Friday, September 27, 2013

Midnight - Patrick Lowry

Midnight of the spirit
I am alone,
The Presence eludes me
And I am lost to find my way
In black,
To struggle in darkness
Keeping demons of despair at bay
Until a different kind of dawn
Breaks my private hell
And His sun rises
On my exhausted soul.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Unemployment, Community and the Future of the Family - Aron Smith

This is reposted from Aron's blog which you can follow at 

I have been thinking about unemployment insurance a lot lately.  With the questionable future of my current work location, some of my coworkers who have never had occasion to receive unemployment benefits are contemplating what would be a first for them.

In the short term, I think unemployment insurance constitutes sound economic logic.  Capitalism assumes that most people will work for a living and use their income to support themselves.  This cycle of earning and spending is what makes our economic system go ‘round.  The social contract posits that when a break in this cycle occurs because an individual becomes unemployed due to no fault of her/his own, she or he is entitled to dip into common weal for a brief period of time during which efforts to become re-employed occur.  In other words, the taxes of those who are working help to support those who, temporarily, are not.

The idea is that those who are laid off due to economic factors beyond their control (bankruptcy of the employer or a recession, for example) should not be punished.  On the contrary, they should be rewarded for their past labors while they find their way toward resuming their roles as productive members of society and contributors to the economy.

Implicit in this provision of the social contract is that the unemployed person will return to the work force as soon as possible.  This implied condition is made explicit by state unemployment laws that limit benefits to a prescribed number of months.

Remaining unemployed rather resuming work at the earliest opportunity is discouraged by a twofold maneuver.  First, unemployment benefits are calculated on a schedule that assures that individuals receive a relatively small percentage of the income earned while working.  Hopefully, the receipt of unemployment benefits will provide the out of work with a modicum of support for their families (on an austerity budget, to be sure) sufficient to prevent hunger and homelessness.  Second, unemployment benefits end after a specified amount of time.  This provision is designed to light a fire under the unemployed, creating a sense of urgency fueled by the prospect of destitution should benefits end before re-employment is secured.

Where this neat little system falls apart, of course, is when this threat morphs from theory into reality.  Recent statistics suggest that the unemployment rate in the United States is falling, an indicator of increasing economic health.  As with any financial measure, however, the accuracy of one’s numbers depends on how you count.  The apparent decrease in the unemployment rate is, at least in part, a product of fewer individuals receiving unemployment benefits.  It is well known that a reduction in the unemployment rolls does not necessarily mean that more people are gainfully employed.  It may well reflect the thousands of people who have exhausted their unemployment benefits, thus falling off the charts even though they are still out of work.  These are our neighbors who fly under the radar, neither employed nor on unemployment benefits, and thus nonexistent as far as our tunnel vision economic figures are concerned.  The long-term unemployed become invisible.

Let’s spend a moment thinking about what happens to those who find themselves in this predicament — out of benefit weeks and still out of a job.  Out of luck.  As a society, we are simply abandoning these people, leaving them to their own devices.  After all, they need to be punished because they failed to follow the rules by finding work within the prescribed period of time. 

But what if their failure to find work is no fault of their own, just as the reason that they became unemployed in the first place was no fault of their own?  What if a person has diligently sought employment to no avail?  This can happen for any number of reasons.  In this age of microchips, there is the ever-present threat of technological obsolescence (otherwise known as “I’ve been replaced by a robot.”)  I can appreciate this one, having personally performed two different types of jobs that have virtually gone out of existence in this country.

Perhaps the plant has moved out of state or overseas, where operating costs are so much lower.  Perhaps there is no similar work available in the unemployed person’s geographic area.  Perhaps he or she is not at liberty to move due to family commitments or health challenges.  As it is, we have become a very mobile society, rolling stones who miss out on yesteryear’s advantage of strong community roots.  We acknowledge this as far as not denying unemployment benefits to those who decline to move hundreds of miles away to the nearest available job.  But then we shrug it off when the benefit period runs out.  If you really want to work, move far away from your support system and work!  If not, starve.  Let the support system to which you are so attached take care of you.

Whoa, stop right there.  When a person loses her job, we don’t throw her on the mercy of her family.  We recognize this person as a valued member of society who has fallen on hard times, and we provide her with some measure of support.  After a time, however, we say “okay, we’ve done enough, now it’s your family’s turn.”  What is wrong with this picture?

