Information and Advice Needed

We live in a small rural Southern town near a major East/West Interstate that connects with a North-South one. So, we have a growing homeless population, particularly as cold weather hits North of us.
We have a wonderful Help Center literally in the center of our downtown. But it is far away from the Interstate. Some of our churches, even small ones, are attempting to address the needs of the homeless. One larger one is considering starting a Room at the Inn program to give shelter as we too begin to have colder nights. This hasn’t come to fruition yet. Meanwhile they take a van around town with sandwiches and bottled water. Several other smaller churches have chosen different days to have free lunch programs each week. And another church had a coat/hat/ gloves/shoes and blanket give away just last weekend.
The problem right now is that the homeless living in wooded areas near the interstates are chased off pretty regularly, so it is a transient population without actual transportation.  1: They don’t know about what help is being offered. 2: They have no way to get to the help. None of the groups now offering help is actually reaching most of the homeless near our area.
One woman has begun an organization called House of Hope for New Beginnings which has attempted to purchase several different buildings to house, feed, clothe, enroll children in school and train the adults of homeless families for jobs. Their plan includes checking backgrounds and testing for drugs. But so far, they have been defeated by code conflicts and the city council. As they persevere in their search for an appropriate building, they are taking food and toiletry items to people living in a cheap motel on the edge of town that takes pretty much all their social security or disability money just for rent. Some of the younger people living there walk miles to work in fast food restaurants. Volunteers also take the people to medical care, enroll children in school, get mothers needing it into rehab, find foster parents for their children, and look for better cheap housing for families of as many as six living in one room.
A couple of our smaller churches of different denominations are considering the possibility of pooling our resources to buy a food trailer capable of cooking soups and stews for cold months and just fixing cold sandwiches in the warm weather for lunches. We wouldn’t try anything complicated or requiring deep frying. But we would need refrigeration and some sort of large electric cooking pots, and of course, a clean water tank, waste water tank, sinks, counter space and a generator.  We may be able to get extras like french bread, chips, some fruit, disposable dishes and silverware donated here.
I think most of the other churches currently attempting to feed the homeless would probably join in this effort. If we post flyers near the Interstate access roads, it shouldn’t take long to get the word out about the times and places the food trailer would be near more easily accessible areas.
What we need is advice and information from anyone with experience in this area of food trailers, permits needed, liability insurance, cooking equipment, size of generators needed for this size operation. And what we need to ask when searching for a used trailer online.  We know that air conditioning and heating would be needed normally, but the short hours of operation for probably just two sites near two Highway/Interstate intersections and tailoring our food to the temperatures hopefully will make this a luxury, rather than a necessity. Plus, having heat and air, while the homeless have neither, seems inappropriate.
If you know anything helpful for this project or can pass on sources of information, we would be very grateful. And all prayers greatly appreciated.

Controlling Conditioned Responses

Okay, This probably will be an equal opportunity offender, but sometimes you just have to tell it like it is!

When my co-feminists have said things like, “Men’s brains are in their genitals,” I took offense for men. This was certainly a sexist statement. But recently, I have begun to rethink this issue.

As a little old lady, I’ve made an interesting discovery relating to the differences between conditioned responses and mind over body controls. Little old ladies have little old bladders with diminished early warning systems. So it’s sort of touch and go, or rather see and go, to make it not only into the bathroom, but specifically to the commode. I have discovered that we can maintain control by giving our bladder verbal commands and encouragement. Seeing the commode evokes a primal level conditioned physical response. But language is a higher human ability and engages our minds to respond to the challenge. While it is a matter of mind over body, it seems to require at least mental verbal expression.

Perhaps counting or doing math problems would work. I haven’t tried those. I know that our male counterparts can at least slow down other conditioned physical responses in similar ways. So, I’m assuming, that at least when reasonably sober, they should be able to engage their minds by counting possible negative consequences when their bodies react with a conditioned response to physical temptation.

I think I’ll begin testing this theory at the sight of jelly doughnuts.

I Pray for Grace

to get it right now that I am old.
to give love and joy, never heartbreak.
to hold all lightly, free to let go.
to seek God’s hand when I suffer.
to forgive others and be forgiven.
to have faith there is some great purpose,
an after- life better than this one.
to while still in dark, believe in light.
and to go with hope into the night.

Moments of Wonder

An illusion haunts us, that a long duration, as a year, a decade, a century, is valuable. But an old French sentence says, “God works in moments.” We ask for long life, but ’tis deep life or grand moments that signify. Let the measure of Time be spiritual, not mechanical. Life is unnecessarily long. Moments of insight, of fine personal relation, a smile, a glance–what ample borrowers of eternity they are!
Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Not a One Piece Puzzle

Seems to me life is like a puzzle
where we each only get one piece.
But rather than put our pieces together,
particularly the ones we can’t see
how to fit together with our own,
we create an imaginary picture
that tidily fits with our one piece,
but totally distorts the whole
all our pieces could complete.
That’s why I keep odd shaped
puzzle pieces in an open file
for when their place shows up.

