Monday, August 8, 2016

Doorstep and Lamplight

Guest blogger: Chad Halcom

Doorstep and Lamplight

I encountered the wrath of God, on a doorstep facing Gratiot Avenue at 12:29 am. 
The time was memorable because my first shift was starting in one minute as a volunteer for MCREST, the Macomb County Rotating Emergency Shelter Team that hosts the homeless in various churches of the county. I was trying to find my shape, or my ministry specialty at Freedom Christian, and a friend told me where to come get a sense of the program. I was trying several doors to find the right building entrance, when I approached one where an overhead lamp wasn’t working and found a man sleeping by the door. 

He looked like a dog curled up at the foot of his master’s bed, throwing a coat under his head and trying to be comfortable. I had already read up on the statistics of mental illness rates in this population, and since this was the women and children’s shelter it was not a good sign that a man was lingering out here. So I didn’t engage him, and reported it to the other volunteers when I came inside. They weren’t aware of him, but I was told that families often enter the program together but cannot be admitted at the same time. Men and women are admitted and housed separately, for safety reasons, and if a wife gets a bed before her husband he has to fend for himself, until an opening comes.

I couldn’t shake the sleeping guy from my mind. I want to say one of the volunteers I relieved might have taken some bread or a small bag of crackers out to him, but memory is tricky and I couldn’t swear to that. Since the women and children in the building were asleep for most of my shift, I kept picturing a man sleeping there, as close as he could be to the family he could not take care of anymore, with no one but the Lord to care about him. 

I often tell people in my volunteer team from Freedom that Jesus takes this kind of ministry seriously – in fact, he takes it personally. In Matthew 25:41-45 we get an account of Him talking to the people who didn’t help the downcast, and he is not just mildly clucking his tongue and wishing they had done a little better. No, instead he says “depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink. I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, and I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ And He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’” 

I used to think this passage was just an admonition to believers not to get complacent in your faith – not to become afterglow lunch Christians, who socialize and exchange favors without facing the needs outside your church doors, when you should “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phillipians 2:12). And the Matthew passage does work that way. But it’s more, I’m convinced of it. We get to see how strongly he feels for and identifies with those to whom society ascribes no value. I don’t need to put myself into that man’s place, because Jesus has already done it. Even now, when I can’t drum up volunteers or one of the programs I participate in runs out of money, I can picture Jesus sitting on a doorstep, half visible in rim light from one of the exterior lamps, watching over man 34 (when there is a 33-bed capacity in the men’s shelter) at 12:29 am. 

Maybe he will be out there tonight. Standing watch. Feeling heartrbroken. Maybe cracking a smile as He remembers when this man was a child and his mind was a little clearer, or times weren’t so hard, while he studied a box turtle one of his brothers had fetched from the creek – the little critter always makes his head and flippers go in and out through the same holes in his shell, and never messes that up. Then thinking about the long path from that day to this one. Simmering about the calloused ex-coworker from this man’s old job who wouldn’t take his wife and kid in when things started going bad. Because charity begins at home, don’t you know, and she didn’t want her family to become “part of this guy’s issues.” Raging about every other church on this block who has more time for a building fund bake sale, or a craft fair, than to figure out where this man can sleep, or if he’s hungry or cold. Taking all of this very personally, because when we don’t have time for the least of these, we don’t have time for Him. 

I am not a fire and brimstone guy. As a Christians go I’m in more danger of being called a sensualist than a legalist, and I generally think wrath of God sermons are highly theatrical and bring only a temporary repentance. But my perspective is different now. Don’t know about you, but I kind of like this pissed off Jesus, sitting stalwart in the lamplight and caring enough to cry and rage and plead for help. 

I once heard a college ministry pastor at the Faholo Conference Center in Grass Lake preach that God’s wrath only ever burns against the things that become a barrier to God’s love. When I picture him there on the doorstep I can see that. There's something beautiful about that kind of wrath, and it makes me love Him even more. Let’s just hope that the next time he’s sitting out stewing by the lamplight, He’s not thinking about you or me.



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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Mommy Learning Curve (I am confident that this will be a recurring theme)

LESSON: Don’t make assumptions about what your child will be able to figure out and at what point.

