Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Not my most encouraging post

After 10 years of living here, you would think that Diane and I would have a better handle on how to respond to crazy situations in Glenwood. But today was another test, and we left feeling helpless and confused.

Our neighbors (boyfriend and girlfriend) have been estranged for weeks, and last week we were awakened by a fight in their front yard. We had not seen the woman in weeks aside from that night, and then today she showed up on our porch wanting some water to take her medicine. For the next two hours, Diane and I fed her and listened to her cry, shout, curse, and pray. We watched her emotions go up and down and back and forth, and we heard things from her life story (past and present) that we had no way of knowing were true. Her side of the story with the man across the street is (of course) much different from his.

She has no income, no job, and her daughter (one of Psalter’s best friends) is now living with her godmother. All she wants, she said, is a place to stay for her and her daughter and the chance to get her GED. But how do you get a place to stay with no income? And how do you get people to take you in when you seem mentally unstable and tell violent stories of what you’ve done in recent weeks?

As the conversation continued, she said she felt like she was going to pass out but didn’t want to go to the doctor, and she stumbled across the street to her boyfriend’s house to break in (seriously – since she is a legal resident of the house, she could break in through a window and not be charge with B&E). She eventually stumbled back across to our house and lay her head down on our front porch table.

During much of this conversation, our kids were getting ready for a Memorial Day pool party, excited to go swimming for the first time this year, excited to go somewhere with us. And that’s where ministry got even more confusing. Would God have us cancel our plans and try to care for this woman (and we have no clue on how to help her)? What does it communicate to our kids if we drop this time with them in order to help our neighbor? When do they need to know that they are a priority over neighborhood ministry, and when do they need to know that sometimes plans get canceled to help someone?

We made the decision to let her sleep on our porch (she would not wake up when Diane tried to talk to her and neither of us felt comfortable being at the house alone with her), and to go on with what we had planned. I couldn’t help but feel guilty as we left, wondering if we were not loving her like Christ would, wondering how to balance family and ministry, especially a ministry opportunity that seemed so hopeless.

There is often no formula for how to love your neighbor, especially in this context. No easy answers. And I couldn’t help be jarred by the promises that our kids’ VBS CD sang to us about being able to trust God, all the while knowing the wreckage of lives within 50 yards of our house. It’s hard to reconcile the truths of my faith with the destruction left by sin in this world; hard to believe that God is indeed at work when I see so little change in those that we love; hard to see the limits on my own ability (and limits on my willingness) to love others .

As I said in the title, this is not the most encouraging post.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

If you made $100,000 per year….

And you gave 30% away, you would still have $67,000 to live on. That could fund:

$1000/month mortgage

$400/month utilities

$100/month cell phone

$700/month groceries

$400/month for two car payments

$500/month for gasoline and insurance

$500/month retirement

$200/month “fun money”

$200/month college savings

$100/month clothes

And STILL have $1400 left per month to determine where to spend. You could theoretically have all of the above and give over 40% of your money away.

If you made $50,000 and drove cars that were paid for, cut your mortgage, retirement, fun money, clothes money, and grocery bill by $1200/month total, you could still give 30% away and have all you need (and more).

And yet Americans struggle to give even 10% away. Lord have mercy on us for dreaming the wrong dreams.

(And I know I’m not taking into account taxes and health insurance and stuff like that. I’m just saying we could be way more generous).

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

The Power of Staying Put…. Again

I know I posted about this in recent months, but I wanted to celebrate again the power of staying put.

Last week an InterVarsity student that I had discipled all through college and had moved to Texas showed up with her husband. She said she had wanted him to see UNCG and they were driving around Glenwood looking at the new constructions and she thought, “I wonder if Marshal and Diane are still in the same house.” Lo and behold we were.

Yesterday a Glenwood youth that we have known since he was seven years old was walking by our corner, and we were able to call out to him and speak for a  few minutes. It was so good, yet so sad, to see him because we really miss him and his life had taken a turn for the worse. But maybe seeing us yesterday reminded him that we are still here, still able to be found, still excited to see him.

I’m reading The Wisdom of Stability by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and it’s impressing on me again the good of not moving up and moving on, the good of just being in one place and having deep roots. It’s a good thing and it seems to be more and more rare in our increasingly mobile culture.