Church In The Wild

Posted: July 23, 2013 in Uncategorized

Originally posted on What In The World R U Doing 4 Christ's Sake?:

Concrete jungle
marble grey and bleeding
Unaware of Who it is they are needing.

Dripping rain forests
lush emerald gold
Downpour weeping stories untold.

Middle-aged prostitute,
mascara lines on face,
vanished, gone without a trace.

Homeless beggar
cardboard prayer
rolling by on life’s conveyor.

Profane rappers
subconsciously plead
calling for spirit-mouths to feed;

See right through us
Conflicted souls,
fear in eyes, shot through with holes.

Flames of fire
simmer deep within
Follower’s hearts to free from sin.

Christian’s hide,
trembling we cower
As if God-in-us doesn’t have the power.

Bold and aggressive,
Yet meek and mild,
We must become the Church in the Wild.

**This poem was inspired by the radically relevant teaching we have been receiving by Anthony Thompson at FHC’s Saturday Night Services. I will be linking this poem with the D’Verse community where we were given the writing prompt of Wild.

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I don’t exactly remember when I met Kim, but I do remember that I was excited to find someone with four important things in common. 1) our first names 2) our middle names 3) service to our communities 4) love for the Savior. What great things to base a friendship on! She has a lovely place in the blogosphere called From The Heart Online, you really should check it out! And now, without further delay, here is her piece on one of the ways her family shows her community the love of God.

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She walks slow, parading her garbage-poking stick like some kind of baton. He struts a little, wielding his. We search the boulevard and ditches for bags and wrappers to stab and slide into our garbage bag.

Hundreds of others (each one in a bright yellow Tee) spread across the city with gloves and bags, on the hunt for trash. Eleven churches work together to keep this city tidy each spring.

Cool, eh?

I wanted to get in on it, but no way would I drag my kids into community service. They’ve got to want it.

I mentioned the upcoming event, and what it’s about. I asked if they were interested.
“Yeah … but I want to have a grabbing stick so I don’t have to bend down.”

He’s six.

Not eighty. … a young, robust six.

But when they told Dad about it, he offered to make them a poking stick. They were thrilled.

These two tender-hearted kids love to help. Maybe they did sign up to get the poking stick and the free hotdog. Or maybe they were in it for the adventure of an outing. Either way, they voluntarily served their city and had a great time doing it!

And now, when we drive past that boulevard, I hear from the back seat;

“Hey! That’s where WE cleaned up!!”

That’s right. Way to take ownership kiddos.

Join me in welcoming Jen Ferguson. She has a lovely blog called Finding Heaven. It is where I first found community here in the blogsosphere. She is so dear to me. I think you’ll understand why when you’ve gotten to know her!

I am blessed to be a part of a church that values missions outside of our town and inside of our town. With this dual focus, so many people in our church community are able to participate in Jesus’ call to serve those who need help (physically, emotionally, spiritually, etc), whether they are around the corner or across the ocean.

Each day of this Spring Break vacation, our church, St. Luke’s on the Lake, partnered with organizations in the Austin area who needed help in various forms. Parishioners took part in as many or as few days as they could, but each moment given produced fruit for the Kingdom of God. Sometimes we may have had the amazing opportunity to witness with our words to those who may not know Jesus, but we always had the opportunity to witness with our actions, with our gifts, and with our smiles. I am struck by the fact that task that are not normally considered heroic or herculean are so incredibly appreciated. And I also appreciate that entering in for the long haul can really assure someone else that God just might be in for the long haul, too.

On the day that those who could help the Refugee Services of Texas, our team literally showed a new refugee (from the Hutu tribe of Burundi) how the bus system of Austin works. This means that they all waited. A lot. However, what we may view as mundane, is life to another. To know and understand where vital resources are in this city is of utmost importance. And in the waiting, a relationship was built, the heart of Christ lived out. Our team leader, Barbara, received this email from the head of the organization:

Thank you again for St. Luke’s generous day of service. Bus orientations are not the easiest task to conquer, however they are valuable for both parties as they give a great inside perspective on the challenges refugees face upon arrival. It is also very demonstrative of refugees’ incredible ability to survive, overcome, and learn new skills in this country despite having faced years of oppression, violence, and displacement.

I am confident that those who traveled around with this newcomer learned as much from him as he did about Austin that day.

