Thursday, August 19, 2010

Outreach to the Community

Over the last three weeks, I've found a certain new found enjoyment of reading the word first thing in the morning, and reading it as the last thing I do before I go to sleep. I've always enjoyed writing, but I've never been committed to try to keep a journal or diary. However I'm thinking that since I'm already up to I Kings after 3 weeks of reading starting from Leviticus, that a journal would be very beneficial to record my thoughts and meditations. I feel confident that I can do it consequently because I've already started that using this blog. The last two weeks I've been really concentrating on God, and through that I've found that without trying too hard my spiritual discipline has increased dramatically. The temptation of greed, lust, pride and the like are still there, but focusing on God makes them so much easier to overcome. Anyways this segment is entitled "Outreach to the Community". In the last week, I've been super motivated and super focused on mediating on God and his word, and getting myself more equipped spiritually. My mom and I have narrowed down about 3 colleges that I want to talk to involving Christian Services programs. Because thats where I'm being called to, I want to start injecting myself more into doing more outreach ministries while I'm still here in Detroit. Last week I returned to REAL church, a church I had been going to for a good amount of time during the winter and spring. I wanted to get involved a lot with them again. Mostly everyone recognized me and I was excited to be accepted and to start partnering with them. Last night, I went with them to do their weekly bread outreach. We meet at Avalon Bakery in midtown Detroit at 6 pm on Wednesday nights. Its fairly new so I'm happy I'm helping with it. Anyways the bread is donated to us by the bakery and we select teams to go to different neighborhoods and distribute it. It was a great way to get to know people and tell them what we are all about. Today I'm being invited by one of the guys from Real Church to have dinner with him and hang out, so I'm excited about that. Also I spent about an hour talking to the pastor last night, and we talked about spiritual training a little, basically my whole focus for the rest of the time I'm here. So I'm hoping that I can pick his brain over the next months and hopefully he'll give me some good advice and discipleship.

Over the last month, Josh and I have been getting a long great. Josh is a guy from Jimmy John's that I work with. He was going through a pretty rough period, with trying to get custody of his children and being able to see them and still trying to support himself. Anyways ever since I told him that I was praying for him he has said his life has been really good. So I've been pretty bold with him explaining my faith to him over the last several weeks. He's interested, and wants to be believe in a higher power but just needs more proof. I'm really encouraged that he is always willing to listen to me when I bring up my faith or Jesus or God. Yesterday I really said I was excited to see a Tigers baseball game with him, and we got talking about spiritual things again. I listened to his concerns and critics of Christianity. I know I am not a powerful speaker of apologetics, so I tried to give my points of view without trying to destroy every argument he made because I know God can defend himself. Anyways if he needs more proof then I'm going to pray that God reveals himself more to Josh. Jesus didn't belittle Thomas when he didn't believe his fellow disciples, but instead meet Thomas where he was. Also seeing how I've been dealing with my whole girlfriend situation, Josh has been encouraged to see that I'm making it through because of my faith in God. Anyways breakthrough occured last week. I closed my eyes and crossed my fingers and asked if he would be willing to read the Bible with me. He actually said that would be something he would want to do, because he's been trying to read the bible lately but its just hard for him to get into it and understand. Then he mentioned he was reading the New King James version and I think I understand. Its hard for anyone to understand the dialectic used then.

On Saturday night, our block had a block party. There was music playing all night, people grilling food and basically everyone just outside having a good time. Mike, Luke, Kat(Luke's fiance) and I went out to have a good time with them. A few of them knew Mike's name, but they all recognized us as the white guys. Anyways they welcomed us immediately and got us food from the grill and we just hung out for over an hour talking or playing football. At one point during the night, there were 3 little sisters, probably from ages 3-5, playing next to me. I started talking to them and before I knew it they were all attached to me. So I played with them for about an hour straight and I couldn't shake them, but it was a lot of fun.

Back in the fall and winter, Jon and I used to go to the Metropolitan United Methodist Church on Tuesday nights where CDC hosted a small little evening camp for kids from first to sixth grade. The kids were picked up in the CDC school bus and brought to the church. Then a local church on rotation would provide all the kids with a meal. Afterwards they would split up into groups according to their ages and then would go to 3 different classes. There was a bible study class, a study class, and an arts and crafts class. Jon and I were always involved in the study class, where the students would come and we would either help them read, do math, or help them with any real life homework they had. Each class was 30 minutes long. During the spring I stopped going consistently and now I haven't gone for a few months. At first it was because sometimes I worked or I had other obligations but now my schedule isn't hindering me from going anymore. So I'm going to reinsert myself and start going back regularly to help out. Those kids can be amazing sometimes, and other times a handful. Hopefully I can get more involved with CDC too as I'm trying to decrease the number of times I work late hours at Jimmy Johns.

Anyways pray that I'll continue to be bold in my exploits with outreach ministries and that God's hand would be working in guiding me to get spiritual training through experience, through school and through Church.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Finding Purpose Through Hardships

Matt and Jon both left a mark on me that changed my outlook of Christianity. They both were very dedicated to serving and working and both had self discipline that I admired. Above all, they taught me that humility needs to be genuine for you to glorify God. The house is a little different now that they are gone, but I wish them the best of luck on their new adventures. Matt got married to his wife, Belinda, in mid June. Shortly after Jon left to go back home and do fundraising for his missions trip to Peru, where he'll be for a year at a time.

