The Not-So-Good Samaritan

Do you ever desire a “do-over?” Or wish you could just push “rewind” and record a new response over one you regret?

I had one of those moments this past weekend.

It was halftime of the girls’ high school basketball game. The varsity cheerleaders were in position, ready to debut their coed routine. I was perched near center court, second row. Phone raised, thumb poised. I pressed the little red circle to start my video as the music began.

The team wowed the crowd with their flips, libs and pyramids. They nailed their jumps and cheers. Then, about halfway through the routine, one of the cheerleaders limped over to the sidelines. She sat down right in front of me, holding her knee, in obvious pain.

And I just kept videoing.

Another cheer mom, seated a few rows further up in the bleachers, finally ran down to the floor to assist her.

And I just kept videoing.

The routine ended, and the coaches and some of the other cheerleaders rushed to the shaken girl’s side. They carried her off the court so the athletic trainer could evaluate her.

Guilt began to swell up within me like the injured cheerleader’s knee.

Why did I keep videoing? Why didn’t I stop and help her? I was right there! She was right in front of me!

I was not “The Good Samaritan.” Instead, I was the one who passed her by.

As I reflected on this the following day, I identified three things that kept me in my seat:

  1. Agenda. I was too focused on capturing a video. I had difficulty deviating from My Plan. I felt conflicted.
  2. Appearances. There were a lot of people at the game. I didn’t want all of those eyes on me. I felt self-conscious.
  3. Adequacy. “I’m not the coach. I’m not a nurse. I’m not her mom.” The “I’m Nots” overshadowed the “I Ams.” I felt inadequate.

I wondered if the ones who passed by the wounded man in the biblical story of “The Good Samaritan” struggled similarly. It’s a familiar parable, but worth revisiting…

Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. (Luke 10:30-32)*

Perhaps their tight schedules wouldn’t allow for a time-consuming detour. Maybe they also cared too much about appearances. They could have minimized what they had to offer, or rationalized that it was someone else’s responsibility.

“Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’ (Luke 10:33-35)

The difference? The Samaritan not only saw the man, but he felt compassion for him. True compassion will lead to action. He did what he could. And it was enough.

So I’m asking God for a “do-over.” To be ready the next time I encounter a need. To feel genuine compassion. To let go of my own agendas, my preoccupation with appearances, and my fears of inadequacy. To offer what I have. To do what I can.

“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.” (Luke 10:36-37)

Jesus didn’t ask us to help everyone.

But with His help, we can each help someone!

 

(P.S. I’m currently kind of obsessed with this song. Sharing, because it seems to fit with this post. And because I’m obsessed.)

*Scriptures are from The New Living Translation.

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Biblical Blackjack

I’m not the gambling type. I don’t like to take risks. And I especially don’t like to lose money.

But we were on a family cruise, and the on-board casino was having a “smoke-free” night. The whole gang was planning to go after our formal dinner in the dining room, so I decided to tag along.

For about an hour I enjoyed watching my parents try their luck on the slot machines. I also took it upon myself to help the casino staff enforce the non-smoking policy whenever someone lit up near me. Most of the rest of the family were seated at the $6 blackjack table, so I wandered over there to cheer them on. (I even took this innocent, but I later learned, illegal photo. Oops.)

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After awhile, there was an opening at the table. The next thing I knew, I was occupying that empty seat. Two casino chips were placed in front of me, courtesy of my sister. Yes, peer pressure is still a thing. I may have been on a ship in the open sea, but I felt like a fish out of water.

I was nervous, and very conscious of the fact that I was playing with someone else’s money. I wanted to do well, give my sister a return on her investment, and prove “worthy” of her trust in me. It became my motivation as I played.

With a lot of coaching (probably also illegal) from the rest of the fam, I actually won the first few hands. And even more surprising, after another hour or so of “hits” and “sticks,” my two little chips had morphed into two small stacks of chips! Apparently beginner’s luck is also still a thing.

Being the conservative person that I am, I thought this might be a great time to call it a night and cash out. The chips totaled $70! I happily offered my earnings to my sis, who insisted I keep all but her original investment.

The biblical parallels from my casino escapade did not escape me. I was reminded of the Parable of the Talents. Jesus told this story of a master who entrusted each of his servants with various amounts to invest while he was away. The wise servants who doubled his investment were rewarded. But the fearful servant who refused to take a risk was reprimanded.

