FEED the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter strangers, visit prisoners

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Matthew 25:34-40    Luke 3:10-11

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Sweet Agnes by Randall Williams

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Our church in downtown Houston attracts all kinds of people. Last year I felt the need to pray about being more welcoming — for example, not feeling impatient when certain visitors become disruptive. I was trying to break down the whole concept that some people are “undesirable.”

One night after a Wednesday night service, I was stopped at a red light in a dark, deserted area. A stranger approached the car to ask for money. Ordinarily, I’d feel trapped and anxious, but not this time…

He said he was hungry. When I offered to buy him dinner, he asked what his limit was, then spewed negative comments about there being no restaurants nearby and dismissed my suggestion. Searching for the nearest McDonalds, I prayed about the sense of limitation that we all seem to struggle with. When it turned out that the McDonalds didn’t take credit cards, I told them about the hungry man, and they gave me five burgers for the $2.50 I had in my pocket.

When I found the man again, he was absolutely floored that I’d come back with food. I felt inspired to say, “You’re only limited by your beliefs. Promise me you’ll start letting go of the ones that are hurting you.” He said, “I like that! I don’t have any negative thoughts!”

Then he said, “Actually, I do…”

“Let them go,” I said. His gratitude was boundless: “Have a wonderful evening!” and “God bless you man!”

Lest anyone think that this man was just grateful for the burgers, I found myself in a similar situation a few days later with a different man. This time, the man turned down my offer of food and asked for money again. After I insisted, he admitted wanting a beer. I thanked him for being honest and told him I couldn’t support a habit I had to overcome myself. He left with nothing, but the interaction felt just as satisfying. He thanked me for “being such a good man,” and we shook hands. It was a wonderful exchange.

Not only did these experiences give me greater ease at stop-lights; they helped me relate more easily to certain church visitors. And since then, an opportunity has come to fruition visiting a local prison to hold Christian Science services.

Feeding, clothing, sheltering someone — and especially breaking down the concept of an “undesirable” person altogether — are truly Radical Acts in our society. Let’s put them into practice…and share our stories!

Carlos Machado, June 2012

Comments

  1. Michael Udokim says:

    Just beautiful and inspiring!

  2. Kennedy says:

    I wanted to leave a comment here.  Once when I was living in Bedstuy Brooklyn a panhandler started following me.  He was walking very close and I could feel him trying to intimidate me.  So I stopped and said, “I just really want to know about you.  Please please please!!!! Tell me about yourself!”  Well he got so excited.  He was like, “My name is Vincent.  I’m a panhandler.  I live in a room a few blocks away.  And on and on and on”  We talked for fifteen or twenty minutes and afterwards he commented about how nice it was that we got to talk.

    I came away from the experience realizing that a lot of people have enough food and shelter – although sometimes it is the bare minimum – but what we most crave is loving attention.  When people act out, often times they are looking for attention.

    When Vincent started following me, it was because he needed attention.  His food and shelter needs were met, but he was so lonely he decided to follow someone to see if he could get a reaction.  I gave him one he didn’t expect.  I met his needs for warmth and caring and he got to be heard.

    Afterwards I pointed the the building I lived in and said, “This is where I live.  I’d better run.”  I knew he wouldn’t try to harass me and he never did.  We were friends.”

    Attention.  Love.  Warmth.  The very rich, the very poor.  The middle class.  We all hunger for this.  To take a moment out of our day to wipe away the loneliness of those in our lives and communities, this to me is feeding the masses.

    • nina says:

      I love this story because, to me, it reveals our spiritual equality.  We’re all urgently hungry for the same things, and all eternally fed.  What a sweet surprise for Vincent to experience that. Thank you so much for sharing!

  3. John says:

    Today I was dropping off a package and there was a lady standing on the curb with a sign. I couldn’t read the sign from where I’d driven and parked, but when I came back out to my car I realized I had never seen her before (this was telling because in that area many homeless people have their territory staked out and I’m familiar with most of the folks who stand around out there from sharing bagels and prayers with them). I felt like I needed to get on with my errands and I felt like if we kept moving my kiddo would stay peaceful, but I couldn’t get this thought out of my head: What if that was your sister?

    As I sat there and prayed about what I should do, I realized that I was being gun-shy and treating prayer as a stall, instead of letting prayer be a living prayer. I was talking a lot and saying “God what should I do” and I kept asking instead of waiting to listen for an answer. So I went back to the original question and I felt like I would go hug her if she was my sister. I hesitated to get out of the car because I thought I would need more to know or do than just that, but then I realized that if she was my sister, I would be confident that I would know how to act as it all unfolded; I didn’t need to plan it out. So I got out and walked toward her and when I was close enough I asked how she was doing and I saw she had been crying. I could finally read the sign and she told me she and her kids were stranded with no gas on their way to Crescent, which is only an hour away from here. I don’t usually give money to folks but I felt like this was a reasonable way to help because I could give her almost enough for gas to get to Crescent, so I did and she cried more and thanked me and we hugged and I told her I knew she and her kids would be safe because they were loved. I said I was sorry I couldn’t take her and her kids and she said that was alright and we wished each other a good day. As I drove away I saw that she had stopped shaking and I was glad to have been able to treat her like the family we are.

    I feel like trusting that family nature of us also includes trusting our Father-Mother God. So what I learned is that when I treat others like the family they are, I am also recognizing that we have our Father-Mother who is the one who takes care of us. I’m not inserting myself into someone’s life to take on a quasi-father role; I’m just trying to live like what I know is true, is actually true. So I also don’t need to make some sort of plan for how I’ll interact with the next person I meet – I can just be natural and treat them like my sister or brother. And it was really interesting how everyone else I have met today has clearly been so close and kind. Now I don’t need to worry about what’s going to happen next with that person I helped (and that worry has often stopped me from feeding the hungry etc. in the past) because it’s just like one beat in the flow of the greatest song ever and our care is secure, and I’ll see that the more I give in to that beat.

    • nina says:

      John what a moving story!  It touched me even more when I clicked on the link and found your source of inspiration.  Radical Acts are contagious.  :)

  4. Shirley says:

    Last summer when I was a TMC Youth intern, I had an eye opening visit to Sojourner House. Sojourner caters to homeless families, giving them a comfortable and loving home to live in, they have a children’s program and offer educational workshops that teach the people life skills.

    This encounter made me appreciate the church more because even though we pray and address everything mentally, it is heartwarming to see how the little things, such as a smile, or a visit, or a donation of some sort can mean so much to a family.

    I was touched to see the care put into each aspect of the lives of families living at Sojourner. They are given responsibilities and workshops which will be a resource to them when they leave the house. We often see negative stories in the news, so this visit reminded me of my mom: another example that there are beautiful, selfless and loving people in the world who do great things everyday.

    Beyond the tangible items given, these homes are so blessed by the love that is expressed. our prayers in affirming that we are all the children of God are so needed. A constant reminder that no matter what the mortal picture seems to paint, God is infinite supply and he takes care of each and every one of us.

    Regardless of our differences we are able to share the common language of love. I am grateful and blessed to be a part of a Movement that is helping all of mankind. I look forward to working with more shelters and organisations.

  5. Kirsten says:

    Hi Debby, What I’ve worked with is that God hasn’t lost track of His precious sweet child…that this dear one has always, is and always will be an expression of divine Love and is embraced, held in this Love continually and is never let go of or forgotten…period!…that these things come to consciousness to frighten, to make us feel vulnerable and to try to get us to forget that there is no separation between Love and Loves’ expression…His very being…I’m learning to see these so-called disturbances, whatever they are presenting themselves as….whether lack, fear, anger, danger etc. as suggestions coming to the Christ in me, not to alarm, but to see there absolute nothingness…to awaken me from the dream of life in matter to the absolute fact that God is All…and then there is nothing…God is our divine Parent, we are all His precious children, and He has never, or could ever, for a moment be God without each one of His individual expressions…this sweet boy is, right now, being held in Love…and because God is Mind, this little angel expresses all that Mind is…so this sweet little expression knows this…”The divine Mind that made man(this little one) maintains His own image and likeness” S&H 151:23 I fear no tribulation, Since, whatsoe’er it be, It makes no separation Between my Lord and me: Since Thou, my God and Father, Dost claim me as Thine own, I richly shall inherit All good, from Thee alone. Hymn 135 CS Hymnal

    • Yvonne Renoult says:

      I like Kirsten’s strong message that “these things come to the Christ in me to see their nothingness.”

      I think it’s also so important to see the perpetrator as God’s child and not separated from the good either. Good/Spirit  alone motivates man. God is speaking to the perpetrator’s heart through the Christ. And the Christ has startling ways to reach man and transform thought. It is natural for man to be good and unnatural for man to be evil. The Shepherd seeks out His lost sheep (victim and victimizer). They cannot help but respond to the voice of the Christ “always present in human consciousness .” The perpetrator can also “come home” to the foot of the Christ, his true selfhood.

      Blessings on our Family of Man,
      Yvonne

  6. Debby says:

    There is a local case where a five-year-old boy has been missing since September.  Because of improper follow-up by social services, his absence was not reported until December.  I am praying that someone is sheltering this dear boy, but the case is being treated as a homicide at this point.

    What can we do to pray better–and more promptly–about situations like this?  They weigh heavily on the heart, and we long to do more to protect and defend such children.

    Any thoughts?

  7. Amy says:

    Kate, i think it absolutely beautiful the way you approached the situation you speak of. And how you helped “clothe that friend with Love.” i can think of at least one person whom I would so appreciate receiving that grace from.. And, I can think of quite a few times when I reached to God to give grace to someone in my life–and how much that grace has strengthened those relationships. it is not easy most times, but when I can keep trying to see situations from the other person’s perspective, even when I feel hurt and vulnerable, I find that I get glimpses of divine unconditional Love in my life. and that is beyond words beautiful. Thank you, radical actors, for what you share.

  8. Kate says:

    She was standing in front of me with her hand outstretched thinking that she was being introduced to someone she’d never met before — in a sea of new faces.  We’d never met face-to-face, but our paths had crossed in the lives of our friends, and in phone conversations at a particularly difficult time for both of us.  We’d both made choices and said things we’d regretted, and I had long since “moved on” from holding either of us in that “story.”  

    But I didn’t know how she felt about those difficult, confusing times. I’d known she’d be at the gathering, but she hadn’t known I would.   I had prayed for grace.  It was all I could think — “dear God, give me grace.”  

    When she heard my name it was clear that she’d been caught off guard. The first thought that came to me was “don’t let her stand there naked…”  

    It was a small thing, to let her immediately know that I wasn’t carrying around a memory that would leave her feeling haunted by our shared past.  My desire to know us both, for who we were NOW, was genuine.  And it clothed us both in grace.

    • Shelly says:

      Dear Kate,   Love your story!!  It blessed me recently when I ran into an old friend just tonight.  We had been very good friends a long time ago.   But something happened.  She stopped returning my calls.  bla bla bla.   Last night I ran into her at a party and there was a genuine love between us again.

  9. Kirsten says:

    Hey All, Did your church do something for your neighbors this Thanksgiving? Well, below is a story of one “church” that became community warriors and performed a radical act for Thanksgiving. Kirsten is a Christian Science practitioner who found herself without anyone with which to celebrate Thanksgiving and made the decision to change what appeared to be an alone holiday. As a result, she gathered together her (expanded concept of) “Church”, went into her community, and discovered an infinite abundance of Love in her community on the Sunday following Thanksgiving day. Here are some of the lessons she discovered: When you do something neighborly, results are magnified when “two or three are gathered together” (isn’t that church?)

    When you seek to do something neighborly, it’s not always what you personally think the neighbors want. Timing is always in God’s hands, on the day of His appointing, on a day when your neighborly gift will be most effective. So it is important to ask your neighbors and listen.

    It is important to be ready with a message, a healing thought, that you are going to leave with your neighbors. Your neighbors are usually much, much closer than you think, often they are right under your nose and not in some far off place. When you take the right action in your community, as a church, you will immediately see thought roused, your community elevated, and a genuine demonstration of divine Science.

