Sunday School Teacher Learns Her Lesson – seeing the Good Samaritan in the flesh

[Today’s guest post is from Adriana Kassner Cunningham, who blogs at Classical Quest, where she touches on fine literature and the fineness of a family campfire, the simplicity of a woodland walk and the wonder of the written word.]

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Seeing Red

On Sunday mornings I assist my husband in teaching Sunday school to a group of 4th, 5th, and 6th grade boys. We usually have about ten boys in class, but yesterday we got a surprise when the girls from the classroom next door joined us! Their teachers weren’t able to make it, so we ended up with 23 kids altogether. I love helping with this age group and I was especially happy to get to know the girls a bit.

Our lesson was on the Good Samaritan from Luke 10. My husband Joe asked for a volunteer to read the passage. A petite girl with red hair and freckles was the first to raise her hand. Joe called on her to read. I’ll call her “Red.”

Red’s voice was soft. Right from the start she struggled to sound out the words. After a few minutes I thought she might give up and let someone else take over, but she plodded on through the entire passage. The boys squirmed. Some of the kids exchanged awkward smiles with each other. There were long pauses between Red’s words and it was hard to hear most of what she read.

But it was okay.

Actually, it was more than okay — it was wonderful! I’m not sure if any of the kids picked up on what I saw, but Jesus underscored His message to me because there was a “Good Samaritan” right by Red’s side. I’ll call her “Sam.”

Sam was slight of figure with mousy brown hair and glasses. As Red leaned over her Bible, her long hair spilled over her shoulder, hiding her face and touching the page. Sam swiped her hair away with one graceful stroke. When Red stammered, Sam gave her the right word. When Red sounded out a challenging word on her own, Sam whispered, “That’s right. Good job.”

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a passage being applied as it was being read in such perfect synchronicity. My eyes leaked. Sam’s right hand was on Red’s back. Red seem to gain courage as she read on to the end. I took in those few moments with a warm, sappy grin. From my corner of the room I discretely wiped my face with a tissue. My husband sent me a knowing smile.

The Samaritan’s Love and the Love of Christ

The Good Samaritan, Paula Modersohn-Becker

The Good Samaritan, Paula Modersohn-Becker

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”

And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” (Luke 10:25-37.)

The story of the Good Samaritan is a story about love.

Love is kind, patient, and gentle.

It’s neither arrogant nor rude.

Love has compassion and shows mercy.

Love rushes in to assist and stays the duration. (1 Corinthians 13.)

I’m glad the girls traveled all the way from the room next door to demonstrate this for me.

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Adriana C[Adriana offered me this post in order to lighten my load here at the blog while I am helping my father in his recovery and move to a new home near us. She models the comfort spoken of in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. Her offer prompted me to ask a few other friends for guest posts, so you can expect to see some great writing as they come in.]

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Update #6 on my Father: slow progress, but still good news

Thank you everyone who has been supporting my father and our family in prayer following my father’s accident. Here’s the original post on his fall and emergency neurosurgery: Head and Heart at 92 Years Old

His rehab is slowly progressing, but it looks like a full return to the physical and mental strength and condition he was in before the fall might not occur. Still, he could be released from rehab toward the end of next week and the assisted living apartment we have lined up for him has wonderful staff and a great reputation. They have already evaluated dad personally and established a care plan for him.

Dad in 2011

Dad in 2011

Dad has been considering assisted living for a few years. This move to our town is at his request and he is eager to be near us. The apartment is about five minutes from our house (ten if the lights are against us). Also, we are making progress on getting him signed up with doctors locally, both primary care and specialists.

There is still a lot of work to do to get him here, and we are traveling to see him (90 minutes to 2 1/2 hours each way depending on traffic) at least every other day and sometimes two or three days in a row. Handling the mental and physical stresses can be another subject of prayer along with prayers for dad’s recovery to continue.

Thanks, everyone, for caring about dad and our family.

Tim

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High School Tells Teen Mom to Choose Between Baby Boy and Senior Photo

[Updated from the archives.]

Caitlin Tiller worked hard to graduate high school early while caring for her newborn son, and when asked to share what is most important in her life she said:

“I picked my son because he’s helped me be a better person,” Tiller told Yahoo! Shine. “By having him, I grew up quickly but I learned how to be responsible.” (Teen Mom’s Banned Yearbook Photo.)

You’d never know it by looking in the school yearbook though. The administration said students could bring something that represents who they are for their senior photo. Apparently a graduating senior’s newborn doesn’t count.

