Tag Archive: compassion


feets

This is another extract from ‘Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion’ by Father Gregory Boyle which i am reading and thoroughly enjoying [and you should totally get and read] and this story i read tonite jumped out at me and begged to be shared. From a chapter titled, ‘Compassion’:

The strategy of Jesus is not centered in taking the right stand on issues, but rather in standing in the right place – with the outcast and those relegated to the margins.

Once the homeless began to sleep in the church at night, there was always the faintest evidence that they had. Come Sunday morning, we’d foo foo the place as best we could. We would sprinkle ‘I Love My Carpet’ on the rugs and vacuum like crazy. We’d strategically place potpourri and Air Wick around the church to combat this lingering, pervasive reminder – that nearly fifty (and later up to one hundred) men had spent the night there. 

About the only time we used incense at Dolores Mission was on Sunday morning, before the 7.30 a.m. Mass crowd would arrive. 

Still, try as we might, the smell remained. The grumbling set in, and people spoke of “churching” elsewhere.

It was at about this time that a man drove by the church and stopped to talk to me. he was Latino, in a nice car, and had arrived at some comfortable life and living. He knew I was the pastor. He waxed nostalgic about having grown up in the projects and pointed to the church and said he had been baptised and made his first communion there. 

Then he takes in the scene all around him. Gang members gathered by the bell tower, homeless men and women being fed in great numbers in the parking lot. Folks arriving for the AA and NA meetings and the ESL classes.

It’s a Who’s Who of Everybody Who Was Nobody. Gang member, drug addict, homeless, undocumented. This man sees all this and shakes his head, determined and disgusted, as if to say “tsk, tsk.”

“You know”, he says, ” This used to be a church.”

I mount my high horse and say, “You know, most people around here think it’s finally a church.”

Then I ride off into the sunset.

Roll credits.

The smell was nearly overwhelming, just undeniably there. The Jesuits figured that if “we can’t fix it, then we’ll feature it.” So we determined to address the discontent in our homilies one Sunday. Homilies were often dialogic in those days, so one day I begun with, “What’s the church smell like?”

People are mortified, eye contact ceases, women are searching inside their purses for they know not what.

“Come on now,” I throw back at them, “what’s the church smell like?”

Huele a patas” (Smells like feet), Don Rafael booms out. He was old and never cared what people thought.

“Excellent. But why does it smell like feet?”

“Cuz many homeless men slept here last night?” says a woman.

“Well, why do we let that happen here?”

Es nuestro compromiso” (It’s what we’ve committed to do), says another.

“Well, why would anyone commit to do tha?”

Porque es lo que haria Jesus” (It’s what Jesus would do.)

“Well, then… what’s the church smell like now?”

A man stands and bellows, “Huele a nuestro compromiso” (it smells like commitment).

The place cheers.

Guadalupe waves her arms wildly, “Huele a rosas.” (smells like roses).

The packed church roars with laughter and a new-found kinship that embraced someone else’s odour as their own. The stink in the church hadn’t changed, only how the folks saw it. The people at Dolores Mission had come to embody Wendell Berry’s injuction: “You have to be able to imagine lives that are not yours.”

Scripture scholars contend that the original language of the Beatitudes should not be rendered as “Blessed are the single-hearted” or “Blessed are the peacemakers” or “Blessed are those who struggle for justice.” Greater precision in translation would say, “You’re in the right place if… you are single-hearted or work for peace.” The Beatitudes is not a spirituality, after all. It’s a geography. It tells us where to stand. 

Compassion isn’t just about feeling the pain of others; it’s about bringing them in toward yourself. If we love what God loves, then, in compassion, margins get erased. “Be compassionate as God is compassionate,” means the dismantling of barriers that exclude.

In Scripture, Jesus is in a house so packed that no one can come through the door any more. So the people open the roof and lower the paralytic down through it, so Jesus can heal him. The focus of the story is, understandably, the healing of the paralytic. But there is something more significant than that happening here. They’re ripping the roof off the place, and those outside are being let in.

[For the next extract on ‘When enemies work together’ click here]

[To read the post i wrote after listening to Father Gregory Boyle speak at CCDA, click here]

 

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My kids are evil.

