Thursday, October 27, 2011

youth bio 1.0

The vision of Cross & Crown is to have indigenous people of the neighborhood be the leaders of Cross & Crown.  The original vision for what is now Cross & Crown was revealed to a small group of people from a different neighborhood who felt called to move out of their circle of influence.  Cross & Crown, as well as, Rock Island, continue to have significant leadership roles filled by non-indigenous individuals but over our 10 year existence more and more neighbors have began to fill leadership roles.

At Rock Island the same holds true.  Ron and I both realize our responsibility with the youth of this neighborhood is not only in leading, advising and mentoring them but also to help them realize their potential in future leadership roles as we do our best to develop their passions and skills in ways that empower themselves and the people of THEIR neighborhood.

Bottom line: The future of Cross & Crown and Rock Island lies in the hands of the people of this neighborhood.

(the following has been done with permission and request (might I add, several requests) of Darvin)

Exhibit A: aka, Darvin

When we first meet Darvin 8 years ago he was just a wee lad at the age of 7.  He was quiet, curious and sharp.  Not much has changed for Darvin except that now he is starting to spread his social butterfly wings and is quite the conversationalist.  He is still very sharp and is one of the more academically advanced students.  (Don't get a big head, Darvin).

Over the course of our 8 year friendship with Darvin we have had plenty of opportunities to see him grow and mature in just about every aspect of his life.  With the exception of one or two summer breaks Darvin has made an effort to come be apart of whatever is going on at Rock Island 2-3 times a week for almost 9 years!

Recentlty, Darvin has shown an interest in being apart of a fundraising experiment Ron and I started to dabble in a couple years ago.  With the permission of those donating, we began posting items, such as, furniture and electronics on websites such as Craigslist and Ebay.  Any sales made from these postings went directly into the "Rebuilding the Walls" program.

After much deliberation and planning we worked it out so that Darvin could take as much ownership in this venture as he wanted.  Because he is of working age and we didn't want for him to have to choose between making money by getting a "real" job over choosing to hang out with two incredibly awesome, fun, hilarious, thought-provoking men (Ron and I) we decided to forge the two.

Now, Darvin works when he wants by helping pickup donations (when he can), taking all the pictures, uploading the pictures, describing the items and posting the ads online so that others can purchase them.  He has seen reasonable success and now get's to make a little extra change (10% of whatever he sells) while also contributing to the betterment of his very own neighborhood.  Not to mention, this, also, allows for him to continue spending some quality time with the two incredible men I mentioned earlier.

The way we, at Cross & Crown, look at it is that it's a win/win situation.

Earlier in this post I explained how the future of Cross & Crown and Rock Island is held by the men, women and youth of this neighborhood.  We can't afford to lose young men and woman with the skills, knowledge and 'can-do' spirit that Darvin possesses.  This little scenario is just one small scale example of how Darvin, even at the ripe age of 15, can begin contributing to the future existence and success of Cross & Crown as we strive to serve the people in this often overlooked area of Okc.

FYI, Darvin is briefly in this video at 0:07 seconds and, again, in the back ground at 2:00 and once more at 3:35 (in the white polo).  This video is about 4 years ago which makes him 11 or 12 years old.  He's going to love this old video : )

Thursday, September 8, 2011

the answer to what you've been wondering

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday I go to a couple of different Walmarts here in the city and pickup food donations. It's a relatively new experiment for Walmart, in Oklahoma City anyway. It's pretty simple. Whatever meats, breads, fruits and vegetables the general public wont buy off the shelves anymore are given to us. You know, the soft fruits and meats that are 4-5 days away from 'expiring'. The foods that we affluent people won't have anything to do with anymore.

In months and years past this food that goes unbought at stores has been thrown away. Crazy. Perfectly good meat that still has several days until it 'expires' is thrown away because most people consider it too close to expiration date.

Well, not anymore. At least not at two locations. This food is now given to us at Cross & Crown in order to distribute throughout the neighborhood. At times it has been overwhelming. Some days we have been given 4-5 pallets of watermelon, nectarines and plums. Other days we have received over 1,500 lbs of frozen meats! Although it has become overwhelming at times the thought of all that food being thrown away three times a week is even more overwhelming. Overwhelming.....and frustrating.

