09 March, 2006

James - Faith, being alone

Jam 2:17
Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

I have been quoting the TNIV of late, hoping I will get familar with it. I favor its efforts to balance gender enough to go through the effort. Neither it nor the ESV has the punch of the KJV on this one, though.

Faith, being alone is just a killer statement.

James is talking about brothers and sisters who are truly destitute, and who are turned away by their Christian family. They are not just turned away, though. They are turned away with a smile and a blessing, and they are turned away by people in good standing with the church. People just like me.

This verse frightens me. I don't know whether the Lord has watched me turn anyone away or not, but I know I am not blazing any trails in cheerful giving. I wonder how much I need to pray for His mercy toward my lack of mercy.

I don't think it's mandatory to put a "Familyhood Church" spin on everything I touch, but I am going to do it here.

The main thing I note about this verse is that brothers and sisters tend not to go to each other with their needs. They go to "the church", meaning the hierarchical organization. We are insulated from each other by that organization. It would bless me beyond telling to know that I could really help a brother, but instead the church wants to funnel all that money. We want our IRS tax discounts, too, so we are a part of the problem.

We need a little more raw exposure to each other.

There's a shocking feeling that comes when you suddenly realize that the person in front of you needs help, and won't get it if you don't give it. You are, through no fault of your own, responsible for someone. I think we need to be hit with that more often, and I think it will only happen if we ratchet down the responsibilities of the pastor and elders. We need to be confronted with our responsibility for each other - and not "accountability" either! We're only too willing to help our brothers see their flaws. No. We need to see our brothers' needs, and see that we are their only help.

Why don't we do this?

Because it's really, really hard. I've been there and done that, and the decisions you make have real consequence. It's much easier to let a pastor take the heat.

But if we do, if we get close enough to each other to really know each others' needs, and really help each other, maybe our faith won't die of loneliness.

33 comments:

Milly said...

Words can't express how this needs to be heard.

We are willing to put the cash in the envelope. Not to knock on the door of a neighbor's and lend a hand. (actually my husband does that when he thinks they need help.) I'm sure I've turned someone away with some lame reason. I'd bet most of us have.

Thank you for the smack to remind me.

codepoke said...

Hey, hey, hey! No smacking around here! If that was a smack, I will banish myself to the wilderness for 40 hours.

Kansas Bob said...

The truly poor in our churches are the single moms who desperately need friends to come along side of them and help them. These are the disenfranchised amongst us who many times don't fit into our church / small group culture. They sometimes are very needy and can scare even the most compassionate away.

codepoke said...

KB - A couple of us are talking about this at ou church right now. Anything you have found that works well for those moms and for the people helping them?

Milly said...

Not a real smack a wake up call sort a smack. You aren't banished from my table bro.

Weekend Fisher said...

Speaking as a single mom myself, I know the single moms and I at my church have kinda given up on the church. We call each other when we need something.

Milly said...

The single mom/dad issue is something to check on at my church. I'll bet we've got a few that feel like giving up on us.

We do have a ministery of folks who do mantaince, for those who need it.

codepoke said...

WF,

What would you say to my church? To keep us from having any of our single moms need to say what you just said?

codepoke said...

Milly,

That maintenance group, what do you have to do to enlist their aid?

Andreia said...

I think sometimes we casually say, "we have a ministry for that" and then dismiss the needs like as if the ministry is taking care of the situation.

I spent a time as a single mother and I found the church to be the least supportive of all the groups of which I was a member. Sad, but true!

My sister-in-law was widowed two years ago and I think the church community that she was a part of had it right. Because people KNEW her, they KNEW her needs.

On several occassions in those early times groups of men would show up at her acreage on a weekend and do what needed to be done: fix fences, mow.

In a similar vein when I was alone, my brother would call and say, "Hey, can I mow your yard today?" At Christmas he showed up at my door with a homemade Christmas tree stand.

Every home and yard needs the same things done. Cars need to be maintained. Childcare issues arise.

Its not brain science. Its just a matter of whether or not people are willing to step out of their comfort zone to ask. In my opinion this has to be the most powerful way to show Christ.

Thank you for this discussion. It has reminded me that I need to lift my head and do something with the people that I know.

codepoke said...

Andreia,

Its just a matter of whether or not people are willing to step out of their comfort zone to ask.

I always fear the moment that this answer comes up. Obviously, it is right, and it just makes my failure so much the worse.

Thanks.

codepoke said...

Upon reread, let me clarify that my comment was sincere, not snarky. I appreciate the tap.