    Not everyone in your church will understand what you are doing but never, never, ever let that stop or deter your God-directed service. By making that connection with community, your own sense of Church will be changed and you will experience something special – the Holiness within the action–God’s gift to you.

    So, here is Kirsten’s story. When you finish reading it, give us your Thanksgiving story. There’s a lot more where this came from and I want to hear it! “Feed the Hungry Heal the Heart”  

    When realizing I’d be celebrating Thanksgiving by myself…the Angel message came…why not feed those on the street that don’t have homes?…the next question came…what do I have in the house?…Mac and Cheese came to thought…yes…I could make Macaroni and Cheese…box it up and drive the streets handing it out to those dear ones mentioned above…so I began to think about how much I would need …having not much in the house…mortal mind wanted to argue…you don’t have enough in the house…but I knew this idea hadn’t come from me but was a divine Angel message from God…and that He wouldn’t give me something to do and not supply everything needed to accomplish His mission…so I continued to cherish the idea and knew that it was a right … because it just felt so good…

    Then I decided to share this idea with my dear friend Carrie Curlee during a phone conversation…shortly after hanging up she called back and said…I’m going to share this with others that wouldn’t be able to do this…but could help financially…before I could even really grasp this idea…money started arriving via PayPal and the mail…I ended up with more than enough to accomplish this God given task…

    Then, because of this generous outpouring, I realized I could add ham and peas to the Mac and Cheese…and bake pumpkin pies for dessert…I would find gift bags, napkins, forks, candy canes and décor for the outside of the bags…along with all the containers I would need for the 20 meals I planned to deliver, plus bottles of water, at the dollar store…which I did…

    I decided that I should speak with my neighbors son and girlfriend to let them know what I was up to about bringing meals out to those on the street on Thanksgiving…they live in a tent on her mother’s property and hang out on the streets…they were so humbled and excited by this idea…but then they informed me that a couple of churches were going together to feed the homeless a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving…so I asked when might there be a need for food for them and others…they stated that Sundays are the only day of the week that there wasn’t a hot meal available for the homeless…so this Thanksgiving outreach was moved to Sunday Dec. 1st at 3pm…

    I made my list and checked it twice for all the supplies that would be needed and went shopping…I made the pies on Saturday along with wrapping the forks in holiday napkins and woke early Sunday morning to cut the ham into ½ inch pieces, defrost the peas, and get things together for the day…about two hours ahead I placed the ham in a 9X13 baking dish and covered with foil to warm in a slow oven…I had washed all the 40 containers in the dishwasher the night before…so started cutting the pies and placing the slices in their containers…my neighbor who was going to help deliver the meals then came over and packed the containers into their festive bags that I’d added the candy canes and x-mas balls to the night before…figuring heat rises so I would put the Mac and Cheese on top…

    Then found my huge canning kettle and started to cook the noodles…getting the cream cheese out with the butter and heated milk along with the parmesan (to yummy up the Mac and Cheese) so that all would be ready to load into the containers…which I filled and Kim added to the bags…we then put them in carts and took them down to the jeep… where we loaded the bags and off we went…

    We soon found my neighbors son, daughter and two others waiting for us on 3rd street so jumped out in the rain and grabbed two bags each and ran across the street to these dear ones…they were so thankful…wouldn’t stop saying thank you and how grateful they were… We then decided we should come up with what question or statement we should use…didn’t seem right to ask different ones if they were homeless…so decided on “Are You Hungry?”…we found a few more people on the street which gratefully took the meal…looking at us like are you sure? And kept saying thank you…one gentleman who was dirty and disheveled…when asked if he was hungry…said no…I have food at home…looking for cigarettes…I said we didn’t have any…but he just kept following and saying…’thanks though…but I have food at home…gave him a big hug…and continued driving…then ran into two guys on their bikes…which I recognized as the two I’d run into while walking Gabriel a couple of days earlier…that I’d told about this…we hardly could catch up with them on their bikes…but did and we all pulled into a close parking lot and we handed them their meals…we all gave each other hugs and we journeyed on…

    I made sure to tell each one that they were loved and how special they were…we drove another hour and about 26 miles…even into the next little town…and only found two others…not hungry…but grateful that we had asked…one had two huge bags of empty cans…but said he’d only saw them rolling all around the yard in the wind and decided to pick them up…we all had a good laugh and he thanked us for stopping and asking…

    I then said to Kim…I can’t go back with these dinners…I can’t tell everyone that we could only find 8 people on the street…I know there are others…even at our apartments…we could always knock on doors…what about a shelter?…she knew of one…because she had actually stayed there at one point…so we drove over, it was only a few blocks from our apartment complex and I had passed it several times…when walking Gabriel, wondering what it was… so we knocked on the door…these two men looked at us as with joy on their faces… as we said we had 12 bags with meals in them…and with exuberance walked to the jeep and took them in to the shelter…where several were preparing a meal…we were informed that they would take them out to those that they knew of who were hungry and in need of a meal…they wouldn’t stop thanking us…and followed us out to wave good-by…I said I’d like to do this again…they suggested closer to X-mas…and they would be grateful and glad for the gift…

    During our time of driving around I found out that Kim had only $4 dollars to her name and I’d seen, as we put the bottles of water into her refrigerator to get cold, that there wasn’t much there…so I took her out for burgers after our 2 hours plus of driving around… at the new Restaurant across the street…and then …gave her the extra container of Mac and Cheese that was left over and some homemade bread I’d just baked…And I have included her in whatever meals I’ve prepared since…not all who are hungry are homeless…

    I also need to add…that Kim’s grandson of 9 years old had come along on this afternoon…because he’d hadn’t wanted to join his mother on her shopping trip to Salem…he wasn’t at all sure about what we were doing and why…so I guess you could say this also turned into an educational opportunity…he learned that not all people and children have a cozy home and a warm meal available…he wasn’t really on board with this and wanted to argue a bit on why we were doing this…but I think when arriving at the shelter and seeing not only grownups but children there…he realized and maybe understood a little more…what this was all about….

    So thanks to all who so graciously contributed to this outreach…and to God’s Angel message to “Feed the Hungry and Heal the Heart” project…See how many were blessed and will be blessed again around Christmas time…because one special Angel…named Carrie Curlee…listened to her Angel message to reach out to you all…who in turn blessed a community of God’s little angels… I am so full of gratitude and my heart is singing and soaring with Thanksgiving to you dear friends… Love and hugs Kirsten, Gabriel, Kim and all  

    Isaiah 54, 55 Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord. Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes; For thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited.   Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee because of the Lord thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee. ¶Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. ¶For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

    • nina says:

      A sweet and amazing story . . . and an example for all!

      • Shelly says:

        I love it when others find that “thanksgiving” spirit!   What a blessing to you and to your community.

    • Tricia C says:

      Oh Kirsten, you took such care in all your planning and prepping and serving!  I feel like I went with you. Thanks for sharing your Thanksgiving story with us….bountiful!

  10. Yvonne Renoult says:

    I signed up to work in our CS Reading Room. It is located in an area on the other side of town that has a lot of homeless and closed store fronts, although there are a lot of little eateries in between as I later discovered. At first it felt odd serving a neighborhood that I didn’t really know. So I talked a friend into coming with me to walk around a bit and explore. (She is a member of another CS church, also not in that neighborhood.)

    We recalled and were inspired by a lecture given by Marta Greenwood a while back where she walked the new, but blighted, neighborhood of her office and prayed for it with great success. So my friend and I decided to do the same. She took one side of the street and I the other. Whenever one of us came upon a vacant store front, we stopped and prayed for a moment. We only serve in the RR once or twice a month, so it has been noticeable to us that there are not as many empty store fronts as before.

    As we go on our short prayer walk before we are due to be in the RR, we carry cartons of milk, small packaged loaves of bread, and CS Sentinels. When we come upon a person that is obviously homeless or is begging, we first offer them bread and milk. Then we offer them a Sentinel from an assortment carefully chosen with topics that would be appeal to someone on the streets. (We’ve learned that choosing the right Sentinel cover really helps.)

    I wasn’t sure I was going to be comfortable doing this sort of thing. I never liked it when a homeless person approached me on the street begging or giving me a made-up story of how they needed money for transportation. I had been taken by that one too many times. But this was different. When you approach someone who is used to begging and offer something before they ask, their expressions are priceless. They soften and are very childlike. And their gracious receiving of the small offering is so very touching. Just a few moments are exchanged, but boy, what a beautiful exchange! Also most everyone accepts the Sentinel gift too. We found a laundromat attendant, garage attendant, a hotel attendant also on our route that like to receive copies of the CS Monitor and occassional Sentinel.

    We never give our bread and milk from the RR, but it’s a great way to get primed before working in the RR. It seems to open our thought to the community and to make us more expectant of activity. Even if no one comes in that evening, we feel that we have offered love to the neighborhood by being one of the open and lit store fronts.

    • Lola says:

      YOu and your friends are angels in that neighorhood.  All our RR librarians should do the same, at least the prayer part.

    • Kristin says:

      Hi Yvonne, last evening I needed to go by and pick up some books that I had left at church. It was a clear, cold starry night, and I could see light glowing from the windows of the apartments and small businesses in the neighborhood. Your story inspired me to wrap my scarf around my neck and take a walk. In the windows I could see people eating together, or watching tv, or visiting. And I could see into the businesses with their tasks in progress ready to pick up when the proprieters returned to work. I blessed each dwelling and shop, and if they had a mail box I left an invitation to our Thanksgiving Day service. I really got a whole new view of our church neighbors. It was kind of like walking down main street in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” and realizing that angels really are all around.

    • Tricia C says:

      Beautiful, inspiring ministry!

    • Alex says:

      I’m in Flint, MI at the moment- a place that has lots of empty storefronts and burned down houses, etc., as a result of industrial collapse. I’ve only been here a few days, but it has been in my thought that God, and great abundance, are just as present here as before the problems with the auto industry. Good ideas, inspiration, and hope are just as present here as ever. It’s an outcome of God’s presence, not the success of an industry. Hope and progress are present here, and in any life, despite appearances because God is here.

  11. Tricia C says:

    A couple of weeks ago, my friend called me, needing reassurance because her employer was letting her go, and she was terrified of the financial implications.  The time before that, she needed help finding safe housing for her daughter who filed a restraining order against her boyfriend.  The time before that, she called because her son had been kicked out of class and would I go advocate for him with the dean……again.  I also stood in when her ex when didn’t show up for his kid’s educational plan meetings.  I’m the emergency contact and have done the nurse’s office pick-ups from school and check in on him when he’s home sick and occasionally calm both mom and son down after fights and meet her for frozen yogurt when she just needs to get away from the drama.  And this is just in the last six months.  For two years before that I drove her daughter to and from school every day.

    I’m not some uber-Christian good neighbor.  In fact, I’m kind of mad at the status quo world order when it comes to this group of people living on life’s edge.  My life is so much easier than my friend’s and it just doesn’t seem fair.  I can’t reconcile it.  It’s not God’s decree!   But I can pitch in and help so she doesn’t feel untethered  by the hardships of life.

    A key theme in the Bible almost from start to finish is God’s special focus on the widows and the fatherless.  (and sometimes divorce can be just as hard as widowhood). God’s mandate on this vulnerable group is this – “Father of orphans, champion of widows, is God in his holy house. “ (Psalm 68).    And the spirit of Deuteronomy 26 is that BECAUSE God has freed the Israelites and delivered them into a land of milk and honey and provided them every good thing, they MUST NOT forget those who are oppressed by life’s circumstances, especially the widows and orphans in the land.  This mandate runs all the way through the Bible.  Yet, many hundreds of years later, Jesus had to blast the Pharisees for devouring widow’s houses.

