Thursday, January 29, 2009

Bookends for a God-centered day

Lately I have been captured by Psalm 92:2, which says, "[we] proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night." That is how I want to live my days.

Proclaiming God's love in the morning sets my heart and mind on the most important thing about me – I am loved by God. Anything that I do, anywhere I go, I am one who is loved. I don't always feel that when I wake up. My day seems to come at me fast, and it often looks to be more than I can bear. And so I must proclaim God's love, declare it, to remind myself that love leads the way into all that I face, and maybe, just maybe, I will remember that declaration throughout the day.

Then before bed, it's good to look back and see how God showed up, how He proved Himself good and faithful during the day. That's not always easy to do. Proclaiming God's faithfulness at night does not mean that I have had a good day, or that I feel fulfilled and excited for the next morning. Rather it is, again, a proclamation of truth that God has been faithful, training my eyes of faith to see God's faithfulness when my experience and heart don't. And it teaches me to look for God's faithfulness in the midst of the next day.

Training my soul to be led by love in the day and to rest in faithfulness at night is part of the work of remembering and believing, trusting the love and life of Christ.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Thankful for a dad who was there

Last week I went to watch two Glenwood middle school-ers wrestle, and I had such a great time watching them compete and watching them with their teammates. But as I looked around the gym, I was saddened by the lack of parents in attendance, particularly the dads. When I was growing up, I took for granted that my dad came to all of my basketball games, track meets, baseball games, tennis matches, and cross-country races (even as I sat the bench or played #3 doubles). I just thought that was what dads did (many of my friends had dads who did the same). Turns out, not all dads are there for their kids. Turns out not all kids are lucky enough to have dads in their lives. I left saddened for the boys out on that mat who didn't have dads who could be t here or who wanted to be there. And I left thankful for my father and his investment in me by showing up.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


As I talk with members of the Glenwood Community who go to Grace, two words continue to stick out in our conversations – discouraged and alone. There are at least four households from Grace who have moved to Glenwood for the purpose of being salt and light in the neighborhood. Diane and I moved in back in 2001, and for a couple of years, we shared our home with the Lewkowicz family before they moved to a house about a mile away in Glenwood. That was the closest we have come to having community in the midst of ministry here.
All of us who live here "on purpose" really desire to make a difference in our neighbors' lives. We have offered food and shelter to the stranger, befriended families, and even started programs that are making the difference in the lives of children. We know that there are others here "on purpose", and we even work on some things together. Yet we still feel alone and discouraged.
The model for ministry here has been "act first, involve others later." When Diane and I moved in, we asked other couples to come with us, but none felt called and so instead of waiting, we went ahead. I think that has subtly set a tone for ministry in Glenwood. Community has seemed like a nice thing, but it has never seemed as important as doing good things. We sort of hoped that community would form as we did good things together, but to take time to care for one another seemed to take away from doing the really important work of helping other people.
I recently skimmed the book of Matthew, and I noticed that Jesus didn't start many programs. He rarely appeared busy or harried. He seemed to eat a lot of meals with people, to talk with them and listen to them, and to love people in practical ways. He never seemed driven by immediacy or urgency, and he made time to invest in His relationship with His friends, who were also His ministry partners. The church in Acts didn't seem focused on running programs. They ate meals together, shared with those in need, opened their homes and seemed to sincerely enjoy one another. And it was contagious – people were amazed at their love for one another and wanted to know the source of that love. Community created hunger for Jesus just as much as good deeds.
God is stirring in us, helping us to see that we need each other. Not just to help do more good things. We need each other to speak life and truth and to pray for one another. We need each other to laugh together, to share life and meals. We need to operate as a team together and to make room to be together without "doing" anything at all. I am beginning to believe that I need to practice what I preach – community is key for life. Community brings life that can then be given away to others.

Friday, January 02, 2009

New Year’s Eve

I saw him cross the street and could tell that he was heading towards our restaurant. I thought I knew him from our church's Wednesday night dinners for the homeless, but I wasn't certain until he came in. Flannel coat, toboggan, scraggly beard, he was out of place in the posh downtown Thai restaurant, and I'm sure he knew it. At first I thought that he was coming in to panhandle, and I realized that I knew him not only by face but by name. Diane and I got up and went to greet him, and he smiled when he saw me and heard his name. He explained that he wasn't panhandling but rather had a cup of instant noodles and just needed some hot water to make his dinner. I could tell that the hostess also relaxed a bit, as she was not sure what to do with this new guest. I was able to ask her for the hot water, which she went to get, and as she was in the back, my friend began to wipe tears from his eyes, thanking us over and over for coming to speak to him. He continued to weep as she put the water in his noodles, and with a small hug, he was out the door and on his way to a shelter for the night.

I can only imagine what it would be like to need something as simple as hot water to make your dinner, and how humbling and even frightening it would be to risk and go into a restaurant to ask for help. Knowing you would be stared at by patrons, misunderstood by management, and in most instances unwelcome and uncomfortable. I'm so thankful that Diane and I were in that restaurant that night. The Lord didn't need us to offer him money or food, but simply friendship, relationship, and the right to be in the restaurant.

That same night another homeless man I knew by face (but not by name) came into the restaurant. He was asking for money, and he was clearly drunk and not wanting to leave. He wasn't angry at being asked to leave, just sad and confused and looking for anyone to help him. The hostess again didn't know what to do and was getting ready to call the police, so I got up again and walked outside with the man. He said he didn't mean any harm – he just wanted some coffee. As we were talking the manager came out and fussed at him some more and told him not to come back. I could understand where she was coming from, but it wasn't necessary. As we talked more, he said that he wanted coffee from McDonalds, and since there was not a McDonalds within three miles, I understood that he didn't want coffee, he wanted money to go and buy the coffee (or something else). I offered to buy him food at the Jimmy John's across the street, but he just turned and walked off.

Two simple interactions with people that I would not have known had it not been for our involvement with the homeless through Grace. The Lord has us on adventure of relationship with people from all walks of life, rich and poor, broken and put together, and life is richer for it.