Monthly Archives: August 2012

Under the Overpass

So, welcome back. Oops, maybe you were never here in the first place. At any rate, welcome.

Today, we’ll dive into some quotes from my latest read. This might be a bit of painful reality. Or it may not. Having not read the book, maybe you as a reader will be sheltered by the emotion that comes through. Maybe this post screens the dirt and grime of the streets so that you can sit there, in a air conditioned environment, sipping your latte and enjoying your sterile environment. I’m not wanting to damper your current mood. I recommend this book to anyone wanting to read a real journey of faith as well as to explore a subculture of America that is neglected. One that we want to ignore and, at times, do such a good job of ignoring and forgetting.

Mike and Sam chose this lifestyle, because they wanted to. They could always go back to their homes.

Most people on the street have no such option. page 11.

This is their reality, their life.

For some reason, I hardly ever admitted when things weren’t going so well. I glossed over my struggles with a cliché. Psalm 34:18 says “the Lord is close to the brokenhearted’. I wondered if pretending you’re not broken keeps God at a distance. The men I was meeting were at the bottom and weren’t afraid of admitting it. Their ruin opened the way for honesty. Pretending didn’t help anymore and they didn’t have the strength to keep it up. page 35

If we are the body of Christ, we need to be fully present in the places where people are most broken. And it has to be more than just a financial presence. page 36-37

Begging is hard. It’s something you expect hungry dogs to do, but not men and women made in God’s image….No one deserves mercy and no one walking by owed us a dime, Mercy is, by definition, undeserved or else it isn’t mercy. page 51-52

He quotes Deitrich Bonhoeffer on page 85:

The exclusion of the weak and insignificant, the seemingly useless people from everyday Christian life in community may actually mean the exclusion of Christ for in the poor sister or brother, Christ is knocking at the door.

Comfort is relative, a truth that was slowly sinking in. page 87

There is immense contentment in letting go of comfort. Don’t worry about tomorrow. Just be thankful for now. page 88

Sitting there with Sugar Man, I felt my carefully established definitions of a Christian crack and expand, Here was an admitted addict and user openly proclaiming Christ in his community and asking how he could serve us. What do you do when a good tree bears bad fruit or a bad tree bears good fruit?

What’s your definition of a Christian? Is it broad enough to encompass the drug dealers, pimps, prostitutes and broken people of the world? Jesus said that he came to heal the sick. Drug addicts are messed up just the same as liars are messed up, just the same as all humans are messed up. We all need Jesus. We all struggle with personal ways in which sin plays itself out in our live.

What’s worse? To do dope or to not love your brother? page 96

This post is getting long but I’ll continue plunging on. Not all of their experiences were doom and gloomish. They did meet some people who genuinely cared for them and other homeless people. Like George, on page 132 and 133:

“What’s the real reason?”, asked Sam. “Okay,” said George, realizing that we were serious. “You really want to know? I do this because my faith tells me to The Bible clearly says, if you see someone hungry, feed them; if you see someone naked, clothe them. Those words weren’t written for us to make books and sermons about. They’re written so people don’t go hungry and naked. And they require action from all followers of Christ, not just rescue missions.”

“Live as you are called and the good news will go forth.”

Who is to show the world Christ’s love if not the church? page 142

True faith is visible. page 146

If there is any place on this earth, any group of people in which a person must sense welcome acceptance of their presence, it is the church. page 158

a smile or quick hello…such kindnesses were so rare. The powerful underlying message was, “I notice you, you’re a human being and you are worth my time”. page 166

Whenever we close our eyes to the real needs of the real people of our world, we force them to survive via whatever options are available to them, dehumanizing though these options may be. page 171

When the tailgate feast was ready and the first man stepped up to take his plate, Rings had a speech ready. “..I do this because Christ pulled me out of the mess I was in. Then He told me to do this. You want to be free? This is freedom! Enjoy.” And breakfast was served. page 200

Having everything “just because you can” is a trap. It numbs and blinds the human spirit. It can separate us from our calling and our privilege as Christians in this needy world. page 210

Speaking about whether or not to give to homeless people that we encounter on the streets, he says,

We’re responsible to help others toward hope in Jesus’ name. But we are not responsible for their choices. page 212

Sam, in summing up their trip, says this,

Only in knowing God will we see people as they are, live as we were meant, and love as we were meant. Our relationship to Him didn’t separate Mike and me from the needy and oppressed. Rather it pushed us closer to them. I think loving God is supposed to push all of us to be immersed in our world. page 213

