Post Tenebras Lux

Carrying the Fire

Ordinary Time

(EDIT: I’ve been informed by the more liturgical types, that, technically Easter isn’t over, but lasts for another 6 weeks. I think, practically, for most of America, however, that Easter is effectively a day and not a season and that we now continue about our lives)

Apparently this time of year in the (mostly Catholic) church calendar is called Ordinary Time. Ordinary Time is the rather aptly named event in the sense that in the days ahead, you are about as far from any Christian holiday as you could possibly be. Superficially, this is a fairly frown-inducing thought. However, it bears further consideration.

A few things come to mind digging past the surface a bit – first is that the secular world experiences this time all the time. Perhaps not in practice, goodness knows there are now holidays for just about every season of life – everything to promote worship of trees to nationalism and we even toss in some of that Eastern idea of ancestor worship with some of our founding fathers. But in actuality, these are pathetic substitutes for anything lasting and worthwhile. Trees come and go – all it takes is a good ice storm to remind us of that. Empires have fallen – empires that frankly have lasted a lot longer than America have fallen. Ancestors have passed and while remembrance is a good thing – to remind us of men who either ran the race well or as a caution against those who didn’t – they are still dead. And once the temporality of it all is considered, what is left is the wisdom that Ecclesiastes brings – that it is all vanity. Vanity that when stripped leaves a very empty, hurting, unmedicated Creation that is in desperate need of a Saviour.

The second is that Ordinary Time, in the light of the two other major seasons of the Christian calendar, is a profoundly disturbing name that detracts from the greatness of the other two seasons. Because, in the light of those other two seasons – nothing is or can ever be ordinary again and Jesus doesn’t leave that option. Ordinary implies something un-radical – and, for a moment, please suspend associations with David Platt’s book. Ordinary is not a word of extremes, but that is precisely the state of the world through the lens of the cross – sin has so completely and radically shattered Creation that we extraordinarily pursue the things of this world – comfort, money, relationships, and the list goes on to the extreme that we killed God, we put Him on a cross, and then in a grave because we extraordinarily loved the things of this world instead of the goodness found in Him. And the only way out of that radical depravity is through radical grace – grace shown in that Jesus died and that His request while on the cross of “Father forgive them…” and His cry of, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” means that because Jesus, the only Son of God from time immemorial, chose to forsake His Sonship and Godhead and still plead for our forgiveness, means that our lives can be extraordinarily changed. That, under His grace, we can have access to Him in His wisdom and love and have our eyes opened to the vanity of the world apart from Him. And that leaves the world a very unordinary place. Instead it is a place of extraordinary brokenness, but also a place for extraordinary redemption.

Finally, Ordinary Time implies that our expectations should be low – that this is a season where nothing special happens. And it implies that God is far off. The world, at large, has bought the argument. Instead it has become that just certain holidays where magic happens – from the annual hype of the Christmas where the suicide rate jumps fairly substantially and everybody always seems to be let down from the low reward from the stress; to the days we have where we have to treat loved ones particularly special, because for some reason it’s become ordinary for husbands to not love wives and so we have Valentine’s Day so that they can do something extraordinary like taking them out for dinner, it’s become okay for kids to not honor and respect their parents and so we’ve created days to try to instill that, in a time when our culture has become disenchanted by American politics we have Independence Day to remind us that our country is great because we can shoot fireworks into the air, we have Labor Day to remind us to steward our environment… and the list goes on. But the Gospel says precisely the opposite – that it is in the ‘ordinary’ of faithfully serving that the extraordinary happens. God has moved us to extraordinarily worship Him because He is lasting and worthwhile all the time and not just on Christmas Day, that He because He has so unconditionally loved us, we are restored to His image, at least in part, so that husbands might actually extraordinarily love their wives all the time, that children might actually extraordinarily love, respect, and honor their parents, that we can be thankful that He has put us in a country where we can freely, extraordinarily worship Him and also be aware that our country is not God and that that freedom should not lull us into a sense of complacency, and that we can see His hand moving in how Creation has been shaped and so we can be extraordinary stewards of His planet and Creation.

In the Cross of Christ, Ordinary Time isn’t ordinary, and we have a God who is able to do more than we ask or think. And when the Gospel goes forward, the ordinary becomes the extraordinary and nothing can ever be the same again.

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Side note – my Facebook is back (Spotify is just too handy to shut it down completely… Lord knows, I tried)… however Facebook is a bad way to reach me. Chances are you have my number if you’re reading this, so try the old fashioned way. Alternately, I still check my Twitter a @_ryanrichardson.

