Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Not Understanding Grace to Understand It

One of our church members was talking to me in the hall today. He said, "You know, I just don't deserve the mercy that God gives me. His grace that He shows me is just beyond my understanding." His face showed seriousness. After hearing what he said, I said back to him, "You know, the fact that you say, you don't understand grace, makes me think that you do understand grace. You don't just say, 'Oh, yeah, He died for me and loves me,' and then move on." Seems paradoxical--to understand grace you must not understand grace.

Monday, October 29, 2007

LIFE with Roaches

This afternoon I helped a family move for about 15 minutes. Seriously. They had moved some of their belongings out on a prior day, but here I was ready for at least a good hour of maneuvering and man-handling. We moved some mattresses, a bedframe, a dresser, two nightstands, two lawnmowers, a TV, a washer, and a dryer, all into a U-Haul. We were done.

I was humbled as I went into their ex-home. I had never really been beyond the living room, but I got a glimpse of LIFE. I went to grab a mattress and noticed a roach who looked very much at home with his buddies. I flicked him (or her for that matter) off just as one of the family walked into the room. I almost felt bad that I was acknowledging the presence of roaches in their home. So many times on visits we do not point out what is obviously there.

This reminds me of a story of a friend named Anthony Wood. He has shared this story over and over, so I do not think that he minds me sharing. He was trying to get into the lives of people in "inner-city" Memphis. He started a Bible study with a gentleman. The study was in this guy's home. This man would get up in the middle of the study and go get some coffee. After the first few visits, Anthony wondered when the man would offer him some. Finally he did. Anthony went into the kitchen with him. He wanted to put some creamer in his coffee, so he needed a spoon. He asked where the drawer was and pulled the drawer open. He discovered roaches were already there, and they were crawling on the spoons. Anthony thought for a second about what he should do. He did not want to offend the man by washing the spoon off, so he put the spoon directly into the hot coffee hoping that the high temperature would sanitize the thing. The gentleman saw the situation and said casually, "We just normally wash the spoon off in the sink." Anthony points out that sometimes you've got to put the spoon in the coffee--unwashed.

The family member was not upset. He did not even acknowledge what I had done. He probably did the same--flicking away-- when he spotted one. When it comes to poverty and its effects, I felt the tension today of wanting and not wanting to acknowledge what I see right before me.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Remembering Birthdays

Tonight I talked briefly to a teen who seems to be "slipping away." He has trouble with authority at school and church for that matter. He is asked to be the man of the house being just a young man. A friend has said that people have called him a "crashtest dummy," a person who makes stupid choices. He comes across cocky and tough. At the end of our little conversation, he said, "Last Sunday was my birthday." There it is. The reminder of humanity. The reminder of youth. The reminder of wanting to be reached out to even when everything else about the person says, "Get out of my face."

Monday, October 1, 2007

Kung Fu Fighting

Well, I have entered once again into the realm of martial arts. As a second grader, I took karate lessons with my dad and brother. After a few weeks, I realized that sparring would not happen for a while. I had to learn the fundamentals. My eyes could not be averted though from the amazing fighting that was going on just four mats over. I got out of karate by offering my parents the lame excuse, "My feet hurt too much." Now at the age of 30, I am starting over for the sake of ministry. I have a group of older teen boys that I thought would be interested in learning karate. Each of us can go to this karate shop, which is a ministry of a local church, for the low cost of $5/person per month. They expressed interest. I took three of them the first time. They loved it. The next week, one of them returned. The following week, one again. What I have found is that these few hours is time for this guy to get the attention that he deserves. Sarah and I talk often in our household about how good kids get less attention than those who get into trouble. Since the numbers have dwindled to the two of us, he has shared more of his great personality that is often unnoticed behind his quiet ways. He is not a Christian--yet. After the karate workout, we share about what was tough and neat from the class. We learn self-defense techniques. The instructors pray and are very evangelistic. Through this and Bible studies with this guy, I invite him to be a follower of Christ. And little does he know, that the discipline to learn karate is a taste of the discipline one needs to follow Christ.