On the same page,

Little things do mean a lot, especially in the kingdom of God, where giving a drink of cold water has eternal repercussions. And I am convinced that the more committed we become to impacting one person at a time, the more we will prepare our hearts and our churches to respond at both a community and national level. The bottom line is that real love always shows itself in action. page 213

A huge congrats if you have waded through this flood of quotes. Maybe it’s not such a good idea to have a highlighter and pen handy while I read. Maybe I shouldn’t read books like this that pull at my heart, convict me of past behavior and challenge me to living more intentionally all at the same time. Maybe. Maybe you should get your own copy and read it. Maybe it’ll challenge you like it did me. Maybe…

Till later,

EJ

Categories: About life, Books | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Another Day, Another Book

Ah, so life goes on…at it’s usual rapid speed. And here at school, it’s another book. I hope people, namely those that read and follow this site, don’t become bored or irritated at the number of books that I have referenced here. This site follows me and currently, my life is that of a student. Of a thinker. Of a reader. By extension, then, this blog will follow books and ideas.

Now, I’ve had to read and write some book reports in time past but never have I done so with a pen and highlighter within reach. I do this to note phrases and ideas that at the moment capture my attention. This practice is too fresh to tell if this actually works in bringing back my initial thoughts when I re-read a marked up book of mine. Maybe I’ll reference the effectiveness of this practice at some future date. Maybe.

Today the book in the spotlight is a adventure on the streets of America. Under the Overpass by Mike Yankoski is a book that details the journey of two guys and their quest to understand the homeless of America. Some years ago, the author was challenged by a message that his pastor preached one Sunday morning. The main thought that stuck with him was ‘Am I the Christian I say I am?’. He claimed, I’m yanking this straight from the book, that Christ was his stronghold, his all, but he never put it to the test

I sat there in church struggling to remember a time when I’d actually needed to lean fully on Christ rather than on my own abilities. Not much came to mind. What was Paul’s statement in Philippians? “I have learned what it means to be content in all circumstances, whether with everything or with nothing”. With nothing? The idea came instantly ……what if I stepped out of my comfortable life with nothing but God and put my faith to the test alongside of those who live with nothing every day? The picture that came with that question was of me homeless and hungry on the streets of an American city.

But he was advised that he needed a partner. Enter Sam Purvis. Together they set off on sightseeing tour of 6 cities: Denver, Washington D.C., Portland, San Francisco, Phoenix and San Diego. A sightseeing tour at ground level. Literally. What did they find? Check back tomorrow.

EJ

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Sunday Musings 8/26

Welcome to this edition of collected thoughts from today’s worship session.

Today was the beginning lesson of the book of Ecclesiastes. Though the author doesn’t name himself, it is commonly inferred to have been Solomon. His tone is melancholy and could be slightly depressing if read without proper context. Solomon, with all his riches and wisdom, in this book contemplates on life and what really satisfies. I’ll ask that in question form. What really satisfies? Think about that for a minute. What activity do you enjoy doing? Volleyball, music, working out, cooking, etc., whatever it is that you enjoy. Now, does the satisfaction gained from it last? If it doesn’t, it’s only fair that we could ask, does that activity truly satisfy?

Interestingly enough, Solomon begins with a conclusion, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity”. Is he right? Is everything vain? Are we not made for something more? To set this properly in a Christian context, the latter 3 words of verse 3 ought to be noted…’under the sun’. If this life on this planet were the total existence of man, then yes, what we do and how we would live life would be vain. But there is more to life. In 1 Corinthians 15:58, the NKJV reads, ‘your labor is not vain in the Lord’. For the Christian, this life offers the chance to prove his devotion to God. And that means that there is more than just what is here, ‘under the sun’. So Solomon, for all his wisdom, swung and missed on this one.

What seems to chew at Solomon was death and it wiping out a seemingly important person. We would like to believe that our reputation means something. We cloak ourselves with this misconception. But who are we to think that our name will last? That people two hundred years from now will remember us? Ah, the folly of humanity and the foibles of it’s accompanying arrogance!! Verse 4 starkly says, ‘One generation passes away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abides for ever. We die but who remembers. But the cycle of the earth has been going for thousands of years. Look at the water cycle. Rain falls on rivers and runs the course down to the sea. From there it evaporates back into the atmosphere only to fall again. This process has been happening and has been more beneficial to humanity  at large than our existence possibly could be. Looked at from solely a humanistic and aesthetic point of view, this is folly/madness/vanity, etcetera.