I think if you were to ask the employees at Walmart what they thought about the whole process of donating the food they used to throw away they might tell you they wished they still threw away the food.

Here's why...

Now there's a lengthy process. Each department has to scan, organize and account for all their donations. Then the managers have to approve the donations. Then employees have to scan the donations out. It just makes for a lot more work. I get that part. Even though, I'm sure there was some type of process of accounting just throw the food away.

It's a business. Business' business is making money. Taking extra time by adding extra work without receiving extra pay isn't good business. That makes sense, too.

What doesn't make sense is waste. At least, not to me. I think throwing that extra food away is wasteful. Some don't.

For instance, Wanye (not his real name). Wayne works at Walmart and is always very helpful when we come to pickup donations. Wayne questions whether or not the donated food being given away for free is helpful or not.

Wayne asked/stated, "Does giving the food away for free not just enable people that aren't working to keep not working because you guys just give them stuff for free?"

"Shutup, stupid", I replied to Wayne. Not really.

It seemed like an honest question. Maybe one that he has spent a little time thinking about. Also, maybe a question that he had pretty well decided he knew the answer to but wanted to hear our point of view.

Pops (aka, Paul. aka, my dad) was with me this particular day. The question was directed toward him and so he went on to explain. He explained, like most of us who work at Cross & Crown have had to do from time to time, that the food we give people and families is incomplete. What we supply families with is a supplement.

Families get a box of food with a few cans of green beans, corn, a couple cans of pinto beans, fruit, some pasta noodles, rice and cereal to go along with 'expired' meat and borderline, non edible fruit and vegetables. And, they can do this once every two weeks. You think this enables people not to work?

Now, I'm not trying to be rude or sarcastic (because I know it's tough to tell the difference when you're just reading and when you can hear someone's tone in real life). I'm really not. But, that's just ignorant. According to ignorant means, "lacking knowledge or information as to a particular subject or fact," or,"uniformed."
Therefore, in this particular instance, Wayne is ignorant.

That's not necessarily a bad thing though. I'm ignorant in a lot of matters. I'm, probably, ignorant in more areas of life then I'm actually....non-ignorant or wise. It just means he doesn't know any better or maybe he hasn't really thought intensely about the matter.

A family of 5 that receives a box of food containing the elements I mentioned earlier might be able to make 2-3 incomplete meals if they were to utilize every item within the box. So, the meals would look like this...

       Meal #1 - One can of green beans. One can of corn. One can of pineapples. Half a bag of rice. 1lb of ground beef (half of the meat given to them). One loaf of bread.

       Meal #2 - One can of green beans. One can of corn. One can of sliced peaches. Half a bag of rice. 1lb of ground beef (the other half of meat they received). One loaf of French bread.

       Meal #3 - One can of pinto beans. Pasta noodles (no sauce). 5 bananas. Lettuce (no dressing, croutons, sunflower seeds, tomatoes, ect. You know, all the good stuff). One bag of glazed muffins.

So there's three days worth of dinner for a family of five, assuming that they don't work and just live off of what we give them.

What are some of the first words that come to mind when you read this meal plan for the first couple days of the week for five people?




More like...

Still hungry.

And, really? Bananas with pasta noodles and pinto beans?

You get the idea. People can't live off of the food we give them but it sure helps. It helps when they can save 7-8 bucks off their bill at the grocery store with the meat we give them. 3-4 dollars worth of bread. 10-15 dollars worth of canned goods. You all have been grocery shopping before. This stuff adds up but in no way would JUST these items be enough to sustain a family of 5 (and in most cases 5+).

So, if you ever have similar thoughts that Wayne had or wonder, "Hmmmm. Isn't giving people free food just enabling them to be society leeches and not to be contributors?", come find me at Cross & Crown and I'll give you a box of food to live off of for 2 weeks. At the end of the two weeks come back and we'll do it all over again. We'll see how that works for you.

