Mogwai fear Satan, but I don’t.

The following post is from my friend Adam. It was taken with permission from his blogsite: http://forithaca.wordpress.com/

I haven’t been inspired to write much in the past few years, but I’m feeling so today.

Recently, I’ve been confronted with the word satan in adjective form and I’m wondering if this is a useful word.

When forced to describe it, without much thought, my mind turned to the word nuclear, which is reminiscent of satan in that people’s hyper-sensitivity to the terms are based on a pop-culture depiction of them and not a scientific or scriptural one — even for some that believe in science or scripture as truth providing. Satan is not depicted as evil, but more evil than evil. Not merely supernatural but super-super-natural. Caricatured by some as an idol of the most malicious and avarice beings imaginable. The under world of LOTR captures the grotesque-ness I’m trying to communicate. Anyone who believes in the supernatural ought to dismiss any effects culture has had on educating them on something our culture took and twisted from their own beliefs. Just as anyone who believes in science ought to dismiss the error that nuclear is tantamount to harmful radiation or weaponry.

This error has caused the misnomer (or mis-acronym?) MRI. It is Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Imaging (NMRI) but the “n” was dropped; it was too disconcerting for many to think something nuclear was happening to them. In reality, we are nuclear; filled with billions of nuclei that we rely on for existence. And while we do not rely on satan for existence it is not unusual, at times, to share the mind of one who is going against the will of God. The bible narrative certainly includes some of God’s chosen that have. In my desire to continue developing an understanding, I think it’s helpful to look at these stories.

When Jesus predicts his own death, Peter boldly declares “This will never happen to you!” Jesus’ response is striking to say the least: “Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to me…” At first the response does not seem to follow from what Peter has said. Certainly, if I were telling my closest friend that I were going to die by torturous methods, I would find comfort and care in a response like Peter’s. It seems honorable. But, Jesus is carrying out the most central part of history for those that believe in his death and resurrection. The next thing Jesus says is more revealing: “…you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Apparently it is satanic, according to Jesus, to be disoriented, to try to stifle God’s plan, to prevent the expression of the gospel which is of incomprehensible and irrational love. Notice too that what Peter desires does not appear base and evil. Satanic things often do not. Many translate the word Satan, used here, from the greek to mean “adversary” and that is an appropriate synonym. Few, I would assume, figure that Peter in this story is possessed and possibly not even under the direct influence of any supernatural agency. Satanic here means an attempt to prevent the things of God. Whether it derives from within or outside of us seems the trivial part of the story.

In writing this blog I’ve had a few hindering thoughts, that caused hesitation, such as how weird people will undoubtedly think I am. Those that do not believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus may wonder why I believe in cooky apparitions. And those that do might be offended, or well-read enough to say, “Now, now child. Let me instruct you on your foolish misunderstanding.” While writing about satan isn’t grand or a master plot of God’s, starting a conversation on a matter of spiritual awareness, when compelled, seems to be following the will of God, no matter how small a part. And it is quite small in every regard. But, to be stifled of doing something too small, because of that fact, is a satanic argument. If I don’t do good things because they are not big enough, I may never do good things. If I don’t feed or talk to the homeless man on my street because I cannot fix his homelessness, I may forever neglect to offer a drop of God’s love in a place where I can. This is the “belt of truth buckled around my waist” (Ephesians 6:14). Among others.

Generally, I avoid christian parlance. Its redundancy lulls me to sleep and floats by my mind without triggering a thought. But, that’s precisely why I find the word satanic helpful. It’s not apart of the current idiom. It causes a bit of a jolt. It’s awakening. And I like that.

Journey To LOVE Park

This is a narrative essay my wife Ashley wrote for her college Literature class.

Journey To LOVE Park

For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” -Matthew 25:35-36.

I hadn’t traveled on a plane in years and even then it was only a short flight from Houston to Dallas. Before Christmas, my husband and I agreed to take a trip to Philadelphia to visit a friend of his that he hadn’t seen in almost five years. This flight was longer so we had a lot more time to plan out the next few days and what would happen. When we arrived to Philadelphia, Raleigh took us to his community house and we told him about our plans to do something radical. Raleigh then explained about how in Philadelphia there are a rising number of three-thousand homeless people on the streets every night, and how the city officials are cracking down to prevent homelessness; even making it illegal to be vagrant. The passion in our hearts to change the world started in a city which we had no clue would change our lives.

