On the way home this morning, we listened to Keith Green in the car. I'll admit I'm not one for Christian music, which is odd considering I'm a christian. There are of course hymns in Church that move me unexpectedly, bringing tears to my eyes for no reason I can grasp. One I heard recently was called The Lord of the Dance, a joyous and equally haunting view of Christ, and Amazing Grace is one of the greatest songs inspired by the Holy Spirit. Generally, though, I am a good deal indifferent and unmoved.
Green is different. I was raised on Keith Green, http://www.last.fm/music/Keith+Green/+wiki, but my continuing appreciation for his music comes because he is an ultra-talented pianist and because, more inspiring, he has a unique talent for taking the parables told by Christ and transforming them into richly textured songs. The tale of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son were both retold through his music; his Prodigal Son Suite is my favorite popular composition built on the word of God. When the father falls at his son's feet at the end, welcoming him home with love, joy, and gratitude to God, well...if you have never heard it and want to be inspired by that incredible image of redemption, I think you can listen to it for free on the Internet. Green perhaps covered that song in such an awesome way, because he was at one point in his life that prodigal son - a talented, touring musician doing drugs, believing in "free love" and exploring mysticism before coming to God after a soul-scarring experience.
This morning I heard another of Green's songs based on Christ's parables - The Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46). That parable and Green's song used to frighten me when I was a child, because the Goats are not condemned for the evil they do; they're condemned for their apathy. Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto you? Then he shall answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal. (Matthew 25: 44- 46).
I struggle to care sometimes. That's a terrible thing to admit as a disciple of the Most High, the One who administered hope to the indigent, criminals and prostitutes. Still, I have my own sweet little family, four children to raise, and it is very easy indeed to get wrapped up in my own family's concerns. It worries me how selfish I feel at times.
Plus, the evil and despair of the world is well broadcast. It makes for such excellent stories, and by the hundred such telling of a deed it begins to feel like nothing more than a story, at the expense of the participants. I was well sheltered as a child and extraordinarily grateful for it. There are certain acts I could never have then believed would have been committed against a fellow human being. I have since been disillusioned time and time again in my adulthood. At first I would cry and ache in the knowledge of these horrible sins, especially those committed against children, and often I would cry for days every time the memory disturbed me. Now these terrible things humans do to one another trouble me less than I feel they should. I am becoming jaded, God help me.
The need in the world is always present, too, and my family and I are by no means wealthy, but we are comfortable. We contribute to help others, in food drives especially, but I know it is not nearly energetic enough. And to be honest with you, I fear strangers - oh, I'm more than willing to smile at someone I don't know or to give them friendly words or a few dollar bills, but invite them into my home? Not likely. For those in prison I don't feel a great deal of sympathy, either, nor do I feel that their conversion is very likely. I sound like one of the goats, now...don't I?
Nevertheless, not by my own strength and works do I go, but by the Grace of God. As Keith Green says through his music...Nothing lasts...except the Grace of God, by which I stand in Jesus. I know that I would surely fall away...except the Grace...by which I'm saved...
A few weeks ago I was disturbed during prayer by the face of a woman who lived down my street. Not once, but every time I prayed. This woman had told me some time earlier, when we stopped by her house while taking my daughter around to sell Girl Scout cookies, that she had recently had breast cancer. Her arm was bandaged, because her lymphnoids had been removed and fluid tended to build up, The woman was elderly, moved slowly. We stayed and talked to her for some time.
After we left her, I felt that we should visit her again. As a child, my family had visited two elderly and lonely neighbors often. One could not read, so he, Mr. Hayes, loved it when my dad came and read from the Bible as his wife used to do for him before she passed away. The other person was a lady named Mrs. Mays. She lived in a dusty old relic of a house at the bend in the road. She was more than a little ornery, and it was really boring for us kids to go there - nothing to play with, nothing interesting we should touch, only the trees and grass of her yard were welcoming - but we went as a family, and I remember the lesson my parents were teaching. I'm trying not to depart from it now I'm grown.
So I wasn't surprised as I forgot and forgot again about my duty to visit my sick neighbor, that my prayer included a reminder every time I sat in silence with God. God is very persistent, and I do not ever want to be denied His persistent instructions. So at last! I took my children on a convenient day, and we went to see her and spend some time with her. She seemed glad to see us, but told me that she did not need anything; her son lived with her and a friend, too.
As we walked away from her house, my children having gotten a little too rambunctious, I felt relieved that I had finally done what I knew I should do. If my Savior had been walking by my side, I may have said, "There! Are you happy? I did what you told me to do."
But my God knows that in my heart I add, please, Lord, never let me be deaf to your instruction, and through Your Grace, by which I stand, help me to respond and obey...