"No. I live in Highland Park, I just come walk over here in the mornings because of all the pretty."
Ok, I don't say that to the fine men in blue. I think it, but I don't say it.
I get emails like this fairly often. Trey made the comment the other day that it's because, when you read this blog, and if you take out the humor, it does seem a little crazy.
I didn't know he actually read this blog. Now that I know, I will imbed coded messages to him.
For example. Hey Trey, the garbage disposal is broken.
I'm going somewhere with this, I promise.
The questions my blog friend had were in an effort to reconcile the ministry they have in their own hometown with the not so subtle opposition of their family, and sometimes their own hearts.
With her permission, I'm sharing some of what she wrote and some rambling answers. The reason why I'm doing this is because I believe we are all called to live radically for the gospel. Not that everyone will be called to live in the inner-city or take in homeless teenage boys but there is no doubt that an honest look at the Word of God shows us life after life poured out for the glory of the King, and, perhaps, by sharing with one another, we can encourage each other along the way.
Here we go.
You see, against all odds of being able to buy a house, God pretty much placed a home within our reach and directed our steps to a great big old house in the hood. We love our neighborhood and our neighbors. We have been there for four years and we still have family that will not come over and visit. They say I am doing damage to our daughter, yet, I know that I am supposed to be in this neighborhood. Are you ever concerned about this for your family?
First of all, people definitely were opposed to our move. Over the years, that has changed. There's a comfort with the familiar and the more people come, share in what we're doing, and see that flac jackets aren't always required, the more at home they feel.
Absolutely I think about the safety of my kids in this neighborhood. Kids here are given a great deal of freedom but not a whole lot of opportunities to channel their energy in positive ways. The end result is that there's lots of loitering, hanging out, and ultimately getting in trouble. That's part of our efforts at Mercy Street. But still, because of what they hear in the neighborhood, we've had conversations about sex, homosexuality, murder, rape, and abuse far earlier than I would have ever hoped. It's hard but we use each conversation as an opportunity to talk about the sin of man and the love and restorative power of Christ. It's given them compassion and the need to walk in faith they may not have known living insulated from the harsh realities of the world. Does that mean we seek it out, let kids say what they want in our home, take a stance of resignation? Absolutely not. But, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we see sin as sin, and our call is to help usher in the Kingdom of God as far as the curse is found - starting in our own home.
This past weekend I invited some neighborhood kids over to make cookies. Do things like this really make any kind of difference?
We have kids in all the time. It's safe to say we have two extra kids for dinner every night in addition to our own six. We believe the image of a family sitting down together to dinner, talking, laughing, helping the little ones with drinks and cutting their food, is one that has a huge impact. Our grocery bill is bigger because of it but it's another way we can share with our children how the Lord provides in the big and the small. Sometimes, our portions will be smaller and Trey will make a peanut butter sandwich after dinner. But it's worth sharing our table with a kid who hasn't sat down with his family, his dad, in a long, long time.
Trey was playing Wii with a bunch of kids including our own one day when one of the older boys said, "You know, Mr. Trey, this is how it's supposed to be. A dad playing, just hangin' out with his kids. This is right."
We had to do a pocket check when they were leaving because my daughter's bowl of loose change in her room somehow found its way into all of their pockets! How do I go about gently instructing them that there's no stealing?
Oh, the stealing. Be it snacks, money, iPods, or baseball cards, we've had it all. First off, no child is unsupervised in our home until we know them well. Tee, our 10 year old is kind of like having the police in the house which can come in handy and be a detriment all at the same time.
Someone told me once that the kids in the hood steal because, when they see you have so much, they think you won't miss it or can simply go get another one. The fact that Mr. Hill works really hard to earn the money to buy the things we have are dots many of the kids have not been taught to connect. Just because they're invited in, doesn't mean there aren't boundaries. We try to put stuff away to avoid temptations, kids may not come in our bedroom, and may not take food without asking. Then, they get one snack each. Exceptions are for sure made and that comes from knowing about their home lives, what's going on in their families and how are they being provided for. The one snack rule is a guideline but it's our goal that a kid never leaves our house hungry. Even if it means making an entire loaf of grilled cheese sandwiches.
We almost always catch the kids stealing before they've gotten out the door. It's an opportunity for reconciliation, consequences, and forgiveness but makes my kids mad as hatters - especially when it's their stuff. They're learning that sometimes, kids, friends steal from them so guarding their hearts against cynicism is another lesson we're learning.
I appreciated my new friend's honest questions and hope these answers were somewhat helpful. I read this quote by Francis Chan today and loved it. I hope, by reading this blog, you may be encouraged to step outside of your comfort zone, even today, and see what joys God may set before you.
"What will people say about your life in heaven? Will people speak of God's work and glory through you? And even more important, how will you answer the King when He says, "What did you do with what I gave you?" Daniel Webster once said, "The greatest thought that has ever entered my mind is that one day I will have to stand before a holy God and give an account of my life." He was right."
- Francis Chan, Crazy Love, p.174