Archive | January 2013

Wasting Time with God

It was a late, hot, and humid night during my summer as an intern with InterVarsity’s Urban Project in St. Louis. I was in the kitchen when our director, Gerry, (a man who became like a spiritual father to me) stepped in.

Gerry is naturally very fatherly to many people. He asked me how things were going. I had sort of a traumatic experience at the start of the internship and had wanted to quit the experience afterwards but chose to stay. We talked for a bit on how I was doing since then.

He got to talking about how his affections for us interns were of that of a father and sharing about his favorite moments with his own biological daughter. Throughout his eldest daughter’s childhood, he cherished the times when he just got to “hold her awhile”. Gerry said even on her wedding day, he asked to hold her for awhile before he gave his baby away. He put his arm around me and gave me his signature sloppy, wet, stubbly kiss on the forehead. “I’d like to just hold you awhile, if that’s ok” he said to me.

I treasure Gerry’s relationship with me. My father was never physically affectionate nor have we ever had a close relationship. So the way I relate to male authority figures is a bit strange and Gerry’s handling of our relationship should’ve (at least I would’ve expected) been uncomfortable to me but that night, I just felt like a truly cherished daughter. I’ll never forget that night… wasting time with my “Dad” and letting him hold me for awhile.

“When was the last time you wasted time with God?” -Calisto Odede at Urbana 2012

When was the last time I wasted time letting God’s presence hold me for awhile?

It’s a thing that I have to choose into. That kind of intimacy, security, and safety I found under Gerry’s arm that night is something I’ve yet to really get used to. But I’m thankful for the tangible taste it gave me of the unconditional loving embrace of our Heavenly Father. And the good news is our Abba Father is always asking, “If it’s alright with you, I’d like to hold you awhile.”

It might sound counter-intuitive but it’s hard to say yes to sometimes. Unfortunately, I think that’s the case for many of us who’ve never felt truly cherished. It’s scary. It doesn’t come as natural to us. But could I encourage you today, as I encourage myself, let Him hold you awhile tonight.


Limp Puppy Dogs and My Control Issues

My dog occasionally has this problem with his hind leg. Not sure what it is though I’ve done some internet research that suggests perhaps it’s a condition called luxating patella, which is common with chihuahuas.

The reason why we haven’t brought him to a vet is because it happens rarely and he’s always fine after he relaxes. But still, seeing him hobble around so scared as to what’s happening with his legs (so much so he’ll pee where he stands) never fails to break my heart. He’s usually back to normal within a couple of minutes but I still despair in that short amount of time.

Tonight, I feel especially heart-broken to sit by and watch him hobble around scared. When he started limping, I knew it was the same little leg spaz that would go away soon. But I couldn’t help but follow him around nervously, fretting over his situation.

The worst of it all is that I want to do something to comfort him. He looked so miserable and scared. He limped around in circles sometimes stopping to look up at me almost as if he was looking to me to do something. But holding him seems to make it hurt even more. There’s something in my not-being-able-to-do-something that wrecks me so much. The fact that he can’t advocate for himself the way a human can. The fact that the most I can do is stand idly by, futilely trying to convey my love and caring presence to him.. to no avail.

I’ve been reading the book Finding Calcutta by Mary Poplin. It’s a memoir about Mother Teresa. Critics of Mother Teresa (hard to imagine that people actually had criticisms about her) often pointed out that her approach to poverty was misguided or that what she was doing was unproductive. Sort of along the lines of, “why are you feeding the poor directly instead of “teaching a man how to fish”.

The book has been teaching me faithfulness to the small things and redefining what I think is meaningful or productive. As her famous saying goes, “small things with great love.” Feeding the poor directly or caring for their immediate and specific needs may seem, in the long run, “unproductive” but in Matthew 25, Jesus claims these small things not only loving acts to the person but to Him personally.

I find this to be troubling. Troubling because I like to know that my efforts are productive. Troubling because it’s exactly the kind of faith Christianity demands: faith despite what isn’t seen: the immediate fruit of my work. Trust in His sovereignty in the midst of very real suffering.

I’m troubled because I want to feel like I have some control over suffering in this world. The delusion that I could control suffering around me was comforting because it sort of temporarily pacified that chaos I felt within. Because accepting reality is to acknowledge that life is completely and utterly out of my control and when I’m being real with myself, I’m not ok with that at all. So I relentlessly seek control without being conscious of it.