    Back then, when a husband died, the family was in BIG trouble without a man to take his place.  In  Mary Baker Eddy’s time, widowed and divorced women and their children were subject to oppressive and scary forces outside their control. And today, though laws have changed regarding the rights of women and children, the burdens on divorced, widowed and single parent families can be overwhelming. And I wouldn’t limit such hardship to women. In fact, I’d include anyone who is lonely, isolated, bearing a heavy burden of life’s responsibilities in fear, for want of help and support. This includes all of us at some time or another, but for the proverbial widowed and fatherless, it can be every day.

    So, just as often as I reach out and hold my friend’s hand in life, am I blessed beyond reasonable measure because I’m riding the wave of a loving God.  Says James (1:27)  “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”  Good enough for me.  And because this is my stand, I’m getting quite bold sharing this with my friend.  She’ll never hear from me without also hearing that God loves her.

    I’ve been so heart-happy to see the constant activity of this particular radical act.  To those champions of the hungry, naked, strangers and prisoners, I’m adding the widows and orphans!  We are one family.

    • Shelly says:

      So greatful you are including the fatherless and the widows!!   A very special command from not only our master, but included in every great spiritual teaching from Islam, to Buddism, to Judaism.   That is a very special population that I feel tests our sincerity as a community.

    • Tricia – As someone who has lived near the edge with a child, I can say that what you are doing to express God’s love could mean even more than you understand.

    • nina says:

      I love this story too, especially the reference to Deuteronomy 26.  For many years I felt like I was free-falling in empty space.  Friends liberally offered their time and energy to give me some sense of safety. Eventually that evolved into faith, then spiritual understanding.  Now I can help others in very substantial ways.  Your story is a great example of what Bible scholar Helen Mathis says here about Jesus’ key teaching:  ”Thou shalt be compassionate.  Thou shalt be family.”

    • Kristin says:

      Thank you for what you are doing. My mom was widowed and I agree with Mountaingirl2 that you can not under estimate the impact of this kind of practical help and support on the heart and soul.

    • Tricia C says:

      Thanks sisters for your encouraging replies below!  Last week, my dear friend called the police on her son when he became explosive towards her :(  She called me early the next morning. My home is now a time-out space when mom and son are feeling overwhelmed.  She and I had cocoa at Starbucks a couple days ago, a little get-away.  Such a small thing but so appreciated.  its really humbling. I praise God for putting me to use, holding hands with a friend and trusting God for each step to come.

      • Kristin says:

        My mother was widowed with five sons. Explosiveness is not part of that young man’s nature. It is a common reaction to the perceived hopelessness of the situation. One of my brothers, a dear sweet one, was arrested on Thanksgiving Day for drug use. I thank God because that policeman saved his life, and set him on a path to health and well being. I pray to know that the son of your friend is never without his guardian angels, even if they are in uniform.

  12. Helene Messina says:

    Matthew  25:34 – 46 and Jesus’ commandment are my favorite teachings. I stop when I see homeless in Providence one lady under bridge near hospitals, I ask if she wants something to eat or coffee, then go get it and bring it back to her. Sometimes I sit and chat for a while, a little difficult because she does have a mental illness, but she is pleasant. I try to give her five dollars. Lately, however, I no longer can find her. The city cleaned up her campsite. I pray she is in a shelter somewhere.

    • Tricia C says:

      Dear Helene,  I haven’t seen your name on this site before.  Maybe I just missed your posts.  If you are new to it, WELCOME!  And thanks for your contribution.  You make connecting with these “the least of my Brethren” seem so natural, I can tell you’re living your favorite (and our most important) teachings.  Bless you.

  13. shelly says:

    Thank you for your act of kindness!!

  14. Megan says:

    The stories shared here are so important! Thank you all for the inspiration!

    Sometimes I get overwhelmed thinking about world problems like poverty and hunger. But I’m comforted to remember that God knows the solution (He IS the solution) and that we just need to listen to His direction.

    I was pulling into the grocery store parking lot today, still smiling from the morning’s inspirational church service, when I saw a young woman with a cardboard sign waving as the cars passed. Without even reading her sign, I was filled with compassion. In the past, I’ve been on guard (even dismissive) around anyone asking for money or food. But as I’ve studied how Jesus fearlessly and selflessly embraced others, I’ve realized I’ve been blind! So letting go of all fear, I’ve been following Jesus’s example a little better.

    So, as I knocked out my grocery list, I turned to God in prayer for the best way to help this woman. It was very cold outside, so I bought a bowl of warm soup and a bottle of water. When I gave her the food, a look of surprise and gratitude flooded her face. Before I knew it, I had pulled her into a firm hug. I had been praying for the right thing to say and do, but I didn’t expect this! She hugged me firmly back and thanked me over and over. I let her know that her kind wave and smile really meant something to me and to keep it up. “God bless you,” she said.

    As the tenderly loved children of God, we were created to reflect this love. We’re united by this love! The little things we do for one another—a kind wave, giving soup, a hug, a smile—really do make difference in the world. Keep it up, everyone!

    • nina says:

      Megan this story is so meaningful to me. It reminds me of a similar encounter I had last summer when we first started Radical Acts, only it involved an older man who seemed very sad as he was waiting for a prescription to be filled.  I bought him organic strawberries and we had a lovely encounter.  Sweet, sweet glimpses of the “divine Us”!  Misc 18.

    • Carlos says:

      Megan, I love your humility and willingness to follow the Christ example in this story.  It is really an inspiration.  Keep it up!

  15. Sarah says:

    Carlos, thank you for telling how you so fearlessly and lovingly helped the stranger.  It is inspiring to me how you were  able to do more than just give him food–you told the man to let go of the beliefs that were limiting him.  The man’s gratitude speaks for itself.  It is not easy to redirect such a negative situation into something so positive!

    While working in Boston over the summer, I would often see people on the sidewalks asking for money and food.  It was difficult for me to walk to work and not feel guilty.  I would sometimes give a little spare change that I had, but never felt satisfied with what I had given.  One night, as I was walking back, a man asked me if I could buy him dinner.  I was tired, and just wanted to get back to my room and sleep.  However, I decided to listen to him at least for a minute.  We ended up going into the closest convenience store, and he picked out a few things that I then bought.  We took the food to a table, and sat down for dinner together.  I asked him for his name, told him mine, and asked him what he did.  He said he was a painter, and that I could see his paintings sometime if I came to his studio.

    He then began talking about the kinds of paintings that he did, and how I could get to his studio.  I was surprised.  Here was a man who seemed to be in need, and yet was overflowing with gratitude and productivity.  He was very courteous during the conversation, and spoke with clarity and earnestness (despite his thick Boston accent).  He asked me what kind of work I did, and what I was planning to do in the future.  I told him, and we then had a deep conversation about education reform, and institutions in the workplace.  By the time I had to leave, I felt incredibly inspired.  I had had a long day, and was looking forward to just going to bed once I was back in my room.  But after the conversation with the man, I felt capable and ready to do whatever needed to be done.  This experience proved to me that when we feed the hungry, we also feed ourselves.  Love is reflected in love.

    • nina says:

      Sarah thank you!  What you’ve written is one of the simplest, most beautiful stories on this website.  We took a similar story from last year and created a Radical Acts Game card out of it.  The card asks the person who pulled it to do what you did so spontaneously.  I hope everyone reading your story will be moved to do the same.

    • Shelly says:

      Very heart warming!

    • Tricia C says:

      Sarah, such a great example of how blessed we are when we step out  beyond ourselves and respond to another’s reaching out to us to meet  a need.  It’s energizing in ways that don’t fit any other activity; the energy of being and doing good.  BRAVO!

  16. Shelly says:

    A young man started camping out on a bench on our corner.  For weeks and weeks he lay wrapped in a blanket. Always sleeping.   We called people who were willing to drive him to shelter.   But he didn’t want to go.  They were so loving.  They said they would come out everyday we called, but he had a right to be on the corner.   People gave him food and money, although he never asked for anything.    He simply slept and never moved off the bench.   Then I decided that I was going to interact with him every day.   I went over and sat with him and talked to him about his spiritual identity.  He couldn’t speak, but he always listened with sincerity.   He didn’t drink.  He wasn’t doing drugs.   He had simply lost any concept of the beauty of his identity.  His state was so sad that the first time I approached him, by dog urinated on him when we approached.  And the young man didn’t respond. I was praying and started noticing a change about a week ago.  Every time I went out, he was awake!!  Then Sunday,  I had been praying early in the morning and went outside around 6 am.   He was awake.   I greeted him.     That day I was in a women’s prison for a lecture,  praying to affirm the pure identity of the women.  I included this man also.    Then last night, a Bible verse really came to light for me “Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment”    I realized so clearly that the material picture I was seeing of this young man was completely false.   Then, thinking on the beautiful synonyms of God, his identity as intelligent, creative, awake, active, stable, progressive…..   came alive for me.  The spiritual vision was so clear!!!   I wasn’t treating him, I was treating my own thought about him.  I saw that if I saw him as homeless with the hope of changing him through prayer, it was me who was missing out on really seeing him for how God made him.    This morning, after  weeks and weeks, he was gone.     I am greatful for his movement.   And I pray to meet him again.

  17. shelly says:

    It seems as if these Radical Acts are contagious here in Philadlphia.  The corner where I live has 4 circular marble benches.  One on each corner.  A homeless man has taken up permanent residence on one of them.   And, the ballet students in the school have embraced him.   An email went out about this man, and lots of people started chiming in telling how they have bought him food or given him money.   Yesterday one student brought him a meal, but when she arrived, he already had food from someone else.  She decided to save the food and give it to him today.   It’s very sweet to see how these students are responding to the prayer to feed the hungry.  Because it’s not just our own personal Radical Acts.  It is also our prayers that the hungry will be fed, whether we are there or not.

  18. nina says:

    A pregnant, 16 year old friend called me this morning, really hungry.  She’s on bed rest because the baby seems eager to come too soon.  Her 90-year-old great-grandmother works full time and her brothers are at school.  Can I please bring her something to eat – NOW?

    Of course I say yes.  But I grumble because it’s not the first time she’s called like this, and she lives far away, and I have very important work to do on Radical Acts, and I don’t need to be distracted by some trivial errand to FEED THE HUNGRY.  Then I get a good laugh out of that and fetch her a turkey club.

    Later I call to check on her and think – I’ll give her something extra, which is about how God is divine order, and she and the baby are His image and likeness, so no worries about the little one coming too soon.  She listens politely.  Then says, “Thank you for my sandwich, Miss Nina.  I was so hungry I swallowed the whole thing in one minute.”

    Gandhi said, “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.”  What a sweet, and entirely sufficient, way for God to appear!

    • Tricia C says:

      Nina, thanks as always for bringing out the rich profoundness of simple goodness.

    • Kristin says:

      Nina, your experience with this hungry young girl was ringing in my thought when I went to church to practice and prepare for our Wednesday evening meeting. While reading through some citations two people came to the glass door of the building and peered in.  I opened the door and they said “We’re HUNGRY! Do you have any food?” 

      The woman said she lost her job and they have been living in their car. The man said is it okay to come in since I have shorts on? The last church I went to they said I had to have a coat and tie. I pointed to my jammers and flip flops…come on in! I offered them a seat on the comfy couch in our air conditioned foyer. They talked about their challenges – it had been a long hard, hot day for them. I felt very calm and quiet, and let those feelings soak into them. I said when I had no money in my life I would pull the comforter up to my chin and think I am okay right now. And each moment I would talk to God and each moment He was there for me. And He stayed with me until I saw the way to go. As I talked I could see the fear melting away. They again asked if I had any food, and they needed money for gas. I wanted to give them both, but had neither at that moment. And then I saw the fruit bowl and pointed it out to them. Church members had been leaving their backyard produce in it to share. There were small green unidentifiable round things in it. I wouldn’t have eaten them ever. The couple eagerly took a handful. Then I invited them to come to our 7:30 meeting. They took some more green fruit (I think it was ripe, I just don’t know what it was) and went to the park to wait. 

