Saturday, November 26, 2005

Thoughts from the day after...

The day after Thanksgiving is a holiday for many. People head out to the shopping mall or to the parade to jockey or position. It ‘s the official beginning of the Christmas shopping season (although we’d do well to shop[p throughout the year...not as painful on the wallet. We’ll learn one of these years). I heard on the news yesterday about how people were hurt in fights and overcrowding as the stores opened with their unbeatable deals.

There are many things wrong with the way we live out this season and all we can do is, loosely quoting Ghandi, “Be the change we want to see in the world.” So it’s probably good to not buy things made by corporations that enslave children to make their goods in celebration of Christ’s advent here. Simple handmade gifts are best I guess or “experiential” gifts like gift certificates to local shops and restaurants.

There are a few web sites and stores where you can buy things that help provide a sustainable life for people in the third world. Online stores like global exchange or the YWAMers in Thailand that help former prostitutes learn a trade like making candles and greeting cards to help them start a new life. There are many things we can do (with a little research and preparation) to make this season a little closer to being a “christian” experience.

The day after Thanksgiving, we went back to work as we had a whole van load of bread to deliver. We went to the motels and to the parks. It hit me in a new way that cultural holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, the way we classically think about them, are just not experienced the way we think of them being experienced by the poor.

Quiet time with family over a nice big meal or sharing presents with each other is a distant dream for so many. More than you think. Many more than you think. For the poor, these things are a major source of stress like no other time of year. These holidays remind them that they are not “normal”. We get desperate calls to the church for turkeys or help with presents as people look for any way to help their kids feel like the rest of us. One couple I talked to yesterday had sandwiches for Thanksgiving dinner, another man had to work, many more did not have anything.

Then there are the “working poor”...the ladies at the checkout at Wal-mart or the grocery store where the day after Thanksgiving is just another day at work. Economics is a funny thing. The Christmas season makes up so much of the corporate yearly profits and these corporations (like Wal-mart and Target) give people jobs...not great jobs mind you but usually just enough to keep them off the streets. I know a grandma that works at Target who lives in a motel and can’t get into a house with her income as she supports a daughter and grandchildren. I know another grandma who works at Wal-mart and lives in “low-income housing” and cannot afford a phone or a car. Wal-mart and Target are all these folks you can’t just say “no discount stores!” without sustainable alternatives. Who is stepping up to this plate?

And here I am in the middle of it all lost in a quagmire of thoughts and “well, but the other side of the coin is...”

The Roman church chose this time of year for the celebration of Christ’s advent not because it’s his birthday but because of the symbolism of the midwinter celebration. The days grow darker and shorter through the Fall, at midwinter that tide turns and the days get lighter and longer until summer. I can go along with was using an existing cultural celebration and infusing it with the gospel...the thing missionaries have done for thousands of years in “pre-christian” cultures. Why not just say “pagan”? Because people from every tribe, tongue and nation will be around the throne praising God.

It is my goal this season as I seek to live a christian life in America with integrity...

To make or buy as close as I can to socially conscious gifts for family and friends.

To remember the poor and encourage my poor friends to not feel like they have to measure up but to be content during the holidays with simpler celebrations.

To support other groups like the local Gospel Mission, Salvation Army and international groups like Compassion International or World Vision or Samaritan’s purse that help the poor feel included in the season.

To be kind and patient on the road, in the stores and with clerks.

To mark the dark days before advent during this holiday by meditating on expecting Christ, my only hope in Christ, joy at Christ’s appearance and the love that Christ has shed on my life. To celebrate Christ as the world’s Savior. He has become a light to this gentile. My people did not know God but a way has been made. Thanks be to God.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Thanksgiving day is upon us and I am grateful to my friend Dave Skene who helped me see the importance of Gratitude itself. I am far from having this perspective with me all the time but any relationship with God must begin with gratitude. It’s our initial touch point with understanding our lives in relation to the divine. God is and he is good. He gave everyone life and for that we must be thankful. It’s something that we could not give ourselves. Even if our life is a train wreck, even if bad things happen...we’re still alive, we still have a chance, we cannot give this to ourselves. We can waste the gift, squander it, be ungrateful for it, complain about it, despair over it but through it all there is still the chance...the option to live it gratefully.

Of course, negative experience will come. We cannot be “happy” all the time. But where am I miserable? Where am I not content? Where am I impatient? Where am I not kind? Where have I lost sight? It is in those places that I am not grateful, that I am not remembering the most basic gift given to life. If all else fades, today...while it is still called today...I have the greatest gift I could ever have, another chance.

And so much more...

Pardon for sin
A peace that endureth
Thine own dear Presence to cheer and to guide
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine with ten-thousand beside

“Enter in His gates with thanksgiving...”

Monday, November 14, 2005


I had almost forgotten that it's not bad to take a break. To let up for a little while. Aaron mentioned going for an extended stay home this Christmas holiday as none of us have really taken a rest from our responsibilities at the the church for a while. You can rest physically and then there's the "all the way" rest. To get away. That's what this week has been for us. I'm so thankful to my family that opened up their home here in Oregon so that we could have a cheap, fun, restful vacation. What's funny is that we've done quite a bit. So far I've...

Seen 3 movies
Been late to my niece's concert (because of traffic) but the evening was salvaged at a nice gelato/esspresso shop
Read a 734 pg. book
Been for walks with my pipe
Had great talks...even a nice debate.
Went to the Oregon museum of Science and Industry
Impulsively went to a Geoff Moore/PHIL KEAGGY! concert (awesome! Phil Keaggy is from space.)
Had the best Indian food of my life...Chicken Vindaloo. Oh my has changed my life.
Journaled, studied and gotten farther on a personal product
Had Burgerville twice...mmm...Tillimook Cheesburger and sweet potato fries
Had some great time with family

This is the kind of rest that has sunk down into my bones and gives me new perspective for my responsibilities at home. I'm a grateful man.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Fast and Pray

I’m not impressed with the streets or “street life” anymore. Created long ago, way under those streets is God’s good earth. It was there first. The “street” is a facade and I will no longer be impressed with it’s culture, menace or power. It is false.

Too many of my friends are under the sway of the “streets”. They feel there is no escape. They feel powerless to get up out of it’s grasp on their lives and I am sick of it.

Isaiah wept this week, so overcome with grief over his life. He doesn’t know why he can’t just get up out of the park and get over it. But it is too overwhelming for him to imagine something else for his life. He wants to change and is scared to death of change. “This ain’t me” he says, “I know what I need to do but I can’t seem to do it.”

Pearl used to be involved in the life and outreach of a church. She’s hooked on drugs and prostitutes herself on 9th street. She says getting to where she is now was one little step at a time and doesn’t see the way back. We offered her our help but fear and addiction keep her where she is.

Patti has let CPS take her children because of her drug use. She is so far inside herself that it is impossible to get a real human response from her. She cannot stop. She is powerless in her addictions. There are so many layers over her heart that she doesn’t even know who she is anymore. She is Gollum. She is almost a non-being. Her room is filth. She is abused and abuses.

For so long, our attitude toward the poor has been to say, “well, they got themselves into this mess and that’s that...there’s nothing we can do.” Good thing Jesus didn’t say that about us. He didn’t help us problem solve our way out of hell. We can’t pull our bootstraps up that far! HE SET US FREE!

“This kind comes not out but by prayer and fasting.” The words of Jesus. How else do we expect it to work? How can we pray if we do not know? How can we know if we are not there? How can we be there if we do not go?

"The people of the land have practiced oppression and committed robbery, and they have wronged the poor and needy and have oppressed the sojourner without justice. I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one.” Ez. 22:29-30