Tonight, Grace takes the form of a little puppy dog with a shotty back leg to show me my powerlessness. To show me just how deep my broken need to be able to fix everything runs. That it’s not about being able to control the suffering around me, but incarnating Christ in the midst of suffering. (I should probably take a moment to say that this post isn’t actually about me incarnating the love of Christ to my not-actually-dying puppy)

Mother Teresa’s critics might be correct in saying that what she does may not yield any worldly productive result. It won’t change anything about the system for her to sit by a dying man on a street corner in Calcutta. But to that one soul, even if just to be present and dignify him as a human being made in the image of God, perhaps Mother is incarnating the love of Christ. That sums up much of what I’m reading about Mother Teresa’s work in Calcutta and Mary Poplin’s experience with the Missionaries of Charity: being present among the poorest of the poor, the dying, the ones who can’t advocate for themselves, who don’t have the means to help themselves or the ability to let you know how to help. I wonder if I could sit by the bed of the dying poor and accept the fact that I am not God.

I guess what I’m saying is: freaking out about limp puppy dogs is revealing within myself a heart that doesn’t trust God. I’ve put so much importance and trust in my own power to accomplish things but a limp puppy dismantled it so easily. Incarnating Jesus in a broken world is much less glamorous than I want it to be I think.

The question I’m asking myself tonight is: Am I willing to follow Jesus, to be his hands and feet, even if it means not be able to do anything other than performing the mediocre miracle of simply being present in suffering and incarnating the love of Christ? 

Letter to the Little One 01/22/2013

I’m currently working at a cafe/gift shop in a hospital. Tonight before my shift ended, a baby was found abandoned in the women’s bathroom.

I know that they make this an option for people who want to give up their baby for whatever reason but… I suppose the reality of it never hit me until tonight and I’m not sure how to take it all in. I spent much of the ride home in tears.

I guess in my own life and experience, when a baby is born.. that’s cause for some serious celebration. Balloons, gifts, a crowded room full of smiling faces… weird pictures that end up on Pinterest of the newborn in weird positions… I’m ashamed to say that the reality that this isn’t the norm for all babies didn’t really hit me until tonight.

Can I just say that I don’t think it’s in God’s good plan for the world for babies to be left alone in a dirty bathroom?

When I was born, I had people. I had a loving father, mother, and older sister followed by a whole team of extended family and friends who rejoiced over my birth. I was born into a community of people on my “team”. They would love, support, and pull for me all the days of my life.

Someone should be on the kid’s team. That baby should have a team of people pulling for them. There should be a team of people who care that they’re born and alive and healthy today.

This might be completely futile but… I’ve got some words on my heart tonight for this kid. Perhaps just a prayer but we believe in a heavenly Father who cares right? We believe that our Abba Father not only hears but is present and at work in our lives every moment of every day right? Even if not very often at all, would you consider joining me in lifting the child up in prayer whenever it comes to mind?

Dear kid,

Talk about a rough start little one. I’m sorry it went down like this. But I don’t mean that to say that you’re going to finish a little short behind everyone else as a result… because I think.. You’re gonna do just fine, kid. I’ll bet on it.

For whatever reason, your mother thought it was better this way. That’s hard, but I’m willing to bet that she whole-heartedly believed that this was to give you the best shot at life. I’m willing to bet she’s hoping with everything within her that you get adopted by a stellar family who loves you and gives you every good opportunity they could possibly muster. And I hope that too. I pray that for you.

The truth is, I believe you have a Heavenly Father. An awesome Father who knew you before you even took any form in your mother’s womb and He’s loved you from the beginning of time and will hold you till the very end. I believe that you were created in His image so you are NOT nothing. You are NOT of less value. You are NOT less wanted. The truth is: You are a beloved child. And you have a Father who is jealous for you.

Kiddo, you might never know. But you got at least one person on your team right now. I’ll pray for you. I’ll think of you. I pray that God, our Father, pours out His grace and mercy in your life and that love, joy, and mercy would follow you all the days of your life.

The possibilities set before you are endless. I’m excited for you! And… maybe this is abuse of prayer power but I hope you become a big nerd.. because nerds are awesome. Or don’t.. that’s weird. I won’t tell you how to live your life and you’ll be perfect no matter what. I guess what I’m saying is, never be ashamed of who you are.

Little one, you’re gonna be just fine. This is only the beginning. Wherever you end up, consider me on your team. I’ll be praying for you. I’ll be thinking of you.

Aunt Vicky.

