Social Justice

Project Intentional Generosity: FAILED

Over the Christmas Season I tried to practice what I called “intentional generosity.” It was about going through my daily life ready to give to whatever God prompted me. First it was putting whatever was in my pocket in the Salvation Army bucket every time I went in Walmart. At one time it was $50. Then it was about giving to St. Judes or whatever other charity I ran into over the Christmas season. Then it was about giving at the church to some things we had going. However, I believe the whole practice was a failure. Not so much in the generosity, but in the intentional.
I visited my normal Christmas stomping grounds; Walmart, Bestbuy, REI, And Dicks Sporting Goods. I kept my normal Christmas habits that drove me to busyness. I spent a great deal of time on Christmas sermon and worship prep. In the midst of all that I lost the “intentional” part of “intentional generosity.” I went around like ministry was just supposed to appear in my path – POOF!
Intentional is about an investment of time and energy to stray off the path to purposefully seek. Let’s face it other than a few “homeless” people with their “NEED HELP” signs I don’t run into on a daily basis – ministry. I have to invest time and energy to find it. Even if I keep my eyes open looking for ministry, I’m not likely to find in my normal daily routine. Why? – It’s MY normal daily routine, designed by my agenda. The “Intentional” part is about getting off my agenda and getting on God’s. So what does this “intentional generosity” look like? Take a look at the story from my friend Denise’s Christmas Eve.
“My Best Christmas Yet”

On Christmas Eve, unlike many people, I have nothing to do until late afternoon, so I decided that I and my girls would find someone to bless. We made a list of shut-ins to visit and headed out on our journey. On the way I stopped by McDonalds and bought 4 gift cards. The girls asked what we would do with them, but I made them wait for my response. We then headed to the dollar store and bought some kleenex, candies and breath mints. I had them make some goodie bags with the gift cards and several items that we had purchased. We tied them up just like gifts. I rode toward Englewood where I had seen a man walking several times the week before. The man was an older looking black gentleman, wearing a heavy coat and carrying yard rakes. I assumed that he was looking for work to earn money. I began to tell the girls about this man and as I drove slowly through the streets of Englewood they looked down each street to see if we could find him. We rode, and we rode, but did not see him anywhere. In my heart I was praying, “God, please let me find this man, this would really make my Christmas.” After we had been riding around for a while, I finally told the girls, “Well, I’ll just keep these bags in the car and the next time I see him I’ll give him one. It doesn’t really have to be today I don’t guess.” As I had given up, I turned left to head back toward Sunset Avenue and lo and behold – THERE HE WAS!, walking down the left hand side of the road. I was so excited!!! I pulled over and rolled my window down. Before I even reached for one of the gift bags, I smiled at him and said, “Merry Christmas”. His face lit up as he responded, “God bless you.” When I reached my hand out of the car window with the gift bag he just smiled from ear to ear and kept repeating, “God bless you. God bless you…..” As I drove away I looked in my rear view mirror and the man was waving like crazy and smiling at us as we drove away. All three of us waved back at him. This was probably the best Christmas Eve I have ever experienced! My Christmas was now complete.

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Our Watch

In the world of the ancient church, the followers of Christ would get news via word of mouth or letter.  The news at that point was more history than news.  Even so in Philippians 4 we discover that the church in Philippi responded with a gift to help the Apostle Paul in his sufferings and in I & II Corinthians Paul speaks of gifts that the church sent to help the poor in Jerusalem.  The early church responded to suffering even when the news may have been weeks, months, or years old.  How much more are we accountable in our globally connected world? 

Prayer chains are instantaneous with cell phones, email, facebook, and tweets.  Money can be sent instantaneous too.  Air and car travel are also quite convenient.   News travels almost instantaneously too over TV and the internet.   We can hear of travesties and suffering seconds after they happen.   My teenage daughters hear things before I have a chance to sit down and tell them.  How much more accountable are we to God’s commands to take care of the poor, the widow, the orphan, the guy in the ditch, and human? 

