Personalizing Homelessness

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Can we identify with those who live on the streets?  I don’t mean hopeless conversations and pre-judgement calls such as “Well, they’re drunks and if I give them money they will just spent it on more booze…” That isn’t identifying with homelessness, that’s passing judgement on them.  Yes, something needs to be done, but casting blame, brow beating and ugly talk will not restore lives.  

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Just this past week, London’s Mayor Boris Johnson called for the removal of the “ugly, stupid anti-homeless spikes” in a modern upscale neighborhood after many took to social media sites to decry this horrific practice and homeless deterrent.  (source: http://rt.com/news/164952-anti-homeless-spikes-remove/) 

Although we can see this as a success in “spreading the word”, we shouldn’t just stop here to rest on our laurels, much work still remains to be done.  

Personalizing Homelessness – breaking the prejudgements:

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Some have argued that these protests against anti-homeless constructions infringe on the rights of the landowners or landlords.  Understandably, this is a concern.  Certainly those who are good stewards of their property wish to maintain a safe and aesthetically pleasing environment for their tenants, but at what cost?  

How are we to care for others while taking care of the properties around us?  This is a troubling issue, and both sides of this argument require consideration.  Yet many times the campaign of driving homelessness from the streets of our cities is something done quietly. Why would it be done quietly? Some may wonder.  The reason is because of fear of public repercussions.  There are times when law enforcement officials are encouraged to drive homeless individuals to locations outside of town and drop them off.  When this type of practice happens we begin to dehumanize people. What is the value of a life today?  Even if that life is smelly, dirty and unhealthy, that person is still human.  

Making it personal: 

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What if that person on the street is your brother or sister?  What if that homeless person is a son or daughter?  Wouldn’t you want others to treat them fairly?  Would you want someone to help them?  There are many root causes of homelessness, drugs and alcohol are usually the first things we assume brought them to homelessness, but mental abuse and disabilities are also contributors.  These are the least of these in our communities.  These are people without voices.  What if we made homelessness personal.  What if we humanized these poor wretches for a moment.  I don’t use that term to make them seem “under” me by any means, but how much of a difference does it make to see them as equals to us?  Sure they may be without homes, incomes and families, but are they not still loved by an Almighty God who knows their names and loves them the same as He loves us?  

The difference between apathy and mercy:

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There’s a vast difference between these two words.  One speaks of indifference to others while the other speaks of compassion and love.  One is uncaring while the other cares.  Which are we?  Do we see people living on the streets…actually see them?  Is there something that WE can do?  I certainly don’t propose that we go and put ourselves in danger…but there is something we can do to avoid apathy in these situations.  Care.  Find places like The Salvation Army who can go in uniform with many hands to help clothe, feed and show love.  Become involved, volunteer in church groups who minister through soup kitchens and other feeding programs.  One such program is The Salvation Army’s Bed & Bread club – http://www.usc.salvationarmy.org/usc/www_usc_detroithl.nsf/vw-text-index/9b2226ecdc63d0518025717f007045c7?opendocument

http://salvationarmynorth.org/community-pages/bed-and-bread-club/

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Contribute to authentic ministries and missions who actually go and help those living on the streets. Make homelessness personal. Each person who sleeps out there under bridges and in the nooks of buildings are still people.  Some of these homeless individuals have family members still looking for them.  We can either construct crude spikes on a street or park bench and drive them from our sight, or we can lend a helping hand without prejudging their motives or intentions.  

Homelessness should be personal to us.  We should care about others, and if we can help…we should. 

 

-Just another thought to ponder. 

Prayer: Lord help me to see others the way that You seen them.  Help me to be an instrument of Your peace.  Remove my prejudgments and prejudices.  Grant me wisdom and love, fill me with Your mercy, and may my hands become Yours.  -Amen.  

“Brothers don’t shake hands…Brothers gotta hug!”

The title I have used today is a quote from one of my favorite Chris Farley movies: “Tommy Boy”.   In it he discovers (falsely so) that he has a brother and so he is ecstatic to welcome him into the family.  The film is a little crude at times, yet Chris Farley had a way of hamming it up for cameras which made him extremely funny.

