Saturday, November 7, 2009

I heart the Book of James

Today on facebook I saw two people put James 1:27 as their status so it was just rolling around in my mind all day. This passage says: "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." ---ESV

I started thinking...Orphans? Where are they?
I recalled that a friend of mine has a friend that is opening an orphanage in Africa. Its for abandoned babies. I think my dream would be to sit and rock babies all day and love them so I was like wow maybe I should go there and Africa??? Then I was like, you know, Africa is kind of far. My mind recalled other friends that have gone to orphanages on the Mexican American border or in Mexico city and I thought about googling those. But Mexico is kind of far too. I felt stumped....I think there is an orphanage in DesPlaines illinois...Like a home for troubled teenagers or something. But would the CTA take me there? I didnt think so. can I love and care for the orphans? I dont have enough money to sponsor a child like on the infomercials, and that feels like drive by charity to me. I was like God, I want to serve you as the bible says. Then I remembered the girls that come into Sunshine. I remembered one in particular. I met her on the street in front of my work as she ran from her cousin and right into my legs. Her cousin was yelling that "she was bad and because she was so bad thats why she had to live with her auntie, because her mom didnt want her and dont nobody know who her daddy is." That day my heart wrapped itself all around this little girl.

I think we all know orphans in all of our communities. Some kids dont have a mom, lots of kids dont have a dad. Some kids do have one of these parents physically, but emotionally? spiritually? defines orphan as:
a child who has lost both parents through death, or, less commonly, one parent
but it also goes on to say an orphan is also:
a person or thing that is without protective affiliation, sponsorship,
and also:
not authorized, supported, or funded; not part of a system; isolated; abandoned:

I know of whole communities that look orphaned. Lets redefine orphan. That word just broadened and encompassed a vast majority of children I see everyday.
Maybe I dont need to get all radical, maybe God didnt always mean for us to make these grand sweeping gestures of religion but to just put our hearts and feet into the neighborhood.

And a quick sidenote: When does one stop being an orphan? Are you no longer an orphan when you are 18, even if the consequences and repercussions last far into adulthood?

Caring for the orphans? It looks alot like loving your neighbor right about now.
I like how Jesus said the same thing like 77 different ways so everyone could get it.

Read the rest of James too...Its amazing.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I love you too.

I got quite a few emails sent to me today discussing Obama and how he is passing legislation for gay people in America that allows them to be in the military openly now. People are incensed apparently. Apparently also:
"Good christians will respond" and "Obama is furthering the attack on American families" and on and on. Yes, I voted for obama. Yes I like him. I dont think he is Jesus, nor is he the Anti Christ. Below includes an email reply to one of these emails. I would like to repeat that in following Jesus, there are more things to worry about than those women who have abortions and those who are living gay. I love all women who do have abortions. I love all people who are gay.And I love you, no matter what you did, because you too have done horrible things. I have too.

I guess my thoughts on this are what if we were all so heavily persecuted for our sins as much as gay people? What if because I lied, or swore or had sex outside of marriage I couldnt enjoy the same privileges as others? Everyone has sin. We are all filthy dirty and hopeless outside of the cleansing and restoring power of Christ. Im not anti so many things, but for things, like for grace and mercy and love. I understand conviction of sin, but plenty of other sinners are walking around us all the time and we arent horrified at their lifestyles, they are not so completely denigrated as homosexuals are. We arent running campaigns against child abusers, or adulterers who also are "attacking the institution of family." I love the fact that whoever sent that email originally put that "being gay does not make you another race or gender" and I would add that does not make you in a sin so horrible that Jesus cannot wash you clean by his death on the cross as quickly and completely as He washed me.

Right now,daily I am working on the fact that i should be horrified at my own inability to reach the bar of perfection and thus on my knees in gratitude for Jesus. That doesnt leave SO much time to be horrified at others actions, and desire to limit their actions and freedoms.

Jesus came for the sinners.

(thats all of us)

Friday, October 2, 2009

I really want to graduate college.