      I dashed home to change clothes (no flip flops for the real meeting) and had just enough time to make them dinner. It looked so good I had to shoo my husband away from it. What a joyous banquet at our meeting. Try reading from the Bible when you know there actually is someone listening who is very very hungry and does not know where they are going to sleep afterwards. I was definitely on my tip toes watching God’s hand create a masterpiece. What an energetic gathering! Everyone was SO cheery and friendly and loving. The foyer was a feast of love. When it was time to go I gave the woman a hug and she just said but we still need money for gas. It was very very difficult for me to not give her money. I had even stopped at the grocery store and gotten some cash. But something stopped me short. It didn’t seem my place to do that. I left them in the parking lot with another couple from church, and then fasted in prayer.

      Maybe that couple helped them…I don’t know. I’m sitting here now knowing that God is caring for His son and daughter. Maybe I’ll find out how, maybe not. Feed the hungry…Wow.

      • Superb examples, Kristin and Nina!!!  Thank you so much for sharing both with these people and with us!  Truly inspiring!

      • Kristin says:

        I just heard that one of the people talking to the hungry couple in the parking lot after the meeting gave them $20. I hope and feel that this was his inspiration and that this giving is blessing the giver and the receivers.

        When I was sitting and talking with these visitors in the foyer I had a holy moment. The woman said that she had just lost her job and was very confused about whether to sign a release so she could get her last paycheck or not. There was turmoil in her thought about possible sexual harrassment.

        And suddenly I felt God was right there sitting with us at a conference table, and he looked RIGHT AT me, and waited until I looked back at him, so we were face to face. You see, many years ago I was fired from a job and I clearly remember the feeling of helplessness, the blustering by the employer, and the legal posturing. I’m a pretty accomplished person – and many were surprised if not shocked at the dismissal. I dropped the feelings of confusion, dismay and hurt and went on to a solid successful career elsewhere.

        While talking to these friends, suddenly that sense of vulnerability – of being pushed out – of being disenfranchised all made sense to me. I felt like God and I were sitting at the boardroom table and He was saying “SEE. You needed to feel that so you would understand others. So you would have compasssion.” I bowed my head and said “yes, Father”.

        I asked if the couple would like something to read from our Reading Room store – just down the hall. Yes, they would. They picked two pamphlets – one titled “Healing” and one titled “True Womanhood”.

    • Kate says:

      I really love this Gandhi quote Nina — such a simple and profound example of the coincidence of divinity embracing and giving form to humanity xoxo

    • Debby says:

      The Lord’s Prayer says “Give us this day our daily bread.”  That’s a promise we can take completely literally.  If God can supply our every need (and He does), that would certainly include something as simple as bread.  And sometimes it’s easier to accept what satisfies our spiritual hunger if we’ve eaten of the loaves and fishes  first.Many years ago a friend and I visited Iona in Scotland–an island connected with St. Columba and early Christianity in the British Isles.  We hot-footed it from the ferry to Iona Abbey for the Sunday service (Church of England, of course).  We were only a little late, but there was already a crowd, and we ended up sitting on the stairs.  When it came time for communion, a literal loaf of bread was passed from hand to hand, with everyone breaking off a piece.  That literal sharing of bread really reinforced the sense of community and underlined the spiritual message we’d heard in the sermon earlier.

      • nina says:

        I love that in this story you and your friend were the hungry ones being fed. We’re always hungry for spiritual community — especially when traveling in foreign lands!

  19. Shelly says:

    A little over a week ago a woman took up residence on the street I live on in Philadelphia.  There are a number of homeless people who live on Broad near me, but this woman was different.  At first she parked herself with her cooler and lawn chair about 3 blocks from my house.   She sat busily writing on a large pad of paper.  I liked her the first time I saw her, but she quickly rebuffed my “hello” with an angry “I’m waiting for someone to pick me up”.  I welcomed her to the neighborhood so she didn’t feel I was working to get her moved out and asked her if she needed anything.   Her response was a sharp and angry “I don’t need anything”

    The next day she had moved a 1/2 block closer to my apartment building.  Still sitting in her lawn chair.  Still writing in a very focused way.   I said “hi” again.  Reminded her that we had met the day before.   I asked her if she needed and place to stay.  In a militant voice she told me her house had been demolished and she was after the mayor of our city.

    I’ve interacted with lots of street people, and it was had to say if her story was real or delusional, but I knew that with God it didn’t matter.   In my heart I knew that man’s consciousness with God, our home, cannot be demolished.   I knew that God was so good that no matter what we may do to separate ourselves from His Kingdom, God, Principle is automatically putting all the pieces back together.   Kinda like the story of the Runnaway Bunny.   Where ever we may tell God we are going to run away to, God says “no problem” I’m going too!!   What fun.”  So, on a spiritual level, her consciousness was completely intact, supported, even nurtured by the Living God.

    Over the next week she moved closer and closer to my apartment building.  Each day she softened. We even had conversations and she allowed me to talk to her about God.   A few nights ago, she landed right on my corner where there are benches.   She allowed me to give her some homemade bread.  And we just sat and talked.   The militant anger was gone.  She laughed.  She was no longer writing plans in her note pad.  What a treat she was to know.   As I left she said.  “I’ll have to wait to see what tomorrow brings.”    I had just heard the Daily Lift on “Everyday is Christmas”  and suggested to her that there was so much good available from God, and it was all for her.

    That was the last time I saw her.  I trust she found the home God had for her.

    • nina says:

      I trust that too!  And now everyone who reads this can know that about her too.  Thanks for connecting her with this community!

    • Tricia C says:

      Your story filled my heart.  Bless you for your willingness to embrace her in God’s love.  I love that as you persisted in your friendliness, she moved closer and closer to your doorstep.  Beautiful symbolism of inclusiveness.

    • Carlos says:

      Thank you for this Shelly.  We just found out that a group of (about 10) homeless people actually sleep every night at our church parking lot.  This is a very small (6 car) lot downtown with a half-wall around it.  According to one who wanted to attend the church service, they feel safe there.

      We were surprised at hearing this because we never see them.  It turns out they get there late and leave early to make sure they’re not taking up space for anyone.  They clean up after themselves.  And they seem to look after one another.  I’m interested to hear more about them, though I don’t need to, of course.  I imagine the sense of home and protection we pray about every week is attractive and felt.

      Thank you for sharing your sense of home with a fellow child of God.

  20. Tricia C says:

    When I volunteered at a school for high-risk teens, I met Jose, an unassuming young man who was not at risk because of the typical problems; drugs, gangs, abuse, academic deficiencies.  Jose had been abandoned by his family who moved back to Mexico and left him in Los Angeles, a minor, alone and undocumented.

    Jose was left to live with a neighbor’s family and when that living situation went south due to the family’s dysfunction, I was asked if I might take him in, under the condition that he behaved perfectly. A tall order for a teen, yet looking back, I have to say, he really kept his end of the bargain!  When Jose moved in and I showed him his room, he said he’d never had his own room or slept in a bed. When he said he wasn’t sure he should, in case he got too comfortable, I had to hide the tears in my eyes.

    Jose lived with us for two years and was a loved, valued and delightful member of our family.  He went on his first plane with us, visited his first other state with us (and a couple more after that), and became brother to our son, who was 14 at the time and desperate for another non-adult in the home.  I made my first two trips to the emergency room with him, and got my first visit from the LA Department of Family and Child Services.   I also visited my first immigration lawyer to learn whether we could legally adopt him.  Though we had a good case of abandonment, we were a mere six months too late based on his age at the time.

    Jose did graduate high school and enroll in college.  For a time he worked two jobs to support both himself and his family in Mexico.  And he got a tax-id number to pay his taxes (social security card not an option).   When Jose began to act like he was an independent and self-sufficient college student, he moved into his own place, works as hard as ever, and has big dreams and goals for his future.  And he’s recently told us he’s legal now because of the Dream Act.  Woooooohoooo!

    When Jesus instructed his followers to take in strangers, he said we’d be blessed by God and inherit the kingdom prepared for us from the foundation of the world.  Taking in Jose blessed us beyond measure.  By  ”enlarging the place of our our tent” (Isaiah 54), our whole family has a broader, trusting sense of love and inclusion and empathy and compassion and the simple reward of feeling good because we did good.  That’s a great foundation for the world! I believe Jesus said to do such acts because he knew what it would do to us, and how the expansion of our love in these ways contributes to the world’s salvation. I’ve opened my home three times since and each time I’m more certain that God guides the whole thing. The kingdom within me is a peaceful one for welcoming strangers.

    • nina says:

      I just realized, I’ve always thought of the kingdom within as a completely private space. How wonderful to think of it as a place to hang out together. The family room within. The brasserie within. The garden within, with nice lounge-y chairs. Thanks Tricia, I’ll have fun with this!

      • Shelly says:

        Mary Baker Eddy says that the prayers for the services would be for the congregation exclusively.  Maybe we are just hanging out in the Kingdom of Heaven together.

    • Carlos says:

      Thank you for this Tricia.  Such courage and compassion can only be shared by a proper understanding of unconditional love.

  21. Amy says:

    Yesterday my power was out so I moved to a local ice cream shop to charge my phone and use their internet.  When it was time to get on a conference call, I went for a walk because the background noise was too much in the shop.  I ended up in a garden where some feral cats live.  My daughter and I used to feed them a couple of times a week until our schedules prevented it and I’m still involved in the organization, though I don’t do any hands on work.  I came across my favorite feral and she did NOT look good.  I prayed.  I enlisted a friend to pray.  And I called an organization friend to see if there was something we should do.  She wanted me to trap the cat, keep her in my apartment, and hand her off to someone who would take her to the vet.  I had so much to do but it seemed right to help this little thing so I met the friend at the garden to get ready to trap.  And then she said, Oh, I think she’s fine.  We can leave her here with her boyfriend (she and her boyfriend are together always).  I was happy.  I was willing to house (and I did feed), but it wasn’t great timing for me.  My cats do not like cat company.  And I’m under the gun at work.  But I was going to do it and willingly when I felt there was a need.  I was happy there wasn’t, but taking time out for this little girl was so right and brought about some good blessings.  Small thing, but it’s a reminder that priorities (spiritually seeing and loving our fellow creation of God) help everything fall into place.

  22. Carrie says:

    Thank you so much, Carlos, for sharing! Changing fear to love and a negative perspective of just a single person to a positive, God-directed one can do an incredible amount of good!

  23. Hannah says:

    Mrs. Eddy tells us to “take the inspired word of the Bible.” Through my university I engage in community service with inner-city, elementary school children. To the material eye they come across as misbehaved, uninterested and unenthusiastic about school. I recognized this as an opportunity to see the good in this situation. In a sense, each day I work with them I am “feed[ing] the hungry”–their hunger for love, for good, for wisdom. As soon as I arrive at the school I look forward to recognizing the good, loving the children and witnessing their daily progress as students and as children of God. What a blessing it has been to have this realization.

  24. Bonnie says:

    Thank you for that Facebook video. It is wonderfully inspiring and joy-giving! We all have so much to give each moment, and the opportunities are all around us. I once was walking down a snowy sidewalk and an older woman slipped and fell on the ice. Since I was the closest person to her, I was the first “on the scene” and could be a calm, supportive person. I asked if she was okay and she said, “I think so.” I just kept a peaceful, clear thought that she was okay, and said I’d stay with her. We were just quiet and peaceful, and I was prayerful, and expecting her to get up. Then others came over and expressed a lot of fear and franticness. But the peacefulness was already established, and she soon got up and went on her way. The fear just could not get at her, and I was just gleeful!!!

  25. Robbie Sweetser says:

    In line with the giving of love I came upon this video. I am far from this man’s compassion.
    http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151580997124307&set=vb.188184837932942&type=2&theater

  26. Christine says:

    As so many of you are pointing out, we feed the hungry and clothe the naked when we embrace them in God’s love and share with them healing ideas. I was once on the way to hear a lecture at a YWCA in Boston. I was praying about sharing this message with those hungering for Truth. I saw a woman standing on the side of the street begging for money. I had seen here there before, so I went up to her and said, “I don’t have money to give you but I have something I think will help you much more. I’m on my way to hear a talk at the YWCA all about God’s love for us and how God meets every human need. Do you want to go with me?” She replied with an enthusiastic, “Yes!”

