Archive for June, 2011

Simple Joys in Life

The little things in life are sometimes what can make all the difference. It can be so easy to overlook the little joys in life, to forget that without those moments life wouldn’t be as pleasant. Many of us look for those awe-inspiring moments in life, where it almost seems like fireworks are exploding. And I know that I find myself looking for that next big moment instead of paying attention to the small joys and excitements that are occurring around me daily.

I was reminded of these joys during this past weekend when Josh and I took a simple small journey around Cleveland. Josh had discovered that there where statues of painted rabbits scattered around the eastside of Cleveland, which is part of an annual public art project created by the St. Clair Superior Development Corporation. The program has existed for 6 years and the goal is to promote investment in the St. Clair/ Superior neighborhood, which is not the greatest area of town. Each one of the statues is decorated and painted by local artists.

Josh had been asking to go and find all the rabbits and take pictures of each one for a while, and I finally gave in so we started on our journey. I am not going to lie at the beginning of the day I wasn’t completely thrilled the idea but I figured I would just go along with it all, especially since Josh really wanted to find them all. As the day went on, Josh called me out for being grumpy about the trip and reminded me that this was supposed to be an adventure. So I took a moment and realized the simple joy in this adventure, changed my attitude, and began to enjoy myself. Especially because we had a brochure with a map and listing of all the rabbits and we quickly realized and learned that it wasn’t the most accurate, which only added to the adventure.

I’ve tried to explain what we did to several people, especially since we posted the pictures on facebook and tagged friends to each rabbit, and no one seems to really understand. All I know is that for something so simple, I really enjoyed myself. Even though there were moments where we both got frustrated, especially when the rabbits weren’t exactly where the map had them placed, we both wouldn’t trade that day for anything. And maybe that is the point, it doesn’t matter what others think because what matters is that we enjoyed ourselves and enjoyed our time with each other.

Life can be crazy at times, running from one thing to another, and it is very important to sit back and enjoy not only the big exciting events in our lives but to recognize the thrill in the little things we do. Life is far more enjoyable when you realize the fun that is sitting right around you.

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Uncomfortable

Learning to make people feel uncomfortable was never a trait I thought I would pick up, but I am quickly discovering how easy a trait it is to pick up. Over the past several months I have really worked, spent time, and reflected on how to prepare myself for this amazing move Josh and I are about to embark on. Through this process I have been reading various books and articles, including a sermon by a minister from the 1700’s (what surprises me is that I did it voluntarily and not for some assignment). The overbearing theme that I am constantly being faced with is the notion of speaking out for what is right and that apathy is not an option.

What has surprised me more is that I have carried this into all areas my life. For example, several co-workers of mine have recently told me that I used to be so quiet and nice all the time and that I have changed. Feeling confused and wondering if they were trying to tell me I’ve become some horrible mean person, another co-worker put it in betters terms, stating that I have started to speak up and against certain things and by doing so I’ve challenged the norm. At that moment I realized that the core issue was that I was making them feel uncomfortable. The nice little quiet girl who made no complaints actually had a voice and by changing the label others had given me I was challenging their comfort zones.

At the same time the entire idea that Josh and I would be willing to quit our full time jobs and enter a year of urban ministry with no income has made people uncomfortable, and lately I have noticed that I have this uncanny ability to make people even more uncomfortable by just trying to talk about it, especially when I get to the point that we need to raise support (aka money) for the year. People seem to get really touchy when you bring up the topic of money, particularly when it relates to their money.

While learning to make people feel uncomfortable was never my intention when I set off down this road, I sure have enjoyed myself (yes enjoyed) even when I hit points of absolute frustration. I am learning that life is more enjoyable when you challenge the norm and wander outside the comfort zones of society. I am experiencing God much more because I am slowly letting go of my many reservations about where He can and is taking me. I look forward to the uncertainties in life and the journey ahead, and if I make you feel uncomfortable along the way, I challenge you to jump alongside me and see where this path goes. I just know that I would rather live a life pursuing the dreams God had placed on my heart than sit back and wonder “what if?”

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“The Duty of Charity to the Poor”

In 1733, Jonathan Edwards, a minister of a church in Northampton, Massachusetts, preached on the obligation of Christians to provide for the poor in his sermon “The Duty of Charity to the Poor.” He had become aware of the growing tension between the rich and poor in his area, and Edwards recognized that the core of the issue was spiritual. While this sermon was written just under 300 years ago, the points he made still resonate in society today. Edwards focuses on the fact that over and over again in the Bible there constant teachings of our need to provide for the poor, and while people may come up with objections and reasons why they cannot provide for others, there really is no excuse.