‘Take the thousand and give it to the one who risked the most. And get rid of this “play-it-safe” who won’t go out on a limb. Throw him out into utter darkness.’ (Matthew 25:28-30, The Message)

I acquired some insights more valuable than cash from the casino that night. Here are a few of my spiritual take-aways:

  • Everything we have has been graciously given to us by God.
  • Our job is to wisely invest and multiply these gifts.
  • This requires faith–overcoming fear and taking risks.
  • The joy of pleasing the Master is our motivation and reward.

The next morning, I retreated to the balcony of our cabin to spend some quiet time with God. I picked up right where I had left off in my Bible study workbook, and caught my breath when I turned the page to read this:

In Matthew 25:14, Jesus taught that the kingdom of heaven will be “like a man gong on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property” (ESV)…In the parable He used as a kingdom parallel, each servant’s responsibility was to steward the master’s property well. “Now after a long time, the master returned and settled accounts” (Matt. 25:19, ESV). Each servant who’d faithfully invested the small amount of property entrusted to him was commended, then placed over much, sharing the master’s happiness. The servants weren’t expected to be trustworthy with what they hadn’t been given. They weren’t judged by comparison or graded on the curve. The only question on the master’s table was this: “What did you do with what I entrusted to you?” –Beth Moore (From her study of 2 Timothy called “Entrusted”)

This is one of the things I love about our God. He is able to perfectly orchestrate the timing of His lessons. I like to call them “God-incidences.” They are one of the reasons I know He is Real.

Just like in blackjack, where the dealer is the only person one plays against, God is the only One to whom we must give an account. Now is not the time to play it safe. Take the risks. Walk by faith. Use your gifts. Invest your life in others.

Make it your joy to bring Him joy. It will be worth it just to hear Him say:

“Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:21, ESV)

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Hidden Treasure

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I strolled right past this simple pencil drawing at the silent auction last month. I honestly don’t remember ever seeing it.

My co-worker’s husband purchased it for our pregnancy center. He proudly showed it to my husband and me as we exited the banquet. Still, I didn’t think much of it.

Until the following Monday morning at work, when I took the time to read the artist’s description of the story behind it:

Mother Teresa herself asked me to create this special drawing of a little child carved in the Palm of God’s Hand. She wanted me to include this beautiful passage from the Old Testament in which God says to each one of us, through the Prophet Isaiah, “See! I will not forget you…I love you.” I created this image for Mother Teresa in 1986, while I was with her in Calcutta, India. –Susan Conroy”

Wow. This was an original piece of artwork, conceived and commissioned by Mother Teresa herself! I realized that the drawing–that I had disregarded–was instead something very special.

But there’s even more to this story. If you look carefully, you will see a word written in pencil on each of the fingers in the drawing. The artist explains:

Mother Teresa wrote on each of the fingers of God’s Hand: “You did it to Me” to remind us of the Words that Jesus said, “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren, that you do unto Me.”

“You. Did. It. To. Me.”

Jesus’ own words, written in her own handwriting.

Those who knew this precious servant of Christ recall how she sometimes held up the fingers of her hand to explain this. The whole Gospel, she said, could be counted on five fingers.*

I call this the Gospel on five fingers—five words: You did it to me. In your five fingers you have your love for Jesus. Look at your fingers often and remind yourself of this love.” –Mother Teresa

What a treasure! The drawing now hangs in a place of honor in our center. I pass it in the hallway each day as I head up the stairs to my office. It reminds me of the evening of the silent auction. How I missed it, then dismissed it.

Just like I do with people.

How many have I just passed by, too busy or preoccupied to notice? How many have I glanced at with my eyes, but then rejected with my mind? Sized up based upon their outward appearance? Judged in a split second, before taking a few moments to learn their history?

My job at the center has been good for me. I’ve interacted with people I never would have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. They are sometimes uneducated, unemployed, unkempt.

The least of these.

But then they share their stories. My eyes are opened. My heart is moved. I can appreciate their uniqueness. I understand their worth.

I am learning to care for them.

Teresa of Calcutta did.

I am beginning to treasure them.

Jesus of Nazareth does.

I am preaching His Gospel to myself.

The one in five little words.

The one that changes everything.

“You did it to Me.”

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:40, ESV) 

 

*Monsignor Leo Maasburg

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Love in Any Language

The sun had just poked its head over the horizon and I had just lifted mine off of the pillow. My slippered feet shuffled across the cold kitchen floor, on auto pilot, headed to the counter where the electric tea kettle–and the caffeine–live. On the speckled granite lay an unexpected message from my husband, hastily scribbled on the back of a discarded envelope:

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My guy has a true servant’s heart. It’s his spiritual gift, his native tongue. “Acts of Service” are his “Love Language.”