(Oh, but don't forget to sign up on the food list at 8:00am, too. Be on time. No special favors : )

One of the reasons we supply food to those in need is to meet physical needs that, for whatever reason, have not and are not being meet. We believe this is important. It's important because, I think, Jesus thought it was important.

However, meeting physical needs is not our primary objective. Yes, clothes, food, shelter, education ect. are all crucial and necessary. Meeting these needs is critical for both those in need and those with the resources to do so.

It's no secret...the gospel is our primary objective.

Jesus is our primary objective.

The food, clothes, medical clinic, legal aid, whatever. These are all really great things but, if not for the message of Jesus, are nothing more than a temporary fix.

Food rots. Clothes are outgrown. Health deteriorates. The law, well, we all know how successful that has been lately.

Some people like to think of all the physical 'goods' that are offered as a "hook", if you will. A "hook", "bait", call it what you want. I guess those terms are fair since Jesus was in to making people 'fishers of men'. Whatever people want to call it, I tend to take a somewhat different approach.  If meeting people's needs results in an opportunity to speak directly about Jesus, so be it.  If talking directly about Jesus leads to an opportunity to meet someone's needs, even better. 

I think, it is better said like this...
"We don't feed people to share the gospel. We do it because it is the gospel." - @hughhollowell

Thursday, August 11, 2011

temporary mom

Last week we had a group from Fort Worth, Texas come help out at Cross & Crown.  Like most groups they had a plan.  They had been in contact with Ron for some time and were assigned a list of tasks, projects and duties to complete while they were here. 

Ron and Paul welcomed them into Oklahoma City on Sunday afternoon and gave them a run-down of Cross & Crown, Rock Island and the neighborhood.  They were going to need to be well informed because they planned on staying inside the facilities overnight for the week.  They were told the ins and outs of each of the buildings and given an overview of what their week would look like while helping out at the each location.

Each day the group had additonal activities for the neighborhood youth following their full schedule of projects throughout the day.  Devotionals, times of worship and reflection, small group discussions, meals and games, this group did it all.  They came.  They saw.  They conquered. 

The group was tremendous but none of their scheduled, pre-planned projects were what impacted me the most.  A scenerio came about while their group was here that would not have fully developed had their youth and leaders not been intentionally relational during their time in Okc.  Completed projects, devotionals, sleeping in a rough neighborhood in hot, uncomfortable conditions is great and makes for really cool stories when you get home but building a relationship with a neighborhood kid who has little to no family and making a measureable impact in his real life circumstances is what's really helpful. 

If you live in Okc or have school aged children that attend OKCPS you are aware that school started last week.  Well, we had a student that just moved back to Okc after living in Michigan for several years.  Again, like he did when he was in elementary school, some 6 years ago, he lives with his grandparents who live 4 houses down from Cross & Crown.  His mom died when he was barely old enough to remember her.  His dad is no where to be found.  He has some extended family members who love and care for him but most times are unable to do a whole lot because they have children and families of their own and/or live in different cities.

Moving back to Okc the week before school started wasn't necessarily the most timely plan but it was, likely, the only plan because of dwindling opportunities in Michigan.  So, here we are.  The unlikely match of a eager, young man back from Michigan teamed up with a willing, available youth group from Texas.

The group began work early each morning and continued throughout the day until the evening hours.  Meanwhile, our Michigan-migrant continued to be truant.  His plan with some family members from another city to help him enroll in school didn't work out so I began piecing together as much information as I could to get him enrolled.

Tracking down immunization records from Michigan, faxes left and right, phone calls to advisors and counselors and a couple trips to the school with grandpa was all apart of the plan.  I got the ball rolling on the process but I was quickly finding out that I wasn't going to be able to juggle this scenario on top of some other things that were going on that week.

In steps the available, observant Texan (I know, hard to imagine that Texans can be helpful).  She told me she had been wondering, thinking and praying about this particular student all week.  She told me she had talked to him a couple times about being "truant" but was never really confident that he understood the urgency concerning his status.

