Wednesday, July 26, 2006

In the words of Natalie Grant...

I'm gonna lii-ve for to-day-ay
I'm gonna follow in Your Way
Like there's no tomorrow....

This catchy, edgy little anthem of a song was my mantra yesterday. I had to consciously remind myself that no one can take away my desire to be a strong light for my Savior.

What happened that rocked you so hard?

Good question. Sunday, I got up before the congregation with our minister and we did a little interview-type presentation for the Statewide Homeless Count, particularly my coordination of the Larimer County efforts. Yeah, I know, I let my location slip - I figure all the anonymity I've tried to secure in this little blog is kind of a vain effort now that I've been published in a couple different newspapers. Nevertheless folks, I have to say that was a nervewracking experience.

It kind of reminded me of when I was a little girl, tucked inside my room, belting out my favorite songs on the radio/cassette player. I was always fine and confident of my vocal qualities in private, or say, with 50 other choral students surrounding me. But, the minute my mother/father/any other esteemed relative intruded upon my melodic solitude, I was no longer confident enough to sing with gusto, at maximum lung capacity, and shrunk like a shy, quiet violet from my love of performing. Re: my abilities and passions, fear of judgment from the ones who really matter has always had a stronghold over me.

Likewise, I can do public speaking, and do it often for work, and do it well - at least that's what I'm told. But there I was, standing before a mixed audience, with mixed views on social justice, all family members that I love and respect, and the terror entered in. My stomach knotted up, I felt short of breath, and I know I talked too rapidly - or at least it felt that way. I looked into my minister's kind and assuring brown eyes as we continued our dialogue, but I wanted down! Now, next month I have to speak 8 times to a bazillion different people - but I'm not yoked with them, and I'm eager, confident, and very excited about such a great opportunity.

In the end, I did ok, but failed to address THE key point: what is the purpose of a statewide count? Charlie Brown jokingly accused me of being a politician, and totally skirting the question.

In true-to-me digital afficianado fashion, I sent an e-mail out to our members-list:

Hi family,
My husband oh so lovingly informed me that I failed to answer a key question yesterday, and upon thinking about it, I DID! (Thank goodness for family being the first public address!)

When D asked me what the purpose of the count was, I gave you history and background, but not the goals we are hoping to accomplish.

Our number one goal is to get an ACCURATE baseline re: the scope of homelessness throughout the state as a whole, as well as capturing regional trends as of a specific point in time. This information will help with:

1. Planning purposes for state and local agencies
2. Assessment of needs – homelessness is but a symptom of many different and complex problems in our society
3. Procuring funding for programs serving homeless persons –
remember that almost 1/3 of homeless families seeking help are turned away because of lack of resources? – Well, we hope that with this count and measurable data, we can help this to be a fading trend!
4. Grant Reporting
5. Developing and implementing new programs & measuring outcomes,

With all of the above, we hope to create lasting solutions and greatly reduce homelessness in our communities!

I’ve gotten one commitment and another maybe – so please, prayerfully consider becoming a part of this effort. Talking with these folks will change you – funny, when I first began working with homeless 4 years ago, it was not my job of choice, but really the first job that would have me out of college.

Now, it’s a God given passion…He might just change you with this experience too. Love, Me

I got this reply from a member I don't know very well:

So is this a Church program?

I replied, to him and the rest of the congregation - after all, there might be some confusion on that right?

No sir, it's not.

This count is being initiated by our state government, [in which] local governments and non-profit agencies are the major players in helping the project be realized. What many in the community don't know though, is that these major players are already so understaffed that we need a widespread community effort of volunteers to help achieve the results I talked of in my earlier e-mail.

While this is not a "church" program, I daresay it is definitely in keeping with our mission:

James 2:15Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?

Matthew 25: 34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' 37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' 40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of
these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

This count may not actually meet the [immediate] needs of the homeless, but the results will help us to do just that.

Hope that helps, and if you have anymore questions, please do let me know - I love to talk about it!

