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)

 

Mind the Gap

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If you ever travel to London, you’ll need to remember two key safety rules.

  1. When crossing the street: The traffic nearest you is coming from your right.
  2. As you step out of the underground train (or The Tube): Mind the gap.

“Mind the gap” is a phrase I hope will stick in your brain over the coming weeks. Here’s why. A few blog posts back, I quoted Matthew Kelly (paraphrased as accurately as I could remember) saying, “If I just lived out one Gospel reading 100%, my life would change radically. I need to work on the gap between that life and the life I am living now.”

Ah, that gap. We all face it. This morning I received news that made me really angry. I want to lash out, to use my wicked tongue to strike at those who have hurt me by making a decision with which I do not agree. But…probably not what Jesus would do.

We need to be fully schooled in salvation by grace, but we also need to stay fully aware of the gap. Are we measuring ourselves against the characters we see on TV? The characters that live down the street? Maybe the ones in our own family? Have we found someone, somewhere, who makes us look good by comparison?  Comparison is always a losing game, except when we compare ourselves to Christ. He is our model.

Romans 8:29 tells us God’s plan is for us to be conformed to the image of his Son. We are not there yet! The gap is where we pray for our lives to be transformed, but transformation can be a painful process. Sometimes we have to give up favorite habits or adopt new ones we wouldn’t have chosen for ourselves. (Sometimes we have to keep our mouths shut and pray for those who have made us mad!) As with all things, this will only happen by the power of God, and is reason enough for us to begin each day with prayer. Sometimes I like to pray through song. I hope you’ll join me in listening to this musical prayer by Eddie Espinosa and continue to ask our Lord to help you mind the gap. Change My Heart, Oh God

 

 

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!”

Defying Gravity

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Last year, after listening to the music for quite some time, I finally saw Wicked on stage. Since I grew up watching Wizard of Oz once a year on television (our only option back in the dark ages of video technology), I enjoyed the new spin on an old story. One song still sticks in my brain and pops into my thoughts on occasion. Actually, it’s only one line that keeps on repeating itself. In my imagination, I can hear Elphaba declaring that she will try defying gravity. More than once, as I’ve trudged up my stairs feeling low, I’ve heard those three words resound within my thoughts. I want to try defying gravity this year too.

Before you think me crazy for wanting to fly, let me tell you exactly what I mean.

My grandson is so delightfully quick to laugh. I suspect you and I were the same way as toddlers. When does that fade? And why? I know that Nick is unaware of the difficulties adulthood will bring, but he also knows little of the joys that await him. He laughs in the present moment.

We live in a world that fixates on the grave details of life, and not just the ones that are facing us today. We mull over the pain of the past and our fears of the future, often for no good reason at all. Matthew 6:34 says, “Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Actually, I like the King James Version of that verse even better, “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” And as we face the “evil” of each day, how often do we falsely imagine ourselves facing it alone, forgetting the One who goes before us and stands behind us?

Here is how I want to try defying gravity. When heavy concerns come into my brain, I want to take them to my Lord in prayer without pause. When I catch myself frowning with furrowed brow, I want to lighten my countenance in a way that confirms the song God has put in my heart. And when I am tempted to join a discussion centered only on the failures of man or the bleak landscape ahead, I want to either walk away or change the course of the conversation. Who would have thought the Wicked Witch of the West could remind me of such important truths? This year, I hope you will try to defy gravity right along with me.

 

Fight Fear by Beth Smith

coat-of-arms-1762562_1280-swordsWe all have fears, but it’s easy to think, “Our fears are rational. Theirs, the fears we see in other people’s lives, just come from a lack of faith.” That isn’t right. We should never make light of others’ fears, for we haven’t lived their lives – haven’t experienced their sufferings or traumas.

I’ve experienced God’s love and faithfulness many times, and I’ve surrendered many fears to Him. I have one, though, that I give to him and take back over and over again. I am afraid in fast, heavy traffic. I struggle with an irrational, gut fear that we’re going to be in a wreck. You may be thinking, “How childish! How very unspiritual of her! Why doesn’t she just trust God?” Believe me, I’m working on it.

May I give you the background of this fear? The night before my eleventh birthday, my beautiful sixteen-year-old sister was killed in a horrible automobile accident. Five of the seven people in the car died instantly. Tragic. But people recover emotionally from much worse, and I recovered from the loss of my sister. My parents, however, kept pictures—8 x 10 inch black and white glossies—of the mangled car in which my sister died. They kept them in our family photo album. I saw that wrecked car thousands of times.

Have I evoked your sympathies? Are you thinking, “Well, then, that’s okay? She has reason to be afraid.” If so, stop it. Don’t sympathize with me. Help me to change with your reminders from God’s Word. We don’t have to be fearful, no matter what our flesh, the devil, or our experiences tell us. We don’t have to panic in the face of our fears. We have God’s power. We can fight fear with faith.

We can push aside the mental pictures, the thoughts, the dread, and the ugly fear.

  • “God has not given us a spirit of fear (timidity or cowardice, of craven and cringing fear), but He has given us a spirit of power and of love and of a calm and well balanced mind and discipline and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7 AMP).
  • In God have I put my trust and confident reliance; I will not be afraid” (Psalm 56:11 AMP).
  • You did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship whereby we cry ‘Abba Father’” (Romans 8:15).

We don’t have to be slaves to our fears. I heard a Bible teacher on television say that fear is an acrostic for “False evidence appearing real.” Isn’t that very often the case with our fears? We have God as our Father. We can run from the fears into his loving arms, where we will find peace and hope.