She had stayed up the night before praying and weeping over this student and his situation.  A deceased mother.  A non-existent father.

Thursday morning I set aside some responsibilities I had committed to for that morning and got ready to take the young man to enroll at school.  As we were loading up to leave the Texan inquired what we were doing.  I informed her that we were headed to enroll in school and she communicated an interest in tagging along.  Turns out, I was just tagging along.

Quickly after arriving at the school with the young man and his spanish-speaking grandfather the helpful Texan and I noticed the rising anxiousness of the student.  We both verbalized some observations we had made and tried our best to relieve as much stress as we could.

Flash-back 10-15 years ago when I was enrolling at school.  It was me and mom.  Or, it was me and dad.  What happened was the two of us would go to school.  I would sit there and answer 'yes' and 'no' when questions were directed at me.  Mom would tell me what I needed to do, when I needed to do it.  She filled out the paperwork.  She answered all the tough questions.  She calmed my nerves.

This is when availability meets opportunity...

After being bounced back and forth from a few different people at the school I was quickly coming to realize that my time and place in this scenario was over.  I had done my part.  My had completed my function in this particular situation.  It was time for mom to take over.  And, she did.  And, it was awesome.

Five hours later, after lots of waiting in lines, talking with counselors and answering questions temporary mom and child had done it.  He was now an official Okc student.  She hugged, encouraged, taught and loved him.  Just like good moms do.  Her time was limited in Okc with this student but her investment is timeless.

Thanks, available, willing, observant, relational, mom.

"Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.  Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many...Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it." 
                                                                        - 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 27

Saturday, July 30, 2011

red & yellow, black & white

Last week was my birthday.

Like most, I enjoy my birthday.  I usually get some cool things.  When I was younger I used to get the newest video games, the hottest basketball gear (ok, maybe I still got some OKC Thunder stuff this year) and other really sweet stuff.

Over the last several years I have been in a slow transition from getting gifts like the ones I mentioned above to more "adult" gifts.  You know, tools, books, an occasional dress shirt or nicer, non-basketball shoes.

I'm not going to lie, it's probably time.  I think my wife, Mackenzie, has had a large influence during this transition, which is a good thing.  Otherwise I might still be having birthday cakes with Karl Malone and Chris Webber on them, instead of a cookie cake with "Happy Birthday" written on it.

This years birthday was great, like all, but had a little twist to it that birthdays in years past did not have.

The Friday before my birthday, which was Sunday, I was at the mission with one of our interns and seven of the neighborhood kids.  We were doing what we do every Friday by going to two local Walmarts and picking up several hundred pounds of produce, frozen meats and breads.

We then continued with our normal activities by distributing these food donations throughout the neighborhood. Door to door we went and as we completed each block we continued to add more and more kids to the mix.  By the end of our neighborhood, food distribution we had gathered well over fifteen kids and several more had come and gone.  There was a curious mix of kids this morning.

Once we had successfully handed out all of the food throughout the neighborhood I told everyone helping that we had no additional donation pickups for the day and that we were done for the day.

So, I parked the van and trailer and headed over to Rock Island to lock it up for the day.  Here's what I walked in to...

This was by far the best surprise birthday I have ever been given.  The two girls pictured above (Jessica in the purple...errr, pink and Lizzy in the green, black and white) are primarily responsible for organizing this whole thing.  They communicated with all the kids in the neighborhood, which I must say is a task in and of itself, and prepared this very special day for me with the help of some others.

I recently heard @ScottWilliams talk about church diversity, or, the lack thereof.  He talked about how Sunday, the day most Americans meet for 'church', is the most segregated day of the week.  He's right.  We have our white churches, our black churches, our mexican churches and so on and so on.

He went on to give a very humorous, yet accurate, statement about today's church.  He said the Kingdom of God looks more like the makeup of people in a Walmart and less like today's church.  Kinda burns, huh?

