“Seeing the Overlooked” by Todd Rhoades

Sep 24

Todd Rhoades of Leadership Network, viagra approved the Nines, link and Monday Morning Insight posted the following:

“I’m excited to share a little excerpt of my friend Eric Bryant‘s new book “Not Like Me” with you today.  The book is subtitled “A Field Guide for Influencing a Diverse World”, healing but the book is really about love… learning to love those around you… particularly those people who aren’t exactly like you.

Here’s one of my favorite sections from the book:

Some of us have overlooked those who are in the grip of poverty.  For others of us, we may disregard children, senior citizens, innovators, unreached people groups, the abused, the abusers, the victims, the imprisoned, those with whom we disagree theologically, those who are physically challeneged, those who are mentally challenged, and those who are overweight.  Some of us may even struggle to embrace others who might be accepted more readily.

When we love those who are overlooked or deemed untouchable by society, we should listen to them so we can learn from them the best ways to servethem, avoiding the temptation to come rushing in as a ‘hero’ or a ‘knight in shining armor.’

Considering our life experiences, passions, personality, and gifts, and God’s leading, we should look beyond those we normally see to discover others we can serve.

As Jesus looked around at the men and women who followed him so that they could mooch a free meal, he described them as valuable and significant, as “salt and light” (see Matthew 5:13-14).  Jesus saw the blind, those with leprosy, and the poor and met their needs.  Jesus also saw those whose wallets were full but whose hearts were empty.  Jesus loved them all.  Jesus reached out and touched the untouchables.

That kind of hit home.  I overlook a lot of different types of people… and Eric is right… it’s easy to overlook people who are not like me.

I think one of the problems with churches… one of the reasons so many churches are so in-grown is exactly this reason:  the look to serve people only like themselves.  In fact, most churches have taken it a step further serving ONLY themselves, not even people LIKE themselves.

Churches that are growing; churches that are reaching people are doing so by looking at people who are not being reached.

I think you’ll find that Eric’s book will challenge you as you think about how you (and your church) look at others.  Do you really value people like Jesus values people?  What can you do differently to change your mindset to be more effective and God-honoring?  “Not Like Me” will help you navigate.

If you’d like more information on Eric, check out Ed Stetzer’s great interview from yesterday here.

And if you want to grab a copy of the book, you can purchase one right here at Amazon.

Todd

PS — Which groups of people have you been overlooking?

“More Than Meets the Eye” by Scott Savage

Sep 09

Scott Savage serves as part of Crash in Phoenix, approved AZ.  He writes:

“On a very normal Sunday night, more about I was speaking at the alternative service at my church.  I was sharing about how we respond to circumstances and situations that are outside of what we expect.  How we can choose to respond with pessimism and cynicism or hope and trust, looking for God to work in surprising ways.

About midway through my talk that night, a man exited the room and never returned.  He had all of his stuff with him, so I presumed that he was leaving.  It was not until later that night when I realized that he had walked out, probably frustrated with something I said.

The next day, Michael sent an email through our website.  The email was forwarded to me to respond to.  I read his words and sensed his frustration, disagreement and  dissatisfaction from the experience had been a part of the previous night.  Frankly, my initial instinct was to defend myself or blow it off.  But as I wrote multiple responses, I shared them with a couple of teammates.  As we honed my response, I had a strange sense that I needed to offer a conversation to this man.  Maybe there was something more to this email than just a different view on church.  Maybe there was something more to Michael than met the eye.

Well, that simple open door left open for a conversation over coffee has led to 20 or 30 cups of coffee. It led to a friendship full of trust where we started dealing with deeper questions and issues than tattoos, hats, music and videos.  That friendship led to Michael becoming a follower of Jesus.  There is not a bigger fan of our community – no one who connects fewer people to our blog, podcast, or service.  Ironically, he was the first man I baptized and his wedding was the first I officiated later that year.  Our running joke is that he cannot die or else he will be my first baptism, wedding, and funeral.

So an email from a man almost 30 years younger than me moved from a chance to defend myself or reinforce another stereotype to a life-changing conversation that has influenced many people.  I am so thankful that God opened my eyes to see what I would have normally overlooked.”

“Adapting Life Rhythms for Compassionate Justice” by Charles Lee

Aug 12

Charles Lee serves as an ideation strategist, thumb networker, visit this and compassionary who founded Ideation, sildenafil Idea Camp, Just One, and NewHope South Bay among other entrepreneurial adventures.

Charles writes:

Words like “compassion” and “justice” are becoming commonplace in our cultural landscape. Whether you’re an individual, organization, school or business, embedding this kind of language has proven to be beneficial for one’s personal or corporate brand. Many people feel “good” whenever they commit to a cause on Facebook or retweet something on Twitter in regards to compassion or justice.

In light of this growing trend towards compassion and justice, I think we must ask ourselves, “Do we actually participate in social action beyond the initial “join” or retweet?” In hopes of answering this question, I informally surveyed friends of mine on Facebook that have committed to multiple causes. The vast majority of them have not financially given nor volunteered for anything related to “their cause”. Granted, many people join causes out of courtesy towards the friend who invited them. Nevertheless, there still appears to be a clear disconnect between good intention and actual practice.