So where does this leave me as a human being? It leaves me here. Without a belief in a all-knowing, all-powerful God, my life here, not matter what I do, will be vain. But that belief gives me a purpose to live greater than myself.

Just a note here. Neil Armstrong, the first of mankind to walk the surface of the moon, died yesterday. For him, his life here is over. But, due to that recognition of being first moonwalker, his name will live on. Not all of us are like that or are privileged to have his ‘type’ of experience.

For now,

EJ

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Quote from “The Adventure”

Wow, being forced to read good literature is a almost surprising aspect of life at Faith Builders. Granted, after one day, who am I to make such a call? Perhaps, in a short time, the reading shall be a drudgery and a bore to my mind. As it stands today, I love it.

One of the books that we are required to read in this first week is “The Adventure” by Jerry Sittser. It’s on discipleship and is designed to help and encourage the reader to a closer walk with God. So far, after the first 68 pages, I’m enjoying this one. One of the most forceful thoughts that came across in today’s reading is that God’s is there for me. My relationship does not derive it’s strength from the amount of energy that I put into it but rather on the fact that God is always there. That He is the more committed one in my relationship. That He is loyal.

But as long as we make our feelings, our discipline, our consistency, our techniques and our success and happiness the foundation for Christian living, we shall never know true Christianity. It always begins with God, never with us. He is loyal That is the most basic truth. (2 Tim 2:13)

Sittser quotes Carlo Carretto, speaking on the darkness of faith…

The darkness of faith is necessary, for God’s light is too great. It wounds,. I understand more and more that faith is not a mysterious and cruel trick of a God who hides Himself without telling me why, but a necessary veil. My discovery of him takes place gradually, respecting the growth of divine life in me.

Oh, how many times have I been in this darkness and wished for more light! This quote resonated in my breast. My faith helps me believe in God while it protects me from His overwhelming awesomeness. And yet, I want to see and experience more.

EJ

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A Letter

For this post, apply your name to the spaces and continue reading.

_______, I love you. I shed my own blood for you to make you clean. You are new, so believe it is true. You are lovely in my eyes, and I created you to be just as you are. Do not criticize yourself or get down for not being perfect in your own eyes. This leads only to frustration. I want you to trust me, _______, and take one day at a time. Dwell in my power and love and be free. Be yourself. Don’t allow other people to run you.

I will guide you, _______, if you will let me. Be aware of my presence in everything. I give you patience, love, joy, and peace. Look to me for answers. I am your Shepherd and will lead you. Follow me only. Do not ever forget this. Listen and I will tell you my will. I love you, _______. I love you! Let it flow from you, spilling over to all you touch.

Be not concerned with yourself; you are my responsibility. I will change you without your hardly knowing it. You are to love yourself and to love others simply because I love you. Take your eyes off yourself; look only to and at me. I lead, I change, I make, but not when you’re trying to do so. I won’t fight your efforts.

You are mine, _______. Let me have the joy of making you like Christ. Let me give you joy, peace, and kindness. No one else can. You’re not your own. You have been bought with blood and now belong to me. Your only demand is to look to me and only me, never to yourself and never to others. Don’t struggle. Relax in my love. Stop trying. Let me make you what I want. My will is perfect, my love sufficient. Look to me. I love you.

God

Categories: About life, Books | 2 Comments

Sunday’s Musings 8/19

Again, here am I, on the verge of another 2 year commitment. This time, it’s not to serve but as a learner that I embark on these next 2 years. Yesterday’s trip from Ohio to northwestern Pennsylvania was smooth and took me a hour less than I had calculated. That is a plus.

And so this morning found me again in worship but surrounded by a different set of faces. There is no “church” here. By church, I refer to the traditional concept of membership. Here, rather, is a fellowship, comprised of students and staff. We are all members from different congregations and denominations who have the Faith Builders campus as the common constant of our current lives.

Today, in talking about continuing on, the pastor said this;

Following Jesus is a life long commitment. It takes perseverance. And when we struggle with doubts and discouragements, we still press on. Even when we don’t feel like doing so.

 

EJ

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An Excerpt From ‘Quitter’

Recently, Patrick, a friend of mine, lent me his copy of Jon Acuff’s book, Quitter. I love good books and this qualifies as a good book. Jon Acuff is the author of Stuff Christians Like, a blog that takes a satirical look at modern Christianity. In addition to his blogging, he’s authored 3 books with the 4th one coming out in a couple of months. He’s funny, spot on in his observations yet in touch with the reality and struggles of modern life.

