Monday, February 8, 2016

They Don't Care How Much You Know...

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Three generations of our family were represented in a recent conversation around my aunt’s dining room table. Somehow, we got to the topic of how my dad handled it when a customer couldn’t pay for the car repairs dad had done for them. I shared a story my father told me about a man who had the reputation of owing people all over town…and not paying his bills.  “You can take your car when you pay for the work,” dad explained as the man tried to convince him to take “payments.”  Credit cards were largely unused back then; accepted payment was by check or cash.

I shared dad’s story to describe the wisdom of a businessman who genuinely cared for people, but had a keen discernment about whether cutting them some slack was truly helping them or just enabling their bad choices.  My brother was at the table with us as we talked about this. I love Jimmie’s perspective on these matters for several reasons. First, he seems to approach life a lot like our dad. Second, he is eight years my junior and enjoyed a completely different experience growing up in our home than I did (dad’s work shifted from a car dealership to a shop at home, plus he had seen how quickly I grew up and intentionally carved out more time to spend with my brother). Third, Jimmie worked in dad’s business for several years, experiencing things I only heard about.

“I can tell you another story about a customer who couldn’t pay,” Jimmie said. "Dad let him take his car and told me, ‘He will be good for it.’ In the end, dad was right."

You KNOW the saying: “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Is it possible that our dad was caring for people in both the above situations? Was he caring for the first man by forcing him to take responsibility, then caring for the second one by extending him credit? Without doubt, I would say, “Yes!”

Last weekend at our church, I introduced a simple little concept called “Take A Minute.” In our fast-paced world, followers of Jesus are often just as rushed and just as stressed as everyone else. Jesus didn’t cut us any slack because of our busyness, though. He told stories like that of “The Good Samaritan,” emphasizing that being too busy to help the hurting means we are just too busy! “Take A Minute” means that I am praying daily for God to open my eyes, my ears and my heart to notice the hurting people who are already in my path. I’m asking God to prompt me at least once a week to a need right in front of me, then I will “Take A Minute” to do whatever He shows me to do. It might be as simple as listening to the hurts in a person’s life. It might be challenging like helping change a tire on the side of the road or offering to pray for someone. The ways we can reach out to touch the brokenness around us are as far-reaching as the creativity of God.

I had just finished unveiling “Take A Minute” in one of our services last weekend, when a family in need waited to speak with me. In itself, this isn’t very unusual, but I was instantly touched by the deep economic struggle of this family and the seeming desire to get their lives moving in a new direction. Hearing their plight, I explained that we have a pastor who has direct access to the resources to help them and I left to find him. A few minutes later, that pastor and I were walking back to the place where the family was waiting. One of our young men stopped us and said, “My wife and I want to help that family. We are willing to take care of them for a few days.”

I am cautious telling you stories like this one, because we are all so influenced by a culture in which problems are revealed in the first few minutes of a story, then the whole thing is resolved in an hour or two. Real life is rarely like that, but I have frequently seen people, even families, radically changed because someone took a minute. Maybe it was a stream of someones taking a minute and I just got to see the one who helped them get past their obstacle, but in the end, lives were transformed by the goodness of God. There’s power in taking a minute, whether we get to see the full redemptive work of God or not. We must trust that our part is significant, even if it seems minuscule at the time.

I love to tell stories because they help us understand things we might have missed. On this Valentine’s weekend at Stone Ridge Church, I will share three “Take A Minute” stories directly from the pages of Scripture. Each one is a great example of caring for the brokenness in people. I hope you can come, because I believe you will be encouraged to care even more than you do now. By the way, these same accounts from the Bible are what helped my dad learn what genuine care looks like. Bring your sweetheart with you!

Can’t make it this weekend? Catch the podcast!