The Truth of Independence and Self-Sufficiency

Independence
Noun

1. Freedom from control or influence of another or others.

Self-sufficient
Adjective

1. Able to provide for your own needs without help from others; “a self-sufficing economic unit”.

We had a forum on poverty at our church the other day. One of the gentlemen continually used the word “independent” and “self-sufficient” in his speech. I couldn’t help but wonder if the reason why there are so many people poor in our area is not a lack of being independent or a lack of self-sufficiency. In all actuality, I want to believe the very reason many are in the position they are in has everything to do with the lack of community and dependence.

I tend to believe that independence and self-sufficiency are words that mask the reality of life. We are so dependent on a variety of people to do things we could or would never dream of doing. For instance, you and I go to a grocery store or a farmer’s market to buy food. You and I did not grow that food at all. We are dependent on the farmers to provide that necessary provision so that we can enjoy an apple or an ear of corn. What about going to the doctor’s office? When I had to have surgery on my heart, I didn’t do the surgery on myself. I was dependent on the surgeon to provide a need for me so that I would live. You and I (unless you are Amish) go to a store to buy our clothes and other material things. We didn’t make any of it. From our jobs to our health, from our clothes to our automobiles, you and I are dependent on so many different people and things, it seems as though such words like Self-sufficient and independent should be removed from the dictionary all together.

The biggest area of dependence we all have – Amish or not – is the cost for our sin. You and I cannot pay for it at all – it is a price that is too great for anyone to pay. Only Jesus could pay such a price for our sins and reconcile our relationship with the Father once again.

It isn’t wrong to be dependent on others. It is wrong to be lazy and to do nothing. It isn’t wrong to be in need. It is wrong to expect others to do everything for you while you sit and play video games all day. We have a responsibility to ourselves to do what we can to provide for our families and ourselves. We must continually realize though that we cannot do it all alone. We really do need each other.

I think it is interesting to quickly note that even God the Father realized that it was not man to be alone (Genesis 2) and so He made a helper, a companion, and an encourager for man. When this was all accomplished, God said it was, “Very good.” I guess I can’t disagree with Him.

I guess the reason I am writing this post is to dispel any thoughts of self-sufficiency and to tag others to be apart of something greater than themselves. We are called to be apart of a community that interacts and works together. We are called to strive and help others who then are called to help us when we are in need. In Acts 2, the church had all things in common and no one lacked anything. If there was a need, people helped out and did what they could. That is how relationships work and we need to do a better job at it if we want to make it in this world.

I don’t know what this is calling you to do but I know what it calls me to do. I just hope that I can live up to the calling. It isn’t easy to say that you are in need. It is much easier to be the one providing for others. Both play a unique and important role though. We need to be sensitive to those needs and how we can respond when we are able.

Stories from the Homeless (30)

Last night we had a small group of people to go to the city. I am glad every once in a while when there is a smaller group. Usually that means we can all drive in one car and enjoy one another’s fellowship. Though, I also enjoy when we are a large group, being a smaller group every once in a while is nice.

For me, last night was a night of prayer and reflection on all that we have done over the past couple of months. I have seen crack users, marijuana users, and other issues throughout the city. Many of them have given us the opportunity to talk to them about life and faith. From the smells to the places we sat and talked, I can no longer call the mission to the homeless a mission but a lifestyle; a part of life that I live. I guess that is a good thing. I think it is interesting when we have new people come and join us. I think the conversation at the end of the day is most interesting. Sometimes, I wish I could live vicariously through their experience so that what they have experienced would be what I have experienced.

When I sat down to hand out a few sandwiches, Leroy, a guy I have gotten to know throughout the weeks showed up and we talked about life. I am glad he showed up. Looking at him, I noticed he had lost a lot of weight. After talking to him, he told me that he has cancer and has lost a lot of weight due to that reason. He is going for surgery at the end of August to remove it. I hope it goes well. I know I will be praying for him.

