January 5, 2013

For behold, darkens covers the earth

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 6:49 pm by Editorial Team

On December 21, the sun set at 4:43 PM.  It didn’t rise again until 7:16 AM the next morning.  The winter solstice, also known as the longest night of the year, lasted 14 hours and 33 minutes.  For most of us, we hardly notice a difference.  But for many who wander the streets at night or have no consistent place to lay their head, it is a night of worry, like many other nights.  Worry that they will be able to maintain enough body heat to stay alive.  Worry that they will be able to sleep safely, without being disturbed or harmed.  Worry about their next meal.  

On December 21, our house attended an inter-faith memorial service.  The nonprofit I work for, along with several other agencies, has sponsored this service for years.  The purpose is to remember those who have no more reason to worry, because they have left this world.  In St. Louis, at least 22 people died this year, because they succumbed to a variety of issues of poor health care related to their sojourn.  We hold the service to remember, first of all their lives and struggles, and second of all, to remind ourselves that we must to better.

At the agency where I work, I interact with many of these individuals on a daily basis, all of them having a disability which further complicates their situation.  The complex situations we find are a result of both circumstances beyond control and the compounding effects of mistakes made with little few privileges.  And the government-funded work we do, while often very instrumental in our work, falls short of the perfect fix: a rebuilt community where relationships are made whole.

It is often easy to judge others from our position, in trying to determine who is worthy of help.  However, we can hardly know the experiences of each person we meet.  Our house is a house of hospitality.  We have had all kinds of people stay with us, and interacted with people who were intoxicated, had a serious mental illness, or were fighting drug addiction.  We have also interacted with some very skilled/resourceful people who have become friends over the years.  Our first response is simply to welcome people, offer them whatever we have on hand, whether joining us in a meal, or friendship.

These individuals leave an indelible mark on our household conscience, as they have challenged us to rethink ourselves, our understanding of society, and each other.  We frequently reminisce on these encounters.  Occasionally, some of these individuals resurface.  Many do not.  Our only hope is that in these acts of worship that we celebrate the trinitarian imago dei.



May 4, 2012

A friend who dies; it’s something of you who dies.

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 3:58 pm by Editorial Team

~ Gustave Flaubert

I have rarely felt that the work I do could be anything related to palliative or hospice care.  For the majority of people I serve, they improve, they move on with their life.  But this year, two of my tenants have passed away.  Both had major physical health problems, in addition to battling mental illness.  Both were no longer homeless.  Today, I discovered the bad news that the second one had passed, not less than three months after the first.  Their loss bring me sadness.  As a human race, regardless of religious creed, we have failed ourselves in some way.

I am grateful that they died in their apartment, rather than on the streets.  I am grateful to work alongside and for wonderful people.  But I wish they did not have to die in such a way.

August 17, 2011

God Walks the Dark Hills

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 1:27 pm by Editorial Team

God walks the dark hills
The highways, the byways
He walks through the billows
Of life’s troubled sea
He walks through the cold dark night
The shadows of midnight
God walks the dark hills
Just to guide you and me

God walks the dark hills
To guide my footsteps
He walks everywhere
By night and by day
He walks in the silence
On down the highway
God walks the dark hills
To show me the way.

God walks in the storm
The rain and the sunshine
He walks on the billows
On through glimmering light
Helps us walk up the mountain so high
Cross our rivers through valleys
God walks the dark hills
‘Cause he loves you and me

-An old Gospel song

August 14, 2011

Proper 15A: Redemption Is Just Around the Corner

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 3:17 pm by Editorial Team

Gen. 45:1-15, Psalm 67, Romans 1:1-2,29-32, Matthew 15:21-28

Caution, objects in mirror are closer than they appear.

In Genesis, Joseph’s family made the long arduous journey to the Egyptian empire, seeking to find reprieve from the famine which threatened to devastate the people of Israel.  They submitted themselves to a ruthless Egyptian Prime minister, not knowing if they would even be allowed to return home alive.  God’s providence was made perfect in the revelation of Joseph’s identify.  Through this act, the brothers were both redeemed from the famine and restored to their brother.  The sin that brought destruction, eventually led to deliverance and restoration.  In similar vein, the Canaanite woman, also outside of God’s mercy, laid out her faith in from of Jesus, and found the redemption and healing she needed.

The psalmist cries out for God’s grace  and blessing and proclaims His reign.  We too, cry out in the dark times.  We may not see the hope before us, but it is often around the corner.  Romans reminds us that God has not rejected his people, but that God’s gifts and mercy are irrevocable.  The path of disobedience ultimately leads to mercy and reconciliation.

The readings remind us that we are closer to the Kingdom of God than it appears.  We find ourselves in dark times, often through our sins against others.  However, today’s message reminds us that redemption is closer than we think.  Like Joseph’s brothers, we rarely see deliverance at our doorstep.  By faith, we wait on the deliverance and restoration that come through the Kingdom of Light.  The old gospel song reminds us that “God walks the dark hills, because he loves you and me.”

Today, we find ourselves in the dark valley, looking to the hills, and wondering from where our help will come.  But we rejoice, though we do not see it, for restoration is coming.  We pray for the restoration of all things, so that God may be all in all.

Redemption is closer that it appears.