My dream is to graduate college. Seriously. I honestly never really thought I could do it. I was so convinced that it wasnt something I could attain that it took until I was 26 to even begin to think about HOW to apply for school and HOW to finance it. I'm sure I went about it the wrong way and maybe made some stupid decisions with my aid BUT I DID IT. Alone. My mom didnt go to college...most of my family, save a few cousins half way across the country, did not attend college so they werent sure how to navigate a process like that. Most of my friends didnt go to college. I tell you this to show you its a miracle I went, am still going and actually have one year left. Really, it was not until this quarter, or maybe the end of last quarter when I realized that I really was most likely going to graduate.

I have all aid. All. My education is funded by a tapestry of grants, and awards, a scholarship, and 2 smallish loans from the government. One grant I receive is a MAP (monetary aid program) grant from the state of Illinois. Mostly, MAP grants go to students who come from low income households or who are first generation college students.

This past month, MAP grants were all but cut. This has not affected fall quarter/semester but it will affect the rest of the year at all colleges in Illinois. The next quarter grants will be reduced by 50% and the spring quarters will be non existent.

I am one of 137,000 students in Illinois that will lose a significant portion of their aid if the state legislature doesnt overturn the decision in their meeting at the end of October. The portion of tuition I would be responsible for is beyond my means and I will be forced to withdraw from DePaul after this quarter.

Can you take a minute and help let our reps know the impact this will have on students?

Senator James A. DeLeo (773) 237-2525
Rep. Joseph M. Lyons (773) 286-1115
Rep. Michael P. McAuliffe (773) 792-0749

Please tell them how important the MAP grant program is to college
students, particularly those from low income backgrounds and first generation college students. Your calls, letters, faxes and e-mails can make a difference.

Please visit the following website: for more information on how to contact your state representative today.

Thank you for responding....

lord of the flies.....

But the 1980s crack era and Reagan administration reversals of many of those very minimal gains [civil rights] destroyed the fabric of our communities, ripped apart families, and, all these years later, has left a generation of young people, male and female alike, living their own versions of William Golding's Lord of The Flies. If you think I am exaggerating, then simply Google the video of the Derrion Albert beatdown. Only people who have lost all hope, who have no sense of spirituality and the preciousness of human life, would resort to this kind of savagery, the pummeling or shooting of each other until death is there, sprawled on the ground, blood gushing from the head, as was the case with young Derrion.

---Kevin Powell

Read more at:

throwing yourself on the honesty grenade

I have trouble sharing - not like my toys, or money, or hugs, or my car. But sharing whats going on with me. Fortunately, people are very busy with their lives and I can be shy so ne'er the two shall meet. I read this post tonight on another blog and was like Yes! The gift of going second. . . . .
Have you ever been in a small group with people that confess safe sins? Someone will say, “I need to be honest with everyone tonight. I need to have full disclosure and submit myself in honesty. Like ODB from the Wu-Tang Clan, I need to give it to you raw!” So you brace yourself for this crazy moment of authenticity and the person takes a deep breath and says … “I haven’t been reading my Bible enough.”

Yeah, thats happened to me.

Ugh, you, dirty, dirty sinner. I’m not even sure I can be in a small group with you any more. Not reading your Bible enough, that is disgusting. And then once he’s gone someone else will catch the safe sin bug too and will say, “I need to be real too. I haven’t been praying enough.”

Two of you in the same room? Wow, freak shows! I can barely stand it.


But what happens when people start confessing safe sins is that everyone else in the room starts concealing their real junk.

thats deep. and real.
And that sucks. It sucks that as broken as we all are, as desperate as we all are for a Savior, we feel compelled to clean ourselves up when we get around each other.
As if we arent all filthy dirty and so incredibly desperate for the cleanliness of Christ.

I cant keep up appearances. I try to all the time...I try to take my bad stuff and clean it up and store it away, or convince myself that people dont know that or cant see it.

This world/People like you more if you are all pretty, and neat, and not needy but concealed.
But so what?
So what if people know I am scared, and i feel broken and alone alot.
So what if my brokenness bleeds out at the edges the harder I try to hold it in.

Letting it all hang out may be the first step to God healing it.

