Sunday, July 26, 2015

Highway Helper


 
 
picture courtesy of boutgreen.com

I couldn't help but notice him.  I drove up the highway, still a bit bleary-eyed after dropping my teenage son off at his early morning driver's education classes.  My three youngest children sat in the backseat of the van, still clad in their pajamas and sporting bed hair.

 

He jumped up and down waving his arms wildly.  My heart beat faster.  What was going on?  What emergency was causing this old man to dance around on the side of the highway?  It had to be something terrible.  Without really thinking about it, my van slowed and stopped right there on the pavement.  I rolled down the window, expecting the white-haired gentleman to fill me in and let me know what I could do to help.  Instead, he grabbed the door handle and hoisted himself into the front seat.

 

"How far are you going?" he asked with his toothless mouth and shut the door. 

 

Where was the emergency?  Didn't this guy know that if you want to hitch a ride you stand on the side of the road and casually hold out your thumb - not dance around like you've just glimpsed the coming end of the world?  Frowning on the inside, I began to drive and casually  moved my purse behind my seat, out of the hitchhiker's view.

 

"Where are you from?" I asked pleasantly.

 

"Oh, you know - everywhere," he replied, and listed a couple of different towns, hundreds of miles apart. 

 

Uh, huh.

 

By now, a stench was permeating my van.  I don't think I've ever smelled anything so awful in my life.  It was apparent his stiff, tan coat served as shelter, napkin, blanket...and toilet.  I wanted to gag.  Instead, I drove with my hand casually (I hope) pressed under my nose.  I wondered what my kids, all of whom were completely silent, were thinking at moment.

 

Just a few miles later I came to my turn-off and dropped the man off.

 

"Thank you!" he called, hopped out, and started up shoulder of the highway.  I never saw him again.

 

"Mom!" my daughter gasped from the back seat, "Were you trying to kill us?!"

 

"He stinky!" my four year old exclaimed.

 

"That was not a good idea!" my son intoned seriously.

 

I didn't really know how to reply to them.  The kids were absolutely right.  It's never a good idea to pick up hitchhikers.  Although, in my defense, I didn't know he was hoping for a ride.  I really thought there was some kind of emergency off the highway with which he needed help and then he was in my van before I knew what was happening.

 

He could have hurt us in a number of ways, that's true.  As the single parent to a house full of children, I have the sole responsibility of doing everything I can to preserve not only the kids' safety and well-being, but my own.  I don't want them to lose the only parent they have left.

 

But where does securing one's safety end and caring for the downtrodden begin? 

 

A few days earlier my kids had been to Sunday School and when they came home they eagerly recounted the parable to me they had learned that day of the man who cared for the Samaritan after he was accosted by thieves and left for dead.  The account is found in Luke 10.

 

I remember hearing the story in my own Sunday School years.  The visual aids presented with the lesson usually showed this poor man scratched up and laying in his underwear on the dusty road.  I wonder if that is a more sanitized version that's presented to young children.  I imagine he might actually have been naked.  And I doubt thieves would have been able to remove his clothing without inflicting more than mere scratches.  He was probably pretty pitiful looking by the time they rode away.

 

Maybe he stunk, too.

 

But a Jewish man came along and spied the poor creature.  It would have been so easy for him to look away.  After all, that's what the two men  who had encountered the Samaritan victim before this man had done.  They pretended like they didn't see.  They walked on by.  In their culture, a person didn't get much lower than being born Samaritan.  Being beat up and robbed was probably the least of what he deserved, they may have thought.

 

But this man stopped.  He picked up the broken bit of humanity on the road.  The victim probably bled all over  his fine robes.  He got him some help and even fished money out of his own pocket to ensure his continued care.

 

There's a lesson here, which is why it's in our Bible.  It's a lesson I'm still pondering.  I don't know  the answers.  When are we heeding God's call and when are we enabling those who continually make bad choices?  When are we to serve and when do we do nothing?

