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The Good we can do… together

Have you ever read the parable of the Good Samaritan? Yeah, me, too. At least a billion times. Well, nearly.

But I’m not sure I understood it until today.

When my twenty-something daughter, who has traveled to Berlin on a Fulbright award, contacted me to say, “Mom, I’m getting ready to go to the Berlin central train station… to bring stuff for the Ukrainian refugees coming in, who are mostly women and children. If anyone wants to contribute you can send me money to get some more stuff. Here’s the items they need right now.

And I looked at that list. And I cried. Some things are listed as “urgent.” Some things are “just important.” baby bottles. wipes. diapers. shampoos. detergents. hand cream. combs and hairbrushes. panty liners and tampons. lip balm. toothpaste. shower gel. disinfectant. coloring books. matchbox cars. plushies. sketch books. stickers. URGENT.

Oh, please someone buy so many sketch books and plushies.

The former me thought that it was a cop out just to send cash. Today’s me is waking up to a world that needs all I have to offer. Whatever I have to offer.

Oh, but that Good Samaritan from Luke, Chapter 10, on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho … he set a very high bar. he stopped to help the man who had been robbed and beaten and left half dead. He dressed his wounds. He transported the man to safety. where he took care of him. and then he could be cared for. and he could rest and recover. And, after covering expenses, he told the caregiver, whatever it costs, put it on my tab. I’ll be back to settle up the expenses.

When I read the parable of the Good Samaritan, I “hear” this is what you need to be. This kind of good neighbor. who does it all, going above and beyond for his neighbor, whom he doesn’t even know.

Today, I am a continent away from one who needs my help. Who needs me to stop and look, treat their wounds, attend to their needs, deliver them to safety, ensure their care, and provision them for the journey.

All I can offer is, “any expense you have, I will reimburse.” But my understanding today says, that is enough. Because I know someone, who by the happenstance of circumstances, can provide for the one who has need and can reimburse the innkeeper for the kindness he or she is administering.

I had always set the Good Samaritan as the highest of bars: Stop. treat. Deliver. Care. Provide. Reimburse. All of these in order to fulfill my obligations. The “what more must I do? clause.” By this standard the Kingdom is very far off and always will be.

But today, by the grace of God, and amidst the disgrace of mankind’s behavior to his own kind, I see the Good Samaritan not the work of just one man, but as the work of all of us together. For you who are bold enough and brave enough and whose circumstances have placed you in the midst of this fray, you can be the stoppers, the treaters, the deliverers, the carers. And may God bless you and protect you. We, whose circumstances place us at a distance, can be the providers, the reimbursers and surely, oh surely, the prayers of prayers.

Together, not alone, not separately, but all together, we can be The Good Samaritan: not just proclaimers, but demonstrators, purveyors and benefactors of those who are being the Good News. News you can believe and believe in. Because you see it in living color. In the person next to you. In the one far from you. And inexorably in the deepest version of you.

Together, let’s believe the good news of the gospel as we live it out.

In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven. Thanks be to God.

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Deception is never harmless and often lasting

It seems harmless. A phrase posted on a Facebook status. It’s not true, but it’s part of a game. You post something that is nonsensical or hard to believe about yourself and then the comments start rolling in. What? What are you talking about? The trick is, everyone who comments then has to post one of these phrases on their status. And their friends, and their friends, and so on. This is how it can go viral. Which is exactly what the Breast Cancer folks want (read irony into that if you will) who started this “game” in the first place.

Here are your options if you want to play the game:

“LOL…You should not have liked or commented! Now you have to pick one of the 14 below and post to your status. This is the 2014 breast cancer awareness game. Don’t be a spoil sport! Choose your poison and change your status: 1) Damn diarrhea 2) Just used my boobs to get out of a speeding ticket 3) Anyone have a tampon, I’m out 4) How do you get rid of foot fungus 5) Why is nobody around when I’m horny? 6) No toilet paper goodbye socks! Post with no explanations. 7)Someone offered me a job as a prostitute but I’m hesitant. 8)I think I’m in love with someone what should I do? 9)I’ve decided 2 stop wearing underwear. 10)I still love my ex. 11)I really don’t know how 2 tell anyone and I’m sick of hiding it I’m gay. 12)Guess it was 2 good 2 b true I’m pregnant. 13)Just won $7000 on a scratchy. 14)I’ve just found out I’ve been cheated on for the past 5 months.Post with no explanations. Sorry I fell for it too ! LOL!!!”

Now “Don’t be a spoil sport.” “Choose your poison. “Now you have to…” Do any of those send out bells and whistles for you? … Just a game.

I declined to participate ~ which should be option #15. Even when this choice isn’t stated, it’s available. We can choose another path. I’m good with that. No hard feelings.

Except, in this case the status my friend posted was #13, the ‘least harmless’ I am sure it seemed to her. As a committed Christian, it’s the least obtrusive, least likely to hurt anyone who misunderstands. She was just sharing some “made up good news.” Since I am a close friend, I see all her status posts and was immediately excited for her. Albeit a bit confused that she had a lottery ticket but still, it’s nice to hear that a good person has stumbled on some really good fortune.

Then, when I commented with “!!!” I got her message with the “changes of status” that I had to choose from. I was appalled. Actually angry. Here was someone I trusted. I actually celebrated her good news and then she said, “Gotcha!”

Harmless, right? Well no. Because I know people who have fallen for “good news” …

  • the good news that someone loves them, then really doesn’t
  • good news that they’ve won a trip when they really haven’t
  • good news that they are under consideration for a spot on the team when they really weren’t
  • good news that life will get better and it hasn’t

There is lots of news out there masquerading as good news and it isn’t. When we practice deceit in the guise of good news it’s even worse than deceiving with news that is suspect. Because everyone knows to be suspicious of that. But people who have fallen prey to good news that wasn’t learn that news is not trustworthy, and they determine that they will never be so stupid again as to be deceived by anyone bearing good news. Their hearts are hardened against the one thing that will save them. This sounds to me like very bad news indeed.

Yes, as a Christian I must be discerning about all I read and all I hear, but especially about all I share. Because it has the power to reach the ends of the earth. And there’s only one thing that should have that power. Sharing anything else disrupts the power lines. And that is very, very bad news indeed.

I am with the Breast Cancer Community heart and soul. I have many friends who have suffered with this illness, some who currently are. Cancer, itself, is doing a fine job of spreading the news of the horror of this illness, it’s treatment and the lives lived in the shadow of it. But spreading good news and calling it true when it isn’t gives an already skeptical society even more reason not to trust good news when they hear it. And that is certainly not what you intend to go viral. In fact, it sounds much more like cancer.

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