I am encouraged that Mike, Luke and myself have dedicated ourselves to serving each other in their own personal convictions and paths. Luke's fiancé has moved to Detroit and both of them will be injecting themselves into campus ministry. Mike is on a quest for racial reconciliation and has been doing lots of work with CDC. Two weeks ago I told my roommates that I felt like I needed to be speaking my spiritual purpose. They have greatly encouraged me as I seek God. \

Last Wednesday my girlfriend Samantha got back from her trip to Mexico. I was eager to tell her all that God was showing to me, but she called and said she felt God was separating us. To be honest, this wasn't the first time she's told me this. But over the months were God has been missing from our relationship, that voice in her heart had grown louder and louder. I was devastated when she said that our relationship wasn't working out.

I went through a pretty intense grieving process. I was at work when she called so I didn't have time to say much before I had to go. I was emotionally upset because I was hoping that when she got back from her trip, that she would be on a spiritual high and we could work out the missing parts of our relationship. Anyways I was confused because I felt God was drawing me closer to her. The next night I talked to her for about an hour about my feelings. I just asked her to listen. I told her how much I was hurting, and how I was confused, and how I felt that we were meant together. She listened but her heart was still telling her the same thing it has been for weeks now. I didn't eat for 3 days, and slept for only 12 hrs in those 3 days. I vigorously prayed because she means so much to me. It hurt so much because she had brought me so much happiness. I was very emotional and even called off work on Friday. I wanted to talk more about it on Saturday because I needed some closure I guess. I send many text messages but I didn't get many responses. Finally Sunday came, and I prayed very earnestly as I had been doing for the last 5 days. I went to church and a few people their prayed for me, but I always asked for them to pray for Samantha too.

I got home and began writing a list of things I wanted to talk about if we talked today. My eyes were opened to the pain that I've brought Sam. She's probably been crying out to God, having to deal with loneliness. She kept telling me that God was asking her if we were headed down the same path, and I kept dragging my feet. I was waiting for God to magically give me an answer. I wasn't walking though. God was speaking to me through her, but I couldn't make that distinction. Through this he was telling me to get my act together, to start walking and follow him wholeheartedly. This was the wake call to stop waiting. She deserved me to be a better spiritual leader and I let my pride sometimes get in the way. Anyways I felt that most if not all the blame came down on me all at once. It was overwhelming.

I turned on a song that was playing at church called Mighty to Save. I started singing it and I felt something. My eyes were tearing up but not because of the separation from Sam, but because of the separation from God. I was at my lowest moment, completely broken. And during that song I walked around the house with my hands in the air, ultimately surrendering myself to God. Then I as knelt down still singing, I felt Jesus surrounding me with his grace. In that one moment, I felt something I had never felt before in my life. I felt Jesus restoring me, and all at once I felt completely forgiven, completely righteous and completely loved, as if he was saying "No matter what I couldn't love you more than I already do".

If I can be comforted by anything is that God's timing is not coincidence. I have never felt the spirit of God so strongly in my life before, leading me. It took me being completely broken, exhausted of resources and energy, praying and fasting, for me to deny myself and surrender to him. I don't know what the future holds. I feel like God is leading me in a direction that can not only coexist with Sam, but that we would be united with a common purpose and path. Sam tells me she needs time, and maybe she'll see a change of what God is telling her, but right now I'm giving her space even though its so difficult when I want to show her that I've failed, but I want to recommit myself to loving her with a love that can only be from the eternal well of God. Regardless, I'll take comfort in knowing that God has my future in his hands, that it has a happy ending. As we speak today, my mom is helping me look into colleges from the future, and I'm ready to go where God leads me. I love ministries and outreach's specifically to community. I'm injecting myself into a ton of ministries while I'm here in Detroit. If you do think about praying for me, please considering praying for Sam as well. I can only imagine her heart is as broken as mine, and if I can't show her my love, then I pray that God will intercede and I know he will no matter what.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Seeking God in the City

Last week I drove back to my home in Morgantown, Pennsylvania where I reunited with my friends, my family, and my girlfriend. My part time job at Jimmy John's was gracious enough to allow me a week off even on relatively short notice. My girlfriend insists that I procrastinate about the craziest things. Those including getting off for work, going to the doctor over something that is little, or even looking into the future with school or ministry. She is probably right, as I do wait until the last moment to do a lot of things, usually because they are filled with emotion or because I have a hard time moving on when I know that the times ahead will be tough. Anyways she is a great balance to my short comings. Anyways the week away from Detroit was a blessing. I was able to connect with my family, especially my younger brother Daniel. I also spent a morning with my Dad. I missed my alarm at 7 because I had set it for the pm instead of am, but we were still able to salvage breakfast and the morning once he reminded me with a phone call that I was supposed to meet him 20 minutes ago. I was wonderful seeing Samantha again, but we had some bumps during the time. We talked a lot about our future, and what God is calling both of us to pursue. She some hard questions about where I saw myself in a few years, and it was difficult because I'm just not sure, but whatever I'm doing I want to be doing it with Samantha. I tried to convey my thoughts that if we were both following the will of God then we were spiritually compatible. And even though we are separated right now, that true love will be there when the time is right to be with each other again. I hope I was able to indicate how much she means to me, and I hope she was encouraged through my visit regardless of what may have been on her heart. But it ended on a good note and it hurt to say goodbye as always.