A Two-Year Old Refugee, A Shooting, And A God Who Cares 01/10/2013

I spent a summer as an intern with InterVarsity’s Urban Project in St. Louis in 2009. It was that summer when I first came to grips with the fact that following Jesus meant giving up my life. Literally.

It’s easy to sit in a nice church building singing, “Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.” Summer 2009, I learned that I never really appreciated the full weight of the songs I was singing to the Lord. Countless times I had sung about wanting God to take all of me for His purposes. Countless times I had sung about how I would give it all for Jesus.

Summer 2009, I realized that I really had no idea what I was singing or pledging to before God.

The second week of my internship, we lived with families in the neighborhood. These people had chosen to locate themselves among the city’s poor. During the day, we spent our time hanging out with the neighborhood kids in an apartment complex community. The people living in these apartments were mostly refugees. They came from all sorts of places such as Africa and Asia. Some of them came here seeking a better life, some left war-torn countries, some had to leave because to stay in their homeland meant death.

The kids we played with ranged from 2-year-olds to high school aged children. This one afternoon, I spent with a 2-year-old girl named Hawa. Hawa was a completely quiet little child. She made very few facial expressions and had a round little belly where she’d rest her hands while she twiddled her fingers. She was sweet. She hung by my side, held my hand, and watched quietly as I interacted with everyone around.

I had made my way over to the parking lot away from my team and the rest of the children when I heard something like fireworks. It was mid-June so I figured people were shooting off July 4th fireworks prematurely until a second round of noises went off and the windows of the car in front of me began to shatter.

I sank down in my spot. Heart racing. Not being able to wrap my head around the fact that these were not the sounds of fireworks but gunfire. I looked back to my team, they were gathering all the children behind one of the buildings. Nearby, I saw baby Hawa frozen in her place. I snatched her up and ran behind the wall where everyone else had hid.

I could hear my heart beat in my ears. I could feel the blood and the adrenaline rushing through my veins. I thought I could feel my heart racing in my hands but when the chaos had subsided a bit, I realized that it wasn’t my own heart I felt in my hands, I was holding Hawa. Her heart was beating out of her chest.

When the shots were over, we could hear the parents screaming out their windows and doors for their children. We sent the kids back to the apartments and ran back to the families we were staying with.

I couldn’t believe what had happened. I couldn’t believe how vulnerable and fragile my life was. I had never considered it before. I felt like I was dangling thousands of feet in the air holding on to a piece of string. I could go at any moment. The shooting stripped me of my perceived security, my invulnerability, and my control. I was two-weeks into this internship I had signed up for to learn to follow God in the midst of urban poverty.

The weeks after, I spent wrestling with my fears. The director of the internship walked closely with me helping me to process it all. “I understand if you want to go home.” He said. I did want to leave but stayed, out of fear that to leave would be shameful. I was terrified to be outside. Any time we’d leave to get into the cars or to go into another building, I was counting the seconds until we were safe inside somewhere. For the first time, I finally understood that following Jesus actually demanded my life, in every sense.

As I continued to process over the next few days after the shooting, I became very angry. Angry that for Hawa, this was an every day reality for her. In America! These refugees were fleeing poverty and violence in their own countries only to come to America to find more poverty and violence. The system was wrong. It was all so wrong. But that summer of 2009, I learned that my God was so much more than I could’ve ever hoped for. God cared for Hawa. He cares about the lives of the refugees in St. Louis. I learned that God did in fact, care about the hell that is present on earth today and that He wanted to use me in His restoring of all things. Yes, it would be dangerous. Yes, it demands my life. But as I thought of Hawa all summer long, there was nothing else worth my life. If God is a god who cares nothing of Hawa’s situation, of the endless poverty of the world’s poor, he is not a god worth worshiping. Thankfully, as I learned summer of 2009, He does care.

I am asking you tonight to get angry. To allow the brokenness that grieves the heart of God to grieve your own. I want you to get intolerant. We christians are intolerant of all the wrong things these days. We are intolerant of people who sin differently than us, people whom God loves and for whom He sacrificed His son for. Yet we are tolerant of the enslavement, the suffering, and the oppression of people whom God loves around the world many who suffer so we can have our way of life here in America.

We sit in our church buildings, sing our songs, memorize our Bible versus yet this is what the Lord says in Isaiah 58:

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”

The purpose Jesus has called His followers to what He has defined His ministry to be is found in Luke 4:

17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

What does it mean to follow Jesus? What does it mean to be a Christian? Is christianity just about us, dropped down into creation and having to entertain ourselves, saving souls when we can along the way for some disembodied future?