 

All I know is that Jesus said he came to minister to the "least of these" which means we should, too,  and maybe sometimes that means disregarding our own potential safety, giving a few dollars, or offering a ride.
.

 

Even if we have to quietly gag into our hand while doing it.

 

Luke 6:31

Do to others as you would have them do unto you.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Keep Those Running Shoes On

I don't like snakes. Several copperheads have been spotted in our neighborhood, and our neighbor’s dog ran into one of the slithering reptiles, landing the poor animal at the vet with a snake bite.

When we walk our dogs now, we take extra precautions to keep them out of ivy and other areas that the snakes might frequent. Last week, as we walked the last few blocks to our house, our Chesapeake Bay retriever, Joe, bounded over to explore something in one of the neighbor’s yards. The lawn had been freshly mowed and he was in a mood to explore.

His sudden leap backwards, caught us by surprise. As we walked over to take a closer look, there it was. A copperhead coiled up in the grass, ready to strike. You better believe we hightailed it out of that yard in seconds flat! We sure hadn’t expected to see a snake out in the open like that. Fortunately for Joe, he was able to move quickly enough to avoid danger.

Stay alert

As a follower of Jesus Christ, the Bible warns me of the dangers I will face in life. Some of the temptations lurk in the shadows, beckoning me to come take a closer look. Others, are out in the open, but attempt to blend in with the surroundings. No matter how the temptation appears to me, God’s Word gives me a clear directive, ‘Flee.’

Paul’s letter to the Corinthians spells out some things I’m to flee:
Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. 1 Corinthians 6:18; KJV 
A few chapters later, he warns, 
…flee from idolatry. 1 Corinthians 10:14
Paul was very familiar with human nature. He wrote a letter to a young preacher, Timothy, and his congregation, and included a strong admonition to avoid worthless arguments and the longing to be rich.

Know when to flee

Temptations come in all shapes and sizes. As I walk through this life, am I alert to these pitfalls? Do I have my running shoes on so I can be quick to flee? Fortunately, Paul doesn’t only warn me of these dangers, he points me to help and hope.  

How encouraging to find that when temptations come calling, I don’t have to answer. God’s word assures me:

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 

An escape route from sin DOES exist, I just have to look for it and make my exit!(click to tweet)

When I’m aware of the pitfalls, and realize that Jesus provides a way to escape every temptation, I can stay on a path that gives me hope, allowing me to  “…follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness” (1 Timothy 6:11b).

Turning the tables

In life, there are definitely some things from which to flee. But I love the fact, that when I’m careful to submit to my Heavenly Father, and I refuse to give in to the enemy, the Word of God tells me that Satan has to flee!

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. James 4:7

Picture the devil having to beat a hasty retreat as you deal him blow after blow with the truth of God's Word. The next time temptation knocks on the door of your heart, keep those running shoes on, and find that way of escape - rejoicing in the One who is faithful to deliver you.

When you're tempted to sin do you look for an escape route? What step will you take today to avoid sin?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank You for always making an escape route when I am tempted to sin. Help me be aware of the things Satan puts in my path to trip me up. Give me the strength to resist temptation knowing You are stronger than my enemy. In Jesus' name, Amen.  

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Running Interference


It was said Martin Luther threw an inkpot at a demon. I wonder if he hit it.




Actually, I wonder if he really saw it. I know people in the 16th century had a very real and lively sense of angels and devils, of sin and damnation. Today, sin is often consigned to the general categories of “unfortunate choices” or simply being human. For many people, neither demons nor angels really exist and God is merely a giant good impulse.

Yet we people of faith turn to God for protection from worldly and other worldly dangers, and ask him to hold us close when we must walk through a “veil of tears.”  It occurred to me that there are probably many disasters from which God and his angels actively protect us. I’m not aware of the catastrophes I dodged, but using a Renaissance mind set, can visualize an army of angels running interference for me. (I say “army” because I’m a total klutz and firmly believe I will die by literally tripping into eternity, and so need all the help I can get.)