Sometimes when people come to Cross & Crown they ask my dad where he goes to church.  He tells them he's at church.  They try rewording it another time.  He knows what they're asking.  They want to know where he attends on Sunday mornings.  He goes on to explain how at Cross & Crown we do church every day.  We meet together, we share together, we worship together and it seems like God continues to add to our gathering pretty consistently (Acts 2:44-47).

One of my favorite parts about doing church every day at Cross & Crown is that whether your red, yellow, black or white (or any other color or mixture of colors) we are what the Kingdom of God looks like as a community of believers.

When I look back at the pictures from my surprise party I think it gives me a very small glimpse of what that Kingdom will look like.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

real. impact.

This week I was gently reminded of a never changing truth about the work I am greatly privileged to be a part of at Cross & Crown.

This summer has been crazy.  Crazy in a good way.  Crazy in a, "wow, there's a whole lot of frickin' people here every day," sort of way.

We have seven interns this summer.  We have had interns in the past but never more than two at one time.  One of the interns is a college student.  Two of the interns will be juniors in high school next year. Two of the interns will be freshmen in college next year.  And, last, but certainly not least, two of the interns are college students and from the neighborhood.  Which, we think, is pretty great.

One of my favorite characteristics of Cross & Crown is that it is a mission for the people of the neighborhood, run by people OF the neighborhood.  The clothing room, food distribution, prayer room and some of the other larger functioning 'ministries' of Cross & Crown have been run by people of the neighborhood for several years but this summer is the first time Rock Island, primarily our elementary program, has been fortunate enough to have prior Rock Island graduates organize, coordinate and run a portion of our youth activities.

Along with the interns we have our normal gathering of youth from the neighborhood.  There are a handful of the kiddos who get up bright and early every morning (well, early for a kid on summer break) to come and lend a helping hand packing boxes of food, organizing donations of clothes and clean laundry, amongst other things.

My point being, there's mucho activity and bodies every which way you turn.

If I'm not careful it's very easy for me to get caught up in all the activity.  All the noise, all the motion, all the kids, all the seizing women falling on the stairs (yes, that happened this past week).  There's plenty of "stuff" to do.  Tasks to be done.  There are continuous needs of people to be met.  Legitimate needs.  Never ending needs.

If I'm not careful I can loose focus of my primary objective.  Very easily I concentrate my efforts on the task to be completed, the job to be done, the need to be met or the work to be done and less on the person with the need.

I think meeting the immediate need will satisfy the person.  Maybe it will.  For a short time.  Until there's a new need.

Here was my reminder this week...

Yes, money, food, clothes, education, ect. these are all helpful items that are greatly needed.  But, they aren't the single, most impactful thing we can offer.

I know what you're thinking.  Offering relationship/friendship to someone is time consuming.  You're right.  It might even make you think that throwing some money at those in 'need' doesn't sound so bad after all because offering a relationship/friendship is a liiiiiiittle more of a commitment.  That, also, is true.

Thinking something like this doesn't make you a bad person.  It just makes you a shallow person.  I'm kidding.  Kinda.

All I'm saying is that, for me, sometimes I need a reminder of what's really impactful in changing someone's life and not just some short-term fix and this video did it for me.

Friday, May 20, 2011

God's 'unblessing'

On a daily basis I have conversations, interactions and experiences with a wide range of individuals who are struggling.  Struggling to survive.  Struggling to provide.  Struggling to find hope.  Struggling to find worth.  Struggling to make ends meet.  Struggling to find God.  

Half of my day is spent with people and families who need a helping hand.  They come to get food.  They come to get clothes.  They come to see a doctor for $2.00 because they don't have medical insurance.  Some don't have medical insurance because they don't have reputable enough jobs that offer that type of thing.  Others don't have medical insurance because they don't have jobs.  Some don't have jobs because they're lazy or maybe, just maybe, they can't get a job because they're 'illegal', you know, an 'alien' from, like, another country.  How ridiculous, right?  Who would come to a country illegally in hopes of bettering their families lives?  I digress.

Why is their life like this?

Why are they struggling?

Why do I have a job and they don't?

Why does my wife have a great job that allows us to have medical insurance?

