Takin’ it to the Streets

e9eed-homelessYou don’t like the clothes they wear, the attitude they possess, the foul language or the abject poverty they live in. They aren’t like you. They aren’t like us. Who wants to hang around with people that we may catch something from. Who knows where they have been, who they hang out with, if they will steal from us, lie to us, maybe even soil our professional, untarnished, religious reputations…
I kind of like the way the Doobie Brothers puts it:

 

“You don’t know me but I’m your brother
I was raised here in this living hell
You don’t know my kind in your world
Fairly soon the time will tell
You, telling me the things you’re gonna do for me
I ain’t blind and I don’t like what I think I see
Takin’ it to the streets

Take this message to my brother
You will find him everywhere
Wherever people live together
Tied in poverty’s despair
You, telling me the things you’re gonna do for me
I ain’t blind and I don’t like what I think I see

Takin’ it to the streets”

Love belongs in the streets. If we know Love, and truly express Love, we go where it is needed most. We go where He is needed most. The very embodiment of Love.

Times are tough, life is tough, the economy is tough, stress is high and so people get higher to get away from the hopelessness of it all. It follows them… Hope may be lost, the future bleak so just take it one day at a time cause there isn’t anyone who really cares. One foot in front of another. But there is someone who cares – God cares. And if we care about God we will care about his children and show it in the streets. We will show it to those who need it the most. Out of our comfort zones and into the Jesus zone. We will do it to the, “least of these.”

God wants us to make a difference in the hell someone else is living in.  Sometimes it is helping with practical needs by putting food on a table or heat in a cold home. Sometimes it is by being a friend and a friend can introduce heaven into the hell of loneliness and isolation. Sometimes all that depression needs to back off is for another person to care. Take it to the streets; proclaim the good news.

“The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.”  Matt. 11:5

Do My Clothes Look Dirty to You?

They were clean.

They wore beautiful robes, full of color and adorned with decorative tassels; impeccably put together, everything about them shouted proper, righteous, and good. They had really clean hands.

The others in the community revered them and treated them with honor, especially when they were given the respected position of entering into the Holy of Holies.  They were chosen; their lineage was from the great ones. No one could ever converted into acceptance by God. You were chosen – or not. They had political and social power with the ability to make a difference for their people. Or so they thought. They practiced all the religious rituals necessary for redemption passionately. The law was their rule and they never broke it in their fervor for serving God.

They favored the rich over the poor for the rich proved God’s favor was upon them.

This often carried over in their ability to affect the needy – a preference for those with wealth and power didn’t help the cause of social justice so why bother.

There was another sect that didn’t focus as much on the rules but included social justice in their works and they were willing to accept those who converted into their fold. But convert they must. They were a slightly more liberal version and the ones most likely to listen to the stories told by the stranger who traveled through occasionally.

Pharisees.

He was dirty. His robes carried the dust of travel and sleeping by the side of the road. Mostly, the grime from children was smudged into the folds, along with the rancor of the rotting flesh of the lepers. He broke the rules – all the time. He hung out with the wrong people – the outcasts, the poor, the homeless, and enemies. Women. His hands were dirty.

He was more interested in social justice and helping the needy than following man’s traditions and laws. He was not held in esteem but often ridiculed by those who knew his story, his heritage, and where he came from. He welcomed everyone and no-one had to be converted; they just had to follow him. He taught them with authority, and love. He healed them. He fed them. He loved them. He was their friend.

He was not permitted into the Holy of Holies like the others – nowhere near it.  Instead he removed the barrier that kept them from speaking to God themselves by the ultimate sacrifice. He was loved for it. He still is.  He was hated for it. He still is.

Jesus

I hope those who know me see me in dirty clothes.

“At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split.”  Matthew 27:51

Note: When the curtain was torn at the moment of Christ’s death, the Holy of Holies was exposed, opening up the way to God and His mercy, directly through Jesus.

Heaven is Waiting, Hell Kicked You Out

DoorThere are a lot of things floating around the internet today about a particular Christian ministry closing its doors. Times like this the negative is publicized much more than the good. For some reason people seek opportunities to put others down rather than build them up. It makes us feel bigger or more important to be right rather than to be righteous. I don’t know much about the ministry so I don’t have much to comment. I do give the people in the organization credit for being brave enough to start the ministry, and for the courage it took to repent of any wrongdoing. Sometimes we are simply damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

