home.

i am journeying through christine sine’s lenten guide on the road toward easter.  it has some really beautiful stuff in it!  week one was a journey into brokenness & i wrote on the difference between “i suck” and a truly humble heart. week two was a journey into hunger. this week is a journey into homelessness.   i can not for even a  minute speak into what it feels like to be without an actual roof over my head.  i have always had the luxury and gift of a bed to sleep on, a home to live in, hot water, and food on the table.   but a little like i communicated in last week’s hunger blog, i do think there is a homelessness in a physical sense and homelessness in a spiritual and emotional sense.  the problem of practical living-life-without-a-roof-over-ones-head is real.  the stats are staggering & i believe they will continue to get higher.  my dear friends ken & jessica at home-pdx and robbie, matt, nikki & crew at dry bones denver are deeply dedicated to live and love in community with friends who “live outside.”  they are some of the most powerful examples of incarnational in-the-trenches-love that i have ever seen (and if you ever want to give money to someone, give it to them!)

the refuge community is in the ‘burbs, so our issue with homelessness looks different.  as you all well know, we are a poor community.  we don’t have too many two-good-incomes-and-a-high-value-on-giving-away-10%-of-all-that-money-to-help-us-do-this-crazy-thing folks.   while none of our friends necessarily live on the streets (maybe in their car now and then), we have many who are continually transient, always behind on rent, never able to catch up, always wandering and never able to get enough stability to really get on their feet.  it’s an ongoing cycle that without love, support, care, education, and a lot of work will likely continue.  we all know that with the current economic state of affairs this population of working poor is only going to grow.

as a friend on the journey, sometimes honestly i feel completely and utterly powerless, helpless, and just-plain-mad at the messed up distribution of resources, not only in the “world” but also in “the church.”  i know that’s a different conversation, but a little like hunger & the issues of food–it is not because the resources aren’t there, it’s because the resources are not properly distributed. and for us, as christ-followers, it’s so worth considering:  how can i participate in better redistribution of my current resource? how can we use what we have to help fund, support, encourage actual advocacy & co-housing & food & other very practical things for people who need it? (instead of dumping my money & time & energy in a direction that feeds a machine and not necessarily people)

in the many reflections christine shared in her guide, the one prevailing thought i had was how even though actual physical homelessness might not be prevalent for most of us reading this blog,  spiritual/emotional homelessness might be. like the changing economy, we are all aware that there’s currently a shifting spiritual landscape.  we have a whole crop of folks who “lost their homes” when their faith shifted; what once safely protected them and seemed solid, sure, of durable construction, somehow got ripped off and hurled away, a little like dorothy’s house in a wizard of oz.  i also think there are so many others out there who grew up in difficult homes where there might have been beds, walls, and a roof, but no sense of belonging and safety.  and in the spirit of identifying with Jesus, this is where those of us who are displaced-homeless-exiles-refugees might find a sense of belonging.  as he left home & entered into his public ministry, Jesus had “no place to lay his head.”  but his life was filled with friends and relationships and interactions with crazy people and weird parties and a deep, passionate, intimate connection with God, the Father.

there is a whole desperate world out there, right in our own backyards no matter how rich or poor our neighborhoods might be, that is homeless & yearning for “home.” and i think “home” can be created in ways that have nothing to do with 4 walls and a roof:

home is somehow our hearts being connected to each other in a tangible way.

home is a relationship that restores dignity & beauty & value where there once was none.

home is a shared meal and a meaningful conversation about God & life that stirs our soul.

home is the safety of showing the reality of the brokenness in our lives and having people not ditch us.

home is a shared experience that makes us think.

home is a desperate hug reciprocated.

home is a group of people “where everybody knows your name & everybody’s glad you came.”

home is a place to bring a small portion of what we have to combine it with other people’s small portion and discover that somehow we all leave full.

home is some weird crazy sense that God is in our hearts and will never leave us, no matter how dark it gets.

imagine what could happen if the body of Christ spent time building these kinds of homes instead of the ones that require a church consultant and an architect?

i’ll end with this excerpt from christine’s beautiful prayer in the lenten guide for this week.

God, who lives amongst us, hear our prayer.

God, who was despised, rejected, and spat upon by those in authority,

comfort all who are cast by the wayside and ignored today.