I don’t have much to write about this week because it was not much of a night. It was good though. I am glad I went and am saddened that I will not be there this upcoming Monday night. I am going to Camp-of-the-Woods so I will not be around to do the homeless ministry as well. I will be praying for everyone though.

Being Jesus: Women’s Rights

We are continuing our study through the book “Revelation.” Revelation is a collection of essays that explain through first hand accounts the very real nature of world issues. As I have read through this book, I have seen many ways, in my own life, that need to be worked on. I am glad for such a simple but effective work. It has challenged me and so too, I hope it challenges others to pause, reflect, and act appropriately to these issues.

The next issue that is discussed is woman’s rights. I have to admit once again my ignorance to this issue. In Social Studies, we learned a lot about woman’s rights in the United States. From what I remember, the first woman’s rights convention was held in New York in 1848. During that debate, several resolutions were adopted for equal rights for men and women with respects to voting. In 1903, the WTUL (Women’s Trade Union League was established to advocate for improved wages and working conditions for women. As we continue through history, the first U.S. birth-control clinic was established in 1916 but is shut down only 10 days later. The woman who began the fight for this clinic, Margaret Sanger, was arrested for her efforts. Later on though, she opened another clinic in New York City in 1923. Her efforts manifested into the now popular “Planned Parenthood” in 1942. By 1935, Mary McLeod Bethune organized the National Council of Negro Women that fought against discrimination, racism, and sexism in the workplace. One of the more interesting dates in women’s civil rights history is the approval of birth control pills by the FDA in 1960. Up until this point, it was not lawful for a woman to use contraceptives. On June 10, 1963, Congress passed the “Equal Pay Act,” making it impossible and even illegal for employers to pay a woman less than what a man would receive for the same job. Finally, as a result of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court established a woman’s right to safe and legal abortions, overriding the anti-abortion laws of many states. In my timeline of history, women’s rights never seemed to be an issue in my mind. Though the laws of the U.S. are not perfect, congress has made great strides in favor of equality for both women and men. From fair pay to a women’s right to choose the fate of a fetus, I have never felt the need to make something like women’s rights a thing of the present. That was until I realized that, across the world, things did not work the way I would expect them to as they do here.

It seems as though much of the other world has not joined with the U.S. in every area of women’s rights. In China, women are not treated well and work in horrible conditions for a small amount of money. The catch22 of the situation is that these women need the jobs to support their families but do not make enough to even support themselves at times.

In Africa, there are women who suffer from an issue called “fistula.” This occurs when the passageway of a woman is not taken care of properly. The results could result in discharging from the bowels and, even worse, loneness from her family because the smell is so horrid. Two million women suffer from this issue that could be fixed with proper surgery and medical treatment but these women do not have that opportunity because they do not have health care or even have the right to go to a doctor.

I am not saying we should all become feminist or something. Feminism is not the answer to this equation. The answer is simple. We must care about how all people, made in the image of God are treated. It doesn’t matter if you are white or black, male and female, U.S. citizen or African or Chinese, Demarcate or Republican. We all have and should be able to enjoy the freedom of equality. It should not be something for a select few. I do not condone abortion in any way. I believe one mistake should not result in another and I personally do not believe that the issue of abortion and women’s rights go together. I might be alone in that manner and that’s fine. That’s another post for another time though.

How can we get more involved in women’s rights: Here are some ideas.

* Educate, Educate, Educate. This is a familiar theme we will see throughout these posts.

* Read and learn the history of women’s rights in the U.S.

* Pray for the women in other countries who do not have basic rights every woman should have.

* Share what you have learned with others.

When we do the small things, God does great big things we would have never expected. This is the way God seems to work. I hope you are trekking along with us through these issues. Even though there is a bunch here to consider, learn what you can do now and start there. Any start is the aright start in the right direction.

Stories from the Homeless (29)

I like showing up early to the church and getting some stuff together before everyone else shows up. It gives me time to get focused and to have a few minutes of quiet. Though what I normally end up doing is not quiet, at least the space that I have to work in is – which is good for me. This week is our mission trip to Feasterville, PA. We have decided to do something that is normally not done by most churches. We decided to do a mission trip to our neighbors. If we can’t live it with our neighbors, we have no business living it any other place. That’s my own thought though.