Good. Now that I’ve got your attention, let me explain. Little kids are a lot of things – sweet, cute, sticky (most of the time), small, lovable, smelly (again, most of the time). But compassionate, kind, gracious and selfless? Nope, nope, nope and… nope. And here in lies the rub. All too often we mistake their sweetness and smallness for goodness. Our children are wonderful gifts. But they are not born with great character – the kind that will ultimately lead to world changers and planet shakers. Goodness is not a birthright.

Julie Now, teaching our kids these kinds of qualities is easier said than done. I mean, just keeping them alive, fed, clothed and (relatively) clean is a quantum job! As a parent with three children under the age of five, I’m discovering that it’s better to integrate big life lessons than to separate them from our day-to-day lives. I’m hoping that as the days, weeks and years go by, my kids’ lives will be peppered with lots of useful moments that help them to become people of real character and to navigate their way through this oft upside-down world.

Here are some examples of character attributes we want our kids to have, and some ways we’re trying to instill them into the little buggers:

 Compassion – I remember the first time I tried to teach my eldest this virtue. We pulled up at a traffic light and saw a man begging for food. I rolled down my window, greeted him warmly and gave him an orange. As we drove away, I explained to Eli what we’d just done. He cried all the way home. Not out of sympathy for the poor man, but out of utter self pity that I had given away our food. Our orange! He wailed as if it was the last piece of fruit known to mankind. Another time, he asked me why a man was digging in the bins. I knelt down and told him gently about the huge disparity between rich and poor in our country, about how that man probably had kids at home, and that their home was nothing like ours, and how different their supper would look to ours. And that, despite how different our lives were, we were no better than that man. Again, Eli wept. And again, not out of compassion, but because somewhere in my story I had mentioned the word cupcake, and now he was sure he would die if he did not have a cupcake right this very minute. I’m not making this up. My kids are evil!

Courage – One of our kids is inherently skittish. We feel it’s our job to build into him the confidence he’ll need to face life well. So we don’t just let him get away with not trying new, scary things. We encourage him. We often say, ‘Just because you’re scared, doesn’t mean you can’t do it – you can!’ And he’s always so glad when he does eventually try and succeed at something new.

Robustness – This is such an undervalued attribute these days. When was the last time you heard someone say, “John is such a catch. He’s so robust!” And yet it’s one of the make-or-break qualities to get through life alive and happy! We try to teach our kids to suck it up when life sucks. We don’t say that of course, we say ‘It’s not the end of the world.’ And we say it sooo often that most of the time now, we just say, “It’s not the end of the?” and they finish the sentence themselves, as they take a deep breath and wipe their snotty faces clean with their sleeves. Children are charming like that.

So to sum up, I’m learning that good character isn’t going to fall from the sky onto my little ones. But every day is jam-packed with great opportunities to teach, inspire and drag them (kicking and screaming) toward it!

[Julie, among other things is someone with a gifted prophetic voice, a writer of note and an amazing woman role model for hundreds of younger women around her. She is the wife of Terran who is a friend of mine i have done a bunch of speaking with or near for many years and they keep their friends constantly amused with an assortment of things their kids say via the Facebook]

[To read the next inspiring piece on raising world changers, shared by my great friend Bruce Collins, click here]

i’d love to make this sound like the cool kind of parable Jesus would have used, but i don’t think i can.

a rock

but if it was a fairy-tale type story it would begin with something sounding like ‘Once upon a time…’ and very quickly end up at the place of ‘Brett looked at the path and it was blocked by the giant obstacle. He didn’t know what to do next.’

and depending on your perspective on life and God and big obstacles, Brett might do very different things next.

if you’re a ‘glass half empty’ kind of person, you might see the obstacle as a sign that God placed the obstacle in your path so you wouldn’t choose that particular path. go and find another easier path, Brett. [this could be Balaam’s donkey warning you off the path, it could be Paul being blocked from going to Asia in Acts 16, it could be the angel with the sword keeping Adam and Eve from re-entering the garden]

if you’re a ‘glass half full’ kind of person, you might see the obstacle as a sign that the devil is worried about the work you are doing and is trying to stop you. keep on, Brett, find a way around or through the obstacle because that is the path you are meant to be walking. [this could be the Israelites crossing the sea, Abraham attempting to sacrifice Isaac, Daniel deciding to continue to pray and being thrown in the lion’s den]

the main problem is that in either case the obstacle looks the same. it’s not like obstacles are divided into ‘push through because it’s the enemy placing it there’ kinds of obstacles and ‘turn around because God is trying to tell you to go a different way’ kinds of obstacles… they both simply appear as an obstacle and if you get counsel from wise friends of yours, you might find yourself listening to both opposing pieces of advice [both of which are an understandable reading of the scenario]

and so the key has to be the Holy Spirit – being in touch with and in tune with God so He can reveal to you which one it is? do i stay or do i go?

