Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Read a Great Book Today

I began reading a fascinating book today.  It's been on my reading list for awhile, but when I discovered that it was required for one of my classes, I knew that the time was now! 

The book is "Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical" by Shane Claiborne.  This young man is doing things in the world that I will never be able to imagine or begin to duplicate.  He has chosen to live as a Christian ... full-out, with no reservations. 

In college, he chose to help a group of homeless families who were shacked up in an abandoned Catholic cathedral in Philadelphia from eviction.  When the Archdiocese tried to evict, he and a group of others became radically involved with these people stopping the eviction for quite sometime, until they had all found other places to live.  He called Mother Teresa from his dorm room and managed to get himself to Calcutta for a summer, living among the poor and the lepers.  He finds his friends among the homeless on the streets, choosing to be with them rather than hanging out in clubs.

And now, he is actively involved as an ordinary radical, living a rather communal life with others as they live out their Christianity among the homeless and those that are in need.  More and more of these communities are coming to life across the country as people shed their materialism, their status seeking and their limited idea of what the church should look like. 

One of the statements that absolutely skewered me was that Christians are afraid to read the Bible because they are afraid that it will change them. 

Is that right?  Are we so afraid of what the Bible will call us to do that we avoid really reading it - only choosing to read the things that seem safe or that we can justify? Do we create a padded world to live in that allows us to avoid the real needs around us?

Claiborne doesn't accuse Americans of not caring about the poor, he simply says that Americans don't know the poor.  And he's right. 

Those that we know, we care for.  But if we don't know them ... we can pretend like they don't exist.  How in the world can you allow poverty to happen to your friends?  You simply can't.  You will do anything possible to help them.

In the middle of this, I watched a conversation happen on one of my class forums.  A woman was talking about this immense home that she owned and had been trying to sell for years.  She could not manage to get it to sell.  Then, Hurricane Katrina hit and the refugees began pouring out of New Orleans.  She lives in Florida and many families came to their church for help. 

There she was with a huge home, empty of all of its children.  Because she was unable to sell this home, she had it available to offer.  Two large families moved in with her and her husband until they were able to get themselves re-established on their own.  She knew that God had allowed her to use this as a gift.

After a few years of caring for these people, they moved out and the house just sold.

I am blown away this evening by the stories that people tell of their interactions with others. These stories force me to examine myself and what it is that I do for the Kingdom of God here on earth. 

If you want to re-examine your thinking ... look for that book.  Allow it to stir you up and upset your balance a little bit.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Wash Behind Your Ears!

I stood in the shower this morning and, as I often do, found myself chuckling.  I flashed to a memory of my mother asking me if I had washed behind my ears.  Mom really had a thing about ensuring that the three of us kids were clean.  Really clean.  And who would've thought a girl could get so dirty behind her ears!  I mean, really? 

But, if you know me at all, you know that I have a just a touch of a rebellious nature.  The more she told me to wash behind my ears, the more I didn't.  I really couldn't imagine it was a problem.  I washed my hair - surely my ears and neck got clean.  Right?

Nope.  There is a distinct memory that I have of mom attacking my neck with cold cream - scrubbing until the dirt came off.  That was painful enough to stick with me and I began taking more care to ensure that that area behind my ears and my neck got at least a quick swoop of the washcloth.

The other thing that she always asked was if I had washed my hands after going to the bathroom.  Every, single freakin' time.  I'm not kidding every time.  And the funny thing is, I still hear her asking me that question.  So ... it continues!  And why was I so rebellious that I would turn on the water and not put my hands under there?  Oh ... yah.  Makes all the sense in the world.  Flat out rebellion.

You see, one of my greatest problems was that I didn't want to miss anything.  So, if I had to go to the bathroom, I was pretty well assured that something interesting would happen in those few minutes I spent away from the action.  Any more time spent washing and drying hands just left more time for the entire world to flip upside down without my being able to be a part of it.  But, when I realized that I was spending just as much time turning on the water and going through the motions of washing my hands, but not actually doing it, I realized that it was just rebellion and I wasn't doing anyone any good. 

But, I still find myself hesitating before walking out of a bathroom ... I hear mom's voice in my head as I turn to wash my hands.  Sometimes I want to walk out because I really don't want to miss what is happening out there in the world. 

For my New Testament class this week, we are working through James 4:13 - 5:6.  James 4:17 says, "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins."

That was one of Dad's favorite verses to preach about.  We're all very conscious of those sins of commission that we perform.  We're conscious of the sins that everyone else commits, too, aren't we!  But, those sins of omission - the things that we know we should do, but don't - are a little more subtle.

If we don't stand up for a friend, or we don't tell someone that we love them, if we don't reach beyond ourselves, if we don't give a little extra to someone in need ... no one really needs to know that we even considered doing those things.  That really doesn't count.

If I don't wash behind my ears, or wash my hands before leaving the bathroom ... who will really know?  Does it count?

I hear mom's voice in my head all the time with the silly little things.  And believe it or not, I hear God's voice in my head with the bigger things - those things that are a little more important than washing behind my ears.