Friday, May 28, 2010

Equal Rights but they're still hungry

My office closed early today leaving me with a few hours on my hands before I could catch the bus home. I found the streets of Minneapolis so welcoming. Its definitely my home city. Nearly a year ago, I walked the streets at night alone, searching for some sort of belonging. Now, alone, I feel as though I belong to myself and God. There is no other longing or desire to belong to a building, group or even a person at the tables lining Nicollet. Only the want to give.

I see people supporting causes everyday on the corners with clipboards and brightly colored shirts. The other day some guy from the ASPCA wanted me to donate $30 to the fair treatment of animals. While I do believe this is a worthy cause, I felt that giving to some program isn't what I want to do.

Today, however, some folks from the equal rights campaign, you know the one with the yellow = sign, were getting some petition signed. As I walked past, I became very angry. It wasn't the cause that made me angry. It was the total lack of awareness for real needs.

Before I came across the pair canvasing the mall area, I sat with a 21-year-old homeless girl named Tasha. Her mom kicked her out for a boyfriend. Though I don't know her whole story, I don't need to. She was hungry so I gave her my yogurt. I expect that this is what Jesus did. He didn't walk up to people and say, "Give me some reasons why you need my grace." Or, "Tell me why you deserve money, food, clothing." Or ask, "Will you change your ways if I give this to you?" I bet he did what I did. Just sat and asked some questions, prayed with Tasha and gave something, anything that would meet the immediate and long term need. Because it's not the food that she needs. It's love. I left her with my card and told her that she could call if she needed anything. Hopefully she'll call.

I prayed for her as I left. It wasn't a huge moment. I didn't feel God's overwhelming presence. In fact, I just felt right. Like he was saying, "This is what you're supposed to do. You don't need any recognition." And while I sat with Tasha, two other people gave her a few bucks. One lady even passed by and came back. "Huh, its amazing what people will do when they realize these people aren't lepers," I thought.

So back to the pair. I see them asking people to give money for gay rights or sign a petition for equal rights, and I think, "How about you give those hungry people that money? How about you give people who really don't have any rights some rights, huh?" The truth is, the equality movement isn't about rights. Its about love. People want others to sign petitions for more support instead of asking for the one thing they really want: Real Love.

It's not about the campaign. I love these people. It's not about making them heterosexual. I encourage a few of my gay friends to get more involved in the churches they already attend. Its about getting them in a place where real love affirms them instead of the lusty culture of the Hotel or the Eagle downtown. Places where you're only seen as a pretty orifice. And that isn't what they are. That isn't what anybody is. But somehow, people can't see past that. We're too blinded by lust to see people as people.

Instead of yelling at the couple promting their cause, I walked up to another homeless lady. Her name was Victoria. I asked her what she would want to eat if she could have something right then and there. She said, "Subway. A ham sub with mayo." I said for her to stay there for a bit. I raced into a building. Purchased a 5-dollar-foot-long and raced back. She had shifted her seat, so I thought she left.

I sat and talked with her for 20 minutes. She told me about her struggle. Part of me thought, "Is this woman lying?" But more of me pushed that down and listened with full focus. This woman wasn't defunct. She had visited all the shelters around and talked with Mary Jo (from Mary's Place) down the street. She said it was hard to get her family into a shelter. She panhandles all day to get a hotel room at night. Today wasn't looking as good.

Her husband had passed away in 2007 and she was still heartbroken. I asked her more about that. She told me truthfully that she still can't get over that he's not there in her bed with her at night. She longed for him to be alive again in her arms. She wanted so badly to be with him. She said the pain is not like any other loss she had felt. I watched her as tears fell down her face. I felt so helpless. But then I felt something inside me rise up.

"Victoria, can I pray for you?" She was a believer. I asked God to fill her broken heart with love and to heal it up. I also prayed that she would get what she needs and that she would go to him for comfort. After I ended the prayer, I knew that I had done what I could. God will do the rest.

While I don't know what is to happen next with these people, and many of them will continue to feel alone, I do know one thing: my job is to serve the Lord. My job is to love and give to these people, and if you call yourself a Christian, its your job, too.