Why was I born in the "greatest nation" in the world?

Why was I born a white male in a middle-class family?

Then there is the homeless men and women.  They come to eat.  They come to get their clothes cleaned.  Some come to shower.  Some of them come for the Bible study.  Some come to help out around the mission, to carry boxes, to take trash out, to unload donations.  Some see the doctor.  Some of them, not all, don't want to see the doctor because they don't want to be told to stop drinking, to stop smoking or to 'straighten up'.  Some of them are just fine being homeless.  Some are 'ok' with being 'dirty, smelly drunks'.  Some of them desire something different, something better but just aren't capable of making it a reality.  

Why are they homeless?

Why cant they stop?

Why do I always have clean clothes and a warm shower?

Why am I not an alcoholic?

The other half of my day is spent with youth.  The kids come for a variety of reasons, also.  Some come to talk.  Some come to eat.  Some come to play.  Some come to help.  Some come because they're bored.  Some come because, believe it or not, they (kinda) like us.  Some come because they don't want to have to go home.  Some don't want to go home because home sucks.  Home sucks because mom and dad are at home.  Mom and dad (in most cases it's mom OR dad, not both) suck because mom and dad hit them.  Getting hit sucks.

Why do their parents not care?

Why do their parents hit them?

Why did I have a good childhood?  

Why was I born in to a stable, loving family?  

How come my childhood was healthy?  

Why did I have parents that encouraged me in school, disciplined me for my own good and who taught me how to be successful in life?  

Why didn't my parents hit me?


Yeah, I understand and agree that there are scenarios and problems that people get themselves in to because they make bad decisions and bad decisions lead to consequences that you have to live with...but being born in to a crappy family with bad parents isn't one of them.  

The easiest thing to do with 'poor people' or the homeless population is to say, "Yeah, well, if they would get a job or get off the pipe they could have the money they need to get off the streets and they wouldn't have to beg for money on the corner."

You don't know them.  You don't know their story.  You don't know their crappy parents that taught them nothing, that didn't care or love them and that didn't encourage them.

Then there's those criminals coming to the US illegally.  Those darn scoundrels.  They don't even have the decency to stay in their own country and work, they have to come to our country and take OUR jobs.  Psssssh. Ridiculous, I tell you.

What do you know about being born in another country, scratching and scraping for every morsel of food you eat or sharing a room with 5 other family members in a dirt house with no water, cool air or bed to sleep on?  If you're like me, not much.

So why?

For far to long I have prayed to God and thanked Him for all my 'blessings', like, being born in a great family, having good health and not having to worry about where my next meal would come from.  The list goes on.  I am so 'blessed', I thought.  And, I am blessed, just not entirely how I have always thought.

If I'm 'blessed' because I was born in to a loving family with parents who cared for me when I was young what does that make the boy who was born in to a crack smoking, pill popping, no food on the table, no help with homework, no discipline, no care, broken home with parents who abused him?

Is that child 'un-blessed' by God?

Fast forward several years down the road and now that child who was born in to the crappy home life with no love, care or direction is now the homeless man on the street corner who we immediately label as a lazy, good for nothing thief.

Seems fair.

I refuse that idea.

I refuse the notion that my all-loving, all-powerful, all-knowing God would play favorites with His creation (Unless, we're going OT and we are speaking, strictly, in terms of the Israelites).  The idea that my God, the God who holds time in His hands, the God that spoke the world and myself in to existence, would 'bless' me with a wonderful family and circumstances at birth and then in the same breath 'un-bless' another child by allowing he/she to be born in to a ridiculous scenario like the one I spoke of earlier is unacceptable.

"Well", you say, "What about God being sovereign?"

Don't get me wrong.  I believe God is sovereign.  I trust that God is sovereign.

What I don't trust is us.  We are sinful.  God gives us the ability to choose and more times than not we choose wrong.  We act wrong.  We treat others wrong.  We do wrong.  We have created a mess.  Our mess has gotten out of hand and as a result this world is a mess.


Let's take a look at a conversation Jesus had with His disciples concerning a man who appeared to be 'unblessed' in terms of his physical state.