This is not to say that the above-mentioned activities are not helpful. In fact, awareness is indeed a great place to start. Unfortunately, for many, awareness is no longer just the beginning, but also, the end of social action. Our friends around the world experiencing some of the greatest injustices of our time still wait for our willingness to move beyond awareness and into action. To this end, I would like to offer some of the following perspectives:

Forming Virtues with Intentional Practice

Virtue is a reference to the conformity of one’s life and conduct towards moral and ethical principles. Therefore, anyone desiring to embody the virtues of compassion and justice must take intentional steps towards adapting their day-to-day life rhythms. Virtues don’t just form because we have a heart for it. Much like other noble pursuits in life, it requires time, sacrificial commitment, and practice. Yes, it may even feel mechanistic at the beginning.

Just as a great musician tirelessly continues to practice his/her scales, those desiring to care for humanity must intentionally practice their passion. Compassionate justice must not be relegated to events, campaigns, or vicarious living. It must be lived out. Whether an act is small or large is beside the point. In fact, the fruit of compassion is not even the point. Mother Teresa rightly http://ericbryant.org/wp-admin/post.php?action=edit&post=5317&message=7#said, “The success of loving is in the loving – it is not the result of loving.” In other words, the act itself takes primacy over our thoughts before or the fruit afterwards.

Two Bad Reasons for Inactivity: Need for Authenticity and Lack of Knowledge

There are two common reasons that I hear as it relates to a person’s inactivity in areas of compassion and justice. The first one has to do with authenticity. Some are hesitant to show compassion unless they feel that they are fully sincere in their act of care. I think this is a tragedy that has led to innumerable missed opportunities for care.

Although it may appear to be honorable to balance heart with action, I think it’s actually one of the greatest expressions of narcissism. In this scenario, the giver redirects the center of the act from God’s care for the person to oneself. This is both presumptuous and arrogant. The truth of the matter is that all acts of compassion are ultimately divine expressions of God’s love for humanity. It has very little to do with our authentic motive.

Is authentic motive important? Absolutely. It’s even desirable. Nevertheless, authenticity is not an essential criterion for an act of compassion to be good in God’s eye. History has shown us that God still uses tainted and hypocritical people to accomplish his will. In addition, can any human being really do anything with a 100% pure motive? Highly unlikely.

Another common reason for inactivity I hear has to do with one’s lack of knowledge on what to do in regards to an injustice. Many of the issues of injustice appear to be so grand and complex that many feel a deep sense of paralysis and lostness. I think all of us can relate to the feeling of being overwhelmed when confronted with the reality of an injustice. There are no easy ways around this feeling. Nevertheless, we must believe that paralysis due to a lack of knowledge is not the answer.

I’ve learned through participating in numerous organizations and humanitarian efforts that knowledge is often found once we’re in motion. In other words, we don’t need all of the answers to these complex issues prior to moving. Knowledge, and more importantly wisdom, is found along the way. Our new experiences while working in compassionate justice will give us a healthy frame for learning and finding solutions.

Just Start.

My encouragement and challenge to us is that we would all just start somewhere. There are so many great organizations doing wonderful work around the world. Pick one. There are so many people in our own cities that could use human contact and care. Touch one. God desires to incarnate his love for the world through people who are committed to compassionate justice. Be one.

Consider some of the following practical ideas for altering life rhythms for compassionate justice:

Live with less to give more. During these difficult economic times, my wife and I felt that it was imperative for us to cut unnecessary expenditures and activities. One of our main reasons for this was so that we could stay generous in our giving of time and resources towards good works. When downsizing is coupled with a goal of compassionate justice, it provides a great context for mission.
Acknowledge People. It’s amazing how our lack of eye-to-eye contact can begin to dehumanize one another. We no longer function as souls interacting but as machines and fixtures. Take effort to look into people’s eyes. The person serving you coffee is an actual human being and not a means to a service. The homeless person you walk by is deeply cared for by God and not a street fixture. Let’s not make people invisible.
Integrate vocation with compassion. Take some time to consider how what you do professionally can bring relief and care for people experiencing injustices around the world. Challenge your company or school to care for the world through tangible acts of compassion.

May the world become a better place because we chose to participate in God’s story of love by adapting our life rhythms.

“Love Up Close” by April Diaz

Aug 09

April Diaz, pilule the Next Gen Pastor at Newsong Church in Irvine, CA writes:

Love can’t love from a distance. Love comes up close. It’s personal. It doesn’t admire or gaze at a distance. It gets down and dirty. It touches what’s been deemed untouchable. Love involves our five senses. Loving up close is risky. It takes a leap of faith. It requires sacrifice. It’s rarely comfortable.

This truth has boldly interrupted my life since beginning our adoption journey. My husband and I have encountered a lot of questions along the way of “why?” Why not wait to see if you can have your own kids? Why spend tens of thousands of dollars on adopting two kids instead of using that money to help countless more orphans? Why adopt kids from Africa instead of here? Why are you adopting two and not just one…are you crazy?!?!

