I know it’s thanksgiving tomorrow and this will come off as cliche…but…

I found this article on CNN that I thought would be of use.

http://www.cnn.com/2011/11/23/us/cnnheroes-hungry-children/index.html?hpt=us_c1

Sometimes those of us who celebrate the holiday in plenty need to remember that we have so much to be thankful for. I am one of these people. I know that thankfulness is/ought to be a daily practice. I know that the Lord is the giver of good gifts.

Yet when I read that 17.2 million people in my own country lack the resources to not be hungry I start to wonder why this is.

A Brazilian priest named Dom Helder Camara is famous in part for having said, “When I feed the poor they call me a saint. When I ask why there are poor they call me a communist.” In a recent conversation I had about the issue there were some boldly polarized thoughts that were thrown out there. The quote by the priest rings true within the context of North American Christianity.

When one reads Matthew 25:31-46 we hit a problem:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

   34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

   37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

   40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

   41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

   44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

   45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

   46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

do you see it? The ones who help the needy receive eternal life.

Now, surely this cannot be taken as the whole of scripture on salvation. That’s not enough, but all things considered it seems to imply that for disciples of Christ the poor are our direct concern. It seems like we need to think hard about how people get poor too. I don’t think simplistic generalizations cut it.

I doubt that 17.2 million people can directly be blamed for their circumstances. Even if they could, the text doesn’t make this an important fact. It doesn’t say blessed are you “who gave me food when I deserved it, had worked hard for it, and made wise life decisions that merited it.”

It seems that Jesus isn’t as picky about sharing blessings as some of us assume Him to be. He’s out to bless everyone. If you’re a part of His team…this is your goal too.

I don’t know a way to dodge this. Since I’m just going home to eat food with people who have enough myself I can’t direct anything at you that I’m not directing at myself.

At the very least this all starts with thankfulness. For the moment I intend to begin there.

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Humility, Frailty, and Back Injuries

I hurt my back last week. Thankfully this time it wasn’t due to anything overly stupid. No failed front flips off of docks, no heaving boats out of the water with bad form, and no falling lumbar first onto a wooden floaty thing at the laurelhurst beach club. This time it was due to the most pedestrian of actions: I sat down.

Really. On Wednesday at 9:30am I sat in my chair at work. My back suddenly hurt terribly. I couldn’t sit, I could barely walk, driving was extremely painful. I went to the chiropractor who informed me that this can happen. Small, repeated things that are bad for one’s back can build up and then just hit you all at once. It turns out that sitting for 8 hours a day requires a good deal of activity–stretches and whatnot–that make a person healthy.

Over the  week following Wednesday (continuing through today) I would learn the meaning of the word frailty and my need for assistance in the most simple of tasks. I had to lie down a lot. It is the most comfortable position I have available. Once down, I realized that I would eventually need to get up. I had no idea how necessary a back was to that process. The arms of chairs, walls, and nearly every muscle in my body aside from my back were necessary to get me off the floor.

I couldn’t tie my own shoes or put my socks on. I had to request help from people. My roommate Andrew was a Godsend in that, as was my best friend. It was really a struggle to ask for help in this. It’s something that has been very easy and mindless since I was 6. Now, suddenly, it is probably the most physically challenging task I face on a daily basis. I often tried to get as far with it as I was able so as to not burden those around me with what I saw as a tedious task. It turns out that people actually want to help if you ask. It turned out to be the asking that I found  hard.

I have heard mention of my humility over the years. It’s something that people have complimented me on from time to time. I think it’s a different sort of humility that lies in asking for help when you need it. This is the sort that I don’t have nearly as much as I might have thought in years past.

It was in the space of my back failing me that I found pride staring me down.  I wanted to be able to push through. I wanted to be able to achieve simple tasks without help. I didn’t want to be a burden or ask for help in seemingly simple things that I used to be able to do. I wanted to be an island…but I couldn’t be one.

I needed to walk to the chiropractor’s office with tied shoes. I needed to have shoes on to be able to walk to the car to drive home from time spent with my best friend. I couldn’t do these things without help.

It turns out that I needed to be realistic about my own frailty to see my need for the help of others. In this case at least, humility was owning that I was not enough on my own to put my shoes (and sometimes socks) on.

I wonder to what degree this simple example is played out for me when it comes to God. I imagine that I have done this with lots of things for a long time. How long have I been trying to do alone that which is only possible with God’s help?

Maybe it takes knowing our need for help to find humility to be able to ask for it.

 

Life Update if you’re interested.

It’s been awhile since I last blogged of any great substance. It’s been a busy couple of weeks. Welcome to the mixed bag of my thoughts.

