Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Presentation

A young woman is introduced by the pastor and spends a couple of minutes talking about One Hope Outreach and then introduces me to the congregation using sort of a hesitant "despite my better judgement" tone. Music cue: (Gimme Shelter by the Stones plays) I walk on stage, take off my jacket and walk to the front, taking the microphone in hand I begins to speak.
Hello! Thank you pastor for allowing us to come today,I want to thank you young lady for that introduction and of course all of you for taking the time today to learn more about what's happening in your community. It's really great to see you all here, I mean, you have no idea what it's like to walk out here to an empty room! But I'm not here to talk about MY issues, instead the issues I'd like to talk about concern people in our community who for various reasons have no permanent housing, and what organizations like One Hope and others are doing to put an end to that. When I was first asked to do this I was excited at the idea of doing anything I could to help, but within a couple of minutes after I hung up the phone my excitement turned to anxiety..."What would I say? What could I possibly say that would raise peoples level of awareness or concern and perhaps encourage them to join us in our mission to make a difference?" As I sat there thinking I was reminded of a joke I had heard about a church congregation who were having services when a group of masked gunmen burst in brandishing automatic weapons and in a loud and menacing voice declared to the crowd...
"Alright, we're going to kill all of you except those who don't know Jesus and who aren't sure where they're going when they die...those people can leave!"
Well, about 90% of the congregation hurriedly got up and crowded out the exits and when they had gone the gunmen whips off his mask, turns and locks the sanctuary doors behind them and says
"Okay, I just had to do that...NOW we can really have church!"
I felt a sense of relief come over me as I began to understand that there are, and always will be, a certain percentage or group of people in the church who are committed to serving in Jesus' name, who're typically responsible for most of the real work done in the church. I felt much more confident knowing that nothing I could possibly say was likely to change that! No, that's not my job... My job is to talk to those people, the people who truly understand what Jesus has done for them, who know that He's the source of all their blessings, and who want to be the people He uses to reach out to those in need around them. I'm here to talk about solutions, and about beginning the process towards seeing changed lives for Gods Kingdom and His glory. I believe that process starts with understanding. Understanding that there's a harvest of souls right in our front yard waiting for workers to pick it! I know that the church already does a great deal to address dis-located people but when I look around I still see ripe fields, I believe the church could do so much more so what's the problem? Of course when I thought about that I began to recognize a familiar tactic of our enemy the father of lies that we should also understand! He's working overtime distorting the real reasons behind this problem, conspiring contempt and keeping people from feeling the compassion needed and from walking in the faith and trust of our Lord! No, he doesn't want that...and so today I'd like to take this opportunity to come against those lies by confronting them head on with truth!
Join with me in prayer that we will be the victors in this battle, in asking that our enemy would be bound and cast out of this place by the power of the blood of Christ, that eye's would be opened to the truth about the harvest before us that so urgently needs workers and that strongholds of hate,intolerance and willful ignorance would be broken Father in Jesus' name we ask it and for your glory to be shown through it...amen!
Going back to my preparation, I wondered how I could do this. I wondered how I could help people to better understand the causes of homelessness and dispel some of the misconceptions about people who find themselves without permanent shelter and I kept drawing a blank. I've always found that I learn quicker if I can see an example of something. And unfortunately, I also have a tendency to forget it unless it involves some sort of pain...you too? Well, I was still coming up short and as the time drew near to come here today I just decided to wing it, trusting that somehow the Holy Spirit would lead me into all truth so now I'm just going to wait on him.
well this is awkward...
I jam both my hands into my pants pockets and look around at the ceiling, pull one hand out and look at my nails, using both hands I hold them out to my side palms up in the non-verbal "I don't know" posture. I then reach out with my right hand and take hold of the podium and begin to lean on it which immediately collapses causing me to fall onto the floor of the platform.
I'm okay! I'm not hurt, boy that's the last made in China podium I'm buying!
You know, no one will ever convince me that God doesn't have a sense of humor or that He doesn't know how to get through to someone as dense as me!
Lets see, Illustrative example...check!
Pain involved...check!
Thank You Father!
Here's the message I got from that...
All of us depend on things to support us, not just podiums...I'm talking about jobs, relationships, maybe even a talent we posses or whatever! We lean on these things for years and then one day they go away. The job we had for 20 yrs, our spouse who provided for us so well leaves us or dies, things change without our permission! Situations we thought we had control over can leave us shattered by their abrupt change or disappearance. Many of us have experienced this type of circumstance in our lives and however difficult it might of been, we have, over time, and with the help and support of those who chose to come alongside us in our time of need made a recovery! If you've been through one of these life changing experiences I need not tell you the immeasurable value of a support network of friends,family,church,community, you may of even said it at some point "Well, I just don't know what I would've done had it not been for X" or "God only knows what might've happened had I not had the help I needed from Y" Friends, I invite you to stare into the abyss of "what could've been" for just a moment and see yourself without the benefit of a kind word spoken in love when you needed it. Without the "day saving" financing that kept you from disaster or imagine a life without the self satisfaction you enjoyed for all those years as a result of a "good job" you were blessed to have. Does the phrase "But for the grace of God, there go I" take on any new relevance for you? can you see the hypocrisy of our judgement's towards each other?You might say, "But they made bad decisions and need to suffer the consequences of them" Yes, they did! but no more than I did when I chose to lean against that podium, I did it based on it's previous history of an ability to support me and a gazillion other people! It seems pretty disrespectful  to those who stood in the gap for us and to the immeasurable grace and blessings of our loving heavenly Father for us to take that mantle of honor entirely onto ourselves as if we're truly some sort of "self made man"...What sort of hog-wash is it that enables us to look down our noses at others who's only crime was to have never been shown the sort of love that was shown to us? Or to have been born without whatever it is we posses which by it's use our lives have been sustained and enriched?
Don't misunderstand me, I do believe that we're all responsible for the choices we  make in this life but lets take a closer look at that word "choices".
What sort of a choice is it between apple or cherry pie for desert? simple?,qualified? informed? of little consequence?
As opposed to something like who we marry, or what we choose for a career, How about our friends? My point is we have to make some of the most important decisions in our lives when we're the least capable of doing so. Some people are just blessed with extraordinary common sense and need very little help to make good choices for themselves, but as for the rest of us, we owe a great amount to those who parented us,counseled us,mentored us,coached us,and inspired us to make good choices! We can honor the investment they made in our lives by paying it forward to someone else, we can choose to suspend our judgments about people whose lives we know nothing about and simply assume that no one just gets up out of bed one morning and says,
"How can I really screw up my life today?
No, that's not how it works...trust me, I know!
Because. .  technically. . . I am considered a "homeless" person.
I lost my home due to a foreclosure in 2009, but Iwas fortunate enough to be able to move in with a close relative. Due to the fact that I haven't been able to regain my financial stability since then I'm currently still living there with my wife and daughter. There are three common categories of homelessness, sheltered,unsheltered, or "doubled up". My living situation is the later.
I guess I am here to talk about my own issues after all...
Wintertime will be here in a matter of weeks, my family and many others who aren't as fortunate as us are in desperate need of overnight warming shelters where we can escape the cold winter night's to come...
Can you help?
Since it's beginning One Hope Outreach has been a grass roots organization whose mission it is to catch those people in our community that may of otherwise fallen through the cracks. They've helped many to find temporary shelter and recently even permanent homes and they really need your financial support to continue this work.
You may not know it, but  when we as Christians see an opportunity to help those in need and respond to it we're preaching the Gospel to our world. We preach this good news in a way that they can easily understand because we're using the universal language of love!
I urge you to let your actions speak loudly today!
Thank you.