Monday, January 24, 2011

Tattoos on the heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion

  I finished reading “Tattoos on the Heart” by Greg Boyle today.  Honestly when I picked this book I had no idea how new it was or how much of a pop icon this guy was becoming.  In fact I only happened to start reading it because it was recommended on if I liked another book which was also recommended if I liked “Messy Spirituality” (which from my previous blog post you can tell I did).  Anyway the story…or rather shall I say compilation of stories are about “Father G” and the gang members/families he ministers to through Homeboy Industries which he’s created into a multi-faceted outreach to gang members in Los Angeles.
  As you read through the pages of this book you get a very real sense of this guys heart for the people he serves.  And although at times the intermingling of Spanish and English in each story can be distracting, Boyle has a way of drawing you in…and gripping your heart.  His main theme seems to be that everyone no matter who they are or what they have done deserves to be cared about and treated as a person.  That in essence we are all important….whether “good” or not because we all are created by and completely loved by God!
  One thought he comes upon that really spoke to me is that it’s not just the people who are hurt or offended that need to be cared for, but it’s also the ones who are hurting and offending  that need care.  I think often times in my life it has been easy for me to look down on people because of what they have done….to forget that, as the saying goes, “Hurt People Hurt people”.  I see the pain they cause and demonize them instead of seeing them as people who themselves have been hurt.  This book certainly opened my eyes to see the person behind the action…the story beyond the facade.  I am learning as father Boyle says (which consequently is a quote from a Rumi poem) to “close both eyes to see with the other eye”!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Week Three: Results and Reflection...

  So it’s Saturday…and as is my custom I weighed in this morning.  Although last week I vowed to get back on track with counting calories, I will be honest enough to admit that I lied (is that an oxymoron…being honest enough to admit you lied?!?!).  I don’t know what it is but I am having so much trouble getting back on track with counting calories….it’s just so tedious.  Sadly it’s also very necessary for me….in fact it’s pretty much a rule of thumb that when I don’t stay mindful of my calories I make the worst food choices ever (like today I had chips and soda and a cheese loaded fried sandwich).  So stepping on the scale this morning I was nervous.  Turns out I weigh exactly the same I did seven day ago.  I guess I could take some comfort in knowing I didn’t gain weight…but I don’t.  I worked my butt of in the gym this week!  Seriously, I must have spent at least 8 hours sweating it out on the treadmill and other cardio machines!  To end the week breaking even after all that work is like a slap in the face….and it’s my own hand slapping me!  Week 4 needs to be different!  In fact I have widened my support group (I’ve joined a “biggest Loser” competition as well as agreed to expand the accountability group I am a part of…figuring the more eyes on me the better) and I’m ready and prepared to take both their praise and criticism.  So my goal for this week is once again to start counting calories (this time not making myself out to be a liar) and to lose four pounds (I always aim high for some reason...hee hee).

Thursday, January 20, 2011

"The Hole in Our Gospel"...

Have you ever been stalked by a book?  I know it sounds funny…but I swear I have.  You see, I tend to be kind of choosy when it comes to the things I read (i.e.  I tend to judge books by their cover, I don’t read fiction, and if I’m not caught up in the book within the first two chapters I most likely will not continue reading).  So when I first heard about Richard Stearns book “The Hole in Our Gospel” at the Women of Faith conference, I really had no intention of reading it (Not that it’s fiction, but the cover did not draw me in and the bits and pieces I had read about the book made me think of it more as a text book then something I would actually read).  Yet over the next several weeks I had quite a few customers come into my job looking for the book.  Then over Christmas, when I went to order some other books online, it kept popping up in that “People who bought this book also bought this….” portion of the website.  And then twice this month, in casual conversation with friends and acquaintances it came up.  So finally, I gave in and decided to read it!  Honestly I couldn’t have made a better decision!!!
  This book is POWERFUL…..PERSPECTIVE CHANGING….Even Radical in a good sense!  What Richard Stearns shares in these pages will destroy every excuse that you have for NOT participating in God’s mission in our world.  The stories are heart-wrenching and completely eye opening as you realize these are real people he is talking about…real people in OUR world.  The Statistics he shares can at times be overwhelming…but they are also life changing (you can’t look at your spending the same when you realize that we in America spend millions more on feeding our pets then we do to help the poor and hungry in our world)!  Each page forces you to make a decision to either step out and do something or to turn your back on those who need it most!  I can’t seem to find the right words to give this book enough justice….so all I’ll just say EVERYONE (especially those of us who claim to be Christians) should read this book!!!  If you allow it to, it will change your life!

