Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Now We're Asking the Right Questions

It's not surprising this article from the Washington Post jumped out at me today. Finally, someone is looking beyond the surface of poverty in America, and asking new questions that can spark new answers and ideas.

I've now seen, through the eyes of my friend Angel, how poorly the "system" works. It is inane! Angle does not fit the normal "homeless profile" and neither do an increasing number of folks who are not keeping up with the rising costs of living. Gas prices, energy costs, food prices, and health care costs are rising faster than most people's wages. And those of us who have money and are not living at the poverty level are feeling the crunch of our higher electric bills, grocery bills, fuel bills, and higher prices on consumer goods. So if we're complaining about the pinches in our budgets, how do we think those who make much less than we do are surviving? Many folks are working full time, but are still not making ends meet. It is often not because they are over-buying or over-spending their budget. Our money does not go as far in the day to day of living. It is not just about "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" anymore. Many people are, but the straps just don't reach as far now. Working homelessness and poverty are real. So what are you and I willing to do individually to help change it?

The Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46 NIV)
31"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
41"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'
44"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'
45"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'
46"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

Bible Resources.Org

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Angel in My Life

About a month ago I was being my extroverted self and introduced myself to a woman at church who was wearing a visitor nametag. That was the beginning of an amazing relationship.
For many years God has been working on me, gnawing at me to look homelessness in the face. When I lived in Chicago it seemed like homeless people where everywhere begging for money. I walked past them on Michigan Avenue, drove past them on the Diversy/Kennedy ramp, and helped make a few meals for them at my church's weekly shelter. But God kept challenging me to see things differently and to do something more.
I've been given several opportunities to do more over the years, but have always come up short and found ways to pass on by like the priest and the Levite in Jesus' parable. So that Sunday morning when I introduced myself to Angel and learned that she wasn't just visiting from out of town, but that she was homeless, I decided then and there to stop passing by. After the worship service I enlisted some help and after a small flurry of action I garnered approval for her to stay in an empty home that the church owned, but would soon be renting.
The more time I have spent with Angel, listening to her life stories, helping her through the difficult maze of social services, and waiting with her for a bed in a shelter, the more I have been blessed by her. God is "growing me up" right in front of my own eyes. When I read some of Jesus' parables and the accounts of his healings I am awed, challenged, humbled and even ashamed because I know that I am afraid of doing what Jesus did. I'm afraid of putting myself in harm's way. I'm afraid of interrupting my schedule. I'm afraid of what my family or friends might think. I'm afraid of becoming the "hitching post" for all things "needy." I'm afraid I won't have enough to give. Thank goodness God knows better than I do!
Angel and I have had no reason to trust one another. But we have. She stayed in our home for a week until a bed opened up in a shelter. Now I'm still helping her "navigate the system" along with several other great church folks. But I can't wait to have her in our home again.
This is just the beginning of the story for Angel and me. I have no doubt that God will continue to shape both our lives, giving us many opportunities to minister to one another.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Faith Has No Boundaries

I've just spent the last week as the director of a Christian Sports Camp for Youth. Nestled along the waters of the Chesapeake Bay, West River Camp (United Methodist) played host to several camps all summer long, including our youth sports camp which also hosted over 30 Korean students and counselors. The intercultural exchanges were rich in learning from the volleyball court to the dinner table. As both American and Korean students shared languages, cultures and sports, a great commraderie grew and friendships blossomed. Despite differences in language the youth all found ways to communicate, play together, worship together and become a unique community.
During one of the hottest most uncomfortable weeks of the summer, there were many times when students could have complained or stopped patcipating. Fatigue, the oppressive heat, the language barriers, the cultural differences, the demanding schedule, the change in food; any one of those could have made most of us complain. But even with all those things to deal with, the students chose not to complain, but to perservere.
I believe that we can all choose to see things from a selfish position where we perceive we are being treated unfairly or poorly. Or we can see things as challenging opportunities to grow in our understandings of ourselves and God.
Over and over I was privelaged to witness students seeing one another through God's eyes and seeing that they had far more in common than they had different. They chose to behave out of faith, staying positive and supportive in some of the most difficult situations.
No matter the language, no matter the culture, no matter the gender, we can all see one another as sacred beings uniquely created by God. In so many ways we all learned that we have more in common than we have different. Our faith especially transcends all differences, helping us break down barriers or stereotypes.
Thank God for our Korean friends and thank God for the experiences and memories of an amazing week!