God, who lives amongst us, hear our prayer.

God who offers abundance and plenty where we expect scarcity,

provide for all those who are hungry and in need of food today.

God, who lives amongst us, hear our prayer.

God who promises security and safety when we expect turmoil,

Provide for all who have lost jobs and are forced into homelessness today.

God, who lives amongst us, hear our prayer.

God who grants us rest in face of our fears and anxieties

Provide for all those who are anxious about finances today.

God, who lives amongst us, hear our prayer.

God who provides community for all who are alone and abandoned,

provide for all who feel abandoned and uncared for in these troubled times.

God, who lives amongst us, hear our prayer.

God, you see the unlovely in all of us, yet you still love us.  open our eyes so that we can see beauty in all people and practice your hospitality…”

i’d love to hear some of your thoughts on “homelessness.”

11 Comments

  • Hmm… this is an interesting thing. I do not wish to make light of those who have no physical home. But I think, in the broader sense, anyone who does not have a place where they feel first, safe, and then welcome, does not have a home. What is a ‘home’? It is a place of refuge. 🙂

    Those who grow up in abusive situations do not have a home – a refuge – a place to lay their head and rest. The places I would fall asleep the most soundly were places like under the couch or in the back of the closet. Hidden. Safe.

    You touched, too, on the idea of spiritual homelessness. Hmm… I think that some of the people you interviewed last month understand that. The feeling that even when you are involved in a faith community, you are on the outside looking in. You don’t belong. It is not safe. Hmm….

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  • Well put! I just sent you a story I wrote about my homeless christmas. home is so central to who we are!

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  • oh – I love this post. reminded me of something:

    home – is what God finds in us.

    I remember very cold and dark January night when I first started looking for a place to move to in the Denver area. I wasn’t moving TO something, so much as I trying to start over, or at least get a break from what I was moving from. I was exhausted, feeling really alone, and desperate to find a place to rest.

    I drove by a neighborhood full of homes with their front porch lights on and I became almost overwhelmed with homesickness. No one was keeping any light on for me, no one was waiting for me anywhere, there were no hugs from friends, no places in my life where my heart could really just rest and be. There was no place I would call home, no place I felt safe in any way.

    I felt far away from God, far away from friends or family, far away from anything that felt like home in any way and it hung heavy on my heart and soul.

    I drove by a church and noticed they had a Sunday night service. Sick of The Church, and yet craving something – anything – that was warm and familiar, I walked in. They were talking about how God finds home in us. In me. With all my brokenness and ick, God finds home in me. It broke me in a way I needed to be broken. God could reside in all kinds of places and show up in all kinds of ways, but of all places God could find a home, he chooses to find home in us. In me.

    I pray:
    God provide homes, roofs over heads and safe places for hearts to rest.
    God help us see, really see, those who are homeless and come alongside them as fellow humans.
    God find home in us, just as we are, with all the ick inside. Move and live and reside in us.
    God thank you for being a place for my heart to rest when the nights are cold, dark, and lonely.

    (sorry to post so long.)

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  • Kathy:

    I have been absent from commenting but have been following along. The last two posts are hitting a little too close to home at the present time for me to comment. Part of it is not sure what/how much I should share and some of it is wether I sure push the accelerator or hit the break.

    Thanks for the words.

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  • Kathy, just wanted to say how great it was meeting you face-to-face, but more precious, talking with you this weekend. I really enjoyed our brief conversation. Hope you made it home safely…

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  • Hiya Kathy.

    I hope this comes across right as I do not want to sound judgemental.

    What confuses me greatly, (and I see this in the ‘Christian famiy’ here in South Africa too, it is just that a lot of them do not have blogs and so one does not read about it like with you guys.) is, what seems to me, to be a splitting up of lives into compartments.

    Take your last couple of posts and more specificaly the one on hunger and of course, this one.

    Whilst bemoaning the issues and then undertaking to live on just $2 a week, which I thought was quite noble, I then see most of the people who’s blogs I read, all travelling off to a conference to go listen to what other people have to say.

    So what is the use of saving money on food, but then paying out money to go listen to man? Something just grates in my spirit when I hear of this sort of thing.
    How much money could have gone to help the homeless and the hungry, if the conference had been ignored; How much more would relationships with God and man been improved on if God had been sought for answers instead of man; How much more money could have been put back into effective work amongst the homeless and the hungry with the savings of travel costs, accomodation, cost of attending etc?

