Thursday, November 20, 2014

The "Giving Spirit"

I haven't blogged in forever because I forgot how to log-in.  But today I went through the hoops with Google and here I am!  Usually when I'm inspired to write a blog something on my mind is bothering me or has disturbed me somehow and I want to try to process it in words.  Other times it may be an "aha!" moment that I likewise want to further internalize by crafting a thought or idea into words.  Today is more of the former.

As colder weather moves in and the holiday approaches, people are supposedly more in the "giving
 spirit.  We also may be more acutely aware of the plight of those around us who are without homes or shelter when the temperatures plunge.  Living in this city, there is not a day that goes by that I do not pass or encounter people on corners or at gas stations with signs asking for help.  There are many attitudes, opinions, and approaches for how people respond to such encounters and I think I'm still trying to figure out what mine is.  However, something I heard on the radio yesterday really rubbed me the wrong way.  A prominent morning show team was discussing how one of its members had been "offended" by a homeless person the day before.  This radio personality had been with her young family members and they saw a man asking for food.  She stated that she wanted to teach the kids about being "giving" and "generous" and so they had gone to a fast food restaurant to purchase a hot dog, fries, and drink for the man.  When they returned to give him the food, he told them that he did not eat pork.  The radio host thought this was very offensive and said she had to refrain from "going off" on him.  The morning show team proceeded to laugh and joke about the ungratefulness of the homeless man and pass judgement on how he couldn't have really been hungry if he were refusing their "kindness" and food.  The radio host was very indignant and disparaging toward the man who had the audacity to refuse her great act of "kindness" and charity.

The condescending, judgmental, self-righteous tone of the whole segment really bothered me for some reason and caused me to take a moment of self-reflection about my own attitudes towards our homeless neighbors.  There was something so dehumanizing about the whole thing. It implied that just because someone is homeless they have lost all rights to any kind of choice in the matter of what they eat or receive in the name of "charity" or "giving".  I have a home, therefore I am entitled to have a choice on whether I eat pork or not, whether I feel like McDonald's or Chipotle, or whether I can pick the jalepenos off my pizza.  You are homeless, therefore you better accept with gratitude and graciousness whatever I in my huge act of generosity and benevolence have decided to get you.  Never mind that there might be a medical or personal reason you don't eat pork.  See, this type of giving is more about "us" than "them".  We want to feel good about ourselves and pat ourselves on the back for being so compassionate and kind and giving.  But the thing is, either we should either give for the sake of giving or not at all.  Just because we may be better off financially doesn't mean we are better than them or that we get to decide how they live their lives, what they should eat, or what they should be willing to accept.  They are still human beings just like us.  Let's not demean them or dehumanize them by acting pompous and self-righteous and offended that they didn't kiss our feet in gratitude for our act of "kindness" that was actually selfishly-motivated in the first place.  If it were really done out of concern or a Christ-like compassion for the person, perhaps they would have had a conversation with the man first.  Treated him like a person.  Asked him what he might like to eat. Respected the fact that as a human being he may still have likes and dislikes and preferences even if he doesn't have a house, job, or car. Allowed him a tiny shred of dignity in the matter. The poor may not have wealth, but they still deserve dignity.  It’s time to think about not only what we give and how we give it, but also why we give it. Just because it makes us feel better doesn’t mean it’s the best for those in need.If our giving is conditional, then it's better to not give at all.  I don't know what choices the man had made in his life to end up on a street asking for food but that's not my business or doesn't determine my treatment of him.  He's not less than me no matter how different our paths or situations may have been.

And one more thing. Our giving should not be contingent on whether people are grateful and appreciative or not. God blesses ungrateful people including me every day. Where would I be if He stopped giving to me every time I acted ungrateful? True, maybe the man was ungrateful. But that's not up to us to determine and should not be a criterion for showing true concern or genuine compassion. Real compassion doesn't care about a "thank you."