The Love of God

The Love of God is the only thing
of any importance at all.
The Love of God is so incredibly different
and beyond compare
that it boggles our minds to believe in it,
never-the-less accept it.
No matter how much we have been loved
by family and friends,
no matter how famous and wildly adored
by the multitudes,
nothing has ever been more than
a barely glimpsed shadow
of the Love of God.
The Love of God is all that is necessary.
We need nothing more
than to know the unconditional love of God
with our whole mind,
to experience it with an open heart
until our spirit is so filled
with it, that we simply pass it on
by letting it overflow.
We begin to sense this Love of God
when we consider
the possibility that the creator of the universe
chose to walk in our skin,
to experience the frustrating and fearful limits
of being human,
being born under crushing political oppression,
a scorned minority,
bearing physical exhaustion and bodily pain,
the heartbreak
of being abandoned and even betrayed
by his only friends,
publicly ridiculed, tortured and killed,
even taking the
leap of faith into the darkness of death
to show us there is more,
because of His Love.
The love of God can free us to see ourselves
exactly as we are,
to accept our own need for forgiveness
without guilt, just true sorrow
that brings a joy that sets us free from fear
and gives us grace to change.
The Love of God begins to free us to forgive
both ourselves and others.
The Love of God heals us of the crippling wounds
that stunt our growth in love.
The Love of God takes our mustard seed of good
and nurtures it with grace.
The Love of God builds our faith and sets us free
to die and live again.
The Love of God is
personal, unconditional, and eternal.
All else fails.
There is nothing greater than
the Love of God expressed in Jesus,
the Love of God for you.

My Good Friday God

What kind of God are you, dying like that?
I want a real God, a “fix it “ God,
not one that gets himself crucified.
You’re just as helpless as the rest of us.
Here we are dying together.
What a weird way to save a world!

Such sorrow pierced your mother.
Yet, she didn’t run away.
She stayed there suffering too.
Was she filled with a mother’s self doubt?
“Could she have done anything?
Would it have made a difference?”

I watched my mother die by inches.
Her dignity destroyed
by fourteen years of Alzheimer’s.
I’ve seen my children make choices
that would cost them for years.
I could only ask, “Am I to blame?”

I listened to my friend whose mind
had become her enemy.
I heard her pain, yet could not help.
I hate being helpless, not good enough
or smart enough to help
even the ones I love the most.

Not long ago, you did miracles
even in my own small life.
Now I just see our brokenness.

You are a Good Friday God.

I think about the expectations
you gave your Apostles.
Only Judas got the picture.
How disillusioned he became.
He must have felt that you
were betraying them all.
Sometimes I’m just like Judas,
recognizing that we
are all sheep being shorne.
I’m even as cowardly
as Peter in asking
more or less, “Jesus who?”
But I know as well as John did
that your love is perfect.
That we need nothing more.
Even though like doubting Thomas
I fear a hard ending,
you are my Lord and my God,
my only God.
So I ask for grace to follow
though through the cross you call,
my Good Friday God.

Darkness before Dawn

If this quote is too obscure, read on down to my translation.

When you get hooked into emotional reactivity, an opportunity has come to cleanse your perception.
From the perspective of wholeness, triggers are a special form of grace. Not the sort of grace that is sweet, peaceful, and calming, but the kind that is wrathful, fierce, and reorganizing.
When it gets tight, claustrophobic, and you are burning for relief, the invitation is laid before you. To lay down a new pathway. To turn into the disturbing energy and flood it with presence. To infuse the vulnerability underneath the storyline with warm, empathic attunement.
And with the earth as your witness, to commit to the radical path of non-abandonment.
These triggers are not obstacles to your path, but are the very path itself. While they may disturb you, they are eruptions of creativity and aliveness, and guardians at the threshold. In this way, they are worthy of your honor, your care, and your holding.
While it may appear otherwise, they are only love in disguise, appearing in infinite forms to guide you home.
~Matt Licata   From the Blog: Make Believe Boutique

My translation:  When life throws you down and defeats you and you are reeling in pain and railing against fate, go with the suffering.  Enter it and feel it. Curl into a fetal position and weep bitterly, if you need to, but accept the grace of the pain. Don’t run from any part of it.  Don’t project blame on others.  Don’t use anger as an escape. Don’t sink into self pity or self justification. Don’t seek revenge. Don’t play “what if….?” Because this is a doorway to rebirth.  This is a cross you die on, so that you can become a new person, with new wisdom, new strength, and a new ability to love more deeply, both others and yourself.



