Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Street Corner and My Heart......

(Warning: I am going to be expressing my personal view here. If you are wanting to read something light, today is not that day.)

Last Tuesday was April 21st. Amongst all of the daily things and special things, it happened to be the day that Ben and Jerry's was celebrating 31 years of business and consequently they were giving away free single scoop ice cream cones to all customers. It had been a warm day so when hubby got home, we all loaded up in my car to go and receive our fair share of sweet yummi-ness.

The closest Ben and Jerry's to us happened to be in a colorful and diverse part of Portland. It is the unique urban type of culture that inner Portland is known for. One can find a diversity of second hand shops, ethnic cuisine, and a variety of peoples that harmonize together. To use their given slang names that refers to their style; suits walk the same sidewalks as goths, homeless and fit cyclists wave to one another while granolas eye the artistic handiwork of struggling corner vendors.

As I sat on the (broken) bumper of my car with the petals of cherry blossoms dancing in the breeze, I enjoyed my chocolate fudge brownie cone and took in the scenes playing out in front of me. Like I tend to do a lot, my mind observed in blog post form, making a rough draft of my observations. But then I stopped myself and sighed. I was after all hot and tired from a day of errands and phone calls on the insurance claim to get things rolling on fixing my car. I just wanted to suck down my frozen treat and go home.

But now, days later, my mind keeps playing back in slow motion a scene I saw as I waited for my family to finish their treats.
On the corner in front of me, there was an young artist displaying her drawings. I walked over to take a look and found her talent to be quite good. Much of it was nude anime and same sex images so I didn't really personally care for it. But like I said, she had talent for sure. She had a huge welcoming smile, bottled black hair and matching black attire to complete the look. Her long hair was pulled back into two pig tails on top of her head, giving a fun an innocent air about her. She seemed confident in herself, brave in her singular attire, and ready to take on the world.

Directly in front of her was an entirely different type of person. A young man in jeans and a t-shirt stood in a way that blocked much of her display from passers-by. With a somber look on his face, he held up a sign in both hands for all to see. Truthfully, I did not read the sign. But I can imagine it said something to do with Christianity, sin, the coming of Christ, and /or the ending of the world as we know it. I imagine that because of the reactions he was getting. One pedestrian read the sign and held up a 2 thumbs up and then nodded his head in whole hearted agreement as he walked away. A couple of car loads of people then hung out their windows yelling, "Right on! Good for you! We are Christians too so we understand!"

It was about that time that Young Miss Artist peeked around his arms to see what he was proclaiming. She then walked back to her display area, looked at her companion and then broke into covered giggles with one hand on her mouth and the other wrapped around her waist.

I absently thought it was great that they could be so comfortable as to let each other stand in their own thing and not get into an argument of issues.

But now, I keep thinking about them, imagining their individual lifestyles, and feeling broken in my heart for them. I feel for her because she doesn't know the God of truth and love that I know. I feel for him because of the same thing. Let me explain........ For me it all pivots around Christianity and how a large percentage of the world views it today. I don't know if I can even adequately explain what I am thinking but I would like to try.

For that man, he was brave to stand there and give his opinion of conviction despite knowing that there would be fingers pointed and differences thrown back at him. And yet, I find that I could never do that myself. It is not because of the strength which I posses or do not posses. For me it is a question of what truly displays my active relationship with God and how I can make that a desire for others to want as well. I am not saying that He was entirely wrong to do what he was doing or even that I am so good as to know what is always right. I certainly have had and will continue to have my fair share of mistakes. But to wave around a concept of God that is entirely based on judgement......I just don't see how that could make anyone want to be a christian. Does anyone ever look a 'soap box preacher' in the eye and say, "Wow you are right and I have been so wrong. Please show me what to do to make things different."

The attitudes of the people that cheered him on and then went about their personal business.....what did they convey to the other people watching? Did they demonstrate any amount of unconditional love?

For the young female many times had she seen that kind of religion displayed? How many times had she had a finger of condemnation shaken in her face? While having an individual flare for fashion is fun, did she dress that way and draw that way so as to push away the fake people that don't want to do more than condemn? Is all of that unique style really just many layers of armor that say, "I dare you to take the time to find the real me. I dare you to stop 5 minutes of your busy self life and see what is in my heart. How could you possibly know what I feel or have lived through?"

