convictions & table legs & making do

So, funny story.

Yesterday, I was vacuuming the rug underneath our dining room table. As I was vacuuming, I gently lifted the corner of the table and pulled it three or four inches towards me in order to get to the crumbs hidden beside the table leg. Then I pushed it back the other direction, vacuumed again, and put the table back in its original position.

This morning, I was roused out of bed by Jonathan hollering “E!” and the crying of our one-year-old. I ran downstairs, expecting an emergency. I saw that J’s hot tea was spilled on the floor but couldn’t figure out what was actually wrong. He was just sitting at the table, as far as I could tell. (I was kind of dazed and still sleepy.) “What happened?” I began to ask, as J said, “The table leg fell off!” And then I realized he wasn’t picking up our crying child because he was literally holding the table top in place to keep anything else from falling off of it, and the table leg was indeed lying on the floor.

Rewind.

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Mission, Schmission: Say That Ten Times Fast

If you hang out with people who’ve gone to or taught at a seminary during the last ten years, or maybe if you just hang out with a certain kind of church folk, you’re probably aware of the trendiness of certain Christian words. Usually there are churches built around them, church conferences planned around them, and lots of books written with them in their titles. Recently words like community, emerging or emergent, koinonia, intentional, or relevant might make it on such a list.

Another one of those words is “missional,” as in, the missional church or missional living. (If you aren’t one of those people mentioned above, you might be thinking, “What the heck does ‘missional’ mean?” And that’s okay. You’re in good company. Back in 2008, after “missional” had started popping up “everywhere,” Christianity Today featured an article about what the heck it means. For more information, you can also check in with the all-knowing Wikipedia.)

I’m sure there are quite a few long, well-thought-out books written about why the contemporary church has shifted away from thinking solely of “missions” as sending money or people overseas or “missionary” as only a full-time sharer of the Gospel in a foreign land.

I haven’t read them, but I, for one, am glad we’re in this new place, a broader understanding of “missions.” Now, I’m not saying I don’t support overseas mission work: of course I do. The hubster was even in Honduras over spring break working in an afterschool program. We support people we know–friends in Haiti and other far flung places–and people and work we don’t know.

But I am not called to move my family overseas, and I’m not called to only–only–give money to support the mission work of others. I’m called to do mission myself. In my everyday life. Here in the middle of America. With my neighbors.

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Turning Inward, Turning Outward, & Staring into the Abyss

Giving things up for Lent isn’t easy. But even more difficult is what comes next.

When we give things up, we get a little bit lighter. Just like when we get rid of physical clutter–on the shelf under the coffee table, perhaps, or the bottom of your closet–we feel more sane. (Or maybe that’s just me.)

Our stuff and our schedules and our own feelings of importance bog us down most of the year. And then Lent comes along and we try to  break free.

We free up our time when we cut out something that is a time-suck for us (Facebook, television, snacking mindlessly); we free up our bodies when we recognize our dependence on caffeine, tobacco, sugar, or even those convenient, processed foods that seem to make our lives easier; and we free up our souls when we cut out something that distracts us (any of the aforementioned things as well as clutter in the house, too many meetings and scurrying about, working 60-hour weeks, endless to-do lists hanging over our heads).

If we can get free from the things that are hindering our time, our bodies, and our souls, we become aware of something.

Something difficult.

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This could be your town: The Follow-Up

Yesterday’s post may have come across a little harsh. In fact, someone who loves me very much replied to it via e-mail with this insightful remark:

Ouch, Schmexas.

The purpose of the post wasn’t to induce guilt.

Okay, yes, it was.

But a secondary purpose was to talk about something I think a lot of us need to hear, myself included.

We aren't really loving our neighbors as ourselves.

We may be doing good by sending money overseas to provide livestock and training for villagers, supporting children in poverty through really awesome nonprofits, and supporting our friends who are missionaries. We may be doing good when we bring canned goods to our churches for food drives, teach Bible studies, sing on the praise team, or volunteer to work in the nursery. We may be doing some by writing to our senators, being educated citizens, and voting. We may be doing good by writing blog posts that inspire people to do good work in the world.

Ahem.

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This could be your town.

Imagine with me a small town in the middle of America.

A cursory glance through this small town’s phone book reveals over 25 churches: Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Catholic, Episcopalian, nondenominational, big churches, small churches, this town’s got it covered. Imagine, too, that this town is home to a small, Christian liberal arts college. In fact, it would be safe to imagine that thousands of self-professing Christians call this town home. They probably don’t agree on a lot of things, but imagine–just for a moment–that they agree on one thing: they believe Jesus when he said that loving your neighbor as yourself is one of the greatest commandments, second only to loving the Lord your God with your whole heart.

If you can, imagine that this town has a quaint Main Street, complete with coffee shops, boutiques, antique stores, maybe even a high-end children’s clothing store. It’s such a lovely little town, this imaginary place, that someone could live here for years and have no idea of its seedy underbelly. Of the debilitating poverty that keeps bellies empty, food far from the tables where it is needed, and children home from school. Of the crippling effects of job loss, home foreclosures, and health insurance expenses. Someone might think that homelessness doesn’t happen here because it doesn’t manifest itself in folks standing on the corner holding cardboard signs. But imagine with me that it does happen here, that it tends to look more like people sharing homes, couch-surfing, multi-generational living, and yes, some people sleeping outside, in the park, under the underpasses, hidden from Main Street. Yes, it does happen here, in myriad forms. A lot.