My daughter (like most babies) likes to open drawers, then take out and inspect it’s contents. One of her favorite drawers is the one where I keep all my makeup, hairbrushes, etc... It is especially exciting for her since she only gets to “play” in the bathroom when someone else is in the room getting ready. It becomes like a baby Disney World as a result of it’s forbidden nature. Today she discovered the lipsticks. She held them, banged them on the floor and, of course, stuck them in her mouth. “It will be fine,” I thought, “she doesn’t know how to take the top off yet... ” Until she did. “Still okay,” I reasoned, “surely she won’t figure out how to turn the bottom and raise the lipstick to a usable level.” Famous last thoughts. Certainly the thoughts of a rookie mom. Because sure enough, the next moment found the lipstick exposed. Now in the hands of a toddler, this is usually a humorous moment as they try to apply lipstick to their face in the manner they have seen adults do it...but, in the  hands of a one year old? Yep, you guessed it. Ate it like it was a Popsicle. I was too slow. Probably slowed down by my surety that she could not accomplish this task yet. Of course I could not retrieve the chunk of wax out of her mouth, since messing with her mouth invites her indignation. So for now, I shall be on the lookout for the poopy diaper dressed up with Revlon Apricot Fantasy.

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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A short collection of things I have found to be true

Anecdotes, directives, lessons (some deep, some not) and the like that I have found on life’s journey. It could also be called “A rip-off of some (only some) of my best FB stuff, repackaged on my blog.”






Every family is comprised of the members you introduce and the ones you “explain.”
 

If someone means something to you, tell them. Don’t give yourself the regret of never having said it, or deprive them the joy of hearing it. 

When choosing a fitness class, look for the instructor that is ripped... And preferably one that is x-military. Otherwise you might have someone who pulls out dusty moves such as the grapevine. If you want to change your life, you want the instructor who will make you beg for said life. Unless you don’t want to sweat. Or have your makeup run. In which case you need to go to MY bootcamp. (Say it with me...the gym is sacred ground. Don’t come unless you are serious.)
 
Don’t ask someone “Notice anything?” after finishing a project. Odds are good they will find five things you were not asking about while missing the issue of concern entirely. This is especially unwise if you, like me, belong to the perfectionist club.

Be advised that when someone asks you for spiritual accountability ultimately they are asking you if you are willing to sacrifice the friendship to deliver the truth. Because people want accountability until they don’t. It is always this moment where accountability is most needed and most critical.

There exists soiled diapers for which there is no strategy.

When you know someone really well, you can find yourself being mad at them for what you know for a fact they are thinking even when they haven’t said or done anything. One of life’s beauties. 

The middle lanes on the freeway are the suicide lanes. If something tragic happens, you have nowhere to go except into traffic. Best to stay far left or far right. ;) I am morbid enough to mull this fact over every time I find myself driving the middle.

Unless you are a gourmet cook or at least someone who loves cooking, it is best to limit your new recipe searches to those recipes that are a page or less. Anything more and you will want to use those kitchen utensils for purposes they were not intended.

If you’re not laughing, you’re crying. Okay, that one is my dad’s. Truest thing. Laughter has been our balm through some of the roughest times. You must also realize that being someone who believes this means you will often wear the mantle of irreverence. Welcome.

Even the most minor of damage to a car will not be cheap. You can not spit on a car for less than $100. If you don’t know this fact, God bless you, you lucky soul. (Better to read it in a stranger’s blog than live it.)

It is one thing to get something out of your life. The real work is getting it out of your head.


Age steadies instinct.

God did not give man the intelligence to invent cell phones so that you could talk on the phone while simultaneously being on the toilet. That is just messed up. ‘Nuff said.
 
to be continued...
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Monday, December 27, 2010

Here’s to 2010

To God
Who holds me,
Keeps me,
Loves me,
And gives me a seat at His table

To old friends who stay true
And new ones who “salt” the earth

To lives just beginning :)
And to ones lost

To those who give more than they ever have to
(...humbled)
And those who bring laughter in the middle of pain

To the ride called life 
And every day given


Happy New Year to you and yours!