How in the world do I put into words what I am feeling?

I think I want you to know that there is so much more to God than what was displayed on that street corner. I want you to know that if you have walked away from church and God because of attitudes thrown at you of judgement and condemnation......please don't give up. Those people were sincere in thinking they were doing right. The problem is that they were looking through the eyes of their own hurt instead of the eyes of God's love.

There is a difference between religion and relationship.
Religion is what happens when people go to church on the weekend and then live a life during the week that doesn't show love to anyone around them. Religion is what happens when people are more concerned about what they are wearing instead of the meaning of the song being sung from the church choir. Religion is what happens when a person proudly displays their bible where people can see it but the pages have never been touched. Religion is what happens when it is important to only pray blessings for meals but not seek direction in life, love, and family.

Relationship on the other hand is knowing without a doubt that God loves each of us despite what we have and have not done. Relationship is taking the time to put aside my own inner self to see what people are really seeing, saying, and thinking through their hurts and perceptions no matter what day of the week it is. Relationship is knowing that if there was only one person on earth to be rescued and loved, God would give His all for that one person and it is knowing that that one person would be each of matter what.

I have written and re-written this post so many times because I am trying to figure out how to put into correct words just how much God is all about relationship. He is ALL about relationship. A relationship happens and grows in and through things. We all have our cherished friends because of what we have weathered through together. God is the same way.

How does that get displayed on a street corner?
I personally don't think that it can. I believe that way because it is when people see God's love through me in relationship, in my ups and downs, despite my failings and mistakes......that is when the real gift is seen.

Again, I stress that I do not ever try to act like I have all my ducks in a row, or learned all my lessons, or for a lack of better words....think myself holier than the next person. I know I mess up, I know I have wrongly judged and hurt people, and because I am human and fail-able...I know I will have many more times of humble apologies ahead of me as long as God has me breathe air. I am simply here learning each day that God dares to love each of us fresh each day with an unquenchable and everlasting love with no strings attached and I want you to know that same joy.


  1. Any post that starts with that tagline has my interest! I'll be back to read it.

  2. Love you, Jules...You are truly a courageous woman to tackle a post like this. Thanks for sharing your thoughts so honestly. ~Janine XO

  3. I'm back.

    Difficult subject matter. As a Christian, I used to hate the soap boxers and televangilists because it seemed they were thrown in my face in every discussion about faith. It seemed I was fighting Christians and being attacked for something I didn't do. It wasn't fair, because I have never been like that. So I understand your frustration.

    They don't bother me anymore, however. Somewhere along the line I decided that God could fight His own fights; He could worry about how He was being represented. I realized that it wasn't God's image that was really bothering me; it was my own image that I was worried about. I didn't want to be grouped together with "those" Christians. I didn't want to be seen in a bad light. I didn't want to be seen as less than what I thought I was. The soap boxers bothered me because they were spitting in my face. My face, not Christ's. When I finally realized that it was my own reputation that I was worried about, I finally understood why it bothered me so much.

    Nowadays, I let God pick His own fights and I no longer justify my "real" Christianity. It was a very hard and frustrating journey.

  4. Janine...thank you for your encouragement. I can feel your smile all the way over here. are so right. Thank you for the clarification and sharing your thoughts. As much as I know how God has wired me, that doesn't mean that it won't work for someone else. He says He uses all things to work together for His good. You are correct to put out the label of pride. God is bigger than any thing I can do.

