Good morning everyone! I decided I needed to get up and get at it today. Otherwise, I’ll get busy and it’ll be bedtime before I get around to the blog and all I will really want to do is go to bed
READ: This morning, SOLO takes us to the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 24: verses 10-15 and 17-22 I’ve grown to like the idea of typing it out (that way I know if you read this blog, you’ve read some Bible today), so I am going to share it with you now.
(10-13) When you make a loan of any kind to your neighbor, don’t enter his house to claim his pledge. Wait outside. Let the man to whom you made the pledge bring the pledge to your outside. And if he is destitute, don’t use his cloak as a bedroll; return it to him at nightfall so that he can sleep in his cloak and bless you. In the sight of God, your God, that will be viewed as a righteous act.
(14-15) Don’t abuse a laborer who is destitute and needy, whether he is a fellow Israelite or foreigner living in your land and your city. Pay him at the end of each workday; he’s living from hand to mouth and needs it now. If you hold back his pay, he’ll protest to God and you’ll have sin in your books…
(17-18) Make sure foreigners and orphans get their just rights. Don’t take the cloak of a widow as security for a loan. Don’t ever forget that you were once slaves in Egypt and God, your God, got you out of there. I command you: Do what I’m telling you.
(18-22) When you harvest your grain and forget a sheaf back in the field, don’t go back and get it; leave it for the foreigner, the orphan, and the widow so that God, your God, will bless you in all your work. When you shake the olives off your trees, don’t go back over the branches and strip them bare–what’s left is for the foreigner, the orphan, and the widow. And when you cut the grapes in your vineyard, don’t take every last grape–leave a few for the foreigner, the orphan, and the widow. Don’t ever forget that you were once a slave in Egypt. I command you: Do what I’m telling you.
THINK: Here we are asked what 3 common themes link the scenarios. If I were going to wrap up this passage in a verse, it would have to be: “Seek justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.” More than once in this passage, God reminded the Israelites not to forget that they had once been slaves in Egypt and God, Himself, had led them out. They were repeatedly reminded never to forget what God had delivered them from and that they had done nothing to earn what they would receive in the Promised Land, so they would be wise not to get arrogant, thinking that they somehow earned what they had, and therefore were under no obligation to share it. On the contrary, God was always commanding them to share what they had and to not be greedy or stingy.
This passage is a bit humbling for me as I think back over the course of my life and the current situation in America, with scores of people flooding over our Southern border. I have frequently extended a hand of friendship to people less fortunate than me and patted myself on the back for it. I have, at times, even left such encounters feeling somewhat superior. The truth of the matter is: those encounters have never cost me a thing. They were meetings of convenience in that, I never went looking for any of them. I didn’t run away from them. But, I didn’t have to go out hunting for someone with whom to share my friendship or blessing that day.
On the other hand, there have been plenty of times when I’ve been presented with the opportunity to help someone less fortunate and I have found every excuse not to because those times it would’ve been inconvenient or it would’ve cost me something. I know I’m not the only one, but as you can imagine, people are less apt to talk about those times.
Recently, Stephen King slammed Tea Party conservatives with a quote:
Much easier to be a Christian when the little children aren’t in your back yard, isn’t it?
Though he received plenty of backlash, my heart was pricked by that comment. The truth is: Yes, it is much easier when the little children aren’t in your backyard. Though I am not strictly talking about this situation, it does apply here too. I have been guilt of saying “send them home” whenever I see the stories on the news about our legal/justice system being so messed up that these mass crossings could even occur. However, if all they needed to do was get out of their own country, then they could’ve just stopped at Mexico. All over the world, when people leave their homeland and think about making a better life for themselves, they do precisely what Simon and Garfunkle said: “They all come to look for America.” As a nation, we have been blessed by God. The issue comes down to the fact that far too many individuals have tried to pass the buck of meeting these needs off onto the government. We have taken an individual mandate and tried to nationalize it, not just for others, but for ourselves, as well. We have voted for someone who would take care of us for years. We have been the Israelites begging God for a king so that we can be obedient. Well, now, we have a king (though he does not want to be called that) and we do not like the fact that we are now beholding to a king whose rules we cannot stand, or who seems to have a “Do as I say, not as I do” policy. We cannot have it both ways.
I cannot have it both ways. If I shirk my responsibility to be obedient because it feels uncomfortable or because it’s inconvenient, then I have a faith of convenience, and that is no faith at all. What I have done is usurped God’s authority in my life by placing myself on my own throne. I have done precisely what God commanded the Israelites not to do: I have forgotten that I was once a slave in Egypt.