Do you know what’s not funny in this world though?  Brothers and sisters in Christ facing discouragement and frustrations alone in life.  Why does this happen?  Isn’t the Body of Christ supposed to uplift and encourage?  Where are the helping hands at times to come along those who are suffering through various blights of discouragement?

Paul puts it rather plainly for the early church and for us still today when he says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV) 

Why then, in times of despair, does it seem as if some are trudging through it alone?

Do you remember the story of the paralytic who wanted to be healed by Jesus?  How did he get to Jesus?  He certainly didn’t walk there.  No, instead his friends took the time to care for him.  They took the time to pick him up on his mat and take him to Jesus.  In fact they had to go to great lengths to place their friend at the feet of Jesus.  When they got to where Jesus was teaching they discovered that the house was full of people, there was absolutely no room for them to carry him in on his mat.  So instead of calling it quits or abandoning their friend they instead devised a shrewd plan.  The hefted him, laboriously up onto the owner’s roof and tore a hole in it so that they could lower him down to Jesus.  (Mark 2:4)  What friends!   They took the time to encourage and lift (literally) their friend to Jesus.

What of us today?  Do we take the time to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ?  Or are we too preoccupied with our own worries and our own busy schedules?  These friends who lowered their paralyzed colleague down through a roof could have called it quits once they found the house to be too full of people.  They could have shrugged their shoulders and said, “well we tried” and carried him back home with no change in his living situation…yet they didn’t.  They took time out of their busy schedules.  They went the extra mile.  They weren’t interested in what they could get out of the situation.  It wasn’t about them, it was about their friend, their brother on the mat who couldn’t move.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, there is sometimes a danger of becoming too comfortable in our lives that we lose focus on others around us.  Others who could use some encouragement.  Others who need to hear a word of love and kindness from their peers.  We can’t afford to be little isolated islands or clusters of Church goers who never engage and connect with other parts of the body of Christ!

The poet John Donne once wrote:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; 
It tolls for thee. 

Today, there are fellow Christ-followers who need your support.  Today there are brothers and sisters in Christ who are about to give up because they feel all alone with no one to support them.  Today is another shining opportunity to be a brother or a sister to the discouraged and distraught.  You can be a source of encouragement.  You don’t need to be a professional counselor or a degreed Psychologist to help, you just need to be present and available.

Are you willing?  Are you available?  Ask the Lord for guidance and discernment and then get involved in the lives of other believers which will extend far beyond the pew on Sundays.  Give them a hug, love on them and then allow God’s fellowship of love to penetrate your hearts so that self isn’t number one but Christ is first and others are even before our own wants and needs.

-Just a thought for today.

and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith...” 1 Thessalonians 3:2

“I Don’t Care!”

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This is my biggest pet peeve in my house.  I have a pre-teen boy, and his teenage brother, and both of them use this phrase all of the time.  It drives me absolutely crazy!  To me, it speaks of an apathetic life style that I can not tolerate in my life or the lives of those whom I love.  The world, unfortunately, has far too many people who are apathetic to circumstances and other people.

To me one of the worst qualities in our culture currently isn’t hatred, lust, or envy, it’s apathy.  From this one faulty characteristic flows all of the rest of that which is broken in our fallen world.  The “I don’t care” mentality strikes and literally breaks the heart of God.  I believe this to be absolutely true especially in the Church.

If the church, of all places, cultivates an “I don’t care” mentality then its doors should just close today, because with it dependence on God evaporates.  With this mentality intact inside the doors of the church, it becomes the church of Satan.   Harsh words?  Of course, but isn’t that what Satan wants most from those who are Christ-followers; to quit, to stop caring, to give up the fight?

I’m not sure about you, but I never want to embrace the “I don’t care” mentality.  Because to do so, I give up that which does matter, and the One the does care…for me, and the rest of this world.

I DO CARE!  Should be our motto when faced with this apathetic attitude even within us.      I DO CARE, because God cared for me even before I knew Him.                                            I DO CARE, because I didn’t deserve redemption yet Christ gives it to me freely!                           I DO CARE, because I have been charged by Christ within the great commission to care for those who still needs to hear the good news!

Why do you care?  Praise God for simple reminders, and those moments of conviction in all of us!  I DO CARE, how about you?

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