Ghetto Girl

photography of roadway during dusk
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There’s no place for her upon the playground
for she’s not so fast or quite as pretty
When she asks them they laugh and run around calling
“Homely girl, go back to town.”
So she shakes her fist in anger
to hide the feelings she has inside her
she runs as far as the school-yard will let her
the teachers call “Hey girl, don’t you hide.”

“I’ll run as far away as my legs will let me go.”
She curses and mumbles under her breath
Stares at her legs, at the scars of long ago and she’ll carry them until her death.

They laugh, the children laugh
at the way she never smiles.
They make fun of her, or just leave her alone;
For the ghettos stretch for miles and miles
and she always has to go home.

When she gets there she has to listen
for someone unseen who’s visiting while her father’s away
She reaches deep in her pocket for the key
The noise is behind closed doors, so it’s okay…

The teachers don’t understand why she doesn’t seem to learn
or why she doesn’t even care.
But what is there for her to try and ever earn
there’s no one to share it with
no one is ever there.

They laugh, the children laugh
at the way she never smiles.
They make fun of her or just leave her alone;
For the ghettos stretch for miles and miles
and she always has to go home.

She is always on her own
Does anybody care…
just how alone?

 

Many years ago, I wrote these lyrics and my brother Bert put them to music. Always had a special place in my heart. Every child deserves to be loved and cherished. This simple belief led us to adopt five wonderful children who were all born into tough situations.

These words, in no way, are intended to imply that parents raising children in impoverished settings are not loving and involved. In fact, many of these parents are heroic as they teach values and instill integrity in their children while living in such dangerous settings. They are to be applauded and respected for the incredible odds they help their kids overcome.

But this little girl… scars on her legs from beatings, and strangers coming in-and-out of her home… she gets mocked at school as well. “They laugh, the children laugh at the way she never smiles.” Where does a child like this find refuge?

When I wrote this, I simple wanted to create a brief word-picture that causes us to ask ourselves, “do we really care?” If so, then what actions are we called to take?

What will it matter in 100 years?

When I was in high school, a youth leader of mine taught me a lifelong lesson. I was constantly worrying about one thing or another. He listened carefully to my concerns and stressed emotions over something that seemed like a crisis to me and remarked, “Yeah, but what will it matter in 100 years?”

“What? What do you mean?” I responded.

He continued: “These things you worry about today, what will they matter in 100 years? Or even 10 years. Most of the things you worry about today, won’t even matter in a few months.”

“Okay…” I thought that was a little weird. As a high schooler, as I could only envision about the next ten minutes.

“Worry about those things that really WILL matter in 100 years. The other things will probably take care of themselves.”

That is really good advice… at any age.

As an adult, I find myself obsessing on paying bills, driving kids, running errands, dealing with homework, worrying about issues in the community or church, and being deeply concerned about national and international issues. How many of these things will matter in 100 years? Be concerned only about those that will matter in 100 years.

Some people who make entertainment out of obsessive worrying. This might be part of the attraction of reality television. We don’t have enough to worry about in our daily lives so we want to watch real people under stress. I would sometimes tease my mother about worrying about things twice; once when it might happen and when it does. Once is enough. Wait and see if something goes wrong and then worry. Most of the time, what we worry about never occurs. Don’t borrow trouble from the future.

Jesus tells us to: “not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” but to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:25-27, 31-34)

How many things that concern us have life-long or even eternal consequences? In your heart, you already know the answers. These are the things that are really important today. Character matters. Sin is never a victimless crime. There are decisions that we might make now that will affect generations to come.

Our families will matter. Most of the people I wanted to impress in my life have evaporated from my memory; I cannot even remember their names. I am confident most have no memory of me, either. But my children will remember me. My wife will remember me. My siblings, parents, relatives will all know I have been a part of their worlds. For better or worse (depending on the choices I make), they will remember my influence in their lives.

Focus on what is truly important. Next time you are obsessing on some crisis that seems so large, so important, impossible to stop dwelling on, ask yourself…

“Will it matter in 100 years?”

If so, then maybe worrying about it is a good idea.

If not, then just do your best and wait to see what happens.

Who knows? It may just all work out.

 

Excerpt from my book: Real-Life Wisdom: Stories from the Road (iUniverse, 2004).

Psalm 146

PRAISE the LORD, O my soul:

while I live, will I praise the LORD;

Indeed, as long as I have my being,

 

I will sing praises unto my God.

Put not your trust in princes,

nor in any child of man;

for there is no help in them.

 

For when one breathes his last,

he shall return again to the earth,

and in that day all his thoughts perish.

 

Blessed is the one who has the God of Jacob for his help,

and whose hope is in the LORD his God:

 

Who made heaven and earth,

the sea, and all that is therein;

who keeps his promise for ever;

Who does right to those who suffer wrong;

and who feeds the hungry.

 

The LORD sets prisoners free;

the LORD gives sight to the blind.

The LORD helps those who have fallen;

the LORD loves the righteous.