As we go into this season of giving, I challenge all of us to take a closer look at our motives and our hearts and really think about WHY we are giving.  Is it so we can feel better about ourselves and pat ourselves on the back for being such good, kind, thoughtful people?  So we can check off our good deed box on the checklist and feel all warm and fuzzy as we disappear back into our privileged lives?  So others can applaud us for our acts of charity?  Let's make sure our giving is unconditional and untainted by selfishness, judgment, disrespect, and entitlement.  Let's make sure we never reduce people to just the object of our charitable acts but take time to see them as living, breathing humans with feelings, likes, dislikes, dignity, and self-respect just like us.  I'd rather not give at all than make another person feel less than human or small in the process.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Trust Lessons

2013 has been a tough year for me in many ways.  There have been a lot of personal struggles, changes, and uncertainties that have definitely made this year a painful one but one hopefully of much growth eventually (although sometimes it's hard to see or feel the growth to be honest).  When I look back over everything that has happened this year, it all just comes back to this: do I really trust God?  I mean, really, really trust Him? If 2013 has been about anything at all, I think it's been about God teaching me to truly trust Him and wait on Him to work things together for good in His own way, His own time, and according to His own plan.

On Sunday morning and again last night at Bible study, the preacher has been teaching from Exodus 14-15. This has caused me to go back and re-read the chapters leading up to the Israelites' deliverance from bondage in Egypt and also those following the amazing thing that God did at the Red Sea.  Last night I continued reading into Exodus 16 and although we've read these accounts many times, I don't think it had struck me before just how soon the Israelites lost faith in God.  Just 3 days after they saw Him make a way out of no way...just 3 days after they were trapped by the most powerful army in the civilized world closing in behind them and a gigantic body of water in front of them....just 3 days after they saw that body of water open up and allow them to cross on dry land...just 3 days after witnessing God's unmatchable power... they were thirsty and complaining about a lack of water and back to lacking faith that God would provide.  Just a month later, they were filled with doubt again, complaining and thinking that God was going to leave them to die in the wilderness.  It's easy for us to sit here and think, "What is wrong with these people?? They were privileged to see the power of God in completely miraculous and supernatural ways and they still doubted him??"  Yet one thing that I have realized about myself this year is that many times what God has done for me is just as amazing but my faith isn't much better at times.  God never stopped making provision for the Israelites yet the first moment that a little adversity came their way, they were ready to moan and worry and think that God had forgotten them...they were quick to lose confidence that God was still a good God.  Too many times I'm the same way...God has provided for me all my life...He has never not made a way for why would He stop now?  Why would this time be different?  The past couple of weeks I have been feeling extra blessed...things have fallen into place, situations have been worked out and resolved, and many prayers have been visibly answered in several areas of my life.  So right now it is easy for me to be in awe of God's goodness and praise Him like the Israelites did in Exodus 15.  But our human tendency seems to be to quickly forget these kinds of seasons and in a few days or next month when life throws a crisis or difficulty in our path, we are right back to worrying, being anxious, feeling afraid that this time might be the time it doesn't work out, that this time might be the time that God doesn't come through.  Why do I do that?  Why do I doubt that God has a plan in everything? He has PROMISED to work everything together for why do I think I'm going to be the first person in the history of mankind that He is going to break a promise to?

I saw a quote the other day that said:

We say, 'Show me and I'll trust you.'  God says, 'Trust me and I'll show you.'

When I think back over the past year, I think that's pretty much what it boils down to.  It's just been trust lessons.  It's just been about me learning to trust Him even when I can't see at all what He is up to.  Even when I'm in the desert and I'm tired, hungry, and thirsty and can't see any way at all that I'm going to eat, so to speak...I have to remember that He has ALWAYS provided for me.  Always.  So this time is not going to be any different.  He is not going to stop being Jehovah Jirah.  He is not going to be good to everybody but me, He is not going to leave me out.  Our preacher likes to say, "I just know too much about Him to ever fear or ever doubt Him."  I don't know why I always try to make God give me the proof before I'll trust Him...He has already given all the proof I will ever need a thousand times over.  Now it's just time for me to really, truly, wholeheartedly believe He is who He says He is and remember that what He has done He can and will do again.

"Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise."
- Hebrews 10:23-

Thursday, February 21, 2013

It Takes a Village Freestyle

A friend of mine (T.A.) wrote this freestyle and I wanted to share! 

"They say it takes a village to raise a child, but what if those who apart of that village are broken themselves
What if its only false hope that they're holding themselves
How can something damaged or unsure show the fresh minds that are pure
How to be whatever it is in their dreams they see,
How can the villagers hold them up, when it seems that someone let them down once before,
How can they ask them to fly, when they themselves have never soared,
How can some not relate, but act as if the advice that they give is great,
How can those we teach have faith when they look in the villagers face and feel so misplaced,
How can we say we will do everything in our will to protect them and yet when we leave the village they are not safe,
Why is it we are losing this battle at a rapid rate,
They say "well if I saved one child my job is done"
I say "I want to save them all" so the real victory has yet to be won,
How can one person in the village sleep at all,
Since I am also a part of the village I have no room to speak at all,
Cause if the foundation isn't laid correctly it will be weak and fall,
So when one child is left behind,
Its every villager's fault that they cannot see a good future, we have left them blind,
So why would I confine myself to just my title,
I want each and every child to make it out the village, I'll go beyond my call of duty for their arrival,
How did we get to this point of our children being so angry and some growing up so fast,
How can we tell them to be "just kids" when they wear so many masks,
They have seen more hurt through their young eyes than a child should,
Just be that "kid"..I wish every child could,
We need a village of people who should focus less on the 'he said she said' and the gossip it brings,
A town where it isn't  about us but the kids, the important things,
So the village that is raising...educating our babies is capable to correct these wrongs,
But it seems to be a melody on repeat that keeps singing the same song,
So I pray I can save as many as I come across and see,
Because at one point the kid(s) I'm trying to save was once me....."

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thankful #3

This week I met up with some of my old co-workers from my old school and it just reconfirmed how truly thankful and appreciative I am of the door that was opened to me to be able to transfer to the school I now work at.  My new school and administrators have just been such a refreshing change as I've stated before and I truly do not have a single complaint about my new situation.  I am thankful to have a job I enjoy, I am thankful that it is in a pleasant environment, and I am thankful to be appreciated here!  After almost completely losing all hope and sense of purpose and passion, I have had the chance to be re-invigorated at just the right time and place!  I am thankful I don't have to be miserable at the place I spend a good portion of my life....I am thankful that I now answer to a supervisor who genuinely cares about these kids and about her staff.  I am thankful to feel supported and to be allowed to make a difference.  I know teacher morale is at an all-time low across the district this I feel extra lucky to be one of the very, very few who actually is ecstatic about her job right now!  :) 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thankful #2

Tonight I am thankful for Romans 8:28.  I am thankful that God works ALL things together for good for those who are called according to His purpose.  One good thing about getting older is that you have more years to look back over and realize all the ways that God has worked things out.  All the worries, all the disappointments, all the times of uncertainty...all woven together in a way you might never have imagined or planned but that ultimately you can't help being thankful for.  I don't know why I still struggle sometimes with having faith in certain situations when He has proven a million times over not just in my life but in the lives of so many around me that the above verse/promise is more than true.  Even when my faith is weak and even when I'm not living according to His purpose as I should, it seems He continues to "have my back" and continues to take such good care of me!  It is comforting to know that no matter how badly I may mess things up at times that there is no mess that He can't turn into something good.  So yeah...just really, really, thankful for that hope and assurance that we have to cling to in this roller coaster called life!!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Thankful #1