N.T. Wright says: “The whole point of what Jesus was up to was that he was doing close up, in the present, what he was promising long-term in the future. And what he was promising for that future and doing in the present was not saving souls for a disembodied eternity but rescuing people from the corruption and decay of the way of the world presently is so they could enjoy, already in the present, that renewal of creation which is God’s ultimate purpose – and so they could thus become colleagues and partners in that large project.”

Friends, the good news of the Gospel is more than just saving souls from a hell to come, but it is saving us from the hell that is now. Do not reduce the Gospel so small that it is merely personally relevant. The Gospel is globally relevant. That, my friends, is good news.

Consider today what your faith has become about. Is it about the things that are great on the heart of God? Or have you been saved just to go about your days doing a G-rated version of normal? What does it mean to align yourself with His purposes?

More Dying To Do (01/04/2013)

“In a way, I said ‘yes’ to following Jesus into the slums. But I was shown that I have more dying to do, more losing of myself. I learned that conversion to Christ is a process. Many more yes’s are needed after the first yes. But when everything wasn’t quite what I expected, I wanted to say ‘no’ so badly and I realized just how costly the invitation of Jesus to discipleship is.” -Karen Ngooi, international student from Malaysia studying at the University of Wisconsin

This past week, I attended Urbana. Urbana is a 5 day student missions conference held in St. Louis that cultivates in the current generation a love for God and for His purposes in the world.

I first heard about Urbana fall semester 2007 of my freshman year. Urbana 2006 had just taken place a year before and I have been anticipating my own participation in this conference ever since. As someone who has been out of college for about a year now and struggling with the post-graduate transition, I went into Urbana 2012 hungry to hear from God and for some inspiration.

I was not disappointed at Urbana.

God really spoke at Urbana. What I was hearing from God this week was that He is asking me to trust Him with my fears. Since I’ve graduated, I think the thing that has most kept me from moving forward with my life, among many other excuses, is fear. Fear that my family will not accept my decision to go into full-time ministry and fear that I will fail in some way. But throughout the week, I really sensed the urgency and the call to surrender our whole lives to Jesus. As Platt said in his talk, what in this life is more significant than this? What is more worth giving our lives to than this?

I found that during the week, I was running out of excuses. I found that I was getting tired of talking about the uncertainties of this stage of life and tired of my own excuses to delay being proactive about entering into what is next in life whether that be an internship, overseas missions, or full-time ministry in the states. I was tired of talking about how I don’t know and how I don’t know how to know. I believe that Jesus is saying, “Child, trust me. I am faithful. I am worth it. Come and follow me.”

In the end, I’m realizing that I want to follow Jesus but I really don’t want to lose anything in the process. I know it costs to follow Jesus. But, I don’t want to lose my security. There are so many things of this world that I love. I don’t want to lose them. But at Urbana, I fell in love with the Lord all over again. His heart for the world, for the lost, His invitation, His mission, His kingdom. It is all so unlike anything I’ve ever come across. So much more magnificent than I could ever hope for. My excuses, which were once all I could see before me became like tiny specks of dust making futile attempts to distract my eyes from the glory of His great invitation.

One thing that has really resonated in me throughout these past few days is something an international student from Malaysia said in her testimony before all of Urbana. “I have more dying to do,” she said. I am governed first by my fears and my petty desires. Instead of Jesus, I’ve let other factors set the agenda for my life. Jesus is not the center of my trust, dreams, and affections. I am learning just how much I don’t love Jesus. I am learning just how much I love my worldly reputation. I wonder, if I didn’t have people watching or if my actions did not result in some sort of reputation, how concerned am I for God’s glory? If He called me overseas, if my friends never saw me again or heard of anything I did for the rest of my life, would He still be worth it? Would His mission alone still be enough? If at the end of my earthly life, if I gained nothing in this world, if I lost it all, would I be satisfied with Jesus? If I had to be perfectly honest, my answer currently is, “No.” I still have so much dying to do.

My post-Urbana prayer is this: “Jesus, help me to die. Help me to know that you are worth all my trust, plans, and affections. Help me to die that I might live for you. Help me to die that I might have true life in you. Where You want me, where You lead me, help me to get there.”

I am learning that the hardships I might endure for His name’s sake is nothing compared to knowing Jesus. I am learning just how many more yes’s are needed before the end of this life. The reality of the hardships of following Jesus are starting to sink in more and more but I’m learning that His love makes it worth it all. There is nothing in this life more worth giving my life to than this. I need to leave the boat. I need to drop my nets. No more excuses. He is worth it.