On April 12, two days before the yearbooks went to press, Tiller received a call from the school’s yearbook adviser. “She said I had to take a different photo because the one I took promoted teen pregnancy,” said Tiller. “They called on my son’s birthday so I said I wasn’t available and besides, I choose Leelin because he represented what I’ve achieved in life. I said if Leelin can’t be in the photo, then I won’t be either. The adviser said, ‘That’s your choice. Then you won’t be in the yearbook’ and hung up on me.”

Her photo promoted teen pregnancy? Sure it did.* I bet there were a bunch of kids who would have seen it and thought, “If only I had a baby, then I could have held it in my arms for my yearbook photo!”

Being Held in the Arms of Everlasting Love

Leelin Tiller has a mother who loves him, and being held in her arms for her yearbook photo would have been a lasting memento of that love. The feeling of being held in the arms of a loving parent is a blessing a child can carry wherever he or she goes forever.

One of the amazing things about your relationship with God is that he is with you wherever you go, whether it’s a photo shoot or a trip to the mall or school or work or play. Wherever you are, there he is with you. The Spirit of Christ is with you forever and always.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. (John 14:16-17.)

God is in you, and you can’t get closer than in. No authority – school administration or otherwise – can ever separate you from God:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? …

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35, 38-39.)

God loves you more than you can imagine because that’s who he is:

Dear friends, … love comes from God. … [And] God is love.
(1 John 4:7-8.)

No one can take you from God’s arms of love. So if anyone tries to get you to give up what is most precious, your relationship with the God of love, remember that they don’t have the authority to tell you what to do.

hug

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*The article goes on to say that the school district’s Superintendent later told a reporter it wasn’t about teen pregnancy but a more general policy that didn’t allow family members in a senior photo. The Superintendent’s quote didn’t cover why Ms. Tiller was initially told they were concerned with promoting teen pregnancy.

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The Best Woman In My Life (plus update #5 on my Dad)

[For those who have followed the updates on my dad’s recovery and our plans to move him to assisted living near us (see update #5 at the end of this post) you know how much I rely on my wife. She is physically and emotionally strong, getting things done when I would have floundered without her. Seriously floundered. This post from three years ago when we faced a less dire medical emergency describes just how wonderful she is.]

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“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.” (Proverbs 31:10.)

“Do you want me to go with you?”

It was a simple question in a complicated conversation.

I’ll back up.

There’s been a lot going on lately. To start with, there’s work. My job has its stresses.

And as a few of you know, my father went in for heart surgery two weeks ago today. At 89, I’m just glad the doctors wanted to do the operation and not merely treat his condition medically.

Then there was the four-day conference I was helping to organize. It finished day before yesterday. I had two meetings to prepare for on the first day, and a class to teach on Saturday. Plus there were other classes and meetings for me to attend as well.

A lot going on, as I said. Pick any two of them and I probably would not be writing this post. But all three together became overwhelming.

I started feeling the stress a few weeks ago, I can see that now. That was when work started getting more intense and my dad was diagnosed with a bad valve in his aorta. I’d been working on the conference for months as part of the planning committee charged with creating a program of classes and speakers that would draw judges from around the state to one site for four days.

Then Dad went into surgery. The report afterward was very good, and he was discharged three days later. My sister was able to stay with him at his place a few nights. But then she had to return to work and I took over.

So on the days that I was supposed to be preparing for the meetings I had to run – paying attention to final details for the conference I was helping to program and finishing the presentation for the class I was scheduled to teach – I was now going to go out of town and stay with my father for three nights.

The stress came to a head.

Trouble sleeping, headaches, appetite off, mood changes, you name it and I experienced it in the week my dad was in the hospital and into the following week as I packed up to go to his place. The timing meant, in fact, that I was not only packing for a few nights with him but for the conference too.

And it meant a full week away from home, away from my wife.

“Do you want me to go with you?” she asked.

What she meant was:

Do you want me to get a sub for school this week?

Do you want me to stay with you in your father’s one-bedroom apartment for three nights?

Do you want me to come to the conference and be there waiting when you get out of meetings and classes and programs?

Do you want me to drop everything and help? Because you know I will.

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: Yes, oh please Lord, yes!

Actual answer: “Thanks, but I don’t think you need to.”

And what I meant was:

I know that as important as the kids at school are to you, you would tend to me.

I know you’d sleep on an air mattress on the living room floor with me at Dad’s place and never complain.

I know that you’d find something to do while I’m in session at the conference, and always be ready for me when I get out.

