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Tuesday, October 6, 2009


One of my morning rituals is to take a quick peak at what is new on You Tube. Typically I scan through the favorited or feature videos. This morning a featured video was the birth of an elephant named Riski. In spite of the fact I grew up on a dairy farm, the next five minutes were a roller coaster of emotion as I watched an intense struggle for life in the middle of an intense puddle of fluids. Woke me up better than a cup of coffee. Ruined my breakfast.

Hungry but queasy, I walked outside to observe my pair of Ginkgo trees in the front yard, one male and one female. The female Ginkgo trees have a reputation for smelly fruit, a mix between rotten eggs and dog feces. And this year is a boomer crop. I read in the news that several cities are removing the trees from their parks and sidewalks because of the foul fruit. I also recently found out that 1 in 100 male trees goes through a metamorphosis and also produces the smelly fruit. Well I just figured out I won the lottery: both my trees have a bumper crop of rotten eggs!

Ginkgoes were originally planted because their wonderful green fanned shaped leaves turn bright yellow in the Fall. These bright leaves typically all fall off within about a 48 hour period, leaving behind a fantastic yellow skirt. It is almost as if someone shoots the tree and, like a cartoon cat getting hit by a cannon ball, it reveals it's bones. I think I might sit on the porch this year and wait for the gun to go off. At least the sight of the majestic yellow frenzy might compensate for my yard smelling like King Kong took a squat.

Yet this is were it gets serious. Within this Ginkgo dilemma is a lesson for life: hard things often lead to beautiful things. Blessed are they that mourn for they will be comforted. Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs' is the Kingdom of Heaven.

I have a heart for the poor because four years ago I had 37 cents to my name. I am now far from wealthy but I fell asleep last night in a king size bed staring at an electric fireplace. I have a heart for the homeless because four years ago I was homeless. My stint at homelessness involved me intruding on my parents or other friends for a place to sleep for about six months while transitioning from ministry. While working part-time as a barista at Java Cafe (the real beginning of my dream of Green Frog Coffee) I slept on a mattress on the floor in a garage of a house for sale. I remember several nights in the garage wondering where my life was going and at the same time being thankful for what God was teaching me. It was during that time that I finished my book Chainsaw Preacher.

Two recent events involving customers prompted me to write this post. One was a homeless couple simply seeking a place to land in between what were probably difficult nights. The gentlemen appeared to be quite a few years older than his younger pregnant wife and they were wrapped in mystery. They had been frequenting the shop for a few weeks always scanning the paper for affordable housing while sipping on a dark roast coffee. Yesterday this gentlemen began thumbing through my book and started asking me questions. The first question was, "Is Bartholomew still alive?" in reference to a cat I mention. I said, "No. Steve accidentally ran over him two weeks after the book came out." After reading a few more pages he asked if I had an old copy laying around that he could borrow. I told him to take a new one. Ten minutes later he told me gave his life to Lord 13 years ago and just needed to get back on track. Up until this moment they had just been a couple of people taking up a little too much couch for a little too long but after our short conversation I guess you can say- the leaves turned yellow.

Another event happened on Saturday when I was in Jackson outside cleaning off tables and was about to throw away a fourth of a Coke someone had left behind. A gentleman in a long gray beard dressed in a trench coat and dirty jeans approached me and said, "May I have that?" I paused and handed it to him and came inside. A very attractive woman dressed to attend a wedding observed the exchange and proceeded to remind me to wash my hands because of the threat of swine flu. I assumed she was concerned with the man being unclean. I tried to explain to her how we don't let beggars bother customers but admit I was distracted with her perfect face being highlighted by a small smear of chocolate from her fried pie (nobody's perfect). It was an incredible contrast: a thirsty beggar cherishing a swig of Coke and a pretty woman concerned about my safety while helping a thirsty beggar. I left thinking about how while some struggle for life the rest of us sometimes struggle with watching them struggle.

I guess what I am trying to say is don't let the smell fool you. I think life teaches us more often than not that what we see is not always what we get. The smelly Ginkgo turns into Cinderella. Too often we believe that Christians have nice homes and drive nice cars and that financial blessing is a promise to those who "truly" follow God. We forget that Joseph and Mary were once the same as the pregnant couple seeking shelter (perhaps minus a few tattoos). We forget that their Son, our Savior, was also homeless, also hungry, and also thirsty. We expect the Kingdom to be clean and full of pretty people. I have the feeling the Kingdom might actually be clean and full of pretty people but I wouldn't be surprised if it is actually our perspective that has changed and not the people we hate to love who might be exactly the same... and I imagine we'll be fascinated by their yellow skirts.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is so awesome! God bless you and those you encounter today. What insights God provides as we endure hardships. If only we could firmly believe that as we go through difficulties and painful struggles.

October 7, 2009 at 7:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! I have learned a lot from this blog post. Too often it is easy to get so anxious about all the things going on that I lose what God is trying to teach me. I pray that whoever reads this blog post experiance this sense of peace I feel right now.

October 8, 2009 at 5:29 PM  

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