There are those who long for the good old days when members of extended families took care of each other.  No unemployment benefits needed, or as Archie and Edith Bunker cheekily sang every week during the opening of TV’s All in the Family, “didn’t need no welfare state (everybody pulled his weight).”  If one member of the family was unable to earn a paycheck, that individual could contribute in other ways, including child care, elder care and household maintenance.  Then, of course, there was also a thriving underground economy (in our inner cities, there still is — and not all of it has to do with selling drugs, either).  People grew gardens and raised chickens, both for their own consumption and to help feed their neighbors.  Payment was not always in cash; barter thrived.  Although Craig’s List and the TV show Barter Kings suggest that we may be returning to this model, it is still a drop in the economic bucket.

You see, a funny thing happened on the way to the forum:  The extended family who we expect to support the long-term unemployed has ceased to exist, at least among the middle class (leaving people out on the street and scavenging in dumpsters).  As if the post-World War II transition from the extended family model to the nuclear family were not bad enough, the cancer of family breakdown has now advanced to the point where even the nuclear family has crumbled into dust.  Fathers have become marginalized as single mothers raise their children and young adults choose to remain single for longer and longer periods of time.  There is no longer any shame or stigma attached to “personal choices” from abortion to childlessness to refusal to provide financial and emotional support to aging parents.  Meanwhile, the middle class, who have failed miserably in their attempt to glorify the nuclear family, continue to look down their noses at the poor who are forced by economic circumstances to crowd many people into small dwellings, whether urban apartments or rural cottages.

But I am hopeful.  Perhaps the vagaries of the economy and the evanescence of unemployment benefits will have the unintended effect of encouraging the resurgence of the extended family.  Perhaps the day will come when it will again become common for grandparents, uncles, cousins and friends to share a residence, each one contributing his or her special talents to the communal well-being of the family unit.  Perhaps contiguous family units (in old-fashioned lingo, these were called “neighbors”) will again check on each other’s welfare and engage in random acts of sharing.  Perhaps we will shake off our jaded ways and decide that community is still important.  Perhaps we will once again decide that we need each other, that we are indeed our brothers’ keepers.

As John Donne wrote more than four hundred years ago:

                        No man is an island,

                        Entire of itself,

                        Every man is a piece of the continent,

                        A part of the main.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Resurrection - Aron Smith

Dear Reader, Aron let me know that he wrote this piece with Bob Carlisle's song "We Fall Down" in mind.  If you'd like to hear that song, you can watch the official video HERE. -Chris

If you’ve read my recent piece on hospitality, you are aware of my tendency to make a bee line for the dictionary before I start in on a topic.  This time is no exception.

The word resurrection is derived from two Latin words, the prefix re- and the verb surgere, to rise again.  As such, it is identical in origin to the word resurgence.  Both words carry the implication of bringing something/someone back to life after he/she/it was thought to be dead, either literally or figuratively.

To go a step further with the etymology, the word resurrection contains the Latin root rect-, meaning “right.”  Something that had fallen down (dead) is being righted, or restored to the upright position, not unlike the tray tables on a commercial jetliner when it’s time to descend for a landing.

The idea of restoring to life that which was thought to be lost forever is, of course, a highly romantic notion.  We get all wistful and misty-eyed over things lost, be they youth, money, ideals, faith or that one argyle sock that went into the dryer but never came out, lost forever among the lint balls.

We view all these things as being gone for good, irretrievably lost, perdido in Spanish or fafaln in the Yiddish that I grew up with.  The Yiddish word literally means “fallen”; in both the Yiddish and the Spanish, there is the implication of “damned,” or “lost to a place from which there is no return.”  So this is not just any fall, but the Fall, as in Adam and Eve.

The idea of resurrection seems to cancel out all that.  It is a word infused with hope to its very core; the concept implies that nothing is so lost that, under the right circumstances, it cannot be brought back to life.  The Bible teaches us that the right circumstance for rescue of lost causes is an extreme measure of faith.
Most of us associate “resurrection” with the events immediately following the death of Jesus.  However, the concept is first established in the Old Testament.

