This morning, after lying in bed for about an hour and thinking about it, I decided to go for a walk.
One thing I've learned from living in the almost 'hood is that drug deals and sagging pants pedestrians usually happen in the afternoon and evening, never in the rain or in really nasty weather and almost never in the early morning.
So I put on my walking shoes and headed out with my James verses written on index cards... It's been about two weeks now since I've worked on those verses so I started with chapter 1, verse 1 while I made my way up a mountain, um, hill...near our house.
As I was about three-fourths of the way up the hill, I saw two young men standing on a corner. This is usually not a good sign in this area so I felt a little leery as I carefully switched to the other side of the street and increased my pace, trying to look like a confident and no-nonsense type of person.
As I passed them, I could see that the guys were deep in discussion but no guns, knives or plastic baggies were visible so we were cool as far as I was concerned. After a few minutes, I had reached my goal for my morning walk and was ready to turn back.
This time as I drew near the guys again, I was quietly, somewhat breathlessly, quoting, "But prove yourselves doers of the word and not merely hearers who delude themselves..."
While I was saying that, one of the young men became very animated, raised his voice, and said to the other guy, "You have to be obedient to the Word! You've got to obey! It's not just enough to read it and know it! You've got to do it! And if you will obey what it says, then no matter what happens, you don't have to worry whether what you did was the right thing or not. You don't have to worry about...."
Ha! Does God have a sense of humor or what?
Here I was, a little apprehensive about what these guys were up to when all along I should have been wondering what God was up to :) Out of the mouth of a total stranger standing on a not-so-wonderful street corner, God reinforced the meaning of the exact verses I was reviewing at that very time. What are the chances of that?
And then it occurred to me to pray... duhhh. Because while one man was earnestly expounding on the importance of doing what the Word says, the other young man was earnestly listening. Was this totally new information to him? Was he a believer who needed encouraging? Or did he even know the Lord?
I didn't know but God knew. So I prayed for them until I was almost to the bottom of the mountain.. uh, hill ..and not far at all from my house. And that, of course, is when I saw a grandmother, a mother and a little girl loaded down with shopping bags.
I didn't know their names but we've said "hi" to each other a few times and exchanged polite pleasantries whenever our paths cross. Although it's normal to see them carrying grocery bags about once a week, this time they were more loaded down than I'd ever seen them before; the mom had five shopping bags hanging from her shoulders and her hands, the little girl had one large bag, and the grandmother had three large bags.
Sometimes you just know that it's time to ante up on the "prove yourselves doers and not merely hearers of the Word" thing and I knew this was one of those times.
So with sweat beaded up on my forehead, I told my creaky knees to step it up a pace - they replied that it wasn't advisable. My feet joined in with my knees and I had a little mutiny on my hands.. er, feet. However, I managed to increase the pace, narrowing the gap between myself and the women but only fractionally. So I told the Lord this was about as good as it was gonna get and if He wanted me to help my neighbors, He'd have to increase my speed or slow them down.
Apparently He decided to work on them because about a minute after my unorthodox prayer, the grandmother had to stop to readjust her load. I was able to catch up and offer to help, thinking one bag would be about all I could carry. She thanked me and immediately handed me two large bags containing packaged sheets and a new bathroom rug.
Are you kidding me????
While I tried to get a good grip on the bags, she held onto the one large bag she still had and took another, equally large bag from her daughter and then to my amazement offered to carry the one her granddaughter was loaded down with, a sack that had a regular size bottle of bleach in it along with some other things.
The little girl who looked to be about 8 years old said, "Nah! That's okay! I've got it!"
Well that sort of stifled the protests on my lips of I don't think I can do this exactly... I mean if this little skinny kid can carry her bag and the grandmother can carry 3 bags and the mom is still carrying 4 bags or so...
Okay. We all walked a few feet to reach the street that they live on, rounded a corner, and then proceeded jauntily up hill to their house, going at a fairly good clip. Well they were jaunty and they were clipping along. I was trying to hold my head in such a way that the rivulets of sweat would run off my face instead of into my eyes while bringing up the rear of our little processional.
We made it. But my feet, knees, hands and brain were singing a different tune from the birds' chorus of Wake up! Wake up! Mostly they were singing, Give up! Give up!
At one point, when the grandmother tried to encourage me by saying that exercise is good for us, I looked at her incredulously and thought: "Breathing ...is... good... for... you.. too..." Ha!
I knew I couldn't carry my bags one step further as we reached their porch and was grateful that they seemed fine with me just dumping them on the top step. They thanked me to which I puffed out, "No ... problem... Have... a.. nice.. day..." and then headed back home, happily noting that I was going down hill this time.
Bible lesson in the 'hood on a Saturday morning, complete with text, exposition, and application.
As I said, God has a sense of humor... :)