 

The LORD cares for the strangers in the land;

he defends the fatherless and widow:

but the way of the ungodly, he makes crooked.

 

The LORD shall be King for evermore,

even your God, O Zion, throughout all generations.

Praise the Lord.

 

From The New Coverdale Psalter (ACNA, BCP 2019)

 

This Psalm touched my heart as I consider this coming season of turmoil, conflict, and even anger towards fellow citizens. My prayer is that true followers of Jesus from every political perspective will hold in common the “Fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23) that we are called to exhibit in our hearts, minds, and in all interactions.

We must never forget who we are and whose we are, as we represent the One, True God who came as a suffering servant yet Lord and Savior of humanity. Our primarily message must always be one filled with grace and truth in a spirit of gentleness and love; regardless of our political views.

Pray for peace. Our enemies delight in seeing us in chaos. Express opinions with respect  and remember that words matter more than we can even imagine.

“The LORD shall be King for evermore, even your God, O Zion, throughout all generations. Praise the Lord.”

Peace (The Omnicient Ocean)

beach beautiful bridge carribean
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The moon sparkled upon the rolling tides;

its reflection wavered in rhythm

cool and fresh, the wind steadily blew her hair across her face.

She walked along for this is where she often came to listen

to the omniscient ocean, the all-knowing sea.

 

The sand rubbed beneath her feet

as she strolled and strolled down the lonely beach.

‘How peaceful’ she thought as the waves lapped upon her bare feet

‘how much prettier this music is, than any that man can re-create.’

The sound of the omniscient ocean,

the all-knowing sea.

 

She soon stopped her walking and turned toward the sea.

Closing her eyes she held herself

and listened. The sky was crystal clear,

the stars were a million-fold, the moon

floated there, bouncing upon the waves.

 

The clapping of the water, the rustling of the grass behind,

the wind would nudge her gently, so gently, just enough to keep her there.

Slowly she opened her eyes and raised them to the sky,

reaching out arms upward,

‘I love you’ she whispered

‘become a part of me, make me peaceful as this night.’

And in her heart she heard the answer

through the sound of the omniscient ocean,

the all-knowing sea;

the love of the omniscient ocean,

the all-knowing sea.

 

“And the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what do You say?” And they were saying this, testing Him, in order that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” And again He stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And when they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she had been, in the midst. And straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” And she said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go your way; from now on sin no more.” Again therefore Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

(John 8:3-12)

 

From A Journey to Life by Bob Ayres

The journey of DEAFCHURCH 21

Welcome to this journey of discovery and hope for the future of the Deaf Church! Let’s start with the bad news… what is generally being done in our local churches currently is not sustainable, or even appropriate for younger generations. They are raised in a world dramatically different from previous age groups. There is little cause to describe this new reality but there is plenty of reason to prayerfully adapt. Now, here is the good news: none of these dramatic changes as a result of the secularization of our culture comes as a surprise to God! “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

However, these rapid changes in our world demand we embrace new ways of thinking when it comes to evangelism, formation, discipleship, and service. The gospel remains eternal but the post-modern context focuses us to thoughtful conversations and intentional decisions about church priorities, values, practices, and structure. To experience renewal in the Deaf Church, willingness to address difficult questions is necessary for plotting a reasonable plan of action. Our efforts are to position ourselves faithfully in response to what the Holy Spirit is doing. Change always involves taking risks and often requires embracing new paradigms of life as part of a missional community of reconciliation. God can lead us to fruitful ministry within a secular culture without abandoning our historic faith and biblical theology.

The journey that led to this book began in September 2012 with the establishment of a Facebook group called “21st Century Deaf Church”. This discussion group on Facebook began with fifty-five personal contacts. During the two years the Facebook group remained open, more than 200 people were added by their own request or recommendation by others in the group. Considering the limited number of people involved in Deaf ministry, this group would be considered sizable and members representative of many churches, denominations, and Deaf ministries. Most in the group maintained a high level of thoughtful interactions and comments. The growth and participation in this group discussion helped confirm the assumption of the need for a new vision of Deaf Church for the next generations.

With help from friend and colleague, Dr. Rick McClain, a diverse group of Deaf Ministry leaders were brought together by Bob Ayres to serve as a “Think-Tank” for determining essential priorities for ministry with the next generation of young adults. As the founder and past-director of Deaf Teen Quest, Dr. Ayres was often confronted by the challenges of connecting young people, who aged-out of the high school ministry, with local churches. Likewise, it is difficult for Deaf young adults to find Deaf Churches or Deaf Ministries in churches that meet their spiritual, relational, and emotional needs. This journey emerged from a deep concern about the lack of youth and young adult sensitive fellowships and the overall survival of current and future Deaf churches.

In a departure from the structure of most academic books, DEAFCHURCH 21 begins with the informal and moves towards the more academic. The reason for this unusual structure is to allow for both the casual reader who will respond to the narrative style as well as the classroom student who will pursue a deeper contemplation of the process and theological and biblical foundations. Therefore, there are several shifts between first-person to third-person narrative between certain sections. Wherever practical, this is smoothed out for readability.