Arguably the best known incidents of resurrection are Jesus’ raising of Lazarus in John Chapter 11 and the prophet Elijah’s revival of the son of the widow of Zarephath in 1 Kings 17:17-24.  Interestingly, the Hebrew names of Elijah and Lazarus are very similar, the former being Eliyahu (“my God is Jehovah”) and the latter being Eliezer (“God is my help”).  Elijah himself had no need of resurrection, as he was transported to heaven alive in a whirlwind by a chariot of fire.  2 Kings 2:11  His protégé, Elisha, performs a resurrection upon the son of a Shunammite woman in 2 Kings 4:31-37.

The “never say die” ethic inherent in the concept of resurrection implies that there is always hope, that nothing is impossible.  Occurring in the spring of the year, Easter and Passover are festivals celebrating renewal at a season marked by the “rebirth” of plants upon the warming of the frozen earth as well as the appearance of a new generation of animals.  The egg, which figures prominently in the customs of both holidays, is the very symbol of fertility and regeneration.

However, resurrection implies not only a physical renewal, but a spiritual one as well.  This time of year can be viewed as an opportunity for second chances born of self-examination.  If we take a good, hard look in the mirror and do not see the person we had hoped for, there is no time like the present to make changes.  If we have veered off the path, now is the time to make corrections and return to the right road.

This is a good time not only to count our blessings, but also to make a renewed effort to bestow them on others.  Let us not forget those who are more unfortunate than us, as inconvenient as it may seem to give of our time and financial resources.  If we have become jaded by the vicissitudes of life, now is the time to resurrect our ideals.

Just as our prophets did in the Bible, we too can perform resurrections by providing the gift of hope to the hopeless.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Twins, Summer and Resurrection - James Harrison

Summer is coming! It's true, it's only April, but it's (mostly) warm and sunny and there's no looking back! Before adulthood, summer was easily the best time of the year. No school; what more could you ask for? Besides chores, my sunny seasons were spent riding bikes, playing basketball, and hanging out with friends. But after I finished school and entered Youth With A Mission, moving to Alberta, Canada, the summers merely meant that the sun would still be in the sky after work was over, as opposed to seeing stars come out at 5 pm. But besides work, the June, July, and August months meant occasionally visiting good ol' California to see my family.

Now, I have a twin sister. Before you ask, we are indeed identical twins, both in facial appearance and height. Yes, throughout our lives, most people can't tell who was James and who was Julie. It led to all kinds of problems. Julie would dress like me and get into all kinds of trouble, and the next thing I knew, I was being punished! It was tragic. But as adults, we've reconciled our conflicts and get along just fine. Mostly. 

Joking aside, one thing about my twin is this: she is summer. She embodies it, from her bubbly personality that cannot be eclipsed to her shining face filled with excitement. If you're around her, you know what she's feeling. If she's happy and laughing, you will be too! The sun is a ball of light and energy, never ceasing. And my sister is just as hard to shadow if she has set her mind to something. Once when we were seven, Julie got a hold of some flower seeds and started digging a hole. When I found her she was reading the bag of seeds and asked me what 6" meant. Intelligently, I told her, "It means six feet." (Whoops) She said, "How big is that?" "Julie, you'll have to dig for as tall as Jacob!" Sitting in the dirt with her wild, brown, curly hair, she thought for a moment then said, "Okay," and went back to work with the shovel.

She is persistent, loving, and full of life. Like the sun. Like summertime, that time of year I'm accustomed to seeing her. So when I think of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I think of a special time of the year, lasting the entire year! Seasons disappear and it's summer all year around. The atmosphere is energetic and life is the air we breathe. Our Creator is persistent to plant seeds that don't stop growing, and he will never withhold his Spirit that waters us each day, until the sun stops shining.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Hosanna - Beth Morgan

Last week I was trying to think of what songs to lead for Palm Sunday at church and naturally started thinking through all of the “Hosanna” repertoire.  I started to reflect on the 80’s number, “Hosanna Hosanna Hosanna in the highest…Lord we lift up Your name with hearts full of praise.  Be exalted, oh Lord our God. Hosanna in the highest” and I was reminded of the first time I remember hearing it and the realized it’s an interesting and befitting story.

The first time I heard this song was the German version, “Hosanna in der Höhe“.  I remember thinking how cool it was that in German, “Hosanna” was the same and that the rest of the line sounded funny, but cool.  I was 8.  My big brother had just returned from a trip to East Germany.  He, with a group of teenagers plus a couple of group leaders, managed to get into East Germany and I remember him telling me that they brought a keyboard to a secret group of Christians that were meeting.