Anyways with my girlfriend's zeal to see if we are being called to be liked minded and in one purpose and me wanting to give her an answer that would satisfy, I came back to Detroit determined to spiritually expand myself. I spent the first night back involved in the Word a lot, focusing on II Peter chapter 1. In this epistle, Peter tackles the question of making one's calling and election sure. In verse 5 through verse 8, he writes, that we should "...make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." So I have discovered the key to not being left in the dark. That doesn't mean everything will be completely revealed, but it does mean that I will have something to walk towards. Anyways, by having those things, you are actively seeking God and living for him. Afterwards I began reading Leviticus and praying that God would light a lamp for me because I was seeking. Then I remembered what Jesus had said about seeking God. He said seek God and he pray to him, and he will give you all the desires of your heart. Suddenly I had a vision reflecting on what the desires of my heart were. I saw myself doing community ministries and starting my own family. Hopefully that's something Sam is being led too as well.

Today was even more God inspired then last night. During my readings about offerings, eating clean animals and the rules and regulations for people with diseases, I started to ask myself what the significance of all of it was. Well the most obvious is that it is in the bible. But those decrees don't apply today, because these were the laws of God, given to Moses, written by God inspired Moses. And when Jesus came he made new covenant, an everlasting one that abolished the old law. It says in proverbs that the law of the lord is perfect in convicting the soul. The law shows you your sin, but it was Jesus who offered the answer. I made a list of reasons of why Leviticus is significant even though I have only read up to Chapter 17 at this moment. First off, if I look back at how we got to Leviticus, we have to go back to Exodus, and then Genesis. Genesis shows us the beginnings, proving the existence of God and the purposefulness of creation. Genesis also shows how rejecting God causes hardships. But even though man rejected God, he never rejected his creation. Genesis outlines that God had a plan to redeem his children, and that plan goes all the way to Jesus. Exodus shows us his mercy and grace. He freed the Hebrew's from their slavery and saved them from the army, provided for them in the wilderness and eventually set up a covenant with them as he began developing Israel into a nation. In Leviticus as in later chapters of Exodus, God has specific guidelines for the Israelites to follow. About how to build the transportable temple, or how to do specific offerings. He is setting Israel apart as a nation and teaching them how to be a holy nation, one that has God as the foundation. And the reason is because Leviticus tells us that God is Holy. Another important aspect of this book is that there is no forgiveness of sins without bloodshed. Being one of the priest (Aaron and his sons) was probably a very demanding profession. Doing offerings all the time, doing them in complete accordance with God's law(God kills two of Aaron's son for messing up and taking the holy rules lightly in front of God Almighty) and having to basically slaughter animals all the time. The point being that even reading tedious regulations of the bible is still valid.

Later during the day Michael had looked up a church that had sunday night services for young adults. Even though it was all the way in Troy, Michigan (about 20 miles away) we wanted to see what it was all about. So we went and I had a very good time. Probably over 300 young adults there, we started off with worship and then had a small message. The message was very inspiring in my opinion. Cliff, the leader, talked us through the prophet Haggai. After the temple of Solomon had been destroyed the community of Israel tried rebuilding it but were stopped by force eventually. 16 years later, Haggai appears and tells the people to start rebuilding. Many of them were waiting for God to do some miraculous sign or just didn't want to try because there was no way it could be at its former glory. But God wanted the temple rebuild so he sent Haggai to tell the people to move forward and let God care about where that leads the people. The LORD says, "I am with you...Do not fear." Then he ended with Isaiah 26:8. "Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you". Cliff said that waiting on God doesn't mean stopping it. It means to continue to walk in his ways. I was very inspired afterwards, wanting to stop waiting by doing nothing, and start waiting by walking forward towards God. After it was over, we got acquainted with some of the people there, and had fellowship for over an hour. Hopefully God will continue to speak to me during this week. I feel very inspired to look at my possible future. Perhaps vocational or bible school, maybe just spiritual training. But I don't want to feel like I'm stopping right now.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What Would Jesus Buy?

What would Jesus Buy? I hoped that a catchy title would focus your attention, because it certainly did for me. I just recently finished watching a documentary entitled "What would Jesus buy?" The documentary follows Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping during the month of December as they go on a country wide journey to preach to people the "good news" of how we can better help each other if we took time to stop shopping. At this point my readers probably have more questions then answers. Literally, what would Jesus buy? What is the Church of Stop Shopping and is that even real? And how can we improve our lives and mimic Jesus by stopping our shopping? The video explains the message of Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping as they go on their tour. It focuses on details of how our nation is built around consumerism and how many people spend their money, and more specifically around Christmas time. The message of Christmas and what it stands for is so different from the secular viewpoint as it is to the Christian viewpoint. They also target large corporations, such as Walmart, Disney, and the Mall of America to try to get their message across. All in all, I found the documentary worthwhile, and even though at times the message came across as radical, it got me thinking about how I spend my money and how I compare it biblically. And that was the whole point of it anyways, to get people thinking about consumerism in a biblical way.

