Police and Paramedics

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We are plugged into a church, and a Sunday school class to boot! I know some of you have been praying for Steve and me during this time of settling in, so thank you very much.

Here’s a catchy but convicting quote I heard last Sunday. “We often find too many police and not enough paramedics in the church.”

Huh? Allow me to explain. The lesson was on the importance of peace within the church. We can be so quick to quarrel, to forget that we are all children of our Lord and called to serve him together. Sometimes we even wrap our petty gripes in that thinly veiled phrase, “We need to pray about so-and-so.” This week’s lesson was filled with flipping, with turning from one convicting Bible verse to another, all pleading with us to stop our fussing. It’s that odd quote, though, that stuck with me.

Police: When called to the scene of a crime, it’s their job to find out who is wrong, who is the culprit, who fell out of line. Is there an arrest to be made? Potential punishment to be planned?

Paramedics: When called into service, it’s their job to look for who is hurt, who might need their life-saving attention. Where can they administer help and healing?

Now let’s take another look at that quote: “We often find too many police—the accusers, the ones looking for offense—and not enough paramedics—those waiting for a chance to bind wounds and bring comfort—in the church.”

The church, of course, doesn’t mean the church building. It means all those who call themselves a part of the community of believers. It’s time for us all to ask ourselves: Are we police or paramedics? Yes, perhaps we need both, but most of us would do well to focus on bringing peace and healing, overlooking the offenses so often of little true consequence.

Challenged? Yep, me too. But before I close, allow me to point out two favorite hymns shared by readers who missed my original deadline:

“Fairest Lord Jesus” also known as “Beautiful Savior” ends with this verse:

Beautiful Savior! Lord of all the nations!

Son of God and Son of Man!

Glory and honor, praise, adoration,

Now and forever more be Thine.

And

“Because He Lives,” by Bill and Gloria Gaither.

You can listen to that one here:

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Like a Good Neighbor…

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The State Farm jingle, “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there!” was written by Barry Manilow in 1971. Can you hear it? Are you humming yet? And are you a good neighbor? Hmmm. Am I?

Not long ago, I attended two different churches over two weeks, and listened to two different pastors give two different sermons on—you guessed it—being a good neighbor. They both used the story of the Good Samaritan, found in the book of Luke. (You can read it here on Bible Gateway.) Thanks to Ty VanHorn and Jason Dohring, I came away with quite the bullet list:

  • Be living proof of a loving God to a watching world.
  • Be neighborly.
  • Don’t wait for someone else to be neighborly.
  • Share a card. Or a wave. (Or a text? Or an email? Or a cup of soup?)
  • Get messy.
  • Be inconvenienced.
  • Pay the price.
  • Pay attention.
  • Get involved.

And may I add a simple one? Be nice! My sister describes my husband this way, “He’s nice, but he’s not a wimp.” Being nice doesn’t equate to being weak. In fact, sometimes being nice—and being neighborly—means standing up in the face of injustice or unkindness and loving the less lovely. Why? Because we were loved first. As one of those two wise pastors said, “Being friendly takes little effort. Being a friend takes much.”

How have you been friendly, neighborly this week? We could all use a few good suggestions, so I hope you’ll post one here!

A Cup of Soup

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For years this verse directed much of my life: “Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward” (Matthew 9:41). A cup of water. How we take that for granted! I used to spend hours each week helping get clean water to those who need it most. While water ministry is still dear to my heart, most of that work is done by others who are much better at it than I. Now, however, I’m re-discovering the power of a cup of soup.

When was the last time someone rang your doorbell just to bless you? When was the last time you knocked on a neighbor’s door just to share a blessing? It’s awkward, isn’t it? We live in a scheduled world where busy people value their time and their privacy. (Or at least that’s the excuse I sometimes use when trying to protect my own.) Soup helps. Or muffins. Or … Somehow, it’s just easier to walk across the street and share yourself when you have something in your hands. So today I’d like to share a recipe with you. I call it “scissor soup” because most of the ingredients are simply dumped from a bag (opened with scissors, see?) into a pot. I hope you’ll give it a try. Have some for supper, then package up the rest in disposable containers. (In a pinch, Ziploc bags will work.) Then make your way to someone who could use a little love, and pass along a bit of your soup.

Just in case you need more encouragement, here’s another passage from Matthew, Christ talking in chapter 9. “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?’

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

Scissor Soup

6 cups bouillon, broth, or vegetable juice

1 bag frozen peppers and onions

3 bags frozen veggies of any variety

1 bag chopped cabbage or cole slaw mix

1 bag baby carrots or shredded carrots

1 cup salsa

1 can diced tomatoes

2-3 cans beans, rinsed.

