Monday, July 31, 2006

Anita

I met Anita when she came months ago to our church for assistance with her five children she is raising on her own on less than $500 a month.

She came for groceries, clothing, and prayer. We ask each person how we can pray for them, and nearly all want prayer and are grateful for it.

Anita came in one day with her five children, and she was pregnant with the sixth. Jerry, who leads up our food distribution, and the other guys in the food pantry carried a dozen sacks of groceries to Anita's car. We prayed with her in our prayer center.

Then it was a number of weeks before I saw her again. She came in again one day, but this time I asked her to help us translate for the twenty or so Hispanic families that came in during the morning. I don't speak Spanish, except to fumble through some greetings and parrot some things people say. I say that rather than saying "they don't speak English" because I had my chance to learn Spanish in school and sqaundered the opportunity.*

So Anita translated English to Spanish for me as we prayed with several families.

Then I saw Anita on the street corner one day. She was with two of her children. She was holding up a sign. I thought she was panhandling, so I pulled up to see what her sign said. It was on the Day for Immigrants in May 2006.

At the corner near our church that day, Anita had a cardboard sign that read, "This land is our land, too."

I was moved and pulled into the parking lot, got out and went over to her and her children. She didn't recognize me. She thought I was an "authority" or a bank employee, whose property was nearby. "Are you going to kick me out?" she asked me.

"No, I'm Greg. Remember me from the church?" I said.

She got a look of recognition and relief all at once.

"I just want to thank you for what you are doing and say I support what you are saying by demonstrating," I told her.

"I wanted to go to the rally downtown but didn't have enough money for gas to get there," Anita said.

I smiled and said I'll see her some other time.

The next time I saw Anita was in late July, and she had come to the food pantry again and was coming closer to her due date. We sat and talked in the prayer center. Was she a green card holder? "Oh!" she said, "I'm an American citizen; my father was a pipeline worker who met my mother in Ecuador. My mother is from Ecuador."

I asked her if she had a church. She said she really wanted one, that she wanted to take the children but they didn't like going where they spoke so much Spanish. John, one of our elders, and I took her around to see the children's classrooms and explained to her that she could bring them. They would love it.

Anita said she was nervous about coming to a church by herself, so I said I'd meet her at the lobby and show her to the children's classes then take her to my class where I'm teaching on parenting. She was elated to hear that and wanted more on parenting.

She didn't show up Sunday. I wonder if she was having her sixth baby.

Politics of Jesus (part 1)

I was discussing the recent conflict between Israel and Hezbollah with a friend.

My friend and I disagreed on several key points.

He was upholding the view that God continues to give Israel special standing in the world and the promised land. I was pushing the other side of the argument, that the true Israel is one that understands God is not bound by land or temples or anything made by hands, that God wants all creation, all nations to enter his family, that our persistence in U.S. nationalist interests that endorse Zionist interests can and does bring injustice in the world.

My friend believes recent events are part of the end-times prophecies and he suggested that we are within a few years of the end of the world. I told him that I want to be ready today, that the certain message that I've seen in Scripture is to be prepared, and I wondered aloud to him if all the end-time prophecies by modern day televangelists and writers is not a waste of time and effort.

He was disturbed by my non-orthodox views that would try to observe and act fairly to all people regardless of race, Iraeli or Arab, slave or free, American or German, Greek or Jew. He was disturbed that I do not take prophecies in Scripture as signs of the end times today. I had told him that often prophets were concerned for events of their day, to preach God's disciplinary message, to redeem both Israel and all nations.

I'm concerned often with the tone of conversations I have because they think I'm a heretic and I think they have bought into lies propogated by Evangelical Christianity that has been co-opted by U.S. nationalism and Republican interests.

I made a plea to my friend to look at Jesus for model of how we react, think, act in political life. He replied that "Jesus was more about the personal, Spiritual life . . . " I don't agree. I told him I think everything Jesus did was political. Politics means what we do in public. We operate with a distorted view of politics, so we discount the politics of Jesus or fail to realize he has anything to say about public life. I believe he does.

In the coming posts I'll share what I'm learning as I read the Gospel of Luke. I asked my friend to read Luke again and begin to lift the glasses of Evangelical American Middle Class culture. It's not easy but that's the challenge. I'm reading Luke because Wade is preaching from Luke and I've taken the challenge to read on my own, internalize, memorize, live into Jesus' teachings there, Jesus' life that's found on those pages.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Radio Shack and Church

Went into Radio Shack the other day to ask if they'd be interested in helping give gifts to the Firemen at our local fire station, a way to show our appreciation to them.

I introduced myself to the clerk, "Hi, my name is Greg Taylor and I'm from the church across the street--"

Before I could go further, he said, "I don't care."

I gaped at him, and my eyes must have widened.

"If you're going to tell me something about church, man, I don't care."

"I'm organizing area businesses to do something for the firemen at Christmas and wanted to give you an early heads up . . . "

"I'll have to get my manager," he said.

The manager came out and told me to call 1-800-THESHACK.