Tonight was a difficult night for us as a group, which I will write about later. Walking the streets of Philadelphia, I felt that I should stay away from the Free Library. I want to go and see people who do not expect anyone to come and see him or her. A couple of our friends do work right outside of the library and so I figured I would let them do their thing there. I instead went a couple of blocks from that place to an area that most people probably never go. This is the same place where people make their “homes” against the wall of a factory building. Before I reached them though, I saw Art. He was sitting in his sports chair and eating a bag of chips. He didn’t see me coming but I walked right up to him and said hi. He looked very uncomfortable with me being there so I thought that I wouldn’t stay long. Looking at his waist, it appeared that he was packing a gun in his pants and perhaps something else as well. He also seemed to be high on some form of drug. Regarding both accounts, we didn’t discuss. There was no doubt there was a gun in his waist though under his shirt. The handle was a visible bulge against his shirt. He didn’t seem to even notice or know he had it either because he never looked at it. He finally sat down and rubbed his belly. I watched him to make sure he wasn’t going to do something stupid. I instead gave him a lunch so that he would stop running his hand over his belly. After some surface conversation, I left him so that he could smoke some more. I walked away slowly and made sure he didn’t think I knew what I knew. After a safe distance, I told the guy who was with me what I had noticed. He looked back and then looked at me again. This was the beginning of our night.

As we were talking to Art, Aaron walked by wearing a pair of torn jeans that seemed to be two sizes too big for him. He held them up with a warn belt and had on a button shirt that was missing several buttons. Carrying 3 jackets in the beginning of summer, he was looking for some company. Two guys stayed behind and opened up some conversation with him.

As we walked along the wall, we all several people beginning to get ready for bed. We went to the end of the building where two guys we had not met before were hanging out. The one guy had his shirt off, exposing several battle wounds with a knife. Liam was from Louisiana and had just finished making plans to go home. He would be taking Greyhound busses the whole way, which would take close to a full day of changing busses all over the place. He said it was worth it though. He wanted so badly to be home and felt that the “City of Brotherly Love” did not show love to him. He said people were rude and lacked real hospitality. I was not sure how to answer him because I had not experienced what he had. I felt bad that he felt that way about Philadelphia but I couldn’t disagree with him. I had no idea what he was experiencing.

The other guy was Derek. He had lived in Philadelphia his whole life. Having no work and taking his time to figure out what he wanted to do with his life, he sat on an old mattress and looked up occasionally to acknowledge that we were there. I asked him why he was there on the side of this building. He looked at me and said no one would give him a chance to work. He has a positive work ethic, so he says. I don’t know him at all but I don’t think he is a liar. Anyway, he said he is trying to do his best. For now, the side of a factory wall was his best option.

We talked to bother of them for a while. We talked about different cities we had been to and all of the changes that have happened since we had not been there. We laughed a bunch and talked about Barak. I asked him if he thought Obama would make a good president. He just looked at me and shook his head. “The clan would shoot his ass” he responded. I asked him if he liked him. He said no. Too political for America he responded. I guess even some African-Americans have some issues with him. After listening to his political views, we realized it was 8:45 and said goodbye.

When I got back to where the rest of our group was, I heard there were a few issues that had evolved with the “Food not Bomb” people that usually set up outside of the Free Library. I have to say that I was really surprised. We have built such a nice relationship with them but I guess something had transpired when I was not there. The one woman who was an atheist told one person in our group that she didn’t want us in their turf. I don’t know what all had happened but I know that we now have a new issue on our hands. A couple of us have taken great lengths to build relationships with that group. Now it seems as though all of that work has been thrown down the drain. I think one thing we need to do is get together with two people from that group and perhaps go out for coffee or something – as long as it isn’t Starbucks, I think we can make it work out.