When you go first, you give everyone in your church or your community or your small group or your blog, the gift of going second.

It’s so much harder to be first. No one knows what’s off limits yet and you’re setting the boundaries with your words. You’re throwing yourself on the honesty grenade and taking whatever fall out that comes with it. Going second is so much easier. And the ease only grows exponentially as people continue to share. But it has to be started somewhere. Someone has to go first and I think it has to be us.

We’re called to give the gift of second to the people in our lives. To live the truth, to share the truth, to be the truth.

Now I just have to pray for courage....

(quotes taken from #502)

"Jesus paid it all...
All to him I owe...
Sin it left a crimson stain...
He washed it white as snow..."

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sticks and stones will break your bones, but the Lord is good forever.

Everyone throws that word around.
I paint paintings with that word.
People have keyrings, tattoos, shirts, bags, shoes, coffee mugs all emblazoned repeatedly with the word LOVE.
It kind of takes away the seriousness and passion of the act of love.
Act of love = Love is a verb.

What did Jesus mean when he said we are to LOVE our enemies?

The NIV says:
But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you Matthew 5:44

The King James goes on:
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; Matthew 5:44

This week I was um, blessed, to be able to learn exactly how hard and how necessary it is to, in fact, love our enemies.

It was just a crazy day...Groups of kids were playing football right in the street in front of my work, Sunshine Gospel Ministries. Right in the middle of 61st St, which is a busy street, they were standing there and tossing the football back and forth and holding up traffic. They would move after like two or three cars were stopped on each side. BOLD AS LIONS, for real. Three different times, guys from Sunshine went out to try to get the kids to move, it wasnt really happening. About an hour later, I went out to get in my car to leave. As I pulled out a drove a few feet and BAM! My car got pelted by rocks. I slammed on my brakes out of surprise at the sound and that these young teenagers were just standing a group. STILL throwing rocks at my car as I looked at them. One flew in the open passenger window and hit me. I pulled over and got out. What's going on, I asked. Some of the guys ran away. I called two of the young guys out by their name, for they had just walked out of the ministry center, and said, "Why you throwing rocks at me?" The two I knew stammered that it wasnt them, pleaded with me to understand it wasnt them. They dropped the rocks they were holding. The other boys came back, rocks in hand. They all just looked at me, then started throwing rocks at the buses and passing cars as I talked to the two kids I know. I said, "Whats the point, why is this what you want to do?" They had no answers. One guy turned and swore at me and told me what was the point of me? Go away and threw a rock at me. I froze as it hit me. He walked closer and said, "What you gonna do?" His friends seemed a little shocked and backed up, one told me to hit him. He laughed and asked me if I was going to, then he dared me to. Im not gonna lie, I sized him up. But I did one better, I walked away. He hit me a rock as I walked back to my car. I picked up my phone and called 911 and as I pulled back about 10 feet to the front of Sunshine Min. he hit my car with two more rocks. I told 911 that the kids are in the street, hitting me and cars with rocks. Twenty minutes one came. I called again, and again over the next ten minutes. Ok, we will send someone.
Im not new to this...sometimes the police dont come. I get it. Sometimes they come like one, two or three hours later. I know. But this was hard....
The kids walked back and forth across the street intermittenly pegging cars and buses with rocks and running in the street, but all the time watching me and another guy waiting outside. Another call to the cops from the guy waiting with me. We finally flagged a passing police vehicle down and tell them what happened. The kids are still right there, we point. The kid that hit me and my car was wearing a different color shirt then all the rest of the guys. They genuinely seemed completely disinterested in my situation but drove SLOWLY down the street. The kid splits off from the group and runs into an alley. The police, driving their fancy new "urban tactical SUV", slowly follow his path into an alley. About four minutes later the kid comes running out from a gangway and walks past us waiting outside and he joins up with his group walking down the street. The cops appear minutes later and in plain sight the kid hops on a bicycle and rides down another alley. They dont chase him but pull over and get out to come talk to us. The one officer asks me if I want to file a battery charge, but lets me know its all but pointless since we dont have his name or address or anything. As another man from my work comes out and talks to the cops about the regularity of these instances on this street, with these kids, doing these things I just walk to my car and leave.