Our watch comes with high accountability, but it also comes with the greatest opportunities.  We can help stop human trafficking with simply making more people aware that it is going on in our world.  We can sponsor an overseas child and connect with that child via internet.  We can have partnerships with churches anywhere in the world.  We can respond to news of suffering instantly.   We can also be present anywhere and at any time.  The early church did not have these resources.  Our watch does!

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Spiritual R.A.D.

My adoptive son is intelligent and charming.   He is diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder (R.A.D.).   This disability comes from the neglect he experienced as an infant and toddler.  While he was not physically abused, his biological parents did not give him the appropriate stimuli and responses when he cried, smiled, laughed, and achieved other developmental milestones due to their drug addiction.  Therefore his brain did not develop connections and he operates out of three basic feelings; hungry, scared, and angry.  He does not have the capacity to maintain a real/true relationship.  He is the master of surface relationships, but as soon as the relationship requires something of him, obedience, love, forgiveness, and/or energy, he abandons the relationship.

My son knows what a real/true relationship looks like and he can mimic it extremely well.  The problem is as relationships grow particularly family ones, mimicking no longer works.   As his parents, we look insane, because he is so good at mimicking relational behaviors, but our experience is totally different.  We have to put all the energy in the relationship and continually reconcile and redeem him back into relationship, but our efforts might last for a week or an hour before he abandons the relationship again.  

I started thinking about this is spiritual terms.   We know what the abundant life and intimate relationship look like with God.  We want it, but as soon as it requires something from us we abandon it.  So instead of trusting God, we mimic what the relationship looks like.  We clean up our language and morality.  We show up at worship with our smiles and our best foot forward.  We say grace at restaurants, we quote John 3:16 from the King James Version, and we ban “R” rated movies.   We might even go the extra mile by attending a Bible study, helping at youth, or playing Christian music in the car.  How many times have you walk passed a person in need and God is screaming at your heart, “stop and help!” but you say, “I’ve got no time, it’s dangerous, and all I’ll be doing is enabling that person’s lifestyle.”  How many times has God called out to you during the day, “come talk with me, read my Word, and sit in my presence,” and you responded, “I’m busy, maybe later, I’ve got to take care of something else first, or I can’t understand the Bible.”  We are good at mimicking what the real/true relationship with God looks like, but when something is required of us, money, time, obedience, trust, sacrifice, and/or love we bail. 

My son did not speak to me all weekend.  He avoided me.  He chose boredom over relationship all weekend.  I spent time trying to get him back in relationship, but he refused choosing instead to refuge in his bedroom all weekend long.   Then on Sunday morning during “passing of the peace” my son walks right up on stage in front of the whole congregation and says, “hey dad, peace,” and shakes my hand.    That is a perfect picture of how our relationship with God is, surface and for show – perhaps we have Spiritual R.A.D.    Don’t we want more?   Don’t we want deep intimacy with the One who loves us more than we love ourselves?  Don’t we want abundance and the extraordinary instead of the mundane and mediocre?

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A21 Campaign

The last thing we think about in 2010 is slavery.  Yet there are more slaves today than any other time in history – 27,000,000.  Most are children serving in brothels.  All the sudden this is bigger than life problem and more than any one person or church can think about trying to make a difference.   WRONG!  I just wrote a few words in a blog and now you are aware of a horrific travisty that is happening on our watch.  Awareness is extremely powerful in our world wide web connected world.  Prayer is even more powerful and now you are informed to pray.  Tie fasting to praying and all the sudden you powerfully connected to God Almighty in the most intense way I know.  Then you can go to the A21 Campaign website for 19 more easy ways to stop this injustice that is happening on our watch!  http://www.thea21campaign.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=150&Itemid=308&lang=en

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got IT!

Denise Bissitte wrote the following story (testimony).  It is worth the read! 

