Tuesday, November 28, 2017

have you been visited by an inconvenient stranger?

There is a story of a woman who was at a well, drawing water. No one else was there, she had the place all to herself. Suddenly there was a visit from an inconvenient stranger, One who knew all about her past. The reason she was there all alone initially was because of her shame at what she had done. She was tired of being belittled, ridiculed and humiliated. Yet when this Person came and asked her for water, she seemed confused. The fact that instead of ridiculing her or judging her, He offered compassion, was something not to be believed. The fact also that He was a Jew and she, Samaritan, simply blew her mind. Number one, men did not just talk to women, that was not allowed. The fact that He was Jewish made it doubly so. And still, the fact that He offered His words as a sense of direction and not of condemnation meant that she should take His words seriously. (see John 4:4-26).  

 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

And she did.

How many of us had a visit by an inconvenient stranger? How many of us took to heart the situation at hand...or were we too busy with our i-Pads, i-Phones, video games...did we pass that person on the street, in the guise of a homeless person? Was it because someone was a drug addict...an alcoholic...that we just didn't care-or chose not to? Was it a pesky neighbor we tend to ignore...or the elderly person ahead of us at the store, "wasting our time" as they counted out all the change they may have had to buy that loaf of bread?

Are we inconvenienced when the news comes on, news that tells us yet another bomb blast ripped through some country far away...or even a tragedy closer to home...does that rattle your senses anymore--or have we grown so complacent that it just does not matter anymore?

Say those words: an inconvenient stranger. How does a stranger become a friend? Why, it's simple! It happens when YOU invite that person into your heart and home. It is so easy at this time of year to write a check to a charity, isn't it? "There!" you announce as you seal the envelope. "Now I can rest easy, those kids with cancer will have the best of everything!" Or those homeless puppies...or that child in the foreign country who looks as if he is starving...the list is endless. To justify that you have done something so wonderful because you signed a check does NOT justify, really, that you have dome anything more than salve your mind. The burdens are still there. And as the Inconvenient Stranger knows, unless you put forth the sincere effort into anything, you really have done nothing at all.

The Inconvenient Stranger, if you haven't guessed by now, is Jesus. Jesus can read our hearts. Our hearts that are restless until they rest in Him--or should be. Our hearts that will not allow us to sleep, knowing that while our closets are full, someone is going without a warm coat. Someone is not getting that wonderful smile. Someone is bereft of a hug, a kind word...someone lacks a place to sleep. Someone lacks food to eat.

That Inconvenient Stranger...are you feeling guilty yet? Just as Ebeneezer Scrooge realized in the Christmas tale, unless you are physically doing something for someone to ease their burdens you really haven't done anything at all. Scrooge realized that while, yes, he did provide a job for Bob Crachit, what was lacking was sufficient income or time to enjoy a family, which were the more important things that counting cash.

Next time you are feeling inconvenienced, ask yourself why. What guilt is niggling at you to re-focus your energy and time to something that matters more?
As Saint Teresa of Calcutta once observed, "I am but a little pencil in the Hand of God."

three gifts of Christmas....

 As we gear up for the holidays ahead, grief becomes very apparent for those who have lost loved ones. It can be yesterday, last month, last year....grief has no time limits and the pain can still hurt. I was reading an article that said what may help in the grieving process are three things: one, to say, "I'm sorry" to the one who left you. "I'm sorry for what we did, or didn't do...I'm sorry for the plans that went unmade, the words we did not get to say," etc. 

The second is "I forgive you." "I forgive you for leaving me so soon. I forgive you for whatever we did or said that hurt the other. i forgive you because forgiving is the way to heal the breach."

And the last is: "I love you." No matter if your relationship was the best, the worst or somewhere in between, those words seal the fact that what was done has been done. There is now no going back, no do-overs. Make peace with your past. "I'm sorry, I forgive you, I love you." Words I said to my very hurtful mother so many years ago as she lay dying in her bed. Words I never thought I would find myself saying, in fact, freed me from the horrors that I lived through with her. 

And of course, from dear ones, too that have left me..."I love you."

Just something to ponder as you write those cards and wrap those gifts. Sometimes, the best gift we can give to one another is the gifts of love and forgiveness...and peace.