What is the Church of Stop Shopping

In the above picture, we see the Stop Shopping Choir at Times Square New York City, while Rev. Billy shouts their message. While they advocate local markets and oppose the obsessiveness of shopping (which they dubbed the shopocalypse) the Church uses organized arts, humor and grassroots. The Choir of Life after shopping sing about a new day, when the stress is gone and we are free to live without debt. The Church believes that Americans are getting overwhelmed with shopping and consumerism. Reverend Billy preaches in favor of real experiences, not ones dictated by products, and for people to care more about local economies. In the church's website, they explain the power struggle that small local business' share against large corporations that may be among wealthiest in the world, but provide us low cost products at the hands of overworked, underpaid children and women in third world countries. They expanded from a 1 man street performer preaching about the bleeding of shopping, to a now 35 member choir and 5 piece band. In their documentary, Rev. Billy and the choir take a road trip around the nation from Black Friday up unto Christmas Day. Many of the facts that they shared about our nations' consumerism were overwhelming to think about. Last year American's spent $455 billion on shopping during the holidays, and consumer credit debt is now $2.4 Trillion. The United States used to be a producing nation, such as manufacturing automobiles. But over the last few decades, the United States has shifted from producing to consuming. And especially over the holiday's, families are inclined to show love through buying gifts more than anything. Have we forgotten what Christmas is about. Are we caught up in providing more for our children then we had growing up that we've lost the values that once shared? When we buy items, we have choices we can make. We can buy from local business' where money that we put into them will be recycled through the local economy. Or we can buy the low cost products of Disney or Walmart, where the money we put in will never be put back into local economies. The documentary is definitely worth watching, its only an hour and a half.

What Would Jesus Buy?
Here's the real the question. Even though the movie doesn't discuss many biblical teachings through out its length, its there to get the ball rolling and to get its viewers thinking about the question "What would Jesus Buy?" I've pondered this question now for awhile and more questions arise, such as "What would Jesus buy if he were on earth today?" and "What did Jesus buy when he was on earth?". If we look back at the story of Jesus we are told very little about his life up until he begins traveling and preaching for several years before eventually paying the ultimate toll for our sins. The bible tells us that Jesus was a carpenter for a living. This means that he worked with his hands a lot, and just like today, carpenters built, fixed, assembled and repaired things. Because we know that Jesus doesn't contradict the bible, we can know that he showed hard work and wasn't lazy, because Solomon says that "lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth." (Proverbs 10:4) Even though Jesus was poor during his ministry, Solomon isn't referring to financing poverty, but spiritual. Jesus obviously worked during his life to be able to afford basic human needs, and he wasn't a beggar. We also know that he didn't have much financial wealth which means that he only bought what was necessary, no more and no less. And if Jesus was alive today, I don't believe that he would buy anything that we normally would buy for ourselves or others, such as Ipod's, computers, televisions, phones, music, or cars. During the Jesus' ministry, he sent out the disciples in pairs and he gave them power over demons and the power to heal the sick. (Matthew 10/Mark 6/Luke 9) Jesus begins to give them instructions on what they should preach, how they should do it, and who they should preach too. But he also gives them specific instructions not take any gold, silver, or copper with them and to take no bag, or any extra clothing or shoes or stave's for their trips. (Matt 10:9-10) Jesus tells the twelve disciples not to take extra items with them because he will faithfully provide for them everything they need. The gospels show that Jesus took a special interest in the poor, seeing as he choose to be poor himself. During the famous speech about the Sheep and the Goats, Jesus explains doing good acts through faith and love towards others, such as clothing a naked person, or giving them something to eat. When the witness' say that they don't remember doing that for Jesus, he responds with "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you have done unto me" (Matt 25:40)

The Rich Young Man
One testimony that is consistent in all four books of the New Testament is the story of the rich young man or rich ruler. I perfer Mark's version because he has the greatest detail. As the story goes, Jesus was traveling when a young rich man came running too him, fell on his knees and asked "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?". Jesus questions his motives, asking him why he called him "Good teacher" because only God alone is good. Jesus recites the 10 commandments to him, and most eagerly the rich young man exclaims that he has kept them all since he was a boy. "Jesus looked at him and loved him". Then Jesus tells him that he only lacks one thing, that he must go and sell everything he owns to give it to the poor. And Jesus follows up and invites the man to follow him just the disciples have done after he has sold everything. The man became very upset and he left them very sad because he had much wealth. As the other apostles looked at each other in shock, Jesus speaks up and says "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!...It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle then for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. This story is one my favorite to read. We see a man that has acquired a lot of wealth and has done so at an early age. Maybe he was given a large inheritance and thats why he was so rich, or maybe he had worked very hard his whole life to get where he was now. What we do know, is that he was a wealthy ruler, and he seen running to Jesus and falling on his knees. A man of his stature has never fallen on his knees for anyone, he has servants that he can command to kneel before him if he wanted to. He has authority, but when he comes to Jesus he gives all his authority to him. We also see him running. This indicates urgency on his part. No other time has this man had to run unless he wanted to, he was probably carried or driven by other men. When this rich young man, finally gets to Jesus, he gets right to the point, asking about eternal life. Jesus see's that his motives are clear because he is calling Jesus the good teacher. Then Jesus explains the commandments. The rich ruler is so eager to interrupt when he hears this because he's excited. He's excited because all of these things Jesus is saying he has done since he was young. Then we see the compassion of Jesus because he knows whats about to knock this guy down, and he wants so bad for this young rich man to throw away his burdens and follow him to the kingdom. Jesus tells him to sell everything, and the rich man is devastated. Everything he has worked for his entire life, his authority, his legacy, his wealth. Jesus is not going to be second to any of these things. The disciples are looking at each other in disbelief. They probably just witness one of the best interviews ever for someone to become a disciple. This young man has lived a good life, and has obeyed the commandments since a child. He knows Jesus is the good teacher and seeks eternity in the kingdom. If this man can't even be a disciple of Jesus, then who possibly can? Jesus explains to his followers that its harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, then a rich person to be saved. They ask "Who can be saved?" and Jesus replies thats its impossible by human means alone, but not with God. (As a side not, when he says its harder for a camel to go through the eye of the needle, I don't think he was speaking literally, although I'm not entirely sure as Jesus often used long exaggerations as humor in explaining his teachings)

