From "SHARING" #005, September 1996
Jesus tells us the following parable (Luke 16:19-25), "There was once a rich man who dressed in the most expensive clothes and lived in great luxury every day. There was also a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who used to be brought to the rich man's door, hoping to eat bits of food that fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to sit beside Abraham at the feast in heaven. The rich man died and was buried, and in Hades, where he was in great pain, he looked up and saw Abraham, far away, with Lazarus at his side. So he called out, 'Father Abraham! Take pity on me, and send Lazarus to dip his finger in some water and cool off my tongue, because I am in great pain in this fire!' But Abraham said, 'Remember, my son, that in your lifetime you were given all the good things, while Lazarus got all the bad things. But now he is enjoying himself here, while you are in pain.'"
The parable continues with the rich man asking for a warning to be sent to his brothers, and Abraham basically responding fat chance that it will do any good. Now I'm not big on hellfire and brimstone kind of discussions but this has been on my mind for a while. I was sitting with some friends, having dinner at one of our local tavern restaurants, when some basketball star had his contract salary announced on the television. In a country where 80% of the people claim to be Christian, I wondered aloud how someone like this was expecting to justify his proportionate share of wealth when he stands face to face with Jesus. Most of us don't consider ourselves wealthy, particularly by comparison to sports or movie stars, but how about by comparison to most of the rest of the world. All those in poverty conditions are not there out of a choice not to work, which is the excuse I hear most often when someone wants to justify selfishness. I think we need to think about it. There will be a day of facing up to our choices. I've discovered that there are spiritual prices to pay for our arrogances. How those come about, and who initiates or determines them, is a subject open to great debate, but as sure as an apple falls to earth because of the laws of gravity, there are consequences to our worldly choices, and they come back to each of us as individuals. No group scapegoating is going to help. One of my favorite quotes from Abraham Lincoln seems related somehow:
"We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these things were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us."
I might add, too arrogant to think we will be held accountable. History is littered with the remnants of empires, countries, and peoples who got too full of themselves. Think about it. Then do something. Real change always begins with the individual.
(My poem "Ready Or Not" was included as a part of this newsletter)
I should stop setting things aside that I think I'd like to share with you. As is the case with this Sharing, I end up going off in an unanticipated direction at the last minute. Sometimes when I sit down to type. Anyway, there are a few things I had set aside I would still like to share. One is a cute story about Billy Graham I ran across while cleaning out some stuff.
It seems there was a time early in his career when the Reverend Billy Graham arrived in a small town to preach a sermon. Wanting to mail a letter, he asked a young boy where the post office was. When the boy had told him, Dr. Graham thanked him and said, "If you'll come to the Baptist church this evening, you can hear me telling everyone how to get to heaven." "I don't think I'll be there," the boy said. "You don't even know your way to the post office."
Don't know how accurate the story is, but it gave me a chuckle.
If you've called or stopped by the center recently you've discovered that I'm in one of those many waiting periods that come along the way. I was notified not too long ago that the main floor would be advertised for rent. Since I only have enough funds to pay rent on the upstairs, main floor activities have been suspended to see what happens, and what remains available. In preparation for some change, I've shifted some things upstairs already. Since very few were utilizing Wednesday open times I haven't bothered to set any regular times that I'll be in the studio, but if you need to access the library just call and leave a message and we'll work it out. In the midst of this some other things have happened which exposes the missions to a larger audience.
I was called at the last minute to fill in as Artist of the Month at Ledge Craft Lane. So I put together a nice display of my photography around the Sharing In Christ logo sign, along with some other information. It will be shown for the entire month of September.
I also have added a booth at the Mid-Michigan Mega Mall on US27, just over a mile south of the Lansing Outlet Mall. I'm sharing the booth with Sarah (my daughter) and Larry Lovell (a friend who collects Snoopy stuff). I will be primarily using the booth as a clearance location for my photography and poetry, as well as for other things from the various missions. That's what will be for sale in the booth, but the actual reason for doing this is the exposure outside Grand Ledge for a touch of william and my missions.
It's calendar time again. I have not yet ordered any for the Center with everything else going on right now. If anyone wishes to buy a whole case of 25, the price will be a flat $100 (including the shipping). Otherwise the individual calendar cost this year is $5.00 for a member, or $8.00 retail (plus $1.00 shipping per calendar, member or non-member, if you want the calendars mailed rather than picking them up at the Center). It is important that you get your checks to me as soon as possible since the manufacturer prints a limited supply, and when they're gone, they're gone. I know several of you have used them as Christmas gifts. They are certainly the highest quality calendar product I've seen. If you haven't seen one, come see me. This year's is hanging in my studio.
