Thankful Thursdays

Want to join up with me for “Thankful Thursdays”? If so, copy this icon:  leave your blog address in the comments below, and link back to this post. I’m thankful for “Loved and Lovely” for such beautiful artwork that I’m using. No rules on this as far as how many “thank you’s” or that it needs to be profound and deep. Let’s practice together opening our eyes to the grace that we’re showered with daily.

{I’m thankful for} a church who loves mercy and justice enough to do something about it, and run a high-quality sports and arts camp for those who wouldn’t usually have access to it. By going to their neighborhood, not making them come to us [except for the youngest kids ages 3-5 who ride by a chaperoned bus to our church for “Camp Jr.].

{I’m thankful for} a children’s minister who is energized by this week and loves all of these kids so well.

{I’m thankful for} God’s grace and strength to love 4 and 5-year-olds when it’s probably a little outside of my preferred area of service/ministry in the church.

{I’m thankful for} a daughter who wants me to open the blinds as she’s falling asleep, “because I want to see the clouds, Mommy!”

{I’m thankful for} generous friends from church who let me loot their kids’ gear and clothes that they weren’t going to be able to take with them to their overseas military assignment. We are now having *so much fun* with princess dresses, board games, little people sets, tricycles, and – the highlight – a kids-size “Little Tikes” washer and dryer. You know who you are, so THANK YOU!

{I’m thankful for} coffee in the mornings, summer birds greeting the day, new picture frames for $1.99 from IKEA, and doing a job I love.

Ok, now it’s your turn!


Words that haunt my middle class mentality

Jen Hatmaker in her book Seven challenges readers through her own journey of seeking more true Life through less stuff – less consumption and less excess, waste, and spending in order to free up more resources for more true gospel work. She says in chapter 2 –

Jesus’ kingdom continues in the same manner it was launched: through humility, subversion, love, sacrifice; through calling empty religion to reform and behaving like we believe the meek will indeed inherit the earth. We cannot carry the gospel to the poor and lowly while emulating the practices of the rich and powerful. We’ve been invited into a story that begins with humility and ends with glory; never the other way around.

And so this week of being involved in our church’s major endeavor to bring mercy and justice to those yet without it, I want verses such as these below to challenge my thinking not just this week but in the weeks to come. My sister-in-law made an astute (and convicting) observation that the Bible’s words to care for the poor and needy, “are not a suggestion but a command.” Lord, teach us! 

Cursed be anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.” (Deuteronomy 27:19)

“Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,
for we have had more than enough of contempt.
Our soul has had more than enough
of the scorn of those who are at ease,
of the contempt of the proud.” (Psalm 123:3-4)

“For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly;
but the haughty he knows from afar.” (Psalm 138:6)

“I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted,
and will execute justice for the needy.” (Psalm 140:12)

humbled and grateful

I am humbled to hear of many of you who were touched by yesterday’s post. I am grateful that my words could be used to minister some brief comfort to you, however small it may have seemed against the background of the vast ocean of grief and pain you felt yesterday. Thank you for the privilege of being part of that, even though we may never meet face to face.

Today begins my church’s week-long summer camp with a twist. It’s not simply the traditional “Vacation Bible School,” but its heart and focus is to provide a high-quality sports and art camp for those who may not typically have access to such a camp due to their socio-economic limitations. And so we come to an inner city housing development in our community and bring this camp to them, while inviting their preschoolers and kindergarteners to attend “Camp Jr.” (more VBS-like) at our church for ages 3-5. I’ll admit that there was some dread this morning and the question of, “Will this be worth it?” as I herded my screaming toddlers (who wanted to dress themselves but we didn’t have time) out the door so that they could attend their class and I could help with the 4 and 5-year-old class.

It was more than worth it. Really delightful to be with this group of 9 children, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the week. I think my daughters had fun, too, judging from their big grins when I went to get them at noon.

Yet ultimately the question of, “Is this worth it?” isn’t answered by my enjoyment of it but by the fact that as a believer in Jesus Christ, this is part of what I’m made for and the calling he’s given his people to care for the poor and needy and young and messy. Because all of those qualifiers describe me as well, and I have a good strong God who has entered my life and my story with his love. I can’t help but do the same for others.

Psalm 113:7-8 in one of many verses that speak of this story, that is my story:

He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap,
to make them sit with princes,
with the princes of his people.

my in-town 2-hour mission trip

I have desired for a while now to have a chance to get out of my comfort zone (and, yes, my house!) in order to participate in some sort of justice and mercy ministry. When Lisa Mazzio (fellow counselor and psychologist at my church) asked me to join her in offering pro-bono counseling to the homeless served by Trinity during our week of hosting NEST [Norfolk Emergency Shelter Team], I jumped at the chance. I told Seth as I left last night that I felt both nervous and excited, and I half-seriously said that I was going on my mission trip. (A contrast to Seth who’s preparing for a 10-day mission trip to India in the spring.)

When I arrived and walked past crowds of men and women waiting to get in (certainly much more than the 50 who would be selected by lottery), I felt guilty for breezing past in my new boots and the 4-year-old winter coat I’d secretly complained about for being “old” and “unfashionable.” Seeing true poverty has a way of putting petty fashion complaints into perspective.

As I served these people dinner,  looking in their faces and putting a plate of food in front of them, I felt a part of me come alive that’s been dormant for a while. This is Christ in me, who loves the “least of these” (by the world’s standards), who delights in offering a cup of cold water to the thirsty, a plate of food to the hungry, a warm shelter on a cold night to those without. And yet it seemed like so little! For just a week, our church hosts them, and for barely 12 hours a night. How much of a difference could that really make? And that is a reason why we must have faith. Faith that God will multiply even the tiniest of offerings done in his name – that he will multiply the scarcity into an abundance, and that he will use even this small act of service to multiply his grace in my heart.

Lisa and I had the privilege of sitting with one man and hearing his story. All throughout, he kept calling us “angels.” What did we do? We listened; we affirmed his pain; we asked a few clarifying questions; we sought to give him hope that he could in fact change. Simple really. Will it make a difference for his life? I don’t know. I may not ever know. But I know that Christ was there with us, in us, speaking and listening through us. And that will make a difference in my life.

I saw tonight a reflection of myself, spiritually speaking. Lest I become too  prideful and think that my service in Christ’s name makes me somehow better than those I served or that I obtained better status with God through it, God reminded me that when I was thirsty, he gave me something to drink. When I was hungry, he fed me. When I needed shelter, he invited me in. And he continues to do so every day to one as spiritually thirsty as the man we met with; to one hungry for the one who really satisfies, to one who thinks her self-righteousness can clothe her yet it is only fig leaves and filthy rags, to one in need of the shelter of his grace lest I fall under the judgment and wrath I deserve.