Sunday, September 30, 2007
Here are a few questions to consider in order to help assess your personal wealth. How are you rich today? Do you have money? Are you smart? Did you go to good schools? Were you blessed with good looks? Do you go to the gym to workout and have good health? Do you have good doctors and healthcare? Do you have a car and a house? Do you have the right color of skin to get a good job? Do you have a clean and coherent American English way of speaking? Do you have friends and connections? If you said yes to one or more of these questions, guess what? You're wealthy. God is now asking each one of us to lay down all of our wealthy assets just as he emptied himself and to enter the world of the homeless, poor and needy around us. Remember, the kingdom of God does not belong to the rich and powerful. The kingdom belongs to another very large family. It has brothers named Charity and sisters named Mercy, and a whole houseful of cousins, such as Kindness, and Favor, and Goodwill, and Pity, Thanksgiving, and Reward.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Reflecting on Proverbs 14:21, an updated version would go something like this... Anyone that despises his poor neighbor such as to overlook him, is not friendly to him, ignores him or does not interact with him is adding to his neighbor’s poverty. Essentially we tend to “despise” the poor neighbor in our society because of his poverty, or because of his “pedigree” and lowly education. We despise him for the circumstances he is in; or on account of his weakness. Anyone who passively “despises” is sinning. In the Catholic faith it is called the sin of “omission.” In this case, we do not sin because of something we have done but in what we have failed to do. Sins of omission can be grave. The result of all sin is to become unhappy and miserable. But happy is the person who has mercy on the poor. He will not experience the psychological and eternal penalties of sin. They regard the poor in their low estate by helping them, having conversation with them and blessing them. Happy the one!
Friday, September 28, 2007
Because mobile homelessness is illegal in most cities and the fines are hefty, it is not always the rent savings one would think. The city of Lynnwood, a suburb of Seattle, passed an ordinance a few years ago imposing penalties of 90 days in jail or fines of up to $1,000 against people caught living in their cars. Peter Van Giesen, a code enforcement officer for the town, said that up to 20 cars a night were found with people parking near a park. "Most of these people were trying to find work," Mr. Van Giesen said. (see http://www.nytimes.com/)
Radified is a "mobile homeless" blogger living in Laguna Beach. He refers to his group as “mobile hobos.” He is known for his street-smart wisdom in the book, Rad Guide to Living out of your Porsche. (see radified.com/blog) He prepares the working poor to live out of their cars in Southern California’s unaffordable housing market. Essential to the lifestyle is living out of an old VW Van, preferably from the 60's but you receive bonus points for living out of a Porsche. A cell phone and wireless laptop is a must. Extras include having a list of all coffee shops with free wireless access and carrying a Bible. He encourages "mobile hobos" to take comfort in knowing that Jesus was a homeless guy. "And Jesus said to him, 'The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has no where to lay his head.'” (Matthew 8:20)
Thursday, September 27, 2007
One blogger is disheartened by "good charitable" people who have surprisingly out-of-character reactions to to the homeless. L.S. said, "Thanks for bringing up a topic that I have found to be occurring more frequently. I have been disheartened of late by comments made by a few friends and relatives concerning homelessness and illegal immigration. Their comments range from 'they need to get a job' through blaming the immigrants for their kids not getting jobs. And these are really decent people who normally are the most charitable people... I just don't understand."
The post poignant is this comment regarding the homeless immigrant by R.S. "Where were these complainers when there were people who were willing and still are willing to work for less than minimum wage? Do we have amnesia in this country? Now we want to throw people away. By the way, have you checked the IRS website, etc.--undocumented immigrants make up about $60 billion (not million) of tax revenue. How about that, people who don't have to pay taxes since they are undocumented but, do?"
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
When talking about homelessness and poverty with many Americans, the topic evokes in them a response that they’ve got it all figured out. For many, they have judged that the problem is quite easily fixed when all the lazy people get jobs and all the drug users stop using. But this feeling that we have to sort people and situations out in our minds and make judgments about them is in reality quite oppressive. Henri Nouwen once said, “Once we can let go of our need to judge others, we will experience an immense inner freedom. Once we are free from judging, we will be also free for mercy.” Jesus once said, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged.”
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
HIA ponders how Amos spoke out thousands of years ago to Israel and offers to us today a long history of humankind’s inclination toward abuse of the poor. He cast a strong indictment against the wealthy business owners and the powerful leaders who oppress the poor. Similar to our own Hanukkah and Christmas holidays, many business owners can hardly wait for their sacred days to be over so that they can get back to cut throat business dealing. Amos’ indictment is against deceptive business practices (nowadays, check out a new Verizon two-year contract that states, “text and pics access, $0.00.” Nowhere to be found is the charge of .25 cents per message, but the “access” is free!). Also they had they had a disdain for religious obligations (most of us December holiday revelers exchange gifts – yet only a small percent actually go to worship services throughout the year). In Amos’ time, making the ephah small meant that merchants cheated on the amount of goods they gave the customer - (this is not a total comparison, but unexpectedly stop in a Ralphs or Albertsons when you normally shop at Vons and you will not receive 2-for-1 and other store discounts. As a drop-in shopper, a $50 grocery bill can easily overcharge the casual consumer by $10 or more.) To get rich faster at the expense of the poor they even rigged the scales, sold the poor off as slaves for a pittance (sounds like our current third-world textile labor force working for “pennies” a day) and even bragged how the hungry poor buy the useless chaff of the wheat (seems like there is a comparison here, but can’t think of one at the moment).
