Building Bridges with Compassion

My heart aches as it reaches out in compassion. Toward you, my friend, and your needs. Toward those I don’t know and their needs. Toward the people fleeing war and strife. Toward those seeking a better life for their children. And I know your heart goes out to all people, too, because in our common humanity, we are built to feel for one another. That is what makes us alive.

Where we may differ is in how we approach the problem of helping a world full of hurting, sad, poor and troubled people—some of them sitting right next to us and some of them living in our hearts through sad pictures of little boys in an ambulance in Aleppo, Syria.

Oh God of tender mercy and love toward all, how do we respond?

Do we simply throw open the gates and let everyone in and enjoy beautiful chaos? (I have been accused of espousing this crazy option! But I will quickly point out that it’s not realistic…)

Do we build a “big, beautiful door” as our President has suggested and ask people to use that door?

Do we emulate our small children and grandchildren who don’t know better and refuse to share? We teach them to share and give because that is the source of true life. In the upside down Way of Love, we see it over and over, “Give and you shall receive. Die and you shall live.”

Do we wall ourselves off, huddle up around our campfire in the middle of our circled wagons praying that the wild forces outside will not penetrate our feeble defenses?

How do we live in all of this and continue to be the people of God who give freely, who lay down our lives for others, who walk with Jesus every day? For goodness sake, what would HE do??

For one thing, he would tell us, “Fear not.”

Living in fear is living in a prison of our own making. It is the gilded cage that promises comfort and delivers confinement instead. Fear begets irrational thinking where survival is supreme and self defense overrules all common sense.

How do we combat the fear that besets us on every side? Sometimes, identifying the thing that is underneath it all, can help us to let go and allow God to comfort us in our dark places. Do we fear losing power? Do we fear losing our material wealth? Do we fear losing our health? Do we fear death? Do we fear the future? Do we fear the present? The answer is probably “yes” and “all of the above.” How can we release our fears and live in the true freedom that Christ offers us? He came to earth to show us the Way, the Truth and the Life. And he invites us to share that with others, not condemning them for not believing as we do, but sharing The True Life by walking together, hand in hand, partaking daily of communion.

As we ask God to “Give us this day our daily bread” we ask for ourselves and for others. May we have enough to satisfy our need and also enough to share with our neighbor. For isn’t this our charge as followers of the One who laid down his life for us all? Jesus, help us to be like you this day.

–Joy Eastridge, Feb. 14, 2017

Let Us Speak Out in Love

I am reading through Genesis, the book that begins God’s message to us. It is a quirky book that poses more questions than answers. For example, the whole thing about Abram taking his nephew Lot with him when he journeys from Haran to Canaan… They don’t seem to get along very well. In fact, Abram tells God, during one of God’s visits with him, that he doesn’t have anyone to leave his estate to–not exactly a picture of family harmony. And Lot, well, he is a case. He parks his tent right beside Sodom in one chapter and in the next, he is living inside it. He goes from camping on the periphery to living in the middle of it. And things do not go well for him there…

I keep thinking about this business of camping outside the town. What does that translate into in our day? Maybe it is what we listen to. Where to we get our information? What do we read? Where do we worship? Wherever we “camp,” and spend our time, we soon begin to reflect those values. Before long we have moved into the city and find ourselves repeating what we see and hear around us. If we are always with like-minded people and don’t challenge ourselves, ask questions, analyze where we are and what we hear, and talk to God regularly, then before long we are lulled into moving right in with the people surrounding our “camp.”

My mission today is to ask more questions about where I am camping. Who am I listening to? Do I have my heart in the right place? Am I full of anger and hate or love? And yet, love is not a fuzzy feeling, it is an action verb. It is not passive but active. It involves stepping out, speaking up and refusing to stand down when others are being oppressed.

My prayer today is that I will love God more than any country; that I will love people more than any ideals; that I will treasure those who are different from me in color, religion, and creed. And that I will stand up for all those I love. Everyone.

MARTIN NIEMÖLLER: “FIRST THEY CAME FOR THE SOCIALISTS…”

Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) was a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.

Niemöller is perhaps best remembered for the quotation:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Warmth Wins

Warmth Wins

The assault is on,
Cold comes.
Trying to leak through
Crouching by the window and door,
Still as ice,
Menacing,
Determined,
Lurking,
Ready to pounce
At the smallest crack
In the armor of warmth
That cocoons me.
Sitting by a fire,
A mug of hot tea
Clasped in chilled hands.
Body and soul guarded.
Doors barred
To alien forces
That would kill
If allowed.
Instead I smile,
And
Warmth bubbles up!
Well-spring of life
Energy generated out of a loving heart
Lifts me light.
As I open the door
Cold retreats, slinking away to hide,
Awaiting another chance.
Meanwhile,
Warmth leads the way,
Melting the ice.
It follows me,
A trailing cloak protecting
As I go,
Out the door and into my life.

December 2016