Unfortunately, they’re not mine.

You’re familiar with “The Five Love Languages,” right? Author Gary Chapman writes:

After 30 years as a marriage counselor, I am convinced that there are five basic love languages – five ways to express love emotionally. Each person has a primary love language that we must learn to speak if we want that person to feel loved.”

According to Chapman, the five love languages are:  Acts of Service, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Gifts, and Physical Touch. You can read more about them and even take a handy quiz to help determine your love language at: www.5lovelanguages.com.

I believe my primary love language is “Words of Affirmation.” A sincere compliment can fill me up for a week. I love to send handmade cards and write encouraging notes. Words are my friends. (I also like “Gifts.” Gifts are my friends.)

Chris and I read “The Five Love Languages” shortly after the book came out in the mid-90’s. You’d think we’d be fluent in each other’s love languages by now. But we forget. We get lazy. Learning to speak a second language requires focus and determination. And practice.

My helpful hubby got some credit for the handwritten “note” on the back of the envelope that morning. But my heart sank a little when I realized it was only to tell me that he had filled up my car with gas, and not something more, well…inspiring.

Sigh.

Like I said, while I do appreciate them, “Acts of Service” are just not my love language.

And then the Holy Spirit spoke to the pouting child in me. In one of His love languages. The one called “A Gentle Rebuke.”

Ouch.

I’m not very fond of that love language either.

What He whispered to my critical heart sounded something like this:

You can demand that others love you a certain way. Or you can choose to receive the love they offer you in whatever form it takes. Because love is…love. This act of service sprang from a heart of love. Will you accept it or reject it? The choice is yours.

Standing at the kitchen counter at the start of that new day, I made a choice to accept it.

And to thank the Lord for a husband who finds joy in unselfish service. To receive the gracious gift of a full tank of gas. To let the power of those two little words, “Love you,” linger in my thoughts and penetrate my heart.

He loves me.

It’s all that matters.

Understanding our loved ones’ love languages can help us communicate more effectively. But really, I don’t think there’s anything in the Bible that insists love be spoken in a certain “language.” There’s only this:

…love one another deeply, from the heart. (1 Peter 1:22b, NIV)

Love deeply. From the heart.

There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved.” (George Sand)

Just love, and be loved.

So simple, it needs no translation.

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Excuses, Excuses!

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I drifted off to sleep to the sound of pelting rain Friday night and awakened Saturday morning to the same. Perfect weather for staying in jammies all morning. Which was indeed my cozy little plan.

And then I heard this disconcerting distress call from my MOPS group’s Facebook page:

SOS!!! Is there anyone that can go help Kristin with our convention fundraiser?!? Our basement is flooding. She is there now and I know she needs help! Please?!?!”

These two resourceful moms had organized a large tea party to raise funds to help them attend the national MOPS convention. Days earlier I had been more than happy to help, sharing a few recipes and packing up several tea-related items for them to borrow.

But now, on this soggy Saturday morning?

I was suddenly much less than happy to help.

Excuses began pouring out of me like an overflowing bucket of rainwater.

It’s cold and rainy.

I’m not a morning person.

I haven’t had my tea yet.

I already helped.

I don’t have any make-up on.

Service is not my spiritual gift.

That last one is my personal favorite. We Christians are often too quick to let a lack of gifting lead to a lack of responsibility. And while it is true that serving does not come naturally to me, I know that in Christ I am called to live a super-natural life and rise above my natural inclinations.

I also knew deep down that none of my excuses really held any water.

And then I thought about my daughter’s upcoming wedding. What if we had an emergency and needed assistance? What if I sent out a desperate, last-minute SOS? Wouldn’t I want others to respond to my call for help?

Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Luke 6:31, NIV)

God’s clear voice has a way of piercing through the fog. My excuses evaporated like rain puddles in the sun. I knew exactly what I needed to do.

I went.

Disregarding the time, the weather, the lack of caffeine and make-up.

I did for others what I would have wanted them to do for me. Truth is, there really wasn’t that much to do by the time I got there.

But I’m glad I did it anyway.

I may have looked a bit rough on the outside, but I felt good on the inside.

Maybe next time I’ll do it sooner, without complaint or hesitation.

Or maybe next time I’ll be the one sounding the alarm, and you’ll be the one coming in response to my need.

And I’ll be ever so grateful you did.

Because, really, is there ever any good excuse not to?

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