Powerlessness. Futility. Embarassment. All of these flood over me and I was so incensed, it took HOURS for me to calm down. Trying to work through these feelings, I realized that at the pit of all of these was fear. I had no recourse of action, no justice would be served here, and this kid NOW knew where I worked and which car I drive and could come back anytime. And it was more than obvious the cops were not overly concerned. I drove to the west side, had dinner, made some pies, and came home. Just as my stomach had finally unknotted and I was thinking about other things, the dad in the house I live in came home. He is also the head of Sunshine ministry. "We just got robbed," he said . Someone got in and stole laptops, desktop computers,the sound equipment, and then set off the fire extinguishers everywhere.

My stomach knotted up immediately. I couldnt sleep very much. Anger and confusion again, and I replayed the actions from earlier with the ideas of people taking the stuff we use to teach kids and minister with. Then, the Lord showed up mighty. He quieted me and gave me His peace, as only he can give.

"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
John 16:33

Jesus came to earth. People hated Him, they chose to kill Him instead of a common criminal. He still willingly died for our sins, because of Love.
If I only love those who can and do love me back, have I done anything? If you give me flowers, and I love you....Have I endured? Have I taken up my cross? No.
To do the work of the Lord is hard. This is real. I tried to pray for that kid a few times that night but couldnt. I was weak. It took until the next day, after we had cleaned and I sat on the floor to pray with a few friends/ fellow believers/coworkers to pray until I could utter a few words asking God for the strength to forgive him, and to make me love him, and when I see him and his friends as I know I will, I asked and still ask God for the courage and the boldness to hold NO grudge..but to love him as Jesus loves and forgives me. This whole thing wasnt even about me, and I dont want to make it about me. This kid is sad and lost and angry, so angry. As I know all too well, hurting people hurt people. Ive done it...countless times. I just got in his way. I hope the Lord puts me in his way again.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! When we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son.
Romans 5:6-10

God loved me, even when I didnt love him. So thankful am I.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Two situations....

i know. Its been months.....Ive been stewing on some things, I'll give an update soon but first this has been all up in my head the past few days and I've got to put it down here.

My car is old and sad. Last week, it kept dying. It would start the first time in the morning but if I stopped anywhere shortly after starting it up (i.e. to get a donut, to get gas, to run into Sunshine..etc) it would not restart as the battery was not charged or some craziness. It had to sit for awhile between startings... So sometimes I forgot and would stop places and shut the car off and then OHHH SARAH! Really? Yep. Thats the background you need for this story.....and I always have jumper cables.

I left home (currently the South side, Woodlawn neighborhood) and drove to get on the expressway to go to my grandmas house. There is a gas station in Englewood right next to the entrance to the expressway. I had to stop to put air in my tire and shut my car off without thinking. It would not start back up, I needed a jump. I put my hood up and within seconds a man approached me. Do you need help? "Yes, I need a jump, I have my own cables, " I said nervously. I hate HATE hate asking for help, I know its a weakness but having people help still me makes me uncomfortable. A woman at the gas station overheard me tell him I needed a jump and she asked if I was ok. I said yes thanks. The gas station owner recognized me as I stop there often and came out to see if I was cool. The man took my cables and hooked up our batteries but still my car would not start. He kept tinkering with my car and the cables but my car would not turn over. He pulled out his phone and called someone, "Im sorry man, Im gonna be a little late today." IT WAS HIS WORK! I told him it was fine, go ahead, Ill figure it out, etc but he just kept adjusting the cables and told me to try to start it again. Finally, he pinched some cable thingy and it started. He told me what exactly I should get fixed and then sent me on my way. I was so thankful, I had tears in my eyes. He drove away and waved. The gas station guy came out and double checked on me again. I drove away feeling blessed.