 After dropping my children off at their respective schools this morning, I decided to treat myself to breakfast.  I deserve it – I’m a hard-working wife and mother and I deserve a treat like that once in a while, right?  I drive into the McDonald’s parking lot in my nice, warm car, wearing a lovely outfit (given to me by a dear friend), and my most comfortable dress shoes heading to work for the day – a job that by far is so rewarding in every way, with a boss that is far beyond measure.  As I drive out of the parking lot, I began preparing my warm ham biscuit just so in its wrapper so that I do not get my hands all greasy, and placing my straw into my large Diet Dr. Pepper.  I look over the my left as I am leaving the parking lot and there, sitting on the curb, is a man.  He is wearing what appears to be a yellow rain slicker, or at least it was once yellow – now worn, dirty and torn.  The term “dirty” does not sufficiently describe his clothing.  His head hung down and his hands were folded in front of him, maybe he was asleep, or maybe that was his normal posture.

I pulled out onto the highway and took a bite of my delicious ham biscuit.  For some reason I could hardly swallow.  It was as if the food was stuck in my throat.  I traveled on.  I could not get the picture of that man out of my mind.   How on earth could I be eating this meal knowing that he may have nothing to eat for breaking – for that matter, when was the last time he had eaten.  I traveled a little further.  I turned up the radio but the sounds did not reach my ears.  My mind was still flashing pictures of this man, and I began to feel a churning in my stomach.  I immediately turned on my left turn signal and made a u-turn on the highway and headed back to McDonald’s. 

I looked to make certain that the man was still there.  He was.  As I drove up to the speaker to place my order I questioned what to get the man to drink – coffee, soft drink?  Or should I just buy a gift card and let him go inside and order what he pleased.  How would the employees treat him once inside I wondered.  It was my turn – I ordered him a sausage biscuit, hash round and a soft drink.  Should I have ordered something different?  I kept second guessing myself.  As I paid for the food and sat it in my front seat, I began to feel nervous about delivering it to the man.  What kind of person was he?  Did he have some kind of mental illness?  Was this dangerous?

I circled around the restaurant and slowly approached where he was sitting.  I rolled down my window and placed his food and drink in my hands.  I said, “Sir” and his head rose to look at me.  His face, covered in dirt and filth, seemed to question why I was speaking to him.  I said, “Here is some breakfast for you today.  God bless you.”  He hesitantly reached for the bag and drink with a glimmer of a smile on his face.  His hands, if they had ever been washed, must have been a terribly long time ago.  All he said was “Thank you.”  With tears rolling down my face, I drove off.  I should have asked his name; would he have thought that I cared enough to know his name?

I wonder, when that man’s head was bowed, was he praying for something to eat?  Did God send me to answer his prayer?  If so, that was the best $4.00 that I have ever spent!

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Luke 10 Be a Neighbor

The Good Samaritan parable is interesting to think about in light of the question “Who is my neighbor?”  I think if we take a literal look around our neighbors are the people like us.   Those in close proximity to us who have the same property value, drive similar cars, and we don’t mind our children sharing the same school.   The literal look and translation of neighbor makes my neighbor easy to love, because they are like me.  The problem is that Jesus turned the word neighbor into an action.   Go be a neighbor.  Go have mercy and compassion on the people in the ditch, the people who have diseases, the people who are not like you. 

When Jesus changed the question from, “who is my neighbor?” to “who can I be a neighbor to?”  everyone I come in contact with I have the calling to be a neighbor.  Jesus commands us to go and do as the Samaritan who goes out of his way, sacrifices his agenda, and uses his resources to be a neighbor.   In this day and time our neighbors are not limited by location.  We are empowered to do this globally as well as locally.  The call to be a neighbor is now a “glocal” calling and we are empowered, equipped, and accountable to be neighbors to everyone who is hurting, broken, beaten, and left for dead.  It is a huge calling, but we serve a mighty God who came and rescued us out of the ditch.

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