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Archive for February, 2012

My friend Amanda snapped me out of my blogging slump today, with this great post about what it means to be a neighbor. It got me thinking…what kind of a neighbor am I?

I’d like to say I’m the type of neighbor who always thinks of others before myself. I’d like to testify that my house is filled with friends, that I frequently visit others just to say hello, that I create about myself a calming presence that welcomes everyone into my midst so that I can show them God’s love in the way I behave.

Reality, I must confess, is unfortunately the flip side of that coin. I’m usually so busy rushing from task to task that I walk too fast to notice the blue sky, much less to pay attention to the needy person in my path. My house is usually a mess, and though I aspire to have friends over for tea, the invitations I issue are too few and too infrequent. I rarely visit or call on others unless I need their help with something, and only after my agenda items have been covered do I ask how they are doing. And since I haven’t been managing my stress well, people are more likely to encounter emotional shrapnel from my venting than meeting me as a serene and loving daughter of the most high.

All right, I’ll stop blasting myself for a minute now and say that I am pretty good at welcoming people, I do love to hear and share stories about all sorts of topics, and generally people give me feedback that it’s fun to be with me. But lately, I’ve been so caught up in project lists, or caring for sick kids, or crying over all the stress in my life, that I’ve been shutting others out. And it’s about time I pulled my head out of my own backside for a minute to take hold of all the opportunities I have to become a better neighbor.

When Jesus issued the Golden Rule, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind. And love your neighbor as you love yourself,” one of his listeners (an expert in religious law) challenged him to define neighbor. This is when Jesus told the parable of the good Samaritan. The tale is so familiar that it’s almost become cliche, yet it sill presents a direct challenge to our modern attitudes and prejudices. In Clarence Jordan’s Cotton Patch Version of Luke 10, the injured man is white and the Samaritan is a black man. In the more familiar version of the story, it’s well-known that Samaritans and Jews did not hold mixed company. Jesus skillfully turns the idea of neighbor on its head! We are to live as neighbors to everyone, not just to people who are like us, or who make us feel completely comfortable all the time.

But even more relevant to my current predicament is the analysis of those who did not stop. All of them were in a hurry to get on with some self-important errand. Yes, I would argue that motivation to serve in the ancient temples, and especially in today’s churches, can easily be born in the ego rather than the heart. We can get caught up in the work, in the plans, in the fundraising and maintaining our image. All for what? For nothing, if at the end of the day we have no energy left to enter the holy experience of being a neighbor to those we encounter.

Perhaps this recent stress I’ve been going through coupled with being sick at home all last week, and now still at home caring for my daughter who has bronchitis…maybe these are blessings in disguise. Each obstacle has forced me to slow down, to think about what’s most important in life, and to truly value the people around me who’ve loved me enough to let me say “no” to the daily grind, and who have kept things going in my absence. Perhaps all the agendasĀ can be set aside. And then I can grasp hold of this new opportunity to remember what the Golden Rule was all about in the first place.

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