The other day when I was remembering this, I started to imagine a windowless room full of East Germans singing with hearts full of praise and hopeful that the King would come and rescue them from a dark, difficult and oppressive time.  I started to think about Jesus riding his donkey into Jerusalem before crowds of Jews so weary and longing for the promised King to rescue them from the oppression of the Romans.  The parallels were obvious and my heart did a little leap with the realization that in my lifetime, many believer’s prayers were answered and that I possess a piece of that infamous dividing wall that was brought down.

My thoughts turned to “far-off” lands today where I imagine there to be secret churches praying with hearts full of praise and with expectant hope of the intervention of the just and good King.  Oh that we would join with them more in prayer and solidarity, rejoicing that the King has come and praying that His kingdom would come on earth as it is in heaven.  Hosanna.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Gardener - Aaron Alford

The two men had run off, as they were so prone to do, never giving the stranger in the garden a second glance.  The woman who was with them had followed.  He was alone now.  He stretched wide and took in the morning sun as it fell warmly on his face, his hands, and on the garden’s green leaves.  The air was cool, and smelled of the freshness of a newborn day.  A morning song sprang suddenly from the sky above him, and the singer lighted gently on a branch just a few feet away.  He stood there, watching her preen her wings, and he marveled at such a small and elegant creature.  She cocked her head and puzzled at him for a moment.  She sang once more, as if to ask who he might be.  He smiled in response, and the singer hopped into the sky in a flutter.

He heard footsteps approaching, and not wishing to be noticed, he hunkered down on his haunches, and busied himself with the patch of little yellow flowers beside him.

The woman had returned.  She was visibly distraught, sniffling, speaking to herself in whispers and sobs.  He kept to his flowers as she approached the great rock that stood behind him.  He glanced her way, but her eyes did not meet his.  She paused at the sight of the open rock face, and peered into the barren tomb.  He could hear her sharp breaths, and quietly watched as she stepped trembling into the tomb. 

He returned to his flowers with a pensive brow.  He knew what she was thinking.  ‘They’ve taken him!  Oh God!  They’ve taken him!  Hadn’t he suffered enough?  Why strip him even of the dignity of a grave?’  He heard her sobs from the inside of the sepulcher.  The yellow faces of the flowers stared back at him, as if pleading to him, “Say something!” 

Convulsions of sorrow were coming upon her now, and she turned from the open grave, steadying herself against the stone that should have sealed the tomb.  Her fingers caressed her lips as she looked to the empty blue sky in despair, and with a last great sob, she buried her face in her hands, and wept.

He stood to face her, and stepped slowly toward her.

“Ma’am?  Why are you crying?”

“Please!” she said between gasps, her hands pressed mournfully to her face. “Please, if you’ve taken him... If you know where they took him, tell me!  I’ll take him!  Please!”

She fell into the stranger’s arms and wept.  “Please.”

He took her into his embrace, standing silently.  The two of them stood there in the cool of the morning, her head nestled into his chest, both of them aglow with the still rising sun.  He smiled when the breeze caught her unkempt hair, tickling his neck so softly.  He put his lips close to her ear and whispered a single word.  


Her eyes shot open in recognition, and she pushed herself away to see his face.

“Teacher!” she screamed, and took him into her arms so tightly he began to laugh.

“Oh God!  It’s you!  It’s you!” she cried, her heart barely believing what she was holding in her arms.

“It’s me,” he said.

“Oh, let me hold on to you forever!” she cried.

“Not yet, Mary.  But soon.”