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Humble Pie, Being Thankful, and Basements of Our Lives

On the day before Thanksgiving in 2008, Texas 
Schmexas didn't exist, but that morning I sent 
this e-mail to my friends and family:

If I had a  blog, I would have posted this today.

____________________________

I have a story to tell you. A few weeks ago (yes, a few weeks), I was annoyed to see the Salvation Army bell-ringers had already arrived at our local grocery store. Annoyed? Yes, annoyed. You see, I’m very intentional about Advent, about preparation for Christmas, about not skipping past the waiting and expectation to the joys of the manger scene. So here was a bell-ringer, wishing people “Merry Christmas,” and it wasn’t even Advent. Heck, it wasn’t even Thanksgiving. As I went by, I smiled at the bell-ringer anyway and said in a jovial voice, “It’s not even Advent yet!” (Honest, I was being friendly, friendlier than the folks who go by and pretend not to see or hear the glad tidings of joy being wished to them.) The bell-ringer looked at me, surprised I’d said something. She said, “What?” So I repeated my comment: “It’s not even Advent yet.”

Her response? “Well, people still need to eat.”

Now that’s an extra large serving of humble pie.

____________________________

I’ve been thinking about these words today: To those who have been given much, much will be required.

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The Mercy House

Through a series of serendipitous “clicks” this morning, I found out about The Mercy House, a home for pregnant young mothers in Kenya. If you’ve got a spare 6 minutes in your day today, check out this video that tells the story of how parenting blogger Kristen Welch ended up changing the lives of young girls in the slums of Kenya.

It’s a moving story–you might  need a tissue–but it’s also hard to watch without feeling your heart break open with conviction.

Kristen begins with a voiceover:

I asked God, through tears, how He could allow such 
human suffering. I really felt like he asked me the 
same thing... how can you allow it Kristen? What 
are you doing?

Here’s the movie.

I encourage you to check out The Mercy House, pray for the girls living there, buy some beautiful hand-made goods, and, most importantly of all, spend some time today asking yourself that important question:

What are you doing?

Politics, Schmolitics, and Getting Worn Out

Is it me or does every Christian magazine or blog seem to be featuring a “Why I’m voting for X” or “Can Christians vote for Y” or “Why I’m  not voting” piece these days? Heck, some folks have told us why you’ll go to hell if you vote for that guy and others have created apps to help us figure out what we as Christians should do.

I’m kind of worn out by it.

Every time I open my mailbox, hop over to Facebook, or end up in front of a TV at the gym, I cringe.

It’s just more of the same. He said, she said. Mud-slinging self-interest. Towing the party line. A downright mean-spirited lack of charity.

Even on the Christians’ Facebook pages, by the way.

Well, this blog is not going to tell you the best candidate to vote for, whether or not you should vote, and certainly not who’s getting my vote.

Because there’s something more important than politics.

They're called people.

_________________________

“Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

Voting: For one or for all?

I live in a small town. I love my small town. And today, my small town is making a pretty big decision.

A special election will be deciding a rather controversial question. (I’m going to refrain from posing the actual question here and from weighing in on the topic by revealing my actual vote, which was already cast. I hope that you who are local readers will also refrain from doing so in the comments.)

I’ll confess that I’ve never been very good at paying attention to local news, and we only recently started subscribing to the newspaper. Additionally, having been insulated from the world by the post-baby cocoon for the last three months, I had no idea what it meant when I started noticing signs around town last week that said “Vote YES! on July 31st.” Luckily, we got a postcard in the mail explaining what it was we were supposed to be voting “YES!” to so enthusiastically, and as is typical, I’ve begun noticing the discussion all over the place since then: in the paper, on Facebook, and at church. Yes, even at church.

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Real People Doing the Real Thing: Stacey

When I looked around for “real people doing the real thing” in my community, the first person I knew I had to take a peek at more closely was my friend Stacey. Stacey is an ordained minister, licensed pastoral counselor, and certified chaplain. But it’s her tireless work as program director of the Scott County Hospitality House that inspires me most. So I asked her about it. 

Take a peek and be inspired yourself.

Let's start with your story. What prompted you to start 
Hospitality House?

In 2010 I was working as the Family Resource Coordinator at a local elementary school when I became aware that we had homeless children in our school sleeping in their car. Then I began praying about it, and reflecting on the fact that children cannot possibly get a good start in school, or focus on academic work when they don’t know where they will sleep at night.  During this time, homeless children and their parents had to go to shelters in nearby cities or other surrounding counties which meant uprooting them from their schools, thus further traumatizing them.

So, after much prayer it became clear to me that this was a moral imperative and that I had to do something to help our local families remain in our own county while assisting them to transition from homelessness to self-sufficiency. God had always given me a heart for the poor and a sense of solidarity with their struggles, so as I researched more about their needs, it became clear that I had to do something. Thus the creation of Hospitality House.

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