Friday, January 30, 2009

Street Spirituality: Some Observations

The street is complex and is full of some of the most independent thinkers in the U.S. And the homeless I have known have mostly been the chronic homeless based in the Northwest. Thus, I cannot write a comprehensive theology of the street in the U.S. However, since such a project hasn’t come into being, I offer a few observational notes to begin the thinking of some motivated student of sociology or theology.

The Basic Theological Split:
There is a split on the street about God and spirituality. Some feel that God has rejected them, even as they feel rejected by the middle class church. For these, God is a non-entity, a reality that is not practical. Because all issues on the street are practical, about survival, then the unbelievers just don’t see God as being a part of their reality. They don’t usually mind that God is significant in other’s reality, but they don’t focus on God or spirituality themselves at all.

However, a large percentage (impossible to determine) of those on the street are deeply concerned with God and spirituality. They see God as being a part of their everyday lives and significant. Most of these are deeply committed to Jesus. The rest of the observations describe the spirituality of these God-focused street people.

About God’s truth:
True theology isn’t systematized—The real principles of God can’t be written in a book, or understood by words. God is best understood in the heart, not the mind.

Theology is based on the Bible—The Bible is used simply, without scholarship, and occasionally some passages are discarded. But spiritual reality must be based on Scripture. All we know about God and Jesus and the spirit world is based on the Bible.

Theology is personal—Although based on the Bible, theology is something one understands because God has revealed it to one. God speaks His truth and His moral code to each person in their heart.

Theology is practical and moral—That which we know about God is real because we live it, not because we talk about it. God helps the poor, so we thank Him when He provides. God helps the poor, so that is what we do as well—provide for those in greater need than ourselves. If we did not do something about our beliefs, they would not be real beliefs at all.

Theology is radical— Any spiritual principle is taken to the greatest degree, without regard to social conventions, laws or personal well-being. One’s spirituality and ethic code takes precedence before all other concerns.

About God:
God is loving—God sees all the frailties and sins of the lowly and forgives them.

God provides—God is the one who provides food and shelter to the poor. When the hungry are desperate, He provides food. When the alcoholic needs money for a beer, God provides it.

God is angry at the church—Should Jesus come to earth today, he would be cleansing the church. The church is full of hypocrisy. Especially the church will be judged for rejecting the poor and outcast.

God judges— God places a moral code within the hearts of each person, and if anyone acts against the moral code, God will judge them. This judgment could be a calamity that happens to a person immediately after an immoral act, or it might wait until after death.

Ethical Concerns:
Sins of the street—Homosexuality, not helping someone in need, adultery (cheating on one’s spouse or boy/girlfriend), abuse of the lowly (especially women and children), stealing from the poor, attacking without provocation, abuse of the dead, disrespect of a church, abortion,

Middle class sins that are winked at—Alcohol/drug use, defending oneself violently, disrespect to authority (especially police), defecating in public places, crude language, not keeping appointments, having a place to live, killing oneself through lifestyle.

Deep Regrets: Self abuse (such as drug abuse, cutting, suicide attempts), uncontrolled harm of a woman or child, not being able to financially support one’s children,

Religious Practice:
Religious practice is not centered in a church—Religious practice is mostly personal and is not connected primarily with a church. Thus, attending church services or participating in religious community is rarely a part of the street person’s religious practice.

Moral acts that can be spiritual—Recycling, dumpster diving, defending the helpless, serving a church through cleaning up, picking up litter off the street, providing food to the hungry, offering a cigarette or a beer to those who have none, participating in religious ritual (Lord’s supper, saying the Lord’s prayer, kissing a cross, etc.).

Prayer is a powerful act—Requesting a boon of God must be done with respect and is taken very seriously. Thus, it is done rarely, only in times of dire need. It is also deeply personal, something done when stirred by deep emotion and usually done alone.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Meet Styxx

Styxx isn’t comfortable with people, whom he mostly labels “idiots”. He has no patience with anyone who gets in his face, and anyone who abuses another he is ready to give a fist in the face.

Nevertheless, there is no one you’d prefer to have at your side when he is on your side. He is fiercely loyal and when he sees one of his own in need, he would move heaven and earth to help them.

He is a former meth addict, and still “criddles” any kind of electronics he can find on the street. Through this, it is noted that he has more stuff than most people in houses, although much of it breaks down every other day.

