Thursday, April 7, 2011

Today I Rode a Bike...

Today I rode a bike. I can't remember the last time that I rode a bike...maybe my college years, which I won't disclose how long ago that was. But today, I "rented" a free bike from my place of work, and took a lunch-time ride. As my feet hit the pedal and my legs went round and round on a beat-up beach cruiser, my face lit up like a little girl who just learned to ride for the first time.


I was the only one riding through campus with a goof-ball grin on my face, waving and shouting greetings to all the other bike-riders, sure that they were as elated to be riding as I was. My legs pedaled faster as I dodged pedestrians and the old metal frame clanked with each rotation of the wheels. Onward I cruised, until I had arrived at a nearby neighborhood, and the ghost of what once was.

My destination was an old school, used by the city school district for many, many years, now abandoned due to budget cuts. The clanking frame came to a quiet halt as I reached the corner of the fenced off playground, as one approaching hallowed ground quiets the soul to listen for whispers from the past. And I stood at the edge, wind and whispers blowing through my hair, echoes of ghosts and dry bones laughing through the air.

An empty school is an eerie sight. Unnatural and unnerving. If walls could talk...but even they have been silenced and no ear wanders its lane to listen for tales of little people and growing minds and hearts being formed. And so the walls moan and shift and creak in the stillness of absence. Paint peels down that which was once covered with little hands creating masterpieces, and the playground can no longer be called as such, but merely ground held together by fading structures.

And I begin to pedal again, feet pressing in as heart presses on and begins to weep, hoping the wind will wash the tears away, but it full of laughter and echoes and all that once was. It is noontime. Children should be playing here. Youthful chaos should fill the air. Balls should be bouncing and swings dancing high. But there is only the whistle of the trees who are left to wonder where all the people went.

Pedaling still, pushing down as I circle the block that makes up the now-empty school, play yard, and jungle gym. Circling and pedaling, praying for new life, circling and canvasing the area, covering it in prayer, crying that this path around the land will be claimed, a fire of passion set on this trail, blazes go up to mark all that is within it as hallowed, sacred, set apart for the divine.

Holy. Ground.

with endless possibilities.

There is a community of believers who desire to live out this Jesus calling, who desire to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ through loving, merciful acts of devotion to each other and to the city, and the nation, and to the world.

And it starts here.

We are asking to be made uncomfortable, for comforts welcomes rot and spoil. We are asking for lessons in love and mercy and grace beyond what we are able to do, beyond what we are able to handle.

We are asking You, Jesus. Your kingdom come. Your will be done.

You have given the vision of a community center that reaches deep into the lives of the people of Tucson. Open the doors, Father, and make us uncomfortable, that we may find comfort and strength in you alone, that we may operate outside of ourselves. Give us guidance and wisdom, that it may all be for your glory.

Circle the block one more time. My eyes see the silhouettes of children, short and tall, light and dark, running and squealing. Vegetables are growing tall and baskets are being filled to overflowing. Needs are being met, and there is plenty left over. New life has been breathed into these dry bones, and the hollow echo of death has become the hallowed ground of Life.

Today I rode a bike, and I worshipped my Creator, and my heart beat happy all day long.

Will you pray with us, please, as we seek the Father's wisdom for a community center in mid-town Tucson? As proposals are created and grants are being requested, please pray with us, for the gift of Faith in all things? For patience to wait on His plan, and the obedience to act when doors are opened.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Driving by Jesus

I was a little late getting out of work. It was 5:10 by the time I closed my office door, 5:16 by the time I was pulling out of the parking lot. Late start on the drive home usually means getting stuck in the worst of the traffic. It was 5:50 by the time I picked up my girls from school, and far later than I wanted it to be for cooking dinner. So I decided we would grab some dinner at a local market on the way home.

A quick in and out, and then we'd be on our way home and getting the girls in bed.

Hurry up, girls. It's getting late.

Bellies are full, but food was still left on the table.

Wrap it up. There's a mouth out there to feed. 

So I grab a paper bag and drop in 4 pieces of untouched cornbread, and wrap up a couple of pieces of turkey. Load the girls in the van, and we were on our way. The parking lot was crazy busy as we drove past the Starbucks, the beauty supply story, the Dollar store, and the grocery store. While slowing to allow shoppers to cross, I saw him out of the corner of my eye. A few shops ahead, leaning into a trash can, digging. A large, clear trash bag rested on the ground behind, full of crushed cans. The ends of his pants were tattered and sandals were worn. I saw him, and I saw the bag of bread on the seat next to me.

The food is for him. 

Watching the cars turn and pass and park and pull out, watching the shoppers cross the road back and forth, in the midst of little people laughing and shrieking behind me and the news blaring on the radio about war and violence, somehow in the midst of the chaos, I heard that whisper.

That bread will feed him, the least of these. 

And as the tires rolled on slowly in the midst of that busy parking lot, my mind waged war with my heart.

How do I...what do I...what if he's not homeless and I'm judging? what if this insults him? what do i say? where do I park? how do I pull out of the way? what about the children in the backseat? ugh! how do I make this work?!

And in the confusion of my pride and disobedience and desire to do right, my tires kept on rolling, and I drove right on by Jesus, with his dirty, torn up pants and matted beard, and hit my hand against the steering wheel with absolute frustration.


And my eyes well up with tears, and my heart breaks in shame for my disobedience, my cowardice in not stepping up, and the bag of bread on the seat next to me mocks me. Coward.

And I wonder how many times I have driven past Jesus and never even given it a thought. In my hurry, in my avoidance of inconveniences, in my exhaustion, in my ingratitude, in my disgruntled discontent, how many times have I missed him?

Please give me another chance. Please open my eyes. Please break my stubborn pride. Please, give me another chance.
Then the King will say to those on his right, "Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what's coming to you in this kingdom. It's been ready for you since the world's foundation. And here's why:
I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me."
Then those 'sheep' are going to say, "Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?"
Then the King will say, "I'm tell the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me - you did it to me."
Overlooked or ignored. How many times in a day do I overlook or ignore someone? How many countless faces do I overlook in a day? How many blessings have I neglected to give because I chose to ignore? How many opportunities to love did I overlook today?

Oh Father, open the eyes of my heart, enlighten me to see as You see, that I will not drive by you ever again.

Forgive me.