Grace and Peace

Humility

In my pride, I hear my boasting voice roar:

The West Texas sun has tempered me well!

The fence post is large, but strength runs through my core,

and these rugged bones growl, Never have we fell.

Stride by stride, I get the post to the wire,

building my fence wall to guard against death.

Then I stumble, and the barbs bite like fire

Covered in dirt, I swear under my breath.

Recall Humility – that God should fall,

hauling His altar to lay on and die.

That He who stood from time’s start over all

should struggle to rise without a cry,

the Spirit reminds, and He to be praised,

Has done better than what West Texas raised.

I wrote this for Redeemer Christian Church’s art project leading up to Easter. It is my first sonnet, and a big thanks goes to Seth Wieck and Shannon Holt for thoughts, ideas, and edits.

I probably will revise it more; there are parts I’m not entirely satisfied with, but after looking at it for a few days straight, I need a break from it for awhile. Comments are more than welcome.

Musing

Augustine writes in his Confessions that watching his mentor, Ambrose, read – personally and internally, and not publicly as was the custom of the day – was absolutely revolutionary for him. That reading for Ambrose, and later Augustine himself, would be a meditative time to refresh the mind in the same way that food would refresh the body. Continuing down Augustine’s thought, writing then becomes not just meditative, but medicative, the efficacy of which is determined by the focus. The tone Augustine writes Confessions in, the very nature of the book, as a prayer (confession) to God, cries out that things have not, and are not, as they should be, that Augustine has been both perpetrated by and perpetrator of a fallen world. But the nature of confession, is that we don’t end on the bleakness of the world, but on hope. Why else should we confess? In confessing we hope for mended relationships, both with God and man, the hope that we will not fall again, and the hope that things will not always be like this. And so, Augustine’s writing – with God as the starting point, the climax, and the end (and I cannot emphasize that necessary centrality enough) – becomes a sort of medicine that calls out for the Holy Spirit to administer the Truth of the Gospel to his heart.

In that tradition, I turn this writing selfishly.

Recently, the shattered nature of the world made itself apparent in more ways than I care to count right now. It is a brazen beast – it acts like a bug who has been decapitated, but the lack of a brain has allowed it’s body to keep on trudging along. Unfortunately, this particular brand of bug is a lion-like impersonator complete with fangs and claws and, endowed as such, it seeks to bring horror on all around. It hasn’t recently laid a claw directly on me, personally, lately, but many of my good friends have come into contact with it lately. Friends who I respect and love, who are part of a God-wrought community that have partner with the Holy Spirit to challenge, encourage, and sharpen me and live to glorify God with all of their lives. And not to say less of this community – they are as encouraging as ever – the shattered world has just pressed in on them and it breaks my heart. Whether it be death, loneliness, weariness, temptations to worry or fear, or hurt it just seems to be everywhere I look. And I confess my own fatigue and frustrations through this. It is a constant battle to stir myself up by way of remembrance that there is a Salvation that lies beyond any limited comfort that I can provide and that there is hope in Him coming back to set the shattered pieces aright and mend that which was broken.

The irony in that confession is that I find myself crying out with the rest of this community that our hope is not in this. Be it a friend who has passed, a need for relationship, or my own ability to try to set things right. But that, praise be to God, we serve a holy God who has revealed Himself to be a Redeemer and a Victor over death. And that He is coming for us as a real Lion who will finish the Impersonator and his claws of sin and death and set the world right. That in Him, Creation will be set right, that the Sons of Men will be revealed, that, maybe, that we’ll be able to see the and rejoice with all of Creation proclaiming, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord who was and is and is to come” and we will be able to sing it to His face, for His dwelling place will be with man.

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The new Narnia was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked like it meant more. I can’t describe it any better than that: if you ever get there you will know what I mean. It was the unicorn who summed up what everyone was feeling. He stamped his right fore-hoof on the ground and neighed, and then cried: “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here.”

– The Last Battle, C.S. Lewis

Heritage

My grandfather on my mother’s side is a man among men. He’s weathered and in his 70’s, but he still stands like one of those old castles or Roman buildings that dot the European countryside. Strong, resolute and every mark bearing a story that you wish you knew – I mean that, I wish I knew more of his story. I only know part, the parts that come in the stories he tells about his life… they are sadly too few. He is a man of few words, preferring to take the wisdom in Proverbs to listen and let the words he does use bear a certain gravity, meaning, and emotion behind them.

