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Story Archives: Answer to today's challenges as close as your own heart
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|Answer to today's challenges as close as your own heart|
You know you are getting old when your own children begin to teach you and challenge you.
My daughter Christi is a singer-actress in New York City. She also has a special gift for writing. She wrote something recently and it spoke to me. I thought it might speak to our whole community.
We live a long way from New York City but not a long way from the kind of hurt and pain Christi writes about. And we are not a long way from the answers either.
The answer to the challenges of our community are as close as your own heart. For if we will allow God to touch our hearts, to fill us with compassion, to bring us together in unity, and to send us with His power to make a difference in the lives of others, we can see a community transformed. After all, isn't that what Christmas is about? A world transformed through the impossible story of a baby in a stinking stable! Let's not settle for anything less this Christmas!
Christi Avant Watson
"Located in East Midtown, a neighborhood that leaks affluence from its concrete pores, the Grand Central Neighborhood Mainchance Drop In Center is an icy double shot of reality. Clients here are clawing their way out of a life of homelessness and addiction.
On a daily basis, the incredible staff reaches into the pit of poverty to offer a strong and practical upward boost.
Last Wednesday I had the privilege of ringing in the Holiday Season for the Mainchance folk with a Christmas concert.
As the music began and I belted out a jazzy version of "Jingle Bell Rock," I came to two realizations. First of all, I recognized a few faces. On busy Times Square corners and in empty late night subway tunnels I had encountered a few of these former strangers and quickly scurried away.
At least one of these faces I distinctly recall passing and thinking something like this "No I won't 'spare any change' for you. I worked darn hard for my change and I don't feel like contributing to your liquor fund."
Wow, that is not a fun thought process to confess! When did I forget that Christ put no stipulations on his mercy and grace? When, I wonder, did I become too busy, and/or too fearful to stop and confront a soul in need?
Secondly, I sensed more joy in this room full of recovering vagrants then in any of the mahogany furnished spaces I have answered phones in.
Why was I surprised by this? When did I begin to equate money and position with success and success with joy? For at least the past decade, Christendom has been slowly infected by a "God wants you to be successful" philosophy, which has put a pretty penny in the pockets of authors and televangelists alike.
Ephesians 3:20-21 says "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."
Somewhere on my faith walk I married this passage to the temporal. What if, however, God doing "more then I can possibly ask or imagine" means allowing me to be taken to a place of such desperation that I am able to look into the eyes of a woman who just lost her kids to a crack/cocaine habit and say "I too, know what it means to fail."
With the onset of a growing economic crisis, it is no longer just the homeless who are feeling the sting of failure, it is the wall street-er who went from making 8 figures to nothing at all last week, it is the upper middle class Mom who can no longer afford the brand name clothes for her kids, it is the young actress selling her soul three times a week and seeing no return on such a precious investment.
Regardless of societal class or culture, all of humanity has eternity inherently stamped on the heart (Ecclesiastes. 3:11). Therefore, whether or not we follow the way of Jesus, we long for something beyond our own flesh and blood. We crave greatness, and that desire is God given, but it can never be quenched by some religion-ized self-help plan.
If that is all the Church has to offer a world which grows increasingly more disappointed, we have truly abandoned the Gospel. We have forgotten that our salvation was born in a cave alongside animal feces to peasants.
We have forgotten that when this baby grew to achieve his ultimate "success," he first endured a slow treacherous death.
Consider Hebrews 11. Many of the people praised for their faith were "stoned to death … faced jeers and flogging, were sawed in two, were destitute and wandering."
Today, as I sit behind a desk that probably cost more then my rent and type a few words in between the chirping of a multiline phone system, I pray that the financial crisis serves as a call to repentance for the Church.
May we cease our offering of processed, sugar coated junk masquerading as Truth and begin lavishing people, all people, with genuine, raw, organic hope."
I hope my daughter's words spoke to you. Even more I hope God even now is speaking to you — and will give you and your family a Merry Christmas — and the determination to make sure others around us, in this community we love, have a Merry Christmas too.
Dr. John Avant is the senior pastor at First Baptist Church of West Monroe. For more information on the church, go to www.firstwest.cc.