Wednesday, April 29, 2009

My Attributes....Not God's

Lukewarm. Apathetic. Lazy. Fatigued. Busy. Disengaged. Distant. Disinterested.

I had a stretch awhile back that I was wondering (complaining?) about where God was. Nothing particulalry bad was going on in my life. But it felt like I was just going through the motions.

I fell into the trap of believing that it was God that had pulled back from me. I kept asking God to give me the desire to love Him want Him give me the energy and time to experience Him. I started to apply to him the list of attributes that I was feeling.

Lukewarm. Apathetic. Lazy. Fatigued. Busy. Disengaged. Distant. Disinterested.

At some point I finally stopped whining. I decided to think about those activities that were present in my life when I have felt most engaged and "in the flow" with God and His Spirit. It didn't take long to make that list....and then realize that I was not particpating in any of those activities. God hadn't moved of course.....I had lost my focus and my discipline. I had stopped pursuing Him - and God had honored that decision. God is patient...

I'll share that list in the future.

But before I do - what would you put on your list?

Are you actively working that list? Do you need to add or delete some things from that list?

Are you letting your feelings about God become attributes of God that He doesn't possess?

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike "What's next, Papa?" God's Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what's coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we're certainly going to go through the good times with him! Romans 8:15-17

The perfect start to Father's Day?

I don't usually start to think about Father's Day this early but.....this would be a nice gift!

Arlo & Janis

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I had the privilege of volunteering at the Simpson Housing Shelter for homeless men last week. You can read a brief post that overviews that experience here. But for this post I wanted to focus on the voices that I heard from the guests that I listened to.

The first thing that I noticed about the voices that I heard was that most of them were hard to hear. The majority of the guys talked in hushed tones. It forced me to really listen and focus when I had a conversation with them. This was most noticeable during dinner. I had the opportunity to sit with 3-4 different men during dinner and it took all of my energy to really hear them - both from a sound standpoint and from a "don't try to think of how I should respond while they are still talking" standpoint.

Maybe some of the quiet in their voice was....

...fatigue. It must be very wearing physically, emotionally and spiritually to be on the street all day.

...fear. That a conversation they have will rob them of an opportunity they are pursuing if it is overheard. They are all struggling for resources and there are only so many available so they speak quietly of their opportunities....if they choose to share them at all.

...they want to draw you close and really listen. Yep, it could be that they want you to truly focus on them.

...shame. They are embarrassed about their situation, or their clothes, or ______, and so they speak softly....looking away or downward while still wanting to be heard.

...that's just the way they speak.

Of course, their was also the occasional guy that spoke loudly...trying to control his environment by the sheer volume with which they spoke. But that was the exception rather than the rule on this particular night.

Regardless of the volume of their voices....God spoke to me thru many of them and for that I am thankful. I hope that they somehow felt His love in those moments as well.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Music Profiling

(The following thoughts and/or reactions are soley my response to what I saw today. I have not looked into any factual basis for what I experienced/observed. In other is totally from my perspective.)

I had some time to kill after an appointment in Burnsville today. Nothing like a mocha and some browsing at the local Christian bookstore to make the time fly by so I ventured into Northwestern Bookstore in Burnsville.

I have recently been worshipping at Sanctuary Covenant Church in Minneapolis and they will often have worship times that include hip-hop, latin, gospel flavored music and I am more of a "The Refuge" (contemporary Christian / Alternative Rock) kind of guy so I thought I'd expand my musical base a little....and maybe start to recognize more of the music I'm listening to and trying to participate with.

First I browsed the "new artist" section and picked up a Remedy Drive CD. Then on to the Gospel Section and picked up The Essential Fred Hammond. Next I ventured into the hip-hop section and...didn't pick up anything at first because all of the cases were empty shells. (Sort of like at Blockbuster when you are looking for a movie!) It was very noticeable because the hip-hop section is pretty small, on it's own rack set apart for the rest of the CD's and is the only section that was presented this way.

Oh yeah, and then there was the sign over the rack that said "Thou Shall Not Steal" - God and NW bookstores.

I don't think this would have bothered me a couple of years ago...but recently God has been opening my eyes to people who are different than me in new ways. And this little "empty shell" display that required you to get your CD from the clerk up front, combined with the "Thou Shall Not Steal" sign made me angry....and sad. I eventually grabbed the Urban D Unorthodox shell (he had come to Sanctuary a few weeks ago and led some worship time) and went to the front counter. I asked why they had they had the hip hop section displayed this way - and the clerk said that it is because "a lot of those types of CD's get stolen".

Okay, I get that. It makes sense to me for the store to notice that a certain item is more likely to be stolen and try to do things to protect their products from being lifted. But this just struck me as over the top.

First - it seems to say people who listen to hip-hop CHRISTIAN artists are more likely to steal. And I don't think it is a stretch to connect that with specific ethnic people groups/cultures. I know my first reaction when browsing that section and seeing it is the only "product controlled" section was wondering if people were watching me extra close as I browsed. It made me feel uncomfortable just looking at the CD's. (Apparently people who buy contemporary Christian, gospel, latin, alternative or any other genre of music are less likely to steal?)