Kansas Bob said...

I love Andreia's comment. Building a relational community is the only thing that a church can do to support the kind of ministry that she addresses. Ministry happens when we are moved by compassion - one heart at a time.

Weekend Fisher said...

Poke, I hardly know what to say. I think I'll just quickly introduce 4 women at our church. Me: my husband ditched me while I was expecting our 2nd child. My friend RM: her husband ditched her while she was expecting their 4th child (but not before harming her to try to make her miscarry, so #4 was very premature and is profoundly retarded and physically disabled). MM: her husband died leaving her with 3 children. Although we have at times asked for help with simple things (ride to VBS for the kids?) nobody has responded to the requests. That's 3 of us. Now for #4: AB's husband just got called up for active duty in Afghanistan; he'll be away for a year. The church made an announcement to get volunteers to help her with car repairs or home repairs or whatnot. Why not just slap the other 3 of us in the face? I really hope someone helps AB, she's a great lady. But what makes her worth caring about and the other 3 of us not worth it?

Milly said...

Weekendfisher,
My heart goes out to you and the other women. Man someone needs to yell at the elders in your church. Don't they realize how important you are to them?

You have my prayers and would have help if you were here.

MIlly said...

Codepoke,
I haven't asked the guy who runs that group yet but will Sunday. I believe you just ask. I'm sure if they know you need help they ask you if you want it.

We have and old bus barn that we no longer use. They are going to turn it into a shop so that they can work out of it and teach others how to do some of the work.

I spent the day working at our churh for ISWW. We have an great bunch of folks who pitch in to help people. However I am sure we miss many.

codepoke said...

Weekend Fisher,

Thank you for your story, and I'm more than sorry to hear it. My question was a tough one, and your answer was tougher.

I hate to admit it, but I think I know why AB is getting the attention that you are not. The men in the church are not really helping AB either. They are helping her husband through her. They still don't really grasp her needs, but they identify with his.

As for why they are failing all 4 of you, I know too much about that too. We really are lazy and thoughtless. We shirk work when we can, and if it doesn't occur to us that there is work to be done, so much the easier. Chivalry is a pretty easy emotion, but it doesn't take you very far. Love is much harder, and that is what's needed.

Our failures are no reflection on those we fail.

Weekend Fisher said...

Your answer makes some sense. I mean, I'm used to the attitudes towards divorced women, but I knew there had to be something more than that going on because MM wasn't getting any help either, she's a widow, nobody divorced her. Sometimes I get hints that maybe nobody offers to help because they're afraid we need more help than they can offer, so they don't offer. And I don't like to ask for help, especially from people with an attitude. So if I need help I call MM, and if she needs help she calls me. I know she understands what it's like to be between the rock and the hard place, understands it better than the rest of them put together.

codepoke said...

Sometimes I get hints that maybe nobody offers to help because they're afraid we need more help than they can offer, so they don't offer.

I hate this canard.

Men find it hard to help women because doing so raises a number of confusing feelings. We love flattery, and altruistic acts lead to thanks. Too much of that, though, and suddenly our emotionally challenged brains are in panic-mode. We begin to fear jealousy from spouses, jealousy from other men, fear of unwanted infatuations, fear of wanted infatuations; it just gets scary.

Worse than that, it gets embarassing. I know a handful of men who handle embarassment with difficulty. The rest fail at it dismally.

None of this is to say that we are not lazy and thoughtless, too. We don't help other men much, either. It's just to say that we need to grow up a lot.

Again, our failures are no reflection on the people we fail.

And I don't like to ask for help

And who can blame you? None of us does.

Still...

I offered to replace an older lady's car mirror at church the other day. She obviously bought a new-ish car which she could barely afford, and someone clipped her mirror. She cannot afford to replace the mirror. So, she is driving around in a 2002 model car that she keeps up really well, but she has a mirror duct-taped on.

It's just sad.

Yeah. She said no.

Now dang it! This is not hard for me. This is not expensive for me. Why does she say no?

Throw a guy a bone here!

MIlly said...

Codepoke,

Why is it so hard to except help? I feel uncomfortable taking help. I wasn't raised to take help, we helped others. I think I feel like I do because I don't know if I (hating to say it) will be able to help them back. Will I then owe them? I seldom ask for help from friends. I have been asked to go late at night to help friends with children. I'd find it hard to do that myself and love that they can ask me. (I hate why I had to go, Yelling at teens to knock it off and respect mom and dad)

My husband has asked some if they need help with cars and things some say yes some no. Is it that some of us are raised to help yet shy away from asking out of fear?