DEAFCHURCH 21: Vision for a New Generation is designed to create space for the Holy Spirit to work in your heart and ministry by asking the hard questions and encouraging you to act upon the answers you discern.

This book is designed to be read as an individual, studied in a classroom or small group, or used by church or ministry leadership for strategic planning. Whether you are reading this as an individual seeking ideas for establishing a faith community, a Pastor or church leader in search of a meaningful model for church, a study group thinking strategically, or a student using this as a textbook, our hope is to broaden the possibilities for the emergence—by the power of the Holy Spirit—of a vibrant faith community that offers wholeness and purpose for those in the Deaf Community. Our prayer is DEAFCHURCH 21 will provide a legitimate framework in creating vision for reaching future generations in your ministry context.

Show up, dressed and ready to play

Back when I was teaching middle and high school, a motivational speaker was brought in at the beginning of the school year to inspire the teachers. The entire faculty was gathered for a required training event in the middle school cafeteria. It was my first year of teaching and I had plenty of work waiting for me. I took my seat, slouched a bit and kept one eye on the clock. But then, he went on to say one of the more significant things I’ve heard in my life.

The motivational speaker (whose name I have long since forgotten) told the story of a conversation he had with a young man who approached him after he had given a previous speech:

The young man asked, “What do I need to do to be successful?” This speaker said he thought for a moment and then responded plainly, “Show up.” There was a brief silence and then the young man said, “What do you mean?”

“Just show up. That’s all you need to do. You will have a delightful and successful life. People will appreciate you and acknowledge your contributions.”

Okay… the young man nodded hesitantly. The speaker continued, “Now, if you really want to get ahead, receive accolades and have people remark about your impressive qualities, then… show up, dressed.

“Dressed?”

“Yes, dressed. Not only clean and in pleasant attire but with your mind dressed. Your attitude dressed. Give attention to the details of how you present yourself. Be ready to perform.”

The young man was incredulous. These were not the answers he expected to hear. “You mean, that’s all there is to it?”

“Oh, no. There’s one more thing” he continued. “If you REALLY want to blow them away, take control, have buildings named after you, find yourself in positions of influence and power, then show up… dressed… and ready to play.

“Ready to play?”

“Yes, ready to play.”

Silence.

“Show up prepared. Study the issue before the meeting. Think of alternatives and solutions before you walk in the door. Be ready to play; ready to present your ideas. Have your handouts printed and the master plan in your mind. If you will do this simple thing, you will control the world. That’s about all there is to it.

Show up… show up dressed… and be ready to play.

I didn’t really get it at first. My mind was busy and distracted. The wisdom of these words dawned on me over the next few months as I had to show up, show up dressed, and show up, dressed and ready to play as a secondary school teacher. Over the past several decades, it has become a mantra of mine as I face each day.

Show up… show up dressed… and be ready to play.

Show up.

There are times in life when the best we can do is show up. Anyone who has raised children understands this adage. Show up for doctor’s appointments. Show up for teacher conferences. Show up for housework. Show up for your spouse. Show up for dinner. Show up for conversations with your children. Show up and you will survive.

As a minister, there are many situations faced that are nerve-racking. I have visited friends in jails and hospitals, and found myself repeating to myself as I walked in the door, just show up. Ministers who never put themselves in uncomfortable situations are actually mostly entertainers. They only perform for appreciative crowds. It is amazing how important it is to show up in during the difficult times in people’s lives. Don’t let uncertainty paralyze you, respond. Start by simply showing up.

Show up, dressed.

Have a positive attitude about the opportunity to love other people. God has given us lives full of hope and potential. Share the wealth by embracing your best self. Meet people on their level. Be willing to adapt your appearance to fit the situation. This may mean wearing a nice outfit to a business lunch or jeans and a t-shirt when you are hanging out with teenagers. But it is much more than just what you wear, it is how you dress your mind; how you view the other person. Dress yourself in garments that allow you to see others through God’s eyes. Look people in the eye even if they make you uncomfortable. Adorn yourself with respect for others. Dress yourself with class.

Finally, show up, dressed and ready to play.

It takes a tremendous amount of planning to make something look spontaneous and fresh. The mark of a professional is someone who can accomplish incredible feats and make it look easy. This only happens because the professional was preparing while others were out wasting time. Study the situation before entering into it. Ask advice of others who have been there before. As believers, prayer is a vital part of showing up ready to play. There is nothing magical about excellence. It is simply a matter of taking your responsibilities seriously enough to prepare. In Luke 14:28-29, Jesus spoke of the importance of estimating costs before beginning to build… show up prepared.

Are you a person who wants to make the best of each day? Do you want to have the full positive impact on the lives of others? Do you want to be an effective in your work and life? Do you want to “make a difference in this world?”

Show up.

Show up dressed.

Show up dressed and ready to play.

 

Excerpt from my book Real-Life Wisdom: Stories from the Road.