The morning that we finally built up enough courage to actually get out on the streets, I woke up to find my husband had already walked to the local market and back with three loaves of bread, peanut butter and a jar of jelly. We were really going to do this. As we made the fifty sandwiches and crammed them into an old backpack, my husband, Raleigh, and I prayed for God to align divine appointments in our day. We didn’t quite understand what that meant but it sounded right and prayer is always a good thing.

We set out in what felt like the coldest day of winter. I felt like a child in a candy store gazing in awe of snow.  As we walked two hours, we came across no one. I felt a little crushed with all of these PB & J’s and no one to give them to. Jokingly, I remember the Raleigh and Byron saying we can just pass them out to anyone we ran into and eat the rest. Our plans were on the verge of termination. Raleigh then made a point that we should just make our way to the Art Museum a few blocks over and call it quits. As we turned the corner there was what looked like a party happening right in the middle of LOVE Park. People were standing everywhere, from corner to corner, all in about as much amazement as I was.

“Is this it, is this the moment we have been praying for? What do I do?” My eyes grew wide and I began to feel a rush of excitement. Byron and Raleigh said to just start giving out the sandwiches. I dropped the backpack on the bench and heard a homeless man yell out “Hey! They have sandwiches! They’ve got some sandwiches!” Soon enough, a line formed with each dirty, tired, and forgotten man and woman walking up to us with a smile of gratitude. It was almost as if this had been their first time not being invisible. As I glanced down into our backpack, the number of sandwiches we started out with began to disappear. Everything was happening so fast I could barely process it all. After we began talking to people we realized what all the commotion was about. Before we had shown up there was a man who was giving away blankets and jackets to the homeless. Also, right after he had shown up a woman drove by with the entire trunk of her car filled with shoes. When I found this out it seemed so strange, yet all too convenient of my God to work in such extraordinary circumstances. I began to think how this couldn’t just be coincidental that three complete strangers from the opposite sides of the country all merged together on one corner in downtown Philadelphia to change the world. Sharing the goodness of His love came so easy.

Afterwards, before the high of generosity left, we began to make our way to the museum. The snow got a little colder, and the ground became wetter as my face started to become numb. I told my husband and his friend “this is what Jesus said when He said ‘I tell you truth whatever you did unto the least of these brothers of mine, you did for Me.’” I still carry this truth with me to this very day, that at anytime or any place I am exactly where God wants me to be.

A Place That Needs Jesus

This post was written by my good friend Carolyn.

It’s Monday morning at 8:00am, I have just unlocked my office door when I hear a girl cough behind me.  I turn around to see a distraught looking woman standing in my doorway, “Ms. Carolyn, can I talk to you?” There are tears in her eyes as I put my backpack down and invite her in to talk about her life.  She slumps down in one of the three office chairs that are cramped in my small closet-like office and just as she sits, she begins to sob.  I always have a box of tissues in arms reach and instinctively reach for them when I see her eyes begin to swell up. She begins, “They can’t find my mother-in-law. She has been missing since Friday night, and this isn’t like her at all, she has never done this before”. I walk her through as many counseling techniques that I can think of without sounding insensitive or dismissive.  She sits in my office for a half hour, going through the events of the weekend, talking about the last thing she said to her and I sit and listen, nodding in a way that communicates “I understand”.   She begins to calm down and collect herself, we have talked through everything we can, knowing the only next step is to go out and look for her ourselves.  I ask if she is going to be able to focus in class with everything going on, she says yes, takes a deep breath and walks out.

Immediately after she leaves, I turn to my computer when I hear a quiet knock on my door.  I look up and see a small girl with fear in her eyes, she quietly asks is she can talk to me, and I close my outlook email and ask her to have a seat. She begins, “Ms. Carolyn, my father beat me this weekend, he doesn’t normally do this, but he was so drunk and I stood in the way of him and my baby cousin. Can I show you the bruises and scratches on my back? There is a knot on my forehead too, but I can cover that with my hair.” I listen and wait for the details to stop.  She looks at me and looks up at the ceiling, exhaling for a brief second before the tears begin to quickly stream down her face, I already have the box of tissues in my hand, she takes two.  I sit and listen and ask if she is going to be able to return to class, if she feels like she can focus today.  She looks at me and says, “of course this is the only thing I have to look forward to.” I say nothing and the petite girl walks out.