I'll have to think about this one. I do think if something happened to him I'd have no problem asking for help from some of the men in my church. It's my husbands ministery I know the men. Could that be part of it? I know them I know if I said my car was... or my sink is... I'd have several men helping me.

We should all feel like I do about asking them. How do we get to know each other so that Sweet Miss Betty can walk into church and ask for help?

We have ministery fairs so that you can sign up to be a part of something and so that you can know what is out there to help you. We also featured a ministery each week in church. We would have a table, a note in the bulletin, and a brief word from the on who was incharge. Yet I am still sure that some are missed. I think I need to talk to someone about making sure that people know we are willing to help. (OOPS LONG AGAAIN:-})

codepoke said...

I don't know if I (hating to say it) will be able to help them back.

Yeah. I can think of 100 reasons it would be easier for me to learn Japanese, read a manual in it's original language, fly to Asia for parts, and fix my own VCR than ask someone else for help. Most of them have to do with me being proud.

The first church was plainly and simply communist. Communism doesn't work. It did not work for them, and it hasn't worked for anyone else, but we need something they had. I love the dream of the Scottish monasteries, but I don't know enough about them to say much. They all worked to create a simple, working town and helped everyone who moved in, I think.

We need to learn that the kingdom of God is neither American nor capitalist. We need to be able to give and receive help as from God.

I need to learn both.

I hate why I had to go, Yelling at teens to knock it off and respect mom and dad

That must have been fun! ;-P

Milly said...

That must have been fun! ;-P

It was fun yelling at them. I spent the better part of the night talking to one in front of her house while her mom waited inside. We talked about peer pressure and boys. When we were finished her mom got in my car and we talked. I was careful not to tell her personal things. I do think her kids are great they just make mistakes like most.

I spoke to the person incharge of our fix it ministery. He said they just have to ask him. I suggested a list of people to call, a who does what, we could post it on the board so that it can be found and place some at the information booth. I also told him if he could give me the information I'd type it for him.

Thanks for this one I hope that it will spark him to make it easy for people to ask for help. :-} )

Weekend Fisher said...

LOL, then there's a guy who used to help me out (a neighbor, not somebody from church) and it turns out that he liked me and was wishing for more than "just neighbors". Found that out from his daughter. So I could no longer in good conscience accept help from him. Had to tell him thanks for the thought but no, thanks, for the help.

What you say makes sense. I notice a number of men who are uncomfortable around unattached women. Human emotions being what they are, it can be playing with fire.

But where does that leave things like "I could use a ride to & from the shop because I need to get my brakes fixed"?. So far it's been 1) SOL, 2) Call MM, or 3) Wait til my son gets his license (three more years).

Milly said...

weekendfisher,

Why don't you and those of you who are in need of help pull yourselves togeather. Be the support you need and go to the elders and tell them "We love this place and we need help" As for the car shop some will give you a ride home. Check. I've had to ask for rides myself. Most of all lift it to God. He's going to answer. I think sometimes we need to be bold in our asking. Yesterday someone was in telling me what she felt and I am so glad she did. I plan on helping her.

codepoke said...

WF

(If I ever call you "WHIFF", it's because my shorthand program expands WF that way. ;-0)

So far it's been 1) SOL, 2) Call MM, or 3) Wait til my son gets his license (three more years).

Milly's suggestion of banding together would be a little beyond me. The day I formed a union to demand redress from my church leadership would be a very cold one in some typically warm places.

If, however, one of their email addresses were to fall into the hands of a well-meaning man who lived a couple thousand miles away .....

codepoke said...

Milly,

As for the car shop some will give you a ride home. Check.

Honestly, this one stumped me. When I needed my car aligned a couple months ago, I was able to get a ride back from the shop with my daughter for the drop off (Option 3 is viable for me today. :-) ), but she was at work for the "pickup". I actually had to hoof it to the shop. It was only a couple miles, but I picked the shop on the basis of "walking distance".

Like everyone else, it never occurred to me to ask for help from someone in the church.

Here's hoping the handful of us can come up with some kind of plan to overcome our rugged, inspired self-sufficiency!

Milly said...

millytime.blogspot.com/

I know that two of the shops I've taken my car to have offered a ride home and said they'd pick me up. Once I was so angry with the guy who ran me off the road and didn't stop. So after I dropped it off I chose to walk home.