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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Random Reflections (some ranting) on Winter and Christmas



I live in Michigan. Yep. Cold-and-gray-for-the-better-part-of-the-year (or so it feels), state-map-literally-in-the-palm-of-your-hand, Michigan. Seriously, this map always on the ready is something we all get pretty jazzed about. Just watch a Michigander’s face when they point out on their hand either where they live or where someone they know lives. Some of us could probably even get some style points for the draw...but I digress... Anyway, we just had our first major snow storm Sunday with some frigid cold temperatures to add to the challenge, er... excitement. That combined with the fact that Christmas is a’coming left me to ponder some of the finer points of both. WARNING: some of this could be considered ranting. If you want all saccharin, I would suggest watching your kids’ favorite Christmas cartoon instead.

ON STAYING WARM:
 Please don’t worry about the babies. The best stuff they make for staying warm is made for babies. My daughter is currently at the stage where she can wear a layette-the wearable sleeping bag, or as I like to refer to it, a baby straitjacket. When we get inside our location and I take her out of it,  there is so much heat released from inside of it that people begin standing over her to warm their hands.



ON DRIVING:


My first order of business today was winterizing the Mustang. Yes, that’s right. This process involves loading the trunk with Slate landscape stones, salt bags, and whatever other heavy object can be found in the garage, followed by a laying-on-of-hands and a very anointed prayer that God will put a force field around it and keep it on the road. Consider yourself “schooled.”



I HATE when people tell me that Mustangs are not good cars for winter conditions. Thanks, Sherlock. Or Mr. Goodwrench. Or whoever you THINK you are.  You have been most helpful. And when I strike it ridiculously rich, I will have myself a summer car and a winter car.



Okay, Trucks and Sport Utes, we get it! You can go fast. Just remember when it comes to stopping, we are all equal. Yep, that’s my little, rear-wheel drive car still on the road and pointed in the correct direction. No bigger fail than seeing a large, impenetrable, beast of a vehicle in a ditch. (*My smugness only comes after it is revealed all parties involved are suffering from stupidity only and not injuries.)



On a related note~if you are driving what amounts to a city block on wheels, do everyone a courtesy and clean the snow off your hood and roof in addition to your windows. When the snow starts to free itself from said roof and hood, to you it may only seem like snow blowing onto your windshield, but to those of us driving cars behind you, it is more like suddenly finding yourself driving through an avalanche. Just sayin’.


ON CHRISTMAS DECORATING:


You know those lights you bought last year? Yeah, they are not going to work. And the more expensive they were, the less likely. Mystifying, since they worked when you packed them up last year and especially considering they have done nothing more than sit in a box since. Even more mystifying is the fact that the light string you still have from your high school days, twenty years ago, still works. I swear it is a conspiracy to make us all switch to LED lights, which if you squint, you may even see.




ON CHRISTMAS SHOPPING:

Do not under any circumstances decide to go to Target on what ends up being a snow day for all the children in your state. Do not go to the mall, either. You will thank me for this. Since I do not have a school age child, I was left out of the huddle where EVERY mother with school-aged children decided that this would be a great way to spend the day. When you are a stay-at-home mother you kind of get used to having the world to yourself a little bit. Even at Christmas time.



Ho! Ho! Ho! ‘Tis the Season for the mall parking lot stalkers. C’mon you know what I’m talking about... That car that follows slowly behind you, a “respectable” distance away,  as you search for your car, giving you the feeling that a felony is about to be visited upon you. At any other time of the year all those prickly feelings that the body gets when it senses impending danger would be active. Ever see the look of anger on the face of the stalker, er...driver when they see you change course abruptly because you realize you have been walking in the wrong aisle? As if you were plotting against them... Nope, sorry I am just the “idiot of the moment” who can’t remember where I parked my car. If you are not familiar with the stalker concept, it is because you are a stalker. Go ahead, admit it. It is the first step to healing, after all. Me? I have sworn off this practice on sheer principle.




