Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Hot Dog Justice

About a week ago, we had the opportunity to attend a birthday party for our three year old friend in a neighborhood very different from ours on the west side of Chicago.  We stuck out like a lone macadamia nut in a chocolate fudge cookie.  We listened to rap music, watched some amazing dancing, and learned new ways to celebrate with those who have become dear to us.

About half-way through the festivities, two little ones from across the hall showed up at the front door.  It was open, but they stood outside the frame.  In their hands were little white convenient store bags with two for a dollar hot cheese puffs, and a blazing blue raspberry drink.  They wanted to join the party, but were probably told not to show up empty handed.  After about twenty minutes of luring, we got them to come in and sit near us to chat and eat their “dinner”.  I was practicing my open-ended questions and listening skills, per my weekly reading assignments when my youngest said “Mom, all the other kids got a hot dog,  these kids should get a hot dog, too”.  So she quietly went to the host and asked her if she could get two more hot dogs.  She gave them to the kids and they stared at them confused.  Figuring that they probably just wanted ketchup, she asked, and of course, they said yes.  They touched the ketchup with their fingers and tasted it, then each one ate their entire dog and smiled with satisfaction.

This instance reminded me of a project that was done at a workshop some friends of mine attended on the south side of Chicago.  They were divided into three groups and were each given a bunch of tooth picks.  They were then asked to build a tower as high as they could in an hour.  After working for about a half an hour quite unsuccessfully, one of the groups was given tape.  They went to town, furiously and happily working as fast as they could, knowing they were going to win this.  The other groups slowed down their work, envious of the tape that was given to the first group.  One group decided to completely stop working, knowing that the group with the tape was going to win anyway - what’s the point?  No one asked for tape from the tape group, and no one offered tape to those without.  One group obviously won, one group tried and failed, and one just gave up knowing it was a lost cause anyway.
If a child shows up hungry, they should be fed.
If someone is trying to build something without tape, they should get tape.

There’s a song out right now by Matthew West entitled “Do Something”.  In it, he remembers a time complaining to God about all of the poverty and problems in this world - asking God to do something about all of it.  God’s reply is simply this:  “I did, I created you”.

So, if an eight year old can do justice by seeing something that's not right and using what she has, or has access to - to do something about it, I think we can, too.  Sometimes, all we need is tape or hot dogs.

Monday, April 14, 2014

What Happens When You Don't Go To Church on Palm Sunday?

...  The same thing that happens when Jesus heals on the Sabbath - there is opportunity for God to be glorified by showing that love is bigger than the law!

Yes.  We did it.  We skipped church in lieu of a soccer tournament on Palm Sunday.  And you know what?  I don't feel guilty  (warning:  been reading lots of Junie B. Jones, lately - it may show).  Ever since Easter happened, we are no longer under law, but under GRACE!  And it is AWESOME!
(The one guy who did go find a mass to attend in between games swore at the ref, and that is pretty much what Jesus was condemning the Pharisees for)

It also makes me a little more intentional, in a good way, to make up for it and immerse my kids in what happened during Holy Week - and throughout the entire Scriptures for that matter.  The whole sacrificial lamb idea started in Genesis, when God told Abraham that He would provide a sacrificial lamb.  I'm pretty jacked to remind them of that this week during dinner.  We spent a lot of time talking about Passover last night and how we, as Christians, can celebrate that just as much as our Jewish friends.

But also this week, I'm getting lamb butter.

We talked about the blood from the sacrificial lamb that was spread on the door frames of the Israelite's homes so that they would be spared by the angel of death.  Now, I get to teach them about the real sacrificial lamb.  Instead of using blood, I'm gonna use butter.  My kids are not big fans of wine, blood, or grape juice (though that will be there for the lesson plan on soaking up).  They are, however, huge fans of butter.  And, they are huge fans of bread.  When they get their own mini bread roll with a crusty shell, and their own mini lamb butter, I think they will be pretty pumped to break and spread.

Background - we've been going through some brokenness in our home.  I've seen some (lots) of repercussions of a "broken home" going on in the hearts of the little ones God has given me to raise, lately.  I'm also feeling broken because I am not the perfect parent who has kids who are all hunky dory after a divorce.

BUT - when we are broken, there is opportunity!  When we are broken, we have more soft inner bread exposed that can soak up the blood.  The blood of the lamb.  We can either get broken by things that happen to us, or we can break ourselves as we surrender our own desires for those of others.  Neither of which are done by God, but both of which can be used by God - big time!

When my kids take their knives and cut that little precious butter lamb, they are going to realize that He can't be used to fill us and cover us unless He is broken.  They will realize that each one of us breaks Him. They will realize that He innocently stayed there taking it all because He Loves Us.  And, they will realize that the more their bread is broken, the more butter they get on each piece.

It's hard to be thankful for brokenness.  It hurts.  But, if we let Him, He can fill us with His blood and give us His peace, and cover us all over with His butter, richly adorning us.  Let's grasp this!  Let's teach our kids that Jesus can fill every hole caused by hurts from bullies, parents, and anything else.  And, He can make us perfect as we let Him cover us in His righteousness, even the broken parents.