Phil. 1:21 “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

IVCF on Campus: Does it Even Matter? (02/15/2012)

I want to share something I came across today. InterVarsity posted this link today as the establishment of christian fellowships on university campuses is being challenged.

“This past year, InterVarsity’s ministry has been challenged on 41 campuses (most recently at the University of Buffalo and Vanderbilt University). And while InterVarsity does not enjoy such disagreements, they do provide an opportunity to showcase the value of having an InterVarsity chapter on today’s campus.

So InterVarsity would like to know: Do you believe that InterVarsity makes a difference on today’s campus? If so, how is InterVarsity a positive influence in the university world?”

It got me thinking back to a conversation I had with a student leader back when I was a freshman on campus. We were talking about InterVarsity, its purpose, and the future of our fellowship. We got to talking about our presence as a body of Christ on campus in the present and started dreaming about what it would look like if InterVarsity became such a presence on our campus so much so that if we ceased to exist here our absence would be mourned.

Why? Because maybe..

The people in InterVarsity were the ones who cared. They were the ones who were active in student life on campus. They responded to the needs of the campus, they were in tune with relevant issues on campus, whether a death in the student body or a natural disaster halfway around the world, InterVarsity students were the first to respond. Maybe the people in InterVarsity were the ones pushing the envelope of reconciliation on campus and doing justice. Maybe they were the ones who were not just relevant in their own little pockets of campus life, but they engaged the whole campus. They were the ones who cared.

So the above page from InterVarsity really has me thinking. Does our campus need InterVarsity? Are we a positive influence on campus life? As a ministry, what do we exist for?

In my understanding and in my time in InterVarsity, IVCF exists as a ministry to the university not a ministry who happens to be on a college campus. We are on campus on purpose. InterVarsity is not a place of escape for the Christian from the world. It is a place where transformation and spiritual formation happen to go deeper and engage more holistically with the world around us. We are called to be a redeeming influence among university people, ideas, and structures. God said He was making all things new, not all new things. So, we do not exist as a ministry for the sake of ourselves, but we exist for the sake of His purposes for the world around us: the campus. We are called to be partners in God’s plan of redemption, renewal, and restoration of a broken world.

So if InterVarsity ceased to exist on our campus, would it matter just for the members or would campus life suffer a significant loss? On campus or not, does it make a difference?

For those of you still on campus, this is not a critique but an invitation to dream with me and the student leaders who have gone before you. Does it matter if we’re on campus or not?

Brothers and sisters still on campus, may I humbly submit to you a request: do better than us. If we believe that this dying world needs Jesus, may we live out that radical kind of love and life that the campus can’t simply live without.

When this vision was first presented to me as a freshman, I remember being so enamored by the idea of it all. What a wondrous vision: The kingdom of God advancing into Geneseo. I hope and pray that it would fill you as well with such awe and wonder. That it would be fuel for these dreams to be brought into fruition.

I love the Geneseo campus, down to every last bit of brick and mortar. It’s been a blessing that God has entrusted the campus and its people to me to love for a short while. I believe He makes us caretakers of this place while we are called to be there as students. With each new class of freshmen, I am blessed and encouraged to see future leaders and disciples of Christ who will be the hands and feet of Jesus on campus. As a former caretaker of the campus, I am delighted to leave it to such wonderful people. And I humbly ask of you again: do better than us.

 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. -Phil. 3:12-14

Rediscovering Jesus in the City (02/14/2012)

I’m back on Long Island after a week and a half trip to Geneseo. I spent about half-hour in Penn Station waiting for the LIRR. In that half-hour, I witnessed 2 different people on 2 separate occasions belittle and verbally abuse service workers and sat across the table from a woman who seemed to suffer from Schizophrenia.

Since I’ve gone to school in upstate NY, I’ve noticed that the more time I’ve spent up there, the more culture shock I would feel when coming back to Long Island during college breaks. So at first, I was bitter. Bitter that I was back downstate rather than upstate. Annoyed at the crowds of people and already wanting to make plans to move back to beautiful, amiable, and wide-open upstate NY.

Next, I got kicked out of McDonald’s. You’re only allowed to sit for about 20 minutes. That made me even more annoyed with the City. As I gathered my things and made my way to the LIRR’s waiting area, I recalled my conversation with Pastor Dave earlier today. With the St. Louis trip coming up for my fellowship back in Geneseo, we were talking about my future and how Dave realizes that I’ve grown a heart for ministry in cities in my 4 years of attendance at CityLights. I was taken aback by how his observations contrasted my current sentiments.

