Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The five-day challenge

From the richest to the poorest, no one would question that 3.5 billon, which is half the world’s population, is a HUGE number. However, we may not all (all 6.7 billion of us) as easily agree on the significance of two dollars. Why? …Because half the world’s population eats on less than two dollars a day.

Two dollars? …Sound like a lot? Not to me…Which is why I knew I needed to do the challenge.

The challenge: For five days, eat as half the world’s population eats—on less than two dollars a day. For me this meant that I ate a small bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, a small bowl of rice and beans for lunch and dinner, and drank only tap water…for five days.

Focusing on the needs of the under resourced is not new to me. I’ve seen the pictures, read the statistics, and witnessed the need (aiding it when I could). For two years (just before I moved to Deerfield) I worked in downtown San Antonio, just around the corner from the Alamo. Every weekday I walked passed homeless people. I learned to pack snacks for myself and for others. Helping others is not a foreign concept…feeling helpless and in need of life’s basic necessities was definitely a new experience.

 “How does a person who eats such a humble and meager meal understand God’s love? “ I asked myself many times last week. I also had to remind myself that this challenge was someone’s reality. As easily as I choose to eat rice and beans, I could choose to eat steak and potatoes.

The challenge allowed me to stand in solidarity with my church and men, women, and children who eat meager meals every day. It provided an opportunity stand to beside God and agree that these men, women, and children are worthy. They matter. Bibles verses like the Isaiah 58:6-7 and Matthew 25:35-36 came alive.

Does it matter? YES. We may not completely understand a need or be able to name who is in need, but that is okay. God knows the need and the name. He accepts fill-in-the-blank-prayers as eagerly as we accept blank checks. All he desires is a broken and contrite heart, someone who believes that the need is significant and the needed is worthy...someone with a heart that is humbly poured out.

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
   and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
   and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
   and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
   and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? (Isaiah 58:6–7)

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. (Matthew 25:35–36)

Monday, April 18, 2011

A successful rhyme

This past weekend I did some Spring Cleaning or, in other words, I sorted through accumulated excess of dust, clothes, odds and ends, ect. It was a very accomplishing and very tiring task. As I sorted through all my stuff I naturally asked myself, “Just how did you manage to accrue all this stuff?!” Which is when I realized, I accumulate more than I need to ensure that I will never be in need.
For example, take my closet-full of clothes – ¼ of it I wear consistently, ¼ I wear occasionally, ¼ I plan to wear when the time is right and the stars align in perfect harmony, and the last ¼ I embarrassingly don’t know exists. Yet, I hold on to ALL of it. Why? Well, just in case…but of course!  If I give away a sweater…what am I going to do when my other two sweaters fail me? (Humor me here!)
Ownership is comforting.
As Jon Forman writes:
When success is equated with excess
The ambition for excess wrecks us
As top of the mind becomes the bottom line
When success is equated with excess
Success and Excess: The only similarity between these words should be their pronunciation, however we have ascribed much more commonalities to them.
To me, success is to not be in need. I have allowed myself to believe that accumulating an excessive amount of clothing will eliminate my need to further acquire clothes. I am not only comforted by my large sweater collection, but I am in control because of it! While this sounds like a wonderfully economical plan, my intentions are not kingdom focused. Living for the kingdom (God’s kingdom) means that you are not hung up on yesterday or tomorrow. My sweater collection makes me feel secure and ready for tomorrow. But, I think God would look at it and say, “Seeing as you can not wear all three sweaters at once, why not give the other two away to people that are in need today?”
Our Lord is called, Jehovah Jireh, God is Our Provider. Matthew six is not just a command, it’s a promise! God commands us to not worry about our clothing, or anything else. He invites us to make his kingdom our worry. And if we will, he promises to make our worries his worries.
Success and transgress: Now there is a combo that has more in common than their pronunciation. Yet it is only through the blood of Christ that these two words came together. Christ successfully removed our transgressions. And, if he can take upon our need to be pure and holy, can he not clothe us and feed us?
True story: I can remember a few days in March last year that I wore my winter coat (I was still living in Texas at this time!).  So you can imagine how anxious I felt when we decided to move up north (or as they say up there, to the Midwest)! Before I left home some friends from Texas offered to buy me a nice winter coat. But God asked me to trust him, which I did. I refused the offer and came to Deerfield with a very limited winter wardrobe. And lo and behold…I was abundantly blessed with all the clothes I needed to survive my first winter (which included one of Chicago’s worst blizzards in history!). God is good provider!
Matthew 6:19: Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also….And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ “For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The girl who cried coyote

The other day I was walking across campus delighting in the warmth of 40-degree weather (Yes, you heard right – de-light-in’) when my eyes locked onto a strange sight. It was a furry brown creature that was crotched under a tree. While I have noticed that the squirrels on campus are larger than average, this animal was 50 times their size. With a closer look I knew – this larger than life squirrel was a coyote crouching, preparing to pounce, and staring straight at me!

“Yikes!! Are you looking at me?” I feebly asked the coyote. “NO, Dummy! I’m looking at the invisible person behind you – Of course I’m looking at you!” the coyote spat at me.
I quickly glanced around, looking for a haven to run towards. Which is when I spotted two more coyotes in the distance. Yet, intuition immediately told me that they were phonies. Then, common sense told me that the crouching coyote was also a scam. This realization calmed my fears and drew laughter to my lips.

I continued my walk across campus, feeling safe and secure from all alarms. 

The coyote sighting reminded me of this bible verse, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

I wish I could as easily decipher the enemy’s dealings as scams like I did with the coyotes. Intuition and common sense spring forth from a heart and mind rooted deep in the promises of God. Wouldn’t it be grand to see Satan’s schemes for what they are worth.

The coyote was real – really fake! I have pictures to prove its existence - its real! Yet, its purpose could only be achieved by taking on a fa├žade - its really fake! The Word tells us, the devil is real – he really exists! But, we also know that truth only comes from God and lies are all the enemy can produce.

Sometimes the enemy’s schemes are scary…sometimes they are alluring. Instead of crossing paths with a coyote you could find yourself captivated by a beautifully fake plastic swan floating in water. (Yes, there is also a fake swan on campus! To give you some background: A flock of geese make their home at Trinity each year. While it sounds quite picturesque….it’s not. The geese are territorial and have been known to attack students. They also leave poop all over campus! To combat this problem our campus placed fake coyotes and a swan on campus.)

So I ask: God, why would you take a funny experience as this and turn it into a theological one?

Here is why….

Just as I laughed at myself for initially being scarred of the coyote, so should I have peace because my Lord is the one true God, and if God is for us, who can be against us? The relief I felt, the safe and secure song I hummed, should always be on my lips because in all matters God goes before me, and is with me.

And, just as humanity would never let me get away with claiming that the coyote I spotted was really real, so should I not stand for my brothers and sisters being led astray by the enemy. Reading the Word and living life with the church are great ways to ensure that Satan doesn’t make a fool of you and your loved ones.

Finally, while the enemy has more power than the coyote, I must remember that I am filled to-the-brim with a power that overcame the enemy (and the coyote)…the Holy Spirit. And as He stands in victory/ Sin's curse has lost its grip on me/ For I am His and He is mine/Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

And for you, I believe all of this also holds true. Lets quite crying coyote – praying for matters of this world – and get to work on God’s kingdom! 

-4/7 Update-

The geese saga continues....

Today while walking to work/class Jon and I were both pooped on! And stepped in poop! All within a few seconds!

AND the geese are swimming circles around the swan and playing staring games with the coyote! Obviously the story is out. These geese are no fools.