    She listened to the lecture, took a copy of Science and Health, and then I drove her home. She told me all about her disability, her children, her inability to find work. So I talked to her about God as the real Father-Mother of each one of us, caring for, guiding and protecting us. I showed her passages in Science and Health that she could study and we marked them. We talked for two hours! When I got ready to go, she hugged me and said, “God has already answered my prayers!”

    Sometimes we don’t see the results of our sharing right away, but we can still share God’s love and trust that it will bless them. Since I travel a lot and am often in the train and subway stations in New York, I find so many opportunities to comfort. One time there was a woman sitting on a cement bench, surrounded by all her belongings, looking very dirty, worn out and as if she had given up on life. She might have been on drugs, because she wasn’t asking for anything or even responding to anyone passing, but simply hunched over and looking down. So I went over and sat by her side and began telling her how much God loved her, that she could never be separated from his love, and that she was “the daughter of the king, all glorious within,” because she was made in the image and likeness of God. (Ps. 45:13). After a little while, she lifted her head and looked at me with a faint smile and thanked me.

    Another time there was a man who was either high on drugs or drunk, who just collapse to the floor in the middle of tons of people rushing by to their trains. No one stopped to help him, perhaps because he was a mess, very dirty! But my heart went out to him. I kneeled beside him and told him he could never be separated from God’s loving care, that God was speaking to him right then and there, giving him the strength and ability to think clearly and to express his God-given dominion. And then I went on to my train. I didn’t care what anyone thought, but I continued to affirm that God’s love was with him and he could not fail to feel it. That’s something each of us can do!

  27. Pam Thompson says:

    I want to thank everyone who has been praying with the idea behind this Radical Act. I initially thought that I really hadn’t fed any strangers yesterday, but then I realized that I had. I was texting my nephew, and for the first time ever, I felt compelled to share some spiritual ideas with him. It would not normally have occurred to me to share these ideas, as he does not have a very good concept of church. I feel that the ideas I shared were divinely inspired, and a product of all of you who have been cherishing the thought of feeding the hungry. Thank you!

  28. Carlos says:

    I’m a bit late joining the conversation for this RA, but I was really inspired by yesterday’s posts.  Thank you all so much for sharing!

    I spent a good amount of time recently visiting someone at the hospital, keeping them company, and trying to help with minor tasks that needed attending.  In some ways, I felt like I was only there for comfort and support, but I also knew that I had a job to do mentally.

    Sometimes it’s easy to buy into the world’s idea about a situation, and in the case of someone who is homeless, sick, naked, or in prison, the suggestions seem to be so agressive.  They seem so obviously to be saying something about the person’s identity.  From my own experience, I know I have to guard my own though against the suggestion that there is something I can personally offer this “poor person” in front of me, because my situation is so obviously better than theirs.  But this line of thinking only reinforces what the world thinks about the poor, sick, and naked.  This line of thinking only adds to the weight of thought on the wrong side of the argument.  If God made them, and God made me, would he have made me better than them?

    I’m still learning from last week’s experience.  It’s still blessing ME.

    First, it is not too late to have the healing happen.  That situation in the hospital, or the homeless person that came to your window yesterday, or the teenager you whitnessed comit a crime, is still held in consciousness.  We can think about it, we can pray about it, and therefore we can heal, now.  Time is not a factor.

    Second, standing firm against worldly thought, God’s view of His creation reveals a healthy, rich, and elegant man.  Putting our thought on this scale does not mean loving someone despite their inperfections, but rather seeing them as God sees them, despite the worldly image trying to impose itself on us.  On this I am still working, but making progress.

  29. Ariana says:

    Just came across this video on FB this morning.  Awesome illustration of a young man’s selflessness helping a stranger:

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151419336238627

  30. Summer says:

    I have been the beneficiary of the Radical Act to many times to count. Through understanding the law of giving I see how it has blessed others. I’ve been grateful to learn how to give to others too and the resluts have been amazing. As I started to learn how to pray in Christian Science I realized the power of being clothed in the Mind of Christ. In Luke 8:26-35 we have a story of a man that “Had devils a long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs.

    In this story Jesus heals the man and the people of that city find him “clothed, and in his right mind.”

    It’s amazing what can happen when we are willing to listen to others and clothe them in their rightful Mind, the Mind that is God. When I hold to the fact that we all have one MInd, and that it is God, amazing things happen.

    I’m continuing to clothe the world with the MInd of Christ today.

  31. Ariana says:

    As I was thinking about this RA this morning, I realized I was interpreting it solely from a literal perspective.  I felt somewhat discouraged that I might not have an opportunity to put it into practice today.  It was unlikely that I would see a naked person on the streets of Boston or have the chance to visit a prison over the course of the day.

    But I started think of this command as one that was asking us to always be alert to the needs of others, whatever they may be, and willing to help them.  I was reminded of a time when I was a Peace Corps volunteer in a small village in West Africa.  I was walking up the road to the middle of town.  There was an old woman trying to bring her goat back home.  The goat, who was on a rope, refused to budge.  I went up to her, reached out for the rope, and offered to help her get it home.  She was really grateful for the help, so much so that she sent her grandson over to my hut later that day with some yams to give me as a present.  It was such a small thing that I did.  But her gesture showed me how meaningful it was to her.

    This story reminded me of how God uses as all the time to help others.  And there are times where certain people are brought into our experience to help lift us up and provide just what we need.  The important thing is that we’re open to these opportunities to help.

    And as I was thinking about this, someone IMed me on Facebook, thanking me for some ideas I shared with her.  This was a new acquaintance,  someone I had barely interacted with.  But I had posted a positive comment about a blog she had written about a challenging time in her life.  Those few words really meant a lot to her.  It was a good reminder about how these opportunities can sometimes come in the smallest ways.

     

    • Clementine says:

      Thanks for sharing this idea Ariana. It really helped push me to not take this RA too literally. I was talking with someone last week, and I thought, hmm I should share some metaphysical ideas, but I didn’t. It’s been nagging me all week on and off. Well today was the day – because of what you said, I decided to write a little note to this friend.

      As I thought about what I was going to write to her I got so much clarity on the issues that needed addressing.

      Thanks for being part of this RA challenge.

    • nina says:

      I absolutely love this thought!  Below, Carlos offers some great spiritual interpretations of FEED, CLOTHE, SHELTER, and VISIT.  http://time4thinkers.com/6-feed-the-hungry-clothe-the-naked-shelter-strangers-visit-prisoners/#comment-19555 By Carlos’ interpretation I think I clothed the naked today.  The story’s still unfolding . . . and still delicate . . . but I do promise to share it soon!

      • nina says:

        OK so here’s the rest of that delicate story. I’d been praying really deeply that day and was feeling awash in Love.  Then someone I don’t know well called and exposed her “nakedness.” A tricky family event was coming up that put her in a central role.  She needed strength and poise to get through it.  Yet a family member was coming to town who drinks, attacks her verbally, and has been known to settle family disagreements with a loaded gun.  Plus, he was bringing a buddy, and insisting that the two of them stay at her house.  She was concerned not only for herself, but for her children.

        The first layer of flannel I could wrap around her was simply reassurance that she didn’t need to go along with this plan.  We talked for a long time about that.  The next layer was prayer. The Bible passage I pulled at random made me laugh out loud. It was Esther asking her husband the king to protect her whole extended family, the Jews, from Haman’s unjust law.  The king graciously agreed and lent her the symbols of his royal power: his scribes, his ring, and his seal.  Esther 8:5-9.

        The story was so crazily apt that I called her back and read it to her.  That gave her the courage to tell the family member that he should book a hotel room.  Then, the buddy couldn’t make the drive.  The family member canceled his trip.  My friend met all her obligations at the event with perfect strength and poise.

        All power to the “naked” and “vulnerable”!!!  Because our King is indeed just.  “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.”  Isaiah 9:7.

        • Kristin says:

          This is a beautiful story. I love how you covered the nakedness with flannel. How tender, just like wrapping a newborn baby.

          A couple of weeks ago I spent an afternoon with Esther. She was to be part of readings for our church’s Wednesday evening meeting. Then, I felt impelled to set her aside. That night a new member and I were chatting and he brought up Esther. I told him of my study, and he said well let’s have that story during the Jewish observance of Purim, which is this coming weekend. He was raised an orthodox Jew.

          I am learning more about Purim now, which I understand includes listening to a reading of the book of Esther, sending food gifts to friend, giving charity to the poor, and eating a festive meal. These all sound good to me!

          I like how you prayed for your friend. So often I am shy about that.

           

  32. Betty Wilson says:

    Today’s subject Feed the hungry, cloth the naked, shelter strangers, visit prisoners. Reminded me of the time when my children were small, we had five. A lady I had worked with in the past, approached me telling me her daughter, a single mother, needed help caring for her two children, because the daughter needed to work. The women, said she could try helping with the two year old herself, but could not manage the two month old baby boy because she herself worked full time. Her daughter worked at a local drive in as a car hop, serving food, we went to the drive in and she ( the mother of the small children ) approached our car and said her mom had told her to ask us about sitting her two month old baby. My husband and I were not sure we could manage this. I told her I would help even if for a short time. When the young mother brought the baby over, we could see at once the little one needed to be loved and cared for. It appeared the two year old was fed and clothed pretty well, but the baby really needed to be fed, he was so very small and was not very clean. We agreed to keep him. The mother left him and didn’t return for a few days. This became a pattern. Each  time she would bring him he was really needing a bath, never had food, diapers, or a change of clothes. so I at once went to the used clothing store and bought  baby clothes. We went to the grocery store and bought baby food , milk and diapers. Our intentions were to have all those things at our home for him when the mother brought him over. At first we had him alot. Never hearing from her for a week or two at a time. So we didn’t mind loving and caring for him, the routine was when he arrived the family gathered around him and as soon as the mother went out the door, we all knew the routine, we would lift the little guy out of his infant seat, the children ran to get the water running in the bathroom sink, we would strip off his clothes, one child would put the soiled clothes in the washer, one child would get the lotion out, one would get the clean clothes out, and a warm blanket to wrap him in. My husband would get his bottle ready, the children  helped bathe him and dress him and feed him. This little guy was welcomed with such love.

    I tried not to pass judgment on the mother. I just did what needed to be done. We kept this little baby so much that when the mother would show up I just thaught she was stopping by to see him. Which she sometimes did. He gained weight, was happy and so loveable. We felt he was one of our family.

    My husband worked two jobs at the time to help meet our family needs. One evening around Christmas time the baby’s mother desided she wanted to come and get him. My husband came home all excited to hold and play with the baby…he ask where the baby was and the children and I sadly said, his mother came and got him.  My husband’s disapointment showed in his face. We didn’t see that comming as she hadn’t been in touch for a few weeks, and we were just loving him and the children were loving him too. We were planning on having him Christmas. We did have him off and on for about another year or so .

    I really felt it in my heart that we were ment to take in this little guy when we did. The mother never paid us to care for him, nor did I expect her to. I knew she was having a difficult time. We took him in, clothed him, sheltered him, loved him like our own,with a loving family, in a safe haven. And helped his mother see that he was lovable.

    Feed the hungry , heal the heart. Our job was done. We did our part. And have done this same type of thing for some other children and their mothers over the years.

    • Kristin says:

      What a powerful healing sense of family.  I am very touched.

    • Betty -  You may  have changed this child’s life forever by what you and your family did.  That no-strings-attached unconditional love is the closest thing I know to God’s love.  I suppose it is God’s love manifested in human experience.  Thank you.

    • Amy says:

      Wow. I’ve always wanted to be a foster mom. But I live in a small NYC sized apartment, I’m a single mom, and I work and travel a lot. ;) I admire you.