  5. Well Jules.It's relationship with God and relationship with the world..go into all the world etc. And everything will be added unto you etc.we forget sometimes that it was done on the cross.where are we with God,do we take time for God to speak to us or like so many christian's do those things that we thing God wants us to do.we sometimes pile stones upon stones on yourself feeling we need to better.only thing we need to do is let GOD walk before us and to walk in is foot steps.we beat ourself up because we tend to put pride before and what those around us thing.Let JESUS CHRIST show His love through us to others.when we mess up don't pile the stones on our backs give it over to Jesus.we need to stop beating ourselfs up. IT's Done.a relationship each day with the LORD YAHWEH.we may miss the mark but God loves us LOVE TO ALL IN JESUS>

  6. Jules, let me reply by relating my own experience with this type of thing ...

    I work at the Pentagon. Many mornings, as I walk into the building, I gaze upon a forlorn group of people who stand outside the building holding up signs of protest: PEACE flags, "Stop Torture" signs, "US Out of Iraq", etc. There is also usually a Chinese man beating a handheld drum. Most of them look quite "normal". I generally wonder about them as I walk by, though many of their signs appear to be stunningly ill-informed. They are often out in the rain and the cold.

    But above all, I'm struck by the thought: What are they trying to accomplish? And what makes them think they're succeeding?

    For those of us who go in and out of the building, they are now part of the landscape. They seem almost quaint, and are a source of occasional jokes and snide remarks. Yet clearly they believe they are doing something for their cause. Something ...

    This brings us back to your street corner man. I think we can question his tactic without questioning his motives. Just becasue something is bold or sacrificial doesn't make it productive.

  7. Beautifully put, Jules. It's the women in my study group at church, the ones who are every bit as flawed as I am, who have accepted me despite the dogma of the church. Interestingly enough, their Bibles show a lot of wear.

    Peace - D

  8. Darlin' Jules...I read this with such interest and I agree wholeheartedly...My God gets lost in translation sometimes, but He is still the one I go to in times of trouble, the one who guides me in all things spiritual...I am not ashamed to say I love Him, never have been, never will be...I don't have all the answers, either...but I have the one that's most important...
    great post

  9. To Jules and the gang. Airborne

    A doctor, a lawyer, a little boy and a priest were out for a Sunday
    afternoon flight on a small private plane. Suddenly, the plane
    developed engine trouble. In spite of the best efforts of the pilot the plane
    started to go down. Finally the pilot grabbed a parachute, yelled to the
    passengers that they had better jump, and bailed out. Unfortunately there
    were only three parachutes remaining.

    The doctor grabbed one and said "I'm a doctor, I
    save lives, so I must live," and jumped out.

    The lawyer then said, "I'm the smartest man in the world,
    I deserve to live!" He grabbed a parachute and jumped.

    The priest looked at the little boy and said, "My son, I've lived a
    long and full life. You are young and have your whole life ahead of
    you. Take the last parachute and live in peace".

    The little boy handed the parachute back to the priest and said
    "Not to worry, Father. The smartest man in the world just jumped
    out with my back pack."

  10. I popped over today and read this. It expresses so much of how I view things. I want to come back and reread this and mull it over. Blessings to you today!

  11. Hi Jules, heavy stuff here for sure. I think I understand what you are saying though I cant put it in words. Blessings/M

  12. Jules, thats a wonderful post.. I will have to come back to read full. Well, you shared your post so wonderfully..

  13. Jules, Its true! Often the message is obscured by the messenger.
    I have done my share of street corner preaching in former times. I still think it has a place. But the fact is more results come through a loving showing relationship approach than beating people over the head.Too often the church is known for what it is against rather than what it is for!

    The young man WAS brave no doubt about it in todays world. He may not actually have been wise. On the other hand had anyone discipled him or had he just been left to pick it up as he went along?

    Those of us who have been Christians a while must take a share of the blame for the state of the church today. We either failed to stand up or did so in the wrong way and have failed to ensure that future generations do not make the same mistakes we did.

    Learning from our mistakes is smart. Learning from other peoples is Wise and the "fear of the Lord is the BEGINNING of all wisdom."

    We need to ensure that we leave behind us a wise church (not a sadder one)when we go home.

  14. Thank you Jules for such a great post! It truly touched my heart. I agree with one of the commenters, sometimes my feelings about a soap box preacher is more so about myself. I do not feel comfortable and I do not feel that I am called to share my relationship with God that way. Our relationship is a journey, those, like you, that are on the journey and strive for a stronger relationship and strive to follow God's will AND are able express grace and mercy - that is what I desire to be. To be the honey not the vinegar.



I love to hear from other. Your opinions and viewpoints are always a blessing and encourage other readers as well.