Monday, September 24, 2007
Today, Marco writes about meeting a young man we nicknamed "Marvelous Marvin" just a few weeks ago. You'll see why in just a moment. Marco also talks about his recent volunteerism ... “What filled my heart with joy the most was sharing little moments with these needy people. Personally, I haven't done anything that I deserve to be thanked. I did not give from my own. I just gave what [food] was there. I need to thank all of you for giving me the opportunity to understand many things. In two hours working with the homeless I saw things that before I only read about in the Bible. The people really touched my heart. There was a young homeless man, I do not recall his name, but I think it is Marvin. He did something that makes me still feel very touched. Marvin saw a poor old guy that was feeling cold and was asking for a sweater as he did not own anything to cover himself. A worker told him that clothing was distributed on Tuesday. The old man said he was cold now and he had to spend the night outside. Marvin, out of his own poverty stepped up to him and gave him the jacket off his back. It was a great lesson and reminded me of the poor widow in one of Jesus episodes in the New Testament, the one that gave to the Temple her last coin, all she had. I just thought to let all of you know about this story."
Volunteers just like Marco daily support many outreaches serving the poor all across America. In the trenches, they put compassion into action. For each of them, we are thankful. In the words of Christ, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Rubi hung on Dary’s every word. Rejected by a wealthy father, her real hero is this man who survived prison. She has become a believer through his testimony. She intently listens as he shares his story of an apparent encounter with an angel of the Lord. On one occasion while in solitary confinement, he was let out for a brief social hour. Immediately, a man walked up to Dary, one he had never seen before and pointed his finger boldly proclaiming, “God wants you.” He continued … “God is working in your life. There is no such thing as time. Time does not exist. God wants you to live in the moment and give your all to Him.” He took him to a corner and opened up the Word of God to him. He taught him about why the Christ had to suffer, die and be resurrected and why we unite with him in his suffering and resurrection. Dary never saw the man again.
Today, Dary no longer deals drugs and Rubi is not a prostitute. However, Rubi is HIV positive and also suffers from hepatitis and a bone disease. The doctors say she should be bed ridden. Yet, as a homeless person she continues to walk many miles each day. The good news is that they know who their Lord and Savior is. However, they still have temptations. Rubi says, “It’s not when the drug dealers drop off a $5 or $10 supply that we get tempted. It’s when they drop off $500. A big load is difficult to resist.” When asked to receive an anointing and prayers, they replied, “Please pray for [Rubi's] healing and that we could become clean.” We pray - we remember.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Friday, September 21, 2007
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
C.D. recalls an appropriate and common cultural expression regarding Robbin, "I guess everyone deserves a second chance." But think about it, if it is only second chances we humans deserve, most of us are in a lot of trouble. Isn't Jesus' formula of 70 times seven times more realistic to greatly accommodate our constant failures? In other words we patiently and generously give the least, the lost and most challenged around us limitless turnaround time.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Monday, September 17, 2007
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Madison Avenue's Marketing Industry has lulled us to Sleep, Dumfounded and Mesmerized Americans into some sort of Poverty-stricken Stupor of Ignorance
Friday, September 14, 2007
God’s mercy and compassion descends like a dove on victims of war, disasters, hate, poverty and all who suffer injustice. Why, one may ask? God's compassion is rooted and grounded in his greatness. God is immeasurably loving and forgiving to the same great measure that he is awesomely revealed in creation. On a clear night, just look out into the starry sky and you will see how immeasurably great his compassion is toward all victims here on earth. Why? Because in his greatness he is immeasurably responsible for what he has created. He takes responsibility for what he has made by the work of his own hands. In Luke chapter 6, Jesus who is the Compassion of God states, “Blessed are you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours.” It almost sounds like an insurance policy into heaven for the poor. But what about the non-victims - the rich, the powerful and the beautifully strong?
Jesus has Woes for those that die not as victims but as unrepentant elite. Those who depart this life arrogant - failing to share their numerous gifts with the poor. They will be shown no mercy. In Luke chapter 6 Jesus warns the rich and powerful with 4 Woes.
- "Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
- Woe to you who are filled now, you will be hungry.
- Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep.
- Woe to you when all speak well of you …"
Welcome to the Kingdom of God!
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
For all the times my wealth and possessions clouded my compassion with distraction.