One Sunday I noticed God’s protection in a big way. My husband and I planned on attending the 11:15 service and decided we needed to leave the house at exactly 10:40 to nab a parking spot near the door.

Maybe it’s because I’m the daughter of a railroad man, but I can get from point A to point B with the accuracy of a New York Central timetable. On the other hand, time always surprises my husband. He is oblivious to ticking seconds, and I think he actually believes time stops when he wants it to. I say all this to point out that the reason we were running late this Sunday was not my fault. Enough said.    


Pulling the car out of the garage, we set off to church in cold, damp weather. For once, I was patient and did not try to hurry or test the speed limit. While we were waiting at a red light, I fiddled with the heater, thus delaying what would have been my usual jackrabbit start the second the light turned green. I must have had an “angel on my shoulder,” because despite running late, I didn't feel any urgency to floor it. That’s why I had plenty of time to notice the car that ran in front of us as it sailed through a red light. If I had been in my usual rush, we would have crashed.

            Thank you, God, I breathed.

            Our friends can tell you about angels. They drive a handicapped equipped van, with space for a wheelchair. When another car suddenly pulled in front of them, they couldn’t stop fast enough. She later said while her husband was fairly standing on the brake pedal, she thought she saw two filmy figures between the two cars. It felt as if they were pushing against their car to lessen the impact; she believes that protected her from injury.    

I think we would be amazed if God allowed us to see what goes on in the spiritual realm that surrounds us. It reminds me of the war between Israel and Syria in the Book of 2 Kings. When the Prophet Elisha’s servant saw the Syrian army surrounding their city, he ran to his master. “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” (2 Kings 6:15 NKJV) Elisha prayed that God would open his servant’s eyes to see what he saw —God’s army of horses and chariots of fire gathered on the mountain.

When we hear about the man who missed his flight that later crash landed into the ocean, or the woman who fractured her vertebra and was a hair’s breadth from permanent spinal cord damage, we are reminded of our God who controls the planets, yet tends to the miniscule at the same time.

“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me and Your right hand shall hold me.” Psalm 139: 7-10 (NKJV)


            Heavenly Father, thank you for your constant care. Like Elisha’s servant, open my eyes of faith to see all they ways you hold me safe in the palm of your hand; and remind me I am never out of your sight, mind, or heart.  


Website Ecclesia! and blog Road to Emmaus found at www.susanledoux.net

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Open Carry

You can put me in the column of pro Second Amendment. I’m still working on my expertise --- and confidence --- to join the ranks, but I’m firmly planted in our right to bear arms.

War is raging in our world today. Not a new war, but a battle that began the day one of God’s trusted angels got too big for his britches and was cast out of Heaven. And the conflict is intensifying day by day.

I have some strategic choices to make: Hunker down at the feet of the headlines and try not be noticed. Give lip service to my personal take on this leader or that one and the good or bad consequences of following blindly behind one of them.

Or I can sign on to God’s call to “open carry.”

“Put on the full armor of God, 
so that you will be able to stand firm 
against the schemes of the devil.” 
Ephesians 6:11, NASB.



Being politically savvy in such a hostile environment won’t save us. But falling on our knees before our spiritual Commander-in-Chief while embracing His call to His truth can. If we don’t wait too long.

“Stand firm, therefore, having ordered your loins with truth, 
and having put on the breastplate of righteousness…” 
Ephesians 6:14

 Walking in protest marches won’t save us, but wearing the right shoes can.

“…and having shod your feet with the 
preparation of the Gospel of peace…”  
Ephesians 6:15

Repelling the view of others, whether in person or in social media won’t save us. But wearing God’s armor can.

