Soul Poverty

Friday, December 28, 2007

There are wrongs done by people in the grip of poverty that can be understood on some level. A man steals because he's hungry. A child too young is left to fend for herself because mommy has to go to work or she'll lose her job. Wrongs that shouldn't be, of course, but understandable in the face of real, honest physical poverty. I've been doing much study this year about this kind of poverty, the root causes and what we can do to help. Scripture demands that we help people faced with this kind of poverty.

But there is a poverty that I encounter weekly, maybe even daily, that I cannot comprehend and cannot combat. It is the poverty of the soul.

I once had a friend who had spent his Christmas holiday in Breckenridge Colorado with family. As I understand it, Breckenridge is a charming and very affluent ski town, (sound familiar?), and he had come home annoyed by the affluence he met there. He said, "I hate people who drive brand new, freshly washed Volvos in the wintertime."

"What?! So if I drove a Volvo and had just washed it you would hate me?"

"No, it's the people like that who wear designer clothes and stuff."

"I'm wearing Tommy Hilfiger jeans. Do you hate me?"

I remember his wife laughing from the kitchen. "That's the beauty of prejudice," she said. I remember thinking it was not very beautiful or funny. The comments have stuck to me like icky tar on white pants, and that conversation was probably 4 years ago. There is a poverty of soul that causes an otherwise good person to cherish a kind of hatred within themselves, and that confounds me.

I went walking this morning. We live in the brand new neighborhood that was built right next to our old neighborhood. At the time the development started, the neighbors in the old neighborhood decided to be annoyed that the field next to them was going to be houses (albeit beautiful houses) instead of a field. They did everything possible to make sure that the roads of the new neighborhood would not be connected to their roads. Their wish was granted and the roads that would have joined theirs were blocked, but it wasn't enough. Now they have spent thousands of dollars installing gates to close off paths that were already blocked from cars and still constantly complain about the new neighbors. I know because I still own houses in the old neighborhood. I walk there still (I pay the dues...) and this morning found myself blocked from my usual path by a bright red padlock. I get their newsletters, and before they knew I was "one of those people" they would voice their agonies to me. And what was their complaint? "Those people are using our streets to walk on! Yeah! I caught one standing looking at the pond the other day and had to tell them these ponds are only for Tillicum residents!" Wow.There is a devastating poverty there.

Our new neighborhood has a pool. Perhaps the old neighbors think that we think our pool is better than their pond or something and so they want to "show us"...I don't know what it is. Like I said, it's a poverty that confounds me. And I think, man! What if we were friends instead? What if you were nice to me? I would invite you to my pool on that hot August day and we'd swim together. You'd invite me to fish in your pond and my boys would make you laugh (they're so funny...) What if we shared the beauty each of us has been given instead of horded it?
But alas, you feel poor, I guess. Not that you would call it that.

But it is. Soul poverty.

Jesus addresses physical poverty. Helping widows and orphans in their distress is considered true religion. He also adresses spiritual poverty...the poor in spirit are blessed for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven! But when Jesus encounters this sort of soul poverty...all he can do is rebuke it. "White-washed tombs," he calls them. "If you had known what these words mean, 'I desire mercy not sacrifice' you would not have condemned the innocent," he says.

I've learned that when someone speaks to you out of their soul poverty, you should believe what they say. I have made the mistake of believing that friendship went deeper than soul poverty, and unfortunately, it doesn't. That same woman who laughed at me about her husband's "prejudice" also expressed hating coffee drinkers...especially if they made the grave error of actually carrying around a paper cup from Starbucks. She also hated runners. Again, I don't understand it, I just report it.

I still wear my Tommy Hilfigers. I got them on sale at Macy's for $12 for goodness sake, but I think about the hatred I unwittingly stumbled into every time I put them on. I drink coffee and have been a runner for years, but I naively thought my friends were joking about those things. I mean, if you called them on it they'd laugh and say..."no, of course I don't actually hate anyone...that would be wrong." But our lives have a way of proving what is true in our hearts don't they. Our friends poverty was real and powerful and today's reality is that we are no longer allowed to call that couple friends (by their demand, not ours). I don't think they even knew the wrongs birthed from their poverty landed hard on me, and they'd certainly disagree that it had anything to do with coffee or jeans or exercise, but I've never been more hated in word and action by anyone than I have by them. Good Christian people too...they probably go to your church. I don't even think they realize they are poor.