I know I love the city. I’ve loved seeing God move in cities. I love how cities are places of many different cultures and people. It’s diverse. It’s exciting. Dave was right. I do love cities.

So what’s changed?

Yes, the people in general are meaner down here than in upstate in general. I feel like that’s a natural result in densely populated areas. But that’s not news… downstate hasn’t changed. I have.

I used to not be phased by the “mean” culture that is downstate NY. When I went to school, strangers were drastically kinder to me. I started to prefer upstate’s culture to the one I had grown up with. And my time at Citylights taught me to look deeper into city culture with a new set of eyes to see the brokenness of the city and its people.

Perhaps it’s the uncertainty of post-graduate life that makes me find any little reason to reject life here and return to what is now more comfortable: life in western NY. Whatever the case, I was convicted that I was feeling so annoyed to be back.

I started to think about Gerry, the director of CityLights, my role model, and my spiritual father. Over the years, I’ve observed how he interacts with his environment, how he approaches ministry, people, etc. What were the differences in his everyday living that made him such a force of calvary-like love and transformation in the city of St. Louis? I wondered what it would look like if Gerry were walking in my steps tonight. What would it look like?

I recalled an experience I had with him at a Waffle House during the summer of 2009. It was about 3am. We were driving around together and we stopped in for a late-night snack. He was so kind to the woman behind the counter. Knowing it was a graveyard shift, he looked around the back knowing that she’d probably been on her feet for hours and seeing that there was no place for her to sit and rest her feet. He gracefully struck up a conversation about her. He was engaged with her. He showed such a profound level of compassion and empathy for this stranger. Upon leaving, he left her an extremely generous tip. The woman was so blessed. It was such a small thing but it left a profound mark in my memory. People in the service industry are treated with no dignity. But I saw Jesus that night. Gerry sees the situation with a different set of eyes. It’s what I believe to be a new set of eyes followers of Jesus should see the world with. He saw her the way Jesus sees her.

Consider the woman across from me possibly suffering from mental illness. She’s society’s outcast. Much like the lepers in Biblical times, she’s “unclean” or “untouchable”. She belongs to the kind of people that we do not want to associate with. We pretend not to see them so much so that maybe, we really don’t see them anymore. I know that was me. There are so many people in the city like that. I forced myself not to see them to avoid the internal conflict between my uncompassionate heart and the work of the Spirit. And so, over time, I really didn’t see them.

How did Jesus treat the social outcasts of His time? Take the story of the leper for instance in Mark 1. Jesus heals the leper. Not only does He heal him, Jesus touches him. In that time, people used to run across the street away from a leper screaming, “Unclean! Unclean!” Can you imagine for this leper how long it must have been since he had human contact? What does it do to a person’s soul to not even be dignified as a human being with one simple touch? Jesus could have simply said, “Be healed!” and by His words, the leper would be healed. We’ve seen that happen in the Gospels where Jesus heals simply by uttering words. But no, Jesus saw that the leper needed also the healing that would come from touch, human contact, for the first time in a long time. Oh to love like Jesus. To see how He sees. What a difference it would make!

I stand convicted that I am not a loving person. I don’t love Jesus as much as I love comfort and familiarity. And I certainly do not love His people. I especially do not love people who may be rougher around the edges. The city is full of broken people. It’s crowded with them. The problem doesn’t lie in the masses of broken people but within my own broken and unloving self. I’m annoyed with the crowds of broken people. Jesus was constantly followed and pursued by crowds broken people. He was never annoyed with them. Mark 6:34 says, “When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.”

The service workers, the mentally ill, the homeless… you might compare them to the “sparrows” in Matthew 10. Seemingly insignificant to us, but are loved and cared for all the same by our Heavenly Father. How do we treat the “sparrows” in our lives?

Jesus, I’m so sorry for the way I’ve grown so complacent. Renew my mind and give me a new set of eyes to see the world in light of the Gospel. Teach me how to love like You. Transform my life and give me a heart that loves the unlovable and touches the untouchable. May I never just be a passerby but change me to live the kind of life that reflects the good news of Jesus Christ wherever I go. In the big things and the little things, may You be glorified.

The city desperately needs Jesus. Gerry is taking up his cross in St. Louis. What will I do? What will we do?

I love the city. I really do.

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