As we see through Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Jesus often taught using parables. Jesus also had compassion enough to then try to explain them to his disciples. A few parables he used also included money, such as a the rich blind fool, the rich man and Lazarus (Actually not a parable), and storing up treasures in heaven. And in almost every story and parable the Jesus talks about regarding money or wealth, he usually has that directly associated with eternal salvation. That's because it is so important that to talk about at the risk of sounding redundant. In fact when reading through the New Testament, the only time the bible mentions Jesus getting physically violent is when he comes back into Jerusalem and he overturns the tables of the money changers and dove sellers at the temple. For people to be using the temple as a way to get more money was so appalling in the eyes of Jesus that he flipped over benches and drove them out, and didn't even stay in the city that night when his motives were questioned by the religious elite. (Matt. 21:12-17)

So is it a mystery that Jesus talked so much about money. The bible goes so far as to say that money is the root of most evil. Jesus didn't come to earth so that we could live comfortable lives. He came to show us the truth, that if we follow and believe in him, we will be able to spend an eternity with him. But that means storing up treasures in heaven, and not here on earth. Because in 100 years it won't matter what car you drove or what house you lived in, but if you were able to change lives, especially your own. Giving up our need for money and items possibly means losing some security. But when we have to rely on God, it tests us to believe what we say we believe. Oh and how God wants to provide for you. He says don't worry about tomorrow because it already has enough worries, just let go and give it to God. Lastly God asks that we faithfully give back to him just a small portion of what he has given us. He says that he will bless a cheerful giver. He is so adamant that he will keep his word that he says in Malachi 3:10 ""Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the Lord Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it."" So maybe next holiday shopping season, we think about what we are buying, our motives and how our money is being used to help the kingdom of God.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Only Thing that Counts is Faith expressing itself Through Love

Faith, Hope, and Love (Revised Version)

Drowning before everyone else yet only I can tell that I am in trouble. I shout but no one seems to hear me. They are all lost in their own consciousness. However no one can hear the cries from their brothers and sisters right beside them. Why has the world turned a blind eye? And why does the world no longer hear the calling of help from their own kin. Do they refuse to help and stand by idly? Certainly not! Who among us would not come to the aid of their own family? Would you not even come to the aid of your neighbor if they were crying out for help? If we are so sensible then why do we not help those around us? The answer is evident yet hidden. We have become too involved in ourselves in this world that we don’t even see what is happening to others. But who can drown and yet still try to save your friend who is also drowning. I tell you it is impossible. Before you can save someone else you must first be saved. We are all in need of a savior. When we do find ourselves out of the water, no longer in danger of drowning, why then is it so hard to save others. How can you save someone from drowning if you can’t convince them first that they are in danger? To them its foolishness.

Does it really matter anyways? In the end what have we achieved? Is life meaningless to the very sweet bitter end? Even if we become saved ourselves it only means we are then able to recognize everyone that will drown. Ignorance is bliss to the wise and the foolish alike. Death is certain, and it is a road we will all travel on at some point. There awaits us a party, a feast like none other. Be cautious not to view this life as a prelude to that which awaits, or else we are in danger of making a mockery out of the gift that we have been given. For that reason live everyday in such a way to win the race. Don’t be afraid to love because it might cause pain, such is the life of one who sacrifices and serves. No one knows when his hour will come, so until such a time arrives, live a life full of love. Faith, love and hope are our instruments to use in this world. Faith turns to the truth, and its impending light reveals the hidden and shines light upon those who have given up their life to one greater. Hope remains regardless of circumstance, and fights for those who have long given up. From rejoicing comes perseverance, and through that shines character, and hope is originated out of those who show obedience and humility. Finally love. Unconditional, immeasurable and inconceivable is a love shown to us. Without it we could gain the world but lose our soul. We can love others through actions and words. We love because God first loved us. And Christ laid down his life for us: This is how we know what love is. And it will never fail as long as carry him around with you. It gives freely and is willing to give for others who might never come to fully understand. Those who do uncover this mystery will find a joy that circumvents all others. You will be able to recognize those who have love because they will shine out like. Be genuine in all that you do so that in all things God might be praised through Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Warm weather brings out Detroit

During the winter, the collective thoughts of our household about opening up avenues of community were dim. It was always cold, and it got dark very early. Not many people were outside during the cold months. One of my hopes during winter was that summer would be different. When I arrived in the middle of September, the weather was nice and warm, sometimes slightly cool. But even in the cooler stages of the fall there would be many people walking around outside enjoying the weather.

Once the summer began, the people of Detroit came alive once again. I am also included in that statement. Early on in late April there was a block fish grill out at a house a few rows down from us. Especially with the rather large unemployment rate in Detroit (33% at its peak) there are so many people that come outside to cook or play and at least use the day to its fullest even if they aren't currently employed. Another common activity in the suburbs is grilling. We just celebrated July 4th on Sunday and walking back from church, only 5 blocks, I saw just about every other house grilling or having a barbecue. However only white folk will have a bonfire during the hottest evenings of the year. Last but not least, I've seen on several accounts people that bring out small tables to the sidewalks or their porches to play cards during the warm summer weather.