I went to my grandmothers house on the far North side of the city. In the morning I went to get some soup from a bakery in a strip mall in Skokie. Guess what? My car wouldnt start. I was so sick and I couldnt imagine having to deal with this right now. I got my cables out and put my hood up. This was a busy outdoor shopping mall, it was Saturday, a beautiful day...I thought my chances were pretty good of getting some assistance. Two women walked over who were parked directly next to my car. I sighed with relief, their car was right next to me! I greeted them and pointed to my car and said it was dead and I needed a jump. I had my own cables and could they help me? The woman looked at me and my car, and said "I dont Do that, honey." As she actually brushed past me, I stammered that it would take like 30 seconds, I was very fast and she could sit in the car. She and her friend got in and drove away. I asked a man that was parked close, he did not even stop walking but instead mumbled that he was in a hurry. I asked another lady, a man and woman, a guy...NO,not today,you should call Triple A, Im in a hurry, I can't. Ok I started crying.....I felt so sick, I had a fever, What was I going to do? All these shiny cars, a patio of people drinking coffee about fifteen feet away, and no one was able to let me jump my car. I asked one more lady and she FLAT out ignored me. Then, a rusted old van lumbered past me. I just watched it go. It circled the parking lot and drove past slowly. I was standing there with jumper cables around my shoulders. They stopped and both climbed out the passenger side door. They did not speak very good English but gestured to my car and said "Help?" I nodded and they pulled as close to my car as they could but my cables wouldnt reach. They had some cables and they rigged it up and jumped my car. I was so touched.

So heres the thing....
In the first situation, I was in a poor neighborhood. Older cars, people in hard up situations. Not everyone has a car, most people, I would venture to say, use public transportation. People were stopping in getting gas and then on their way.
In the second situation, I was in a very wealthy area. The cars in this parking lot were nice, shiny, mostly brand new or a few years old. They people were dressed nicely and were either frequenting the coffee shop, bookstore, bakery, party store or sandwich shop--- so leisure activities on a Saturday morning.

Why was it that no one in the second situation could help me? Race/Ethnicity was not a factor here. As a sociologist, I thought about the variables and constant factors. African American/Black and Hispanic was represented in both situations. The persons of an ethnic minority were no more willing to help in the second situation. So race/ethnicity was a constant. The people that did help in second situation were of either polish or russian decent so visibly white, but minority nonetheless. The only variable was economic class affiliation.

I was trying to grasp this...I went in academic/sociological circles with this unplanned foray into culture of help based on class affiliation. I came to the conclusion that perhaps people of a lower economic/poor background could empathize/understand with my problem and my situation because they have been there....stranded, no help. So for you all reading this who dont know what I just said,,,,People who have little or no money UNDERSTOOD what it was like to need help of someone else to get by. They were able to empathize as perhaps they have been stuck in some way. People who had money to spare, could not empathize with me so did not care. If something breaks and you have the money, its no big deal. A man in situation 2 told me to call Triple A for a jump. Yeah, because I can afford that.

In my Health Disparities class, we are discussing how being low income contributes to a constant level of stress because you know if something breaks, goes wrong, get do not have the resources to remedy it. So, knowing that reality in your own life you perhaps are more willing to lend a hand to someone else? I mean I have always thought that, but here is an experiment to back up my hypothesis.

So on to the biblical application and lessons learned....There is a verse that says it is harder for a rich man to get into heaven than it is for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle. So many interpretations of that verse....I have heard it used to justify a prejudice against the wealthy, I have heard it used as a reason people should give more/everything to the church, etc but I saw a whole new light to this verse after this situation. Perhaps, money makes a buffer, creates a division...I mean money gives you this security that in this situation, did not allow people to understand or come to my level and help. Money makes you feel independent and infallible, it empowers you and lessens your need. Money can make you proud. All these things are roadblocks on the way to deep relations with God, our Father, and Jesus Christ, our savior and God's son. Perhaps, Jesus was not condemning the rich for being rich but warning against the ability of money to harden our hearts and separate us from others and Himself. Im no preacher or superior exegetical bible scholar (im a woman after all...ITS FUNNY CMON)but i just felt God teaching me something with all this. This was a long post. Its nice to be back.

Monday, April 27, 2009

It's ok to put the Bible down and do something.