Glory and The Pink Lady

We were asked by a friend, how God gets the glory in our lives and service. This is a friend who is serious about his faith and… very wealthy. He’s a thinker, a debater and has watched us from the beginning of our process but there was always a question from our friend, regarding our motives. He¬†knew of our marriage issues and reconciliation, we shared our parenting woes, as well as the amazing ways that we saw God working in, through and, around us. We recently send out a letter to friends and family asking for support and his question was asked in the context of potentially partnering with us financially. ¬†

Now, this whole fundraising thing is a little foreign to us and we long for our friends to care for us whether they can support us financially or not. However, we’ll admit that, we do have some systemic issues with the perceived manipulative nature of it all. We don’t have any trouble asking for help but struggle with the expected corporate way supporters ¬†are catered to, pulled on and adorned just so they share their wealth. ¬†

For instance, the reason we were able to meet our friends for lunch, was because they were flown in and put up as guests at a lovely conference center for a¬†“Presidents” weekend¬†in Scottsdale, AZ. Apparently, they were scouted out by large ministry, and brought in to be lavished on and ministered to, in hopes that they would feel a connection and give. It sort of reminded me of those deals that the fancy hotels in Vegas send out, for free stay at their casino. They know if they can get you there, that you will probably spend your money on their slot machines.¬†

We also know of an organization that does research for some of the richest Christians in the country. They look at a ministry and analyze it in a quantifying way, assessing whether or not the ministry is kingdom worthy. I can see a need for this type of research, as most of the ministries that they are looking at are large organizations. However, it all just seems so distant from where God is really moving. And, can you imagine the hoops those ministries have to jump through, to prove they are worthy of those funds. Good grief.

Here’s the thing… about the Glory of the Lord. We know that humility and poverty has something to do with it.¬†

…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”¬†Matt 20:28

…sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.¬†2 Cor 6:10

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to deathРeven death on a cross!  Phil 2:68

Blessed¬†are the¬†poor¬†in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”¬†Matt 5:3

And then there is the story of the widow and the copper pennies. We see Jesus make note of what folks were giving and compares the gifts of the those who give out of their abundance. These were people who great wealth, and though they give much, they could easily spare it, and had enough remaining:¬†but she, the widow, in her”penury”,¬†gives all that she had, her whole substance, all that she had in the world; what was to have bought her food, for that day; she left herself nothing, and trusted to providence for immediate supply.

And then we read about the Corinthians who gave out of their poverty to Paul and Timothy.¬†“For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own,¬†they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people.¬†And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.”

And so, we throw our hands up and we say, take our lives that we might really live. Take it all, that we might see you’re glory.¬†

20131104-124550.jpgWe arrived in Phoenix ten days ago, on our last financial leg, we had zero dollars. Our host, Kineo Community and our family have been gracious in caring for us. When we arrived we made note of things that might be helpful in our service at Kineo church and we put a shout out on our Facebook group ‘Tillers and Travelers” for art supplies, food and building supplies. Within a few days of voicing that request we had art supplies and a large box of fresh veggies show up. And then, yesterday, our friends The Huff family asked us to join them for lunch.¬†

We met Niqee at Camp Nebowa in Iowa three summers ago. We were in the process of getting our bus and heading out. She stayed in touch and two summers ago she invited us to join her family, Daniel, and two darling children, at an outreach in Shannandoah, IA. And, later at their home in Omaha, NE. we shared in community with this humble family. A few months later we heard that they had sold everything and hit the road, to serve. They travel in a minivan and similar to us, stay with host families and ministries, offering helps, encouragement and healing prayer. We watched them from afar and then two weeks ago they let us know that we were going to be in Phoenix together. We were excited to hear how things were going for them, to love on them and encourage them to keep rolling and serving. Little did we know that they were actually going to be the ones to pour into us. 