The more I see where I mess up, the more I understand and LOVE grace!  Which is good, because we have hockey and dance on Good Friday, and it will give me another opportunity to show that love is bigger than law.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

... This is Your Brain After Three Semesters into Your MSW.

Warning!  I have seven weeks of life bursting forth on the keyboard here.

I just finished Social Welfare Policy I and have a week off before starting SWPII.  Before I started this degree, I wanted to work in low-income neighborhood transformation via individual and group therapy.  Then, I wanted to overturn the food stamp policy so that people could not buy soda and candy with their food stamps.  Then, I wanted to go into the prison system and work with addicts, so that when they come out, they are not pulled in that direction again.  Needless to say, the more I learn, and the more I experience, the more I want to do!  Thankfully, I have another two years of school.
This was my brain -                                                                  And this is my brain now.

The past seven weeks in movies:
After finishing up my class Racial Justice and Cultural Oppression, I saw Twelve Years A Slave.  Why would I do that to myself?  I couldn't talk to anyone for a day.  I was completely wrecked.  Yes, it deserved the Oscar, and I am pretty jacked that the one time I actually saw a movie nominated for movie of the year won!  Brain message - be a voice for those who have no voice, and, I am privileged to be white, while some are not.
Then, I saw Gimme Shelter.  It's a true story about a homeless girl who is beat by her mom, in and out of foster homes, gets pregnant, gets into an amazing group home, and turns her life around.  Brain message - work in, or open up a group home like this one to help these girls get back on their feet, and, don't judge - because you never know what's in someone's background.
Lego Movie - only message I got from that was - we are "The Special"!  We have a purpose!
Son of God - The first two thirds was a lot of what I remember from the History channel series.  But in the end it was redeemed (pun intended).  Once Jesus started His walk to the cross, I was wrecked again - that a blameless and perfect lamb would reach out to me like that, when I rejected, and continue to reject, Him.  When the disciples claimed; "We have a job to do", I walked out broken and driven.  To reach out to those who are far off, because we are here as ministers of reconciliation!

The past seven weeks in weather:
Yes, it's been cold.  I'm done complaining.  I'm over it.  Here's the good that's actually come out of it: We had a burst pipe which flooded the kitchen.  I got brand new floors on our entire first level, which was greatly needed - thanks to Allstate!  During the flood, a friend and her kids, who had previously been homeless, were at our house.  This puts things in perspective.  I couldn't complain.  We had a broken toilet, but we had another one upstairs!  This is a rich person's problem, one of which, I am thankful for more than I was before.  Even for the leaks that we discovered at my daughter's window and over the front door - because we are not sleeping outside, or on the floor, and all have beds that we don't have to share!!
Also, even though I haven't worked out in over a year, thanks to all of the snow, my arms have remained quite buff!  And, since there is constantly a new coat on the ground, and I have not been able to pick up after the dog, no one notices!  And I haven't taken down my Christmas lights because they are frozen to the gutters, still!  So now, I can just wait till it's warm.  When the weatherman said the high on Thursday is "freezing", I was so excited!  That's just weird.
Lastly, I have walked my dog every morning.  Amidst blizzards, polar vortexes, and darkness.  As the temperature rises above ten, I start to sweat.  As my youngest daughter gets into hockey, I can handle the rink, thanks to the temperature training I've been through this winter!  But I'd be happy if it doesn't happen again in my lifetime.

The past seven weeks in school:
Our textbook was called The Reluctant Welfare State.  We've been studying social policy over the years, from before The Great Depression, until today.  Presidents, movements, wars, first ladies, psychologists, other countries, and why ours is "reluctant".  Because I didn't really pay attention in history class earlier, this was mostly new to me.  I've written papers on my conservative roots; drug problems and various ideological angles in which they are addressed; the economic proof of the obesity issue; world-wide comparisons of government-sponsored social programs; and poverty, fetal development and the WIC program.  A year ago, I wanted to make the world eat healthy.  Now, I just want people to be free from anything that is holding them back from being "the special".

The past seven weeks in hair:
I shaved my head.  I liked it.  No one else did, really, but I didn't care. It's growing out and feeling bushy.  It's easy and I now feel like I can relate (a little) to a Kenyan!  Also, there's something written in the Bible about Paul shaving his head as part of a commitment he made, I like that.  There's also something in there about women who shave their heads being shunned.  I'll skip that part.

The past seven weeks in people:
I had the opportunity to visit a prison that is home to 2500 inmates, an adult mental health facility that is home to 250, and a fourth floor apartment that is home to one.  I want to go back to all of them all the time.  I have friends in each one.  I now have ammunition for fighting for the rights of the oppressed.  It's personal because of relationships that have been built.  I am learning that that's what has made my brain fly in all directions.  As I get to know people, and their backgrounds, my heart aches, and I start to understand.  And I stop judging.  I have not seen Heaven is for Real yet, but on the trailer, the little boy, Colton, is seen gazing off into the sky.  Sometimes I just want to live like that.  But then I come to, and remember, as the new Needtobreathe song claims for all of us; "I am a Difference Maker".

The End