He is Steve’s security and clean up crew a couple times a week.

Meet Mike B

“Diver” is a local celebrity. He’s had a two page article written on him in the Portland Mercury.

He believes in community living and sustaining oneself on the discards of our society. He is a spiritual dumpster diver, and is mystical in his seeking and finding what is needed for himself and those around him in what is commonly called “garbage”.

One of the community was out on the street corner in the freezing wind without even a coat. He told her to wait for her and he came back five minutes later with a blanket, socks and a coat—all found laying in the street or in a dumpster.

He is also a dumpster guru, teaching others on the street his way of diving. He lives on the street sometimes, and sometimes at Pastor Steve’s house, depending on whether he is the radical Christian Diver, or is the addict Diver.

Meet Colleen M

When Colleen enters a room, everyone knows it. Often we can hear her coming quite a distance away. She is full of energy, full of emotion, expressing herself without end. At first, her exuberance is infectious and then she wears on one.

She tried to quit drugs for years, but found it difficult, for they helped her deal with her roller-coaster life on the street and in her head. Now she’s been clean and sober for months with the support of many who have cared for her for months. She is beginning to connect with her family again, who is welcoming her with open arms, and is living off the street.

The only problem in her life is her ex-boyfriend who had abused her in the past and is now stalking her. He doesn’t yell at her anymore, and he usually accepts her insistence that he leave her alone. Usually. Sometimes, however, if someone helps her out, he will threaten violence, slash tires or break windshields. So far, it hasn’t gone any further than that.

Meet Watchman

He legally changed his name to “Watchman” after he heard the Lord give him a prophecy that he is the fulfillment of God’s name to Ezekiel. He also calls himself “the Branch” and is confident that God wants him to be president of the United States.

He passes out leaflets against abortion and supporting religious freedom. Every few months, he would walk in a public park, nude, preaching to the people.

Lately, especially in the heat, he would just freeze for weeks “listening to the Lord”—sometimes stopping in the middle of traffic. He is often in the hospital, where he is cared for until he is self-sustaining again.

Yet for all of his important ideas, he sits humbly in a church, listening to sermons with only the rare response, then he will go and wash dishes without being asked.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Anawim in Hebrew

 


Leeanne put this together.
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Beautiful Golgotha

 


This was done by Yvan Strong of Prince of Peace and Anawim.
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What Is Community?

A community is a self-sustaining entity
A community is a collection of different ideals that coalesce into a whole
A community is an “us” that lives together
A community doesn’t always live in harmony, but issues are resolved for the sustaining of the whole
A community is usually recognized by other communities as being a unit—but even if it is not, it does not negate its viability.

The homeless are not a “problem”. The homeless are a community.

I’m not talking about the homeless who are out on the street for a month, desperately seeking a way out and then getting a home to their great relief. I’m talking about the chronic homeless, who seek to sustain in a population that denies their right to survive. They are denied who they are because of the prejudices that are forced on them. The labels “addict”, “lazy”, “violent”, “irrational” that are less likely accurate to an individual person, but is applied to the group as a whole without remorse end up causing the homeless to hate himself for being a part of what he is not.

The chronic homeless are not just outcast, they are an outcast community. The homeless have gate-keepers, who take the newbies under their wing, guiding them to the methods of survival on the street. They have leaders that keep the peace and determine the limits and allowances of their community. They have loves and hates, dramas and conflicts, resolutions and truces, hopes and goals just like all other communities.

Although the homeless are at the center of their community, they are not the only members. At the outskirts of this community, one foot in, one foot out, are the middle class servers of the community. They offer food, clothes, showers, AA meetings, sermons, temporary housing and many other services. These charity givers have different purposes, and have different impacts on the community. Most of them do their service, but don’t really want to connect to the community out of personal preference or even fear. Many of them have relationships with some of the community, but only out of professional goals, due to their job. A very few actually make the full step into the community and have personal relationships with the homeless. These are the bridges, the ones who see the community for what it is and who try to communicate this vibrancy to those who live in fear of the community.

The community also has its enemies. The city leaders who deny the existence of the community, and only see the homeless as non-citizens, roadblocks to the way of life they are trying to achieve. The police who move camps on, telling the homeless to leave their city. The young people who attack the helpless, beating up and even burning the homeless who aren’t on their guard. Those who take it upon themselves to throw away the camps of the homeless, including their tents, sleeping bags and personal items that cannot be replaced. The mutual anger at these enemies can also sustain unity, just as every other community.