I had a sneaking suspicion I was about to receive my first negative public reaction to the count. Moments later, my suspicions were confirmed:

Just wondering. I would support it if it were a church program. I can not support unlawful use of tax dollars. Thanks for the info.

As I read that, my first initial reaction was a return to my white trash roots - bewilderment expressed by, what the (@*#&$&^%?

That was only momentary though, and then I cried. Not because he hurt ME, but because I had a very painful come to Jesus moment, where I understood with startling clarity just how much we hurt Him with our flawed human views, intentional or not. Then I felt bad and asked Him to forgive me when I get it wrong - which is all too often. I vehemently do NOT want to shortchange my Lord - though I know because I'm human, it's sort of totally inevitable.

I tend to be somewhat impulsive with my words and not think them out. So I wrote an e-mail in response, but sent it to my minister instead of this member - asking him to pray over it and give me his honest opinion. It borders on novel length, but it's integral to who I have been, and who I am now in the Lord.

I'm doing my best to respond to this in love...

I'm saddened by your comment. I didn't share the following, because of time limitations, but I think it is a relevant testimony that may make you see things a bit
differently. I once was a homeless child. My mother divorced my stepfather because he was a drug abuser and he bankrupted our family by the time I was 13. We had nowhere to go, and mom - while she didn't make many great choices in life, was working 2 FT jobs to support the 4 of us kids. We lived with my aunt and uncle in a tiny duplex that was about 800 square feet - 3 adults and 5 kids, and still couldn't make it work. My aunt and uncle had substance abuse and domestic violence issues, so my mom found the only way out she could see - by developing an instant family with some guy she'd met. For the next 13 years, our lives were filled with horrific emotional and physical abuse... These are the types of stories of over 700 children in our county - how many more across the state experience this?

Ok, so I know that's the emotional response out of me. So now the logic...

First of all, while this is initiated by the state government, it's not funded by the state. (Yes, a lot of the more rural counties in the state have NOT been happy about
this) So just how that constitutes "unlawful" usage of tax dollars, I'm a little unclear on. My position for Larimer County has been funded in part by City of Loveland and City of Fort Collins - but these are monies that were dedicated/allocated to discretionary human services dollars - as I understand, public comment is welcome and part of the process when the municipal/county budgets are proposed, all of which are approved by the respective City Councils/County Commissioners - our lawfully elected representatives. Totally lawful and above board, as the way the books would have it. In addition, United Way of Larimer County has also partnered with the effort - financing my job with donated funds, to use as they see fit in accordance with their organization's goals, mission and bylaws.

As a reminder, this effort is NONPARTISAN - all parties of the local politics are in support of it.

I hear your kind of reaction a lot, and ironically from Christians more than non-Christians - which again saddens me, because I find it in contradiction with what I find in Scripture, particularly in Romans 13: 1Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. 6This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. 7Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

I know that is hard for us to swallow in today's times, with all that our leaders lack morally - but if we pick and choose which parts of Scripture are still relevant, doesn't that bring about a really flawed theology? Now, I could be wrong, but I've found nowhere in Scripture that it says we have the right to dictate how our authorities spend the taxes, which are due from us for the costs of American privileges, such as freedom of speech, nice roads, public health and safety (like the FDA), etc? I've never found it, which means this whole idea of public comment and a sense of "my rights" over how/where our tax dollars are spent is an entirely American concept, and not necessarily a Christian one.

Whose laws do we want to uphold re: this homeless count - God's or ours?

I don't want to start a debate here - truly - I simply wish instead that if you have a disagreement with me, please evaluate whether it's scripturally based, and then see if it really needs to be communicated. I was really discouraged by this - and I know that God would rather we encourage one another.

Sorry for my longwindedness, dear brother, but you struck a nerve. :) I hope that my response has been heard in the loving tone with which it was meant - I really mean no ill will - just wanted to share perspective.

While you may not be willing to support my project with your time, would you please support it in prayer - that the love of God will be extended and needs will be met? I will take as many as I can get! I'm not at liberty to turn this into an evangelistic effort, but I've shared my faith before with the homeless people who've asked, "Why do you even care?" - and hope for the opportunity to arise.

