Tuesday, November 24, 2015

receive what's in front of you

 “What you have made me see,” answered the (sinless) Lady, 
“is as plain as the sky, but I never saw it before.  

Yet it has happened every day.  

One goes to the forest to pick food and already the thought of one fruit rather than another has grown up in one's mind.  Then, it may be, one finds a different fruit and not the fruit one thought of.  One joy was expected and another is given.  

But this I had never noticed before-- that the very moment of the finding there is in the mind a kind of thrusting back, or setting aside.  The picture of the fruit you have not found is still, for a moment, before you.  And if you wished-- if it were possible to wish-- 
you could keep it there.  

You could send your soul after the good you had expected, 
instead of turning it to the good you had got. 

You could refuse the real good; 

you could make the real fruit taste insipid by thinking of the other.”

Lewis, Perelandra, p68

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

just pouring coffee

As I write this one sentence, at least thirty cars have driven by my house here in the city.   I take a minute to watch them, to wonder what conversations are going on in front seats, and where they are going. 

There is so much more.. everything, here in the city.  More lights, more people, more stories, more things to do, more places to buy groceries; more sirens, more emergencies, more reasons to lock the door. There is more beauty here than I expected. And there is more hardness, too. 

I've been asking questions, trying to get to know people here; questions like "How long have you been at this church? Have you always lived here? Do you have children in the school?" But I have yet to ask my big questions to these city-dwelling Christians:

How do you do live here, in the city, with all this human suffering at every street corner? And, how do you live here, with all the pizza and the neon and the nosie that distracts from the things that matter?

It is not safe here!
How do you live here without becoming hardened? or broken?

And I wonder quietly,
How will we live here without becoming hardened or broken?
My daughters and I helped out at a soup kitchen last weekend. My wide-eyed country girls handed out stale donuts and soup to people that smelled strange and acted strange, and, in some cases, had minds so foggy they couldn't even decide if they wanted coffee or tea.  As they looked people in the eye, they were exposed to stories they are much too young to understand, but they served all morning with nervous kindness. One woman demanded a bowl full of sugar, and they had to say no. Another cursed them for not giving out two bags of candy. One accused us all of being in a cult, and with burning anger called us "pathetic" as she took her hot food. Was she mentally ill? Had she been injured by church people in the past? I don't know. I just poured her coffee. 

Someone wantes us to post for a picture, so we smiled by the coffee pot, wearing our silly hair nets.  It felt ridiculous: like we were tourists, getting a peek at human suffering, collecting souveniers for our do-gooder scrapbooks.  We gave a couple hours of simple service. It didn't feel like anything that could remotely make a dent.

I poured a coffee for a woman wearing three winter coats, and she responded with an uncomfortable amount of gratitude. "Oh thank you so, so much; this is so good what you do here, you don't even know...  it's just so good, oh thank you, thank you." 

I was uncomfortable because her gratitude was misdirected. I didn't buy the coffee, or make it; I didn't arrange the meal, collect the food, set up the tables, organize the volunteers. I literally just poured the coffee; the coffee that was not even mine, and I handed it to her. 

But what else is there for the Christian to do, really? We pass along what is not ours. We take the gifts God gives us, and let them run through our fingers into the hands of others.  And so often it feels like it doesn't even make a dent.  But what else can we do? We keep on pouring the coffee.  And when the needs are greater than a cup of coffee, our hearts break a little, and we remember that we are not enough. 

Will be be broken or hardened by this place? 
It is not safe here.

Father Tom has been doing this for years.  I wanted to ask him how he has not become hard, or broken. He spoke to us all after the meal, describing the people they serve (six days a week!).  As his words showed us his heart, I saw that it does have broken pieces- how can it not after the time he's spent with the poor? And yet, he does not despair. He just keeps pouring coffee, feeding the poor, and encouraging others to do the same. 

It is not safe.
But it is not safe anywhere in this broken world. And we serve a broken God; God broken for us, who pours his love into us, that we might pour it out onto our neighbor.

I see this in the teachers here, and those who have served in this community a long time.  I see the beauty of the broken heart.  Hearts broken in loving service to the neighbor are also hearts comforted by the love of God in Christ.  

May He keep on breaking us that He may remake us, emptying us that He may fill us, and moving us with compassion that we may pour His love out into our neighbors.  All good things come from His hand- to God be the glory.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition orconceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of aservant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Phillipians 2:1-11

More info: Manna Meal Soup Kitchen

photo credit: Melitta

Monday, November 2, 2015

when the "adult" costume isn't fooling anybody...

“Seriously, boys? Can’t we just have one car ride without screaming?” Glare, stomp, pout. So often I act as if trouble is an injustice to me, as if I deserve a day without boys fighting and dumping a box of Cheez-Its in the back of my car!

In this life we WILL have trouble! On paper, I expect it, but when it happens to me, I am still surprised.

Imagine something with me…
Imagine, with a faith-filled imagination, guided by the words of Scripture:
Imagine God, who is and was and ever shall be.
And us, His children, lovingly created by His hand.

Imagine yourself as a squalling infant, welcomed, fed, and cared-for, yet fighting against help and fresh clothing and a mother’s embrace. Imagine being so confused as to cry about the chill of the waters of Baptism, to fuss in response to the gift of eternal life.

Imagine yourself now, not much bigger (in spirit),
still breathing grace, still surrounded by His provision, His gifts.
Imagine your life, sustained and growing, as a branch on a vine.
Imagine our vinedresser is our Father, who loves us and cares for us as He has promised. Imagine He seeks only our good, our REAL good, the kind that has to do with eternal things and not just having a pleasant uninterrupted phone call.

Imagine we are still infants in many ways, so little in Christ that we have to be told what is good and bad, what is poison and what is blessing. Just like a two year old will fight gravity, and lose, so we fight to avoid falling down on the inside, because we like to pretend we are adults, like we can do it all by our OWN selves. Then something minor, like a broken lamp, sends us into fits, and our “adult” costume isn’t fooling anybody any more.

Displaying IMG_0259.JPGI rage and complain because it’s not fair! My time is much too important to be dealing with all this stupid little stuff! I have a RIGHT to not be inconvenienced!

Really, self, do you?
Does the universe OWE you a day without someone stepping in fresh raspberries and leaving footprints on other people’s stuff?

Do you dare storm before the throne of God and scream that you are entitled to a dry toilet seat, and water bottle without floaties?

In this world we will have trouble. Though trouble is not good, falling down on our faces can be good if it helps us remember who we are. He is the vine, we are the branches. We do not control the weather, or the traffic, or anything else that matters, really.  Yet, we remain in His hand, and nothing can take us from His care.

Help us to receive this day as a gift from Your loving hand. When it is pleasant, may we thank you for your grace. When we face frustration, may we look to you for patience. Sustain us in body and soul, for without you we can do nothing. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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