I don’t like to debate anymore over things that I have little knowledge of – they simply don’t matter. Social justice, care-giving, family, love – the love of Jesus is my primary focus. I am more worried about my own life and heart – first.  I have experienced the ugly defensive, opinionated, them against us side of humanity as both a perpetrator and a recipient far too often, and I would be a liar to say I still don’t have moments when I am hurt or rejected. But God is doing a work of grace in me, and I recognize it’s fully my issue, not the sucker whose ideologies I felt I needed to bash. I believe there is a Person and thing called Truth – but I believe that the things called Love and Grace are the foundation to Truth. You can’t live Truth without Love. You can’t love without grace. The Law of Christ – love God and love your neighbor. (Gal. 6:2, Mk.12:28)

Jesus has been misrepresented a lot. He was blamed for the Crusades and the Holocaust. He gets blamed for wealthy fat cat televangelists, and name it and claim it pastors who get rich off the vulnerable; he at fault for the worldwide famine. He gets blamed for tornadoes, floods, fires, and earthquakes, and the people who died as a result. He gets criticized when I make a mistake, or any human being does in His name to wrongly accuse, judge or hurt another. Rarely is he given the credit for those who were saved from death, or the poverty that is alleviated as a result of people doing God’s work. Rarely is He appreciated when a life is changed and the person changed is happier, healthier and at peace as a result. Rarely is He given credit when I do good in His name and I am thanked for it, or when I gave him credit for the actions and behavior of my eight successful, well behaved children.  I give Him credit, but it is most often given back to me.

There will always be people who do wrong in the name of Jesus making  the name “Christian” or “Christianity” appear like “hell” is for the good guys because “heaven” is filled with hypocrites.  That’s not Jesus. Jesus was simple and spoke a simple word. He walked around in a robe and sandals without owning his own – anything. He fed, healed, taught and loved all those His shadow fell upon– sinner and saint.  The only people He got angry with were the religious leaders of his time – the loud obnoxious opinionated who stood in places of authority throwing around words of condemnation instead of words that brought Life. Not the hurting. The hurting He loved into lasting life changes; He loved them into the Kingdom.  If only we did the same.

“In these days of difficulty, we Americans everywhere must and shall choose the path of social justice…, the path of faith, the path of hope, and the path of love toward our fellow man.” Franklin D. Roosevelt

If only…

Deep Calls to Love, Love Calls to Grace

Image

Dear God,

I want to thank you for my family.

We thought six, but no more; you knew we needed an extra four.

Two for you and two for us, forcing us to trust in the One

who knows what it is like to lose a child.

They didn’t suffer but your Child did.

Thank you for Love.

I called for love, love called to grace, and you gave me Dave

To show me you.

Thank you for grace.

Many times I’ve wanted to curse you but,

Deep called for love and love called to grace.

Thank you for Dave.

Your ways are hard to understand, unfathomable.

I am humbled by your grace.

Deep called for love, love called for grace.

Grace answered.

Silent in the Storm

IMG_1523As the clean up for tornadoes OK and other areas continues, and the threat of tropical storms and hurricane season is plaguing previously (and currently) displaced homeowners in the Northeast, I keep thinking about Elijah on Mt. Horeb. I know what it is to feel exhausted of working full time “for God,” placing all hope in the mercy of God, while at the same time reacting (and over-reacting) to the natural events around us – going backwards instead of forwards in our work. Last year was tough in the events of life, but great in the post event growth that we always hope God will work in and for us during the difficult times.

Elijah knew what that felt like – we can’t argue Elijah’s commitment to God or God’s commitment to him and yet we see Elijah’s post traumatic stress reaction while hiding in the cave (I Kings 19:10), “I’ve been working my heart out for the God-of-the-Angel-Armies, [while others have abandoned you]…I’m the only one left and now they are trying to kill me…”

Alone. Abandoned. Isolated. Rejected. Stressed. Overwhelmed. Depressed. Did I say feeling alone? I can’t begin to imagine what Elijah must have felt like as he sat hiding in that cave. I bet he had one wicked stress headache. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – send the angel first – basic needs met – bread baking on the coals, water, and sleep. Check. Now, get up and work. A bit more rest… Still afraid, but moving forward.

And God showed up – not in the terrifying events but in the gentle whisper. Not in the earth-shattering, but in the easy movement. Not in the heat, but in the cool breeze. He showed up despite Elijah’s hiding. He used him anyway. He uses us in our weaknesses. He will be looking for those in the tornado, the floods, and the fires who want to be used – not despite their pain, but because of it. Works of art – woven tapestries of grace complete with scars from where the blanket has been used to keep others warm – maybe even a stain where the wound of another bled onto us and left its mark.