One thing I have come to realize through a meeting we had after we returned to the church: We have a motive for going to the city. We have a mission. We have a purpose and an intention. We go to be the hands and feet of Jesus. We do not go in order to preach at people or throw tracts in their face. We open our hearts and our minds and accept people as made in the image of God. In a small way, I am beginning to see why we are there. I am beginning to realize that our reason and purpose for being in the city is two-fold. (1) To serve the homeless, be involved with justice things, and love the neglected and (2) Be the hands and feet of Jesus, to share the love of Christ, to give the good news, and to enjoy fellowship with others. I am learning. I know there has to be more though.

Are You Serious? (2)

I love watching the old game shows like “Family Feud” and “Hollywood Squares.” I like to attempt the questions they are asked and see how filled I am with useless knowledge. I think I am pretty fair in both accounts. I actually watched this show – Are you smarter than a 5th grader? – On TV. I waited a couple of weeks and then searched on YouTube for it because… Well… You’ll just have to see for yourself.

Being Jesus: Gangs

’ll have to be honest and say that this next issue from the book, “The Revolution” was a big disconnect for me. I don’t’ know much about gangs and have merely played games with other boys growing up about being in a gang and stuff. I was never in a situation where I had the option to join a gang. I live in the “safety” of suburbia while all of the “bad stuff” happens in the urban areas. That is the falsity that I grew up believing. My biggest issue in H.S. was having acme or something. I never thought being in a gang would be an issue for anyone my age. All of this to say that I really don’t know much about gangs at all. This chapter opened my eyes a little to the life of a kid on the street.

Why would anyone want to be apart of a gang anyway? To me, I would rather be in sports or a club activity. Many times though, some of these kids are not given the opportunities to excel in these areas. They live in less than adequate situations and, in some cases, do not have one parent or the other apart of their life. Having one parent working hard to attempt and make ends meet, the child is usually left alone without a lot of guidance and direction. As the kid watches cars go by, he sees a lifestyle that is only 10 percent accurate: Big cars, flashy jewelry, and lots of money. When you are poor, that kind of stuff would attract any kid. The lifestyle is hard and getting out is even harder. Some kids make it while others end up dying trying to get out of a gang. Once you join a gang, a real gang, you are in for life. This is not a posse at your local 7/11 or something. This is hardcore gang affiliation. Usually to get in or out, the gang members beat the living crap out of you. After you are all blooded up, you have “earned the right” to be apart of the group. You are given a nickname, a “color” to wear in some cases and sometimes, a weapon. In some of the older gangs – the ones you might read about in books or the ones like those in the movie “American Gangsters” – you have to shoot someone in order to be apart of their group. Joining a gang is like signing up for something without reading all the small print. It might look good from the big letters but eventually, the smaller print is found and you are stuck with the consequences.

So. What do we do? How can we be in prayer about these issues? Here are a few ideas I have thought of as I have considered these manners:

* Educate yourself in how gangs begin and how one gets in.

* Talk to those you know about it.

* Pray for those who are in gangs. Pray that they can and will get our safely from them. Pray that God will give them sense enough to get out and move on.

* If you have a younger brother or sister, don’t assume that because you live in suburbia, they are safe from gang life. Talk to them about it and how they can stay away from it.

* Be a mentor/friend/big brother, big sister to a child who needs positive role-modals in their life.

* Volunteer at a youth outreach or through an organization. Time is something that is more valuable to these kids than you or I could ever know.

* Report any or all-suspicious activities/gang paraphernalia to the proper authorities.

Fighting is never the first response we should ever need to take in any situation. We are called to turn the other cheek and love others despite their actions or thoughts about us. That is what makes us different and unique from the rest of the world. The more we learn about these things, the more we can better prepare and teach others the seriousness nature of real concerns that occur perhaps right out side our front doors. Pray for the hurting and pray that these gangs will dwindle to nothingness. Until that point, we must continue to learn and listen to the voices around us in order to act appropriately when needed.