PRAY: “Sit with your eyes closed. Think about a recent encounter with someone who might relate to you like the neighbor, laborer, foreigner, or orphan described in the passage. Perhaps you spoke a few words to a homeless beggar, or you listened to someone at school or work who was upset. When faced with the person’s need, what did you feel? What thoughts popped into your head? What did you do? Take a few moments to explore with God what was going on in your heart during the encounter”
I have to tell you that the reason I went into counseling and the reason that I love travel and exploring is because of people. My belief is: Everyone has a story and they want to tell it. But they want to tell it to someone who is willing to really listen to them and to let them talk until they are done. They don’t want to be fixed. They just want to connect. There’s a quote from one of my most favorite movies, Crash, that I feel pretty adequately sums up the state our world is in these days:
“It’s the sense of touch. In any real city, you walk, you know? You brush past people, people bump into you. In L.A., nobody touches you. We’re always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something.”
Could it be that, in this digital world, in all our pseudo-connectedness, we’ve forgotten what it’s like to really connect? In a world where kids can only communicate with others through a text message, the art of conversation is disappearing. People only listen to respond, not to understand, and certainly not to really hear. And with so much text-messaging and chatting and Facebooking and Twittering, over half of what is really said in a conversation is missed because about 80% of all communication is nonverbal. Generally speaking, people are not really connecting anymore. So, maybe, we just have to crash into someone just so we can feel something, because nobody really sees us or listens to us anymore.
THAT is how I feel every time I get to have a conversation with somebody who is not inside my little bubble! And I love it. I used to hate it. I hated the butterflies I would get in my stomach any time it looked like someone was walking toward me that might want to have a conversation. I would pretend like I hadn’t seen them, and turn around pretending like I had seen something interesting, or like I had been lost in thought and was doing the “thousand-yard stare.” But, I have come to make friends with those butterflies. They are my signal that I need to move, to be the first to move, to say something, anything. In fact, I’ve told several people that once I’ve made up my mind to know you, you pretty much have no choice. You can choose how far in you are going to let me. But we are going to talk. And I am not going to be ashamed for it. Because if nothing else, you will leave me knowing that I heard you and was genuinely interested in whatever it is you chose to talk about that day. Then, the next time I see you, I am going to ask you about that thing you told me. Then, the next time I see you, I’m going to ask you about the next thing you told me. Then, the next time I see you….well, you get the picture. I just want to hear your story, and I want you to know that I’ve heard you. We don’t have to have anything in common, at first. But by the time we are done, there will be something we share. Even if it’s just the 15 minutes we were talking. That is 15 minutes you’ll never be able to get back again because you’ve lost it to someone who cared enough about you to listen to your story for those 15 minutes, and that I asked for whatever it is you told me.
LIVE: “Now look back at the theme you wrote down from the passage and at the traits you noticed about God. How do you picture this God responding to you as you think about the situation you faced? Do you sense him speaking a personal message to you? What is it? (If you have a tendency to assume what God’s response would be, say, something similar to what an authority figure in your life might say, resist that.) If you feel clueless about what God might be saying to you, offer this up to him and ask him to show in the coming weeks.”
Looking back at the Crash quote, the idea that comes to me is: We were created for relationships. At the end of each day, of each creation, God looked and said that it was good, except with Adam. With Adam, he looked and said that it was not good for man to be alone. We are told not to forsake the gathering together. We are told that as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. These all testify to the fact that we are not supposed to go through life alone, thinking that we can do whatever we want and it will never affect anyone else; thinking that what goes on in other countries will not affect us. It cannot happen.
In other circles, this has been called the Butterfly Effect:
Meteorologists began talking about something they called the Butterfly Effect. The idea was that if a butterfly chances to flap his wings in Beijing in March, then, by August, hurricane patterns in the Atlantic will be completely different.
Nothing happens in a vacuum. In fact, nature abhors a vacuum. If a hole is created, something will rush in to fill it. We all have a hole in our hearts that we try to fill. It is only designed to be filled by God, but that does not stop us from trying to fill it with everything else under the sun. But we were also designed for relationships. The problem is that sin crept into the world back in creation and now our relationships are tainted by selfishness and self-centeredness. We are all so concerned with ourselves or with what others will think of us, that we are paralyzed into inaction, unless and until we are acted upon by some outside force. As my husband is fond of saying: It’s basic physics.
But what if we stopped waiting for someone to crash into us before we started moving. What if we used our own discomfort to spur us into moving? What if we stopped trying to fill that ache in our souls with food or pornography or money or work and filled it with God, and then allowed our overflow to bubble out around us, onto those who most desperately need it, instead of waiting, hoping that others would bubble out onto us.
With that, I am going to leave you. I am going to go connect with people, rather than crash into them, and I am going to pour into their lives, trusting that God will take care of what I need. The Son of Man had no home and no place to lay his head, yet he poured into the lives of everyone he encountered. My prayer is that, by the end of the day, I will be able to say the same thing. God bless you all!