True Confessions of a LOL Kind

Don’t get hopeful. LOL here means “Little Old Lady.”
I belong to a LOL group in a small church. Last week at our meeting, several LOL’s expressed concerns for the welfare or a growing homeless population in our small rural town. Our church doesn’t have much money and the women who don’t work are mostly between seventy and ninety-three. So, I offered to research the problem to find out the main places the homeless were gathering and what groups were already helping them to see if there was a way for us to contribute to one of those in some small way. The next day I was preparing for my turn to lead part of Sunday’s service by reading the Lectionary Scriptures for that Sunday. All of them were focused on helping the poor, including the Gospel story of the Rich Man and Lazarus, the beggar at his gate. This is a “Come to Jesus and Get with the Program” scripture, plain and simple. So, I gave one of my tiny sermonettes (I call them sermons from the molehill as opposed to on the mount or from the pulpit). And I ended it with,”The question Jesus is asking us today is, ‘Who is the beggar at YOUR gate?”
I had left my purse at the far end of the pew near the door, but when turning the pulpit over to our minister, I sat down at the other end of the pew. Usually my husband is with me, but he was out of town on a family emergency. A few minutes later, an elderly woman came in the door and sat down right behind my purse. She looked shabby enough to be homeless. I happened to have a rare hundred dollar bill that I had been saving for a couple of months in my purse. My first concern, I’m ashamed to confess, was that the woman would steal my hundred dollars. I didn’t want to be obvious about this by scooting across the empty pew and grabbing my purse. About then I noticed that she was crying. Instead of concern, I saw this as a chance to slide down and give her some kleenex out of my purse and then just sit there hanging on to my money. Another LOL saw her crying and came over to console her and find out what was wrong. It turned out she was being evicted from a room she rented, because she was behind in her rent. Well, I sat there thinking “beggar at my gate!” So, I finally got my hundred dollar bill out and handed it to her. Instead of being happy about doing that, I just consoled myself that she hadn’t gotten my credit card. Talk about your LOLC…(That’s Little Old Lady Curmudgeon.)
Any way, one of our Deacons went with her after church and paid her rent and a couple from the neighborhood took her to the grocery and bought her food. Well I’m sure she thought Christmas had come early, because she insisted that she wanted to keep coming to our church if someone would give her a ride on Sundays. I’ll be honest, we’re a liberal church and it’s much more natural for us to take care of people’s physical needs than spiritual. Though preferably at a moderate distance. And liberal though we are, she looked pretty flea bitten. So far nobody, including yours truly, has offered to pick her up. My first thought was we’d better find a bus, because when she went back with the “good news,” the rest of the almost homeless people living where she did were going to want to come too.
My friend, the LOL Deacon, has started planning on gathering help from some of our more prominent citizens to find a building to house the homeless, hire a director, and get grants to underwrite it’s upkeep. I confess that right now that sounds like a totally overwhelming project to me, but I am trying to be open to the grace to at least pick up our new friend, Wanda, and bring her to church on Sunday. Feel free to pray for all concerned. When I was a new Christian, I was so idealistic and impractical, I ended up getting literally robbed by people I helped and my children harmed even by people in Christian ministry that I took into my home. So, now I’m trying to “be as wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Mt.10:16 Funny thing, the name of our church’s women’s group is “The Doves.”

Eileen, the reluctant Christian

Jurors Wanted: Deaf or Barely Alive

Okay. Today my son brought me a letter saying I was being called for jury duty. I should have gotten it a month ago, but they sent it to our old address. I glanced through it and called the number and told them that I am seventy-nine, can’t hear very well, and can’t remember anything for over two minutes, if that long. They said they would give me a hearing device and a pad and pencil. If I had medical issues, I’d need an excuse from my doctor.
I decided that I would think a while about which medical issue I might use: Trips to the ER for sudden excruciating pain from needing a knee replacement, suddenly not being able to stand up because of pain from a herniated disc with a bone spur, an over active bladder and a spastic colon causing panic attacks when further than five feet away from a bathroom, dizziness and nausea if I turn or bend too quickly, a tendency to suddenly fall asleep mid-afternoon no matter what I’m doing, a need to stand and stomp my right foot repeatedly when it gets horrible cramps. Or perhaps the most effective excuse would be frequent attacks of gastritis.
I thought I didn’t have to report until next Monday. Friday about lunch time, something prompted me to reread the letter and I discovered I had misread it. I had to report before 4 pm today or be fined $500. Well, my doctor leaves at noon on Friday and my penmanship isn’t quite bad enough to pass off as a Doctor’s.
I had been house cleaning in my pj’s, so I had to get dressed. On the way to the Courthouse Annex in Charlotte, I cheered myself up with the possibility that I might avoid the whole house cleaning issue for weeks, if I got put on a jury. After swearing to various things at the courthouse, I was sent home with an information booklet on how to be a good juror. However, the mental picture of a jury of peers, now that they don’t excuse anyone before their expiration date, had me laughing all the way home.
Picture every few minutes one of the jurors turning to the next and asking in a loud voice, “What, what did he say?” And another one stage whispering, “What is he on trial for? I can’t remember.” And then one squinting and shouting, “Is that there the criminal in the red tie?” Then every thirty minutes there would be a whole line of jurors taking Tim Conway baby steps all the way to the bathroom. Testimonies would be punctuated by phone alarms signaling times for medicines. Off and on someone would start snoring during a long testimony, waking with snorts and mutters when another juror jumped up and started stamping a cramping foot. Of course with this age group, there would always be a good chance that someone would grab their chest and fall over.
And, at a certain length of time after eating lunch, a mass attack of gastritis might actually clear the court.