Yesterday, I prayed for my own desires and you speedily heard me. Today, someone requested my help and I slowly walked away - it was just easier to let them be.
For all the times I forget your gifts and live as if you don’t exist.
Yesterday, you sought after me, crucified - you did not think of yourself - you thought of me above all else. Today, I seek power, wealth, status, being right and most of all, being proud above all I think and do.
Free me from my idols so that along the way I can see you - the victim in others' trials.
Give me the eyes to see all the things that are not true - give me a heart of flesh in all I say and do.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
They remember …
- A lady named Arlene.
- A shoeshine guy, Jack.
- An elderly woman Rose who sat by the PATH train bathroom.
- Marvin, a tall, gray-haired man with a dark complexion, stood every morning by the N train.
- Carlos, a tall Jamaican some called Ras.
- An old lady that sat by a bathroom…
The best they can, the United Homeless Organization is keeping a tally of the missing, a list that so far contains more than 50 names and whatever descriptions people could provide. (For more information see http://www.villagevoice.com/)
Monday, September 10, 2007
Sunday, September 9, 2007
Saturday, September 8, 2007
- Half the world — nearly three billion people — live on less than two dollars a day.
- Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names.
- Less than one per cent of what the world spent every year on weapons was needed to put every child into school by the year 2000.
- 20% of the population in the developed nations, consume 86% of the world’s goods.
- A few hundred millionaires now own as much wealth as the world’s poorest 2.5 billion people. http://www.globalissues.org/
Friday, September 7, 2007
Thursday, September 6, 2007
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
One day, Jesus went to Nazareth, (his hometown) and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he read .... “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor”, Luke 4/Isaiah 61. Jesus clearly states, "I came for the poor, prisoners, blind and oppressed." By implication, he identifies whom he did not come for (a difficult message). I did not come for the spiritual elite, the self-righteous, religious or the spiritually proud. His mission statement and its implications concerning the "powerfully-proud" infuriated religious people who thought they had God in their corner. Jesus infuriated them to such a degree that even some people in his own hometown before the day was over tried to kill him by throwing him off a cliff.
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Monday, September 3, 2007
Sunday, September 2, 2007
Gufbal1981 responds to the same post ... "No one is telling you to go to a Soup Kitchen. Maybe you would benefit more from going to a place like Covenant House or Good Shepherd and volunteering at one of those places. You can see battered women, young ladies that have no where to go." 09.01.07 10:57p
And lastly, Anonymous asks a profound question regarding a growing concern in the digital age ... "Is compassion out of style? Read the mission statement again. Imagine!" 08.30.07 1:09p What do you think? "Is compassion out of style?" Does the new digital culture of terse text messages - brief cell calls - fired-off emails and IMs add to the problem? Are we too busy to care?
Saturday, September 1, 2007
A Modern Expanded "Translation": (1) Blessed is the one who considers those who don't have enough money to buy the basic needs of life such as food, clothing, and shelter. Blessed are they who physically go out and help these people and do so without judging whether or not they are worthy to receive help. Blessed are they who like Nike “just do it” and don’t ask questions. Blessed are they who help the uneducated poor who are unable to help themselves. Blessed are they who consider those who are afflicted and cannot help themselves because they don’t have the right color of skin, or the correct American mid-west accent, or sex to excel and make decent money in the business world. Blessed are they who help those who are addicted to drugs or to alcohol or some other habits that are often used to self-medicate because a person can’t afford to see a doctor or may not be grounded enough to know they need professional help. Blessed is the one who considers the poor imprisoned and visits them proclaiming liberty and setting them free. Blessed is the one who considers the "wealthy-poor" CEOs and Hollywood actors who have been humbled by ADHD, Bi-polar disorder, depression, the gossip of the media, D.U.I.s, imprisonment and attempted suicide. Blessed are you who consider all the "poor" and do not judge because you certainly are not in any position to do so. You realize that you are only human and a loser* like everyone else on the earth. (2) Because you know your place, you will be blessed by God who sees all the kind things that you do in secret. In your case, the Lord’s mercy will triumph over judgment. The Lord will not judge you. You can count on him to work overtime to deliver you from your enemies. He will rescue you from people that don’t like you and even those that set traps for you. He will do this even while you sleep. You won’t have to do a thing to clear your name. The Lord will do all the work for you! He will move about to and fro and neutralize highly negative co-workers, family and friends and their gossip. He will put a stop to evil plots that are devised against you from those who seek to prove that considering the poor is too “St. Francis” or “Pollyannaish.” (3) No to the contrary - because you consider the poor, when you are in need of mercy, such as lying in bed really sick, he will work overtime to bring about your healing. Blessed are you! Because you have shown mercy, he will be merciful to you just in the nick of time, just when you need it most.
*Loser is an ultra modern translation from the English word, sinner. Sinner comes from the Greek, hamartolos, meaning especially wicked, people stained with vices and crimes, tax collectors and heathens. Loser.