I'm not sure we're always very good at helping each other with burdens. Sure, we might help a friend move or help a spouse carry stuff in from the car. This is help that is almost a given, help that is expected in these types of relationships.
But what about helping those with greater burdens than an oversized couch or a heavy grocery bag? What if the burden involves helping those we don't know, or those whom we feel don't deserve our help?
But who are we to judge? I mean - really - who are we to judge that one person over another deserves our help? It is Fear who lies to us. Fear is the one who implants this idea that some people aren't deserving of help. Fear is the one who dehumanizes The Other - who turns them into monsters who are here to destroy us.
Can we really not see that help isn't really something that someone earns. Help is a gift received.
Help is also a gift given. And if we are truly going to be helpful, then carrying the burdens of others shouldn't be tied to someone deserving help. For Christians, helping should be connected to living out our baptized lives in Christ, sharing the love of God with all people. For all of us, though, helping should be connected to our very humanity - the humanity that says, "This is someone in need and I can help them, and so I will help them."
It's called having a heart. It's called living with love
As much as I love to write, there are times when the writing is difficult. There are times when putting words into coherent sentences takes more energy than I seem to have. There are times when a deadline is pressing and the block in my head (or is it my heart?) keeps the words from flowing freely.
When the writing is difficult, help me to persevere. When my words don't make sense, help me find clarity. When time is pressing down on me, help me relax my mind, and give my heart inspiration.
Also, help me to know when to stop...when to walk away...when to rest...when to rest my eyes...when to let my brain deflate...when to turn to you in times of prayer. And then, grant me the mental space and available time to return to writing again.
I love you, O Lord, my strength.
I pulled this old book off my bookshelf yesterday. Published in the late 1800's, it belonged to my great-grandmother Sara. At some point, it passed into my maternal grandmother's hands, and then into mine.
This side of my family has been integral in teaching me about faith. Reflecting on this, I began to think about all those who - throughout my life and to this day - teach me about faith. Some of them teach me through their own faithful living. Some teach me through how the preach or pray or talk about humanity.
Who has taught you about faith? Who teaches you still?
Holy God of healing,
Your healing changes everything:
It restores us,
It lifts us up,
It helps us stand in Your strength.
Give us open hearts to rejoice in the healing of all -
That all may be restored,
That all may be lifted up to stand in Your strength.
In the Name of the One who reached out to heal, Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Now [Jesus] was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.
"She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight." What was this woman's daily view? Of herself - of her loved ones - of the world? Her view was downward - always downward. She probably had everyone's feet memorized! But did she know the color of anyone's hair, I wonder? Was she able to look anyone in the eye when she was in conversation?
Jesus calls her over, lays hands on her, and heals her. Immediately, the text says. Immediately! Not with months of chiropractic treatment - but immediately, she stood up straight and began to praise God. "Thank you, God, for healing me! Thank you, God, for restoring me!"
Then...here come the critics. Here come the ones who would rather focus on God's rules than God's healing. Here come the ones who don't understand God's kingdom come to earth. It is Jesus who reminds them (and us) that the Sabbath is ultimately a gift from God, and that even God's laws are meant for love.
Closing Prayer (from Psalm 31)
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
my eye wastes away from grief,
my soul and body also.
But I trust in you, O Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hand.