I deeply regret what the community is not allowed. They are religious but not allowed a church, for they do not have the land in which to have one. They are hard workers but not allowed to be self-sustaining, because no one sees them as working unless they become a part of the community of employed. They are proud but not allowed to be respected because they are outcast. They are moral but not allowed to be legal because they are by definition criminals.

The worst of all, is that, for the most part, the homeless receive their community definition defined by the stereotypes of the threatened community—the middle class. They see themselves as a community of addicts, of the lazy, of the worthless. Not because the community fits the definition—almost everyone they know are exceptions to the rule of the stereotype. But because everyone believes of themselves what they hear. No matter how untrue it is.

Meet Watchman

He legally changed his name to “Watchman” after he heard the Lord give him a prophecy that he is the fulfillment of God’s name to Ezekiel. He also calls himself “the Branch” and is confident that God wants him to be president of the United States.

He passes out leaflets against abortion and supporting religious freedom. Every few months, he would walk in a public park, nude, preaching to the people.

Lately, especially in the heat, he would just freeze for weeks “listening to the Lord”—sometimes stopping in the middle of traffic. He is often in the hospital, where he is cared for until he is self-sustaining again.

Yet for all of his important ideas, he sits humbly in a church, listening to sermons with only the rare response, then he will go and wash dishes without being asked.

Meet Linda E

Linda has been through a tough life. She’s had a difficult marriage, had her children surrender to drugs and her grandchildren taken from her. She has been cast aside to live on the street a few times, enduring more than one winter in a tent.

She is called “Ma” on the street, and she acts like it. She tells people how to behave, and sets people right when they step out of line. But she loves Jesus, and the only reason she would ever miss church is to spend time with her 5 year old granddaughter.

She helps set up and clean up at church every week. When Steve can't be there on Saturdays she is in charge, making sure everything goes smoothly. She is essential for Saturday's meetings.

Meet Jimmy M

A self-proclaimed drunk, Jimmy certainly has an alcohol problem. Most of his alcoholic friends have died of liver disease or other health problems due to overuse of alcohol, but Jimmy remains.

Part of this is because of his anger at the police. Jimmy hates having people belittle him. So when Jimmy gets really drunk, he might piss on a cop’s car or threaten a security guard, at which point he goes immediately to jail for a few months and sobers out.

He never harms anyone, he is as gentle as a lamb. And every week at church he assists by carrying heavy loads or cleaning up. He also makes sure that every dog is properly cared for by their owners.

Meet Fred H

A sixty-something man struggling with schizophrenia. His “grandmother” and “mother” and “landlord” are constantly giving him rules for him to abide to. Couches are not allowed in apartments, he says, nor is he allowed to sleep on a bed. His Sabbath is from Friday at noon until Sunday night, during which time he cannot buy anything nor can he ride public transportation.

In the past, he would refuse his medication and then he would go on a fast that would last months. His longest fast was no food and only the barest water for three months until he was hospitalized for kidney failure. Yet, despite the many crosses and his lower-than-monastic lifestyle, he is the gentlest, most friendly man you would meet.

He is not a rebel, nor is he angry about the rules of his life. Rather, he is the best example of humility and joy anyone could find.

Meet Mike E

A carpenter, plumber, contractor and all-around handyman who lived in his truck for years. He became stranded in Gresham when someone stole his truck with his literal tools of his trade, worth thousands of dollars. He now lives at Pastor Steve’s house, getting a job when he can and improving the hundred year old property whenever Steve can afford the supplies. Always cheerful, he always expects that things will work out. He is currently working at Peace Mennonite Church, rebuilding about a quarter of their walls after pipes burst during the recent Portland freeze.

Meet the Anawim

We are the Anawim.

We are wounded, yet seeking God for healing. We believe with a fierceness and a tenacity. We know that without Jesus, we couldn’t survive a single day.

In our woundedness, we often falter. Some of us are addicts, some of us hurt others, some of us are mentally ill. However, even in the midst of the small harms, we carry great love. We have to help the desperate, because no one else will do it.