Basking in the

The red-headed step-child

Now...I'm considering my minister's advice, which was to wait a week and see if I still felt it was important. I still do today. I still want to say, "Can you really condemn innocent children to poverty and despair in the name of your rights to the tax dollars?" I still want to add that the bit from Romans was written during the reign of the Roman empire - known for its corruption and non-Christian principles at that time, yet Paul still commands us to obey and submit and have faith that God knew what He was doing in letting our government officials be placed where they have been. And I also want to tell him to take his whole "unlawful" verbiage and shove it - I had to spend COUNTLESS hours last year on the City's Consolidated Plan making sure we followed the LAWFUL Citizen Participation and Public Comment Protocol by the letter - only to have NOT ONE public comment, and yet people STILL gripe and moan about their rights being ignored when THEY HAVE DONE NOTHING ABOUT IT!!!

But...I also know that while his meaning seems clear - I don't know this man's heart, and I guess it's not really my job to figure that out. So maybe I just give him my understanding and cling tight to Hebrews 4:12: For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it [alone] judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

But will he hear? Have hearts across American churches been so hardened that even the Word of the God they claim to pledge allegiance to cannot sway their fiscal fixations, their staunch stereotyping?

I dunno....but for now,

I'm gonna lii-ve for to-day-ay
I'm gonna follow in Your Way
Like there's no tomorrow....

Will you help me?


Become a prayer warrior for more, no less.


  1. MommyHam,

    You made me laugh. I appreciate that. I read your comment on my Stoned-Campbell Blog and clicked on your "profile." My day already feels better. If we cannot have a sense of humor, even with faith, then something is quite wrong.

    You and my wife have some things in common apparently (besides attitude!) Pilates; secret glam-diva, secretly reads Cosmo.

    I read a book recently (and Pamella is reading it now) that you MAY be interested in. It is called "Flapper" about the roaring women of the 1920s. It was enjoyable, interesting and reveals how far we have come! You can see more details about the book on my blot at:

    Again thanks for stopping by. I hope you don't go back into strangerhood. I know I will be coming by.

    Stoned (Bobby Valentine)

  2. Your comments, your feelings and your life's work--all are completely "right on"! Church people like to pontificate on their way to the cafeteria. Love 'em, but forget their opinions. They, most of them, don't get it. Keep on being you!

    By the way, it is possible for the state to be more faithful to the spirit of Jesus in its actions in the world than the church. Your position, in my opinion, is a ministry.

  3. I am back. I have read your anguish over the tax dollars vs children. Seems absurd in the long run. Yes if church dollars. No if tax dollars. Is this because he/she gives little to the church??

    I told you about a book previously (I think that comment went the way of the dinosaur though, :-) so now I will tell you about one more.

    I wrote a book (2006) with John Mark Hicks, a Prof at David Lipscomb, on living the kingdom of God. Some good stuff in there about the poor if you allow me to say so. It is called "Kingdom Come: Embracing the Spiritual Legacy of David Lipscomb & James Harding" (ACU/Leafwood Press) I think you may find some "ammunition" in it for your friend. Amazon has it.

    I want to thank you for your courage to speak. Keep the humor but being frustrated with injustice is a spiritual trait.

    Bobby Valentine

  4. Stoned - you must know that with my background it feels absurd calling a fellow churchgoer "stoned" - but gotta roll with it....

    Anyhow, thanks for the book recommendations. John Mark actually came by the Fort recently and did his "Come to the Table" lectureship at our church. He's an amazing guy - but then anyone who is friends with my preacher man has to be!

    Larry - yup.

    Those who've read this post that know me know me have said one of two things - either -

    Whoah, that was really bold [but true, go you] (implied tone)


    It's not worth the time, you won't change his mind.

    I am really poopooing the latter response....will write more on that later.

  5. And stoned - re: your question of his contribution level - it's none of my affair. I don't know him well enough to make a determination like that. Besides my own contributions are far below what they should be.