ON SANTA:

Being only six months into this whole parenting thing, I had no idea what a huge deal the whole Santa thing is. I mean, yeah, I know a lot of families do it as a point of tradition and I have seen the lines, but what I did not know was that you could get shut out of Santa. Yes, it’s true! The mall where we chose to visit Santa is a very popular one. If there is such a thing as a Chi-Chi Santa, he can be found at the Somerset Collection. My friend had gone there and told me about all the extras you get (the announcement of your child’s name as they enter the very elaborate Santa Castle, photos processed for free at Ritz Camera in the mall, and three magic coins that can be redeemed at participating stores for toys/small goodies) Another big selling point was that you don’t have to wait in line. After registering, you are assigned a time at which your child will see Santa. My friend warned that the weekends are usually crazy and that there might be a longer lag between registration and assigned time. But my thinking was “hey, it’s a mall at Christmas time, I have plenty to do to kill time since I am chained to a time instead of a line.” Had I talked to parents with more senior Santa experience they probably would have said, “I was like you once, dreamer.” So we arrived at the mall Sunday around 1pm. Santa is there on Sundays until 7pm. Should be no problem, right? There were no appointments left!   I spoke with a mother who informed me that it took her four years to get her kids to Santa. You could almost see the tears in her eyes, at this, the triumphant fifth year! She told me about the moms and dads that camp out at the mall in order to procure a spot. Isn’t it crazy the things we find ourselves doing where our kids are concerned? I am not this crazy...yet... (Although, we did go first thing (8am!) Monday morning so daddy could join us before he went to work. An event that a year ago that would have seemed far outside our potential reality) But my child is only six months old and for her this was more of a challenge to face her fears rather than a celebration of Christmas. This brings me to my next point....


It is tragic irony the way we teach our children to not talk to strangers or take candy from them, but then place them in the laps of burly men with a questionable amount of facial hair or (even scarier) over-sized bunnies with large heads and what can only be described as sinister smiles then expect them not to cry or be even a little “weirded” out.




FA-LA-LA-LA-LA.


Now that I have filled your mind with the warmth and reality of the season....






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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Trials and Other Things Involving Fire

Funny thing about God...
There are things you can pray a long time for, and for whatever reason God doesn’t grant your request. (Of course as we all must learn~continuously~it is always for our best.) But if you have even a passing thought while sitting in a drive-thru or a barely whispered utterance about how you need more patience, strength, faith, etc... in your life, God will most surely get right on it!  It is also worth noting that no matter how long you have been following God, you still can forget that such requests are accomplished through trial. Because it sure would be nicer to ask, sleep on it, and wake up a new you.

And so it is, ever since my daughter came into the world, that I have been telling God that I would like to learn how to “roll with whatever life brings.” I am truly not good at this. I am a natural worrier. I have actually been known to say, “there’s something I am supposed to be worrying about, but I can’t remember what it is.” Yep, you guessed it, I worry about what to worry about. I have met other chronic worriers, and I assure you I cannot claim sole ownership of this quirky, distorted way of thinking. But now that I have someone I must teach how to navigate the world, I feel even more of an impetus to clean this up in my life. I don’t want her to think like me. I also don’t wish to compromise my health by filling my life with stress needlessly, since I would like to be around to share her life. So, you can see God couldn’t be God and ignore this request. :)

So the last two weeks have held a lot of bad news, culminating (I hope) in today’s fire. Yep, fire.

I had a local company scheduled to install desperately needed insulation in the exterior walls of our house today. I was sitting inside with the baby while the house shook from all the drilling....okay, so far nothing unexpected...

Then silence.
Followed by swarming workers in a panic.
I thought, “oh no, they hit a pipe in the house.”
They began yelling something about water and swarming around the hose.
I thought, “ great...there must be water gushing everywhere.”
{Wrong element.}
It was at this point, I looked out the front window to see their work trailer up in flames.

After calling 911, I called my dad. Because even at my age, my dad still makes everything seem okay.  
Me: Dad, the guys that are here to put the insulation in have a burning trailer in front of my house. It’s attached to a pickup truck I am afraid is going to blow up. I am concerned the house, the baby, and the whole of the earth (okay, this is added for humorous impact...) are going to be destroyed.
Dad: Why don’t they just take the trailer off the hitch and drive the pickup away from the fire? That’s what I would be doing.
Me: Uhh, I don’t know, dad... I am too busy planning on running down the street MacGyver style, sheltering your granddaughter from what will surely be the apocalyptic debris field...
Dad: And where did you find these guys anyway; are you sure they are reputable?
Me: Yeah, dad. They are  Glenn Haege recommended...
I love dads. They always bring a certain practicality to situations.

Thankfully, no people were hurt and no property was damaged. The company even assured me the job would still be finished today. And it was.

Me? I feel like I have been sitting in God’s classroom waiting for the dismissal bell to ring. But it is all good because...