We live with great sorrow, but also experience great joy. We live our lives to the full, although many say that our lives are worth nothing. But we would say that a life of experiencing the heartache of the street and the isolation of mental illness, but in care of others and the forgiveness of Jesus is better than the mind-numbing lives of the middle class.

Even if our lives are a small thing in the eyes of the world, they are a shining twinkle in God’s eye.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Transformation of the World by the Meek

This is half of an essay from Michael Craven, of the Center for Christ and Culture:


Beginning in the first century, it was Christians gathered together into a community distinct from the surrounding culture that God used to bring light into the darkness. These communities adopted conduct and values that bore witness to God’s reign come into the world. Their lives, in community, radically challenged the social norms of the day. Jew and gentile, slave and free, male and female lived in a new kind of relationship with each other, in which those distinctions that formerly divided people were nullified in Christ.

These people established common treasuries, mandating the sharing of all earthly resources so that those in need were cared for. They did not take each other to court but instead managed their disagreements internally and disciplined each other for the sake of their witness. The church, throughout history, has been the sign of God’s kingdom that has come and is coming into the world—setting to rights what sin has set wrong.

Beyond being called together, Christians are also sent into the world to press and proclaim these kingdom values whenever and wherever they encounter pride, selfishness, injustice, suffering, and depravity. There is a social, cultural, and personal dimension to the kingdom that the church is called to represent and assert in the world. In addition, the church proclaims the message of the risen Christ as the only means by which one may enter and partake of the kingdom of God. When taken all together, it is the missional church as community, servant, and messenger of the kingdom that reshapes the surrounding culture. Compromise any one of these three expressions of the gospel mission and the witness of the church begins to fade.

Certainly, many Christians still embrace the responsibility to confront evil, but the modern approach—all too often—is severed from any demonstration of these virtues within a particular community that is not all that distinct from the world.

The early Christians did not succeed in transforming the evils of the ancient
world through political activism and grassroots efforts. They succeeded by first demonstrating a radical and ultimately superior alternative to the surrounding culture within their respective communities. The church was a community characterized by love—people who were, in the words of Stanley Hauerwas, willing to “risk being peaceful in a violent world, risk being kind in a competitive society, risk being faithful in an age of cynicism, risk being gentle among those who admire the tough, risk love when it may not be returned, because we have confidence that in Christ we have been reborn into a new reality” (Stanley Hauerwas, Against the Nations, [Notre Dame: Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 1992], 210–11). Hauerwas eloquently describes the upside-down nature of the kingdom, as revealed in Jesus’ kingdom parables, that we are called to follow faith through grace.

Historically, Christians better understood the implications of the kingdom—that following their conversion they were to live under the rule and reign of God and no longer for themselves.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Hypocricy

 
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A Very Brief Primer On Anawimic Theology, Being the Basis of All True Understaning and the True Good News To the Poor

Yeah, well, the title is longer than the post:

Jesus especially calls and ministers to the outcast of the world.
Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners. Mark 4:17

God greatly rejoices when a single one who is outcast from his kingdom returns to him.
There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Luke 15:7

The outcast of the world who are righteous before God will receive God’s greatest blessings.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:10

The righteous should assist the outcast in any way they can, even sacrificially.
Sell your possessions and give to those in need; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven. Luke 12:33

The outcast of the world who are disciples are to be held in equal esteem in the church as any other disciple.
If you show partiality against the poor, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. James 2:9

The outcast are to rejoice in their lowly position, for they will be raised up.
Let the believer who is lowly boast in being raised up. James 1:9

Friday, January 16, 2009

Disaster Averted

This was written for the PNMC Evangel

The problems begin because Portland is a relatively warm city. It rests in the Willamette Valley, and though the winds from the Columbia River Gorge often blow through it, by the time they reach Portland proper, they have died down considerably. This draws a number of the homeless to live in Portland, and those who grew up in the city who become homeless have no real reason to leave. Thus, Portland has about two thousand homeless people, as an estimated average.

So when Portland has almost a month of snow and temperatures in the teens, it may seem like a small thing to those outside the city who deal with such weather all the time, but in Portland, this is a crisis. The city was ill prepared to deal with such weather. As was the homeless. While the far majority of homeless have semi-permanent resting spot at night, prepared with tarps and sleeping bags, no one was ready to deal with layers of snow and ice with a drop of temperature to 15 degrees.