easy, huh? unless of course you are having a bit of trouble hearing God on the matter and then it goes back to making a hopeful choice…

this is a scenario that plays out often in our lives and happened again this morning [well, over the last few days] as we have had such issues trying to book a flight for Val:

GHE: It’s a sign from God – don’t do this Relational Tithe thing – you are meant to pull out of it and stay here!
GHF: It’s an attack from the enemy – God wants you to push through and defeat the obstacle and He is allowing it to be there to strengthen your faith.

ah okay got it, this could go either way, so which is it God?

[sound of crickets]

and so there lies the dilemma – i do think the solution lies somewhere in making sure we’ve taken enough time to ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ [psalm 46.10] and then also to invite the wisdom [and listening] of Jesus following friends – maybe as we listen together, someone will be able to make out the quiet whisper of God…

if not, though, we will have to make a call and follow the path of whichever one we choose, knowing full well that we serve both a Loving and Faithful God who knows our hearts and gets that we have done everything we thought of to try and ascertain which path it was… a God who, if we get it wrong while honestly trying to get it right, is so much full of Grace and Love and Forgiveness and Compassion that He will not leave us treading water in the after effects of a decision gone wrong…

therein lies a lot of the confidence i have in God… that He is able to make Himself heard when necessary, that He is able to direct and guide and beckon, that He is so quick to rush in and help out when things go wrong, that His bride, the church, has been created with a role of helping to ensure that we don’t fall face first on the ground and lie there, wounded and bleeding, without doing something about it.

and so Brett has some paths, and some obstacles, and a beautiful Valerie alongside him… and he is listening and asking and waiting… trying to figure out which is God and which is the enemy and which is just plain life…

and he is not TOO worried at all.

[i would LOVE to hear your perspective and thoughts on the two ways an obstacle can be looked at and maybe an experience you have had in that]

more standing out passages and ideas from ‘Prayer: Does it make any difference?’ by Philip Yancey:

‘David Ford, a professor at Cambridge, asked a Catholic priest the most common problem he encountered in twenty years of hearing confession. With no hesitation the priest replied, ‘God.’ Very few of the parishioners he meets in confession behave as if God is a God of love, forgiveness, gentleness and compassion. They see God as someone to cower before, not as someone like Jesus, worthy of our trust. Ford comments, “This is perhaps the hardest truth of any to grasp. Do we wake up every morning amazed that we are loved by God? Do we allow our day to be shaped by God’s desire to relate to us?”

Reading Ford’s questions, I realise that my image of God, more than anything else, determines my degree of honesty in prayer. Do I trust God with my naked self? Foolishly, I hide myself in fear that God will be displeased, though in fact the hiding may be what displeases God most. From my side, the wall seems like self-protection; from God’s side it looks like lack of trust.’ [pg 34]

for the next thoughts on prayer, click here…

some more quotes from ‘Prayer: Does it make any difference?’ by Philip Yancey, which i am really enjoying at the moment:

‘In Jesus’ day tax collectors, prostitutes and unclean persons reached out their hands to receive God’s grace while religious professionals closed theirs into tight fists. In receiving a free gift, having open hands is the only requirement.’ [pg. 23]

‘Most parents feel a pang when the child outgrows dependence, even while knowing the growth to be healthy and normal. With God, the rules change. I never outgrow dependence, and to the extent I think I do, I delude myself. Asking for help lies at the root of prayer: the Lord’s Prayer itself consists of a string of such requests. Prayer is a declaration of dependence upon God.

