Friday, January 14, 2011

A Priest in the Muck

I don't know how many of you are avid readers (if you're reading my blog, I'd imagine that this would be many of you), but I am. I read lots and lots of books. The book I'm reading right now has been on my "to-read" list for four or five years now. I read one book by the author, and then decided that anything else of his must be worth reading. That was only one book, I Am The Messenger, and I'd seen it in book stores for years. Every time it was the same thing: "Ooh! I want to read that! Markus Zusak's writing is amazing." But I never did. 

Well. I went to the library. And I was searching through books, and I found it. So I thought "Well now I have to get it!" Namely because the book I wanted wasn't there (For those of you who are curious: Fallout, by Ellen Hopkins). Now, I'm not one to ascribe to the "Every little thing that happens to us in life is for a specific reason and purpose. The gum I got stuck on my shoe today was stuck there for a PURPOSE! to better the WORLD!" type thinking (though I will say that God can use anything to speak to us and work through us, even shoe gum), but I think that books and experiences can affect us more profoundly in certain times in our lives. 

This is one of those times. 

I came across an interesting minor character in my book. His name is Father O'Reilly, but we will just call him the Father. 

The Father is an ordained Catholic priest. (As most people with the title "Father" are). To give you an idea of the Father and his lifestyle, let me quote the book: 

He's balding, the father, and about forty five. Not quite as tall as his brother, and he has bottle green eyes and fairly big ears. He's wearing a robe and I wonder why he lives here and not at the church. I always thought priests lived at the churches so people could go there if they needed help or advice...[two pages later] His church is the old one at the edge of town and I now realize why he's chosen to live here. The church is too far away for him to really help anyone, so this is the best place for him. It's everywhere, on all sides and angles. This is where the father needs to be. Not in some church, gathering dust...He admits that if his church was any kind of restaurant, it would have closed down years ago. 

The book described an incident where the Father did some over-the-fence couples counseling, literally yelling from his kitchen window to his neighbor's, and giving them advice.

His ministry is everywhere.

His ministry is in his backyard, in his front yard, on his street. It's everywhere around him.

The building that he preaches in, however, is nearly empty.

The building is decrepit. Ed asks about the state of the church building, and he says "Don't you have money to fix all this stuff?" The Father replies, "Well, not really, Ed. I've put it all into single teenage mothers' funds, alcoholics, the homeless, addicts.."

At this point, my soul screamed, "YES!!!!"

There was something about this character that just screamed 'Christ' to me. The Father's building may have been decrepit, but he made a world of difference in the lives of those around him. The people who were most affected by his life, his love, weren't the ones who were in his church building. They were the ones next to him.

My life has seemed to beg the question lately, what are our priorities supposed to be? As people? As a family? As a church? As the body of Christ?

What is our time going into?

Where is our money going?

What are we building?

What legacy are we leaving?

What message are we sending?

I want to spend my life serving. I want to invest my money in people. I want to build bridges. I want to leave a legacy of love, and send a message of hope.

The Father was working to leave a legacy in his neighborhood, immediately around him. His love and his care were obvious to anyone who met him. He was one who truly lived for Christ, for the gospel. He lived it in the muck. In the dirt. With all the messed up broken people.

I can only hope I will be so blessed.

Friday, January 7, 2011


Do you ever want to run? Just run. Not run to get somewhere. Not run to exercise. But run for the sole reason that you need to hear the sound of not being able to hear anything at all. Run to feel the air flying past your ears. Run to feel it stinging at your eyes.

You want to run but you know running won't get you anywhere. You know that you could run five, ten, fifty, a hundred miles, and eventually, you would have to stop, and turn around and walk back home.

And as you would run those five, ten, fifty, hundred miles, you would feel everything lift from you. You would feel the things you were running from float away. You would know what it was like for nothing to be able to catch you.

You would reach the point where nothing could touch you. Then, you would stop. You would stop and take in the freedom. You would scream and let everything go. You would see the beauty of the horizon. You would feel the blood in your veins course through you. You would feel your heart try to pound itself out of your chest.

Then you would turn around. You would turn around and begin to walk. You would walk for five, ten, fifty, a hundred miles. And as you walked, those things that floated away so quickly would fall right back down. Those things would fall and hit your shoulders. They would take hold of you again. You would feel their weight pressing on you, pushing you back down to Earth, pushing you back towards the place you came from.

You would walk back to the place you ran from. You would reach home, carrying with you the same things you left with. You would feel them chained to you once more.

You would succumb to your own exhaustion. Collapse. Hear yourself breathe. Feel the blood in your veins. No one would know why you run. They would see your exhaustion. They would see nothing change. They would see the same chains as before.

You wouldn't dare tell them why you run. You wouldn't tell them about the moment where you stand and breathe, free and alive.

You would smile, and lace up another pair of running shoes.