John 9:2 says this,
"His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 
Wow. Such compassion, right?  The disciples communicate little concern for the man or his blindness but, rather, they are interested solely about the cause of his problem.

I can relate.  I think a lot of us can.  We see the beggar on the street corner with the sign that reads, "Hungry.  Anything helps", and are initial thought isn't, "Hmmm, I wonder what he likes on his cheese burger....or if he even likes cheese on his burger....or if he even likes burgers."

No, our first thought is something, like, "What a good for nothing, lazy bum.  I wonder how he got to where he is at now?"  Or, something along those lines.

Then there are those who are somewhat compassionate who might even question how he got to where he is now.  You might have genuine concern for the person and so you take the next step.  Maybe, we think, if we can identify his problem we can formulate a solution.  I don't think having this type of mindset is necessarily a bad thing but it sure doesn't seem to be the approach Jesus takes.

Jesus replies to his disciples in verse 3 with the following,
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him."
When the disciples approach the blind man they recognize a problem, the mans' blindness.  Their assumption is that his problem had to have had an equation, a sequence of bad decisions, or in this case sins, that lead to his condition.  In the disciples defense the Old Testament does mention a few times how the sin of one, such as a mother or father, would result in off-spring being punished (Hosea 4:6).

Jesus, on the other hand, does things a little differently.  He explains how neither the man nor his parents are responsible for his condition, but, rather, his condition exists so that God's power and presence might be displayed, showcased or modeled.  In other words, evidence of His works.

You know the rest of the story.  Jesus does His thing.  He spits in the dirt, rubs it in the dude's eyes and then tells him to go do a cannonball in the pool.  Game over.

Too often we want an explanation, a reason or a formula when things go wrong.  We want to know why a family member has cancer.  We want to know why the tsunami.  We want to know why good things happen to bad people and why bad things happen to good people.





If Jesus walked the earth, like He did back in the day, I think He might give us a similar answer that He gave the disciples in the story about the blind man.  In other words, He might give us one of those often indirect, sometimes confusing, but always truth-filled parables.

You know, the answers that frustrate the dog out of you because you really just wanted a 'yes' or 'no' answer to your question but you end up getting a 'knock and the door shall be open; seek and ye shall find", response.  Not always fun.

What I have come to think, learn and believe is that, maybe, just maybe, a lot of the questions we have about circumstances, worldly happenings, and the 'whys' in life might be more a result of a sinful world and less about God pouring down His punishment and wrath or lack of control over earthly happenings.

Again, God is sovereign.  God is in control. God is love.  His love gives us an opportunity to choose.  An opportunity to choose means an opportunity to not choose.  Not choosing results in sin and sin gives way to a whole nother world of existence.  We live in a world of choice and sin.  A sinful world is painful and unfair at times, most of the time.

With that being said, I don't think God chooses to 'bless' and 'un-bless' His children in many circumstances.  Can and does God choose to bless His children?  Absolutely.

There are countless stories and examples of God blessing people and nations throughout the Scriptures.  Matthew 25:34-40 tells about God's blessing to those who treat others with love.  Hebrews 12:5-11 and James 1:12 even speak about God's discipline being a blessing to those He loves and hardship being a form of blessing, in some cases.  Then there's the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus goes against all normal thought processes and gives one of those 'first shall be last and last shall be first' talks by speaking about how the poor, meek and those who mourn are and will be blessed.

Blessings from God do exist but that doesn't mean that any and everything we deem as a 'blessing' from God is in fact a blessing from God.  Maybe, rather than my circumstances being a 'blessing' from God I was just born in the right place at the right time.  Whereas, the now homeless man who was born in to the less fortunate living circumstances wasn't born 'unblessed' but rather born in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Neither circumstance a result of our own doing nor some type of 'blessed' nor 'unblessed' scenario.