      I’m realizing, though, as I type this, that while I’m not a foster mom, I have people cycling through my home all the time and sometimes they need mothering in the very best sense, too.

      So glad you came to the site to share, Betty. You’re a real Radical ACTor and we need you!

    • Helene Messina says:

      your story put some gladness back into my life. God Bless you. I love you.

  33. Christine says:

    What a wonderful example, Carlos!  Very inspiring!   I was thinking this morning about, “Clothe the naked” .  It makes me think of (Luke 8:26-35) the insane man of Gadarene (violently insane), rejected by society and kept chained up out in the country in the tombs (have we mentally or physically excluded personalities or people we feel are undesirable or a threat to us?).  But Jesus “made the separation”–separated the false picture of a dysfunctional past, human personality disorders, past mistakes, etc.–and ordered those false picture out of him.  The next minute, the man was sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, completely healed and thinking correctly.

    It reminds me that when negative pictures appear to me about another person, rather than trying to point to those negative qualities or behavior, I need to make the separation, and “hide” rather than expose these lies about the person, and instead see only the man of divine Love’s creating.  I say “hide” because it’s a line from a favorite hymn that says:  ”Each can his brother’s failings hide, And show a brother’s love.”   The hymn encourages us to delight in helping our neighbors find peace where human failings seem to be, instead of simply reacting to those failings.  Here is the whole hymn (Hymn 403 from the Christian Science Hymnal):

    How sweet, how heavenly is the sight,
    When those who love the Lord
    In one another’s peace delight,
    And so fulfill His word;

    When, free from envy, scorn, and pride,
    Our wishes all above,
    Each can his brother’s failings hide,
    And show a brother’s love.

    Let love, in one delightful stream,
    Through every bosom flow;
    And union sweet, and dear esteem
    In every action glow.

    Love is the golden chain that binds
    The hearts that faithful prove;
    And he’s an heir of heaven who finds
    His bosom glow with love.

  34. Maya says:

    Great comment. Like your first line a lot.

  35. jenny says:

    Earlier comments about the childlikeness that helps us embrace this Radical Act with freedom and fearlessness reminded me of one of my favorite articles from The Christian Science Journal. I believe it captures what’s at the heart of feeding the hungry and sheltering strangers: The willingness to see their innate worth and dignity, not their helplessness. But this piece says it better than I can:

    http://journal.christianscience.com/shared/view/ffggnrgo58?s=e

  36. mclean says:

    Two months ago my close friend Catherine called me in a panic, explaining how her longtime friend, Emily, was looking for a place to stay and could I help? She explained how Emily was from the UK – and was having a tough time finding accommodation for her internships. Emily was in New York before coming to my city for an internship, living in a seriously roach-infested apartment. It turns out her landlord was really a staff member of a university, illegally renting university property to exchange students.

    Emily had to get out of there quickly, and found another internship program in my city. As she was about to sign the lease on her room rental, she found out this landlord was charged with running a brothel out of her home a few years ago.

    I agreed to help but I didn’t know how exactly. I got Emily’s number and called her that night. She sounded very stressed out. I found myself saying, “Any friend of Catherine’s is a friend of mine. You’re welcome to stay with me until you can find other accommodation.” I couldn’t believe I was saying this, but it felt so right. Emily breathed a huge sigh of relief and accepted my offer. She thanked me over and over again. I had no idea what she was like or if we would get along, but I felt at peace about it.

    She ended up staying at my tiny studio for three weeks. I was away for most of that time and felt I could trust her with my place. When I did return, she had other accommodation lined up. The rest of the time she was in my city we hung out at least once a week.

    I learned so much from this whole thing. Emily and I are now really good friends! She wouldn’t describe herself as religious, but she is deeply spiritual. We had many conversations about spirituality, God, gratitude, etc. Her life completely turned around while in the US and I got to be a part of that. It was so clear that she was kept safe all along!

    • Tricia Chantha says:

      BRAVO to you Mclean! That you appreciate being a part of her life turn around shows that your recognize your own blessing in this. That’s spiritual maturity. I’ve had teens live with me for as short as a month and as long as three years and my blessings have been multiplied by extending myself and my home. Helping others expands our lives, broadens the borders of our (love)tents so to speak. Once expanded, they never constrict back.

    • HB says:

      You are an angel.

  37. Kate says:

    This week I have been thinking about “Feeding the hungry…” and how much a practical, literal approach makes a difference in the life of a child who is hungry.

    When I was about 10, our family (of 8) went through a series of hospitalizations and financial challenges that left us in desperate need for help. A local philanthropic organization stepped in and provided our family with basic food..dried beans, rice, powdered milk…each month. I will never forget how grateful we were.

    I don’t remember feeling poor. I mostly remember the kindness of these “strangers” who would drop food off each month, and help my parents provide clothing and shoes for their young children…of which I was the oldest. I remember the feeling of dignity and respect they carried into our home. It was during this time that my parents began studying Christian Science. I have often wondered if the sense of family dignity that this organization fostered during this time of extreme need, didn’t help prepare the soil for receiving the seeds of Truth.

    Sometimes “feeding the hungry” starts with relieving the hunger pains in a child’s tummy, and lifting the burden in a parents’ heart, before we sow the seed.

    lovingly, k.

  38. John says:

    This is a Radical Act I have dearly and deeply wanted to engage with and live. I feel so drawn to it, and have greatly loved the metaphysical diving in to this Radical Act which has been expressed in the previous comments.

    And yet, every day I find myself just so unsure of how to live this Act. I have no desire to just ‘hypothetically’ live these. I want to “live, really live, and not just get by on good behavior” (Jesus, from the Message translation of the Bible). But as I go through my days, which certainly are wonderfully filled with good and productivity and cheer, I just don’t see how I am – or can – really live this Act.

    But I also can’t stand the idea of not living what Jesus asked his followers to do. “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples: that you love one another, as I have loved you.” In fact, my uncertainty as to how I can live this has really been bumming me out.

    So tonight, I have been praying about this Act, and this passage from Science & Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy, came to mind: “Whatever holds human thought in line with unselfed love, receives directly the divine power.” (page 192) So, if my desire to live this act is really holding my thought in line with unselfed love (and it seems to me that this Radical Act is all about unselfed love), then I cannot be bummed out in the course of focusing on and striving to live it. Maybe I won’t see ‘results’ or opportunity in exactly the same time frame or manner as some of the other Acts have provided me…but it’s not a waste.

    I am now really, quietly excited to see how this Act can be seen and come to fruit in my experience. None of these Radical Acts are a waste, or confined to a certain time or location.

    • nina says:

      There’s something hugely powerful about committing to a Radical Act. Especially when you do it in public, like this. Can’t wait to hear about all the divinely inspired opportunities that come your way to REALLY LIVE this — and not just get by on good behavior. :) <3

  39. Kate says:

    Hi all…I know it’s been a while, but it’s been a very full summer of practicing these Radical Acts…and I’ve absolutely LOVED them. I feel like they have actually changed my mental molecular structure…

    Keeping this particular RA, “FEED the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter strangers, visit prisoners…” fresh, and radical, has been an interesting discipline.

    I think the most important lesson for me was that I don’t always “know” what that would look like for someone else. I might think that feeding the hungry looks like sharing resources, ideas, etc…giving, when what they most need is the space to think, the opportunity to give of their “widow’s mite”, to share with me their love for God and Jesus…rather than just hear what I have to say.

    Clothing the naked, sheltering the stranger…sometimes their need to be clothed looks like nakedness to me, and my version of shelter feels like a cage to them.

    The real demand was to actual be “present” enough…to listen deeply enough…to see, hear, discern what THEIR version of food, clothing, shelter would look like.

    And as far as “visiting” the prisoner…this was the most eye-opening. It doesn’t say “get the prisoner released,” or “free the prisoner” in this RA…it says to visit.

    Sometimes the most loving and trusting thing we can do is to “just visit” and let someone know that they are not “unvisitable” just because they are in prison. Prison (society’s or one of their own mental making) may be the best place for them to discover what they need to understand about their relationship to God. And sometimes it represents a quiet sanctuary for building a relationship that couldn’t blossom in the hustle and bustle of “society.”

    This summer, it has been a gift to “visit” people in places and situations that might (to an outside eye) seem like a prison that they needed to be freed from…and to really be present with them there and witness their courage, innocence, and strength…right THERE…was a gift…for both of us.

    I’ve really loved this radical act.

    with Love, k.

    • TessaEBF says:

      I’m hugely moved by your post, Kate. Thank you so much for writing down all of these tremendous ideas and lessons from a summer spent with this Radical Act. They are such meaty thoughts.

  40. Carlos says:

    At this very moment, God is taking care of all his children, individually and collectively. His love feeds them, clothes them, shelters them, and gives them companionship.

    They are satisfied.

  41. Melody says:

    My mom is a major influence in my life style choices. She is extremely giving and fearless. When we were younger, she would go to main beach Laguna every Tuesday and feed the hunger. She was faithful to these people as long as we lived in Newport California which was about seven years. As my young life continued she helped people in need everywhere we lived. We had many visitors in and out of our house finding their right place. As of recent she has empowered young athletes to find their calling to help. An entire basketball team collected old shoes which they gave to a company which somehow changes the shoes into water in Africa! I think people around us are living radical acts all the time and sometimes we just need to stop and recognize them!

    • Carlos says:

      Melody, thank you for sharing. You are absolutely right about our need to merely recognize the radical activity going on around us. In some ways, that is what this project has become about for me: realizing that Jesus didn’t set out to do something radical. He just lived… with honesty and respect for what he knew.

      The more we understand him the more we understand that there was nothing radical about what he did. It made perfect sense. What was radical was his view of the world, which expressed itself in a way that seemed radical to other points of view.

      “… the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” (John 1:5)

  42. Carlos says:

    Hi everyone! Here’s an update on the Christian Science services we’ve been holding at a local prison. As mentioned above, this isn’t about visiting people who are behind bars, or doing something good because we’re supposed to. It’s about reaching out to the captive thought – letting Truth set free that which is enslaved and limited by the illusion of material existence.

    I started volunteering back in January. I have taught Sunday school and read in church, but there is not a more captive audience than what I’ve found in this place. Our services are modestly attended, but you can be sure that everyone is they because they want to be. They come with challenging questions and an open mind. It has been such a blessing for me to be involved with this effort.

    We don’t spend a lot of time with formalities or chitchat. We start by getting right down to the lesson, and usually spend an hour or two reading it, analyzing it, and discussing how it applies to specific situations. We’re learning Christian Science, and these gentlemen are putting it into practice during the week.

    Yesterday only two of them showed up. Both have been attending for some time. Both are due to be released soon. And both are excited to visit the churches once they’re out. We talked about where the churches are located in the city, and for a while all three of us were traveling through Houston in thought. I reflected on how this freedom has come about, and how we can all see there are no boundaries when our thought is uplifted by the Bible Lesson. It was such a beautiful demonstration to see these men travel with me, free, taking ownership of their true identity as God’s reflection. It was a joyous day.

    These prison visits have helped me realize what true freedom is. I’ve seen these men set free during our sessions, and because they are in prison, there’s no mistaking the seeming material situation for the reality. In a way, these visits have set me free as well… free from judging my true status by human circumstances. And in realizing this, I can also see God’s direction of this activity, because it is a blessing to everyone involved.

    I am so grateful for this opportunity, what it is teaching me, and for being able to share it in part with all of you.

    • nina says:

      This is simple and beautiful Carlos . . . thank you!

    • Alex says:

      Carlos I hear you! I have been having some experiences of my own where the differences in value/ability/worth that seem so obvious outwardly, are erased and I can feel how in God’s eyes we are actually totally equal.