February 16, 2011

On the Ease of Merriment in Small Towns

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 8:05 am by Editorial Team

The key, I have no doubt, to the sustained level of activity lay in the fact that the great majority of persons who visited the places along Main Street and who did so with a desire for company in mind, did so alone. It is this characteristic that modern communities fail to achieve and that is so much missed in modern life. Those who have found a place where they can stop in as lone individuals and find association and camaraderie awaiting them are indeed as rare as they are fortunate. Most of us have to go with friends to a place in order to have someone to talk to when we get there. We must plan, we must make arrangements, we must try to establish a set time as well as a set place in order to regularize whatever third association we can claim. In small towns like River Park, before home entertainment and fast highways took or kept people elsewhere, the lone individual could find company and diversion virtually without effort. It was the casual and effortless satisfaction of the social instinct that allowed the River Parks of that time to keep boredom at bay.

– Ray Oldenburg, The Great Good Place

August 17, 2010

Work Ethic in a Capitalist Society

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 3:52 pm by Editorial Team

“So I saw that there is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work, because that is his lot.” – Ecclesiastes 3:22

Our culture has been slowly undermining a philosophy of work.   I blame capitalism, in spite of its many benefits.  The entrepreneurial spirit leads one to succeed and provides ample motivation to find satisfaction in work.  But beyond innovation and creativity, many of us find ourselves as simply a cog in the machine.  And for the majority of citizens, there is little motivation to succeed.

Sure we all want a nice paycheck, and we are incentivized to do what we can to earn a paycheck.  But there is a certain level of slack we can give without destroying that incentive.  There is a certain amount of acceptable laziness and incompetence within most jobs that will not lead to deteriorated incentives.  And we become a society that accepts some level of mediocrity, because frankly, work is just a means to earn money to do the things we want.

We have little satisfaction in work, beyond money, largely because we’re disconnected from the fruit of our labor.  We’re just a cog doing the minimum a cog needs to do in order to avoid replacement.   And yet work should be something that leads to some level of satisfaction.  For some, that satisfaction may come through helping others improve their experience in life.  But for many of us, watching numbers or words float across our eyes does not produce anything beyond a mere spark of temporal happiness.

When someone can find a work that is fulfilling and meaningful, it’s impossible to be mediocre.

“We have lived our lives by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. We have been wrong. We must change our lives so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption, that what is good for the world will be good for us. And that requires that we make the effort to know the world and learn what is good for it.”
Wendell Berry

June 11, 2010

When Technology Supersedes People

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 1:44 pm by Editorial Team

I admit to being a techno-phile.  I love computers, and am always drooling over the newest and fasted devices.  No I do not own an iPad, primarily because I’m anti-Mac.  But I do own an iPhone (against my will — it was a gift).  I admit, my iPhone causes me to lose track of time and pay less attention to people and the situation at hand.  I tout it’s helpfulness and resourcefulness, but it, as well many other technological devices can become a great temptation.

Our culture has a destructive love-affair with technology.   Read the rest of this entry »

May 27, 2010

Largest Oil Disaster Ever

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 3:38 pm by Editorial Team

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico has now surpassed the Exxon-Valdez oil spill in it’s environmental destruction.  It’s estimated that 19-39 million gallons of oil have already polluted the ocean, 2-4 times that of Exxon-Valdez.  The environmental destruction is truly disgusting, but merely a visual example of the gradual degradation we impose every day.  Our corporate greed and rampant materialism are sickening.

On a bright note, a Presbyterian minister has written a beautiful hymn regarding this tragedy.

O God, the Great White Seas Our Yours (Sung to the tune of Eternal Father, Strong to Save).

Please see the song here.

May 18, 2010

Book Notes: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , at 9:15 am by Editorial Team

I read this book a couple of months ago, and it still weighs heavy in my mind.  Famous for The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver is a masterful story writer who weaves culture, botany, and tragic characters together.  Often lamenting humanity’s soured relationship with the land, Kingsolver, is an important voice in recapturing a healthy relationship with what we eat and the land it is produced on.

Her challenge is simple, yet daunting: live a whole year off of the land, with only minimal outside resources.  Her family leaves Tucson, AZ (a dry and unforgiving land where almost every aspect of food, even water, is outsourced) to  Appalachia (a very generous land and climate).

Read the rest of this entry »

February 10, 2010

Keeping People Out of Jail Works

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:38 pm by Editorial Team

At the agency I work at, we run a grant with for Jail Diversion.  The idea is that people with mental illness and substance abuse commit crimes that they would likely not commit if they were receiving the appropriate clinical services.  So we work with local court systems to identify people who would be better served through services rather than jail time.

We recently collected data that proves this program works, and is in line with other national data.  About 150 clients are enrolled in the program, and 50 have been in it for 12 months.

  • Clients spent an average of 6.4 days in jail the year before they entered.  In the year after, they entered, they only spent 1.5 days in jail.
  • 44% were using illegal drugs at intake, after one year, only 13% were using.  56% were using alcohol, after one year only 29% were.
  • 19% were employed at intake, 42% were employed after 1 year.
  • 63% had stable housing at intake, and 85% had stable housing after one year.
  • 89% had an arrest in the previous 30 days. That number dropped to 3% after one year.

Keeping people with mental health/substance abuse problems out of jail WORKS.  If receiving the right services, they will reduce their recidivism, be more likely to abstain from drug/alcohol abuse, have increased employment, and housing stability.

Jail is a very costly expense to government.  A state spends anywhere from $20,000-$40,000 a year to keep an inmate housed.  Keeping people out of prison, helping them address the factors that led them to cause the crime, and helping them continue to be independent/self-sufficient is a lot cheaper than locking them up and throwing away the key.

Unfortunately, it’s politically expedient to throw “bad people” in jail.

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