At many of the places we visited, there was a lot of gardening, of cleaning up, of beautifying. Those who need help usually don’t have a lot of time to focus on the external growing of things — God is so busy at work at the internal, there is not a lot of time for the other realm (plus, there is often the issue of funds). Or, perhaps their bodies have failed to keep up with the desires of their hearts and they just cannot do the things they long to do anymore. But even though physical labor was a great need, time spent building relationships with the people within these organizations, perhaps produced even more beauty and fruit. After the crew that helped one of Mrs. Josephine, one of elderly ladies that relies on the FarNorthwest Caregivers, this happened:

Ms. J’s personal attendant came out with tears of gratitude in her eyes. Ms. J cannot walk and her health is deteriorating. Her attendant said that she gets so much pleasure from looking out the window at her garden and the birds, but that the garden had become run-down and unkempt. She called us “angels.”

Not only did we enrich them, bringing kindness, smiles, and fun, but they enriched us, often without even knowing they were doing it. Our team leader writes, after she returned from Elderhaven:

I saw God in the tenderness and unspoken connections the Elderhaven clients have one for another. One man held the hand of a woman he has only known a very short while (I’m pretty sure he thinks she is his deceased wife) and they were both happy and content. In the end, maybe it’s not about shared experiences, memories or words, but just simple, loving gestures.

freshly prepared beds at Elder Care

Hard work at the Glory House

Fence repair at the Glory House

Mowing down weeds at the Glory House

basking in a hard day's work

Kitchen repair at the Glory House

weeding and bed preparation at Armadillo RV Park

Abby does crafts with some of the kids who live in the park (many of them have started attending our church, too)

A puppet show!

A task for any ability level. Hannah took such pride in cleaning the picnic tables at the park.

Fr. Parker comes to lend his gardening expertise, too.

Fellowship and celebrating a great day's work with Sno Cones!

This one says it all - so much fruit!

Refugee Services of Texas – Austin
Refugee Services re-settles legal refugees to the U.S. who are fleeing persecution in their home countries. Refugee Services is the entry point for most refugee families, who generally do not know anyone where they are relocating.

Faith In Action Caregivers Northwest
Faith In Action is an organization of volunteers that provide rides for elderly folks living independently in their homes, but who cannot drive anymore. Faith In Action also helps clients with general cleaning and landscaping projects they are not able to do themselves.

Wednesday – Austin Groups for the Elderly/ElderHaven
They have a diverse clientele; some Spanish-speaking participants, and about half of the clients have some form of dementia, including Alzheimer’s. Elderhaven is an adult daycare center for folks who cannot stay home alone while their caregivers are at work.

Luke 4:18 Ministries/House of Glory
House of Glory is a half-way or sober house for women after drug/alcohol rehabilitation or coming off the streets/homeless living. House of Glory provides a safe place for them to live while working on daily living and job skills.

Friday – La Palabra/Armadillo RV Park
Armadillo RV Park is a community of working poor families, mainly Spanish-speaking. We work together to help improve their community and make connections.

Are you interested in doing something like this at your church? You are welcome to contact our team leader, Barbara (barbarafrances@sbcglobal.net) to ask her questions on how to get this started in your area.

Tara’s words drip like honey. You’ll have to see it for yourself here and here. But what I admire most about her is that her feet are following her words and heart. So many of us are well intentioned, and yet…that’s as far as it goes. Please join me as I delight in getting to know my world changing friend better…

I have this vibrant, full of life daughter.

She is beautiful because of how present she is in each moment, how in tune she is with her surroundings. She dreams of big things and far off places. She knows her future is wide and unending.

I have these other daughters, too.

Ones that I don’t know by name, but have been called to love. These daughters know a life where the only way of survival is to shut down. Block out the horrors of being sold. Of a number pinned on a red dress replacing their identity, their soul. They also dream of far off places, but only as a means of escaping their reality. The future to these daughters is to just make it through one.more.night.

My heart…it breaks for these girls that I do not hold in my arms. My body yearns to press their chests up against mine, so they can feel my heart beating deep and strong for them. I wish to stroke their cheek to erase past touch that has been evil and unkind.

My words…have felt empty with no physical action behind them. For I feared it was not enough to feel sadness for these lives; my sympathy would do nothing to protect them.

So my feet have found a rhythm of their own. A prayer found in motion.

Each mile that stretches before me, I picture one more life burning bright.

One more daughter hearing her laughter again, rusty… after years of laying dormant.

One more beautiful woman feeling her face transform into a crooked grin.

I run for their lives.

I am honored to be partnering my steps and my passion with a team of blogger-runners and others who are tracking their daily miles, or running their races on behalf of the organization Love146 . The goal is to get 146 people to run 146 miles in a year to raise awareness {and/or some cash} to help this great organization.

Should you wish to add your miles to move to protect these daughters, check out our daily mile challenge page to add your name to the list of runners.