The book Quitter is a very real look at what it takes to succeed at dreams without falling into some of the common mistakes made by dreamers. This morning, in continuing my progress through the book, I read through page 180 where he talks about burnout. Not being a published author and only now getting a semblance of direction for life, the correlation between burnout and dream might be a unknown for me. But I have known what it feels like to feel like when you chase your tail only to find the world spinning faster. Of feeling you need to “burn the candle at both ends“.

Page 180:

When we talk about chasing our dreams and successfully doing more of what we love with our lives, we often throw caution to the wind. We work until we drop and shrug off rest as something people who don’t have our dream do. We “burn the candle at both ends”….Edna St. Vincent Millay said it. “I burn my candle at both ends, It will not last the night. But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends, It gives a lovely light”.

We’ve treated that line about burning a candle at both ends as if it’s prescriptive, not descriptive. As if the best sign of real success is burning out. Burnout is a badge of honor. Exhaustion is the mark of excellence.

No one sets out to kill their dream through exhaustion, but it often happens because dreams are ravenous. They will take all the time you give them. They will swallow relationships and other priorities and anything in their radius if you allow them to burn both ends of your candle.

Burn your dream bright. Pursue it with the best of who you are. But don’t confuse hustle with burnout. Hustle fills you up. Burnout empties you. Hustle renews your energy. Burnout drains it. Hustle impacts every other aspect of your life in a positive way as you learn to prioritize the things that matter. Burnout impacts every other aspect of your life in a negative way as your dream becomes the only thing that matters.

Don’t accept burnout as the price or definition of success. It is neither.

EJ

Categories: About life, Books | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Time: Coming and Going

Time is fleeting. It’s a interesting concept. Why do we keep time? Is it to remind us of our appointments? Our duties? We say it flies….is there no way to make a second into 2 seconds and thereby theoretically slowing time down? And wouldn’t it be ideal to freeze time and enjoy moments longer and more fully? Why do we feel so bound to it’s passage?

It seems like yesterday that I returned from 2 years of living in Paraguay. I can honestly say in the intervening months since then and now, God’s been leading step by step. But back to the issue of time. Where did it go? I’ve enjoyed my time here at home but now the time comes to leave again. For another two years. This time, instead of serving, it’s studies that take me away. I’m heading to Faith Builders for 2 years of study.

People ask if I’m ready for it. I am. I’m excited. The next 2 years look long. Time seems to stretch out almost infinitely.  But they’ll pass. And at the end of those years, I’ll have changed. How? That’s impossible to say now but I know that will be true.

I go from one place to come to another. Life morphs….shifts….evolves. We leave a scene only to enter another. Wherever we are, we are actors in a scene in life. Exiting stage right only to enter from the far side.

I go only to come. I come only to go. And that’s life.
EJ

Categories: About life, Just me | Tags: , | 1 Comment

A Quote From Last Saturday

Walk in the light that you have for the current moment. As you move through life, that light will go with you and illumine the next step.

So, while taking out some frustration on the rampant weeds in the family’s garden, this popped up in conversation. And I thought…how fitting. It’d be interesting to hear stories from other believers who have had this happen to them. We want floodlights to illuminate our path in life but God only promises “a lamp for our feet“. And of that fact, I need to be reminded of.
EJ

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Sunday’s Musings 8/12

The young men Sunday School class, of which I’m a part of, has been having some great, class, conversations. There was one last week and another one this week. Man, I’m going to miss these guys when I leave in a week.

This week’s conversation revolved around covetousness and contentment. Of all the sins that are confessed in church, covetousness is a rare one. When is the last time that you heard of covetousness being confessed of? It’s a silent sin. One that we are reluctant to name in our own lives. But when we examine ourselves, do we have that intense desire to have or a high emotional longing for more possessions? I’ll admit, having just recently returned from 2 years of serving in foreign missions, I look around and notice things that I…think…I…could…have.

The challenge then is, can I say like Paul that whatever state I find myself, I’m content? And just what is this vaporous feeling of contentment? When do I know that I am content? When I quit spending on non-necessities? It’s a elusive feeling. When you think you have it, it slips away from you again.

Spending money is not a sin of discontentment and covetousness. Likewise, not spending money is not to be a indicator of contentment.

For this week, that’s all.

EJ

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