  43. Patricia says:

    I love this thread… I haven’t read all of the comments but I will! Let’s just say that I have been the hungry, the naked, the stranger and the prisoner and I’ve been fed clothed, adopted and freed! It takes a preparation of the heart to be receptive to that ‘conscious worth’ and be willing to accept it and be-loved! I love where MBE writes:    “Art thou still unacquainted with thyself?  Then be introduced to this self.  “Know thyself!” as said the classic Grecian motto.  Note well the falsity of this mortal self! Behold its vileness, and remember this poverty-stricken “stranger that is within thy gates.”  Cleanse every stain from this wanderer’s soiled garments, wipe the dust from his feet and the tears from his eyes, that you may behold the real man, the fellow-saint of a holy household.”

    As we let our own famished affections be fed, and let the poverty of our thought be purged of fear and filled with Love’s allness and let all that feels cast out and abandoned be bounded up and adopted… that’s the freedom from mortality that shines with God’s reflected light and lifts the lives of all in need ‘higher than their poor thought models would allow’ (MBE) I am so grateful for what I’ve been given in the dark times… but I’m most grateful for the reflection of Truth expressed in the honest presence of another that got my attention and made me reach for it, ask, rise up and receive!! :)))
    I now have wonderful experiences with ‘strangers’ and curious hungry ones often where I see them seeing what I saw in another and eventually had to reach out to… The Christ!

  44. Kate says:

    These are all such wonderful stories…I hope you will indulge me sharing one that has meant the world to me. It has to do with the admonition to “clothe the naked.”

    Some years ago I had a friend who was going through a very challenging time. Her choices were not the ones that I thought I would make if I were in the same situation, and I didn’t hesitate to let her know how I felt. I was sure that I had great justification (Biblically and culturally) for the position I spoke out from. She very quietly took the steps in her life that I thought were unnecessary.

    Although I never criticized her decisions publicly or privately, my feelings about this particular issue were clear to those who knew me, and to our mutual friends. In our own way, we had agreed to disagree, and I was left basking in the gluttony of my own self-certainty.

    But then I went through my own deep waters of self-doubt and confusion. After months of constant prayer I was led, by Love, to take steps in my life that were very much the antithesis of all my years of intractability and self-righteousness. I suddenly realized that no one can listen for another person’s angels, that we can only pray that “Thy Word” God’s Word, working in their heart, “may enrich the affections…and govern them.” My former sense of self-certainty and righteous judgment were rebuked by experience…and as Mary Baker Eddy so beautifully relates in her autobiography, Retrospection and Introspection:

    “Into mortal mind’s material obliquity I gazed, and stood abashed. Blanched was the cheek of pride. My heart bent low before the omnipotence of Spirit, and a tint of humility, soft as the heart of a moonbeam, mantled the earth. Bethlehem and Bethany, Gethsemane and Calvary, spoke to my chastened sense as by the tearful lips of a babe. Frozen fountains were unsealed. Erudite systems of philosophy and religion melted, for Love unveiled the healing promise and potency of a present spiritual afflatus. It was the gospel of healing, on its divinely appointed human mission, bearing on its white wings, to my apprehension, “the beauty of holiness,” — even the possibilities of spiritual insight, knowledge, and being.”

    This was EXACTLY what I experienced. And I wept with regret for the way I had thought about, and treated, my friend in the wake of her choices.

    But this is where “clothe the naked” comes alive for me. My friend was the first person to come and help me see the tenderness of God’s love for me. She never said, “Remember when you thought I had made a poor choice…” She never reminded me of my self-certainty. She just celebrated my humility, the lessons of love and compassion I was learning, and urged me to embrace my right to be transformed by the experience.

    She clothed me in her grace. In her presence I felt bathe clean in love, fed by compassion, and covered in the garment of mercy.

    In the presence of her kind heart I was never raw, and naked, exposed or ashamed. Just embraced with grace.

    • Carlos says:

      Kate, I can relate to what you’re saying here about “basking in the gluttony of my own self-certainty,” and I LOVE the idea that “no one can listen for another person’s angels”. I have been working on that very thought and it has made better equipped to help others by recognizing that their communication with God is just as valuable and rich as mine.

      You have such a deep sense of the radical thinking that makes these acts truly radical. “In the presence of her kind heart I was never raw, and naked, exposed or ashamed.” Thank you so much for sharing!

  45. Melody says:

    One night in Europe my friend and I found ourselves without a place to stay. We didnt think much of it because our train didnt arrive into the city we were staying in until late and since it was a friday night we thought the town we were going to would be happening!
    Well the city was totally happening but everyone was drunk and were not in our element. We had previously been in the Spain and while there was drinking, most of the culture was about dancing and socializing. Now we were immersed in an aggressive mostly male drunk city and we were nervous on how to move forward with our night.
    As we walked the city, looking for availability in hostels and hotels it started pouring down rain. Now we were not only nervous about the night but wet and cold! The rain kept coming and we were beginning to become frantic and upset. Suddenly a group of people who all had umbrellas and rain coats asked us if we needed any help. We said we were okay and they offered us one of their umbrellas and asked us if we were sure.
    Their kindness was so needed and my friend began to explain our delema and asked them if there were any places they suggested. I was so grateful for these people! They took us to their hostel and there was availability for us to stay for a couple hours of sleep before the next check in arrived. We were so grateful! We were safe and beginning to get warm. I thought that these radical acts would all be about how I was affecting others but these people whom my friend and I were the strangers to they offered shelter. It was so fascinating to me. I know people are good, but to have this experience literally in the bold words at the top of the page was a powerful experience of the good in the world.

  46. Alex says:

    That’s powerful Carlos. I especially love “protect the undeveloped or exposed thought” and “embrace and nurture the new idea”.

  47. Carlos says:

    So, I woke up this morning and something hit me over the head (metaphorically speaking) about this Radical Act. Jesus did speak a whole lot about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering strangers, and so on. In fact, during his last days on earth, his command to Peter (three times repeated), was to feed his lambs!

    BUT… what hit me is that Jesus’ career was basically launched by the metaphysical battle won during those 40 days in the dessert, which includes the very recognition that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from God. This is what Jesus recognized from the beginning as true nourishment!

    And obviously, it wasn’t just a pray-and-go-home attitude. The prayer itself (the right thinking) enabled him to feed thousands at an hour of need, cleanse lepers, raise the dead, etc. This prayer was true and unlimited action! So here’s what’s coming to me by way of spiritual translation about this Radical Act:

    FEED THE HUNGRY: Nourish the receptive thought. Share Life and wisdom with those hungry for it.

    CLOTHE THE NAKED: Protect the undeveloped or exposed thought. Wrap the vulnerable with Love.

    SHELTER STRANGERS: Embrace and nurture the new idea. House the foreign in the all-encompassing divine Mind.

    VISIT PRISONERS: Reach out to the captive thought. Let Truth set free that which is enslaved and limited by the illusion of material existence.

    I’m sure there is much more thought/prayer to come along these lines. This RA seems to offer a perfect glimpse into Jesus radical way of thinking, which led to the human expression that seemed so radical to everyone else. How do we get THERE – in thought? This seems so important in “following” Jesus versus “emulating” Jesus.

  48. Carlos says:

    Hi Everyone! Check out this “Daily Lift” on “Radical Recognition”… which to me touches on the radical difference between seeing an “undesirable” and doing something to help, versus changing our thought to seeing only God’s child:

    http://christianscience.com/prayer-and-health/inspiration/your-daily-lift/7-12-radical-recognition

    I think this begins to address what I’ve been trying to get at in my thinking all summer. Is there a difference between charity work – or doing something for someone who we inherently recognize as incomplete – and charity as described in I Corinthias 3 (which by the way I recommend reading in it’s entirety)? Here’s an exerpt:

    “…though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

    “[Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,] Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”

  49. Carlos says:

    3rd grade SS / LindaH…

    Thank you so much for sharing! Please be sure to write about your experiences throughout the summer.

  50. LindaH says:

    I’m a Sunday School student in Linda H’s class, at Fifth Church Long Beach. One of my sixth grade classes at school focuses on learning about community service. Lately we’ve been talking about St. John’s Shelter for women and children. The stories of how the women and children have been helped at the shelter means a lot to me and has motivated me to think about ways I can pray for them.

    I have found the words to a song we sing in Sunday School to be a good prayer for what some of the women at the shelter have gone through. The words go… “Innocent one, sinless and pure, nothing can ever divide thee. Governed by Love, you’re safe and secure; I am forever beside thee. So rest and know where ever you go, home and heaven cannot be denied thee. For I am the Lord, there is none else; there is no God beside Me.”

  51. 3rd grade ss class M says:

    My Mom signed us up for a program where you can help feed the hungry. You get a letter every week about a family that needs food. Our family has decided to send food and blankets every week to a family with four kids.

    There was a girl that was 12, and she liked girly things, I decided to give her one of my silver purses and for the boys my brother is giving a baseball bat and a dinosaur toy.

    This is our family’s RADICAL ACT!

  52. Isobel says:

    Thanks for your thoughts Carlos. Reading your and Amy’s posts remind me that the person who approached me is blessed by God and only God. Because I have been committed to bearing witness, viewing man rightly, and addressing the problems of the homeless and the challenge of dealing with uncomfortable feelings, etc. it’s probably normal that I should be given a more advanced challenge. My answer is that I can pray and know that God blesses while still staying safely out of the way of his aggressive behavior. I love the promise of your thought that it’s never too late to find the blessing, to continue to pray even after the opportunity. I have found that I am noticing many many people wandering the streets, looking in the trash for food. I am seeing this a lot right now and with different eyes. I’m thinking about protesting on their behalf that they could be stuck in these behaviors, and recognizing God’s love for them.

    • Carlos says:

      Isobel… yes! Every opportunity is a higher step, and God will never give you something you’re unable or unequipped to handle. The opportunity is not in the human situation that came and went, but in the spiritual opportunity for growth, never gone.

      I had an interesting experience today. I was a a jobsite for a project we’re in the middle of building, asking the foreman if he knew of a good painter because I needed a second quote. From the street a man comes walking up and the first thing he tells me is he just got out of jail. Well, I’ve been holding CS services twice a month at a nearby prison, so the way I reacted to him was WAY differnt than I might have in the past. I asked him what he needed and he said work. I asked him what he could do and he said he’d do anything, but that he was a professional painter before going to jail.

      I often wonder about the guys I meet inside. What will their lives be like when they get out? In prison they have this great opportunity to re-think, a forced prayer time. Will they make the right choices? Will people accept them?

      I realized this moment at the jobsite had nothing to do with how I reacted. The man came in from the street at the perfect time before I had a chance to react. It was really about God showing me something… that he puts the right ideas together so that they can continue to grow… that I’ve come a long way in my thinking, not because of my own doing, but because of the opportunities he has put in front of me. I’m realizing that I don’t think differently about the homeless or prisoners because of my own merit, but because Life has forced me to face the erroneous thinking I’ve been holding on to, and then has forced me to re-consider, to seek a higher view. And all, as you said, “safely”.

      • Carlos says:

        A quick update on this story…

        The painter I ended up hiring for this project (someone who has done many jobs for me in the past) was able to hire the man that walked in off the street. I saw him working a couple of days ago and struck up a quick conversation with him. He was really enjoying the work, and I could see him express so much love through the tasks he was assigned to.

        Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, etc… is not about satisfying a need that would otherwise go unnoticed, because only God knows our true need, and only a knowledge of Him will ultimately satisfy us. It’s really about restoring our understanding of man’s purpose and worth – of every individual created perfectly and uniquely. We are restoring humanity’s view on man as valuable, rather than hungry, needy, or otherwise defective.

  53. Amy says:

    Wow Carlos. How simple! I love that Eddy focused on what was really important — God’s love, God’s salvation for man.

    Thank you for sharing that. What a powerful reminder of a wonderful truth — God’s love for each of us saves us in whatever way we need.

  54. Carlos says:

    For me it is not about having some great miracle in these situations, but about improving our thought on man, and seeing that thought expressed in changed circumstances and opportunities. I can understand your situation not feeling “easy”. Are there any opportunities in it to see a blessing?