I am waiting for the cool breeze right now. I have been without earth-shattering for at least a few months now, but the breeze still hasn’t blown. Sometimes hearing His voice requires we step out into the flames again, through the falling boulders and brace ourselves against the wind to find the cave where we can be still, and listen.  I know I need a cave right now – I need to get past an “I’m the only one left” moment to hear Him tell me where I am to go next.  In the mean time I will keep moving forward – trusting that I am on the right path and that each life I touch is the one Starfish sent from God – whether that be in Oklahoma, Staten Island, Haiti or the next room.

I can smell the break baking. I’m ready to roll.

Note: You can learn more about what it is I do on the About Me page. Maybe you will want to use your wounds to blanket someone. If so, I am more than happy to help point you to the baking bread and jug of water.

 

The Unwelcome Guest

Elijah - cockyHe came into the house and said he had a gift for us. He was going to pay off our home, our car, any bills we had, and give us enough money to have financial freedom for the rest of our lives. We wouldn’t be rich, but we would be stable, maybe even enough to go on a vacation once a year, or possibly the honeymoon we never had. The other guests in the house were in awe – I mean everyone wants a million dollars, financial freedom or, “a 100 pound bag of money” as Dave is known to say when he is asked, “What can you use?”

The guests all threw open the doors and welcomed him in, this bearer of great tidings. It’s not like we don’t have food on the table and the basic needs for life – we do. This was going to be a tremendous blessing to us and our friends wanted to share in the wonderful news….

He was wearing trendy clothes and carried himself in a way that shouted confidence. Charm. Charismatic in his speech, we were mesmerized by his words. Just being in his presence produced a captivating energy and you caught it like you would a fly ball. The guests hung on every word and tried to re-position themselves to get closest to him – straining to hear his smooth talk and promises of the good life free of worry and pain.

Someone in the room finally asked him his name and he replied, “Grief.” Immediately people began to shift uncomfortably.  As he continued to speak, the clothing he was wearing changed before our eyes into rags, his countenance became one of uncertainty, and his speech became slower, rhythmic, with a mournful tone. The person next to me began to edge further away and I caught the others attempting to non-nonchalantly place some distance between Grief and themselves. I witnessed Grief’s eyes get dark and cloudy. “Oh no, he isn’t going to cry is he?” I could sense the thoughts of those around me as the silence grew and the space between the guests and Grief grew larger.

And then we were alone. Grief and I. I stood staring him in the face wondering why I alone was left to face him. “Not me. Please not me.” Shoulders sagging he turned around to walk away and then I noticed it – the burden on his back dragging him almost to the ground with the weight of it. “Wait” I cried, “please let me help you.” Little by little I began to share his burden all the while thinking about those who had quickly left. If only they had stayed to carry just a little bit of weight, it wouldn’t be so heavy for him. But everyone has their own burdens and Grief seems to difficult to befriend. His clothes are messy, he is dirty, disorganized, and is filled with pain. He depletes the energy of those around him.  His words are not smooth and often just plain ugly. His background is strange and his perspective distorted. Grief lives in the dry barren places where no one wants to visit, let alone dwell.

As I continued to remove some of his burden by listening to his heavy words, I noticed Grief was able to hold his shoulders a bit higher now and his eyes seemed less cloudy. Somehow the weight I was taking upon myself didn’t feel as heavy as I expected my portion to be. He gazed at me. “I’m sorry you have to go through this,” I stated. He took my hand in His and that’s when I saw it. A gaping jagged hole in his wrist, and scars on his forehead as if they had come from thorns. I looked down and saw his feet where the blood was dripping – and I knew.

 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matt. 25:40

Tears formed in His eyes and I heard in my heart the words, “Thank youtree.”

I looked at my clothes and instead of being messy as I was expecting they were new, freshly pressed, and so very clean. He looked at me one last time as he disappeared the way he had come but he looked a bit more confident again, and I knew he felt better. He still had a long way to travel and the road would be hard, but he wasn’t alone in his journey. Most surprising of all – my heart was a bit lighter too.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Gal. 6:2

Note: Grief is messy but those experiencing loss, depression, or a simply a tough time in life, need to know it’s OK to grieve, and you will be with them. You help by simply being there. Cliches and empty promises, trying to make things better, often only make the situation much worse. A hug, a touch, a simple, “I am sorry you have to go through this.” are all you need to say – or say nothing at all. Follow up with them, don’t assume they are over it. Or if they pull away make sure they are OK.

Feel free to email me for grief resources if you need them. By simply bearing some weight, you will help them to find the hills again. “Love doesn’t try to make others better but to love them into a better place.” JG.