We sat at In and Out burger, enjoying our meal and sharing stories of God’s amazing tapestry in putting the body together. Then they pulled out a big yellow envelope and handed it to us. They spoke healing words over us, words of affirmation, letting us know that this gift was an act of obedience for them, that God recognized our faithfulness and wanted to bless us. In the package¬†was a substantial gift for each of us. They wanted our children to know that God see’s how they care for others, and how He wants to care for them. ¬†They wanted us to know that God gave them this blessing to bless us.¬†¬†Mind you, these are kinfolk who live day to day, aka… in poverty. My eyes filled with tears, as I felt the presence of the Lord wrap his arms around us.¬†

We had but a moment to sigh and thank them when an elderly woman approached us. She was a tall woman with silver shoulder length hair pulled back into a pony tale. She had on a hot pink tank top and light pink shorts, pink socks and white tennis shoes. She had two bags with her, both pink. Her name was Debby. ¬†She sat down at the table next to our families and said “hi.” A few polite words were shared and then she asked us, with all seriousness, if we had $10 dollars to spare.

Ok, so wait a minute… In a 24 hour period, I was sitting with my friend releasing him from any financial expectations, blessed by a significant gift from the unexpected and then asked for help.

Debby begins to explain her story about needing rent money.¬†I tell her she doesn’t have to justify it to us, we’re happy to give.¬†Craig pulls out $10 dollars, then Daniel follows. She is now holding twenty dollars. There is a small tear in her eye as she begins to share how that just impacted her. She tells us of a life that is filled with violence, poor health and constant rebuke from those with whom she asks for help. Daniel asks her if she would like us to pray for her. She says absolutely. We move to her table. He begins to talk with her about her heart, and God’s longing for her to move towards him. That God wants more of her. She is in agreement. We pray, Niqee puts a gift card in her hand and Debby whispers, “how much?”¬†Niqee answers “$50 and to get whatever she desires with it.” Debby begins to weep and we all hug her.¬†

We say our goodbyes to Debby and to each other.

My heart is overwhelmed…. Love, Mercy, and Grace flowing from above.¬†

And so, to answer my friends original question: God gets the glory because he knows our every need and he uses unexpected means to care for us, and in caring for us, we are able to care for others. The glory is his because he orchestras it.   

 

 

Advertisements

The Realities of Downward Mobility

IMG_1977Downward mobility is one of the phrases used to describe the backlash to the consumerist “American Dream.” Websters says it’s¬†moving to a lower social class; losing wealth¬†and¬†status.

And yet, there are many educated and socially conscious people who are making a choice to live outside of the cookie cutter box and in doing so are apart of the downward mobility movement. These are people who value quality over quantity, and community over individuality and those values drive most decisions. ¬†Ideally it’s co-op housing, pooling resources, urban gardens and community driven.¬†¬†It is youthful ambition and for many the decision is spiritually minded. For most, it is a naive assumption that they can “choose’ to live below their means without the stigma of ‘being poor.” It’s about having fortitude and being resourceful not poor. But, at some point or another the ideal becomes a reality, in more ways than they expected and poverty knocks at their door.

When we look back at our decision to downsize and become mobile it was very idealistic, romantic and for the first time in our married life we felt alive. Two years into this journey, we still feel alive and we know we are on the right path however, there are times when we question. The questions come during those moments when we feel like our choice is no longer a choice. One such moment came while at a grocery store recently. I had exactly $75 in my pocket and nothing more to spend. On a side note, in the past, we lived with credit debt and when I’d go shopping for groceries or anything within reason, I’d pull out my credit/debit card without blinking an eye. I wouldn’t pay much attention to prices or how much I was adding to my cart. Whether it was on my list or not, if I wanted it, I got it.¬†Fast forward to cash in my pocket.

My daughter came with me and I had a list of about seven items to purchase. Once we entered the store, all sorts of other items ended up in my cart. We were shopping and totally engrossed in our conversation. When we got to the check out and the man rang up $189.00, I automatically began to pull out my pocket-book only to realize I had just the $75.00 in my pocket. I began to panic, the line was building up behind me and I had to decide what to do. I apologized to the teller and asked him if he’d put my order aside so I could run back to our bus and get my checkbook. He shrugged his shoulders with disappointment and set the cart off to the side. As we walked to the door, I felt so embarrassed. I’ve forgotten my purse in the past but always knew I’d be back with my credit card in hand. This time was different, I had no more money to come back with and I was contemplating walking out to never look back.