The only answer to their questions that makes sense to us is that we must love up close. Yes, we can pray for orphans. Yes, we can sponsor children through an organization. Yes, we can care for their plight and hope God intervenes on their behalf. Yes, we could give money to build more orphanages. Yes, we can do a lot from a distance, but I believe to the core of my being that Jesus wants for us to touch the untouchables. He wants for us to love up close.

In fact, God proves how he loves by becoming the incarnate Love of Jesus who came to be with us – a dirty, messed up, untouchable people. He could have solved the problem from Heaven. He could have taken care of it all from a distance. But he didn’t. He chose to be close to us, at the greatest cost beyond imagination. He chose to touch us when we were untouchable.

Our adoption is teaching us about loving up close more than years of child sponsorship or mission’s trips. It’s costing us a lot. It’s cost our friends and family something. But love requires us to get close. And the closer we get to Love, the more we are changed.

Next Steps:

  • Identify an “untouchable” you need to engage with.
  • Learn about that people group. There’s so much online that will tenderize your heart and inform your mind.
  • Ask God to change your perspective toward the poor, widows, and orphans.
  • Do something practical: visit a nursing home, sponsor a child, investigate adoption, visit an orphanage, invite a widow into your next holiday celebration, write letters to a prisoner.
  • Share what you’ve done and what you’re learning with someone else.
  • Repeat!

“Unconditional” by Stefanie Bohde

Jul 26

When Beverly smiled, sick the missing gaps in her teeth were as unmistakable as the forgotten pieces of a family jigsaw puzzle, buy information pills frayed with age. She could barely carry herself, prostate both feet shuffling slowly along the city concrete, her dim brown eyes concentrated stoically ahead. Her arms shook uncontrollably under the weight of several shopping bags filled with her possessions – a hairbrush, two magazines from last year, a dog-eared prayer card and a couple of shabby sweatshirts.

We met one Sunday afternoon late in the summer – I remember this because the leaves on the big oak tree were tinged with oranges and reds. Earlier that summer some friends and I began driving down to “Homeless Row” every Sunday with the intention of handing out food and building relationships with the men and women living in the nearby shelter. I had prayed that God would direct my steps to a woman that I could share life with; He proved Himself faithful once again, and weeks later, I met Beverly.

For the first couple of weeks, I saw Beverly regularly outside the shelter on those Sundays. I’d sit on the curb next to her, my hands resting palm-down on the hot pavement. Sometimes we’d read through scripture, and other times I’d just sit there quietly while she slept, not able to gather enough energy to carry on a conversation. Occasionally, we’d pray together, her simple words revealing years of heartache and loss.

Our relationship soon began to decline as she became more involved with drugs. Glancing down at her tiny arms one day, I saw several scars from repeated needle use. She met my eyes and answered before I could say anything.

“I talked to someone about getting into a treatment program,” she confided to me. “He’s going to help me get off the street and find a place to stay.”

I remember hugging her and praying that God would lead her to healing. I wanted to hope that she could break free from her drug addiction, knowing that my God is called Jehovah Rophe – the Lord who heals – but my heart was heavy with doubt.

The next Sunday, Beverly didn’t come to meet me. Nor did she show up the Sunday after. We finally spoke a few weeks later, but it was as if she didn’t even know me anymore. Not realizing this at first, I called her name and hurried to meet her across the street. Beverly spun around and began screaming at me, her eyes burning with anger. She calmed down slightly after realizing who I was, but her words were still laced with irritation.

“Leave me alone,” she spat. “I don’t want to talk to you. I don’t want any food. I just want to be left alone.”

So I let her go, even though I still look for her every week and pray that God softens her heart. The last time I saw Beverly, she was lying on the pavement, weak and surrounded by dirty pigeons picking at the food around her. She could barely talk or support herself enough to sit up on her elbows. She still hadn’t kicked her habit.

After knowing Beverly and watching her life unfold alongside mine, it hit me that some of our friends will always be homeless. Some of our friends will always be addicted to drugs. Some of our friends will die, alone and cold. Some of our friends will choose to make bad, destructive decisions, and we are called to love them through it anyway. We are called to be their human consolers, to breathe meaning into their lives by exhibiting Christ made manifest through our hands, feet and speech. We are called to invest and love and share the Gospel – whether they are receptive to it or not.

Many would consider Beverly and others like her a lost cause. It’s easy to love someone who’s trying to get better, someone who wants to change. But God has been challenging me to love all of his children unconditionally, whether or not they choose to change their lifestyle. In spending time on “Homeless Row,” I’ve realized that someone can get a job, move into an apartment and become free from their addictions – but if they don’t know the love of Christ, their lives will still not reach their full potential.

Just as Christ loved the Pharisees and Sadducees, the lepers and the disfigured, the prostitutes and tax collectors, we’re called by him to love those that society rejects. I want to walk side by side these “untouchables” – the homeless and the drug addicts, the women who are searching for more, but sell themselves for as little as a couple of dollar bills or a pack of cigarettes. I want to see them as Christ does, stripped of society’s labels and worthy of being rejoiced over.

Stefanie A. Bohde
of Luminarium Studios (Twitter: @LStudios)