I know that you’d drop everything for me.

And here’s what else I meant:

The best woman I know is the woman I married.

So back to the question posed in the verse at the top of this page: Who can find such a wife? God can. Who did he let marry her? Me.

I am rich.

Dad in 2011

Dad in 2011

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Update #5 – Dad had asked before his emergency surgery for us to make this move happen for him. He is looking forward to being in the same town we are, and his new place is only a few minutes from our house. The staff there are wonderful and the nursing director has already met with dad and said he is a perfect fit for them. Plus, his new apartment has the exact same layout as the one he had for the last ten years. God  is truly at work as we go through this.

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Update #4 on my Father: it’s moving day!

Dad’s rehab stint will continue this week and into most of next week, if all goes as planned. Today we move apartments.

It took a couple of days to get everything we’re moving boxed and organized. If it weren’t for my wife’s extremely high capabilities I would have floundered. She’s great, and don’t let anyone tell you different.

The moving company has some of the best customer service I’ve ever seen from any organization. The three young men are cheerful and careful. They took one look at the apartment and said, “This is easy. We’re already done; you just don’t know it yet.”

Next is the 2 hour drive to our town to unload into Dad’s assisted living apartment. We want everything set up for him when he is ready to move in.

Please pray for continued progress in Dad’s recovery and for the logistics today and through his rehab. Thanks.

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What’s Behind Me Doesn’t Define Me

[It’s been three years since this one posted, so I have three more years of past mistakes. So do you. Here’s why that’s not as important as you might think.]

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Justifying Idol Worship

“To worship an idol involves calling something holy when it is not holy. Remember, only God can consecrate. … When a human being tries to consecrate what God has never consecrated, it is not a genuine act of consecration. It is an act of desecration. It is an act of idolatry.” (R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God.)

I remember vividly some of the justifications and rationalizing that my friends and I used to go through. No matter what we were talking about, if there was some doubt about it fitting in with God’s will it was common to hear something like, “It must be all right, because it feels so right. We’ll pray and ask God to let us know if we should stop, but until he does then it’s OK to keep going.” You can imagine how handy this became!

  • Getting a little physical with a boyfriend or girlfriend?

Just pray for God to tell you to stop if he thinks you’ve crossed a line.

  • Drinking a lot when out with friends?

Just pray for God to tell you to stop if he thinks you’ve crossed a line.

  • Planning on calling in sick at work because two tickets to a great concert just popped up?

Just pray for God to tell you to stop if he thinks you’ve crossed a line.

And until God tells you different, you can go right ahead with those plans, right? Yet I know these prayers are lame attempts to hide my plans from God, not bring them to him for guidance.

Sadly, this isn’t just confined to my past. I still find myself rationalizing away my decision-making processes. I am guilty of trying to consecrate my own desires, those ideas that I come up with of what I think is right, those priorities that I end up making into my own idols. Why call them idols? Because that’s what the Bible calls them:

“… your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5.)

These are the mistakes I make – I admit it – but I am glad to be able to say that my mistakes are not who I am. What’s behind me doesn’t define me.

What’s behind me doesn’t define me

What’s behind me doesn’t define me

Defined By Christ

You are more than the choices that you’ve made
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes
You are more than the problems you create
You’ve been remade
(Tenth Avenue North, You Are More.)

The Bible defines us like this:

“… you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” (Colossians 3:9-11.)

and, similarly, like this:

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28.)

What does it mean, then, to be defined not by where we were born or our economic status or our sex? It means that we are defined by who Jesus is because “Christ is all, and is in all” and we “are all one in Christ Jesus.”

You Can’t Get Closer Than “In”

You can rest for eternity on the truth that God has given his people:

“… glorious riches … which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”  (Colossians 1:27.)

Our hope of glory – which happens to be the present reality that we are right and righteous with God – is all because Christ is in us and we are in Christ. Seriously, how can it get better than that? Jesus is in you and you are in him and this relationship is God’s richness in your life.

And yet I still create idols, I still place things before God, I still try to consecrate what he has not consecrated. Why? It’s like Paul said:

“For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.  So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.” (Romans 7:18-21.)

If Paul hadn’t licked it by then, there’s no reason for me to think that I should be able to master sin. But that doesn’t mean that sin has mastered me. In fact, I take heart that it hasn’t:

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2.)

Freedom from sin’s laws means freedom from sin’s mastery over our lives. That’s what life in Jesus does. God never condemns a single one his people, the people who have life in Jesus. God always loves his own.