It gets me fired up. We should give to the needy. We should fight injustice and poverty. So I wish to fight this sort of poverty too...but what weapon is there against such a thing? I've tried every one I knew...believe me. How do you fight a problem that even Jesus answered with disgust and rebuke? there's a topic for discussion.

Don't be hateful. Be careful what you say you hate. There's probably a real person behind that coffee cup...and she probably has some really lovely qualities and cooks a mean Moroccan Tagine and wants you to swim with her this summer! Hatred of anything will shape your life the same way love will. Hate evil only. Love justice and mercy and walk humbly. That is wealth.

Favorite Christmas Pics

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Wow. We got a Canon SLR for Christmas. Finally, a real camera again! Steve has been saving for years...he takes these little online survey things and they pay him $5 and $10 for taking them and he's been stashing it away and this year he pulled it out and had enough to buy a real camera. Isn't he fantastic? So are the pictures we got!

Jordy got the "ROBORAPTOR" for Christmas!
And he got me a ballerina doll from his class auction. He said all his friends thought he was dumb for thinking I would like to get a doll for Christmas, but he knew better!:-) That's a great kid!

I'm not sure what the putting silly things on our heads for pictures father, like son?

Homeless Gratitude

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Her sign said she was cold and hungry and no one would doubt it on a day like today. Christmas is only 6 days away now and old man weather is sure trying to give us snow, but it's coming out more as a blustery slush than snow. The wind is blowing and every car that turns the corner at her post near Barnes and Noble christens her with it's muddy spray. At least she has a hat and gloves. I don't know her story, I don't know her name. Maybe it's Mary, or Eileen or Sandra? I know she has a name, and maybe even a family. How I hope she has someone who loves her.

I made an exchange with McDonalds gift card for her Christmas wishes. She wished me God's blessing and a wonderful Christmas, and I thought it among the nicest Christmas wishes I've heard yet this season. In fact, now that I think about it, I don't think anyone has wished me a Merry Christmas store clerks or mailmen or business associates. Her smile was genuine, I mean...when she smiled and thanked me her eyes smiled, not just her mouth, and I thought it a better gratitude than I could have pulled off if I'd been standing in the muddy slushing wind holding a cardboard sign 6 days before Christmas receiving a silly McDonalds gift card.


Everyone has something to teach us don't they?
Thanks Mary, or Eileen or Sandra. Merry Christmas to you too!

Look at this...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Steve complained because my blog is all white now so...

I decorated it...
And my house. :-)
We Love Christmas!

Merry Belknap!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I'll never forget mom's phone call 10 years ago...I can't believe it's been that long. It was 2 weeks before Christmas and she and Dad had gone up to Belknap Hot Springs for the weekend. Dad's sister Val had recently married Ron DePiero and the whole DePiero clan had planned this cool Belknap Christmas weekend so they could all get together for the holidays. Uncle Ron is one of those great jolly guys who lives his life with open arms and ready advice, and he had told Val to go ahead and invite her family too. So Mom and Dad went.
Mom called me on Saturday just bubbling about how pretty the lodge was decorated
...and how incredibly nice this family was
and how it was snowing and the kids were decorating cookies
...and the dads were going to take them sledding up the mountain
and some of the ladies were doing crafts
...and they were going to have a big dinner all together
and the pool was like a giant hot tub
...and there was room for us on the floor in their room
and did we want to come up for the night.
We had a 4 month old baby at the time, but we packed up the crib, some little blue footie jammies and a santa hat. I wish I could post the picture of that first year at Belknap for you, but that was before digital cameras. LOL! Maybe I'll scan it.
We spent this past weekend at Belknap. This was year number 11. Wow. The clan has grown so that we fill up the entire lodge and all the cabins now. Every year is different. Sometimes it's all about the pool and sometimes it's all about the late night scrabble and poker games... and sometimes it snows! (Those are the really great years). We always do a giant ornament exchange and the huge tree they put up in the lodge is decorated now with a lot of our ornaments from years past. The part I love the most is that I don't really know these people. I see them once a year and every year on the drive up Steve and I have to refresh ourselves on names and faces and associations. But then as soon as we walk in...we're family. There are ready hugs and smiles from people truly glad that you came...again! One of our favorite families showed up this year with a brand new baby after telling us last year that they were DONE! Hilarious! There is one couple that has been there from the beginning. John and Donna. They aren't any relation at all. She is one of the DePiero sisters' best friends from college, but at Belknap they are as much part of the family as Uncle Ron is. So are the front desk people. We always make them have dinner with us.
This year my boys were the cool "older kids" and everyone seemed to be holding a baby or chasing an adorable toddler. (Oh how I remember those days!) I learned to knit at Belknap 3 years ago. This year I finished the aqua blue scarf and gave it to my 10 year old cousin Mikaela...and made a friend for life! We won at Pictionary, she and I.
Wow. I am blessed. It's true that I have some difficult, sorrow filled places in my life, that's for sure. But I also have Belknap Christmas with the DePiero's. I am rich.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Two of my favorite people IN THE WORLD...and the cat that likes them better than he likes me!