His presence doesn’t ask your respect, it demands it. He is physically imposing, even as he has aged. He used to play football under Paul “Bear” Bryant at Texas A&M… his group would go on to be renowned as the Junction Boys. He stands a little shorter than me, but I always feel like I am looking up at him; he has a healthy girth on him that tell of his younger days and still leave you feeling a little awed. He takes a nap most afternoons now (a fairly recent development), but for the most part, he stays on the go – mowing, working around the house, etc.

Not only that, but he is intelligent in a league of his own. Fully armed with a PhD on plant diseases, he worked in administration for Texas A&M (Assistant Dean of Agriculture and Director of Ag Extentions) and the University of Kentucky (Dean of Agriculture). Even in times that I can remember, he has always been travelling either around the states to deal with county agents and 4H programs, or around the world to give seminars on crops and how countries (mainly South America, I believe) could keep their crops from getting various diseases and be able to provide enough food for the country. I learned this past week that he has a particular fascination and fondness for rice and wanted to work with it because it is the major food crop for the world… I wish I knew more things like that about him. He is an avid reader, mostly military and political intrigue. He’s been reading for as long as I can remember and it just adds to his presence. He’ll try to pass some of it off and tell you that his memory is dulling in his old age. I don’t believe it, he seems as sharp now as he has ever been.

He’d be the last person to tell you about that though, unless you asked. Mostly, when he does talk, he talks fondly about my grandmother and how much support she’s given him over the years. He talks about church and how that is going – he leads a Sunday school group out of a church that his father-in-law built with his own two hands. He likes talking about Texas A&M football and the University of Kentucky basketball. Though beyond that, he really is a man of few words.

I’ve gathered a little bit from stories from him and my mom and dad, but his history has come to me fairly piecemeal. His parents immigrated to New York City from Poland. I don’t know much about them. From what I understand, my great-grandfather was a successful builder in New York. I never knew him. While not being insanely rich, I suppose they had their fair share of money. My great-grandmother was alive during my lifetime, though I only ever met her maybe once or twice. I understand that she was manipulative and tried to buy people’s affections and loyalties with that money. My grandfather decided he’d had enough of that manipulation at the end of high school, and wanted to make his own way through life. He found himself in Texas and married my grandmother. Afterwards, he worked his way through college (I think he worked as a ranch hand or something along those lines), and started his professional career and became the man described. After he retired from the University of Kentucky, he moved back to Texas and Texas A&M asked him if he would like to be chairman of the university. He declined saying that he’d had his fun and he wanted to rest now and enjoy his time with his wife and family. On their 50th anniversary he and my grandmother renewed their vows in a church because they were only married by a justice of the peace originally and my grandfather wanted to say their vows before a God, a pastor, and their church community.

Isaac Newton popularized a phrase my dad is fond of using, “standing on the shoulders of giants.” In short, meaning that we must remember and build upon the work of great men who have gone before us. Ironic, considering he would end up being one of those giants. But I look at my grandfather and I can’t help but feel a little bit of that weight of responsibility. God’s call might be different (ie, I don’t foresee myself curing or preventing plant diseases in Argentina), but in some way I hope to make a similar sort impact on people for the Gospel. It feels ephemeral, but I know that as I have looked at him and his life, I see a man who loves Jesus and has used his life to display that to people, and I have been inspired by that. And I want to be faithful in the same way to lead whatever people I am around, with my words and actions in pursuit of the Gospel.

Excerpt from The Great Divorce

This is a couple of pages from C.S. Lewis’ book, The Great Divorce, and also my favorite selected passage from any work of literature I’ve read to date.

The basic premise of the book is that a bunch of people hop on a bus that takes them from ‘earth’ an outer heaven sort of place where they appear as ghosts. The main character wanders around with his ‘guardian angel’ called Teacher looking at reasons people choose to leave heaven to go back to earth instead of entering the throne room. It’s a bit more complicated than that but, you get the idea, anyways, this is one of the encounters the main character runs across in the book:

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“I saw coming towards us a Ghost who carried something on his shoulder. Like all the Ghosts, he was unsubstantial, but they differed from one another as smokes differ. Some had been whitish; this one was dark and oily. What sat on his shoulder was a little red lizard, and it was twitching its tail like a whip and whispering things in his ear. As we caught sight of him he turned his head to the reptile with a snarl of impatience. ‘Shut up, I tell you!’ he said. It wagged its tail and continued to whisper to him. He ceased snarling, and presently began to smile. Then he turned and started to limp westward, away from the mountains.