The student leaves and I see another student sitting in the lobby, waiting. I ask if she needs to talk to me. She doesn’t say a word, but she comes in and closes the door, choosing the seat furthest away from my chair. Trying to sound upbeat and praying for a happy story, I give her a minute and begin with my routine line of “what’s going on?” the girl starts to cry without saying a word.  She looks at me and begins, “my father gambled away our rent money. I don’t know what we are going to do. My mom is an illegal immigrant and we haven’t had hot water in two years, we boil water and have space heaters. That’s okay, I’m used to that, but I can’t live on the street. I just can’t live on the street. I just don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Not being known for one who experiences a loss-of-words, being speechless is a new feeling for me. However, it has become a more common feeling over the past few months.  Six months ago, I began my first real job, since getting my masters in school counseling.  I thought of myself as a big shot adding tons prior experience to any company who would hire me.  Previously, I had worked in a homeless shelter, worked resettling refugees, was a kindergarten teacher, and I had even spent time overseas in an orphanage; I thought I was ready for anything.  And then I met my inner city Philadelphian students.

My students are “college-aged” kids who are rough around the edges, vulnerable and honest. They are direct, defensive and at times can be explosive.  In contrast, I am a white girl, raised in suburban America with some short term experiences working with people who have hard lives. I am willing to help and excited about serving others but I normally have nothing to offer.  But by definition, I am who they should turn to for advice, I am their counselor.

When my students tell me stories about murder in their families or their sex lives, I have to work on my poker face.  When they use slang, I have to ask what it means (I’m still trying to figure out some of it, and normally they just laugh at me). But when they cry and stare into my eyes and say those words I hear almost every day, “I just don’t know what I’m going to do” my heart breaks. The school where I work is a secular school with a secular staff full of people who need Jesus. Don’t get me wrong, there are people who work there who love Jesus, I’m sure of it; but for the most part their faith takes the form of sending out Christian forwards through email and joking about having “come to Jesus meetings” or the ritual of saying “Jesus make me a fence” referring to protection from our not-so-stable students.

I hear stories of heartbreak and suffering and all I want to do is pray and tell them I have found comfort and solace in the fact that this life will pass away and a new Kingdom is waiting for them. But instead I look up resources and say, “Everything will be okay, things will work out. It may seem hard now but things will get better.” Or I can say nothing at all. I would risk my job if I began to tell them of the loving sacrifice Jesus has made for them. Even if I kept my job, more of the root of my selfishness and sin is that I am scared of what people will think and how the students will react.  I am scared that I will feel even more attacked by my co-workers for being close-minded (a common misconception of a Christian – thanks Joel Olsteen).  I can pray silently for my students when they leave, and I do.  But it seems unfinished. I take too many burdens on myself and I worry about what others think because I am a 20-something who loves Jesus Christ, I am an anomaly in today’s society.  I will never stop praying for my students and their stories, and the longer I have worked at my school, the more I have settled for, and now believe, that God has things under control and I trust He can change hearts and minds.

Being a Christian counselor in a non-Christian environment is hard because you know you have the answer, you are hiding a gem that could solve everyone’s needs, something meant for every single person.  It is like being part of the biggest scam, or the best-kept secret in the whole world, and just sitting on it.  But it’s not just with my students; it’s with my co-workers and my superiors.  I need to tell them too!  Sometimes I wonder if I should be more open about how I pray or tell my students to turn towards God when they come and they shut the door so that no one else will see their tears. I wonder if I should let them in on the fact the God has seen all of their tears, and He feels their pain.  I wonder if I should tell my co-workers that they don’t need to live for their jobs or getting ahead at this company, because in the end it all burns any way.  I pray for answers to these questions but I’ll never know if I’m doing the perfect thing, and I know I don’t always make the right decisions. But I will continue to pray, I will continue to answer questions of faith if and when they are asked. I will continue to cry and scream when I hear about what my students endure.  I will continue to be present in a place that needs Christ.

 

 

 

Loving The Homeless in Wilmington, DE

The following post is by my Father. I asked him to reflect on his last 2 years with the homeless at Sunday Breakfast Mission in Wilmington Delaware:

My name is David Booze (I am Raleigh’s dad), and I love the homeless!  This isn’t something I could have said 3 years ago.  Sure, I sympathized with them, I prayed for them (generically), I certainly wished “someone” would help them – but I didn’t love them as Christ’s example taught me. Then, Raleigh introduced me to a little book by Shane Claiborne (Founder of The Simple Way community in Philadelphia) titled, “The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical”.  The book is spiritual dynamite in the hands of a soul made tender by the Holy Spirit, and a recommended must read!  Shane blew me away with his book as he challenged us all to put our faith into concrete action.  The book called me to get off my rear and begin serving the homeless in tangible and personal ways.

