The Surprising Gift of Saying Yes

20170614_fritz_sayingyes_1024Brenda and I met in the lounge of a transitional home for women where she and thirty other women were working to rebuild their shattered lives. Amongst mismatched sofas and coffee tables that had seen better days, I helped this sixty-two-year-old woman prepare for her GED exam.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I volunteered to tutor Brenda. Would we hit it off? Become friends? Or would the relationship remain that of tutor and student?

Truth be told, Brenda and I had very little in common. She is African-American. I am the palest of white you can imagine. She was raised in the South. I grew up in the tundra-country of Wisconsin. Brenda had many years of hard living on the streets. I live in relative comfort.

But none of that mattered when we got together. Read on at (in)courage.

3 Ways Service Changes Us

service

I’ve been thinking about service lately. Service to my family. Service to my congregation. Service to my community.

Usually we think of how service changes the people we serve. The meals I cook mean my family has something nutritious to eat. The music I play at church gives meaning to the service. The tutoring I do at the homeless shelter is helping someone get her GED.

But service not only changes those we help. Service transforms us.

Think of the well-known story of the Good Samaritan. Jesus told this parable in response to the question of how to love one’s neighbor as oneself. A man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho is accosted by robbers, beaten and left for dead. A priest comes by, but instead of helping, passes by on the other side of the road. Next a Levite, another religious worker, appears on the road. He also ignores the wounded man’s needs. Finally a Samaritan, a person despised by the Jews of the day because of his mixed race, encounters the injured man. He stops, tends to the man’s wounds, and takes him on his donkey to an inn. He even pays the innkeeper to continue caring for the man.

When I look at this story, I see three ways that service can change us:

Service helps us to strip off the garment of self-importance. Perhaps the priest and the Levite didn’t stop to help because they felt they were too important to stop and help an injured person they didn’t even know. Service helps me to view everyone as a significant part of God’s kingdom.

Service helps us to strip off the garment of prejudice. The Samaritan could have easily told himself, “Why should I bother helping this person? He certainly wouldn’t help me!” Or he could have assumed that the person lying on the side of the road was a criminal himself. But the Samaritan put aside any judgments he had and helped. Service helps me love others who are different from me.

Service helps us to strip off the garment of selfishness. The Samaritan not only cleaned and bandaged the man’s wounds, he used his own money to pay for the man’s continued care. In serving I recognize that the resources God has given me are not to be used only for my needs and wants. The heavenly Father wants me to share.

Service not only changes the lives of the people we help. It transforms our hearts.

Question: How has service transformed you?

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Entertaining Strangers

Romans 12-13

When I was in high school, a Christian group called Joy, Inc. came to sing at our church. Our family agreed to house a couple of group members for the night. And in the morning we drove them back to the church so they could be on their way to the next concert.

One of the guys that stayed at our house added this cryptic message after his goodbye, “When you get home, read Hebrews 13:2.”

All the way home, I repeated–Hebrews 13:2, Hebrews 13:2, Hebrews 13:2–to myself so I wouldn’t forget it.

At home I raced to my nightstand and opened my Bible to Hebrews 13:2:

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

Ahh. Funny guy.

Hospitality is one of the ways we can show Christ’s love to others. But I have to admit I often get hospitality all wrong. I make it more about the table settings than the people. I pay more attention to the dinner rolls than to the guests.

Lately I’ve been studying the spiritual disciplines. Hospitality is listed as one of those spiritual disciplines. It seems odd to think of hospitality as a way to grow in faith.

But I think that hospitality can be a spiritual exercise if it stretches us to love others as Christ loved us. It helps us grow in faith if we step out of our comfort zone and invite people over even before the house is perfect (because if we wait until the house is spotless, hospitality may never happen). Hospitality helps us grow in service, humility, and putting other first. It helps us to receive God’s blessings as we share what we already have with others.

Romans 12:13 says:

Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

I’m encouraged by that verse. We are to practice hospitality. We won’t always get it perfect, but the more we practice it, the more we’ll improve. So I’m learning to make hospitality more about the people than the food, more about the love and laughter than a clean house.

Practice hospitality.

Question: When have you experienced true hospitality?

Bless the Hands That Serve

bless the hands

Bless the hands that serve.

This past weekend I experienced my first professional manicure.

Some of you may be shocked that it took me this long to get my nails done.

But, you see, I have played piano since I was five years old. I heard over and over, “Keep your nails short! No clicking on the keys!”

Short nails are practical, but difficult to make beautiful. However, I decided to try it anyway. I went to a salon and asked for a french manicure. And while my hands don’t look as elegant as those with long nails, the manicure dressed up my short stubby nails just fine.

As the nail technician was doing my nails, she also massaged my hands. All the tension from tapping out tunes on the piano and words on the computer vanished with her touch. And I thought of how her hands were serving mine.

“Our hands are our tools,” the technician said.

So true. Our hands are our tools for service.

Think of all the hands that have served you through the years.

When you were little your mother’s hands fed you and bathed you. Your father’s hands held you up as you learned to walk and dried your tears. Perhaps your grandmother’s hands kneaded bread for you or baked your favorite cookies. Your teachers’ hands taught you to write. Your coaches’ hands taught you to throw or kick or make a basket.

Now your hands also serve. They serve meals to your family and kindness to store clerks. They serve sisters in Christ and strangers you may never meet.

Are hands are our tools. But along with our hands we need the tool of love. For service without love is empty.

The apostle Paul wrote,

Serve one another humbly in love. Galatians 5:13

I look at my hands and think of the service of the lady at the salon. How she served me in kindness.

I look at my hands and think of the service I do for my family, my friends, my church. Do I do it humbly in love?

Question: How do you serve others with your hands?

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