Second - the bright neon green 8.5X11 "Thou Shalt Not Steal" sign. C'mon. Really? The product has all been removed anyway so what is the point of the sign? All it does is further communicate to people wandering around the store the assumption that people that listen to hip-hop are likely to steal and need to be reminded that God (and NW bookstore!) doesn't want them to. The sign is what really put the whole experience into the category of "stereotype" for me. (To me the sign and way the CD's are displayed is basically silently and indelibly screaming - if you stand in front of this section you better not be one of THOSE people that listen to hip-hop and steal CD's. You should know better and in case you forgot we, the good people of NW bookstore, are reminding you. Oh, and everyone else is watching you as well at this point!)

The whole thing just made me feel icky.

Of course the other part of the ick was that after I left and started thinking thru it all....I thought I should have asked to talk to the store manager - to find out why they had the CD's displayed as they did and then share how I felt as I looked at the CD's. My bad...'cause nothing will change without conversation and engaging people. Okay - fine. I'll go back and talk to them....and blog about it later. Hold me to it tho....I am SUCH a conflict avoider.

I'd love to hear your thoughts as well. Keep in mind - this is ALL told from only my perspective and is subject to over-simplification on my part.

But how does this strike you? And thoughts about how I should follow up?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

"Do small things with great love."

"Do small things with great love." - Mother Teresa
That small phrase is what would best describe the goal I set for my night of serving at Simpson Housing Services. I have lots to ponder following my experience but thought I'd throw in a quick overview here before I post some other thoughts. For a basic description of the shelter I volunteered at and the services the men there can receive you can go here.

Okay - this is the first time I have chosen to interact with people that are homeless. At least in a meaningful, more personal way. Sure, I've handed out money, made sandwiches, and done other such activities - but had never put myself in a position where I would have hours of face time with a person who is without a home. Yep, I was a little apprehensive. But it was awesome!

On a given night there are two overnight volunteers that serve from 5:45 pm until 7:00 am. The three shelter staff start work at 3 pm and leave around 10:15 pm - shortly after all the guests are supposed to be in bed. The volunteers are basically the "eyes and ears" of the staff. We take care of the guests basic needs (there are about 46 overnight guests each night) - handing out supplies, making coffee, directing traffic a little (where to get what), etc. Meeting needs and making them feel cared for and safe. This frees up the staff to meet with guests one on one and do the work of trying to provide better access to care for their guests with the ultimate goal of obtaining permanent housing for them. The volunteers rotate their turns sleeping - one from 10 -2 the other from 2 - 6. I split the difference as I am "shadowing" so I got to try to sleep from 12 - 4...but mainly I just listened to the sounds around me.

My first impression was that this was a lot like a youth lock-in! I've helped organize many a lock-in for high school kids and there were some similarities....especially in the personalities that were present. The introvert, the helper, the funny guy, the really smart guy, the guy that gets picked on a lot, the guy that thinks none of the rules apply to him, the guy who knows how to work they system....but after spending time with them....the facades start to come down and the real stuff starts to come out. Lots of sadness, anger, loss of hope...balanced with gratefulness, contentment, and the beginnings of hope.

I tried really hard to learn names. Thru the course of the evening I had about 10 conversations with specific guests that allowed me to listen to at least part of their stories. It was humbling to listen in on their journeys. Some had been homeless for years....some for just a couple of weeks.

Each face and story was unique - and I tried to respond to each one with love. Thru a smile, an encouraging word, a handshake, cookies and milk, coffee....caring. But of the process I was changed. More on that later.

So - it was an evening of small moments that were incredibly rich. I can't wait to go back. The volunteer schedule is already full for May....and I find myself disappointed rather than relieved. NOT what I expected. But of course with God in the middle of it....what else should I expect!
Small moments, small things....hopefully done with great love, indeed.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Serving at Simpson

I have been blessed by others. One of those blessings is our good friends the Heglands. Their family and ours hang out a lot and have become quite the commune. A couple of months ago Lois (the mom) arranged for our families to make some sandwiches and deliver them to the Simpson Homeless Shelter downtown. They provide the sandwiches to their overnight shelter guests in the morning so they have a lunch for the day. As part of the experience we heard about the opportunity to become an overnight volunteer. That caught my attention (and Mitch and Lois') and we attended an orientation session to become overnight volunteers.

Well...tonight is my first night to be an overnight "shadow" volunteer. I'll basically hang out with the other two volunteers and learn the ropes of caring for the men that stay at the shelter. Yep, I'm a little apprehensive. But I figure if I just keep asking myself - How can I show them respect, love, and will be just fine. I'm more worried about MY behavior than theirs...should be fascinating.

One more step into God opening my eyes and teaching me how to better see others with and through His. Besides...I'm not only looking with His eyes...but looking at Him in the faces of the men I will be serving. How cool is that?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I love sunsets....

God said, "It is not good for man to be alone; I'll make him a helper, a companion."

Therefore a man leaves his father and mother and embraces his wife. They become one flesh.

Arlo & Janis


Monday, April 20, 2009

"Do you love me?"

When Jesus asks that do I respond? This quote from A.W. Tozer struck home with me today....

"O God, I have tasted Thy Goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need for further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, so that I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, "Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away." Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long."