I'm petitioning Christ's love. Just sign up and act.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Serious Joy

I’ve taken very seriously the working out my salvation with fear and trembling. The idea of approaching the throne grace is not something to be done flippantly. However, in the past week, I’ve come across passage after passage on the joy and peace that God brings from the hope that Christ left us.

One that particularly struck me came from my quiet time on Wednesday. As I meditated on this, it really penetrated me. Read it and think for a moment.

“May the God of HOPE fill you with all JOY and PEACE as you trust him, so that you may overflow with HOPE by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

My God, the God that made everything and does everything in his power, wants that I receive JOY and PEACE as I trust in Him. Wow.

This blew my mind. Though I have been experiencing deep peace, a peace that passes understanding, I’ve been in a very contemplative state. Off putting to some. My sister had mentioned that my “countenance” was one of sadness. I thought about this, seriously, for few days. Though, I feel that her statement was cutting, I also saw some truth in it in some situations. So I prayed through it, asking God to bring me joy and allow it exude life from me. And yesterday, it came.

I was talking with a coworker and she said that we aren’t supposed to bring gloom with us everywhere we go. “Who wants to change because of that?” She said. As examples of Christ, we are to live lives that show him. Lives that bring people to want to know why we are so excited about God, why we are so glad to be alive, why we serve the God we serve.

We aren’t supposed to go through the days with a sober mind, contemplating the sadness that was that day that he died, though this is good. It’s not about the legalism of sackcloth and ash, as it had been for so many months in my life. Yes, God is serious. I take him very seriously. But, God wants us to look to the hope of heaven, his bridegroom returning for us, and live joyfully.

In a world where Lady Gaga will not be leaving anytime soon, though she should’ve expired months ago, we must find the joy in everyday things. Some choose music, entertainment, fitness or friends. For me, it’s the weather. No matter what fills the sky, God has made a wonderful day. I always thank him for the weather. I thank him for my meals. Every opportunity to visit with another soul, I thank him with great joy knowing we grew in him as we grew with each other. I thank him joyfully for all the little blessings, like chocolate from a friend’s candy dish or free pastries at lunchtime, when I forget my lunch. (If you could work that out for today, God, I would really appreciate it. I ended a fast yesterday, and totally forgot that today I’d need a lunch.)

Once we get to that place of joy and contentment in God presence in the world, we find that God is in everything. We find joy in the time we spend with our families. We are able to naturally talk about Jesus with people of no or little faith. We can see our lives as exceedingly blessed by God instead of so-so.

I’m reminded of a song by Desperation band. Just listen to the words.

You dance over me
While I am unaware
You sing all around
But I never hear a sound

Lord, I’m amazed by you
Lord, I’m amazed by you
How you love me

It’s the amazement of unknown joy and little delights can be the most exciting. He’s dancing over us while we aren’t even doing anything devoted to him. He’s there. Doesn’t that just give you serious joy?

So today, think of God’s blessing in your life. Continue to seek him out with fear and trembling, but do it joyfully. After all, we are transformed by his glory. That's serious joy.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

God Minded

How do I engage in His presence at each moment, with all that I am, with all these task piling up on my desk?

I’ve learned from Brother Lawrence not to fret. He constantly worked with nimble hands as a clumsy cook in a monetary kitchen thinking mostly of our Almighty Father. Written of him by his close friend, Joseph de Beaufort, “Brother Lawrence’s heartfelt goal was to think of nothing but God. If he did allow some time to pass without thinking of Him, he did not grow upset about it. Once he confessed his weakness to God, he returned to him with all the more confidence and joy because he had found himself so unhappy apart from God’s presence.”

You see, to my normal office mate, I'm working on an e-mail, a fact checking form or scheduling an important appointment in my calendar. But really, my mind is swirling about God. It's churning these ideas about this grace I receive so freely, this excitement and joy, yet deep grief for those on the outside. As my peace and contentment grows, so too does this fire within me that causes me to tear up. I find my tasks are completely secondary. In one window I have Entorage, in another I'm reading a Psalm. One ear is empty, the other budded with music that represents the desire of my heart to only have more time with my God.

But sometimes this juxtaposition vexes me. How do I find contentment while my mind is running itself into a tangle of thoughts?

