Word of the Week


The weather folks make it sound like Jesus is coming back this storm is going to be so bad.

First 12 inches, then 18, and now they say 30!

Is that even possible?

From our airwaves, we've heard: "Prepare promptly."

It will be the worst, worst than 2010! 

It will be the worst, worst than 1996!

It will be the worst, worst since 1922!

(Ok, this sounds bad, maybe we should listen . . .)

So, we've stood in long lines at the gas stations, the grocery stores and Home Depot. We've fought fellow shoppers for parking spaces. We've grabbed batteries till the shelves were bear. We've remembered where our shovels are and put the bags of salt in our hall closets on alert. We thought we were ready.

But now as we watch the news, it's turned into "Prepare to panic. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR HOUSE!"

With refrigerators full of frozen pizza, cheese and lunch meat, we've started to worry about when the power goes out. What fun is it to be at home in the freezing dark? All our meat will spoil. . .

Yet even if they call 2016 the worst and it is the ultimate worst.

You tell us not to fear. You tell us that you are in the storm. You tell us you are the Creator of this day.

And like any other day. You are before us. You are behind us. And most of all you are with us in the middle of it.

And because you are with us, might this storm be an opportunity OUT of our normal ways?

Out to let a neighbor use our snow shovel. Out to check on the lady across the street who lives alone.

Out with kinder hearts when this Sabbath us over.

Lord, be our eye in the middle of the storm. Watch over us the whole night through. But don't let fear steal the show! We've got better stories to tell.


image (1)Today, I watched as 800 people stood in line with grocery sacks, trash bags and wheeled carts waiting to get food.

Most if not all were minorities.

Many were elderly, walking with canes or walkers.

Many were young mothers with babies in strollers or in car seats.

Many looked cold after standing in line for three or more hours simply to make it to the front of the line.

Many spoke of their long journey home, taking two or more buses to get back to their doorstep.

Most looked weary with the burdens of a hard life-- a life that had a lot to do with self-reliance, determination and perseverance to succeed even under less than desirable circumstances.

These were some of my hungry neighbors in the northeast neighborhood of Washington, DC. They gathered in mass nearby the Central Union Mission because they heard Feed The Children came to town with "the big truck." Feed The Children came with boxes of essential can goods, personal care products such as soap and toothpaste, and loaves of bread, oatmeal, and even some chocolate for the way home from its partners including Pepsi, Frito Lay and Wal-Mart.

As I gathered with my neighbors and stood in the line of folks giving out boxes to families in need, I couldn't help be overwhelmed by how deeply embedded hunger needs are, only a few miles from our nation's capital.

Can you imagine what a line of 800 people looks like? (As soon as we thought we'd made headway in passing boxes out, the lineimage seemed to get longer and longer). Can you imagine what it is like to be hungry enough to wait in the cold for a box of food which might only last you a week? Can you imagine the humility that comes from asking for help to simply feed your own children?

As I helped elderly women and young mothers put their canned goods and Corn Flakes into their suitcases or duffel bags, wishing them well on their journey to get all their heavy weight home, I could help but think about what Jesus would say about all of this.

How in a nation of plenty do we allow some of our neighbors to live with such little when many of us take so much?

How do the poor, in a town where media coverage runs on just about anything, become invisible to us?

How do we call ourselves good neighbors, as residents and frequent visitors to the District when some of our neighbors simply do not have enough food to feed our families?

image (2)Of course, these are big questions to ask and big questions without simple answers. And, the folks at Feed The Children know that food is only the beginning-- you feed hungry people so that doors of greater relationship can be opened for lasting change. Feed The Children just is a small drop in the larger assistance movement in communities. Feed The Children's food drop's like today mean little if they aren't connected to greater, long-term investment by partner organizations. And Feed The Children's network of building lasting change with in communities like DC is certainly growing by the day. Today was more than about just food-- Feed The Children made sure of this.

As I reflect tonight on my experience today at this event, I am sobered most of all. I know I need to think of my neighbors-- all of them-- in new ways. I need to remember as much as I have, there are those who struggle in my own neighborhood to buy vegetables and shampoo.

Maybe for all of us on this Holy Week as we stand around in the crowds, watching and waiting for and with Jesus-- we can all do our part by remembering the poor among us. We can thank God for the blessings in our life, both great and small. Yet, we can remember that no matter how wide we think our vision is in our community, there's always hungry folks among us wanting to be seen and feed too.

My world is the fast paced, traffic filled, takes you 45 minutes (if you are lucky) to get on the other side of town environment of DC. It's a world of people who are savvy and excited about enjoying life. It's a world of independent, overachievers who want to make a difference in something that they believe in. It's a world where at every point you turn around you'll find a room full of overcommitment people multitasking. (Seen anyone at dinner with a cell phone in hand lately?)

The energy that surrounds my city is contagious.  Not only is DC a populated urban area, but politics is a part of life in everything that happens around town. It draws you in quickly and invites you to join its own rhythm as it did for me the first time six years ago in the summer of 2005.  Living in a city and region such as this is truly exciting, no matter what party is in office! There's always such fun things to do. There's always such fun folks coming through town. It's a great place to live . . . don't get me wrong.

Yet, with all of this being the case, I've been pondering lately how the lifestyle of "every weekend booked weeks in advance" "working every night until 8" and "a day off, what is that?" is simply too much.

This spring I've had the opportunity to travel more than normal-- both for professional events and vacation-- each of these trips which just happened to be in peaceful places: Sedona, AZ, in the mountains of Ashville, NC and then recently to Harper's Ferry, WV. Being in a place where you can hear the birds and see the rich colors of the trees and stare up at the brightest blue sky, has slowed me down to the point of being reminded that DC culture of let's out achieve everyone else is just not normal. And, it might be too much.

From the pastoral lens that I see life through, I know that God has called each of us to life that is abundant. Not abundant in the sense of getting everything we want like some tv preachers are frequently speaking about, but having a life that is rich in relationships, rich in quiet time, rich in jubilation, rich in contributions, and rich in time to process life's harder moments. But, finding balance in all of this and being in an emotional and spiritual place to receive it, takes having "time out" days that grow into "time out" lifestyles. For simply learning part of what it means to be human is realizing our limitations.

Limitations is not something that the idealistic crowd and the churches that pastor such folks often want to hear, but it is true. Unless you or I woke up this morning and found out that our name was God, the truth is that we can't do everything our heart desires even if the desires are seemingly good.

So many folks in this town take to heart the words of Gandhi who said, "Be the change that you want to see" thinking that this means we have to be EVERY change we want to see and then proceed to tire ourselves out with more than we can really do that well anyway. Yet, does it have to be like this?

Based on our life situations and personalities, all of us have a pace that is comfortable for us, even if our employer, family or friends seek to run faster, longer and harder than we ever could.  A focused life of simplicity is a courageous choice and comes as we are ok in running our race differently. Are we able to seek out our own abundance even as others might look at us at committed, lazy or unavailable?

Because in the end, we might just realize that in answering invitations to go and do by saying, "No, it's just too much for my week" we find the freedom to actually enjoy the life we are currently living.