John 16:33; 14:16-19, 26-27

33These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
16And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
 17Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
 18I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
 19Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.
26But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
 27Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wouldn’t it be nice...



If everyone were as glad to see you as your baby?

If life could stay on a baby's trajectory-where every day you discover something new your body can do- rather than the trajectory we are currently on-where some days you discover your body can’t do what it did before?

If the system of praise and rewards from childhood followed you into the workplace- where simply knowing your name or asserting that you can say your ABC’s excited multitudes of people? (This one’s stolen from one of my FB status updates)

If the times you are running late (or heading to something really important) would not also coincide with the times you spill breakfast on yourself, lose power, realize you left the house without a critical item, or hit every single traffic light?

If it were as easy to lose weight as it seems to be to gain it?

If time were a commodity you could store up for the times you really needed it?

If the days where the phone never rings could borrow from the days where everybody calls at the same time, so that no day ever feels too lonely or too busy?

When a moment for which you have looked forward (and one which by it’s very nature can never happen again) starts to go wrong, everyone involved will realize the full magnitude for you and intervene on your behalf?

If gas tanks never needed to be filled? 

If money never ran out, leaving desire as the only consideration?

If the people you love never had to be hurt, move away, or die?  

If every good plan you ever made came to fruition and Plan H never became necessary?


I suppose if all those things (+ many others I didn’t mention) came true, we would be a character-less bunch. But I swear, some days I would be okay with that. :)

What would you add?

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Here, There, and all Points in Between (September Word Celebration)



 Here is where I am. 
There is where all my great plans are.

There is where I am hoping to go; 
yet often when I do, I find myself wishing again for here

Here is waiting. I am not so good at that.  
Here is where God teaches me trust.

Here time stands still. Here is certain.  
There often is a lane in two directions, paved with fear and regret.

Here is where joy can be found if only I could let my mind stay.
Here is oxygen.
Here is contentment.

One of these days I may learn how to appreciate here.
I may even stop worrying about getting there and realize here is not bad at all.

Here counts blessings.
Here exhales.

There can only truly be enjoyed when it is reached by stepping and standing on the rungs of here.





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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Opportunity with a Side Salad (September Word Celebration)









Before I had a cat of my own, I had no idea that they begged for food like dogs. Had no idea that they would eat beef. Or spaghetti. 

My cat will come of hiding at the mere sound of tin foil or plastic bags, certain that food is the usual companion to those sounds.

When I prepare dinner, she waits on the table, sure she is that a place will be set for her.

 I will not lie. Before the baby came, my cat was the baby. So she is no stranger to being spoiled.

Now that you understand her background, you may fully appreciate her crime.

Last Week my husband and I had sat down to a dinner of Pecan Encrusted Trout (mmm!), when the baby began to scream without ceasing. 

Failed attempts at calming her and a call to the Pediatrician's office later, we were abandoning dinner and heading out the door to the ER.

And. that’s. when. I. saw. her.  
*Brazen*
Oblivious to the situation before us, my cat was eating the fish off our plates, drinking the milk out of our glasses, and licking the pan still sitting on the oven.

So opportunity greeted her like an old friend.
She saw it. 
Welcomed it.
And seized it.



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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What is Love, Then? (September Word Celebration)



I wrote this for my husband, 
who was gracious enough to let me share it here. 
Call it a summary...



 What is Love, then?

It is moments, both quiet and loud. 
Whispers and screams. 
Mountains peaks and endless valleys.
The heartiest of laughter.
The bitterest of grief.
God in my pocket... God in my questions.
Beginnings and endings.
Holidays and everydays.
Bills and blessings.
In and out of control.
The fire of new challenge, the ashes of past hope.
Nose to the grindstone, head to the floor. 
Bounding and falling.
Times of Jesus.
Times of me.
Sprinting, crawling, Exhaling, gasping...
Sacrifice, bounty, projects, car accidents, vacations, cups of tea, mocha highs, career lows...
Trusting God.
Where is God?
Truth.
Shoulder taps from God.
Falling Christmas trees.
Desks as room dividers (my husband's first and last decorating suggestion).
Obsession, neurosis...
Sighing, laughing, breathing, walking, running....
A million moments weaved together by God, to be the most tremendous gift, sharing all of it with you.





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