Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Left overs

Ever since Easter I've been reading the Book of Acts, a few chapters each week. As the Book describes the Early Church, I am captivated with the way they "do life together" (I love that expression that I've heard so often from Beth's Church in Colorado). It's so challenging to me the way they share their possessions and money. I want to live that way, but I don't. Listen to this:

"All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need." Acts 4:32-35, emphasis mine

Today's mail brought a copy of North Texas Catholic, a newspaper we've been receiving ever since we registered at our church in Texas. It's been coming to our home monthly for probably three years, yet I think today -when it was forwarded to our new address- may be the first time I actually read it. It's a good thing I did because it carried quite a message to my heart.

The article that caught my attention was called "Connect with the Poor," and it described a social ministry conference. The speaker (Jack Jezreel, founder of JustFaith) spoke boldly about engaging Christians in social justice ministry, especially through relationship-building and direct service. One section of the article described a "hunger banquet," which was used as a tool to bring to light the reality of the issues of hunger and food insecurity. Here is an excerpt from the article:

"The heart of the Hunger Banquet involved people experiencing the disparities between the rich and the poor in a visceral way. Though some at the banquet received full meals, Price said most of the people at her table received just toast with a cheese spread.

'It made us think about food insecurity and why it exists in our country.'

The Hunger Banquet was an eye-opening experience for many conference participants, explained Laura Sotelo, director of parish relations for Catholic Charities Fort Worth.

'You could feel the uncomfortable disparity between the simulated rich and poor guests,' she added. 'Sometimes forcing ourselves into the other person's shoes is exactly what it takes to understand and empathize with others in our community.'"

Upon reading this, I began to imagine what I would do and what the people at the conference must have done in this situation. I imagine those with full plates started sectioning off their meals and scraping it onto the plates of those who only had toast. I'd like to think that's what I would do. I want to live that way, but I don't.

Several months ago, Husband and I became convinced that we should give more of our income to support the Church. After discussing it together and with some good friends, we decided to give 10%, which meant multiplying our previous giving by 15! Don't be impressed by any means. I confess we waited until we were quite comfortable financially before we allowed our hearts to be open to giving anything remotely worth putting on a tax return. We had been very selfish, and in fact -while God gives us joy about offering more- maybe we still are selfish because we are eating full meals while there are people out there eating toast.

We are still giving out of our wealth. I long to give out of our poverty (Luke 21: 1-4). How is this done? I pray God will change my heart -and my head- drastically.

As soon as I finished reading the above-mentioned article, I immediately thought of the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand. John 6: 1-15 retells the way a crowd of 5,000 had gathered to listen to Jesus. They needed to be fed, and Jesus used the five loaves and two fish of a boy to do it. Jesus gave thanks for the food, and the disciples distributed it to the crowd. After the whole crowd ate until they were satisfied, the disciples were still able to fill twelve baskets with left overs! (I love the way I now see -after revising this post so many times- the way even this is a metaphor for the Church. Jesus gives the food, the disciples distribute it to those in need. There is more than enough of Him to go around, and we follow Him with great satisfaction.)

I always saw this story as a great miracle, but now I also recognize the lesson in it. It begs the question, am I taking until I am satisified -until my needs are met- or am I consuming until I am stuffed? When I eat until I am stuffed, there probably aren't any left overs for anyone else. This is just as true with food as money as possessions as anything else. I may even ask myself, am I leaving the leftovers to waste, or am I gathering them up to use them well?

When Acts describes the absence of needy persons among the believers, it doesn't say everyone has the exact same everything. The way I read it: where there is satisfaction in the presence of Jesus, there are left overs. Where there are left overs gathered and offered, there will be no one in need.

I think this type of gathering and offering develops faith more fully, from which further offering flows. A deep well of faith, is what allowed the poor widow to give all she had to live on. God's challenge to love is here. However, as usual, there's more (and this is why Christianity fascinates me so):

"Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied...But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry." Luke 6: 20-21a, 24-25a

Be poor before God. Be hungry before God. Be aware of my need for His grace and provision, and seek Him with my whole heart.


P.S. I started to include the section below in my post originally, but decided it didn't really go with what I was talking about. Even so, I have been thinking about this scripture for a few days. It was very challenging for me, and I was glad to gain some clarity, as described below. I thought it might be helpful to you as well.

The story in Acts that immediately follows the one about the believers sharing their possessions, is one I had never read before. Acts 5: 1-11 describes a man and his wife, Ananias and Sapphira. They decided to sell a piece of property; giving some money to the apostles for the Church and saving some for themselves. When individually confronted about it by Peter, each of them lied. Upon lying, and Peter revealing that he knew the truth about their actions, they fell dead! They fell dead! Verse 11 reads: "Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events." Great fear would seize me, too! Rather, it really should seize me now.