Monday, January 17, 2011

So THIS is what a Runner's High Feels Like!

  So tonight the plan was to go to the gym…do a 45 minute hill climb on the treadmill and then bike for 45 more minutes, shooting for a 1000 calorie burn.  Granted what I was really suppose to do was run….but after 8 hours of work and coming home for dinner…settling for a hill climb and the bike was about all I thought I was up for.  That is until I got to the gym.  Seriously, I don’t know where it came from, but tonight when I stepped on the treadmill I had some serious “Mojo” and so I went with it!!!  Thirty seven minutes later I had completed a 3mile run and it felt GREAT!  In fact I felt so good running that I bumped up my speed to a faster pace than I have run in over six months and I still felt like I could go faster!  I haven’t had a run like that in over year!  Makes me feel like I’m doing something right!!! 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Messy Spirituality...

  Today I finished reading “Messy Spirituality” by Mike Yaconelli.  I started it on Thursday and probably would have completed it in one day if it hadn’t been for the fact that I had to work and had other commitments I had to be at where having my eyes glued to a book page wouldn’t be appropriate!  Honestly I don’t think I could have read this book at a more perfect time.  Lately I have really been struggling with feeling like I’m never going to be a “good enough” person…let alone Christian (as if there is such a thing)!  I don’t know all the answers, I’m not super spiritual, I allow my faults to hold me back, and I constantly need to be reminded that God doesn’t love me for what I do…but because who I am.
  Here’s a book that’s all about people in the same place.  People who don’t have it all together, but love God and want to live for Him and who are daily trying to figure out how to walk that out.  People spiritually taking three steps forward and two steps back.  People who keep fighting the good fight…even when it doesn’t look how other people expect.  People like me…and maybe even you!
  Two of my favorite stories from this book are as follows….  The first one is about a young man who became a Christian and within a few weeks heads out on a missions trip to inner-city Philadelphia to share the “Good News”.  He approaches a very large tenement building and begins climbing the stairs with the plan to go door to door “Preaching the gospel”.  Behind the first door he knocks is a young woman, smoking and holding a naked baby who’s bawling his eyes out.  He begins to tell her about Jesus and the woman proceeds to curse him out and slam the door in his face.  Dejected he ventures outside, crying on the curbs about his failure and stupidity for thinking he could do this.  Then…in the midst of his despair…he gets an idea and heads to the corner market.  Picking up a pack of diapers and some cigarettes he returns to the house of the women.  Hesitantly she allows him in and he spends the afternoon helping her take care of the baby and smoking with the women.  When he’s ready to leave she asks him why he did this…and at that moment he gets to share the gospel with her!  I love this story…how it speaks to meeting people where they are at…how it’s messy and unconventional….how it shows the love of god in that “preach the gospel and if necessary use words” kind of way!
  The second story is about young women whose in school to become a lawyer.  Before graduating she decides to spend a summer working as an intern in the inner-city.  She ends up building some pretty close relationships with some gang members and invites them to go to church with her.  Upon arrival the gang members are ushered to the balcony of the church…separate from the rest of the congregation.  Then during greeting time, several of the gang members want to reach out the pastor…tell him how much they appreciate what he does…but since they are in the balcony and he’s on the floor, they yell out “Hey pastor, you’re real cool”.  After service the pastor approaches the young women who brought these kids to service and informs her that they are no longer welcome in his church since they lack proper church etiquette. Can you imagine?!?!?!  The story makes me angry…and yet I’ve been “that pastor” and I’ve seen others in the church act as him too!  We all would like to believe that we are welcoming...that we are open to all people…that we love unconditionally.  But we also like being comfortable and having order and being in control…and sometimes….because of that…we fail…ourselves and others.
  We are not perfect…I am not perfect.  Things aren’t always going to go right, or according to plan.  God’s ways are so different than ours that sometimes we need to be willing to step out of our comfort zone and into the love of God!  Lord help me to have this kind of relationship with you…and the courage/ boldness to honor you despite my reputation…to love you and others no matter how messy it may look!  Amen!