Plane Coffee Mom

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Tag: grace (Page 1 of 3)

Prophets & Prayers

I’m currently reading through a Chronological Bible in everyday language. I have no idea why I’ve never done this before, because it is amazing! I am currently reading through the kings and the prophets. With a better understanding of the context I have a totally different understanding of Jeremiah, the weeping prophet. And maybe beyond the context of understanding Israel’s situation, I am deeply affected by the Reality in Venezuela these days. It’s a good mix.

Jeremiah was called by God to preach truth to a nation that was worshiping idols, a nation that was full of greed and evil and injustice. God warned Jeremiah that the people would not listen, but still he was to preach. Jeremiah preached in the temple and at the city gates, and the reward he earned for his preaching was imprisonment. This morning I read about Jeremiah meeting with the Rekabites and offering them wine, which they refused. And why? Because their ancestor had passed down the laws of God to them and taught them and they had obeyed. Because of their obedience they were blessed.

And though this is not a clear parallel with what is happening in Venezuela, there are similarities. There are clear indications that leaders of this country have turned from God and injustice is rampant. Yet, like the Rekabites in Judah of old, there is a remnant that is strong and growing stronger. Prayer, specifically intercessory prayer, is on the rise in Venezuela. The church is a high point in many areas, and children particularly are coming to faith. The Gospel is falling on good ground in many people’s hearts.

And for those of us outside the chaos and turmoil, there is real opportunity to invest in eternity. Food, medicine, nor clothing get us to heaven, but where the church ministers these things in the name of Jesus, it is blessed. In fact, we are promised that what we do for the least of these we do for Him.

Reality in Venezuela

I’ve been trying to get a handle on reality in Venezuela lately, and this week I got some information that has floored me. The realities that people live with are very diverse, much like the differences we see between a high level executive in a gated community and a single mom on welfare in our country. However, the following information helped me better understand the “middle class” reality in Venezuela. Consider this for a moment:

A teacher in one town in Venezuela currently earns $3.27 for a month of full time work teaching. In addition to that, he gets a stipend for food, which is about $4.51. That is a total income for the month of $7.78.

You may think that prices are just decidedly cheaper there, and you’d be right. But the following is enlightening.  Keep in mind that I am only dealing with food prices here, which does not take into account the harsher realities of paying rent, costs of transportation,  paying utilities, or purchasing paper goods like toilet paper.

Consider these prices if this were you going to the grocery store. (These prices are from last week, and with an inflation rate of 1000%, things change rapidly.)

Beef — $.93 per pound

Chicken — $.94 per pound

Eggs — $.88 per dozen

Rice — $.44 per pound

Bread — $.66 per loaf

Sugar — $.63 per pound

This is staggering, folks. Imagine getting your paycheck of $7.78 and going to the grocery store to buy a week’s worth of groceries. If you were only purchasing food with your money, you’d have just under $2 to buy groceries for whoever your paycheck is supposed to support. Two dollars, one week. You could purchase the following for this week:

One dozen eggs

One pound of rice

One loaf of bread

In fact, in order to purchase these 3 items you’d have to have a little money set aside from last week. We’re not talking about supper food for tonight, but food for a week for your family.

Want to better understand reality? These are cash prices, and your pay is deposited into your bank account. However, fewer and fewer stores accept debit cards and getting cash from the bank is an ordeal. By an ordeal I mean a minimum of  4 hours of waiting in line, and sometimes that results in being told the cash is gone. On a great day you might be able to withdraw $.25. Yes, a quarter. For four hours of waiting. On many days you would only get 8 cents. And if you’re standing in line at the bank, which is only open maybe 8-5, how can you teach? And how can you ever get your money if you’re teaching full time?

The economic implications are staggering. The need is real. There are ways to help. Contact me if you want more info.

My heart is with Venezuela in a special way because I was born and raised there. Yours may be pulled differently, but I believe most of us can find someone who needs some of what we have. There is a special reward when we pass things on, a natural multiplication when we share. It’s a privilege, and one we may not always have.

These realities in Venezuela remind me of the advice I once got from a friend, “If it were me, I would give what I could. After all, tomorrow it might be me asking for help to get the basics.”

Day One and Simplicity

It’s already the second week of January, and I’m still thinking it’s “Day One.” Well, I realize it is not technically Day One, but the concept keeps catching me. Matthew West’s song runs through my head, particularly the lines, “It’s Day One of the rest of my life, I’m marching on to the beat of a brand new drum”.