    I have no idea how many people actually went to this conference and of course no idea about the costs over there – but do a rough calculation Kathy and let us know what you think the total expenditure was for this past weekends conference?
    (Let us leave aside how much was spent buying books, tapes etc.)
    And it all flies in the face of so much of what I see Emerging standing for; We need to find out what God is saying to us. We are tired of man dictating to us. etc. etc.

    But now there are a group of people who are ‘Leaders’ and whose voices are heard by many, running off to hear man! I am really perplexed with this!

    It is one thing to take a stand against certain inequalities and wrong teachings, but then it needs to impact all areas of our lives, not just that one area for a small space in time.

    I don’t want to take up too much space here and I hope, as I said earlier, I do not sound judgemental, but I am really struggling to reconcile these sort of issues.

    Lots of love!

    Pops

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  • katherine – yeah, the issues of “homelessness” abound in the family of God, a lack of safety that wreaks all kinds of havoc in hearts.

    mark – 🙂 cover…beautiful.

    keith – i am still catching up but i really look forward to reading your story.

    emily – thanks for sharing such a beautiful story & no need to apologize for long comments, the more the better! i love your prayer.

    jeff – thanks for sharing. i think of you & your ministry often & really respect what you are doing over there to join hearts and reach out in the community. if you ever want to just process and yell and scream and dream or scheme or whatever else might help, you know my email address 🙂 meanwhile, lots of prayers to you…

    jeromy – it was so great hanging out with you, too. i love what you all are up to and that somehow our hearts can all be connected out here in blogland. best to you and your family on this wild and crazy adventure!

    pops – oh you always are the pot stirrer aren’t you? it’s good because i love your heart and i think you ask a great question. of course, i don’t have any big huge answer that somehow would make it all a-okay, but i will tell you my perspective and make of it what you will. of course, you have a great point in terms of $ and waste and where people put their energy. at the same time, i will say that it’s dangerous to assume that there’s not exponential good things that might come out of such a gathering that in the end may help a lot more people than the $250 it cost people to go there (i am sure some paid more than me, but we drove and split gas 5 ways, got a cheap registration, and stayed at a cheap hotel down the road, and ate pretty dirt cheap, but that is how much it cost me–in the olden days my church would have paid, hahaha). there were almost 1,000 folks there, beautiful and dear and sincere christ-followers across catholic and protestant lines longing to “be the church.” there was no hype or rah-rah or cool factor compared to what i have experienced at many conferences in my time. now, could the $250 i spent fed some of my friends? sure. did listening to the speakers i listened to change my life? no. but that wasn’t why i went. i went to get away, laugh & hang out with some friends, see what God was up to in the greater church, and get a little reminder of how big and wonderful and beautiful the body of Christ really is. i will readily admit my inconsistencies in terms of the whole money things. i make choices all the time to serve myself and i make choices all the time to serve others. they both exist. i know they really can’t fully be justified in light of so many of Jesus’ teachings, and for the moment, i just have to live in that tension & give it my best shot. i actually have a lot less trouble with a conference like that which potentially could net a much bigger infusion of Christ’s tangible food & shelter & love & justice & peace in the world than the amount of money spent week after week after week at so many mega-churches to feed people inspirational messages & a lot of electronic flash that i don’t think will ever translate into food for the hungry. well i could ramble on and on, and i am sure that probably didn’t really do much, did it? i so get the frustration and tension and while i can try to justify it all i want, of course i think almost all money out there in our little grubby hands could be so much better spent…

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  • Hiya Kathy

    Thank you for your honesty and openness and for not taking it the wrong way!

    Lots of love!

    Pops

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  • Hey Kath – Glad to read this this week, we have just rented out our master bedroom to a couple with a baby who have been crashing with friends or living in their car. Shawn and I are going to cram ourselves into the spare bedroom and smile about it the whole time. We are super tight financially and the rent we receive will make sure our kids are insured, and in the mean time we are able to extend help to this young couple who need a home for their family. It’s a difficult transition to share our home with “strangers” but I’m sure God has some really cool stuff in store for us as we build new relationships with these people. Just a quick example of how we can help each other in hard times!

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