Last week was a rough week.
I can't really go into detail. My community found itself in the middle of a big sadness. And right after all of that, my kid got sick for the first time in his little life and the one year old alternator in my car died . . . while my husband was out of town on business.
So with all of that going on, I've been toting around this little necklace with a picture of a candle in it because I need the reminder - bad news is not the only news and an attitude of gratefulness is the only real living expression of Trust in God. It's the best any of us can do - accept all of life as an undeserved gift. Receive all of life with open hands and say, "Ok. I don't understand it, but I want to "be" and I am glad to "be" even when "being" is difficult."
Yes. Being is better than Not Being.
Being is precious.
Last week on Friday one of my youngest students reached up and touched the pendant on my necklace and said, "What is that, Mrs. T.?" I said, "It's a little light."
It's just a little light, friends. We need just a little light.
Last Sunday the minister started talking about Rutba House . . . and I leaned in like a starving person - Yes! somebody somewhere is saying that even though the work is hard and the world is dark, we can find light in the eyes of strangers to ourselves . . . because they are often angels. Because they are right here among us the very representation of Jesus Christ most of us stumble around hoping for.
"If you've done it to the least of these, you've done it to me." - He said it.
The minister was talking about hospitality and how our church is preparing to welcome homeless families in - in. Not welcoming them to come to church. Welcoming them in - to live - to eat - to care for their children - to get to know them. Community. The program that makes this work is called "Family Promise." Some of you remember it being called "Interfaith Hospitality Network."
After talking about this new avenue for a minute, the minister brought up Rutba House . . . and played this video.
Just get quiet for a minute and watch. Listen to what these people are doing. Listen to the poem by William Stafford that is mentioned here.
Now read it. Read this poem. Think about it.
It's a risk for everybody. That's what Mr. Wilson-Hartgrove says. It's a risk for the ones opening the door and also for the visitors.
It is a divine declaration of Thankfulness - I see you, Lord, and am constantly giving you credit!
We look closer. We look so close that we can see God shining through every particle of the existence we're given. This is not to say that when bad things happen we look to God and say, "You are responsible for doing this to me." No. Instead, we look at all of life as this one thing . . . a cohesive thing . . . and we thank God for giving it to us . . . and when bad things happen, we hold on to this state of awareness and we say, "I am thankful for the gift of being alive - even here. I am thankful for the breath in my lungs - even now."
And when we encounter strangers - people whose behavior bothers us . . . people whose ways are different from our own - we treat them like the friends Jesus told us we'd need to accept. We would do for them whatever we would do for Him . . . because by doing it for them we are doing it for Him.
In this life, if we are aware of its giftedness, we will know very few strangers or imposters.
You read that correctly.
The few imposters we will know aren't going to be people. They will be actions, motivations, confused and confounded bits of logic . . . Kipling said that Triumph and Disaster were both "imposters" and that we should "treat them both the same." Reading those words changed my life forever. It was years ago. I read them in a poem and couldn't forget them.
Something in me woke up.
We have created this idea of what is good and bad about a human life and we have declared it for ourselves . . . and so when we meet with Triumph we welcome it and exclude whoever and whatever seems to threaten it. And when we meet with Disaster we shun everyone and everything we see as bringing it to us. And then we shake our fists at the Heavens and shout, "Why me? Why me?"
Accepting all of life as giftedness is not easy. It's not the same as saying that all we experience is Good. That isn't true. But accepting life itself as giftedness helps us to keep our hands and eyes and ears and hearts open - helps to keep us from jadedness and selfishness and fear.
Life is. And we are. Thank God.