“…in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith 
with which you will be able
 to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 
And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit,
which is the word of God.”  
Ephesians 6:16,17

The world would have us believe that we are at the mercy of an ever-pressing and always-increasing evil enemy. But while the current battlefield of terror appears to be laser-focused on each believer, the final outcome is victory through Jesus Christ and through God’s ordained plan of redemption for eternity. 

That battle has already been won.

“These things I have spoken to you, 
so that in Me you may have peace. 
In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; 
I have overcome the world.”  
John 16:33


What will your weapon be?



Sunday, July 12, 2015

"Like"

When I was a teenager in the early ‘70s, I loved to listen to the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. It may not have been theologically perfect, but it spoke to me at that time, and I believe it was one of the early influences in me becoming the person I am today.

In one song, a character who has died speaks to Jesus from the present day, saying:

If You’d come today You could have reached a whole nation
Israel in 4 B.C. had no mass communication

Well, of course Jesus came at precisely the right time and the right place, but my over-active brain got to thinking on this the other day. I wondered—what would Jesus do if he had a Facebook account? Here are a few things that occurred to me, and in each case, I’ve used Jesus’s own words to back me up:

1.       Jesus wouldn’t use His Facebook account to make fun of anyone. No posting pictures of “the people of Walmart,” no correcting others’ grammar or spelling, no public shaming of misbehaving children, no posting accounts of people acting badly, with or without commentary. “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1 NIV)

2.       Jesus wouldn’t use His Facebook account to malign the leaders of his country—even those with whom He had significant differences of opinion. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9 NIV).

3.       Jesus just wouldn’t be mean, period. “Come unto me…for I am gentle and humble of heart…” (Matthew 11:29 NIV).

4.       Jesus wouldn’t post links to unsubstantiated sites or “news,”—even if they were exactly in line with a point He was trying to make. “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:22-23 NIV)

5.       Jesus wouldn’t use vague statements to manipulate others to pay attention to Him. “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12 NIV).

6.       Jesus would have friends on his Facebook account who were from diverse populations: other races, other faiths, other ages, other genders, other nationalities, other lifestyles. They wouldn’t all look just like Jesus. “The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds" (Matthew 11:19 NIV).

7.       Jesus would use Facebook to show His friends that He loves them. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12 NIV).

Those of you who are reading this and are friends with me on Facebook would be right to feel huffy. Well, I’ve seen Jan’s posts. She does some of those things. Yeah, I’ve done them. I’m pretty sure we all have done too much of #1 – 5, and not enough of # 6 and 7. And I’ll probably do some of those things again, because I’m very, very not perfect. But I’m going to try to do better, and I encourage you to try, too.

WWJD—OF? (Get it? Yeah, you got it.)

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Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Emerging Picture

On May 26, 2015 my life was broken into 1,000 pieces. It seemed like an impossible task to assemble all those parts into a picture that made sense. With the death of my husband, everything was different.

The completed puzzle still loomed as a mystery. 

Just as when I work a jigsaw puzzle I start with the edges, the first requirement of his passing was a funeral. As the border takes shape, it is easier to see just how large the project is. The funeral home was easy to deal with. Friends volunteered to help. My daughters flew many miles to assist me in the process.

The edge began to take shape.

Then began the paperwork. Accounts and companies needed to be notified of his death. As I worked my way through the list of people to contact, a few more pieces could be placed in the puzzle.

Then came the day when everyone had been notified.
 
More pieces were placed in my puzzle as I began to return to a semblance of my former life. I exercised. I went to work. Bills were paid. Groceries were purchased.

A picture of my new life began to emerge.

I’m still working on the puzzle both literally and figuratively. Daily I try to put in at least one piece. I’m reading four books. Just like the robot in Short Circuit, I need input. I am constantly in conversation with God, asking for help with that next piece.

And as my brother said, “John is not gone. He’s just not here.” I feel him everywhere.


“Through your faithful prayers and the generous response of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, everything He wants to do in and through me will be done. I can hardly wait to continue on my course.” Philippians 1:19-20 (MSG)



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