‘Off so soon?’ said a voice.

The speaker was more or less human in shape but larger than a man, and so bright that I could hardly look at him. His presence smote on my eyes and on my body too (for there was heat coming off of him as well as light) like the morning sun at the beginning of a tyrannous summer day.

‘Yes I’m off,’ said the Ghost. “thanks for all your hospitality. But it’s no good, you see. I told this little chap’ (here he indicated the Lizard) ‘that he’d have to be quiet if he came- which he insisted on doing. Of course his stuff won’t do here: I realize that. But he won’t stop. I shall have to go home.’

‘Would you like me to make him quiet?’ said the flaming spirit- an angel, as I now understood.

‘Of course I would,’ said the Ghost.

‘Then I will kill him,’ said the Angel, taking a step forward.

“Oh- ah- look out! You’re burning me. Keep away,’ said the Ghost retreating.

‘Don’t you want him killed?’

‘You didn’t say anything about killing him at first. I hardly meant to bother you with anything so drastic as that.’

‘It’s the only way,’ said the Angel, whose burning hands were now very close to the Lizard. ‘Shall I kill it?’

‘Well, that’s a further question. I’m quite open to consider it, but it’s a new point isn’t it? I mean for the moment I was only thinking about silencing it because up here- well it’s so damned embarrassing.’

‘May I kill it?’

‘Well, there’s time to discuss that later.’

‘There’s no time. May I kill it?’

‘Please, I never meant to be such a nuisance. Please- really- don’t bother. Look! It’s gone to sleep of its own accord. I’m sure it’ll be all right now. Thanks ever so much.’

‘May I kill it?’

‘Honestly, I don’t think there’s the slightest necessity for that. I’m sure I shall be able to keep it in order now. I think the gradual process would be far better than killing it.’

‘The gradual process is of no use at all.’

‘Don’t you think so? Well, I’ll think over what you’ve said very carefully. I honestly will. In fact I’d let you kill it now, but as a matter of fact I’m not feeling frightfully well today. It would be most silly to do it now. I’d need to be in good health for the operation. Some other day, perhaps.’

‘There is no other day. All days are present now.’

‘Get back! You’re burning me. How can I tell you to kill it? You’d kill me if you did.’

‘It is not so.’

‘Why, you’re hurting me now.’

‘I never said it wouldn’t hurt you. I said it would kill you.’

‘Oh, I know. you think I’m a coward. But it isn’t that. Really it isn’t. I say! Let me run back by tonight’s bus and get an opinion from my own doctor. I’ll come again the first moment I can.’

‘This moment contains all moments.’

‘Why are you torturing me? You’re jeering at me. How can I let you tear me in pieces? If you wanted to help me, why didn’t you kill the damned thing without asking me- before I knew? It would be all over by now if you had.’

‘I cannot kill it against your will. It is impossible. Have I your permission?’

The Angel’s hands were almost closed on the Lizard, but not quite. Then the Lizard began chattering to the Ghost so loud that even I could hear what it was saying.

‘Be careful,’ it said. ‘He can do what he says. He can kill me. One fatal word from you and he will! Then you’ll be without me for ever and ever. It’s not natural . How could you live? You’d be only sort of ghost, not a real man as you are now. He doesn’t understand. He’s only a cold, bloodless, abstract thing. It may be natural for him, but it isn’t for us. yes, yes. I know there are no real pleasures now, only dreams. But aren’t they better than nothing? And I’ll be so good. I admit I’ve sometimes gone too far in the past, but I promise I won’t do it again. I’ll give you nothing but really nice dreams- all sweet and fresh and almost innocent. You might say, quite innocent…’

‘Have I your permission?’ said the Angel to the Ghost.

‘You’re right. It would be better to be dead than to live with this creature.’

‘Then I may?’

‘Damn and blast you! Go on, can’t you? Get it over. Do what you like,’ bellowed the Ghost: but ended, whimpering, ‘God help me. God help me.’

Next moment the Ghost gave a scream of agony such as I never heard on Earth. The Burning One closed his crimson grip on the reptile: twisted it, while it bit and writhed, and then flung it, broken-backed on the turf.

‘Ow! That’s done for me,’ gasped the Ghost, reeling backwards.