A character in one of Henry Adam’s novels cries out in frustration, “Why must the church always appeal to my weakness and never to my strength!” I can think of several reasons. In a world that glorifies success, an admission of weakness disarms pride at the same time that it prepares us to receive grace. Meanwhile, the very weakness that drives us to pray becomes an invitation for God to respond with compassion and power.’ [pg. 27]

‘We must lay before Him what is in us, not what ought to be in us,’ wrote C.S.Lewis. To put it another way, we must trust God with what God already knows.’ [pg. 32]

for more thoughts from Philip Yancey on prayer, click here.

and coffee…

met some friends for coffee at the BP to celebrate the end of the week which has been interesting – quite a stressful time in terms of packing up the house and finishing off transcription work and trying to organise visas and a bunch of other stuff but i think that’s cool in a way – we don’t get to always choose when life happens to us – and while this live below the line week may have been largely insignificant in the bigger scheme of things i think that good came out of it for us – hopefully we have learnt to appreciate the little things and be more compassionate to people who have this situation thrust upon them as opposed to choosing it for themselves for a time period.

i guess today’s big lesson was that perseverance is easy when the end is in sight – if you know that 00:05 holds a cup of BP coffee for you then skipping the cup or so you would normally have during the day is no big deal at all and so today pretty much rushed by – yes it was quite a busy one on all fronts but we ate pretty well and finished big.

breakfast for me was two eggs on bread crusts [which i happen to dig] cos had to save the two slices for lunch [val didn’t have bread] and half an avo each so i stuck mine under the one fried egg – very yummy…

lunch was leftover noodle mix on snackwiches which was fairly decent…

supper was last two pork sausages well cooked as sausages [been chopped up rest of week] with rice and last of the beans/carrots and was really great – definitely ate enough food and the majority of it was not too bad [altho i think we killed lentils after just one meal – definitely pick rice or pap repeatedly over those]

so ja, with fasting or living below the line for a week it is made easier by the time frame – you choose when you want to do it and pick your structure/boundaries [just skip meals during day, just a daniel fast of fruit and veg only, absolutely nothing, how much money per day etc etc] and then do it for a time period and it’s over. for many people it’s not over.

i’m convinced that giving people a fish is not the answer – teaching them to fish or linking them up with the fisherman or taking down the company that is polluting the water that the fish should be freely available in are all bigger options… however, in the times and moments and busyness when those things are not immediately possible, sometimes giving a man [woman or child] a fish is better than not giving them a fish [especially when your waistline is probly over-fished]

i’m glad we did it, it wasn’t all fun, but it wasn’t all not fun and it certainly was not horrible and i hope we remember and learn and thing and treat and consider…

day 4 of the live below the line saw a bit of a stodgy jungle oats breakfast [not enough water, oops] which was microwaved and very easy to make… bit of margarine type substance to give it some flavour…

lunch was leftover soup/stew val made the other day – very tasty and yum cos of all the good veg in it…

then supper was REALLY nice – roasted veg:sweet potato, carrots and leftover butternut and then two pork sausages sliced and fried to add for taste and it was really a winner meal, best all week i think

ate well today and pretty tasty stuff – getting a bit of a better hang of it – don’t know that i have any lessons that came out of it and if you haven’t yet i would go and read my friend lisa’s comments on the whole week’s experiment which i link to over here.

i guess actually the one thing that stood out today was the friend vibe – it’s been a theme this week that a bunch of people hear what we’re doing and are “cool, we’ll take you out to eat” which in the context of this week defeat’s the object a little bit, but the idea of community being so much more important if a bunch of individuals don’t have much because pooling a small amount for a larger amount of people always works better – i remember as a bachelor trying to cook meals for one and it gets quite expensive or wasteful, but when there are four of you say throwing your R12 into the pot, then if you did that for a whole week you could get really creative and everyone would have enough.

the second aspect was the idea of inviting people round to play a game and not being able to offer snacks, drinks etc – fortunately in tonite’s scenario the one guy brought food and so we weren’t going to make them not eat it for the sake of our challenge so the three of them partook [what a word] but the idea that if you are living in a poor context, inviting people around for a meal probably holds less ampedness because of what you can’t offer… you’d think that at least but in my experiences in Kayamandi and Umtata and Malawi and Botswana [when i went as a child] and the Spanish community i visited in the States when i was there it was always the opposite – those with nothing always offer so much – they always give of their best – they are always completely generous – i have experienced this so many times in so many ‘poor’ contexts that i know it to be true…

so ja, one day to go, hopefully we have learnt some stuff – definitely been made aware of a bunch of things and going to give the money we would normally have spent on food to someone who needs it a lot more than us which is great. i think it has been good. but what lisa wrote is true. it’s nothing compared to what can and should and needs to be done.

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