Saturday Nights All Right for Dancin’

dancing before the lordDave and I went out to an open microphone night at the local coffee house that our son works at. It was fun. We laughed. We chatted, we laughed some more. Sometimes life seems too routine; life is so filled with work and struggle we can forget what it is to laugh – to have fun – to be young. The reality of it is – it is a lot easier to have fun when the cash flows. When you have bills to pay and responsibilities, you just can’t go out and feel responsible if you spend money on frivolous activities. Or can you?

Life is life. Sometimes you have to look life in the face and say, “You can’t beat us! We will remember an easier time!”  Dave and I used to laugh – we used to have so much fun. Our home was known as a place of laughter – from games and bonfires, to sleepovers and movie nights, we had fun.  With our kids, with college kids, with friends and other families, we laughed and laughed some more.

It is a religious facade people wear when they to  lose the appearance of fun in life. It is a lack of grace to forget how to laugh at ourselves when times get rough or we act stupid. Somehow being “holy” means you forget how to laugh, eat, drink, and be merry. Really? Jesus turned the water into wine at the wedding of Cana and saved the best until others were, “well drunk.” Hmm. Were they having fun at that wedding? Maybe partying a bit in the joy of the glorious event that a marriage feast is supposed to be? I am not advocating drunkenness, but joy. Joy in the moment. Joy in the event. Joy in life despite the odds. Celebrating the good things in life. Celebrating love.Celebrating our Lover who changed water into wine.

People are hurting all over the country tonight – all over the world. Even in my own family hearts are breaking as I write.  The poor will always be with us, the weak, the despised, the downtrodden, the hurt and the lonely. Always. We need to remember that we will sit down at a wedding feast some day with our Beloved. We need to remember to toast that today while we still breathe in this mortal reality we are maintain! We need to live fully while we are alive.

I love my husband, I love my kids. Life is hard but life is good. We know how to have fun. We just need to remind ourselves sometimes despite the odds, it’s OK and life is good.

It is Saturday night and my dance partner is waiting for me with a great twinkle in his deep blue eyes. It is great to be reminded that Saturday night is for dancing. Saturday night belongs to my beloved and he is mine.

II Sam. 6:14 “Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the LORD with all his might…”

 

Coffee and Confidence (Friendship Pt. 2)

Fall 09 456When you start to admit publicly you were part of a cult, you definitely have moments of insecurity. I have been told occasionally that I can be “intimidating.” I can only assume that when I was young I wore a mask to cover up my insecurities, and that the mask became a part of my reality. I don’t wear a mask – I am often too transparent, (um yeah – this blog) but confidence has become a part of who I am. Sometimes.  In myself I am nothing, but to my good Friend I am everything. It sure helps to have friends who thinks you are awesome,  and who you can run to when you admit the utterly, unbelievably ridiculous, mistakes of your past. (Especially if some of your kids don’t see it that way yet.) It becomes even more vital when those mistakes were made by the influence of people who said they had the same Friend! I am so glad I have gotten to know Him well enough to trust His advice and not all the others. Many people don’t have a clue what real, unconditional friendship means, but he does. He is teaching me and on some days I can even grasp it enough to love some others.

The other day when I attended a local bible study for the first time, I was feeling anxious to be starting over again – wondering if I would find real friendship there. I have been in this place a year and don’t have much of a social life – old age and mistakes of the past (even recent past) has made me a bit gun-shy, and weary of the motives of some individuals. I am even more weary of all the moves over our lifetime and starting over again…and again… and again…<big sigh>  But as I settled in with this new group of ladies who seem to have the same Friend,  I began to relax and enjoy myself.

Then it was over, and a dark cloud descended upon me- uncertainties – I don’t even really understand where they came from or what they were about. I felt utterly alone and had to keep from crying on the ride home. Starting over, again.

In this swiftly approaching storm cloud all I could do was bask in the presence of the One Friend who brings Sonshine. The One who I knew would hug me, tell me to look up, and slap me on the back, “Get over it Jamie, it’s OK, you did fine. When are you going to remember how much I love you? You are perfect to me. The best friend I could ask for!”  Wow. Perfect. He sees me as I will be, not as I am.

“I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.”

It is awfully nice to have a Friend who rules the universe. Booyah! And so I am sharing a love poem I wrote for my friend. 

Friendships

I enter the room.

Darkness binds me.

Light unties the knots.

Is there really Love in this place?

Unmasked,

Vulnerable.

Time to leave.

Darkness follows me.

Uncertainty.

Love embraces.

He is here.

Light overcomes

the darkness.

My Friend.