On Halloween night I was in Target trying to get a last-minute costume for Dezeray's little brother but the Halloween department was pretty much decimated.  Already, the orange and black stuff was being cleared out and workers were busily stocking Christmas items.  Christmas?!?! Wait!  Isn't there another holiday in there somewhere?  Thanksgiving, remember that?  Kinda sad that society wants to skip from one "gimme" holiday to another....first it's "gimme gimme candy" and then it's "gimme gimme presents"...but we kinda just skim over the holiday that's all about saying thank you for what we have instead of asking for more. However, I know there are many people who love Thanksgiving, who love the fact that our entire country sets aside a time just to be thankful and grateful for how good God has been to us.  I have seen several people on Facebook and blogs commit to sharing something every day in November that they are thankful for and I think that's a great idea.  I don't know that I can promise to post every day but I am going to try to make an effort to share some of the things I am personally appreciative of during this season of giving thanks.  The things I share may not be that creative or unusual but they are things that I am eternally grateful for regardless.

It is not a surprise that one of the things I am most thankful for is my family.  The older I get and the more of the world I see and experience, the more I admire and appreciate my family.  I was so fortunate and so blessed to grow up with all my grandparents close by and parents who were faithful and committed to each other.  My brothers and I had a very stable and healthy home environment and we never lacked anything we needed. My dad was a great provider and he and my mom knew just the right balance of allowing us to be kids while teaching us the value of hard work and responsibility and most of all the importance of putting God first above all else.  They knew just how to help us transition into being self-sufficient adults while still providing us the support and guidance we needed.  My dad is such a great example of honesty and integrity and character in every way while my mom exemplifies generosity, thoughtfulness, and servanthood.  My grandparents are all loving, generous, gentle, kind-hearted, God-fearing people.  I have the most awesome aunt, uncles, and cousins.  And of course there are my two brothers who I love to death...and the sister-in-law, niece, and nephews that one of them brought into our family who have just added so much joy to all our lives. Everyone in my family has such a good, kind, generous spirit...I just love that I am surrounded by people I can look up to, respect, and learn from. I know everyone thinks their family is the best but I just really do think I have an especially great one and I could never thank God enough for choosing them for me!! 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Getting My Groove Back

As I type this my body feels completely exhausted of all energy, yet it is the good kind of exhaustion...the kind where you have given your best and at the end of the day can reflect that there's not much more you could have done in that 15-16 hour time frame to make a difference. Such are my days since I have started my new job as an elementary librarian....they are busy, fast-paced, demanding, and action-packed but I find myself loving every second! Every now and then the grass IS greener on the other side! This has been such a refreshing change in my life and now that the first six weeks are almost gone, I really find myself settling into my "groove." My creative juices are flowing again, my excitement for what I do is back after a long hiatus. For four years I thought I didn't like being a librarian...why didn't I switch to elementary years ago?? It is so FUN!! I am bursting with ideas and plans and projects to make this library a truly wonderful place for kids to visit and the best part is...I feel supported! My administrators let me actually be a librarian! It makes a world of difference when your hard work is appreciated and received warmly by your peers and colleagues as well as kids...and I must add that my principal is just awesome. She has revived my hope for education again. I am just so thankful that this door was opened to me...I needed this and I do believe they needed me. Word on the street is that they have had a series of terrible librarians. It is amazing how much that feeling of being where you are supposed to be can energize a person. I used to go to the Boys and Girls Club for my after school tutoring job and have to force myself to go through the motions with the kids. Now, even though I've had a much more tiring day at school, it's like I can find the energy and a second wind to enjoy those kids too and give them the attention they deserve. So in short...I LOVE MY JOB! :) Life is just really good right now...I am enjoying what I do again, I'm finally really getting to know people and get more involved at church, I'm going to be blessed with a wonderful living situation in a couple of months (I have the opportunity to purchase a beautiful, brand-spanking new townhouse for a very affordable price---so excited!), my favorite time of year with absolutely awesome weather has arrived...what more could a girl want or need? God truly gives us more than we can ask or think. I know my blog posting is sporadic but I just wanted to share a positive update!