For a moment I could make out nothing distinctly. Then I saw, between me and the nearest bush, unmistakably solid but growing every moment, solider, the upper arm and the shoulder of a man. Then, brighter still and stronger, the legs and hands. The neck and golden head materialized while I watched, and if my attention had not wavered I should have seen the actual completing of a man- an immense man, naked, not much smaller than the Angel. What distracted me was the fact that at the same moment something seemed to be happening to the Lizard. At first I thought the operation had failed. So far from dying, the creature was still struggling and even growing bigger as it struggled. And as it grew it changed. Its hinder parts grew rounder. The tail, still flickering, became a tail of hair that flickered between huge and glossy buttocks. Suddenly, I started back, rubbing my eyes. What stood before me was the greatest stallion I had ever seen, silvery white with a mane and tail of gold. It was smooth and shining, rippling with swells of flesh and muscle, whinneying and stamping with its hoofs. At each stamp the land shook and the tress dindled.

The new-made man turned and clapped the new horse’s neck. It nosed his bright body. Horse and master breathed into the other’s nostrils. The man turned from it, flung himself at the feet of the Burning One, and embraced them. When he rose I thought his face shone with tears, but it may have been only the liquid love and brightness (one cannot distinguish them in that country) which flowed from him. I had not long to think about it. In joyous haste the young man leaped upon the horse’s back. Turning in his seat he waved a farewell, then nudged the stallion with his heels. They were off before I knew well what was happening. There was riding if you like! I came out quickly as I could from among the bushes to follow them with my eyes; but already they were only like a shooting star far off on the green plain, and soon among the foothills of the mountains. Then, still like a star, I saw them winding up scaling what seemed impossible steeps, and quicker every moment, till near the dim brow of the landscape, so high that I must strain my neck to see them, they vanished, bright themselves, into the rose-brightness of that everlasting morning.

While I still watched, I noticed that the whole plain and forest were shaking with a sound which in our world would be too large to hear, but there I could take it with joy. I knew it was not the Solid Peope who were singing. It was the voice of that earth, those woods and those waters. A strange archaic, inorganic noise, that came from all directions at once. The Nature or Arch-Nature of that land rejoiced to have been once more ridden, and therefor consummated, in the person of the horse. It sang,

“The master says to our master, Come up. Share my rest and splendour till all natures that were your enemies become slaves to dance before you and backs for you to ride, and firmness for your feet to rest on.

‘From beyond all place and time, out of the very Place, authority will be give you: the strengths that once opposed your will shall be obedient fire in your bloody and heavenly thunder in your voice.

‘Overcome us that, so overcome, we may be ourselves: we desire the beginning of your reign as we desire dawn and dew, wetness at the birth of light.

‘Master, your Master has appointed you for ever: to be our King of Justice and our high Priest.’

‘Do ye understand all this, my Son?’ said the Teacher.

‘I don’t know about all, Sir,’ said I. ‘Am I right in thinking that the Lizard really turned into the Horse?’

‘Aye. But it was killed first. Ye’ll not forget that part of the story?’

‘I’ll try not to, Sir. But does it mean that everything- everything- that is in us can go on to the Mountains?’

‘Nothing, not even the best and noblest, can go on as it is now. Nothing, not even what is lowest and most bestial, will not be raised again if it submits to death. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. Flesh and blood cannot come to the Mountains. Not because they are too rank, but because they are too weak. What is a lizard compared with a stallion? Lush is a poor, weak, whimpering, whispering thing compared with that richness and energy of desire which will arise when lust has been killed.’

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Sabbath

“Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.”

Deuteronomy 5:12-15

The day of rest. It’s something I think we way undervalue today… In Exodus 31, God tells the nation of Israel to have anyone who doesn’t honor it to be put to death. It sounds kind of ridiculous honestly, justifying ending a life because they did a bit of work on a certain day. But, nevertheless, it is a big deal… so big that God writes in the Ten Commandments redux (ie, Deuteronomy 5) even says that an ox, donkey, or livestock should not do any work. So why is forcing yourself to slow down for one day a week such a big deal to God?

Part of the key obviously lies in the whole “on the seventh day God rested and was refreshed” and that points to a remembrance of creation, rest, and restoration. Almost a sort of communion if you will. The other part I think lies right in front of us, and might be the entire reason the Pharisees missed the entire point of the Sabbath.

“You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.”

