The Samaritan Question: Readers’ Responses


What’s the difference between meddling and helping? How do you discern God’s will when someone’s need tugs at your heart strings and you’re not sure of your proper role?

I put these questions to readers of my blog, and they gave thoughtful, detailed answers.  As they described the process of listening for God’s voice, a few common themes emerged:

[Read more…]

Did You Weed Your Dream Today?

misc_mulching_300When I hear about gutsy people who have accomplished amazing things, I’m seized by a desire to Do Something! NOW! to turn my own daydreams into reality. All I need is grit, determination and courage. So I grit my teeth and burn my bridges, determined to lock myself into an ambitious new course before my courage fails me.

The sense of urgency passes quickly. Within hours I’m wondering, “What was I thinking? I can’t go rushing off to change the world. I have responsibilities. I have limitations.” [Read more…]

A Time to Recharge

When I promised to write about “A Time to Recharge,” I planned to say that, without rest, prayer and study, our spirits become depleted and discouraged. That was a fine idea for a blog, but this morning a less-obvious insight presented itself. We were in church, celebrating Transfiguration Sunday, and the words to one of the hymns grabbed my attention:

Lord, transfigure our perception

With the purest light that shines,

And recast our life’s intentions 

To the shape of Your designs

(“Swiftly Pass the Clouds of Glory,” by Thomas H. Troeger.)

This verse suggests a key purpose for our quiet times with God: to submit our perceptions and intentions to His transforming influence. Perceptions and intentions are pivotal. If those are right, God can provide hope and energy “on the fly” in the midst of action. (Mid-air refueling, so to speak.) But if our perceptions and intentions are off course, more energy will only push us faster in the wrong direction. [Read more…]

Do What You Love / Love What You Do

carpentry-workshopConscience and reason, guided by scripture, can help us avoid evil and choose good. But what if the choice is between an abundance of good options? Often, we have so many opportunities to do good that we can’t possibly pursue them all. How do we choose? Which work seems meaningful? Which projects will leave us energized instead of exhausted at the end of a long day? Is it selfish to choose work that inspires us? Is it okay to enjoy our work? Isn’t “work” supposed to mean doing our fair share of the drudgery that nobody wants to do?

Work is seldom easy, but it should be satisfying. When our labors are well-aligned with God’s purpose for us, we’ll  have a sense of peace about doing our job — even if it’s challenging and difficult. [Read more…]

Lessons from Our Coach

sand_floorMy previous blog described the first steps in connecting with our ultimate Life Coach, the Holy Spirit. Today’s topic is the ongoing training program. Unlike earthly coaches, the Spirit rarely speaks with an audible voice. Most of us will never hear Him, this side of heaven.

Many times, I’ve wished that God would just tell me what to do! He has all the answers; why won’t He just give them to me? Gradually, I’ve come to believe that He is less interested in seeing the “right” outcome to my situation than in seeing the right understandings growing in my mind. He wants me to develop good judgement, and that can only happen when I use my judgement — making decisions by applying my own intelligence and conscience to the facts as I understand them.

Does this mean God expects us to flounder through life without His guidance? Not at all! [Read more…]

Meet Your Coach

youth-sports-coach2Every athlete needs a coach. As one trainer told me, “It’s not true that ‘practice makes perfect.’ The truth is that perfect practice makes improvement.”  

Coaching is  not limited to sports. The apostle Paul says all of life is a race, and much more is at stake than a gold medal. ( 1 Corinthians 9: 24-25, Hebrews 12:1,  1 Timothy 4:7-8)  We need a wise coach—someone who sees our potential and pushes us to do the hard work needed to get there. Someone to help us see our errors and overcome them. Who, better than our Creator, to fill this role?

A coach channels the athlete’s energy and effort. Drawing from a deep store of knowledge, the coach gives just enough guidance for the next, immediate step of growth. Our ultimate Life Coach knows our abilities and knows how to teach us. He will not give up when we become discouraged.

A reasonable person might object, “I can’t hear God talk. How’s he supposed to guide me?” [Read more…]

Avoiding the Wrong Track

track_e1305540301619I remember a turning-point moment during my “thirty-something” years. I was chatting with one of the other moms at my children’s school. She began to talk about her divorce and the problems she was facing. My mind ran through a list of all the ways I might help. Could I babysit her kids? Provide transportation? Maybe even invite her to live with us? A lifetime of training in “love your neighbor” had prepared me to offer my services without a second thought. But as I opened my mouth to speak, a sinking sensation reminded me to face facts. For instance, the fact that I had already made similar offers to a number of other people—more offers than I could responsibly fulfill.

I closed my mouth. I liked this woman and wanted to help her. But my plate was already full. [Read more…]

Mission 2014: Step Up to Greatness

“I believe I’m made for greatness,” says my friend, Grant Phillips. “We all are,” he adds. Then he explains: “Greatness happens in those moments when we get the chance to show love in action.”

He’s right. Human beings were made to give and receive love. It’s our highest calling.

Don’t worry, this blog will not tell you to try harder, care more, give more or do more. Like most folks, you’re probably stressed and worn out from doing too many things for too many people. I won’t tell you to love more; I want to challenge you to love smarter.

Or, more precisely, to love wiser. [Read more…]