Monday, July 30, 2012

July Devotion

Text for this reflection | Luke 21:1–4
While reading this short passage of Jesus witnessing the poor woman’s offering, I am reminded of a scene I myself witnessed just a few days ago. I was waiting for the bus when I saw a homeless man ask three young women for some money to buy food. They handed him change from their pocket, which could not have been more than a dollar or so. They were holding takeout boxes from the restaurant they had just left but did not offer them to this man. As they walked off with huge smiles on their faces, I felt myself becoming upset with these women. It was obvious to anyone watching this take place that they felt righteous in their actions. To me, it seemed like they hadn’t really done anything! What good does a few pennies do when you could afford to give so much more or something else more valuable—your time?
While reading this story in Luke and reflecting on what I witnessed, I realized that I was in the wrong for judging what someone else gave. Although I am able to donate my time to help those less fortunate than myself, that does not mean I am given free rein to judge others. I think this short passage is a healthy reminder that we all should give as we are able to and remember that it is not up to us to decide what another can or should give. Just as the rich men in the reading for today probably deemed the poor woman’s offering as unworthy or not enough, I was judging someone else’s offering without truly knowing their story.
Almighty God, you alone know what is in our hearts. You alone know what we are truly able to give. Always I pray that you may guide my actions. Grant me the wisdom to give as I can and the grace to accept others’ donations of resources or time without judgment. Amen.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

4th of July Reflections

In our reading for today is Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist. For some reason, the image of Jesus being baptized brings to mind the children I see playing in the water gushing from broken fire hydrants. I think that if Jesus was to come to Chicago today, he would not be baptized in Lake Michigan, but instead on the street from the water of a broken fire hydrant. Because the neighborhoods of broken fire hydrants need Jesus’ ministry…all places need the message of love, but I believe these broken neighborhoods could use a little extra help. I read in the news today that there were 15 people were shot between the hours of 5:30 pm and 11:30 pm yesterday. One of the people shot was a little girl…just trying to cool off in the stream of water from a broken fire hydrant.

Tonight, all across the country people are celebrating the 4th of July. But I am having a hard time mustering up my “Go America” attitude. Right now there are people shooting off fireworks all around my house. They are beautiful, but they sound like gunshots to me. 250 people have died due to a gun shot wound. Sure, some of them might be gang related, but that doesn’t mean those men/women/boys/girls deserved to be shot. When will the violence end and freedom begin? How is the west-side, south-side and north-side of Chicago any different than the 3rd world countries we read about in the news?

In her reflection of today’s reading, Donna Gray wrote, “Jesus said that he was the good shepherd and that the sheep would know his voice. In fact people who know sheep husbandry explain that sheep do know and will follow the voice of their good shepherd. They know the difference between the voice of their shepherd and another who might lead them to places other than the paths of righteousness. I love Jesus' words, for they ring true.”

Her words made me think: Where are we in the midst of this violence? Are we following Jesus’ words or are we choosing to be baptized in Lake Michigan instead of the broken fire hydrants of Chicago. What can I do to help stop this senseless violence?

I celebrated the 4th of July by having lunch with Kiva, Potts, Jana (Kiva’s old roommate from college who is visiting) & Rachel (a girl from Grinnell College who is interning at 4th this summer & I was worried she wouldn’t have any fun plans!). I grilled sausages & made salad, corn on the cob, baked beans & peach cobbler for dessert! My salad was a red, white & blue salad. It has been my favorite salad for the past few days—strawberries, blue berries, goat cheese, balsamic vinaigrette, cashews and spinach/arugula. YUM! You need to make this salad ASAP if you know what’s good for you. Then Kiva, Jana and I went to a White Sox game. They played the Rangers & it was a really fun game! (Chicago won btw in case you were wondering) Then I came home to make today’s daily video and wrote the reflection above. Tomorrow is back to work as usual.

Sorry for the downer of a blog post. I truly am eternally grateful for those who sacrifice their lives to defend our country. I thank God every day for Rebecca, Alex, & their peers. And I hope that everyone had a blessed day.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Post-Workcamp Reflection

I was asked to give a reflection of my workcamp experience on Sunday. The Senior Highs led the 4:00 worship service at Fourth & the sermon was us reading our reflections. So, here is my reflection on the workcamp. I might post more information regarding my experience at a later date, but for now, this is it. Below is a picture of our group. If you want to watch reflections by the youth & see pictures of our work during the week, go like the Senior High's Facebook page: You should also like the Housing Development Alliance's facebook page & view our photo's on their page 
The group in our fancy orange t-shirts in front of 1st Presbyterian of Hazard, KY

Hello! My name is Sarah Bennett and I work here at Fourth Church, normally with the middle school youth. During our week in Hazard, Kentucky, we all learned different things, but what stuck out to me most was that this week was a lesson in patience. It seems almost every day there was something that required patience. We had to be patient in the van during the 8-hour long van ride to Kentucky, with other members of our workcamp on and off the worksites, during meal preparation time,  & with ourselves while learning new skills at the worksites.

The adult leaders were assigned to the same worksite for all 4 of the work days. I was at the house that was the closest to being completed. When we first arrived to the house on Monday, it still looked very much like a construction zone. The walls were bare and the floors were just plywood. By the time we left on Thursday, all of the walls had been painted, the flooring was down, the kitchen cabinets were installed and the interior doors were going up. Although we were not doing anything as major as re-doing the roof of a house, our job was still very important, as we helped put the finishing touches on someones home.

Alison, the other adult leader at the worksite, and I were especially lucky because we were able to get to know the homeowner during our time working on her house. Talking with Robyn reminded me that patience is important. Its ok with Robyn that her house is taking twice as long to construct because unskilled volunteers are doing a lot of the work alongside the carpenters. The important thing is that her house is being constructed!

Even though our lives only crossed for a short period of time, Robyns stories and attitude towards life have deeply impacted me. Almost every day Robyn told us heartbreaking stories of what her young family has already been forced to endure, and yet she said it all with a smile on her face. It was truly a testimony to the strong faith she and her husband share. There is no doubt in her mind or mine that God is present in the construction of their new home. I only hope that I can take Robyns enthusiasm and patience and apply it to my own life.