I still use the term Center, to refer to the place from which I operate, and will continue to due so even if it ends up being a single room out of my home, or a van, on the road. Perhaps it is a good time to emphasize that the Center is the operation, or activities and resources of a touch of william, and not a particular place or building. Since I do not have the resources to provide for a particular location myself, God and whomever He calls upon to provide space will be the major determining factor in where the Center, or even Centers, are located.
While I'm on that subject, I'd like to discuss a related issue. I wrote what I thought was going to be the first page of Sharing during the Summer Olympics. Specifically, after the bombing. It was about our national addiction to excitement, good or bad. I'm not going to reproduce the whole thing, though there were some good points which probably needed sharing, but I would like to share the closing.
I am often asked how things are going. Sometimes in general, sometimes relating to a specific like open forum (now discontinued). Often the questioner is looking for information about cash flow, or people flow, or some other quantitative measure, to validate my choices to do what I do. When they hear that there is little money, few visitors, and only an occasional life touched, I sense a let down. Sometimes they even offer that I need to keep myself open to other possibilities. As if the absence of great numbers (excitement) was God's way of discouraging me from continuing in a wrong direction. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Let me assure you that I am open to wherever God leads me. But when I left my 20 year career with State Farm, God did not promise to make me the next Billy Graham. Nor did He offer that I would be given a Moses level assignment (who by the way spent 40 years between his times of excitement). God simply offered that I should come and follow Him, to do whatever He asked of me. That is exactly what is happening. We all know that to create something of great quality usually takes time and patience. I am at whatever stage in development that God has chosen, being molded, and prepared, even while being used. I too must fight the battle of my "American excitement addiction" to avoid discouragement on a daily basis. While I hope many of you are praying for me, please do not pray more excitement into my life than I am truly prepared to handle appropriately. Better that you would pray that I will hear God clearly, and respond genuinely. Peace does not sound exciting on the surface, but it really does offer a joy that passes all understanding.
That was the end of the article. I have since come to describe what I do as one who tosses pebbles into the ocean. By way of explanation I offer that if I had a very large boulder that I could drop into a very small pond, it would make a very discernible impact. But the world is vast. So is our country. Even just Grand Ledge has more people than I am likely to impact. But that is faith. The pebbles I toss (or seeds that I sow) may not seem dramatic, or exciting. But if that is what God wants, then I can be sure they are important, however it may look to me, or others, at the time.
Also related, you will start to notice that reference to contributions will begin disappearing from my brochures. Requesting contributions has never felt comfortable to me. It was mostly out of an inability to answer critics who wanted to know how I was going to pay my bills that I spent so much time and energy wrestling with that area. Jesus said to seek first the Kingdom, and God would take care of the details. I accept His promise. That provision may manifest itself through business, a job, or yes, maybe contributions. But I won't be the one asking for them. I'll simply work with what God provides, through whatever source. It's feeling more right all the time.
FROM MY MAILBOX
This is something which only occurred to me today. I receive all sorts of information from organizations (mostly asking for donations) some of which might be of interest to you. Not everything to all of you, so pick and choose, just as I do.
The Natural Resources Defense Council indicates that Mitsubishi has a joint venture with Mexico started to build the world's largest salt factory right next to the last untouched nursery of the Pacific Gray Whale. Don't know much about these people but they can be reached at P O Box 96048, Washington, D.C. 20090-6048.
The Christian Coalition sent me this year's Congressional Scorecard in preparation for the upcoming elections. Don't always agree with these people, but the scorecard is helpful as it shows how each congressman voted on the various bills. Their address is P O Box 1990, Chesapeake, VA 23327. I'll keep this copy at the center on the most recent newsletters tray if you'd like to see it.
The other day I was riding my Health Rider, holding the widest part of the handlebar with my palms facing up. All of a sudden the words diga me, dites moi, erzahl mir, and timba his arms wide came into my mind. These are all ways of saying tell me in various languages (you have to be a Star Trek Generations fan to understand the last one). It occured to me that it was time to be open to input. After all, the mission statement for christian life programs is "to help Christians live what they say they believe." So let me start with you. What kind of help would you like in your efforts to grow spiritually? Drop me a note, or give me a call.