But, I needed the seven items on my list and I knew it was prideful to waste the gas to go to another store. And so, we stopped in the lobby of the store, composed ourselves, went back into the store, found our cart and began to pick through the items. We found the seven most important, figured that there might be a few extra’s we could add to the order and went back to the teller. By this point, the fella didn’t seemed pleased to have to go back through the order and delete most of the items. His manager was called over to help with the process and all eyes were upon us. As we rifled through the items watching the counter ring up closer and closer to our $75 dollar budget I had an overwhelming feeling of empathy for those who live like this on a daily basis. I know it was just a taste and that there are many who go without daily but it was a humbling moment. One that continues to go with me every time I go to the grocery store. I have gotten stronger and brighter when I reach the check out knowing that most likely I’ll have to put the top shelf back and that’s OK.

I am thankful for this process of understanding and the discipline that comes when we enter into the mystery. I am thankful that I can give a voice to the vulnerable feelings that one feels when there seems no recourse. I am thankful for those who come along side of us and share the burden. And, I am thankful for faith,  grace and mercy.

ECM and Casa Shalom

IMG_8380In the center of the East Central neighborhoods of La Mesa and Trumbull there is a light that shine brightly. This¬†highly transient, low-income neighborhood is vulnerable to devious activity but with a deep commitment to the ministry of reconciliation and a persevering spirit, East Central Ministries offers an alternate reality to one of Albuquerque’s most violent and poverty-stricken areas.

ECM was developed in the spring of 1999 by John Bulten as a inter-denominational missions ministry in Albuquerque.¬† John spent the first two years walking the streets, talking to our neighbors and the relationships that he built during that time continues to be the foundation of the ministry today. In the summer of 2001, ECM moved into a boarded up building that was being used as a drug house. They renovated the property and opened with two community programs, ‚ÄúWings of Eagles‚ÄĚ youth leadership program and the Community Food Co-op.

Over the past years ECM has evolved in several directions and has become a vital part of the community. However, ECM primary focuses continues to be to¬†build long-term lasting relationships with their neighbors. This is a unique approach in a ‚Äúsocial service‚ÄĚ organization because they actually encourage people to participate in their programs/community on a regular, long-term basis.¬† They are committed to long-term development and economic projects within the community as well as providing community led classes and initiatives.

We met John when we arrived for our tour. His welcoming presence and enthusiasm for his work and neighborhood was apparent. We met Morgan who runs the Urban Farm, Becky and Katina who facilitates the community youth programs, Louise, Shirley and many others who live at the Housing cooperative, Casa Shalom. We also met Bob who manages Common Goods Thrift Store and the staff at the Community run health care clinic, One Hope, which is the primer work site for medical students at the University of New Mexico.

There was a lot going on at ECU! We observed vibrant life and a people with a commitment to continue to work out relationship struggles. That openness to seeing cracks, discord and seeking reconciliation was most encouraging to us. It’s one thing to care for the community around you, to have great programs but we believe to be a people willing to nurture and seek reconciliation in the most intimate relationships brings true life to the community around us. We know that commitment is what will sustain them through the years. We are blessed to have met these “Tillers” and look forward to more times of community with our new Albuquerque friends. We also encourage you to connect with them along your way. Visit¬†http://www.eastcentralministries.org for more info. Give them a call, they are your global/local neighbor.

Cornville Mission and Food Bank

“If Food is Love, then the Sermon‚Äôs in the Soup!” Cornville Mission Motto

The Roeller's
The Roeller’s

Greg and Debby Roeller spent more than half their lives serving in the church. Burnt out and tired they resigned, moved to the country and started to seek a slower pace. They thought they would find little jobs at local gas stations and live out the rest of lives quietly in the small town of Cornville, AZ. However, God is faithful and the ultimate reviver, giving purpose and strength to those who have none left. A few years ago the Roeller’s found their slower pace by taking on the directorship of the Cornville Mission and Food Bank.