Sports has become a large gateway to getting to know and meet the people of Detroit, and in particular our community. There is a small patch of grass at the corner of our block that usually contains our neighbors playing horseshoes or throwing around a baseball. Last week Michael, Luke and I went out to a local basketball court to play. After about an hour, there were three or four more people that joined us and we played a 3v3 game. More often than not, its almost a given that once a week I'll witness people tossing around a football. Needless to say, sports are very popular, and since the houses in the suburbs don't have large yards or property, it encourages everyone to come together to the local park to play.

Detroit City Futbol
Soccer has been revolutionary for me in meeting people in my community. Michael did some grunt work during the winter days when we were couped up and anxious for the warm weather. After doing some research on soccer leagues, he discovered a league that was starting up that would start games in mid May and conclude at the end of July. The league was dubbed the Detroit City Futbol. The more and more we learned about it the more excited we became. Not only because we were going to be outside and playing soccer together but because of the intrinsic value of this league. The league's founder, Sean Mann, is all about community. He protested against the construction of another bridge to Canada (not anything against Canada but the resources were better used for Detroit's wellness) and local involved in community building organizations. His vision of this league was to organize teams based on player/neighborhood location. He had a small captains meeting so that each neighborhood interested would have a person to contact to get organized. Originally Sean had predicted that around 4 teams would be formed. Unbeknown to Sean, getter forces were in play, and by the time Spring arrived, 11 teams were in the process of being formed. All 11 teams eventually were formed and they each represent a historic part of Detroit. Teams ranged from the suburbs, such as our team called New Center, to downtown, to the nicer regions of Detroit, such as Green Acres and the Villages. Our team has over 25 people registered and as announced, all of them hail from New Center. Michael and I have gotten to know a few of our teammates very well, and in fact we carpool with our new friend Ara each week, since we only live a mere two to three miles away. Our team and the league is primarily white, but that doesn't reflect how this leagued has crossed boundaries to connect different parts of Detroit with each other. It also gives us a sense of pride playing with the people that live around us. Another fun statistic about the Detroit City Futbol league is that it came up with its our bar schedule. In another attempt to promote fellowship, the league asked each team to come up with a local bar for after game drinks and conversation. Each team picked its bar, namely based on being sponsored or having connections through someone working there that is also in the league, and a schedule was developed. Along with the matches and the times that teams would play each other either on Monday or Thursday, each week came with a different team hosting the after game festivities. And so after the games, a lot of people will go to whichever bar is being hosted that night, and we will further enjoy the night with everyone else. The league has a few rules that make it unique to other leagues. The location of all the games is on Bel Isle, a small island park that is found in the Detroit River between Detroit and Canada. It was designed by the same person that designed Central Park in New York City. We play on smaller fields and we play 7v7 including goalies. The league is co-ed, and to make sure women are treated fairly, there have to be at least 2 girls on the field at all times. No slide tackling is enforced because the last thing we want is for some people to be over competitive and someone to get hurt. The last and final rule of the league is "Don't be a jerk". Basically if you start being a jerk, you will be asked politely to leave until next week. Refs are anyone in the league who volunteers, but as incentive, any tie breakers will be determined by which team had more volunteers to ref during the season. The league has been such a success so far that it has actually received media attention even in its first season. Most teams have at least a 30 player roster. Our team isn't that good compared to other teams, but either Mike or I, or both of us have scored in every game but 1 so far. I think thats 8 out of 9 games. We call it the Pingree Connection. We measure success in having fun and trying our best, so its all good.

Downtown Detroit has also been enhanced thanks to the warm weather. The center plaza in downtown, called Campus Martius, was fitted with a ice skating rink during the winter. But now its got green grass laid down with benches, tables and chairs everywhere for people to enjoy their lunches outside. Last week their was live bands playing during the middle of the day for entertainment. Also the Hart Plaza, a large area that borders the riverfront, has had plenty of attention during this summer. Its been the location for the weekend Techno Festival, the Detroit Hoe Down, and a place in general that is always been used to share local live music.

So all in all, the warm weather has been a blessing to us in Detroit in giving us more ways to enjoy the people and the locality. My job hasn't changed much however. We are still just as busy as we are in the winter. The only difference is that now I have a mini-van to do deliveries, rather than having to bike everywhere. The ironic thing is that during the winter I had to do it all on a bike. Now that its summer, and the weather is fantastic for biking in, my bike is broken and I am forced to do it all in my mini-van. I do have a friend currently fixing up a bike for me, so I'm hopefully that my waiting will not be in vain. The warm weather has also influenced our living conditions. Before we were huddled up in blankets because it was cold during the winter. Now we have fans blowing all day and night while we try to wear as little as possible. Anyways its been a blessing to have our community out and about during the summer and to learn more about the people that live here. Hopefully this will help and encourage us to continue connecting with people through out the year.

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Food Falling From the Sky

The Beginnings
Looking back at my time here in Detroit, I can't help but review memories that involve food. Our food situation has changed dramatically from the first month of living in an temporary apartment, to currently living in our house on Pingree Street. If I had to give all of us a title that represented our cooking styles it would probably be like this; Unpredictable Mike, Experimental Jon, Unmotivated Tyson, Appliable Matt and Vegan Luke. When we moved to Detroit in September, none of us had every lived in a community before outside of our families. Right away several issues had to be addressed. How would money be handled, how we would handle the personal property of others, how we would eat and cook, and so forth. We danced around a few ideas on how food should be handled. We agreed that we should have a spending budget each week for groceries, and not to put personal items towards that total. Then we settled on a schedule which had each one of us cook a meal during the week.

