Sometimes I think I don't explain myself well. Yesterday's post was intended to convey the seriousness of our duty as parents to teach our children the things of God. And if we believe in a Creator God who has created all the universe, and one who set into motion before the beginning of time a plan to save His people from their own self-destruction, and one who sovereignly works in all facets of our lives...then shouldn't we be meticulous in explaining that kind of Awesome God to our children? Shouldn't we recognize that even in their smallness, they can begin to grasp "Awesome" and "God" and combine the two. I simply don't see how that vegetable nativity set can convey either Awesome or God, let alone an Awesome God. (I'm sorry, I simply can't capitalize "nativity" when it is used in conjunction with "vegetables".)
Other Thoughts Today
It's coming up to Christmas. And I'm learning it is so easy to bask in our own blessings when people all around us are living in poverty. It's so easy to think we have done well by dropping bills in the Salvation Army bucket or by sending a check to Goodwill. It's so easy to send "love" from a distance.
But sometimes the one we need to love is sitting right beside us.
Yesterday morning I drove 50 miles to sit in church beside a young man who is struggling with life. I mean "really struggling". He's been a single father for the last ten years. He works long hours. Put those two together and you see that he is not always able to be home to supervise his two teen children who disobediently run with a bad crowd. He's anguished over that. He has sought counseling for one child and has even considered allowing the system to place that child in a foster home. But he doesn't want to give up on him yet. He owes money for vandalism caused by the other. He himself neither drinks, nor smokes, nor does drugs.
And lest you think that he should be on top of all this, I have to add that his school days were a constant struggle for him. He has common sense, good common sense, but it takes him long hours of anxiety and struggle to learn new things. His boss has given him only one 25 cent pay raise in SEVEN years. And this boss is part of a national restaurant chain. (I'd like to wring that guy's neck!) This young man does not know that it is A-Okay (aye, even necessary) to ask your boss EVERY year for a cost-of-living increase. Consequently, he lives in poverty, pays his bills as best he can, and grieves that his children are headed in bad directions. He doesn't know what to do. And so he handles it by worry. It's hard for him to get from "worry" to "possible solutions".
So there I sat. In Sunday School and church with him. There were numerous adults, well-groomed and successful members of the community, who greeted him by name with a smile and a handshake. I watched them. They seem to like him. As we sat in church I looked around the room and saw healthy families. I saw much-loved children with bright shiny faces dressed in warm winter sweaters. And I realized that my friend, although he has taken himself to this church for some time now, recognizing that he needs God in his life, has not really revealed his problems nor his need for friendship and encouragement to these people. Nor can he get his children to attend either church or youth group. I wonder how he endures sitting here amidst "plenty" when he has never experienced that "plenty".
These well-groomed and successful people, who are wanting to reach out to the community, don't realize part of that community is seated right beside them.
I've been helping this young man, mostly with advice, but sometimes with cash. Before we left church I slipped back and spoke to one of the elders. He did not even know there were children in the family, let alone that my friend is struggling so. He immediately "heard" me and I won't be surprised if they provide some kind of Christmas love to this family.
I'm saying this. It is so easy to think all is well with those around us. It is also easy to assume that if people simply use their brains, that they can do well in life, that life will be good to them. But that is not so. We are not all gifted with brains. Nor are we all gifted with the ability to solve the everyday problems of our lives. Nor are we all gifted with the ability to simply ask for help.
I told my friend, that the next time the church asks for prayer requests, he needs to speak up and say, "I'm struggling with my job. I need a job that will support me." or "I need prayer for my kids." I told him that the members of his church cannot help him if they do not know he needs help. Then we went to his home where he showed me his bills. I made suggestions in regards to talking to the hospital and the medical clinics about bills there. I suggested he ask the pharmacist if there is a program that will help with his asthma meds. As I said, he has good common sense, once he realizes there is something he can do. And so this week he will visit the billing department at the hospital and take along last year's tax return as well as a pay stub, showing that part of his meager pay goes to pay for medical and dental insurance. I'm hoping they will realize that he falls within guidelines for some amelioration of his debts. I will follow up with him as he does this.
Dear Readers, during this Chrismas season, please look at those around you. The ones who bag your groceries or serve up fast food or who hold down other low-paying jobs, struggling to make ends meet for their families. Remember them at Christmas time (and throughout the year). Remember that their social skills may be woefully inadequate and that it may be difficult for them to initiate relationships. Be patient with them. Be kind to them. TALK to them. Get past the "Good morning, How are you this morning?" Get past that. Go deeper. (One very simple way to help others is to pick up a bag of whatever canned goods are on sale at the grocery store and drop them off at your local food bank.)
Galations 6:10 So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.