I think making a leap of faith to follow a dream sounds much simpler than the process really is. When I was homeless, I saw a side of life, and people, that deeply impacted me with the desire to try to make things different. We live in a society where we are often discouraged when we try to love others. It is not easy to put ourselves aside and try to make a difference for a greater purpose. I fully believe God used my time of homelessness and despair to embed in me a passion for change both in my heart and attitude, and in the world around me. I wanted to love people with abandon, with no strings attached, and to find out what it means to fully immerse myself in following faithfully wherever God leads. And it has been a beautiful, surprising, awe-inspiring journey for sure.
But it hasn't been easy. I would never tell anyone that stepping out in faith is easy, because it is not. It is one of the most difficult pursuits of my life, and it is challenging emotionally and physically.
The emotional toll can be wearing - and in more ways than one. I love the people I meet. Sometimes my heart just aches with pain as I listen to their stories, and life experiences. I have a soft spot for those society discards and discounts - and the knowledge that I can't help them all sometimes makes me achingly sad. I am also struck, as I drive through the neighborhoods where we go, by the numbers of individual human beings we are NOT reaching. I want them all to know how much they matter- whether or not they need the meal we are cooking - but also because I know and understand how completely lonely life can feel. And my prayer is what we are doing at the Torch will have a ripple effect that reaches beyond the people who we have been blessed to meet and know - and spreads out into the people they meet and know, and beyond.
I grew up in Southern California. My family lived in Glendora, a suburb of Los Angeles. Twenty-six years ago a job transfer moved us to Michigan. It was a crazy, scary culture-shock of a move. I didn't know a soul in Michigan, had never driven in snow, and had zero experience with school buses. We walked to school in Glendora. Twenty miles uphill both ways in the blazing hot sun. That was my childhood. Just kidding. It was six blocks, and pretty flat - and there were a lot of kids in my neighborhood, so my sisters and I had a pretty good crowd to walk with.
When I moved to Michigan, I left a huge piece of myself behind in California. I had so many friends, and my siblings were there as well. It wasn't long before I found myself desperately homesick. I would dream at night I was back at home in California, and when I woke up and saw I was still 2300 miles from everything familiar, I would lie in bed and cry.
One night, I was so lonely and homesick, I called my sister, Debbie. We were crying on the phone, and wishing we could get together. As we talked, it got very late, and I went outside to sit on the swing in the dark. I looked up at the sky. The moon and the Big Dipper were clearly visible in the cold Michigan sky. As I looked at them, I asked Debbie if it was dark yet in California. She said it was, and I told her to go outside and look at the sky - to see the moon and look for the Big Dipper. I waited, and asked if she could see them.
After a few minutes, she excitedly said she could. And together, we looked at the same moon and stars, and suddenly the world didn't seem so big - and our hearts didn't seem so far apart.
Fifteen years later, Debbie unexpectedly passed away. And there are days, like today, when I miss her terribly. I don't know what brings it on, but I do know it hurts. I never stop wishing she was here, and I treasure so many precious memories in my heart. Sometimes I cling to those memories, and they help me get through the moment. Or the hour. Or the day. Or the week. Or the month. But I do get through.
Tonight, I will be looking for the Big Dipper.
Coming in a few days is The Torch's Carnival 4 a Cause. I was just thinking how, once again, we are doing something in an unexpected way. Typically, when one hears the word "carnival", images of a variety of sights and sounds associated with carnivals are invoked, and the costs of attending are mentally calculated. Our event title even makes it sound like a fundraiser, so one would expect to pay to participate.
But, we are The Torch. And The Torch's twist is usually different from the norm. The Carnival 4 a Cause event is - FREE! That's right. It's 100% free to anyone who stops by.
Why would we do that? - you might ask. I have a multi-faceted answer.
First of all, Sarah and I have been financially broke in our lives. We both know how it feels to be down to our last dollar. Let me tell you, being down to your last dollar makes you feel worthless and value-less. it shouldn't, but in this society, people's worth is often measured according to their financial status. If you have lots of finances, you have lots of worth; if you have little finances your worth is quite diminished. You often have to hide your poorness, too, because it can be very painful if people find out.
At the Torch, we are very aware of and sensitive to all that. We also believe everyone has value and worth. Everyone also has needs - some are financial, some are spiritual, and some, emotional. The emotional needs tend to be tied closely up in whether or not people have a sense of community, or belonging. All those different needs matter to Sarah and I when we are planning events for The Torch.
As we took inventory of the many products we had to distribute, we decided to come up with a fun way to pass them out. A carnival seemed to be the perfect event. Then it began to grow, and people got more excited. And we saw the potential for bringing our community together in a fun way. And making sure it would be equally accessible and comfortable for all people who equally matter.
There are a ton o f other caring people in our community who came together as partners with us - and, next thing we know - Carnival 4 a Cause is upon us!
I love thinking about providing families an opportunity to come out and have fun together and be able to leave with things they need. The idea that The Torch can offer a special event to do just that blesses and humbles me.
But there is a bigger picture before me - beyond the Carnival 4 a Cause. And that, beloved freinds, is what this event demonstrates about our community. If we can come together like this as a community to make this event happen - how much bigger is our potential impact on this community, this county, this state, this country and this world in the future?
I have been hearing people cry that the end is near - and I have to say, I just don't see it. I see a future and hope, just like God promises in the Bible. I see love and faith and joy and generosity and compassion coming together at The Torch through people of all shapes, sizes, and forms - and I see the tremendous potential for that to change the world.
This is an exciting and joy-filled time to be alive!!!
Last week was a crazy week for social media. I noticed Saturday evening that I had some very upset friends, and that people were fighting and arguing and trying to convince each other that his/her individual position was the correct one to have. Friends were "unfriending" friends - and finding themselves struggling with inner turmoil.
They were so desperate to prove themselves right they spent hours searching online for the perfect blog or sermon or commentary or post or poster from Pinterest to support their beliefs and provide comfort for their hearts. All day Friday, and through the night, and into Saturday the battle raged on.
When I got home Saturday evening, and wearily sat down - I logged into my Facebook, and began to read peoples' posts. But, I just couldn't get myself worked up into any kind of a frenzy. Spending time trying one-up other people via social media just seems so trivial - I am simply too busy for it.
I was busy Friday - doing what I have been called to do - planning for the Torch, and contacting people for Torch 180. I was busy praying for the multitude of people I have been meeting. I was busy trying to make sure we have enough commodities and prizes for our Carnival 4 a Cause, so that the people who come will have a fun day, and will leave with items they need - and the sense that what is happening at the Torch is bigger than any of them - and is supernaturally beyond any of us.
And after all that, I was busy volunteering at Balloonfest to help earn a donation for the Torch, because I don't believe in asking others to do it if I am not willing to. While I volunteered, I prayed and planned. I wrote a grocery list for Saturday - because we had an opportunity to take the truck out and serve a free lunch to people.
Saturday, I was quite busy, too. The morning was filled with more prayer and much preparation. And then, we took the truck out and began to serve lunch. It was raining, which caused fewer people to come than we had hoped, but we were busy, talking to and caring about people.
Most of the time, I am too busy to immerse myself in social media, and the news. I am too busy examining my own heart, and weeding out my own sin and dealing with issues where I fall short, to engulf myself in pointing at anyone else. I am too busy asking God to show me how to make a difference in the world - and how to make the world different through The Torch. I am too busy praying, too busy seeking, too busy going, too busy doing, too busy trying to follow God's command to love and serve the world. My time is occupied. My days are full. My life is fulfilled. I am just too busy.