However, as stated before, we all had our individual cooking style, and sometimes it made for some interesting meals. While we were still at Hazelwood, we ended up making a lot of the meals together. We were still getting into the habit of things in Detroit, and almost every night we were together to help out with dinner. Luke's vegan appetite was the hardest adjustment to make. There were a few times when he made his own dinner with his own ingredients and we made whatever we wanted. But for the most part we tried to assimilate with him, making vegan dinners and using special ingredients so that we weren't alienating him. All we had to use at Hazelwood was a stove and oven, a few dull cutting knives and a cutting board. Because of our lack of kitchen utensils making dinners were sometimes hard and required a little bit more effort
Anyways we persevered until we were finally able to move into our new home. Things were looking up, or so we thought. Michael accidentally mischeduled our gas to be turned on until a week and a half after we moved in. So suddenly our food situation changed dramatically. We were now reduced to only making microwaveable dishes or cold dishes. Another crazy thing is that we didn't have cabinets put up yet in the kitchen, so all of our food that wasn't refrigerated was stored in boxes on the ground. So the week went by slowly without heat. We also had eight guest stay the night with us during one of those nights, and we felt a little bad that we didn't have a warm house for them, but we ordered a lot of food. Michael's mom, one the guest that week, saw how our food was stored, and figured that we didn't eat well or get fed enough by ourselves. That started the tradition of her always bringing food for us whenever she came to visit.

Finally, we got gas, but it came with a terrible price. We learned that the stove we had be donated was broken, and so we were still deprived of hot food aside from the microwave. We searched online and found a stove being sold for a very cheap price on Craig's List and within a few days, we finally had
a stove!

Our weekly meals
Now we could continue with our cooking. We each had our own individual cooking style which made every night a different looking meal. I wasn't a big fan of cooking big elaborate meals. I wanted as little prep and effort as possible, and so a lot of my early meals were pasta based. Matt would rarely ask for items to be bought for his meal on the grocery list because he had a habit of utilizing whatever he had around in our kitchen. Overall, Matt's meals were mainly starchy and full of beans that we would buy and never use. Jon was going through a experimental phase in his cooking life. When in doubt, Jon just used more hot peppers. His meals were hit or miss. One week he made some of the best fried chicken we had had since moving to Detroit. The next week he made pasta with a broccoli based sauce, which made me gag and we ended up ditching it completely. Matt liked it, however, but he tended to eat just about anything. Mike was very much of a wild card, because we never knew what kind of food he would present to us. And then finally there was Luke, the vegan. Luke made some interesting meals. For the most part they weren't bad, and I even really enjoyed a few of them. But some of Luke's tofu meals were not in my best interest to eat.

Free Food
Matt and our new friend Nate then introduced us to the practice of getting food from a dumpster. At first we were all very hesitate about the whole idea. Dumpster diving for food was never something I imagined myself doing. In fact I figured that the only people that really went dumpster diving were homeless people looking for anything to eat. What Nate and Matt did was still dumpster diving, but would better be described as food rescuing. Nate informed us that millions of tons of edible food is thrown out each year in the United States alone and that there was plenty of good packaged food to be found sometimes in dumpsters that wasn't opened or expired. Open to the idea of finding out what this was all about, all of us excluding Luke, went to go find food one night. The first stop was Trader Joe's. We wound up finding tons of package cheese, and fruit and other assorted goodies. We were all very careful in making sure whatever we kept was good quality and not dirty or bad because of being open in a dumpster. Matt's standards were pretty similar to ours, but sometimes we had to watch what he wanted to rescue. Michael also found a lot of flowers and he wanted to keep a few of them for later. Our next stop was to a Hostess/CVS dumpster. Initially we were looking for some goodies from
Hostess, but we ended up finding a lot of candy products that CVS was throwing away. We came about the week after Halloween, so perhaps that's the reason they were throwing out so much candy. We came home, split some of the profits with Nate since he lived in a different household. Then we reaped the rewards of dumpster diving for the first time with some real excitement. We couldn't believe how much free food was being thrown away. I think we all wanted to do it again right away, but we just didn't have any room so had to wait. I think Jon somehow calculated that we got about $200 of free food that night.

By this time I was working regularly at Jimmy John's and I was still riding my bike. I noticed that after we close for the night, we were throwing away anywhere from a few sticks of bread, to maybe 20 sticks of bread. The rules were that we had to throw them out. The logic behind it is that corporate didn't want us to keep any of the bread because it might encourage managers to bake more bread then necessary just to be able to keep it at the end of the night. So like a good employee, I would take the bread and throw it into its own plastic bag, then I would take the trash out to the dumpster and neatly and gently place the bread bag in a box on top of the other garbage. Then after work I would ride to the back of the store, and take out the bag of bread. Since I was on my bike, I had to balance it on my handlebars for the entire ride back home, but it was well worth it. There were some weeks where I would bring back so much bread that it seemed like we always had Jimmy's John bread to eat. We would eat it straight up, sometimes heat up some pasta sauce and eat it with that. Mike and Jon liked to cut it like french bread pizza, put pasta sauce, cheese and pepperoni on it and toast it. They dubbed it Pizza bread. I always enjoyed toasting it with butter and garlic making some pretty good garlic bread for my pasta meals. Now that I have a mini-van, transporting JJ's bread is a lot easier. Also, I don't have to take the bread out to the dumpster first. Just about all my managers know that I take it so they willing me ask how much I want before they throw it out.