The closer I am to the Lord, the more my mind runs with ideas of him only. The world doesn't understand me. And my counterparts have found a place that is comfortable within the confines of the world. I am alone in my thoughts. Not many of those around me really understand what I'm thinking. The more I rattle on about these daily journeys with the Lord, they ask, "Are you sure God is asking you to listen to Him at all times? Don't you just want to check out?" At times, I have become discouraged to speak. So, I shut up. I wait for the right moment. I keep these thoughts of eternity, grace, freedom, love...longing, yearning, aching love, to myself. Still burning for them to know the freedom that I’ve found. And ever thinking of God.

Even that which I am walking through right now isn't a struggle with external sin. I'm done with that. I no longer seek these unfulfilling things like drunkenness or lust. I found those once before and I hated myself. I was restless. But now, I want so badly to be pure. I want to dwell with the Almighty at all times. But I'm blessed to do these tasks, however menial they are. Because it’s not about the tasks. Its about these people. To sit beside the blind and offer vision, that’s my mission. To feed the hungry with the wisdom that I seek and have found, that’s my ministry. To clothe the naked from their shame, that’s what I offer.

But some of you are skeptical because entering to a place of constant “God thought” is not easy. It requires sacrifice and work. I came to this place as I read scripture after scripture on keeping our minds pure and thinking on the right things. Until recently, I didn’t know how that looked or if anyone else was doing it. But the more I read, the more my mind wandered to how much God loved me. How much I want to hear from him everyday. How I want to be that pure person. However, I still want confirmation that someone out there is doing this same thing. Not just attending a church service. Not just putting on their Christian hat on Sunday, but actually seeking Him constantly.

In my search for another God thinker, I feel that I have finally consulted an expert. Joyce Meyer. Now, mind you, I have been averse to female Christian authors for the past 6 months, distracted by the pink book covers and the "you go girl" attitude. I wanted stripped down, manuscript styled design as not to distract from the task at hand: learning more about God’s word. So when I got the e-mail from Hennepin County Library saying my book, Battlefield of the Mind, had been delivered to the GV location, I scheduled a tentative book pickup.

I managed to make my way to the shelf with my hold number sticking out. “167….something, something, something.” And you know what I found? The cover was blue with the most neutral graphic: chess pieces.

Now that I’ve passed the stereotypes, and have read nearly half of the “two-million copies sold” best seller, I can honestly say, I am not alone in seeking the Lord each moment. Joyce Meyer wrote a book on it. Two million people have a copy of it. Some should be allowing her breakdown of scripture penetrate them.

But my question this time around is: what are you thinking about?

Paul writes in Romans, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then, you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

The world is going to tell you to think about all the worries of life. It's going to distract you from the true things that make you full of joy and peace. But the pattern of the world isn't fulfilling in any aspect of life. So why not try to think on good things? Higher things?

You want direction? Transform your mind and think of him as Paul instructs. Take some time for this today.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Unfocused today. I put on some music and let the words penetrate me. I come across this one, a throwback from years ago. It goes, “I need you more. More than yesterday. I need you more. More than words can say. I need you more than ever before. I need you more. I need you more.”

So I think, what does more of Jesus look like?

Everyday is different. For me, some days, more is emotional and raw. It means crying out to God for understanding with snot out my face and mascara running down my cheeks. Some days it’s peace and calm, it’s the “Be Still” moments in God’s presence. Some days it’s a longing. An ache inside my heart just to touch a little more of this unending and enveloping love. And it all starts with a simple prayer, “God, won’t you invade my day? Won’t you just show me a little more of yourself?”

As I assess what I want out of life, I find myself eliminating things that I used to consume without question. I’ve put down the remote control and taken some time to read. I’ve tucked away my Gap Card and said, “No more,” to frivolous spending on t-shirts I’ll wear once. I’ve removed excess makeup and avoided expensive hair products. I gave up my weekly bottle of wine. I stopped looking at men as they passed me by in the skyway, wondering who I could get attention from next. I stopped judging people and just giving to the homeless.

I guess you could say this is an overhaul. But the reality is this, for the first time in my life, I’d be willing to give anything, and I mean EVERYTHING, for just a little bit more of Jesus in my life.

I lived so long without an understanding of what he did for me. I did what I thought I wanted to do. But everything left me hollow. Even the good things were never satisfying. And Sundays would roll around and it would be another learning service, instead of affirmation of a life I was living. What he gave me that I don’t deserve and never will, but he gives it anyway.