However, at the end of the crisis period, it is reported by the Portland Tribune that only one homeless person died during this season. And the main ones who averted a potential disaster in Portland are the churches. One of the many churches assisting the needy was Anawim Christian Community.

Right at the beginning of the bad weather, “warming stations” were opening up in churches. One of the largest churches in the metro area, Portland Foursquare, opened up their doors during the coldest nights to more than 200 homeless folks a night. Anawim also opened up a warming shelter in Gresham, on the east side of Portland, before any other warming centers were open for non-families on that side of town. John, a homeless teen in Gresham, reported, “If it weren’t for the church opening, I would have died that night!”

When many churches were closing down services, Anawim remained open. On the Sunday before Christmas, Victory Chapel, a local congregation, traveled through the icy snow to Anawim to serve a Christmas meal of turkey, potatoes and gravy. They provided warm socks and eight hour hand warmers to the forty people who came.

There were near disasters as well. Jerry, one of the homeless in Anawim, was checked into Providence Hospital for a spine surgery. A few days after his surgery, he was sent to a recovery center in a building providing housing for those on the street. However, he wasn’t offered help when he asked for someone to close the windows with the snow coming onto his bed. In his post-operative delirium, he took a number of pain pills and walked out the door. He was found by the police two and a half miles away, trying to dig a shelter out of a snow bank with his walker. The police brought him to Emanuel Hospital, where he is being cared for.

Another member of Anawim, Paul, was trying to get to a warming center, when he had a seizure due to a sudden stop of his usual amount of alcohol, and fell headlong into a snow bank. His friend, Rich, was there and called 911. Paul spend some time in a rehabilitation center and now he is healthy and ready to get on with his life.

The homeless were protected through this crisis because God led his Spirit to stir up the people of Jesus to have compassion. It wasn’t easy for these believers to take extra time amidst the difficulty the weather presented everyone, but with God’s power and the compassion of Christ, lives were saved and a disaster was averted.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The OTHER Kind of Breaking Bread

 


Mercy is in the middle, Nikki is to the upper left. Diane is at the lower left, and Yvan's back is to the camera. Al is between my daughters there. And Kevin is in the background. I'm sucking on my iced tea, as usual. Thirsty work, preaching.
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Serving Communion

 


We use paper cups!

From the Oregonian article on Anawim published today.
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Our 15 Minutes Turns Into 20

Today, the article in the Oregonian came out. Got a couple good photos, and the article was pretty good. Read it here before you read my comments:

http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2009/01/anawim_offers_solace_support_t.html

You can also check the "In Portland" section of today's Oregonian and look at it there. But on the internet, the pics are in color.

I was surprised at the quote of us being a "white, hippie church." Yeah, we're pretty much white, but I never considered us hippie. Just cause I look like a hippie don't mean that the church is characterized that way. Homeless is not necessarily hippie. We ARE, however, hippie-inclusive.

There are a couple errors in the article. Vikkie had been staying with us for four years since she left her downtown apartment. Near the end of the article is a couple paragraphs about "Brian Long" from Tampa-- but that's Mike Deserio, not Brian. Brian's a long term Portlnd resident and has never opened an art show.

The biggest error are times of the meetings. Gresham is all over by 4pm on Saturday-- we meet between 12 and 2pm. The 4-7 time are the hours for Sunday in SE, not Saturday. I think Jason got that info from the Rose City Resource, published by Street Roots, which has had the times wrong for months now. I gotta fix that.

One last thing. Beginning tomorrow a writer from Portland Monthly magazine is going to be following me around for a week or two. I'm a little spooked to have a stalker looking over my shoulder, but it's fine. Just pray that I don't make any errors in speech, or whatever. That's a long time to be "on the record."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Anawim Enters the Facebook Age!

Anawim is now a cause on Facebook, called "Anawim: Stop HOBOphobia!"

Check it out here:

http://apps.facebook.com/causes/191269?m=11d6211f&recruiter_id=12166095

If you aren't signed up to Facebook, then they'll ask you to do so. But, depending on what kind of person you are, it's a good way to connect with people.

Just this last week, we were able to get two volunteers to cook for meals through Facebook, so it works for us!

Parable of the Brokers

Once there was a brokerage whose owner told the brokers to invest in some high-risk stock. “It doesn’t matter which stock it is, really,” he said. “Just invest in the stock in companies that don’t look like they’re going to make it. Some of them will succeed marvelously, and we will gain a profit in the end.”