Eastern Market
Nate introduced me to the Eastern Market, just a few miles away from Downtown Detroit. We biked there a few times during the winter since it was only about 30 minutes away if we biked well. The Eastern Market in Michigan is the largest farmers market in the country. Most of the vendors sold locally grown produce. They have just about everything you could think of being sold at a farmers market, and it was all fresh. Out of all my roommates, I visited the Eastern Market the most. Nate and I rode there a lot during the fall and winter. We would always test the limits of our backpacks with all the things that we would buy. Nate knew a lot of the dealers and was often able to get a good deal on things, such as 50% a crate of bananas because of few of them were bruised or what not. I hadn't gone for a few months until today, when I went with one of my soccer teammates. His name is Ara and he buys almost all of his groceries at Eastern Market, so its an exaggeration to say he knew a few people.

Luke's Decision and Jon's Cookbook
In the middle of winter, Luke made a drastic decision that affected our meals for the rest of the year. We were gathered around one night and Luke announced that he was no longer going to be vegan. We were all a little shocked but relieved at the same time. He said it was getting a little hard to do, and that we had done a great job of accommodating for him, but at last he said he just wanted to go back to eating regular food. This meant no more Silk Milk, and no more tofu contains and no more cheese that wasn't cheese at all. The next night we celebrated by frying up some chicken on the stove. For Christmas, Jon got a Betty Crocker cook book, and it was a little piece of heaven for the house. Jon went crazy with cooking experiments but this time he had the recipes to work with. He made some great meals and treats for all of us.

Mishaps and Praises
First of all, I will start with the praises. There have been many wonderful meals made in this house. I'm dedicating this to all those amazing adventures. To start things off, in the beginning of the year, we had a vegan chocolate cake, and even though it wasn't real diary, it was real delicious. Next was Mike's homemade ma
shed potatoes, a recipe that he got from Kat. This was a very important victory for Michael because he was needing redemption from his last meal. Jon's praises are probably the best. With his new cookbook in hand, he created some great treats. Homemade sweet tea, gingerbread, and cinnabuns. Also beer battered fried fish. Jon would stay up all night concocting something and when we would wake up in the morning he would have something delicious for us to feast on. Another praise is our 3rd dumpster diving run. It was mid winter and Luke, Matt, Mike and I were feeling like we needed some free food. Instead of going to
our normal hotspots, we tried something new. This time we were only hitting up Little Caesar's dumpsters. Whenever we went out and got pizza, we would always get Little Caesars' Hot N' Ready pizzas for only five bucks. But we heard that once those pizzas get cold, they aren't allowed to reheat them and have to
throw them away. So Matt devised a seven dumpster route for us to go on and Michael drove. We came back an hour later with 15 full sized pizza's still in their boxes. We were eating pizza for about 2 weeks after that.

And finally for the mishaps. As stated before, Jon made broccoli flavored pasta sauce that made everyone but Matt gag. Michael made a batch of homemade mashed potatoes, but he let the potatoes oxidize too quickly and they turned grey. Luke made some tofu with peanut oil as the sauce, but it still didn't save the dish from the spongy texture of the tofu. And there was the one time we had bad fortune going dumpster diving. This trip to getting food was our 4th out of 5 trips and we had so many people we had to take two cars. Luke's girlfriend Kat was visiting him and Slippy, Matt's roommate from college was also visiting us. And we all wanted to go, and so did the guest because we had hyped up how much food we had gotten in the past. So we want to live up to all the talk we had been dishing out, so we went to the normal hotspots. Trader Joe's had very little and the nearby Hostess/CVS was a bust too. We didn't want to go out on a sour note so we decided to improvise. We hit up another local grocery store to find it overflowing with garbage. We didn't want to leave empty handed so we found a few more CVS's, but atlas we had no luck. With our heads hung low we ventured back home. As we were making our way back home, we were crossing through Highland Park and saw a CVS in the middle of a shopping plaza. We decided to make one last stop to hopefully get something good. We wanted to make it quick because we weren't concealed very well so I got out from Luke's car, and Jon jumped out of Mike's. Jon jumped into the dumpster while I hung over the edge shining the flashlight into it. I turned around and I saw a cop car driving by. Then to my horror it turned around and headed straight towards us. I yelled at Jon to get out but he thought it was better to just hide in the dumpster. I yelled some more and ran back to the car and got in. While Jon was just getting out of the dumpster, 2 police cars arrived next to our cars and stopped Jon. They had him come over to their vehicle and he had to put his hands on the hood while they searched him, probably looking for drugs. They asked Jon what we were doing in the middle of night at a dumpster. We couldn't hear him but he explained to them that we were looking for food. Then one officer walked up to Luke's car and another to Mike's. When they asked Luke what we were doing, he said in the most sincere voice that we were looking for candy. The officer thought we were making fun of him and started asking us more questions about how we thought he was going to believe a story like that. Then the officer from Mike's car walked over and said Mike had to told him that we were here looking for candy. Seeing that both stories checked out, they released Jon and told us never to do it again. And with that we drove back home.