team of demons plotting. “Let’s see what new and really frustrating things we can come up with to get Mount Saint Francis to erupt today.” They don’t have to plot for long. I’m an easy mark.
So what’s an imperfect guy or gal to do? Well, let’s see. Maybe pray???
Perhaps read the Bible??? Hook up with other Christians and support each other in our walk???
The thing about being a Child of God is – were not supposed to act like children. At least not on a mature level. We’re supposed to turn the other check, forgive, forget and move on. But as we all know – it’s much easier said than done.
So what to do? Give in to the temptation to throw down? Unleash a barrage of profanity laced insults? Stuff another resentment into our I’ll put this away for now, but I’m keeping my options open on bringing it out again at a later date when you least expect it suitcase?
Or? Or? Should we forgive and truly forget? Apologize and ask for forgiveness, especially from God. And vow to make today the day that we truly exhibit the characteristics of being a Christian?
Quick story to close: Several years ago I had season tickets for the Colorado Rockies. One day, I’m driving to the game with 3 friends in the car with me. I’m thinking, “Wait til they see my seats. Field level. Right behind Home Plate. Won’t they think I’m cool? Well, God had a lesson in humility waiting for me at the stadium.
As I drove up near the front of Coors Field there is, as usual a massive crowd of people walking to the game. The traffic is crazy and at one intersection, there’s a cop directing traffic and doing his best to prevent an encounter between man and metal beast.
Now the traffic lights are turned off and this man is doing his thing as best he can, standing in the middle of the intersection in 95* heat. Well, I arrived at just the right moment to test his patience.
I was stopped as he was allowing pedestrians to cross. When I could have sworn he motioned for me to drive through. I started to depress the accelerator when he blew his whistle and at the top of his lungs screamed – STOP!
He then ran over to my car, got right in my face and yelled something like, “I told you to stop. When I say stop that means stop and you don’t move until I tell you to – you got that?” On and on he goes, berating me at full volume not 3 inches from my face. And all this is taking place in front of my 3 friends and about 20,000 people on the street.
I’m totally embarrassed, so in a instant I blurt out, “You told me to move forward!” That was like pouring gasoline on his already white hot fire. So the cop screams “ Shut up. Shut the heck up! You say one more word, one more word I’ll split your head and drag you to jail.”
In a nano-second Mt Saint Francis, Mr. Christian is on the verge of a major eruption. I mean, I am blind with rage for this guy. He’s dissing me in front of my tribe and all these onlookers. Many of whom are getting out their smartphones to record this cop stomping me into the hot pavement.
But inside this nano-second of time, another voice breaks through. It says just a few words…
“Ballgame? Or jail? Ballgame? Or jail?”
It takes me years to learn a lesson. But on that beautiful summer night, God came to my rescue. He doused my fire. And somehow, His words – not mine flew out of my mouth.
“I’m sorry Officer!” — I’d say that was hard to say, but the words came out so fast I didn’t have time to think about what I was saying. Next thing I knew the veins in the cops neck receded. The roar of his voice subsided and he mumble something like, “Get your sorry butt outta here.”
I drove ever so slowly through the intersection and was soon sitting in my seat behind home plate watching a Rockies game. A bag of peanuts in one hand. An ice cold beverage in the other. And a lesson in the rewards of humility firmly planted in my brain.
So where am I going with all this? I guess where I’m going is to God. I’m asking for His guidance. His strength and His humility. Left to my own devices (limited as they are.) I will exhibit very few characteristics of a Christian. I’m trying. I’m learning. And best of all – I’m getting a little bit better everyday. And I think that’s a good thing.
Lord, help me to be a better Christian. Help me to not just talk the part, but to live the part as well. Help me to be more like you with each passing nano-second. Lord, I know I’m not perfect. I’m a little bruised and battered, and that’s okay. But don’t allow me to use that as an excuse when I fail to show others my Christian heart. Let me be slow to anger and quick to say “I’m sorry officer! Oh, and if you can do anything to help the Rockies, that would be good too.