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.

Sharon’s Hands

Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash                      

She … willingly works with her hands … she extends her hands to the poor, Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy … give her of the fruit of her hands.–Proverbs 31:13, 20, 31 NKJV

One Saturday several years ago, my friend Sharon treated me to a girls’ day out. The daylong event was a “HeartSpa Getaway” held at a local Christian campground and included activities to nourish, refresh and renew both body and spirit.

In addition to enjoying inspirational music provided by a women’s singing group and searching soul and Scripture, we also pampered our hands, faces and feet.

Our first pampering station was for our hands. First we rubbed them with an exfoliating scrub, then slathered on a soothing lotion. The next step I was a bit hesitant about—dipping my hands in a crock-pot containing liquid paraffin. I was afraid it would be too hot. But it wasn’t, and as soon as I brought my hands out, I was instructed to hold them together in a prayer position. My folded hands were then encased in a plastic bag and wrapped with a hand towel. While we waited for the paraffin, plastic and towel to do their therapeutic work, we were to pray with and for our partners.

Sharon and I clasped our towel-clad hands and began praying. As I prayed for Sharon, whom I’ve known for over 40 years, I envisioned her hands—long and slender, with nails clipped short so they wouldn’t interfere with the work she has to do.

I remembered when these hands brought me homemade chicken soup when I was in bed recovering from my second C-section. She hadn’t known it, but I’d asked God for some homemade chicken soup when I was still in the hospital.

These hands, I realized, have spent a lifetime doing for others—cooking, cleaning, mending, gardening, canning—the million and one things that need done for a family. These hands have written countless notes of encouragement, slipped uncounted dollar bills into scores of needy hands. They could be counted on to do what needs to be done. They’d held sick children, changed messy diapers, cleaned up puke, scrubbed bathrooms, cut hair, washed dogs, wrapped gifts, rubbed backs, blew kisses, prepared Bible lessons.

They’ve been bitten, blistered, burned, calloused and cut, yet still wave a friendly greeting in a grocery store, on the street, in church. As busy as these hands are, they always take time to comfort. They’ve been clasped together in prayer for others, and they’ve grasped the hands of others as she prayed for them.

The hands are the instruments of the heart. Sharon’s hands are giving hands, for her heart overflows with kindness, compassion and love.

I thought of my daughter’s dog, Tess, rescued from an animal shelter. Tess was afraid of hands and slinked away in cowering fear when a hand, however loving, got too close. Who knows what cruelties were inflicted on her by hands that wanted only to dominate or harm?

Hands can hit, pinch, pound, punch, slam and slap. A closed hand is tight and tense. Hands that grasp and cling when it’s time to let go cannot be open to receive.

Sharon’s hands are no longer supple, smooth and nimble. They bear the scars of a lifetime of love. But they are not empty. They overflow with blessings poured out from her heavenly Father, blessings she passes on to others.

I have no choice over how pretty my hands are—whether they’re long and slender or wide and knuckley. But, as Sharon likes to say, pretty is as pretty does.

I choose what these hands do. They can lend a hand, pass on a hand-me-down, give a hand up. They can be the hands of God in a needy world.

Have you taken a good look at your hands lately?

Dear God, thank you for Sharon’s hands and the many hands that have met my needs over the years. Bless them, O Lord. Forgive me for the times my hands have hurt others, and help me to forgive and forget those hands that have hurt me. Show me how to use my hands for Your work. Amen.

Read and reflect on Proverbs 31:10–31