March 10, 2013

The least of these

Blogging Challenge #3-

Tonight I'm writing on a topic again alongside a couple of my friends.  I think it will be harder to write about than love songs.  It's been pressing and challenging me, but in a good way.

Here is what we are considering...  What if Jesus was serious when he said, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."  Mat 25:40

Before this question even arose, God had been stirring something up in me.  You know when something is on your heart and it seems like everywhere you look and everything you read is stirring that spot?  And you're not sure if you really are inundated by it, or if you just see it because you are more aware of this thing that will not let you go?  This is happening to me.

*It was Beth Moore's study on James this winter.   Reading James boldly question what good our faith is if we don't act on it.  (See James 2:14-19)  I liked how Beth put it, "How are our individual worlds any better off because we believe in Jesus?  Do those we encounter in passing, in working, in playing receive any direct benefit because we are Christians?"

*It was Myron's sermon with the challenge to look past ourselves to the needs around us.  The reminder that God is compassionate towards us because He knows our story.  How can I put myself in places where I have the opportunity to know people's story and love them like Jesus?

*It was a book my two friends made me read- 7 an experimental mutiny against excess.  Oh. my. lanta.  I will not get into this book now except to say that it is all about sharing our abundant wealth to loose the chains of injustice.  (Book review is coming soon in blogging challenge.)

*It was a children's book that I ran across at the library that made me cry.  You know a children's book is good when it makes you cry.  This one's called The Quiltmaker's Gift (by Jeff Brunbeau).  It's about a quilt maker that lives in the mountains and makes the most beautiful quilts anyone has ever seen.  

People come from all over trying to buy her quilts but she won't sell them.  She tells them, "I give my quilts to those who are poor or homeless, they are not for the rich."  Then as soon as she is done with a quilt she goes to town and finds someone sleeping outside and puts the quilt over them tiptoes away.

Now there's a powerful king who liked to get presents so much he passed a law that his birthday be celebrated twice a year and he orders his soldiers to search the kingdom for people that haven't given him a gift.  His castle is filled with the most beautiful things in the world but he is not happy at all.

He hears about the quiltmakers quilts and he goes to demand one from the woman thinking it might be the one thing that will finally make him happy.  She refuses saying they are only for the poor and needy but she tells him to give away everything he owns and for each gift that he gives she will sew in a piece of his quilt. The king doesn't want to give away his treasures at first and tries to punish the woman but finally he agrees.  At first the only thing he can give away is a single marble but as he starts to see the joy his gifts bring people he gives more and more, finally going out into the world to find people in need of his gifts.

The woman is piecing together the king's quilt all this time and when it is done she gives it to him saying she promised when the day came that he was poor she would give him a quilt.  Of course he replies that he may look poor but his heart is full to bursting and he is the richest man he knows.

From then on the quilt maker sewed the beautiful quilts by day, and at night the king took them down to town to search out the poor and downhearted, never happier than when giving something away.

Find this book and read it to your kids.  It is beautiful.... now where were we...  oh yes, the least

So what do I do with all of this?  This is the question I'm wrestling with.  Who are the least of these that Jesus spoke about?  The hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the homeless, the sick, the prisoner, the orphan, the widow, the exploited?  This is a long list and that is where my head starts to swim.  How can I help?  It can seem overwhelming.  How can the little things I can do really make a difference?  Then I read Matthew 25:40 in the Message Bible.   In place of the least of these, The Message Bible puts it someone overlooked or ignored.  Aha! (light coming on)  Isn't that the first step in giving? To become aware of the need?  To really see someone that I have been overlooking or ignoring?  Isn't that exactly what Jesus did when He traveled from town to town; needs arose and He met them because he sees us all.  As I write I'm realizing that this is what God has been stirring in me, a new awareness of God's children and a desire to love more.

I will be the first to tell you that I am far from being like the rich king and giving away all I have.  I don't know why I am blessed to have food to feed my children every day and some mom's in the world don't.  I do know I want to invite my kids along on this journey of becoming aware.  Together I want to see those we have been over looking with new eyes.

So we decided to find a way as a family to show love and hopefully meet a need.  To do something.  Let me be honest, I struggle with doing the little things that seem insignificant. I know that one meal is not going to transform someone's life.  But yesterday I felt God whispering that one act of kindness can soften a heart to let God in so he can begin the changing.   The kids and I made some meals and packaged them up, then we all went out to find someone who might be hungry.  We made calzones and cookies.

And the kids each decorated a container.

Then we headed out in the van.  Our first destination was the corner by the Olympia Red Robin and sure enough we found a gal there who seemed very thankful for some dinner.  Then things slowed down a bit.  We know some things to do differently next time (don't look for hungry people hear the Union Gospel Mission when they are serving dinner, and avoid dinner time when people may turn you down because they already had a quarter pounder) Another thing I learned is my kids want to help and they are learning to care.  We drove around for an hour and the kids were getting hungry.  What a perfect opportunity to think about what it would be like to not have a cupboard full of food every time our stomach growled.  We finally headed back to our first spot on the Red Robin corner and sure enough there was  someone new standing there who eagerly accepted our food.

Isaiah and I were talking more about our night today.  He was remarking on how it was kind of funny that the people we gave food to were in the same place.  If you are reading this you probably already know that Red Robin is our favorite restaurant and we frequent it more than I care to say.   But Isaiah and I thought, what if every time we got to go, we had something to give to the person that is almost guaranteed to be standing at that corner?

What if we let our awareness spur us into action?

What if we think of ourselves less, and others more?

*Please click here and here for more deep thoughts on this topic