While he points out that we should feel obliged to provide for others simply because God has told us to, Edwards also uses reason and basic morals. If we as Christians believe we have been created in God’s image so has every other person, and if we feel that we deserve God’s love, doesn’t everyone? “We have all the same nature, like faculties, like dispositions, like desires of good, like needs, like aversion to misery, and are made of one blood.” And at the same time God created us as a family, one unit, a body. 1 Corinthians 12:12-31, discusses that while we are all unique individuals, God created us to join together in unity, so we share each other’s joys and sufferings.

Edwards provides countless scriptural references to this need to provide for others. Throughout the Bible “there is scarce any duty prescribed in the Word of God, which is so much insisted on as this.” Just check out a few of the passages he provides:

Leviticus 25:35 “And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee, then thou shalt relieve him; yea, though he be a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with thee.”

Proverbs 28:27 “He that giveth to the poor, shall not lack.”

Micah 6:8 “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”

Matthew 5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”

Acts 20:35 “I have showed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

2 Corinthians 9:6-8 “But this I say, He which soweth sparingly, shall reap also sparingly: and he which soweth bountifully, shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound towards you; that ye always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.”

1 John 3:17-19 “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.”

We are reminded over and over again of our duty and the need to provide for others, and Edwards focuses on the point that outside of this duty we also must remember where our success and blessings have come from. God has provided for us, and just this provides enough push and motivation to provide for others. And we may sit here comfortably in our own homes with an abundant supply of food and clothing, “But you little consider what a shifting, changing, uncertain world you live in, and how often it hath so happened, that men have been reduced from the greatest prosperity to the greatest adversity, and how often the children of the rich have been reduced to pinching want.” In a world with a continuing fluctuating economy, many people have felt this bounce from abundance to need. So in these times of abundance we should be providing for people who are in need, who are struggling to make ends meet because we could easily be in their position.

Facing many objections to these teachings, Edwards provide reasoning why saying “giving to the poor does nothing,” “those people are not in dire need,” “that person put them self in that position,” or “I barely have enough to spare” are not enough to not provide for others. What amazes me is that these objections shared almost 300 years ago are the same exact ones that are heard today on why people cannot give. And what is at the core of the reasoning behind proving these objections wrong is the love of Christ. “Christ loved us and showed us great kindness though we were far below him so should we show kindness to those of our fellow men who are far below us. Christ denied himself to help us, though we are not able to recompense him, so should we be willing to lay out ourselves to help our neighbor, freely expecting nothing again.”

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Judging Others

If you judge people, you have no time to love them. ~ Mother Theresa

While these words seem so simple, they can seem to be some of the most difficult words to live by.  How often have I caught myself judging and making comments about complete strangers, that person driving the car in front of you or the person in line at the grocery store? Why is it so much easier to sit and make negative comments about people compared to praising them? Why is it easier to gossip about what someone does then discuss all the positive influence that they have?

In a career field full of women, I have found it all too easy to fall into that trap of gossiping about what others are doing. Now, I do not excuse men from this habit, but I notice it much more in my heavily female workforce. In a job that can be highly frustrating, stressful, and draining, sometimes releasing these pressures often lead to us berating one another. Knowing that we can’t respond to that comment a patient or family member has made, we often find ourselves taking out our frustrations on each other. Judging the very minute habits the other person has.

At the same time, in society we find it much easier to yell out a negative comment to a person, especially a complete stranger, than yelling out comments like “I love you!” or “You’re the best!” Could you imagine just walking around and saying constant affirmations to complete strangers in a large crowd? People would probably think you were nuts and that something was wrong with you, which is quite funny to think about. The moment you try to change your habits, to judge less, it becomes easier for others to judge you that much more.

But maybe at the core of all of this is that we find it much easier to judge people we do not know than to take the time to actually get to know them, to actually love them. It is easier to walk right by that person begging for money and make some hurtful comment than to stop and talk and find out what this person really needs. It is easier to judge how someone is acting than to ask them what is going, maybe that person you are assuming to be mean is actually having a bad day and all they need is someone willing to help them out. And maybe we all too scared to find out what will happen when we decide to stop judging and to start loving.

God called us to a life of love, to care for one another. In a sermon given by colonial pastor Jonathan Edwards, he discusses the need and the obligation to provide for others, especially the poor. At one point he mentions that God has full reason to insist on us providing for others, for loving others…

“It is most reasonable, considering the general state and nature of mankind. This is such as renders it most reasonable that we should love our neighbors as ourselves; for men are made in the image of our God, and on this account are worthy of our love. Besides, we are all nearly allied one to another by nature. We have all the same nature, like faculties, like dispositions, like desires of good, like needs, like aversion to misery, and are made of one blood. And we are made to subsist by society and union one with another.” (Christian Charity or The Duty of Charity to the Poor)

We have all been the one judging, but we also have all been the victims of judgment. We must recognize our likeness to each and every person around us, that we are all children of God who are deserving of love. I would rather be known for the love I shared than the judgments I made.

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