“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation … .”  (Colossians 1:21-22.)

From God’s point of view (and admit it, his is the only point of view that counts) you are holy, without blemish and eternally free from accusation. It’s as simple as that.

God's View of You

God’s View of You

Don’t you dare let anyone tell you different.

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Update #3 on Prayer Needs for my Father

Your prayers for my father and me and the family have been wonderfully encouraging.

Dad has moved to a skilled nursing and rehab facility where he is getting speech, occupational and physical therapy. There is a lot of work to do in order to bring him to a point where he can provide some of his own care, but he is not there yet. We have seen progress since he took a fall and then had the brain surgery, though, and hope to see more.

After rehab he will move to an assisted living apartment near us. We are traveling back and forth to the Bay Area to visit him and pack up his apartment (90 minutes to 2 1/2 hours each way) and are arranging for a mover to transport the packed boxes and furniture to his new place. The logistics are complicated by not knowing the exact timing of his being able to leave rehab and move here.

If it weren’t for my wife’s organizational skills and tireless ability to get hard work done I don’t know how I would do any of this. She is the one God has put in my life and I am so thankful.

Thank you again for your prayers.

[For those who would like to read the start of dad’s medical treatment here is Head and Heart at 92, the first update, and the second update.]

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Update #2 on Prayer Needs for my Father

Many thanks to everyone who has been praying for my father and me and the family. Please continue, and bring in others to pray as you feel is appropriate.

Dad may be moved to rehab/skilled nursing soon. He will need speech therapy, physical therapy and occupational therapy as part of his recovery from the blow to his head. (Here is last Thursday’s post on his accident and the first update from Sunday.) Prayer for healing and good care are appreciated.

We then have to move him into assisted living, which means packing up his apartment and transporting everything 85 miles to be near our house. The logistics are overwhelming and I am feeling a great weight on me.

Thank you for praying,
Tim

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Update on Prayer Needs for my Father

Thank you everyone who has been praying for my father and me and the family. (Here’s my post last Thursday on his hospitalization and emergency neurosurgery.) He has now been moved from ICU to a regular room. He is dealing with trying to recover from the effect of the hematoma on his brain and his preexisting cardiac condition.

We have a lot ahead of us still and need healing, peace and wisdom. Please continue to pray.

Thank you,
Tim

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Head and Heart at 92 Years Old

The 92 year old fell in his kitchen, hitting his head on the way down. A friend found him with a lot of blood on the floor. Head wounds can do that, especially when the 92 year old is on blood thinners for cardiac issues.

The ER doctor stitched up the small wound and ordered a brain scan. There was a small subdural hematoma, something to keep an eye on in the ICU. A second scan a few hours later showed it had doubled in size. The choice was to operate or to observe.

Observation meant the possibility – or perhaps likelihood is more accurate – the hematoma would continue to grow. Operating meant placing the 92 year old patient in high risk of cardiac arrest on the operating table. The patient said to go with the operation.

The operation came off well, but there was no way to return to the blood thinner medication while recuperating from surgery. Both the attending physician in the ICU and the neurosurgeon agreed it’s the condition of the heart that was now “guarded,” not the head.*

No blood thinners meant a heightened risk of heart attack for the 92 year old, even while being carefully monitored in the ICU.

Guarded Hearts and Heads

I’ve been told I can spiritualize anything and use it for a gospel application. The thought to do so with the story about the 92 year old came to me when my wife said, “The doctors are more concerned with his heart than his head right now.” She said this because the 92 year old is a real person who is in the ICU waiting for another scan to see if the hematoma has shrunk enough for him to be moved to a regular hospital room.

But I’m not going to spend much time on analogizing this medical crisis except to say that my wife’s words led me immediately to thoughts about how our own hearts and heads need to be guarded both physically and spiritually.

And then I stopped thinking about that metaphorical connection because the 92 year old is my father and frankly it’s been hard to think about anything but the physical reality of his condition – one that leaves the doctors using a word like “guarded.”

I’m praying for God to guard my dad, to heal him and to bring him strength. I’m praying too for God to protect me, because my thoughts can swiftly run off to dark places at a time like this.

My head tells me to trust God. My heart is full of holes and can’t hold in any trust.

But I need both heart and head to be sound and strong. There are decisions to make and a dad to comfort and support.

And prayer. I need to keep praying for dad.

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*“Guarded” is an imprecise term that “is usually synonymous with ‘serious’ and ‘poor’ ….” (What is a guarded prognosis?)

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