Monday, August 6, 2012

Can you help keep the lights on?

Part of what ministers do is help those with needs.  Some folks need rental assistance.  Others need food or gas money.  Some folks need a new appliance.  It can be anything.  

Sometimes this is a beautiful part of ministry:  a need is presented, a need is met and folks get back on their feet.  Occasionally these folks want to become part of the church family.  It is times like these your heart is so full you fear it will explode with love (and if it's my heart:  love and glitter).

The Arlington County Department of Human Services is helpful to us.  In many cases we work together to help folks get back on their feet.  Good things happen.  It seems like people don't fall through the cracks as easily.  Sometimes we can help and things work out; however other times we cannot.

Because other times you have to say no.

Saying no stinks.  Even if you discern 'no' to be the best decision it still stinks.  Actually it really stinks.  This part of the call is painfully difficult.  

I often wonder if I've done the right thing when I say 'yes' or 'no'.  There are lots of tensions in helping others.  Most people want to help the poor, but how?  The best thing we can do is pray for God's wisdom (every day and in the moment).  Mix that with available resources and our own wits and we hopefully come to a solution. 

For me it's not about whether someone deserves to be helped or not.  Who among us deserves the good in our lives?  Many times we don't deserve the bad either.  It's not about who's deserving and who's not. It is, however about being a good steward of the funds the church has entrusted to us to share.  There is a limited amount.  There are many in need.  

The persons who call on us are just like us.  They are people in need only their needs are visible.  Many of ours are hidden.  Some of these persons are in desperate need.  Others are not.  Some of these persons are kind.  Others are not.  Some of these persons are truthful.  Others are not.  They're just like us:  They are us.  They're people.

Part of the how is remembering people are people, and even if we can't (or shouldn't) pay the light bill we can have a conversation.  We can look folks in the eye.  We can point them to the Department of Human Services and offer to help them get a social worker.  We can invite them to share a meal.  We might say 'no' to one request, but say 'yes' in other ways.

I don't want to be stingy or naive.  Helping folks in physical need is neither easy nor black and white.  Sometimes I wish it was...but perhaps that's what makes the journey meaningful?  We have to work hard and be creative.  We have take time, sit down and ask questions.  We have to pray and trust and hope.  Recently a man stopped by and had me in stitches.  His personality made me smile.  I am made better by my interaction with him.  

I'm not saying anything new.  I'm only saying it for me today.

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