Monday, December 03, 2007

Don't you love that word...ransom? There is just so much hope wrapped up in those six little least to me there is. I love the word Redeemer too. maybe it's an "R" thing :-) Maybe it's a hope thing.

We bought some Christmas presents from Nepal this year. How cool is that? One of my favorite presents ever was a big fluffy wool cable knit sweater that my brother bought me years ago. The tag says it was handmade in Nepal and every now and then I find a long black hair literally knit into the sweater (apparently by accident) and I think of the woman who spent long hours in her little hut or home or whatever she lives in, knitting my snuggly sweater. That gives me joy. I wonder if she thought about me wearing it the way I think about her knitting it.

Anyway, there is this company called RansomWear that helps rescue women from the sex trade and then gives them jobs knitting hats and scarves and things for rich Americans to buy for Christmas. It gives them something to sell besides their bodies, a way to live a real life.
Ransom-n. the redemption of a prisoner, slave, or kidnapped person, for a price.

Hope for the price of a scarf...(which is less than I would have paid at the Gap, btw).
A young woman's heart for a pair of wool mittens.

I like this organization.
Tell our friends.
...oh yeah...the guy who started this company is Dave Rogers...who used to be the pastor over here at Fellowship Bible (the little neighborhood church that we love)'s legit.

A Poem...

Saturday, December 01, 2007

...and prayer for a brother on his birthday.

Excerpts from Monna Innominata by Christina Rossetti-
O my heart's heart, and you who are to me
More than myself myself, God be with you,
Keep you in strong obedience leal and true
To Him whose noble service setteth free,
Give you all good we see or can foresee,
Make your joys many and your sorrows few,
Bless you in what you bear and what you do,
Yea, perfect you as He would have you be.
So much for you; but what for me, dear friend?...
Trust me, I have not earned your dear rebuke;
I love, as you would have me, God the most;
Would lose not Him, but you, must one be lost,
Nor with Lot's wife cast back a faithless look
Unready to forego what I forsook;
This say I, having counted up the cost,
This, tho' I be the feeblest of God's host,
The sorriest sheep Christ shepherds with His crook
Yet while I love my God the most, I deem
That I can never love you overmuch;
I love him more, so let me love you too;
Yea, as I apprehend it, Love is such
I cannot love you if I love not Him,
I cannot love Him if I love not you.
Love builds the house on rock and not on sand,
Love laughs what while the winds rave desperately
And who hath found love's citadel unmanned?
And who hath held in bonds love's liberty?
My heart's a coward tho' my words are brave--
We meet so seldom, yet we surely part
So often; there's a problem for your art!
Still I find comfort in his Book, who saith,
Tho' jealousy be cruel as the grave,
And death be strong, yet love is strong as death.
If I could trust mine own self with your fate,
Shall I not rather trust it in God's hand?
Without Whose Will one lily doth not stand,
Nor sparrow fall at his appointed date;
Who numbereth the innumerable sand,
Who weighs the wind and water with a weight,
To Whom the world is neither small nor great,
Whose knowledge foreknew every plan we planned.
Searching my heart for all that touches you,
I find there only love and love's goodwill
Helpless to help and impotent to do,
Of understanding dull, of sight most dim;
And therefore I commend you back to Him
Whose love your love's capacity can fill