A Short Post

Two quick things. AOL has discovered that lying is bad, especially on your resume.

And, much more importantly, Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune reports that the homeless who froze to death near our office has been indentified.

His name was Raymond Scheid Greenwald, a 54 year old homeless man who was recovering from cancer when he walked of out of nursing home and disappeared. Zorn is trying to track down someone who knew Raymond.

Otherwise his unclaimed body will be buried in a pauper's grave.


What's in a Name?

The name for this blog wasn't inspired by the novel "The God of Small Things" by Arundhati Roy.

It came instead from an interview I did with Mike Yaconelli about his book "Messy Spirituality." Mike, who died October 30, was the founder of Youth Specialties but is best known for his work with The Wittenburg Door, a Christian satire magazine now known simply as The Door.

In this world of megachurches like Willowcreek and Saddleback and bestsellers like The Purpose Driven Life and the Prayer of Jabez he felt that something essential was being lost in the Christian church. Here's how he put it.

"We have lost the power of the tiny, of the small, of the small little thoughtful things that we can do for each other that will make all the difference in the world. That's what happens in a pagan culture. It's not that we run around doing these horrible sins. It's that we stop doing the small acts of grace that we ought to be doing."

The pagan culture he talked about was the culture of success, of materialism, of power that seems to have taken over a faith founded by a man who told his followers that "the first shall be last and the last shall be first" and that to become great, you had to become a servant.

Here's a couple of stories of people who have discovered what being great, what being important is all about. The first comes from the front page of the Chicago Tribune: Rescued from neglect, 5 brothers find hope. It's about five boys who, along with 14 other kids, were found alone in a garbage strewn, squalor filled apartment at 219 N. Keystone Ave. on Chicago's west side ten years ago. Their mom's were all addicts and were out for the night. The dads were long gone.

These five boys were taken in as foster children by a woman named Claudine Christian, a friend of their mother. And little by little, day by day, she has helped them over the nightmares of their previous life and turned them into a family. One has already graduated from high school, the second oldest hopes to go on to college this fall, and the other boys have continued on in school despite their difficulties.

It's an outcome few could have anticipated, writes Trib Reporter Dawn Turner Trice.

"From the beginning, social workers knew that the children had experienced such profound deprivation that it was going to be difficult to place them in homes individually, let alone as a group.

When Christian agreed to care for the boys for three months until their mother released from jail, she wasn't prepared for what was coming: The boys fought incessantly and destroyed items in the home. Her husband decided he couldn't take it anymore and moved out. The foster care placement itself would last more than 10 years.

"Before there was a system, there was a tradition," says Christian, 59, who raised five children of her own before the brothers came. "This was our history: If you knew somebody who couldn't raise their babies, then somebody who could stepped forward. This is just what family and neighbors did for one another."

There's faith in this story, though it's behind the scenes. The boys have all been baptized and now are junior deacons in their church. And Christian, who will not let these boys go, has learned to appreciate the daily graces that life with the boys brings.

When asked what the future holds, what's next for her, Christian can't look much beyond that night's dinner.

"What's next? That chicken thawing on the kitchen counter--well, that's for dinner," she says, laughing.

The article closes this way:

She wants her foster sons to move on and create lives for themselves one day. But if they cannot, they will always have a home with her. Though she has given much, she says she has received so much more in return. . .

Their life is modest but full. She has proven that she will be there for them for as long as she can. Her desires for them are enormous. And, so are their desires for her.

"I want to ... one day build her a mansion nearby," says Gregory (one of the boys.) "That's what I
want to do when I grow up."

And from the Miami Herald, the story of Linda Freeman, an African American woman who helped build a megachurch in an unorthodox way. By serving others.

Her story starts like this:
By her mid-30s, Linda Freeman had collected all the right numbers: a master's degree in engineering from Stanford and a good-paying federal job, one good-looking husband, two photogenic kids, a five-bedroom house in the Chicago suburbs.

But something was missing. So Freeman and her husband left their home and jobs to move to a one bedroom apartment in North Miami (even though they hated the heat) to serve at Trinity
Church "a rundown church whose Sunday hymns couldn't drown out the Interstate 95 din, an
Assemblies of God congregation that had fallen on hard times -- and dwindling numbers. "

Today, the church has grown to 3,000 and Freeman runs Trinity's Peacemakers Family Center, which serves 800 people a week with a wild variety of services:

a free medical clinic, a legal aid office and training to help welfare moms get jobs. There's now a church school, a day care center, crisis counseling, tutoring, after-school programs, and assistance with utilities and rent.

Her pastor calls her a "guru for serving the poor." She's says she's doing what Christians have been doing for 2,000 years. Doing what they can to love their neighbors.

Her husband David, also works at the church and teaches at a local college. He also cooks once a week at the church's food bank.

"My mother thinks I'm insane,'' he says. But, ``you look around and
there's obvious need.''

And from an unexpected place, Oakland, Nebraska (pop. 1,367)--the story of a small church's food pantry that distributes three tons of food each month, drawing as many as 250 to their monthly distribution. (Or about 1/5 of the town's population.) Thanks to my colleague Craig Pinley for tracking this down.

Mike Yaconelli worried that Christians had lost their creativity--their ability to look at a broken or difficult situation and find a way redeem it.

If more of us act like Linda Freeman and Claudia Christian, as well as the folks in Oakland, we can prove him wrong.


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