After I read Claiborne’s book, I felt an irresistible and relentless call to help homeless men at a men’s shelter in Wilmington, DE called the Sunday Breakfast Mission (SBM)/(www.sundaybreakfastmission.org).  Since I’ve been a guitar player for 40 years, and since the SBM web site states that they need worship leaders and musicians, I knew I had found the answer to the Lord’s leading.  After many hours and many frustrations (the devil will not leave such work unopposed!), a worship team was organized, and we began the Lord’s work at SBM.

The Sunday Breakfast Mission is a homeless shelter in inner-city Wilmington that strongly believes that you cannot expect to make a real difference if you only meet physical needs and not minister to spiritual needs as well. Several people at the suburban church I attend volunteer at SBM on a regular basis, which now includes a small praise and worship team consisting of a pastor with me and my musical friends.  We lead a worship service at SBM once a month (note that the residents at SBM hear a Gospel message every night of the week as the mission believes that the hearing and application of the Gospel message is THE answer that heals us in this world of hurting and brokenness).

The men who live at SBM (the mission can house approximately 150 men for an overnight stay where they receive 2 hot meals a day) are the first to tell you that “the Gospel has saved my life”, and they mean it literally.  SBM residents deal with problems of a severity that I in my cushy suburban life can’t even begin to imagine.  John Doe was beaten with a baseball bat to the point of death when he failed to pay the pusher…he wandered from the Lord and SBM for awhile, but he is back and has a warm twinkle in his eye every time I see him.  He knows the The Lord is the only one who keeps him safe.

Before hearing the Gospel at SBM, Jack Doe was on crack and decided that he could “handle” heroin better than crack so he made the switch.  He had tears in his eyes as he told me the story and how he was utterly deceived.  He said, “Us men are just that way…we think we can handle anything!”  Jack Doe enrolled in the “program” at SBM wherein one studies the Scriptures, learns basic math and reading skills, etc to prepare them to eventually leave the mission and be prepared and ready to be out on their own again.  This Easter Sunday I had the privilege of seeing this man graduate from the SBM program.  He is an amazing servant of the Lord now and wants to do all he can to glorify God.

After serving the Lord at SBM, I now understand that we are all in this together, and that I have just as big a sin problem as anyone else in the world; we are all in desperate need of a Savior!  Amen?  What I have learned is that there is an ultra fine line between myself and a homeless person.  If my wife left me and took our children (for example) or say I missed a few paychecks and could not pay my bills or if I had an addiction problem, I could be at SBM this very night.  Homeless folks are just like us!  They do not fit the stereotypical “worthless lazy bum” model that many of us embraced (yes, I admit it that I too was prejudiced….if not overtly then maybe subconsciously).  But, glory to God I have repented, and I now love the homeless!

Please join in praying for SBM and its new and awesome $7.5 million large addition (all done, as best I know, with zero loans and debt!) to the buildings/grounds where, beginning this winter, the shelter will house women and children.  As one would expect, there are many new security and safety issues to be resolved as one mixes men, women, and children in this facility dedicated to glory of the One who was himself homeless while he briefly walked this planet….the Lord Jesus Christ.

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you? The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'”

(Matthew 25.35-40)

Why Hive?

The following post is written by my good friend Jonathan Ziegler. We are happy to have him share his thoughts on a church hive on Not By Hands!

Guess what! My church community, Circle of Hope, recently “hived” off our fourth congregation. That term hive may sound a little weird so let me explain. We gathered around 50 people from one of our other congregations and started a new congregation in North Philly. It wasn’t a church split or even a new church plant, really. It didn’t start from scratch. We had enough people at our other “hive” that we could go start a new one. (It’s tough to have face-to-face relationships with over 200 people!) Many of us were leaders in the other congregation and are just carrying that same vision to a new spot to meet new people and spread the love of Jesus.