One broker in the firm denied to do any such thing. “I won’t fritter away our clients capital on just any old company! I will wait until the company shows a profit, then I will invest.”

One broker agreed with the owner and said, “Yes, what the owner says is correct.” And he invested in high-risk stock. However, when he lost a good deal of money in a dot-com investment, he withdrew and invested only in conservative stocks from that time.

Another broker agreed with the owner, but said, “The high-risk companies are best, but it is best not to actually invest in them. Rather, we should educate the companies, and those who grow will be those we invest in.” So he followed his own advice and educated companies to follow his own wisdom, and invested in those who already showed a profit.

But the owner’s son took what the owner said to heart. And while at first, the son’s investments were spotty, in the end, he pulled the largest profit. And the owner saw what all of these brokers had done. He demoted the first three for failing to do what he said, but the last, his son, he raised up to be a partner in the company. So it is in the kingdom of God.


Luke 14:21-23 Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.” “Sir,” the servant said, “what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.” Then the master told his servant, “Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full.”

Luke 12:33 “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys.”

Mark 2:17 “It is not those who are healthy who need a healer, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”



We are to invest our time and resources in the poor, the needy, the helpless and the worthless. God will cause the growth, and we will obtain the reward of the Father.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Pic of Diane and I

 



I think we look pretty "wide". And we are leaning. Kinda like we're looking at the Tower of Pisa and we really want to see it straight. Ariana, who took the picture, thinks that we aren't smiling enough. Not smiling! That IS my smile! What more can anyone expect?
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Great Pic of My Kids

 


Taken a couple weeks ago by Ariana Kimes, my sister in law in Lake Arrowhead, CA.
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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Weekly Tasks

A reporter from Portland Monthly asked me this morning what my typical day was like. I really couldn't say, so I was going through tasks I did each week. But I don't think I did well at that, either. So here's a list of things I do on a regular basis:

Read the Bible.
Dumpster dive.
Cook.
Write on my blogs.
Worry about bills or food or volunteers.
Organize meals and worship services.
Homeschool my girls.
Pray for people in Anawim community.
Make a sardonic comment about teenagers.
Watch a movie.
Study a book about the Bible.
Argue philosophy.
Listen to podcasts (especially This American Life and Filmspotting)
Distribute mail.
Collect donations from Fairview, Gresham and St. Johns.
Teach the Bible.
Read the comics.
Go grocery shopping.
Plan out new projects for the house or meals.
Shelter the homeless.
Reorganize and redistribute donations.
Attempt to sidestep arguments between community members.
Sleep.
Pray the Shema and the Lord's prayer.
Network with people who want to minister to the poor.
Make sure my family eats right (or sometimes just 'eats' is enough)
Distribute socks.
Make sure my son gets to school.
Translate the New Testament.
Prepare worship services.
Thank all the volunteers.
Meet new homeless folks.
Convince people to sacrifice their material goods for the poor (even if they're poor)
Be friendly.
Yell at someone. And then apologize.
Be generous with what I have.
Read a novel.
Wash really stinky laundry.
Spend time with my wife.
Read a book to my girls.


Mix it up, add Portland rain and repeat.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

My Best Friend

 


Diane and I had our twentieth anniversary yesterday. It wasn't much. We both had a lot of work to do, so we weren't able to spend more than a half hour together while I dropped her off at work. But we had a great time on Monday, reflecting on memories of the past 20 years and more.

Perhaps you've read my blogs enough to know that without Diane there wouldn't be an Anawim. But without her, I wouldn't be who I am. Twenty years ago I was a religious, judgmental jerk and without her compassion and insistence at looking from the other person's point of view, I would continue to be that judgmental idiot. She taught me how to love with patience and occasional irritation. But without her, my life would be radically different. Without mercy, without understanding. Honestly, without Diane, I wouldn't really understand Jesus.

She and I have been best friends throughout our marriage. Of course, often our spouse was the best refuge in the midst of the storm. We've faced through death threats, deaths of friends, rejection, mental illness (others and our own), hatred and teenagers. God has been with us, but without our human companion, it would have been difficult, if not impossible.

In the middle of complicated issues, we would take a break just by talking about books or songs. We have shown each other just how different the opposite sex can be, and yet we still stayed with each other. Developing trust took time, but we did it.

