Monday, October 12, 2015

Where was the Church?

More than two dozen times in the Bible, we are exhorted to do right by our neighbor. "Do not defraud or rob your neighbor." (Leviticus 19:13) "Do not plot harm against your neighbor..." (Proverbs 3:29) And Matthew 22:39: "Love your neighbor as yourself."

The Bible even defines who our neighbor is in Luke 10: 30-38. Jesus says that we are to go out into the world and do what the Samaritan did: Go out of our way to rescue and take care of our neighbors, even when they dislike us. That's a radical requirement! We are not to limit our loving care to those neighbors with whom we agree or those who have invited us into their homes in friendship; Jesus says that piety is not enough. Serving those we like is not enough.

We are to go out of our way to serve those with whom we have no friendship!

For strangers.

The church of Christ is to be the very hands and feet of God. We are to be filled with the Holy Spirit so as to be made "like Christ," who "took on the very  nature of a servant."

Have you ever wondered what that looked like?

I've never thought about it as much as I have this week. This week, in which our community is grieving the deaths of several of its members. Some of these deaths are personal for me, and I am grieving for someone I knew. Others are communal and almost knock me down breathless in their tragedy.

Many deaths here are precipitated by alcohol and/or drug abuse. Some are connected to mental illness. Occasionally, there is the death of a Jicarilla elder, prominent in the community.  The death of young people is not uncommon here. But this week, a young woman took the life of her very young daughter and then herself. That level of tragedy is beyond words. It is known only in the groaning of the Holy Spirit in our weakness to express the loss.

And I wonder...

Where was the church?

Where were we, the body of Christ, in this young woman's despair? Were we, like the priest or Levite, walking on the other side of the road? Were we ignoring her cries of pain? Too 'good' to stoop down and lift her up?

Or were we totally unaware? Blind to her needs, to her anguish?

Where were we when our neighbor was so desperate?

And where will we be for our next neighbor? How can we reach out and lift our neighbor out of distress next time? I have no answer, but I know the only answer is the hope we find in our Lord. He is our help and our shield.

Please pray with me that the church, the very body of Christ, will find ways to "love our neighbor as [ourselves]." (Matthew 22:39)

Friday, October 2, 2015

Fear Not

Sometimes things are a mess. In my glass shop. In my life. In our neighborhoods. In our nation. In our world.

I was asked recently how I protect my children from the fear they might have of a shooter coming to their school (or theater or wherever). And I've had many conversations about how we can protect our children from those who would wrong them, from bullies to sex offenders.

And my response is this: We can't protect our children from the mess and the evil of this world. We can certainly shelter them from adult movies, dangerous parks where drugs are regularly sold, etc, but we cannot predict where the next mentally ill shooter will choose to express their anger with a gun.

And honestly, I don't think we should try to protect them from every evil they may face. What we need to teach them is how we, ourselves, face fears. As adults, we know that evil can come from many quarters, and we know that it isn't always even  possible to protect ourselves.

So what do I do to face my fears of attacking dogs, bears, mountain lions... of rapists and shooters and robbers?

I'd love to say that the very first thing I do is turn to God, and while that is certainly my "bottom-line" in dealing with my fears, I have to admit that the first thing I do is prepare. I prepare myself by knowing which decisions are likely to lead to danger and which decisions are likely to lead to safety.

So, for example, our daughter and I wear bear bells when we hike. And I've learned (and taught my 8 yo) what to do in case of a bear (mountain lion, scary adult) encounter. I think these precautions are just plain smart. I try not to frighten myself or our daughter, but to be prepared.

Here's a recent example of being prepared: Lately, there has been a very aggressive dog in one of the yards I pass on my daily walk. There is a fence, but this dog can almost jump over it, and there are many gaps in the fenceline. I have carried the occasional stick while I walk to deal with dogs, but this particular dog has been a consistent problem. My stick seemed to provide no deterrence. So I bought pepper spray last week. And used it yesterday. Successfully.

However, each day as I approach the area this dog frequents, I turn to God. I don't simply say, "God, protect me from this dog." I try to seek a deeper truth, I say: "God, in everything You are my God. In everything, You are my strength. No matter what happens today with this particular dog in this particular situation, I turn to You. In You I find my hope."

Ann Voskamp recently posted this meme:
I cling to this. God is with me in all things, large and small. My fear and dismay are not the victors! God is. And this is what I'm trying to teach my daughter. Yes, there are things to fear in this world... But the victory is God's!