I’ve finished 1/2 of my Seminary applications. Duke Divinity School is supposed to get back to me before Christmas (wow).  Princeton Theological Seminary’s application is still under way. It makes me feel strange that this is all really happening. A few months ago I was idly talking of Grad school with people, whereas in the past few weeks I’ve been actually writing admissions essays, respectfully pestering my references, and meeting with the pre-ordination committee at church. In the next few months I’ll be moving forward in the process and becoming what folks in the PCUSA call an “inquirer.”

I dragged my feet a little when it came to starting to write the essays.  You might say that was foolish, and I’d agree. At the same time I wasn’t terribly eager to begin. While Grad school is exciting, I find that the reality of homework, exams, moving across the country, and starting a journey whose end remains largely mysterious are all reasons that it took me just a little bit more effort than usual to write essays.

The holidays are rounding the bend in a few weeks. I’m looking forward to spending them with my best friend and whatever family I can. Her small, spiky rodent friend will be joining us at my parents’ house for Thanksgiving…much to the delight of my niece, I’m sure. It took her 4 years to like me y’know. It was Thanksgiving about 2 years ago that Lily sat across the table from all of us and exclaimed, “I love you grandpa, I love you grandma, I love you mommy, I love you Daddy…and I EVEN love you Uncle Chauncey!” I suspect the hedgehog will receive far faster enthusiasm.

Things are getting chillier and as is my trend with every winter I’ve started to gravitate towards indoor-oriented activities. I think I need some sort of routine/class to keep me engaged in exercise. I’ve been out of the groove for awhile now, and my roommate and I started playing through Mass Effect 2 on his PlayStation. It turns out that saving the universe and is far more fun than the thought of a run outside in the cold rain.

The booklist goes on and on. I’ve started reading some more of NT Wright’s “New Testament and the People of God.” That guy is brilliant. Next on the docket are Chris Hedges’ “I don’t believe in atheists” and “War is a force that gives us meaning.” I’ve also been meaning to finish reading “Redeeming Mulatto” by Brian Bantum. All of these are books that excite me, though I have to tell you that Chris Hedges’ war book is a rough read. He calls things what they are and as you might imagine, a 20 year veteran war-reporter has a few stories to tell. I may or may not be regularly derailed in my intellectual reading endeavors by Lord of the Rings…

I made the poor choice of eating too much bacon yesterday. The high school guys in my bible study, the other leader, and myself all brought a pound of bacon each and then cooked it. I never expected to say the words “I’ve had too much bacon.” But after, bacon on donuts, bacon in mac n cheese, bacon wrapped apple bits, and a portion of a bacon weave (I’d never heard of it either) the very thought of more bacon was repulsive.

I just wanted to let you know what I’ve been up to. I’ll try to dig up something a bit more heady later on. At this point I’m just trying to get back into the practice of blogging. Carry on.

 

Just a little something

I read this prayer this morning in the online prayer/scripture thingy that I use. I thought you might enjoy it.

May the grace of God,
deeper than our imagination;
the strength of Christ,
stronger than our need;
and the communion of the Holy Spirit,
richer than our togetherness,
guide and sustain us today
and in all our tomorrows. Amen.

Titles don’t help sometimes.

Grief seems silly sometimes. Really, the only reason it does is when other people have far more cause to hurt and suffer than you.

I went to a memorial service for a friend yesterday. My co-workers were very helpful in allowing me to attend. The sanctuary at the church I attend was packed full. I would estimate around 300ish people. When you thought about who my friend was, it made sense.

It was a beautiful service. Lovely songs, heartfelt words, more deep from-the-soul laughter than I would have expected. The family of my friend did a magnificent job of speaking words of appreciation, love, and remembrance about their mother and wife.

It’s strange sometimes to think that I get to mourn in this too. There are people who hurt so much more deeply about this than I could ever understand. It’s as though I feel the edge of the hole in our community, but those who knew her best know the full extent of what is now and will be missing.

I really get tired of people dying. It is the most unfair thing that I have experienced. Death seems like a thief when people you love go unexpectedly in unforeseen circumstances. CS Lewis spoke about how friends bring out parts of you that no one else can. When they die, you lose those parts along with them. You lose someone you care about and it really does seem like you lose a part of yourself.

I’m not too sure what the point of this post was apart from saying that I will (along with my entire church community) miss my friend.

I know that death is something that can liberate people from suffering, and it is through suffering and death on the cross that Christ reconciled humanity to the Triune God…but that doesn’t make it easier to watch.

When we get to the resurrection I think I’ll have questions for God. Though, maybe by that point all I will need is for Him to hug me. I think that’ll make the most sense anyway.