Not knowing weekendfisher it's easy for me to say just ask for help. We have lots of men around our church who are always will to do that. The thing is I know them so calling and asking is easy they will most likely say yes. However, if you've asked and been shot down you stop asking. Again I think there must be a guy in your church that is in need of helping someone. I pray that you find him.

Sometimes we need to help people in order to help ourselves.

Are you helping where you're needed? (this is in no way a judgement. It is a good way of finding people that you can count on.) Someone I am sure wants to know us better we have to find them chances are they are right infront of us. I like dreaming too.

Milly said...

CP&WF
Milly's suggestion of banding together would be a little beyond me. The day I formed a union to demand redress from my church leadership would be a very cold one in some typically warm places.

I in no way think you should kick the door open and start a Norma Ray thing.Hay I'm COC.

Find a trusted elder and start talking chances are once you find one (I know that not all will listen, I've spoken before the elders before)

Again I may be different because I know some very well.

It does sound like a chance to start a new ministery at your church. Remember Moses didn't think he could do it. With God all things are possible.

(Stepping off the soap box looking around at the faces hmm... are ya gana at least think about it I wonder as I slowly move away from the mic.) :-/

codepoke said...

OK. I have been in a hurry all night, and I think I commented too soon earlier. I had not thought through some of my reactions to the subject. I'm sorry.

Milly,

are ya gana at least think about it

Of this you can be assured!

I reacted to your suggestion negatively because I lead a few people at work. When one of them has a problem and comes to me, it is a problem and we can work on it. When three of them have a problem and come to me, though, then it is a BIG DEAL. They have been talking amongst themselves, and almost certainly with others. "How big is the problem?" is the first question on my mind. "How far has this spread?"

When I read your comment, I had a gut reaction against it without really knowing why I had it. I should have taken the time to think it through.

Also, we have a couple single moms in our church. Asking them to teach the elders how to look out for their needs is putting the shoe on the wrong foot. It is too much of a burden, and I'm sure that is why Paul exhorts the elders to take the first move. As Andreia pointed out, it is not brain surgery, and knowing each other is the real need.

I like your idea about the new ministry in the church. Obviously, I hope that this will actually happen in my church. I am going to give it a try. I will try to post whether a) it happens, and b) if it does, whether it was worth the effort.

I hope that makes sense, and I hope I did not offend.

On a lighter note, would Norma Rae be a good movie for my 17 year old daughter and me to go to?

Milly said...

Codepoke,
I hope that makes sense, and I hope I did not offend.

In no way did you offend. I was afraid I had offended Wf. It is very easy to say just do it.

On a lighter note, would Norma Rae be a good movie for my 17 year old daughter and me to go to?

I don't remember parts that might have strong language. It's good to show young women that they can do anything a man can do. (I know a few things are out. We don't want to write in the snow anyway.)

One of my bosses never let me say "problem" It was always "Situation that need a solution" He also made me give him three ways to fix it. (How many times I wanted to grab him and just shake him 'till he turned blue, I had a restaurant to run. No time for that game.)

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Milly

To me it seems so ironic that it should come back to whether I'm doing enough for other people. I try. I teach Sunday school -- the rowdy teenage boy class that nobody else wanted. When MM's son had the flu, she called me to pick him up from school and I did. When a family at church had no working car & no means for 3 months, I took the Mrs. with me grocery shopping every weekend for 3 months. When the old widow up the street could hardly get her car out of the driveway because her tree was so overgrown, I trimmed it -- but in the early morning so nobody would see me so it would be a surprise/gift. And I -so- don't want to go down the road of whether I've earned a ride to the shop to pick up my car. I don't know if you have any idea how discouraging your comment was to me.

Milly said...

WF,
I'll say it again- I was afraid I had offended Wf. It is very easy to say just do it.

I didn't know your story at all. I too would think hay I do a lot for folks. I could also understand how hard it is when it seems no one notices. I was just having this conversation with my husband last night. A woman at church was very upset because of the reconition that others had recieved. She didn't begrudge anyone that, it's just that her family had worked very hard and continued to do so for years. No one seems to notice how very hard they work and that they spend hard earned money on things for the church.

I wish that I had an answer for you I know that my teaching women, children, the drama tweens, and my husbands ministery has brought me others that I can count on. I think that they just don't see that you need them because you are a giver. I am so sorry to hurt you I honestly didn't mean to. I am praying for you.

Weekend Fisher said...

That's sweet of you. No hard feelings. Really, just day to day, I try not to dwell on this kind of thing because it doesn't help. I try to be there for other people, because that's the half that I have some say over.

Take care & God bless