If you are not a runner, yet wish to learn more, please go to Love146 to find out the endless opportunities we can partner together for creating real change.

For tonight, I wish for all of God’s daughters to dream of futures never ending.

Please see this video of how Love146 was started:

Salvation Army worker

There’s nothing more “Christmasy” than hearing a Salvation Army bell ringer. I wonder if you’ll take a look at my past with me? A stroll down memory lane if you will…

I had the most beautiful upbringing in the whole world. Part of this heritage includes a family with its roots entrenched in the Salvation Army. My father, the eldest son of Salvation Army officers started his young family where his foundation lay…at the SA. My mother had her life changed when at 15, after a Billy Graham crusade, she filled out her followup paper work with SA for Saint Ann’s Catholic Church, and the Salvation Army showed up at her door. I have a plethora of family members that has served as officers of the Army and are now retired. As someone who has had the pleasure of watching their lives from the inside, let me tell you, they do the most good.

My own spiritual formation took a turn when I was 14. An uncle from my mother’s side started a non-denominational church and we began attending there. However, there have been key moments in my life when I have found myself right back where I started…at the Army. Two times stand out in particular. Once was the Thanksgiving when my father encouraged my family to help serve Thanksgiving dinner at the corps they were attending. My children were all tweens at the time, and at first they were a little annoyed that our family traditions were going to be “interrupted”. But, by the end of the dinner, I can honestly say that they were truly more grateful for things that previously they had taken for granted.

The other time that stands out in my mind was around the same time as the first. We went to church with my parents who were then attending a Salvation Army church in Janesville, Wisconsin. The Army has much more conservative services than my children were used to, and the congregation there was much more…shall we say ecclectic? First, a lady with a FULL BEARD, stood up and gave a testimony. I gave the “look” to my boys, more than once, and eventually they were so intrigued by her praise to God and to the love and acceptance that the rest of the congregation showed that her that they were okay on their own with my evil eye. Next, a lady with an oxygen tank got up and played the accordian for special music. I’ll never forget my daughter whispering very sincerely and innocently in my ear, “This is better than a circus!”

…and then I realized. How many churches would celebrate these dear ones? Would mine? Even more importantly, would I? I am reminded of an old song we used to sing when I was in the Army. “To love the unloved, in the service of the Lord.” It is service to the Lord when I love those the world calls unlovely. And the unlovable aren’t just those who look different than we do…or those who smell different than we do. Sometimes they are the co-worker in the cubical next to us, or dare I say it, the person we are living with…

Please consider giving to one of the most nobel causes on the planet. The Salvation Army has made the world a better place in so many ways. Won’t you help them do it? You can either contribute to your local kettle, or if you’d like you can make a donation here.

Today is Cyber Monday…and in order to get into the spirit of things, I am featuring 4 gifts that you can give 4 Christ’s Sake! So move over Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, here we come!

1. Since human trafficking is the very first issue addressed here at What In The World R U Doing 4 Christ’s Sake? I thought it would be nice to find an item that donates its proceeds toward ending human trafficking. Look what I found! A beautiful necklace!!

This necklace is made by survivors of human trafficking. Isn’t it lovely? The proceeds from the purchase of one of these necklaces goes to Made By Survivors, an international charity working to stop human trafficking and modern day slavery. This lovely jewelry features silver beads as well as semi precious stones. All for the cost of $88. You can purchase this item here.

2. If you are planning on sending Christmas cards, you may want to check out this possibility. Cards That Give is a non-profit organization that features beautiful cards from hundreds of various charities to which a portion of the proceeds goes to your choice of charities. The pictured card is from the organization God’s Love We Deliver, a charity that brings meals to the critically ill.  These cards are appropriately named “Ice Dining”. A box of 12 cards goes for $17, and can be purchased here.

3. Many of you know how much I ADORE Ann Voskamp. Her book, 1000 Gifts has changed the lives of so many, mine included. She has served as an ambassador for Compassion, and her fifteen year old son Caleb, has decided to use his beautiful gift of carpentry to help raise money for Compassion. This beautiful wreath is called Cradle to Cross Wreath and follows the life of Jesus, well, from the cradle to the cross. Isn’t it beautiful? This beautiful way to celebrate the life of Christ is handmade, by Jacob himself and is available for $68. Check out this website for more information…

4. If you’re more interested in helping someone personally, this family is attempting to adopt 2 children from Ecuador. Adoptions can become ridiculously expensive. This family has designed a tee-shirt which they are selling in order to help them with the cost of adoption. $20 makes you the proud new owner of this shirt…and you’ve helped two children find homes!