Pastor Steve’s Full Blog Posts
I put on compassion.
I put on patience.
I put on gentleness
I put on a listening that heals.
I put on rejoicing in others.
I put on forgiveness.
I put on healing the sick.
I put on delivering the insane.
I put on comforting the needy.
I put on giving to the poor.
I put on lowering myself.
I put on declaring justice.
May I create peace where there is no peace.
May I create hope where there is no hope.
May I create a place of mercy for all who are in need.
May I make a sanctuary for those whom “the world” means only pain.
The generous soul is welcome to all kinds of sinners, and is ready to forgive them all.
The generous one is merciful and provides for any who have need, no matter what evil they have done.
The generous ones are not concerned with being infected or harmed, for they trust in Him who protects them.
The generous one does not mark time, only the ability to love.
The generous one is honest, laughs, and takes joy in those around him, for in experiencing joy in those around him, they experience joy in themselves.
The generous one does not give by the handful, but by the truckload.
The generous one does not believe in scarcity. She never fails to give out of her stores of goods or of soul, for the Lord will always provide more.
Tenderly love your spouse better than you did last month.
Treat cashiers better.
Be kind to panhandlers and beggars.
Complain about your coworkers less.
Be kind to your children more than forming them who you want them to be.
Speak kindly about and to your political/theological sparring partners.
Open your house to the hungry and feed them.
Have a polite conversation with the person who irritates you.
Give to the poor to meet their needs, not yours.
Use your prayer to build up your love for others.
If you want to be a better church, love better.
Work on correct love more than correct theology.
Shape your worship service based on the spiritual needs of those who come.
Open your building to those who have no place to go.
Don’t be hospitable to “everyone”, but to those who are rejected by the world.
Be known for being merciful to those judged by others.
Goal: every member be gentle and kind in board meetings.
Let the outcast have a full voice in every denominational meeting.
Zero tolerance for killings by the police.
Every person, no matter how poor, how colored is treated like a full citizen.
Make every homeless person legal.
Welcome and meet needs of every immigrant.
Spend more money on meeting needs than harming criminals.
Train your police to be community servants of peace.
“Love, and do what you want.” -Augustine
I get it. When someone is going through suffering, it makes us uncomfortable. We don’t want to see people suffer. We understand when someone has an open wound or bruises to show, but when someone is suffering internally, we don’t know what to say, we just want to say, “Stop suffering! You don’t have to!”
Of course, they have no choice but to suffer. Their depression, their internal pain, their grief, their internal oppression won’t go away because we want it to.
And why do we want it to go away? Because we experience some of their suffering with them. We have a natural ability to empathize, and when someone we care about is suffering, we feel it too. We don’t feel the depth of how they feel, but we take on some of their suffering by watching them suffer. Honestly, it can be overwhelming at times.
The problem comes when we use our theology to try to stop them from suffering. We are telling them that God doesn’t want any of us to experience pain or grief or sorrow. That the salvation of God requires us all to live in contentment with what God has given us. This is what Job’s friends tried to do. They were telling him to repent of his sin, because God wouldn’t have him suffer so for any other reason. They used their idea of God as a wedge to force Job out of his suffering, so that they might have some peace.
But isn’t this a selfish way of using theology? To tell people to step up, to get right, so that we could all be a little more comfortable? To force others to be the way we want them to be, and to use the Bible or made up theological concepts to make them a bit easier to be around?
As opposed to our uncomfortable friends, God understands our depression. God knows that we are suffering, and it is okay, it is a part of life. Moses, Elijah, and even Jesus suffered from depression, and expressed it openly. But Job best expresses his anguish again and again. Job, the righteous, the one whom God boasts about to Satan. Job is allowed to express his depression long and creatively. Yet we don’t want to talk about depression in our churches, and we want to tell people who are depressed that there is something spiritually wrong with them.
Depression is not a spiritual crime. It is an honest assessment of our inner life. God looks at the depressed one, and admits that he created depression so we can deal with the grief that our bodies carry. God takes joy in depression, for it is a stage of healing.
But to those who condemn the depressed person, God has the most severe language. “My wrath is kindled against you because you have not spoken of Me what is right as my servant Job has.” When we manipulate others with our theology, we lie about God. We lie about God’s judgment and his mercy. God forgive us.
May God give us the ability to be honest about our internal suffering and to comfort those afflicted with it.
Okay, I keep a lot more than three items there. Frankly, most of the time, my desk is really cluttered. I just cleared it away to take the picture above, so you might THINK that I keep a clean desk. Total exposure, here.
But these three items keep a deeper meaning than the pile of paperwork, visionary notes from Jeff and piles of Scripture readings for the next worship service. They remind me of real people, real lives. Reminding me that I am not just working with statistics or faceless nobodies. That the real person is more complex, and often hidden.
The first item is a rail spike with the name, “Mick Wilson” on it. Mick was a quiet man who often came to the Red Barn to be with his friends, and to obtain a few items he needed for the week. One day, he was walking along the railroad track with a couple friends and they heard a train coming from a distance and moved a good distance away from the track. Then his dog, Yoda, ran away from him, breaking his hold on the leash, rushing toward the oncoming train. Mick ran after him, just catching up with Yoda in front of the train. They were both hit and died.
This spike reminds me that, even if they don’t look like it, many of the homeless are heroes, ready to sacrifice themselves for those they love.
The second item is a knife, which was taken from a boy who was threatening another with it on the church property. We’ve only had a few knife fights in the twenty years that I have been working with the homeless. But in this case, one of the folks who often comes to the Red Barn tackled the kid with the knife, took it out of his hand and held him down until he calmed down. In the past I had trouble with this same person who offered security.
This knife reminds me that the very people I have problems with will later save someone’s life, if I would give them a chance.
Finally, there is a prayer book. This book belonged to a man came almost daily to the Red Barn. Although he was homeless, he helped so many people and tried to give people a place to rest and meet their needs. He didn’t like to talk about religion or the Lord, and I guess I assumed he was agnostic. He had a series of strokes and died. After he passed away, one of his close friends gave me this prayer book and said that he would pray out of this book on a regular basis.
This prayer book reminds me that we never know who has deep waters of connections to Jesus. We must never assume.
No one is what they seem. No one is what they will be. No one is completely alone.