Grace is a journey, not an event... So come walk with me...

Grace is a journey, not an event... So come walk with me through this story...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I Need Thee Every Hour...

"I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine can peace afford.
I need Thee every hour, stay Thou nearby;
Temptations lose their power when Thou art nigh.
I need Thee, O I need Thee;
O I need Thee every hour;
I need you Lord, O bless me now,
My Savior, I come to Thee."
        This is the first verse of an old hymn written by Annie Hawks entitled "I Need Thee Every Hour."  It's one that I remember listening to in the pews of the Baptist church I grew up in.  Although I've known its lyrics since before I was ten, its truth has become increasingly more powerful in my life the older I get.  Every time I hear it playing however I am reminded of my good friend Alice in the South Bronx.
        When I first took over the spot in the South Bronx I was told of our friend who would come every week to sit down in our office and rest for a few minutes.  Other than the fact that she was completely blind I knew nothing else.  For the next few months I would always attempt to set aside a few minutes in the midst of our busyness to sit down and talk with her.  Over time as we learned to trust each other I began to see a woman who is more dependent on Christ's strength than almost anyone I've ever met.
        Alice was not born blind, due to an illness that struck her a few years ago she was left with no vision.  She now has to be guided by an aid everywhere she goes. Along with her vision, her husband left shortly after that.  Although she has three grown children, every week in tears she asks me to pray for them that God would keep them safe in the midst of their "activities" and that they turn to God instead of their own pleasures.  And about two months ago Alice was informed of her need for back surgery due to severe scoliosis.
        Despite all that has been stacked against her the joy and innocence beaming from this tiny woman is astounding.  She still remains faithful to her husband (despite their separation she still wears her ring and refuses to divorce), to her children, and to her God.  Every week I pray for sight and every week I pray also for a miracle with her back, but the real miracle has already manifested: her smile and her strength.  Just the other week as I was having a bad day, in the midst of our discussion she asked me what was wrong.  She had sensed in my voice that all was not well.  I thank God for this friend of mine who I have the honor and privilege to serve every week through simple friendship.
        Please pray for Alice as she makes preparations for back surgery, pray for her children and husband,  pray that God continue to give her the strength to be the rock in her family, and please pray for sight...  Grace & Peace to you and your family....  

Alice & I...

Monday, October 10, 2011

Jesus in the Middle...

        Over the past few days we've all heard about the "Occupy Wall Street" protest taking place in lower Manhattan.  I tend to not pay much attention to the news, but was intrigued at how it seems to be gaining more and more momentum around the country, so I decided to go and take a look for myself.  Riding into the city I wondered where God was in the midst of all this, the protest, the financial district, the ministry, my family, the train I was in.  I asked God to reveal Himself to me that afternoon.  As soon as I stepped out from the World Trade Center I started to hear the drum circles and music playing.  I walked a few blocks south to Zuccotti Park (where the protesters are staying) and just watched as people from all ages united themselves.  I could feel the excitement in the air.  There were news cameras, posters, community activists, pollsters, business men, homeless men, flag wavers, drum circles, old men, children, musicians, face painters, artists, and every type of character you could imagine.  Although I'm still not quite certain what the exact message was, a running theme amongst all the participants was taking a stand against corporate greed and corruption.  I have to admit that even I had a difficult time not getting swept away in the emotion!  Who isn't against greed?  Who isn't for helping the poor?  Wasn't Jesus into that as well?  However before getting my face painted and waving a sign I continued on my mission to find Jesus in the midst of the chaos.
        I decided to keep walking just a few blocks south and take a stroll along the supposed "enemy's corridor": Wall Street.  It was actually surprisingly quiet.  Aside from an over abundance of police, a handful of tourist groups, as well as the usual men and women one would expect to find strolling Wall Street, it was rather empty.  After walking around and marveling at the overwhelming architecture I decided to buy some lunch from one of the street vendors and sit for a few minutes.  As I sat down to eat I observed an elderly Asian woman pushing a cart filled with cans and bottles.  I guessed she was in her late sixties, probably illegal, hunched over, wearing tattered clothes, and very dirty.  She was moving from trash can to trash can gleaning what she could.  As I kept eating my lunch I was struck at the awkwardness of how this woman (unknowingly most likely) was collecting plastic bottles in the between an emerging and established history.
        Thankfully a few minutes later I came back to my senses from my egocentric musing and realized that Jesus Himself had just walked right past me and I didn't even bother saying hello! Due to her age and cargo thankfully she had not gone very far.  As she hunched over to the next trash can I tapped her on the shoulder and asked her if she wanted something to eat.  She showed me that she had just pulled something out of the trash can indicating that this was her food.  I asked her if she wanted me to buy her something, which she responded to by muttering something in a language I didn't understand and walked off.  Realizing there wasn't much else I could do I walked backed to the protest.
        The protest didn't hold the excitement it had just a couple of hours before.  I couldn't help but reflect on the words Jesus said to Pilot in the Gospel of John, "My kingdom is not of this world."  I don't understand why there are social injustices, or homelessness, or prostitution.  Greed I suppose.  My own as well as others.  Perhaps the protesters have some truth in their message, perhaps they don't.  Regardless the more I work on the street, the more I'm beginning to realize that anything and everything without Christ at the center will eventually fail.  We can attempt to build a financial kingdom or a socialist commune, but until we see Jesus quietly walking between both worlds, both will come to nothing.  I'm not sure if any of this makes any sense, but I do know I saw Jesus that afternoon taking a stroll between a dying economic empire and unsustainable social change .  Although I can't say that I saved His life, I hope I gave that elderly woman some dignity.  If you look I'm sure you'll find Him too.  Grace & Peace to you and your families! And don't forget to keep praying for us here at the Relief Bus!!

The Protest.

The Elderly Asian Woman Gleaning from the Trash.