I laughed today when I saw the card she gave me with the title "Prince Charming" on it. That is about as inaccurate a description I have ever heard of myself, unless you are speaking of the weak jerk in Shrek. But I appreciate it, because it helps me see that she is just as blind about me as she ever was. Perhaps that is a key ingredient for us staying together.

Through all this, I love her and appreciate her more than she can know. I am not myself without her. Without her, I am only half of who God made me to be, and a small man to who I could be in the future. Thank Jesus for putting us together.

Are The Poor Lazy?

 



This is certainly a common idea: the poor are poor because they won't get up off their ass and do something about their life. People quote the book of Proverbs to confirm this belief-- that the sloth has poverty creep up on them. Of course, those who quote this about the poor are mixing up the cause and effect: The proverb states that the lazy man becomes poor, not that the poor man is so due to their laziness. In our society, many of the lazy can become very well off. And certainly the well off are encouraged to gain a sense of privilage and so become lazy.

In my experience, the poor are rarely lazy. They expend a lot of energy to survive and to meet their basic needs. The non-poor, on the other hand, take their survival needs for granted.

If the poor were given opportunities where their effort would accomplish just half as much as the non-poor, then they would work hard. Some poor work very hard, such as immigrants (especially the illegals) and the newly homeless. They work eighty hours a week, to accomplish the proverb that Americans love to quote: "Work hard and you'll get ahead."

It is when the poor realize the lie of that proverb that they give up working. When they realize that they are never going to accomplish their goals in life-- as small as they are-- because they lack that other ingredient so necessary for getting ahead: good luck.

Then you see the poor laying about with no drive to persevere-- because they know the drive has no means by which it must be accomplished. They lack hope.

If the churches and middle class created opportunities for hope, then the hopeless poor would again be ready to work. I have just seen a long term homeless heroin addict get an opportunity to work landscaping part time for a hospital. If he skips a day, they still keep him on. But the joy and hope in his life because he has accomplished that which was fruitless for so long is priceless. Just because of a real opportunity, with no strings.

So next time you hear someone claim that the poor are lazy, ask them if they have ever given the poor a chance to work.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Money and Ministry

"I try to give to the poor people for love what the rich could get for money. No, I wouldn't touch a leper for a thousand pounds; yet I willingly cure him for the love of God. "
Mother Teresa

The ministry we do in Anawim is so hard that you couldn't pay us for it. We work at all hours of the day or night, work some days until we cannot stand. We work for some who are ungrateful. We work for some who threaten us. We work to save lives that our society say are not worth the ragged clothes they wear. We work in opposition to many others in society and the church who judge those whom we serve with our whole lives. Because of this work, our health is weak, our spirits are broken and we are forsaken by those who used to be our friends.

What is this job worth? Could you pay us a hundred thousand a month, and it would be worth this work? Not a single CEO with all the money they receive would think it would be worth doing the work that we do for no salary.

Instead, we do this work for the equitable payment of God:
for the peace of Jesus in the world,
for the changes we see in previously hopeless lives,
for our own salvation,
for God's love to be known,
in order to change God's church to become a revolutionary power of love in the world,
and especially, so that we can see the earth become the kingdom of Jesus when God determines it is to be so.

Connection

 


Okay, I love M.C. Escher. But beside that, this is an excellent illustration of how individuals create each other.

Each of us are independent, separate, but at the same time, we are influencing each other, sometimes in insideous ways. The more we spend time together, the more influence we have, the more influence we feel. Eventually, we cannot tell what is really us, and what has been created by another. And the same goes for those we spend time with. They can't tell what of themselves is really themselves and what is us. Ultimately, especially in community, everyone is everyone created. We are all a part of each other, inseparable. And even if we are apart from our community, we bring that community to anyone and everyone we meet.

For this reason, the middle class needs to spend more time with the homeless. NOT so the homeless would be more like the middle class, although that would certainly be part of what happens. It is because we need to influence each other. We need to not just feel pity for the homeless, but realize that their way of life also makes some positive critiques of our own, just as the middle class can do for them.

But if the homeless never spend time with the middle class, then the two groups will become more disassociated, more fearful of each other, which leads to prejudice, hatred and violence.

Stop Hobophobia!

Get to know a homeless person!
Or if you're homeless, make friends with a middle class person!
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