I think of all the excuses why I didn’t want more of Jesus before. I came up with the typical ones. Here are a few. “It’s not fun to pray.” I’ve never ended a prayer session saying, “That was a waste of time.” There are plenty of other things that I’ve done ending with that phrase but never spending my undivided focus on my king. Another one, “Nobody else is doing it.” Yes you’re right nobodies aren’t doing it. Anyone influential in my life spends time in the Word everyday and prays without ceasing. Or this one, it’s my favorite, “I don’t feel like it.” Think about exercising. I guarantee if you had a slamming body, you wouldn’t ever say I don’t feel like exercising. You’d just put it into practice and everyone would notice and the attention would make you feel like it. Am I right?

So, you have to ask yourself, what excuses are keeping you from more, or any of Jesus?

Because if your worried that your going to miss out on something, you will be. Something from God. If you’re worried about what friends you will lose, think about this:

Is losing Jesus worth it?

Take some quiet time to pray today. Be ready for more.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Best Day of Your Life

I woke up this morning in a completely neutral state. But my mind quickly ran to the idea of the excitement of this day. Not just this day, but everyday.

I hear people say, “I just have to make it through this day.”

And I think, “Why? So you can get through today to get to another day you can’t wait to get through? Then you get through day after day after day and in the end you die, and you say, ‘I waited my whole life for something to happen to me and all I did was die.’”

If you don’t like your today, you’re never going to like tomorrow. If today isn’t the best day of your life, then tomorrow sure wont be either.

What are you waiting for?

I wake every morning like I did this morning, with this knowledge that today will be the best day of my life with God. I won’t be waiting for something to happen to me. Instead, I will do what I am called to do, what we’re all called to do and it’s this: to obey God and serve him only. To seek him first and see life come to you and fill you.

I know on the calendar today I’ll be at MSP writing a few stories, then head off to Lifetime Fitness with hopes of making it to 10 p.m. without falling asleep. I might purchase a cup of coffee for myself as I do most days, and go to my office to sit behind a computer with my headphones in. But that’s just on the calendar. From the outside, it’s a regular day. It’s not my wedding day, or the day I graduate from seminary. It’s not the day I have my first child or win a Nobel Prize (this last one may or may not happen).

However, here’s what I’m excited for today.

The opportunity to hear and share the testimony of Christ, to love otherwise unloved people, to give money and time to things that aren’t for me, to abandon my wants and desires to be filled with God’s love and grace, peace and glory. To see the kingdom of heaven right here. RIGHT HERE!

What isn’t on my calendar but happened so far: Talking about Jesus with a woman on the bus, seeing a homeless man, giving him my Raisin Bran, buying him a cup of coffee, saying a prayer for him, and thinking I need to give more than my breakfast.

I’m thinking now, “God, please use me with these people to say your words, encourage and take on their burdens.”

I know later, I’ll go to Lifetime Fitness instead of canceling for free tickets to a Saint’s game, and I’ll pray while I wipe down mirrors, “Father, let me see the needs that you see. Let me be your hands and feet to Rodney, Duresa, Marissa, Conrad, PJ and anyone else I encounter. Let me love as you do.” And I’m excited to see God working.

My question to you, then, is: what are you waiting to get to that isn’t this moment? What are you doing that makes you feel like tomorrow will be better than right now?

Because if it isn’t being with a God who lavishes loves on you each moment, if it isn’t giving love to those around you, if it isn’t thinking higher than what’s going on today on a calendar, than you will never want to live for today. You will never be content. You will always be waiting for tomorrows.

I share this because I lived like that for too many years. And now I spend my days in perpetual want of more of what God has for me, which requires obedience and service to the utmost. It doesn’t seem like much when I feel so content with Him.

I want to encourage you to pray about this today. Pray about the situation that makes you say, “I can’t wait until…” Ask God to show you your true purpose. I guarantee your focus will turn off of your struggle and it will turn to God and others.

Selflessness. Service. Obedience. Peace. You’re going to make it through today.

Remember: It’s the best day of your life.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Horpy Hunkaroon

Cada día, pienso en ti pero no debería. No es el Cinco de Mayo. Es tú día. Hoy, te levanto en la oración. Creces en la armadura de Dios. Dios de bendigas.