This love thing goes both ways

heart-700141_640She’s at it again. For the sake of anonymity, I’ll refer to her as “Alice.”

Alice is a nightmare, especially for someone in charge of the image of the organization she targets.

Alice, one of the loudest naysayers of the nonprofit I work for, got on her pedestal last week to alert her friends and family that she doesn’t support the work we do. Instead of seeing us as a solution to helping the homeless, she sees us as a problem.

You see, although the organization I work for has worked with the homeless for more than 100 years in our community, she’s read some articles about homelessness. She knows best. Not only that, but she loves old buildings. It appears she loves them more than people.

I shouldn’t care as much as I do, but I do. It makes my blood boil. The way she inaccurately portrays my employer, the way she talks about homeless people as if they were animals, the way she has not an ounce of compassion for the homeless and talks about how they “infest” downtown as if they were rodents… it kills me.

Where is her grace? Where is her compassion? Where is her heart? Does she not know that Christ was VERY clear about loving people, ESPECIALLY the poor?

And then it hit me.

If Christ truly calls us to love everyone, that means I have to love HER. I have to show HER grace. I have to have compassion for HER.

Love and grace are great when people give it to us. But it sure is a pain when we have to dish it out for someone else, someone we feel doesn’t deserve it.

From what I’ve been told, Alice is a Christian. “Yeah right,” is my first thought. How can that be? She claims to love Jesus, but yet she’s running around talking trash about a Christian organization that helps the homeless?

After I had that thought, I almost literally felt the Holy Spirit tap me on the shoulder and ask me about a few un-Christian-like things in my life. And yet I claim to be a Christian.

The thing is, Alice doesn’t deserve love and grace from me. But I also don’t deserve love and grace from Christ, and yet He gives it to me every single day. Every. Single. Day.

If I’m going to go around preaching that we’re to love our neighbors, ALL our neighbors, and if I openly accept God’s love and grace for me even though sometimes I’m a terrible Christ follower, I have to love Alice. I have to have compassion for her.

Ugh. That’s just how it is. We’re supposed to be a representation of Christ. Christ loves Alice. I can’t say that this will happen overnight. I’m still human, I still have human emotions that take over when Alice, and a select few others, say terrible things about the people in this community facing a homeless crisis.

But I’m going to try to show Alice some compassion.

This love thing goes both ways. It means loving the people we don’t want to love. It means Alice should love the homeless. It means I should love Alice.

“Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
1 Corinthians 13:13

 

 

 

My Spiritual Journey

1482753_10151871483561573_2088816754_nPart of the application process for my new job as marketing director for a local nonprofit was to write about my spiritual journey in fewer than 500 words. Here is what I wrote:

Although I was raised in the church, I’ve had my ups and downs with God. The greatest part of my testimony is that God was with me during the downs.

The greatest transformation in my spiritual life came when I lived in Uganda for a year, serving as a high school English teacher and missionary with World Gospel Mission. I tell people it was the best and worst year of my life. God used Uganda to destroy me and rebuild me. It wasn’t the extreme poverty, the orphans with HIV, my students who were contemplating suicide, or even the mystery illness I suffered from during and after my year in Uganda that destroyed me. It was an internal struggle that is almost impossible to describe.

579707_10151778872521573_24131533_nThe internal struggle, however, is not what this is about. It’s about the transformation that God did on my heart during that time. It’s about how I drastically changed as a person after a year in Africa. I came home to a world that was just how I left it, but I viewed it differently. I was incredibly filled with compassion in a way I never could have imagined.

I began to volunteer in my own community, here in Fort Wayne, Ind. While I still have a heart for international missions, the Lord has revealed to me that He wants to use me here more than anything. I volunteer at the Rescue Mission, as well as other specific events in the community. Perhaps the most moving volunteer experience this past year was at the Allen County Jail where we sang carols and passed out cookies to the inmates for Christmas. I even saw a gentleman I knew from my time serving breakfast at the Rescue Mission. It broke my heart to see him locked up in a cell, but it was worth it to see his eyes light up when I recognized him.

