Surprise Party

Image by Christian Dorn from Pixabay

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. – Matthew 5:7 NIV

When I was in grade school, I always wanted to have a real birthday party – you know, when you invite the whole class at school. Every year when I asked, though, my mother’s answer was always the same: “No.” Maybe the class size of nearly fifty had something to do with it.

“Please, Mom,” I’d plead. “Everyone else has one. Why do I always have to be different?”

No amount of begging, whining, or pouting, however, changed her mind. Her lopsided cakes were for family only.

One year, though, I was determined to have the kind of party I wanted, in spite of my mother’s usual “no.” So I invited all the kids in my third grade class to come to my house on Saturday, November 5, for my birthday party. My mother, of course, knew nothing about it.

I bowled in a youth bowling league on Saturday mornings, and when I left the house that day, I still hadn’t told my mother about the party. The walk home after bowling was the longest walk I ever took in my life! I trudged the eight blocks home in the cold, damp November wind, thinking of how much trouble I was going to be in once the kids started showing up at my door.

Not only was I going to be in the doghouse at home, but I’d be the laughing stock of the whole school once word got out about the party with a lopsided cake, and not enough ice cream and pop. Don’t even mention games. That was not my mother’s forte.

When I stepped into the dining room at few minutes before two – the time I told everyone to come – I gasped in surprise. There in the middle of the table, set for a party, was a big, decorated birthday cake!

“How did you find out?” I blurted to my mother.

“Vivian’s mother called to ask me what time your party started,” she said.

Thank you, Mrs. Bludis, I thought, breathing a sigh of relief.

“We’ll talk about this after the party,” my mother said quietly as someone knocked. “Go answer the door.”

For the next three hours, I tried to ignore the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I’d probably be grounded for the rest of my life. When the last guest left, I hurried to help clean up, grateful to my mom for helping me save face and hoping my initiative would lessen my punishment.

“What would you have done if Mrs. Bludis hadn’t called?” my mother asked me after we were done.

I shrugged.

“I didn’t understand how important this was to you. I’m sorry,” Mom said, “but I hope you realize you were wrong to go behind my back.”

I nodded.

As it turned out, my only punishment was three agonizing hours imagining what my just desserts would be when I could have been enjoying my birthday party.

My mother taught me an important lesson in mercy that day. While it isn’t easy to forgive someone who has done something wrong, showing undeserved kindness blesses both the giver and the receiver, and brings healing to broken relationships.

I deserved justice. Instead I received a birthday present I never forgot.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Thank you, God, that Your mercies are new every morning. I sure need them everyday. Amen.

Read and reflect on Matthew 18:21–35.

The Lazarus at My Gate

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Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness… – Matthew 6:33 (KJV)     

“Global” seems to be the latest buzz word. You’ve got to think, speak, and act “globally.” No more the small-town mindset. Anyone who isn’t sophisticated, well-informed and technology-savvy just isn’t with it these days.

This global philosophy has infiltrated the Christian ranks, too. We’re to pray for the world, for the country, for worldwide missions, for people we don’t know and probably never will. Now, this isn’t bad. Someone needs to pray for world peace and missions.

There are those who can handle this information overload. I’m not one of them.

Quite frankly, it depresses me. I’m overwhelmed by prayer lists that grow longer and more disheartening by the day. I feel helpless when I read of a 101-year-old woman on her way to church who’s mugged by an addict who targets elderly women to get his drug money; of children and animals that are tortured and killed; of government officials who are more interested in playing politics, posturing, and pointing fingers than running the country; of misused money that was sent in good faith to alleviate others’ suffering.

Do I really need to know all this? My “global” prayers seem weak, bumbling, pat, and ineffective.

I keep thinking of the question God asked Moses, “What is that in your hand?” (Exodus 4:2) and the need to focus on what I have in my hand and do it well. I’m sensing the need to reach out to people around me who are hurting — something I’ve neglected because I’ve been too focused on the “global.”

But God has been saying, “Look to the Lazarus at your gate.” The older I get, the more people whom I know will be hospitalized, lose loved ones, experience crises. These are the Lazaruses at my gate. Yet I’ve insulated and isolated myself from my immediate world in pursuit of the global.

How many decades did Mother Teresa labor in the ghettos of India unnoticed? Now, this woman didn’t think globally. Yet her words resonate in my soul: “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.”

When we focus too much on the global, we can overlook the people around us —family, neighbors, those we meet at church, in the store, at ballgames, and on the street — because we may think that ministering to them is too small.

But the globe is made up of folks like these, and if we each reached out and touched them, the ripples will be felt in all the world.                     

Dear God, open my eyes to the Lazarus at my gate today. Amen.

Read and reflect on Luke 16:19–31.