Husband and I talked about this last night. He remembered the story from grade school, of course. He remembers everything from his Catholic school upbringing; they really did a fantastic job! I was so focused on what happened to the people (the part about falling dead), but Husband mentioned that the point may be their hearts. He described what is also in my bible's study note: Ananias and Sapphira had the right to keep for themselves whatever amount of the money they chose. The sin that caused them to fall dead was lying to God when they tried to make it appear that they had given everything for God's people although they had not. The study note goes on to say "it was important to ... leave no doubt that God will not tolerate such hypocrisy and deceit".

Fear should seize me that I would not attempt to deceive God. Faith should fill me that I would rejoice in doing good works for his glory!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Our new place

Hello, welcome to our new home in the desert! This post is picture-packed. Enjoy!

Our "villa" apartment shares only half of its exterior walls with neighbors. And because it's a single story section of the complex, it feels like a townhome.

That's our door to the right. And a fellow student/friend from TX lives to the left. The window to the right of the door is the guest bedroom. Don't you love the burnt orange color of our new home?

I forgot to take a real entry picture, but this is the living room. To the right of the brown table with the lamp is a coat closet, and the hallway to the bedroom side of the house. Hubby was busy doing work on the TV computer; busy enough that he didn't mind being in the pictures. I wonder if he realized they'd go on the blog? He must have; he knows me too well!

We have an actual dining room this time, complete with room for the chairs and the bench. Seating for six; we're ready for company! The door leads to the patio, and a turn to the right brings you to the kitchen.

The patio is officially my favorite place. Mornings and evenings here have been bringing temps in the 60s. Even though we're close to our neighbors, the pretty landscaping outside makes this space feel like a private retreat...at least in the morning. It's almost Noon as I sit out here writing, and I just heard a neighbor shout, "Do you have underwear on?" A little boy's voice responded, "No, [something, something...underwear]!" Haha, oh the joys of parenthood, I'm sure!

Our kitchen is so much more spacious than before! That's a pantry to the right of the frig, and a desk all the way in the back of the picture on the right. Hubby and I can fit in here at the same time! If we so chose, we could even open all the appliance doors simultaneously!!

As you enter the hallway, the guest bedroom is to your right. I will post a picture of that some other time, as it is currently filled with boxes, packing paper, and the bookcase that got broken during the move. Its closet is the home to my many, many classroom supplies. When the movers were bringing things inside, Hubby kept saying he had no idea how much I had from my classroom! He wasn't around to see me transport everything from my classroom to storage last year. Hopefully I will find a way to use it all again. A friend has me thinking a lot about tutoring. The smaller scale feels much more appropriate to my personality.

This is the den, office, Husband's room, etc. He is really glad to have this space to himself, especially for when he needs to study. Sometimes I sit on the couch in there and just watch him, though, glad to have him back home. The longer I sit around though, the more likely he is to ask for help studying. Good thing I don't mind too much:)

Next thing down the hall is the laundry room. We also call this Charlie's room because we put a baby gate up to keep him in there when we're gone. It's going okay so far. He's adjusting really well, so hopefully it just keeps getting better!

Finally, our bedroom. The first few days we kept waking up at 5:00 am on account of the early sunrise in Arizona. This weekend we put up our curtains, and now we don't have to wake up quite so early! It's very peaceful.

This is our master bathroom. We have more storage than we know what to do with! There is a closet behind the door, opposite the sink, which houses everything. The cabinets under the sink have all of about two things in them. We also have a really large bathtub, but I have yet to try that out.

The closet is also huge. We have both dressers in there. There are even more shelves to the right, but I didn't get them in the picture. It's great to be able to spread out, but we might be spoiling ourselves if we end up with a smaller place next time.

That's it for the inside. We are very happy with our new home, and especially glad to be moved in and unpacked.

These pictures are our apartment neighborhood. See what I mean about nice scenery? I love the shade, especially! The manager told us this area usually stays 10-15 degrees cooler than the rest of the city because of its elevation/location. Thank you God!!

The mountain views aren't too shabby, either!

Friday, May 06, 2011

Last minute projects

There are definitely other things I should be doing this week, but I couldn't resist finishing up these two sewing projects. There are more projects to go (mostly clothing alterations), but those will have to wait. They're summer clothes, so hopefully I'll get to them before winter!

The first project is an apron. Me and my Bible study gals have been talking about doing this for months, and we finally got around to it! I think it turned out great, especially for a first try and a home-made pattern!

If you'd like to put in a Christmas or birthday request, go right ahead:)

The next project was making some knock-off Pottery Barn pillow covers. I love these covers and have been admiring them in the catalog each month, but didn't quite want to pay the money.

Above is the Pottery Barn version, and below is mine.

Charlie sure seems to like them! He moved from his usual corner of the couch over to the opposite end, and cuddled right up next to them.

Well, that is all for now, and that is all for a while. I will post again in a few weeks when our move to the southwest is complete, and we are settled into our new desert home.

Happy May everyone!
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