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Hospitality - Aron Smith

As an amateur etymologist, I can’t help noticing that the word hospitality contains the word hospital.  Checking my big, unabridged dictionary, I see that both words come from the Latin hostis, which may refer to a guest, stranger or enemy.  This Latin word is the root of both host and hostile.  Could it be that all strangers were once seen as enemies, and those who entertained them viewed with suspicion?
The dictionary also tells us that while a “guest” is always “welcomed,” this may be either “gratuitously” or “for a fee.”  So one may be a guest at a hotel (same Latin root as above), in our homes or even in a hospital (although today we would use the word patient), but in all cases, hospitality is offered in that we are taken in to an establishment belonging to another, and to which we would have no right but for the owner’s largesse or desire to make money.
My immediate association with the word hospitality is the story of Abraham in Genesis 18:1-8. As the curtain goes up on this drama, we see Abraham sitting at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day.  I’ve always wondered why he was sitting out in the heat, in the middle of the desert, rather than staying inside the tent with Sarah, where the shade must have been cooler.  And why wasn’t he working?  Was it his day off?  Was he so wealthy that he didn’t have to work?  We know that he had many servants and flocks and wells, so perhaps he got to relax while his employees did the work.
I don’t imagine that many people came traipsing through the burning sand, so it must have been something special when three men approached, seemingly out of nowhere.  They may have been strangers, but Abraham wasn’t afraid of them.  He welcomed them without having any idea who they were or where they came from.
Looking up, he saw three men standing near him.  As soon as he saw them, he
ran from the entrance of the tent to greet them and, bowing to the ground, he
said, “My lords, if it please you, do not go on past your servant.  Let a little
water be brought, bathe your feet and recline under the tree.  And let me fetch
a morsel of bread that you may refresh yourselves, then go on — seeing that
you have come your servant’s way.”  They replied, “Do as you have said.”

What can we learn from this?  To be sure, Abraham did the normal things that we associate with hospitality:  He provided food, water and a place to rest.  But Abraham went far beyond the provision of these basic necessities.  His actions speak volumes about his attitude.

We are told that Abraham “ran…to greet them.”  Imagine that!  He actually ran to greet them.    These travelers were no mere curiosity to Abraham.  He must have felt a deep compulsion to be of assistance to them.  He welcomed these visitors not grudgingly, nor out of a mere sense of duty, but with joy.  It is obvious that he had great respect for these people who he had never met before, as he bowed down to them and referred to himself as their servant.

So what did Abraham offer his guests to eat?  No mere crust of bread, no peanut butter and jelly sandwich for them.  Oh no, Abraham provided these strangers with the best and finest that he had to offer.

Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Quick, three seahs of
choice flour!  Knead and make cakes!”  Then Abraham ran to the herd,
took a calf, tender and choice, and gave it to a servant-boy, who
hastened to prepare it.  He took curds and milk and the calf that had been
prepared and set those before them; and he waited on them under the
tree as they ate.

Instead of serving everyday bread, Abraham had Sarah use choice flour while he himself especially picked out a calf that was tender and choice.  Also, curds (similar to yogurt) and milk were considered rich foods fit for special occasions.  And Abraham did all this at a moment’s notice, without giving a second thought to the cost.

The theme of urgency pervades these verses.  Abraham hastened, he told his wife to be quick, he ran to the herd and the servant boy hastened to butcher and cook the calf.  It seems that Abraham’s conception of appropriate hospitality involved not requiring the travelers to wait for anything.

Finally, we are told that Abraham waited on the travelers while they ate.  Perhaps this means that he kept out of sight so that the visitors could take their time.  But I don’t think so.  I believe the scriptural reference is to “waiting” in the sense of a restaurant waiter or that of one who is “waited on hand and foot.”  In other words, Abraham was attentive to his guests, refilling their plates and water and generally seeing to it that they wanted for nothing.

Did Abraham know he was providing hospitality to angels?  That is a question that has been debated for thousands of years.  Ultimately, however, I don’t think it mattered.  I believe Abraham would have extended the same courtesy to any travelers who came his way, no questions asked.  In other words, Abraham saw a need and he filled it.

Why is it so hard for us to emulate Abraham’s sense of hospitality in the 21st century?  I thought about this recently on a lazy Sunday when my wife and I were enjoying a late lunch in Denny’s down by the freeway.  As we were leaving, she told me that she noticed three young kids sitting at the table behind us and that she’d like us to pay for their meals.  I quickly agreed; we have often performed such random acts of kindness, and Donna has an uncanny discernment of those in need that has always eluded me.  After paying their bill, she walked over to their table and gave each of the three of a ten-dollar bill.  She reported that they just stared at her as if they couldn’t believe their amazing good luck.  One of them had ordered a cup of coffee; the rest drank water.  They had shared a sandwich among them.  My wife expressed her opinion that they were probably traveling, most likely on foot.  They may have been hitchhiking along the freeway, or they could have been homeless, perhaps preparing to spend the night in one of the makeshift camps beneath a bridge abutment or in an alley between abandoned storefronts.  The oldest of them couldn’t have been more than 21 or 22.