They are perfectly suited for this roll and it was encouraging to hear their story. They are open, eager, persaverant and think out of the box. These gifts allow them to see past the cultural standards and reach deeper into community. Not only do they have a heart to see the church involved and connected but they also work to build relationships with the local schools, their neighbors, the fire station across the street and the local winery’s at the end of the block. Faith has been showered upon them and they told stories of poverty and food/donations showing up right on time. And, of town’s folk protesting their efforts to care for the downtrodden and then later finding themselves serving right along side the Roeller’s.

B20130212-080505.jpg

They live in community with the residence’s in the Cornville Mission apartments, including one of the Greg and Debby’s daughters, son-in-law and grand children. We also, met Ben one of their kinfolk, a wandering soul from Flordia, practicing the Lakota way. Ben was a beautiful fella, and with the encouragement of the Roeller’s is settling in and trying his hand as making and selling art in his trading post, at the mission. ¬†Then there was Jacque, a peculiar and fun older fella from Boston. Jacque is the grounds keeper and right hand man. He lives on site in his trailer in the back of the food bank. We met others briefly and could feel the family tie.¬†We were delighted to be their neighbors if only for a moment and look forward to being with them again.

If you would like more information about how to support the Cornville Mission please visit h4hh.org

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Engaging Poverty

There is a bit of a culture shock that happens when we get into a big city. Mostly because of the poverty that is overtly apparent. We see it in smaller towns but it’s much more hidden. It stirs such a deep emotion in me, deep to the core. A feeling of helplessness and contempt. The system is broken. I am broken.

I recall back to our time in Minneapolis in Sept. We decided to offer a week of service at the CCDA conference on Reconciliation. We had no work that week and were broke so we decided to busk (play music on the street corner with our case open for tips) We have never really busked as a family, so it was a bit of an uncomfortable experience, however we all buckled down to make some money for dinner. We picked the spot right in front of the Target because it was shaded and had a few spots for folks to sit. We started playing and crowd seemed to really get into it. A few coins started to trickle in but after about ten minutes we realized that we had set up our profiteering efforts smack dab in the middle of the homeless. We felt sort of ridiculous knowing our intention wasn’t necessarily to help anyone but ourselves. ¬†However, we decided not to move because we were exhausted from the uncertainty of it all and though we’d just finish up with thirty more minutes of songs. Then a middle-aged black man approached me, he smelled of alcohol and was wearing a leather jacket. He handed me a piece of paper, on it a poem about salvation through Christ. He said he wrote it. I asked him to read it. He did in sort of rap style. I knew, as he was reading it, that he wanted something in return. I waited and sure enough about ten minutes later he came and asked me for the money in our case. I hesitated but then bent down to grab out a few of the dollars. He smiled and walked away. A few minutes later he waltzed across the street holding up a pack of cigarettes, waving them in the air and smiling at me. Such an awkward interaction. ¬†Connection failed.

Recently in Denver, I was shopping for groceries. I had our last $20, but we’re always at our last $20 (it’s like manna, just enough for each day) none the less, it was all I had and I wanted to use it to get ingredients to make a Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake for Craig’s birthday. I was at the back of the store and a woman in her late 50’s about 5’7, long dark brown hair in a low pony tail, maybe Native American or Hispanic, jeans shirt and pants approached me and asked if I had $2.00. It was a flash of a moment and I instinctively responded, “no.” She turned and briskly walked away. I immediately felt like a jerk, I totally just lied to her. I turned to follow after her but she was gone. Connection failed.

I’m still processing these moments, but the hypocrisy is apparent. I’ve grown up with an understanding that caring the poor is of the upmost importance and I have a heart to serve. However, the challenge comes when I am just going about my daily business and a ‘pop up’ moment, like the examples above happen. I hope that next time I would engage more and really understand the questions. Both experiences were brief and I wonder if I had taken the time to really communicate with these people if we both would have been able to see clearer, to see the tie that binds us together. So, until next time, I wait… understanding my own depravity, thankful for the grace given me and hoping that in times where I’m engaged by poverty it opens more opportunities for connection success.