Day One, it’s reflective of the simplicity I am focusing on this year. To me it’s a mentality that leaves the past behind while moving on. It’s realizing that I don’t have to replay yesterday’s conversations AGAIN, that I don’t need to reevaluate my productivity AGAIN, and that I don’t need to live in regret. The past is done. If something that happened demands I offer an apology or suggests I make a change, I do that now. Then I leave the past behind and take the lessons I learned to move forward in this moment.

Day One. A brand new start, a chance to move forward in what God is calling me to right now. A chance to make new friends or connect with old friends. An opportunity to start a project or finish one. A clean slate that doesn’t demand I work around what I’ve started but allows me to write what’s on my mind. It’s freeing, living in this moment, starting from now, focusing on the one thing that’s in front of me. Day One is simple.

Day One. It’s extravagant to begin again. Frugality demands I hang on to what I have and make the most of what was instead of investing in something new. Extravagance erases the old and comes up with a brand new plan. Extravagance enjoys this moment without worrying about the one that preceded it or the one that will follow. Extravagance means I am free to be the person I have become through the lessons I’ve learned without doing penance for the past or worrying about the future.

Day One. An extravagant view of grace and mercy, freely accepting and offering forgiveness without trying to extract payment. Hope that what I’ve been promised will come to pass. Faith that investing in this moment does not demand that I keep replaying my efforts or worrying about the outcome.

Today I choose to live “Day One”, the Simple Extravagance of a new beginning that will bear good fruit.

Safe Places

Safe places: places like your mother’s lap when you were young, the attic that kept you warm while out of sight, the friend who listened to your dashed dreams with tears in her eyes, the closet where you hid when a stranger knocked on the door, and the family that embraces you. For some of us, inside four walls is safe while for others a wide open field or a trail in the woods feels more secure. The one thing that is constant is that we all need safe places, and when we are in danger we look for them.

Our physical location is important and so are the people who surround us. Safe people create safe places. As I read the Gospels I see Jesus as a Safe Person for those who were broken or seeking. Even Judas was given access to walk with Jesus for several years. I think part of the Church’s calling is to be a safe place, a place of refuge for those in need and pain. Yet sometimes it is not so.

Years ago a young woman told me about a time when she was searching for God.* She was raised in a good family, but she felt abandoned and life was painful. Her questions were deep and hard. She knew God had the answers and she went on a quest to find Him. Not being part of a local Body at that point, she simply visited churches. Not during services, but when she thought she could find a quiet place to seek God on her own. A large, ornate church in the middle of town caught her attention. However, it was locked. A small, friendly-looking church on a side street called to her. Unfortunately the door was chained shut. At one church she found an open door and a place to pray. Soon someone came to question what she was doing, and she quickly left, no closer to answers than when she entered. She tried Sundays, but they were little better. The loneliness she experienced in the throng of worshipper was deeper than the pain of being alone. At another church she arrived early and sat in a pew only to be asked to move by an older gentleman because, “this is where I always sit.” At another church she was followed around as she made her way to the restroom before entering the auditorium: she had simply stopped by and wasn’t dressed for Sunday service. The man who trailed her wore a gun only partially hidden, obviously protecting the normal crowd from people like her. As she traveled, she stopped by church after church, and she couldn’t find what she was looking for.

Eventually she found solace and a connection with God in public parks, standing among the trees and wandering the lonely paths. It wasn’t church, but God seemed to be there. One day in a distant city she drove by a beautiful park. The beauty of God’s summer was on display in well-tended flower gardens and properly pruned trees and shrubs. It was beautiful. When she had some free time, she drove across town to enjoy the park and find rest and answers for her weary soul. A large gate welcomed her, and she had barely begun to walk the well-trimmed path when she was approached by a monk, “Welcome. How can I bless you today?” he said. It was a Buddhist temple, not a park after all. This was not God’s place. She left disheartened by the fact that she had been offered more blessing and welcome in this place than in the places where the God of the Bible was preached.

This story brought tears to my eyes and hot anger to my heart. Why can we not do better? What have I  locked up that should have been open, what have I carefully saved that God wanted to spend? What am I bearing arms against, either mentally or physically, that is meant to be welcomed? What do I need to lay down in order to bless the hurting with open arms?

We are the Church, and how we choose to manage our buildings and spaces communicates profoundly to a hurting world. May we be a safe people who create safe places.

*details changed to protect privacy

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