A Blog & Podcast by Frank Eriksen

Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

The Good Samaritan?

samaritan

Luke 1:36-37

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.”

Have homeless or street people become the bums of the 30’s & 40’s?

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.

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Where Do We Go From Here?

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Jeremiah 29:11
New International Version (NIV)
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

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

No one is righteous, no not one!

 

unrigheousness

Romans 3:10 No one is righteous, no not one!

Strangely, I find relief in that verse. It lets me know that I’m not the only one making a mess of things. It also tells me, that I have no defense against unrighteousness.

For me, today has been a day of head-butting and face-slapping. One of those days where no matter where I step, toes are in the way.

If I had to cross a mine-field my odds would be a million to one I’m going up in flames after the first step. So what’s a guy to do? You keep marching forward. That’s what!

Life is fraught with mirrors just waiting to be broken. So don’t be surprised when you hear glass shattering when you least expect it.

When Paul said “No one is righteous, no not one.” He meant himself as well as others. He was cautioning his fellow Jews to not think too highly of themselves when comparing Jew to Gentile. But why? Everybody knows the Jews are the chosen people. Surely God  held them in higher esteem. Much higher than non-Jews.

But Paul was telling them, “don’t get to wrapped up in the whole I’m better than you thing.” Because we are all “under the power of sin.” Only a fool would think otherwise.

But we can all have those moments or days, when we see ourselves as more than we really are. That’s when arguments can escalate from a disagreement into a fist fight. A misunderstanding explodes into a war of words that leaves everybody breathless and emotions run as hot as a Tuesday in July.

So what’s a sinner to do?

Accept that no one is perfect. Including us and them. It’s knowing that we can fly off course or the handle with the greatest of ease and  least provocation. But God, mercifully has a safety net. He shows us the path back to the straight and narrow.

Sometimes it’s an apology. Sometimes it’s forgiveness. To withhold either shows how sinful we can be and how reluctant we are to repent. That’s just what the enemy likes.

Through his subtle subversiveness he divides and conquers. “You’re right! She’s wrong!” “You gonna let him get away with that?” “You don’t have to take that from them.” And in our weakened condition, we agree. We believe that we are righteous. We see ourselves without fault. In the right. Justified!

In a fight to the finish over bruised ego’s, all the combatants leave the arena bleeding. But the Great Healer is in the crowd. “No one is righteous!” No, not one.” But I still love you. I always have.

Here is our opportunity to ceremoniously turn the other cheek. To lay down our sword and put forth the first olive branch.

Our branch may get pushed away. Our outreach rebuked. But we can now go forth in peace knowing that the sin of pride only remains a sin, when we attach our identity to it. And with God, we know who we are and who’s we are.

The anchor of discord only becomes heavier the longer we mis-take it for the crown of righteousness. Lay it down. Life, love and better days are waiting.

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