1 can cream of mushroom soup (optional)

1 tsp. chopped garlic or garlic powder (optional)

Simmer until all veggies are tender (at least an hour)

 

Listen! Listen

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I grew up in a delightful family. My home was filled with lots of love. I remember spirited games of chess and canasta and paddleball (think racquetball on an outdoor court). We enjoyed good food, frequent guests, and plenty of laughter. Some of the laughter was over the same jokes enjoyed time after time.

When a new and uninitiated guest joined us, my dad would ask, “What’s that coming out of your nose?” After a moment of embarrassed confusion on the part of our visitor, he would continue, “Air! There’s air coming out of your nose!”

Then sometimes he’d say, “Listen! Listen!” After an awkward pause, he would add, “Somebody’s saying ‘Listen!’” We always laughed.

The other day, as I was thinking about my dad’s funny lines, the one about listening struck me in a new way. Taken more seriously, it comes out this way:

Listen! Listen! Because there’s always someone out there practically begging that you listen!

I’ve been doing a lot of listening lately. Some of my hurting friends need me most as a prayer partner and a listening ear. In fact, I often have to remind myself that they need my ear but not my mouth, my empathy but not my advice.

Pride can lead us away from the smaller tasks the Holy Spirit hands us. Becoming a compassionate listener isn’t very glamorous. In fact, it’s a ministry of the nearly invisible. It falls into the “He must increase; I must decrease” part of the Christian walk. But it is powerful. It is a silent language of love. Today I want to encourage you to allow a part of your busy life to be eaten up by the gift of an attentive ear, because if you listen, listen, you will almost certainly hear someone crying out, “Listen!”

Generosity

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Would you agree with me that God is generous? While we don’t need to go any further than the gift of his Son to see his magnanimous nature, certainly the beauty of nature, his constant provision, and the hope of heaven further prove the point. We are called to be like him, which leads to the question, “Are we generous?” Am I? Are you?”

We live in a “me first” world, where more (for ourselves) is always (supposedly) better. The Bible teaches us to live counter to that culture.

  • It’s better to give than to receive.
  • Love your neighbor as yourself.
  • Seek first the kingdom of God.

A truly generous life requires introspection. Gandhi said, “Live simply so that others may simply live.” Stop and think about that for a moment. Are there parts of our lives where even a tiny tweak toward simplicity might free up time or money that would make a great difference in someone else’s life? How much are we willing to do without for the sake of someone else?

Perhaps a trial is in order. Lent is coming (but any space on the calendar will do.) I’ll be giving up my beloved hot tea for several weeks. During that time, I’ll calculate the funds saved by that small sacrifice. Later I’ll send them to an organization that provides clean water in another country.** Will that small sum make a difference? Yes, it will, not to many, but to some. And some is far better than none.

Care to join me? Perhaps you’ll choose a different sacrifice, another beneficiary. Maybe you will be led to tweak your use of time instead, freeing up precious moments to serve or befriend wherever you are led. Let me encourage you, though: God wastes nothing. Whatever your sacrifice, he will use it. And you will be blessed.

‘Hope you’ll let me know how it goes!

**And if you choose clean water as the need you will help meet, consider reviewing one of these websites:

thewaterproject.org

charitywater.org

water.cc/h2oproject

saveadrink.org

How are you?

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We were in Delft buying, of course, Delftware, those blue and white ceramic pieces that say, “I went to The Netherlands!” It was late in the day, and the little shop was rather crowded, probably because their prices were so good. I waited in line at the counter, ready to pay for my Christmas ornaments, impressed by the excellent English of the clerk. (I had given up on learning any Dutch.)

When my turn came, I handed the young lady my selections, smiled, and said, “Hello, how are you?” Her response caught me off guard. With nary a hint of incrimination in her voice, she simply said, “May I ask you a question? Why do you Americans ask, ‘How are you?’ when you can’t possibly care how each person really is?”

I’m sure I hesitated a bit as I struggled to come up with a sensible answer to an excellent question. “It’s a greeting we use. We actually do try to care about the response.” (My answer was lame, but the best I could come up with at the time.) Here is my question today, though. Do we care about the answer? Or, in our hurried world, do we ask without thinking, and hope for a quick, “I’m fine. How are you?” so that we can go along our way without pause.

Pause. How often do we pause? How often do we probe a bit for the real answer to the “How are you?” question? And if we do receive an honest response, how often do we take time to listen, to follow up, to offer some sort of related service beyond a quick, “I’ll keep you in my prayers”?

I want to learn to pause, to mean it when I ask the question, to listen when I’m given an answer, to look into the eyes of friend and stranger alike and care. Please, join me. And if you are so inclined, tell me about your own “How are you?” encounters.