Being Jesus: The Need for Clean Water

I have finished the book, “The Revolution” within the past couple of weeks. I won’t lie to you. What I have read in this book is difficult to read at times but I think has given me a great understanding of what we – the simple people with so much to offer but oftentimes don’t know how to help – can make an impact in little ways to a world that is hurting and in need of the love of Christ. With that, I thought I would take some time and highlight the chapters in this book. The title of these posts will be simple: Being Jesus. Today we will deal with the first issue in this book and discuss a few things that are important for us to understand and finally how we can do something – even it is something small like pray.

The first chapter blew me away. What bothers me the most is not necessarily the issue the book discusses rather what I was doing while I was reading it and it hit me like a ton of bricks. The issue is clean water.

So here I am, drinking bottled water I paid 1.75 for, while reading a chapter on clean water. I never realized what I was doing until I had gotten to the end of the chapter and the bottle of clean water that I had just bought was empty. Holding it in my hands, I wanted to throw up what I had just drunk in order to thank God for it. That often happens. In today’s wealthy society, we take a lot of things for granted – especially our water. In truth, many people around the world do not have a luxury of clean water to drink. I think I always knew that or something but I never realized just how big of an issue it is.

One author writes, “The growing multibillion-dollar bottled-water industry has flooded the supermarkets and convenience stores with more choices in clean water than ever before. We do not have to be satisfied with water from the tap. We don’t have to deal with high levels of iron, lead, fluoride, or chlorine. Our bodies stay properly hydrated, so our complexions are smooth and blemish-free; our skin is softer and our muscles have the kind of elasticity necessary to perform in an active environment. Our hair is stronger and healthier; our digestive systems function with regularity; even our brains function more efficiently, giving us an increased threshold for concentration. But water is not just a healthy choice; it is a fashionable one. Water is branded in ways to accommodate any kind of lifestyle. It is as unique to us as the music we download or the coffee beverages we order.”

While we drink our bottled-water, 20,000 funerals a day are happening around the world due to the lack of clean water. In this report, a little girl needs to use the restroom only to find that instead of needing to do what most of us do in a bathroom, she needs to push out warms that have gone through her body because the water that she has drunk is filled with amebas and other things that are not meant to be in drinking water. Here is the catch22 though: If she drinks the water, she suffers from warms and other sicknesses. If she doesn’t drink the water, she dies. Doesn’t sound like the best options – and no. I am not making light of this.

So what can we do? Well there are a few things we can do:

* Learn about the needs of people around the world with regards to clean water.

* Educate others in this area of need. The more we know, the more we can do. Knowledge is power. When a lot of people have it, we can do so much more.

* Pray for those who are in need of clean water. Ask for God’s mercy on them.

* Maybe instead of buying bottled-water for yourself, take that money you would have spent (even if it is only 1.75) and put it towards a group that helps countries receive clean drinking water. If you enjoy drinking bottled water, find groups that are giving some of the proceeds from their sales to those countries who are in need of clean drinking water. I know the bottling group “Ethos” gives .05 of every bottle sold in the U.S. and .10 of every bottle bought in Canada to a place that is in need of clean water. You can buy that water at any Starbucks.

* Thank God more often for the blessings we have that we oftentimes take for granted – even the water we have.

* Check out organizations that support clean drinking water and get on their mailing lists for information and ways in which you can pray more specifically.

* Find creative ways to fundraise for one of these groups. Allow all the proceeds to go towards that end.

* Go on a mission trip to a country that is in need of clean water and help dig a ditch for a well and lay some pipe. Take lots of pictures or take video and bring it back to your church or your friends and show them how important this issue is.

I am sure there are a lot of other ways you can think of. One thing I am going to do is look up what companies support these issues and buy bottled water from companies that some of the proceeds go towards clean water. I can’t get the picture of that little girl out of my head – the one who has the warms. We need to actively do something as the body of Christ – not as the US.

I am not saying we need to give up drinking bottled water all together. As I said, I am still going to drink it. I am going to find ways though to be more active in making sure that 20,000 people a day don’t die simply because there is not an adequate source of clean water for them to drink. I have to believe that makes God super angry. We are blessed to be a blessing. So let’s be a blessing. Let’s educate, pray, hope, believe, love, and give to those who are in need.