Do you share the power of love by being a Good Samaritan every chance you get or stay on the other side of the road hoping no one notices when someone needs a helping hand? Jesus told the Good Samaritan story after talking about God’s greatest commandment to love Him with heart, mind, soul, and thy neighbor as thyself.
While loving our next door or down the street neighbors can be easy as pie, sometimes problems can keep neighbors from speaking and sharing simple pleasures of everyday life in neighborhoods flowing with milk and honey. Neighborhoods all over the world are filled with God’s children who make choices to honor His greatest commandment or disregard the truth of His Word and His Son’s ways. Daily choices of how we act and react reek happiness or hatred within hearts, homes, and neighborhoods from North Korea to North Carolina…from Nairobi to New York! Good Samaritans and grouchy Scrooges can be found in every neighborhood on planet Earth! Contemplate the neighborhood you call home; names of happy and/or hateful neighbors surely make the wanted or unwanted list in your neck of the woods!
This week, I locked the door at Tim’s Gift and headed to my childhood home for dinner with my brother’s family and Bible Study at my childhood church, Union Grove. Driving through neighborhoods on country roads stirred this story. Passing tobacco fields, where I spent many long summer days working on slow moving, red harvesters, brought memories of neighbors who paid me fifty cents an hour, brought snacks twice a day, took good care of me, and are now in heaven. In each neighborhood from Clinton, to Kitty Fork, to Beaverdam, to Rebel City there were homes where dear neighbors I love and cherish live and other homes where I did not know the new neighbors or people I never formed a relationship with.
Pondering this in my heart, I wondered what kind of neighbor people think I am or what memories pop up in people’s minds when they walk or drive past my home! Goose bumps were my sign the Lord was teaching me a lesson we have all been taught but not mastered: loving Him with all our heart and neighbors (wherever they live, whatever they look like, whatever they believe) like we love ourselves! So, what kind of neighbors are we, the people of the United States of America, as we live good lives with milk and honey still flowing in spite of how we take God’s goodness for granted? Oh how wonderful when we embrace God’s greatest commandment and live as Good Samaritans in our neighborhoods. We become “the apple of His eye” when we love where we live, share God’s love, and show that we have a close relationship with Christ!
How sad when neighborly naughtiness or misunderstandings sour the sweet relationships Jesus longs for neighbors all over His creation to embrace peacefully and preciously! Red or yellow, black or white, Asian or American, rich or poor, Democrat or Republican, city boy or country girl, kind or callous hearted, pretty or ugly…and the list goes on!
Slowly savoring every bite of fresh vegetables prepared by my sister in law, our family talked of things happening with neighbors in The Middle East and right across the way (meaning places near our little crossroads community)! We prayed for Jennifer whose mother called during dinner with news that her kidney transplant surgery went well. My brother, Billy, sat at the table with us but was unable to enjoy the home cooked meal. He never complained but his tired body showed the effects of dialysis and diabetes. We embraced the power of prayer, believing God will send a kidney donor to Billy Smith as he did to Katy Holland and Jennifer Brewer, who received kidneys from Good Samaritans willing to give the gift of life to a neighbor in need.
Sitting with my family on the back row at church was the perfect place to scan the sanctuary and see neighbors who have colored my world with love for sixty five years. The service began with neighborly chat. Then, David stood with hymnal in hand and joked we wouldn’t sing ‘Showers of Blessings’ but ‘Shining for Jesus’! How appropriate when showers have brought headaches and hallelujahs from neighborhoods across our nation. Pastor Mark’s teaching came from Proverbs 1:20 The lesson God began downloading in my heart on my drive to the neighborhood where I grew up was completed as Pastor preached about Solomon not always practicing what he preached, God needs willing souls as He cries out to give us wisdom, we are unwise without God (1 Cor. 1:25), we learn from mistakes, treat others as we want to be treated, disciples need to be disciplined, and God gives us free will (Rev. 3:20)! In closing, he reminded us we must deal with our tough times to see what God is teaching us! After the prayer, neighbors hugged and huddled to sway stories for the longest time, a sure sign that His sweet spirit is alive and well in neighbors of all sizes, shapes, and situations who come to church to praise and worship in one accord.
After church I drove through two neighborhoods, making three stops (to deliver a Rollator walker to someone in need and to return four large containers to a man who donated one hundred stuffed bears to Tim’s Gift (that story coming soon), and to Tim’s brother’s home to visit Mom (Tim’s mother)! Our short time together was sweet and satisfying. At ninety four years old, she is more eager than ever to share time with her loved ones. Taking time to keep relationships alive, love our neighbors, and live life to the fullest with a willing soul and satisfied mind are gifts that give us peace, joy, happiness, and give God glory.
Kissing my mother in law on her wrinkled forehead, the sweet goosebumps He sends tingled again. Squeezing her frail hand, I thanked God for removing the ‘in law’ label we embraced for way too many seasons and rejoiced that we love each other deeply and devotedly per God’s greatest commandment. The gift of loving, cherishing, and enjoying life with family and neighbors kept me singing as I drove my pick-up truck through rain showers on dark country roads to my home in Clinton.