We never did find out what their circumstances were.  Donna told me that she wished we could have taken them into our home, let them bathe and wash their clothes, give them a good meal and a cozy place to sleep.  How wonderful, I thought.  But, she reminded me that, in this day and age, it is unsafe to allow strangers into one’s home.  We must help others from a distance, at arm’s length, for who knows if they will harm us, rob us, destroy our home.  Sadly, I had to agree.

I believe that the spirit of Abraham is alive and well, but the realities of modern life have thrown up barriers to properly performing this act of good will.  Was the world really so different in Abraham’s time?  I like to think not.  I don’t believe people have changed that much.  Abraham did not know that the strangers traipsing across the sand were not robbers who intended to murder him and Sarah and ravage his herds.  He had no idea what their intent was, where they had come from or where they were going.  None of that mattered to him.  All he knew was that they had arrived and that hospitality was therefore in order.

Perhaps we need to take a sledgehammer and break down the barriers that stand between us and loving our neighbors as ourselves.  Or at least take a chisel and chip away at it, one person at a time.  All it takes is one or two people to provide an example to others, to demonstrate that there is nothing to fear but our own prejudices.  I only hope I can go out on a limb and be the kind of person I really want to be.  I don’t know that I’ll ever get there, but I pray that I will learn to open my heart fully, willingly and without fear, just as our patriarch Abraham did so many centuries ago.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Open The Doors - Patrick Lowry

Tear down the walls

Open the doors

Open our hearts

Swing wide the door of welcome

Friends are calling

Woody said strangers

Were just friends we hadn't met

To live in trust

Is to live in love

To live in love

Is to live in Christ

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Grand Abundance Out Of Limited Means - Heidi Fox

Heidi and Justin Fox are city pastors with Rock Harbor church in Southern California.  Justin also writes and records good music.  You can download his brand new album "The Sound Forgiveness Makes" at his website It's really good!

Justin and I have lived across the street from the Baker St. apartments for over eight years.  Although the kids from both sides of the street attend the same school, the racial and cultural divide has felt a mile wide.  Ever since moving in, we've prayed about, planned for, and practiced the idea of sharing God's love with these neighbors.  We speak very little Spanish (and don't even like spicy food!), and yet God has knit us together with this Latino community in incredible ways.  PTA projects, birthday parties, an ESL night called "Share Your English", holiday events, and play-dates have all contributed to deeper friendships and incarnational conversations that have indelibly shaped us this year.  After walking out of a restaurant one evening during the summer with our neighbors, they told us this was the first time, in 40 years, that they had ever gone to dinner with a "white couple".  They later asked us, "Why do you show us so much love?"  Can you imagine the Gospel set-up we were handed in that moment?  

This year, we have not only seen the power of reaching out, but we've seen the inspiring way our neighbors care for us.  We could never attempt to attend every birthday party invite, or every community meal we're offered - there's just too many!  My friends from Baker St. are my confidants, my PTA partners, and the absolute hardest working, most joyful people I know.  I am humbled by their contentedness, their simplicity, and their family bonds, and I will never get over how generous they are.  They are always giving, always serving, and always surprising me.  Last week, as the holidays were approaching, I mentioned casually to my neighbors that I had stepped out of my job in Operations at ROCKHARBOR so that I could focus solely on local ministry.  I knew money would be tight, but I also had faith that God was in this and that He would provide.

A few days later my friends said they had a "surprise" and wanted to make sure I'd be home to receive it.  I was not prepared for what I saw; a small group on my front porch with grocery bags!  The husbands even pitched in to bring it all over, and the gang proudly unpacked their gifts of food, condiments, and treats onto my kitchen counters.  A grand abundance out of limited means.  I was overwhelmed.  I kept asking why they would do this, and everyone's response was, "You guys do so much for us!"  This community across the street has encouraged us, inspired us, challenged us, and cared for us, and maybe I have given a lot, but in a deeper way, they have given much more.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

¡Qué ejemplo! - Beth Morgan

Reposted from Beth's blog, a story in Spanish and translated below.