It has been quite an adventure and we’re learning a lot. We’re going with the idea that the church is not a building, it is the people who are the body of Christ. So we started our Public Meetings in September without having nailed down any kind of space. We met in an outdoor lot. By the second week, we secured a temporary rental at 19th and Girard,which is the temporary name of our congregation. We’ve been cramming into the lobby at the Berean Institute for a few weeks now and are meeting new people every week. People are bringing roommates, relatives, and close friends! Spread the word: Circle of Hope now meets at 19th and Girard on Sunday nights at 6! And we have 6 cells (smaller, more conversational gatherings) meeting in various houses during the week.

This is about more than having a new church and growing in numbers though. Being open to this kind of risky and wild mission takes the Spirit of God. If we don’t stay grounded in Jesus, evil might get the best of us. Anxiety, pressure, fear, perfection, busy-ness, and self-preservation might be some of the evils that I could see wearing us down. We need to stay connected to God and each other to maintain the right perspective. The point of what we’re doing is to redeem the world. We have a vision and we have plans and we believe God is leading us. Let’s not let our personal hang-ups get in the way of that!

We do this because we’ve been transformed and we want to keep sharing that transformation with others, particularly in North Philly!

http://circleofhope.net/Jesus/

Surprised by Hope (Chapter 3)

The post below is contributed by guest Author Howard Pinder:

A main point of this book is that the way resurrection was thought of at the time of Jesus is not how many of us imagine it today.

Biblical resurrection implied that one day God would take all people, alive and those whom had died, and almost reform them and the world into a better place. A more full, beautiful version of ourselves and the earth. His Kingdom come. Heaven on earth. I like this point because it emphasizes the value and importance of our physical bodies to our soul.  Our bodies are not things that hold us back that we will one day leave. Our bodies may be different, yes, but they will be reformed and a better version of what they are. Sexuality will still be relevant in heaven.

In this Chapter Wright lays out the common thoughts of resurrection at the time of Jesus’s death. The idea of resurrection was largely Jewish and wasn’t commonly held by “pagans” of the time. One interesting thought is that Jewish people of the time did expect resurrection. But they never imagined that the Messiah would come, die, be resurrected, and then come back in the future to resurrect the rest of the world.

Jewish people of the time imagined the Messiah coming and reconciling the world. Restoring Israel as the promise land of the world. How surprised they must have been with a man who entered Jerusalem on a donkey. Not as a powerful King they had imagined but instead as a humble servant.

God Doesn’t Need You

The following post is contributed by guest author Zack Jackson:

So I was listening to The Bible Experience today on the subway, because listening to the Bible is one of the only ways that I can stay sane after a day of teaching high school math in South Philly. I was listening to the book of Esther while staring blankly at the blur of subway platforms when I was unexpectedly hit with a verse. At this point, Xerxes (the king of Persia) has issued a decree to wipe out the Jewish people across the empire, but little does he know that his lovely new bride (Esther) is a Jew. Her cousin Mordecai sends her word, begging her to use her position in the palace to save her people. When she initially refuses out of fear of the wrath of the king, Mordecai responds with this…

12 When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, 13 he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”

How humbling is that?

He basically said, “You are in the best position to save your people, but honestly, God doesn’t need you if He wants to save the Jews”.

I don’t know about you, but I’m usually pretty convinced that the task of saving the world is basically on my shoulders. I’ve spent untold amounts of time spurring people on to transforming the world around us with the prevailing undertone that we are pretty important. As if the ultimate success or failure of the renewal of creation hinges on how well I help to usher it in. I’ve been thinking a lot since my ride home about my place in Christ’s redemptive work.

If I stop doing what I’m doing, run away to the mountains, and never see another human being again, could God still be as successful on Earth? Of course He could. If every Christian on Earth decided to stop doing what they should be doing, would God’s plan come crashing down? Not a chance. He would find a way. When the religious leaders told Jesus to make his disciples stop singing His praises, He responded by saying, “If they remain silent, the rocks themselves will cry out!”

I don’t really have a lot to say about this point because it is one of those ideas that is best left simmering in your mind for a long time like a good pot of chili instead of being carefully dissected and parsed. Basically, I want to see the mission of God a little differently. It’s so easy to see it like a riot that gains strength and momentum as more people join and get excited about the cause, but that’s not how it works. The kingdom of God is progressing like a tidal wave. Ultimately, we can neither add nor subtract to it, but we have the choice to either ride the wave to its fruition, or stand opposed to it and eventually be destroyed by it. God is in charge of renewing all creation, and I’m more or less just along for the ride. There is something incredibly comforting about that thought. God is sovereign over everything, and sometimes I just need to be reminded of that.

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