Because the Sabbath is more than just a day of rest. It is a day committed to identity. To who we once were (very past tense) and who we are now (very present tense.) Another sort of remembrance… and really the two ideas aren’t really all that far apart. Because only in the identity of a son (or daughter as the case may be) can you really view God in the right light to find that rest. Without that mindset the Bible becomes a clouded mess of things that you can’t really understand. For example, as some of us have been studying, the entire book of Proverbs isn’t really unlocked until you start to realize that every chapter begins with “Listen, my son…” and without that, the wisdom contained in Proverbs is lost. And with that in mind, the only way the rest and restoration you are even looking for cannot even be obtained outside of the identity that God has called you more than just fixed sinners, but His very sons and daughters.

And the people Jesus healed on various Sabbaths? They were restored by that encounter with Him, and through an act of Him pursuing God’s will, those people experience more rest on those days than they’d probably ever had or ever would have. And the strange irony of it? They found it while waiting. Not because they had much of a choice, but they were broken before God and had no other choice, but to wait.

So going back to the original question, why is slowing down such a big deal to God? Because we forget our identities, we don’t wait and when we do that we miss Him, much like the Pharisees at large did. So what’s the solution? Meditate, remember, wait on the Lord, read the Bible, pray, however you do that best. But it’s all kind of hard to do if you don’t take those moments to just seek God. Be it actually sitting, reading, and physically resting all day… a day spent in the canyon in worship of God for His creation… or a time spent running… remember what God did, and remember who he’s called you to be.

Cause

Serving and loving Amarillo.

On the surface level, it is not an overly complex statement. From Washington west and sixth south (give or take a few blocks depending on where exactly you are) Amarillo is a quiet, conservative center for the Texas panhandle. With an economy -relatively- untouched by the recession (as a waiter, I happen to know that isn’t entirely true), a quaint (if remarkably flat) view, an overabundance of coffee shops, and the general wave-at-everybody mentality Amarillo looks, sounds, and even feels like the perfect suburban town in the Midwest. The word average would fit almost perfectly if it weren’t for the amazing people and community that we all seem to find here. Nothing you can really target to complain or complement otherwise.

But let’s dive, just for a moment, beyond the surface. Let’s travel to northeast Amarillo… an area most of the town doesn’t go to, and may not even realize exists. And what you find is that the statement “Serving and loving Amarillo” may not be as simple as we have all chalked it up to be. I won’t go into exact statistics and details as most of you have been to the recent North sermon about statistics of poverty, teen pregnancy, the refugees who call this ‘quaint Midwest town’ there home, but in general that is exactly what you find. The quaint, quiet, conservative town disappears, and what you find looks a lot more like Juarez, Mexico with various Oriental signs spread throughout, instead of the nice, relaxing atmosphere of Roaster’s that so many college students have become accustomed to.

Yesterday (Tuesday) a small group of Northerners made our way past the boundaries of the Amarillo most of us know and love to a little place called Faith City Ministries located on 2nd street between Buchanan and Taylor. A building that’s actually surprisingly easy to miss… in point of fact, one of our group actually did miss it as it was her first time there. But within that building, people take the statement ‘serving and loving Amarillo’ to new levels. In that small unnoticed building the poor and homeless of Amarillo can find a warm meal, clothes, chapel services where the Gospel is proclaimed, and for a few hours each day a place where they are welcomed… where they are loved… and where the society that so regularly shuns them falls away.

I’ve spent time there sporadically over the years, watching the interns (former homeless or former prison inmates themselves who have found the Good News of Jesus Christ) go through the program to be taught skills to acquire jobs. And to be helped back onto their feet in a world that constantly wants to see them fall back down. And so it was yesterday, my first time there in over a year, that I find a place that’s quite different than the last time I was there. There are a new round of interns in the place, including a new intern director- a really happy, friendly, and driven guy named Lynn. But one of the most impressive things: the homeless themselves. It’s hard to catch, but I noticed that they have become some of the most selfless people I have seen in awhile. (perhaps they always were, and I just never had the eyes to see) Over the course of the meal, I put my waiting skills to use carrying drinks and food out to them and keeping those drinks full (a little funny, I never thought I’d use those talents for anything else…. ever). But over the course of the meal, I had some of the people, unable to put a meal before themselves, eat maybe half of their plates that Faith City had provided them and then happily look for others around them who had finished theirs and ask me to take their half eaten plates to those who had none left.

You can also see amazing things in the interns themselves. Men who have fallen into dark places, and are even now in hard times laugh and joke with each other, expressing what can only be described as joy with each other even in the midst of trial and hardship. And you see loving men and women who have escaped the boundaries of the Amarillo we are all so comfortable with to love the ones that the world and society has shunned.

Serving and loving Amarillo… Makes you think doesn’t it?