Ella casi no la ve: la mujer encorvada, cubierta de mantas casi parece como un montón de basura apoyándose contra el café.  Es una de las noches oscuras y frías de Winnipeg y ella se ha envuelto la cara con una bufanda.  Se ensimisma, pensando en el fin de semana pasado cuando alojó en su casa a una joven misionera.  Hacía sólo dos meses que había asistido a la iglesia cuando hicieron un anuncio pidiéndole a alguien que proporcionara una habitación por una noche para una oradora invitada, una misionera, así que ofreció su casa.  Sabía que no tenía mucho que ofrecer, pero ella podía ofrecerle su cuarto y así ella compartiría con su hija adolescente.

Ella esperaba que no le importara a la misionera que ella fumaba, que los amigos de su hija fumarían yerba en el balcón, que tenía más gatos de lo que debería.  Trataba de hacer algo para cenar, a pesar de que el día sería un día largo de trabajo.  Cuando llegó a casa, se dio cuenta que no había tenido tiempo de lavar los platos de ayer, pero no había tiempo para hacerlo ahora ya que había que cocinar algo para la misionera invitada.

Fue una comida sencilla, la conversación fue ligera y somera.  Ella se preguntaba si la misionera estaba satisfecha.  Observaba que la misionera parecía incómoda.

(La misionera era alérgica a los gatos; y tenía una aversión fuerte al desbarajuste.  A ella no le molestaba la suciedad en los países en vías de desarrollo, pero ella no podía comprender porque esta mujer canadiense se había ofrecido a hospedarla el fin de semana sin haber limpiado la cama.  ¡Qué ejemplo de hospitalidad!)

Actualmente cuando la mujer hospitalaria camina esas calles de Winnipeg, perdida en estas preocupaciones, se recuerda de algunas palabras que una vez leyó:

Veía cómo los ricos echaban dinero en el arca de las ofrendas.  Vio a una viuda pobre, que echó dos monedas de muy poco valor y dijo:

— Les aseguro que esta viuda pobre ha echado más que todos los demás.  Porque todos los otros echaron como ofrenda lo que les sobraba, mientras que ella, dentro de su necesidad, ha echado todo lo que tenía para vivir.

La mujer hospitalaria y generosa cruza hacia el montón en la acera, dejar desaparecer su inquietud propia.

¿Puedo invitarle a un café y un sándwich? — pregunta.

Las dos mujeres se sientan juntas en la acera, se comulgan, comparten historias, comparten sus vidas.  Aprenden la una de la otra.

En el camino de vuelta a su casa desordenada, la mujer hospitalaria reflexiona sobre las palabras de la mujer pobre que llama a las calles, su hogar:

Cada mañana me levanto y doy gracias al Creador.

¡Qué ejemplo de gratitud!

What an example!

She almost doesn't see her; the hunched over woman covered in blankets almost looks like a pile of garbage leaning up against the coffee shop.  It's one of those dark, cold Winnipeg nights, where she has her own face wrapped up tight in a scarf.  She was also lost in her own thoughts, thinking about last weekend when she hosted a young missionary in her home.  She had only been going to church for a couple of months when they made an announcement asking for someone to provide a room for one night for a guest speaker missionary so she offered her home.  She knew she didn't have much to offer, but she could offer her bedroom and share with her teenage daughter.

She hoped that the missionary wouldn't mind that she smoked, that her daughter's friends would probably be doing pot on the balcony, that she had more cats than she probably should.  She would try to make something for dinner, even though the particular day would be a long one at work.  When she got home she realized she hadn't had time to do the dishes from yesterday, but there was no time to do them now—she had to cook something for the missionary guest.

It was a simple meal, conversation was light and superficial.  She wondered if the missionary was happy.  She noticed that the missionary seemed uncomfortable.

(The missionary was allergic to cats; and she had a strong aversion to clutter.  Dirt in the developing world didn't bother her, but she couldn't understand why this Canadian woman would offer to put her up for the weekend, but not take the time to clean off the bed!  What an example of hospitality?!)

Now as the woman walks those Winnipeg streets, lost in those worries, she recalls some words she read once:

Looking up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury.  He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these others gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her need put in all she had to live on.”

The hospitable and generous woman is now going over to the pile on the sidewalk, leaving her own preoccupation to disappear.  “Can I buy you a coffee and sandwich?” she asks.  The two women are now sitting together on the sidewalk, communing, sharing stories, sharing lives.  Learning from one another.

On her way back to her disorderly home, the hospitable woman reflects on the words she heard from the poor woman who calls the streets her home: “Every morning I wake up and give thanks to the Creator.”  

What an example of gratitude!