This is my friend Shelby. She frequently visits the shelter I help at. I met her there last Christmas when my family and I went to go help serve Christmas dinner. She usually wears sunglasses and a cute hat. I’ll join her towards the end of lunch and she’ll tell me what the squirrels say when she drinks her coffee in the park. She also shares about her daughter in New Mexico, her kittens, and the life she once knew a long time ago.
Yesterday, she approached me and asked if I would pray for her. She said she was on day 5 of her “new life”. She couldn’t tell me what her new life was all about or what it entailed but she knew that she needed a new life and that she couldn’t live it without a little help. I was honored to sit next to her and say a prayer.
I have to admit, I wonder why she asked me. We’ve never really talked about faith before. Most of the time I just sit and listen. When I’m not sitting with her, I’m usually helping participants fill out assistance forms or hauling bags of dog food for our pet assistance program. It’s not like I wear a t-shirt that says “Licensed Minister” and I know she’s never read my blog.
The only conclusion I can make is that maybe all that sitting, listening, smiling, and serving has made an impression that no amount of preaching, shoulder patting, scripture quoting, or advice giving could ever make.
Whatever the reason, I’m glad she asked me to pray and I’m still praying that her “new life” continues on to day 6, day 7, 8, 9, 10 and keeps on going.
In our culture, it’s so easy to become caught up in the game of appearances. What does my car say about me? What about my house? Am I perceived as successful? Smart? Or do people see me as needy? Do I look like I’ve made some bad decisions along the way or am I a success story in the eyes of my community? What about my clothes? Do they reflect my social status (or make me look even better?)
Funny how we care so much about our social standing. We love the preferred treatment. It’s nice to be able to go straight to the front of the line, sit in the green room, be recognized, be served. There’s a pecking order, and we like to be at the front of it.
It’s not hard to tell who’s at the front of the pecking order either. Celebrities receive special treatment and are often treated to complimentary you name it. The CEO gets the best parking spot, and the good-looking get the benefit of the doubt. They are the greatest in our culture, the kings and queens of western society and we play along as we work extra hours, bend the truth to sell more and motivate ourselves with GQ and Car and Driver.
Then there’s Jesus. Wham! The King of Kings, the famous one. The most influential man to ever walk the planet (after He created it). He comes along and declares a new system. In Luke 9:48 he says, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalfwelcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me also welcomes my Father who sent me. Whoever is the least among you is the greatest.”
That’s it! We have a new standard for greatness! The least are now great. The poor are deserving of attention. The needy are to be honored and the sick are to be loved. What more needs to be said? We now have the tremendous privilege of serving those whom Jesus stuck with, stood up for, and identified with.
When you see Jesus begging today, give Him something. When you see Him in Africa, Asia, and India honor Him. When you see him sick with AIDS or living on the street, welcome Him. He’s The Greatest.
*I originally posted this on the Worldhope.us blog. A great organization helping those in extreme poverty. Check them them out at www.worldhope.us.
This year we decided to start a new family tradition. Like many families hit by economic downturn, we didn’t exactly have a ton of presents under the tree. That’s tough for a parent. We want to spoil our kids with all sorts of toys and goodies. Our three boys have been anticipating this day all year and we wanted to do it right.
Something struck me a few weeks ago, though. My work with WorldHope.us has been seriously educating me on what it means to not have much. I felt down about semi-empty stockings while people in my own community are sleeping under the bridge. And you know what? We have something so many don’t have: each other.
So, we decided to share each other this year at a local homeless shelter called King’s Harvest. In 2009, they served 27,000 meals to the poor and needy. Our objective was simply to go and be a blessing to someone during Christmas lunch. It turned out to be the best Christmas experience I’ve had in a long time.
There were so many volunteers there that they didn’t need us to serve so we found someone who was all alone and planted ourselves next to her. Her name was Shelby and she had no family. Her children all lived far away and she hasn’t heard from them in several years. Her only companion was a kitten, and he ate half of what little food she had. We had the great privilege of being her family for the next hour.
We learned that she’s lived in New Mexico, Colorado, Wisconsin, and Upper Michigan just like me. She was a Farah Faucet fan and she likes Lee Majors. She finds the mountains of Albuquerque beautiful and a spiritual experience to explore. As we shared stories, laughs, and observations, I couldn’t help but notice the gradual change in her countenance. Life begun to show in her eyes, she smiled more, and she became much more demonstrative.
At one point, a homeless woman stood at the front of the room and sang “Silent Night” with incredible passion and grace. The whole room erupted in applause and then we continued our conversation. Shelby told us how she’s been so lonely and depressed and what a gift it was to spend time with us. It lifted her spirits and blessed her heart. It was a blessing to me too! Thank you Shelby, for letting us be your family for an hour!
I have to admit, it was such a blessing to be a blessing. Acts 20:35 is SO TRUE! “It is more blessed to give than to receive.“ I’ll treasure the experience (and keep going back to help some more) far longer than any of my Christmas presents will last and my boys are learning the value of giving of themselves to bless others.
So what? I’m learning that no matter how little we have, we still have enough to bless those with less. What an incredible lesson!
Cole, Forrest, and Hudson with their new friend Shelby
A few weeks ago, I was talking with a young guy who occasionally attends our Friday night prayer meeting. There’s something about the kid that’s a mystery to me. I don’t know where his church home is, he walks to prayer even in bad weather, and he always has plenty to philosophize about. I’ve never seen him with any friends, he’s a bit socially awkward, and I gathered from talking to him that his parents are no longer together. It’s not unusual for him to look like he just rolled out of bed and came in the clothes he wore the day before. Brennan Manning would describe him as a genuine ragamuffin.
When I asked this young man how he was doing, his answer really penetrated me, “Jesus has been especially loving to me.” Pause. Jesus has been especially loving to me? Without a car, money, or friends and Jesus has been especially loving? Shame on me. How many times have I questioned His love while enjoying so much more? How many times have I felt distant from the savior because of self-pity and ingratitude?
The last time I saw this guy, he was worshiping his heart out. It put a huge smile on my face to watch him dance, shout, clap, and run around the room in celebration of his especially loving savior. Some might say he’s in his own little world, but it’s a world I wouldn’t mind living in to experience an especially loving Jesus.