I think this guy says it better...
"About a year ago, Tanya was walking back to the rooming house after having a fight with her boyfriend. It was late at night, and to get there, she had to cross Martin Luther King Blvd, which has five lanes.
Like I said, it was late at night, and on that section of MLK, the street light was burned out. And Tanya was wearing dark clothes.
The drunk driver never saw her. He hit her dead on, ran over her and drug her now dead body about 300 yards. He said later he thought he had hit a dog.
I preached her funeral, and I said the sort of things one says at a funeral, but inside I was screaming -
Why God? Why Tanya?
The church did not have any really good answers in that moment.
The reporter on the TV said Tanya was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Personally, I think that reporter was, in that moment, quite Jesus-like in her theology.
We like to see our prosperity, our good family, our happy lives, our full stomachs as signs of God’s favor, as evidence of our doing “the right things”.
- Hugh Hollowell 
Wrong place.  Wrong time.

Hugh goes on to tell, I think, another helpful story that I will end with...
Last spring, I was invited to a small group meeting a local college ministry puts on in order to talk about Love Wins, to see if any of them wanted to volunteer. I thought I was the main event, but they told me they had to do the Bible Study first.
The passage was the story of the rich young ruler, who comes to Jesus for advice, and then Jesus tells him to sell everything he has and to give it to the poor. The people in the small group were having a tough time with this.
After hearing that story read, a young guy in the room – richer than 80% of the planet, born the predominant race and the most privileged gender in the wealthiest country in the world – the very epitome of a rich young ruler to the majority of our planet – it was then that this kid said,”I think the important thing to keep in mind is to have a balanced view. After all, God gives us our possessions for a reason, and—”
It was then that I lost it.
“Hold on”, I said. “God didn’t give you your possessions. You have those things because you paid money for them. You had money to spend because you are employed. You are employed because you are well educated and look trustworthy to employers, both benefits of growing up white and male and inheriting a culture built on stolen land with the labor of enslaved people.”
You would have thought I drop kicked a kitten across the room.
Look – I have a congregant who lives in a car. And at night, when its 25 degrees and she is shivering and shaking and wanting to turn the car on for heat but knowing she does not have the money for gas – all the while crying out to God and praying for warmth… but no warmth comes.
So if you tell me that God has given this rich young ruler in that overheated living room his possessions while leaving my friend in the car to shiver, I call shenanigans. Because if that is true, then you are saying that God loves this kid more than he does my friend in her car. Or more than he does the 80% of the planet that lives on less than $10 a day.
You are not better than they are. You are just better off. "

 To read Hugh's entire post on this subject click here.

This is the challenge we face now.  We all know people or know of people that have awfully unfair circumstances.  If you don't know them personally I bet you know someone who does know them personally.  That person, family or group of people is your opportunity to get involved,

" that the works of God might be displayed in him."

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Help Wanted

On Tuesday, April 12th at 9:00 am we (and hopefully you) at Cross & Crown Mission will be distributing boxes of food and personal care items to 400 families.  We are excited about this opportunity to team up with Feed the Children in a program called, "Americans Feeding Americans."  You can check out some more details here.

We are in great need of volunteers for this event and are looking to get anywhere from 50-75 individuals to commit their time and energy.

Here is a list of a few other things that we are looking to get our hands on for this 3-4 hour event...

       * t-shirts! Because this event will involve several hundred individuals we would like to be able to identify those who are helping.  So, we figured either everyone that is helping should wear the same shirt or everyone helping wear no shirt.  Shirts won.

       * pallet jack & fork lift. Pretty self explanatory.  There will be a bunch of food on pallets and so we need something to lift and move the pallets.  We don't have one.  We want one.  Do you have one?

       *YOU!  Again, we need 50-75 bodies to make this thing happen.  On any given day at Cross & Crown we have somewhere between 15-20 volunteers.  We need more than double this amount in order to make this thing happen.

We are, also, very excited about this event because it will take place in the parking lot of our newly acquired building at 1900 NW10th, the old Whittier school building.  We are excited about this opportunity to meet and begin relationship with many new families in the neighborhood.

If you are interested in being apart of this effort in any form whether it be t-shirts, materials or your services please call 232-7696 and leave a message for Paul.