1457651_10151711498836573_1649942654_nThere’s a lot I have to learn. God will never stop teaching me about this world and His place in it, and He’ll never stop working in me. Whether or not I am in a career that directly involves helping people, I’ll always do that on my own in some way. It’s what Jesus did, and it’s what we’re called to do.

Lamentations 3:22 is one of my favorite versus. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.” Uganda, and all I experienced there, could have consumed me. I literally felt destroyed. It was the compassion of Christ that put me back together, and now I am a whole new person.

 

You can’t walk in shoes that aren’t yours

305“Get over it. People are so paranoid. People take everything personally. Get the chip off your shoulder. Stop being so paranoid.”

Ever had any of those thoughts go through your mind? If you’re like me, you’ve had them go through your mind a lot this past year. It’s so easy to look at someone who says they are hurt or offended and think, “Oh come on!”

It’s easy to think that until… well until you’re the one who is offended.

I remember a few years ago I was having a discussion with my friend Ashley. I am white, and Ashley is black, and we often have insightful conversations about race. During this particular conversation, I mentioned something about maybe some black people are just paranoid about racism. Then she said this: “You’ve never been black. Unless you’ve been black and walked into a store and gotten the stare-down, you don’t know what it’s like. You never will. Because you’ve never been black.”

Touché, my friend. Touché.

All over Facebook I see people, especially Christians, posting about how they are so sick and tired of people taking things personally or getting offended, and yet Christians seem to be the most offended people of all.

But really, we can’t look at someone and tell them they can’t feel how they feel. Are there people who ARE paranoid and over-the-top? Of course. But sometimes, what if people really are hurt? Who are we to pretend that we can walk in the shoes of someone who is something so completely different than we are?

I stopped dismissing people’s feelings on being a certain religion, race, etc., when I realized I had my own “chip” on my shoulder – being single in the church. It’s so frustrating because no one understands, unless they are a fellow single.

When I discuss my issues with my married friends in the church, they don’t understand, and sometimes the things they say are hurtful. They think singles want a group all their own to meet potential mates. Not at all. And it extends beyond having a specific group for singles. It’s the fact that no matter how hard I’ve tried, I’ve not been fully embraced by any church I’ve attended as an adult, and I do think it’s because I’m single.

Before you react. Before you judge. Before you comment… are you a single 30-something who has attended all the churches I’ve attended?

About a year ago a local homeless shelter held a fundraiser where you could spend a night as a homeless person. I thought it was a great idea! It raised a lot of money and gave people a small taste of what it was like to be homeless. However, I volunteer with the homeless, and they didn’t think it was such a great idea at all.

“It’s insulting,” one of the homeless men told me. “This isn’t what it’s like. We don’t have tents. We don’t have hot water. We don’t have an indoor bathroom to use in the middle of the night.”

I felt like my homeless friend was overreacting at first, but then I applied my friend Ashley’s words to the situation: I’ve never been homeless. I can’t claim to know what it’s like or what would upset me.

When it comes to walking on eggshells because we’re afraid we’re going to offend someone or not use the politically correct term, I absolutely believe that has gotten out of hand. But what I’m saying is….

If you’re not black, don’t pretend you know what it’s like to walk into an upscale store and get stared at.

If you’re not Christian, don’t pretend to know what it’s like to watch your country take your Savior out of everything.

I could go on and on with many more examples.

You can’t walk in shoes that aren’t yours, but you can have the compassion of Christ when someone tells you that their particular pair of “shoes” cause them pain. Paul actually tells us to take on that pain anyway:

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
Galatians 6:2

Be kind. Be compassionate. If we all attempted to understand each other a little better, the world would be a better place.

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other,
just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”
Ephesians 4:32

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved,
put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”
Colossians 3:12

“Do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor,
and let none of you device evil against another in your heart.”
Zechariah 7:10