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To Walk Like a Child

October 18, 2017

Do you remember going to the library as a kid? The library was (is) one of my absolute favorite places on earth. Getting to walk around and touch the spines of the books and choose a story that I found exciting or interesting or special—that was the stuff of life!

Yesterday I found myself sitting in the library at the James W. Hennigan school in Jamaica Plain. I have visited the library many times, and every time it looks the same: books haphazardly sitting on the shelves, untouched and unread. It breaks my heart, but even more it breaks the heart of the staff and teachers who desperately wish they had the resources and time to provide a vibrant library for the children in their care!

As I sat there, I found myself thinking about how much work it will take to get the library up and running. Work that I don’t really understand and have no expertise in (even as a proud card carrier of four different library systems…) I also found myself thinking, I know this work is worth it, but I can’t really articulate why. Sure, I know statistics about how important reading is to early childhood development. And I know that the school will appreciate the effort. But considering the magnitude of the Great Commission, this call to make disciples and bring regenerative truth to the world, what am I doing in this tiny library at this elementary school?

My thoughts were interrupted by a group of kids careening past the library windows. They were goofing off and the boys were making the girls scream about something, and it all just made me smile. This made me think of when Jesus tells the disciples to let the children come to him. Then he says that “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (Luke 18: 17)  Kids can believe in a way that we often lose over time; the faith of a child is pure and simple.

It’s easy for me to want to have “the faith of an adult”: measured, informed, knowledgeable about my ministry efforts and aware of their impact. And while God created us to think deeply and critically and these are good things, this mindset also inches me dangerously towards desiring omniscience and even omnipotence—I want to know that my work matters, I want to control its efficacy and make sure it has benefits and worth. But at the end of the day, my understanding is finite and sometimes I just don’t know what impact was or was not made and have no control over the results of my own actions.

I think there’s a wonder in not knowing, a sort of mystery in being a part of God’s work without comprehending exactly what’s going on. It leaves room for dreaming, for hoping, for the pure faith of a child to wonder “what could the shelving of children’s books be in the hands of a powerful God?”

Consider joining in the labor of the Hennigan School library with me; shelve a book and be a part of God’s mysterious, unknowable, restorative work. And let’s see if we can’t regain some wonder along the way.

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To Walk Humbly Together

October 11, 2017

Almost three months ago, I quite literally stumbled into Starlight Ministries; I was at Emmanuel Gospel Center early for another meeting and wandered into the basement to check out Starlight while I waited. Little did I know where that wandering would take me!

In my three months of volunteering with this ministry (which works with those affected by homelessness and poverty), I have been awestruck more than once at the incredible kindness, humility, and faith displayed. The men and women who work and volunteer at Starlight make Jesus more real to me. BUT so do the friends who come to receive care. They are some of the warmest, gentlest souls, and they have taught me so much already about what it means to be open to God’s grace, to be patient in perseverance, and to be truly grateful.

It’s not always pretty. Two weeks ago I stepped out in the middle of an event to text my mom an SOS. When you walk with friends who have experienced the kind of messiness my new friends have, there is bound to be dirt thrown around. But I am beginning to understand the beauty of linking arms, of walking with each other. Mercy ministry can so easily become about “us” helping “them;” but there have been moments when I was the recipient of encouragement, of generosity, and of bolstered faith.

This mutual encouragement is what makes partnership so beautiful. Last week, I found myself flooded with discouragement; I felt like nothing I was doing meant anything. But when I arrived at Starlight on Thursday morning, the director was raving about something I had done on our church’s website. I honestly had no idea what she was referring to and feared she was mistaken. But I realized she meant the simple post I had put up for our August clothing drive, asking for donations for Starlight’s Opportunity Resource Center. She had been feeling discouraged and had stumbled upon it late at night, and it lifted her spirits and gave her joy. Suddenly I too felt uplifted and lighter and more hopeful (and blessedly less focused on myself – what a trap!)

Extending mercy isn’t about “us” and “them.” There is the “us” of God’s people, linking arms and ministering in partnership together. There is the “us” of mankind, created in God’s image and similarly afflicted by the crushing weight of sin and brokenness and death. When we walk together, we might kick up more dirt, but there will also be more hands to help brush it off.

Who might God be asking you to walk with?

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To Walk Humbly with our God

October 4, 2017

What do you think of when you think of Boston? History? Baseball? Education? There are many facets of the city that stick and easily spring to mind. But as I’ve spent more time here, I’ve noticed some others that lurk a little deeper. One of these is an extreme devotion to competency and excellence.

I recently became the Director of Mercy Ministry at Citylife Presbyterian Church in Boston. During my first week on the job, I panicked; I had absolutely ZERO idea of what to do. I instantly felt in over my head, and I wanted to bolt. Then I realized something that should have been obvious: I was not going to be perfect at this job right away ever. I could not let my desire for competency paralyze me.

After this moment of clarity, I prayed and realized that perhaps the answer of how to move forward could be found by getting back to my 1990s Christian cultural roots and asking the question, what would Jesus do? In all seriousness, I began to consider how Jesus extended mercy when he walked the streets of this earth, and I thought, well, he walked. Jesus was on the move, out with the people, which allowed him to see people, along with their needs and hurts. Simple.

So I began to walk! To walk around the city and ask God to open my eyes to really see the way that he sees. It is amazing what you can notice when you slow down and look; it broke my heart to see things that I have been missing for years, but I also noticed glimmers of light and life that I had been missing as well.

Maybe like me you are burdened for our city but don’t know where to start. Maybe like me you are terrified of doing more harm than good, of hurting more than helping, so you do nothing. To this I say, walk! As you walk to the T, as you walk the dog, as you walk to your car parked blocks away after street cleaning, walk with eyes wide open. And allow God to turn crippling fear into humble willingness to be his hands and feet, even in the simplest of ways.