“God don’t put a new suit on the man…”

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As I ride up and down Route 1 every week going to our church’s nursing home ministry in Ashland, I pass by the building pictured above. Although it’s set back off the road, it’s pretty hard to ignore. I don’t know exactly what kind of business used to occupy that structure, but there’s still a “Fifty years in business” sign in the window along with “We build, we insure, we finance.”

I’m also not sure how long it takes pine trees to reach the height of those growing immediately in front of the building, but in my approximately seven years of participation in the nursing home ministry, I don’t recall ever seeing any signs of life there. Not inside, that is. But I’ve been watching those trees grow taller and taller.

The building may not be the greatest, but I would consider the location itself to be ideal. Busy roadway. Lots of passing traffic. Plenty of parking space out front.

But it remains unsold. I suppose no one sees the potential there.

On another part of my weekly journey, however, I used to pass by an abandoned service station. The kind with old fashioned pumps. Very picturesque. How often I wished I had the wherewithal to buy it and spruce it up. It wouldn’t be big enough to live in, though. Not very practical.

But one day I saw signs that it was being fixed up. Little by little it was properly landscaped and turned into a nifty looking little barbecue place. Someone else saw the potential and did something about it.

The Bellamy Brothers have an album of spiritual songs called Pray for Me. I’ll be honest. I was amazed at the nature of some of the songs, based on what some of their more secular songs are like, but I love the album. One of my favorite songs is “New Man in the Suit.” It says that God doesn’t put a new suit on the man. Instead, he puts a new man in the suit.

What a wonderful description of the transformation God can bring about in a person who may appear to be tattered and worthless. He can take someone who’s at rock bottom–like that abandoned service station–and give him new life. In God’s eyes, even someone comparable to the pine-fronted building still has potential. God may not change those people’s circumstances–He may not put a new suit on the man–but what a difference the inside changes make.

A number of congregations in the Richmond area participate in something called “CARITAS” (it means “love for all”) It’s an outreach to the homeless. Participating churches allow a group of homeless people to sleep in the their building for a week. They also provide dinner and breakfast, as well as pack a lunch for the homeless to take with them the next day as they go out. Some to jobs. Others to look for work.

Our church is hosting forty-some men from Caritas this week, and the Sunday school class my wife and I are in will be responsible for the evening meal tomorrow night and breakfast the next day. We’ll also bag their lunches.

Perhaps more important, we’ll sit with the men and talk with them. We’ll show them love and respect. They are people God loves and sees potential in. He may not “put a new suit on the man,” but His love can do a miraculous job of “putting a new man in the suit.”

What do you think of the “new suit” idea? How about leaving a comment?

NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. It seems to depend on how you got to this blog. If you see “Leave a Reply,” it’s not a problem. Otherwise, however, go  to the bottom of the post, beneath the “Best regards, Roger.” On the very last line of that last section (just above the previous post) you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.

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Best regards,
Roger

How Much Charity Is Enough?

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Jesus was very specific in saying that His followers need to provide for and protect those who can’t take care of themselves. And He also pointed out that whoever does something good for someone else in His name is effectively doing it for Him.

A good reason to be charitable, don’t you think?

My wife and I contribute a percentage of our income to our church, and part of the church budget helps provide for people having special needs. In times of death or severe illness, we’re also apt to sign up to bring a meal to a family in need. And we have many needy people in our individual prayer lists.

Richmond has a special program called CARITAS. While I can’t remember what the acronym stands for beyond “Churches around Richmond,” I understand their purpose. To try to break the cycle of homelessness for as many people as possible.

Our church is one of many that participate in CARITAS. One week a year, we host forty to fifty homeless adults–sometimes men, sometimes women–in the church fellowship hall. Various Sunday School classes sign up to prepare and serve an evening meal and fix a bag lunch for each of our guests for the next day. Other volunteers come in to fix breakfast.

The Sunday School class my wife and I belong to ministered to our CARITAS visitors last week. As heart-breaking as it is to think about these people being homeless, it’s a real pleasure to extend Christian love to them through our meager efforts.

My wife and I recently spent a long weekend in Washington, D.C. Although I’ve seen an occasional street person in other places I’ve visited, never had I seen such prominent homelessness as I did in our nation’s capital. (See the two pictures above.) It seemed as if many of the benches in every public park–D.C. has a number of them–was occupied by a street person with all of his or her belongings stashed within easy reach.

Nobody asked us for money, and we didn’t feel endangered. But I can’t say that we felt entirely comfortable, either.

Kathleen and I are just average middle class Americans, but to the folks in CARITAS and the street people of Washington, D.C., we probably seemed wealthy.

Jesus’s words about providing for those who can’t provide for themselves are disturbing. Even if we gave every cent we have to help others, it would hardly make a dent in the world’s needs. Yet is it right for us to enjoy so much that so many others don’t have and may never have?

How much charity does Jesus expect us to provide, anyhow? Alas, He’s not here on earth to answer that question, but God’s Holy Spirit is. I suppose we’ll have to pay closer attention to the Spirit and let Him lead us to give when we ought to give and to serve where we ought to serve.

What’s your take on helping the homeless? Have you been involved in any ministry to them? Please share with a comment.

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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website.  Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My newest novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Go HERE for links to those places.
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Best regards,
Roger