    It is never too late to cease a blessing from an opportunity, no matter how far in the past it seems. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this Isobel…

  55. Amy says:

    It isn’t Isobel and we do have to be wise. My daughter told me how someone she knows (or maybe heard about?) was walking down the street and felt nervous when he saw some people who in a group nearby. He felt like he should get out of there, but then thought (since they weren’t the same race), “Don’t be a racist.” And then he got mugged.

    So we have to know when to listen to ideas that protect us, too.

  56. Isobel says:

    Some great stories here. Thank you everyone!
    I just heard a very interesting interview on NPR with a behavioral economist, Dan Ariely, who wrote a book called “the Honest Truth about Dishonesty” among others. He has interesting insights on distribution of wealth, essentially, individual wealth versus giving. For instance, everyone he interviewed in the U.S. from all walks of life wanted to live in an egalitarian society where wealth was distributed fairly, more than any nation has achieved in the world, yet they live in a society where 90% have just above zero of the wealth. Yet we don;t live like we feel that way. Instead, people end up putting their resources and even going in to debt to better life and for themselves and their children. (Here in the U.S.) While it’s normal to want to thrive and feel responsible for our family, it;s interesting that we have big hearts and want life to be good for all. I loved thinking about that unselfish desire and how to act on it. I’m searching for how to do more. Maybe modeling my aspirations more after the divine model with the God’s economy where as MBE puts it, “What blesses one blesses all”. So this act for me is about translating that “desire” for equality into “action” to see others as equals in God’s eyes, and pray to see everyone benefitted by the divinely imparted wealth like the golden rays so freely pouring out. That’s the view from my corner of the world in the US… I’d love to hear your view wherever you are!

    • Isobel says:

      But it’s not easy… I was thrown with a puzzling circumstance. That the guy who approached me last night in the grocery store parking lot, apparently influenced by some kind of drug, and a bit aggressive, wanting to unload my groceries so I would pay him. Another shopper came and stood by me to make sure I was safe. i admit that he is God’s child the same as me, deserving of God’s wealth as much as anyone. But I did not get a sense of peace on the spot and he was a little aggressive. Even if I wasn’t on my way to the airport, it would have been hard to look him in the eyes and give full respect. I want to prepare myself better next time. Any ideas?

      • paul boy says:

        “Charity suffereth long and is kind,” but wisdom must
        govern charity, else love’s labor is lost and giving is un‐
        kind.” (My. 231)
        In my experience, that says it all, Isobel.

        It’s all about the Golden Rule. Would YOU push yourself on someone who didn’t ask for help and aggressively expect money? No. Then you tell the person directly “No thanks”, and explain why.
        In LA County, with 80,000 homeless people on any given night, incredibly nice homeless missions in downtown sit almost half empty. Why? Because many people on the street won’t put down the drugs and alcohol that’s required before they’ll admit you, and they don’t want to work the required programs (education, counseling, etc.) that will help them permanently.
        And why not? Because well-meaning but foolish people keep giving them money when they’re out begging, so they’re able to sustain a self-destructive lifestyle,and there’s no suffering for their sins, which, as CS teaches, is what makes us TURN from the wrong behavior. Giving cash on the street often makes US feel better. It usually hurts the recipient. I’ve worked with homeless folks for 30+ years, and it’s THEIR opinion, not mine, that with very, very, very rare exceptions, giving money just keeps them on the street. In our community, for example, the many wonderful homeless-helping agencies are changing their ways, because after decades of free meals, laundry, message service, clothes, etc., the problem is out of control, and the street people’s response to all the help is often abusive, and more and more ungrateful. At the same time I don’t give cash, I always tell them why not – kindly but directly. I also find that buying somebody a sandwich often works (but often when you offer that, they’re not interested because it was a come-on for cash for drugs/alcohol. Or a better one: you go in a fast=food place and they order the most expensive things on the menu, while you’re ordering the cheap stuff for yourself. Again, the Golden Rule: Tell them, “You know, that’s really not very good manners. What less expensive thing might be just as good?” You’ll get their respect, and this has often lead to lasting friendships). I almost always offer panhandlers my name and phone number (especially when it’s an entire family), tell them about my interest to help them with both healing prayer as well as “human footsteps” and really encourage them to call. 30+ years later, I’ve never had ONE call come from this. I’ve hooked up help for countless homeless people, but not the panhandlers. Another frequently unknown issue is the huge incidence of mental health issues with folks on the street. Most of them have received treatment of various kinds, but they typically refuse to keep going to counseling because of their addictions (what the mental health world calls a “dual diagnosis”), so they can’t get more meds, so their only “treatment” becomes “I just don’t think about it.” Understandably, the issues usually worsen. CS gives a person an immeasurable help in knowing how to respond in a healing way, because it explains that Principled/Truthful and Loving behavior aren’t two different choices for how to respond…they’re synonyms, and required concomitants for any inter-action that genuinely leaves the street person better off than you found them.

        • Carlos says:

          Paul, I love your post, and the idea that a “Principled/Truthful and Loving behavior” constitutes the real state of man. We don’t have to sacrifice one for the other!

          I’m reminded of a story from “Mary Baker Eddy, Christian Healer” where she relates, “I saw a man crippled so that when he moved he was almost doubled up and had his hands on the ground to assist locomotion. I saw him seated on the curb with his head between his knees, on my way to a patient. As I passed I placed my hand on his head and said, ‘Do you know that Gods love you?’ At once he straightened up, erect as he ever had been.”

          Also, from Acts (chapter 3), “A certain man lame from his mother’s womb… whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple… seeing Peter and John… gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them. Then Peter said, ‘Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.’ And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength… and entered with them into the temple…”

          Both of these men received so much more their poor suffering sense ever thought possible!

  57. Confidence Akpoblu says:

    “Giving does not impoverish us in the service of our Maker, neither does withholding enrich us.” (S&H 79:31)
    As a child growing up with my sisters, my dad always reiterated the need to giving unselfishly, love unconditionally, is inclined to help strangers, and finally share the littlest thing we have with others.
    My dad asked my sisters and me to run an errand in a different community. After running the errand, we found a stray cat that was cold, hungry, and looked sick. Immediately, my sisters and I looked at each other and had the same idea to pick up the cat to take home.
    At home, we feed the cat, loved the cat, and supported the idea that it was not lost and had its right place. My dad got back from work and was impressed by the act of kindness that we decided to show this cat. He further went on to say we had to return the cat which left us heartbroken because he gave us an example saying “If we were all together in a place and he got separated from us what will we do? He explained more by saying, if a stranger approached us and said he will give us food and shelter, would we go with him?” We immediately said no and that we will ask the stranger to help us look for our dad. So my sisters and I understood that the cat had its home and we fed it when it was hungry, gave it shelter, and it was time to return it to its rightful owner.
    The next day, we took the cat back to where we found it and gave it to the wife of my dad’s friend: telling her how we found it and wanted to return it. Before we left, my sisters and I knew the cat was in its right place and was never out of the kingdom of God. We left with joy and gratitude because we understood that wherever the cat was going to be, it would be loved and cared for just like the way we treated it.

  58. Alex says:

    Amen Carlos! I love how the idea of personal goodness (being good on our own, without God) breaks down, and falls away when we really are feeling the work, the way laid out for us. And then the trick is to keep remembering that we are never the good, charitable one – it’s always God, and we are always the receivers.

    I was in a performance recently with a bunch of other musicians and before we all went out on stage one of the ensemble said to us, “We are in the audience” – the implication being that even though we are the performers in this concert, it is God who is putting on the show, and we too are included in the audience of God’s show. We too will reap the blessings of being at God’s concert.

  59. Carlos says:

    Hi Everyone. Hi Alex. I had another wonderful trip yesterday to the prison I’ve been visiting. For me this has been such a fulfilling, God-led experience. More and more I feel like I’m there to gain, not to give, because it’s not a burden at all, but such a blessing and honor to be a part of their growth and experience.

    To give a little background, this was not something that came out of a mere feeling that I should “do something” or “do more”. The opportunity came to me in a time when I was praying very deeply about my use in the world, and what it means to express God daily. I think it’s been a blessed experience because it came out of prayer first, and I think that’s the key to finding the “power” Alex mentions. The good doesn’t come from us, it comes form God. We reflect it. We witness it. I love Jesus’ view that he could of himself do NOTHING. So often we feel responsible for solving the problems of the world, and we are left tired or discouraged.

    I have been learning that my job in this world is simply to SEE God. The more I spend time on this, the more I am led to opportunities to express love which are right for me, where I can do the most good without harm to myself or others. This prison work has felt so natural, so effortless, it truly has felt like I’m merely witnessing God at work. And I’ve been so impressed with the receptivity and thoughtfulness I have found in this prison. What courage these men show! What humility! I even had one guy tell me that ending up in prison was the best thing that had ever happened to him. He could see God’s protection in that result. I’ve wondered… would I be able to think of that situation in the same way? I’m amazed at the strength and humility of that thought. Like I said… I’m the one learning here!

    I’ll report more on this work as the summer progresses, but I’ll leave you with this: we can accomplish the best good in prayer first, the type of prayer that acknowledges God’s goodness and omnipotence. This prayer often leads to human action which feels natural and blesses all, including ourselves, because God’s action is always a perfect blessing. It is God who does the work. Our job is to see it, understand it, and rejoice.

  60. Alex says:

    I find that people want to do good in the world, but very often are baffled at how to do good, and so sometimes give up. On the other side of the coin, folks who have found a way that they can make a difference, often POUR themselves into it. Maybe more than anything, people want to feel useful.

    So, how do you find the power, the means, to help? What has worked?

    In the presence of a way to help, people naturally will help!

  61. Isobel says:

    RE: Amy – You are right… “and a little child shall lead them”… Nothing like the pure hearts of children to show us our prejudices and hardened sensitivities. In the daily walk of my “grown-up” life, it is a challenge to always be able to give. It’s not that it’s not in my heart to do so, but giving money doesn’t always seem right, doesn’t seem to be enough somehow, and I am not sure if I can give them what they want. I’m not proud to admit it but these feelings make it easier sometimes to avoid walking too closely to a homeless person who is begging for money. I think that is why it has become meaningful to approach them, to look them in the eye with a smile, ask them how things are going, friend to friend. To step up to love, I have to see them as God’s child, as never invisible to God, whether or not I give food/money. On the way back out of the store, they always acknowledge me with a warm greeting and smile and often remember me the next time. That exchange brings out the bright shining divinity in the humanity of the moment. It cuts through an us & them or have/have not with respect and acknowledgement. It’s exchanging God’s currency, God’s supply of friendly goodness and love. That’s something I always want to be able to give freely. There are more ways that I give to help the hunger situation in my town. I’ve raised money, given extra food and produce from my garden, done benefits for food banks. None of those stories are quite as interesting to me as the challenge of greeting someone on the street and acknowledging their spiritual status.

  62. Ryan says:

    Because They Needed to be Loved:
    Promoting Jesus’s Teachings Through Radical Acts
    Ryan Winslow

    One pair of shoes: Shoes came in twos but rarely did laces or soles. One cart held the pantry, the closet, the bed, the garbage, the attic and whatever he had. He had neighbors who never had much to say or time to spare or money to share but still, he had neighbors. And I, I was new in town. I couldn’t help but notice he didn’t seem to have a home, a comb, or a reason to smile. So I asked him to lunch with me and lunching sounded grand to the both of us. That day I fed the hungry. We exchanged our stories over soup and a sandwich, which seemed to do us both some great good. He was hard of hearing and I was soft spoken but we both knew to smile and nod because in that moment, he needed to be loved and be loved as a child of God.
    Another day, in another way, I acted with Christ in my heart. I noticed a couple who coupled with anger—one angry, one crying, one yelling, one sighing—oh what children they seemed to be. Children they weren’t but children they are in the arms and the eyes of God. So I paused for a moment to mention a motion that they come have lunch with me. And the couple who coupled with anger and crying were smiling, just smiling at me. Then we sat and we lunched, one with soup, one with sandwich, and me, I saw Love come around. So I loved and they loved and Christ fed the hungry and we all were sure hungry that day. And I witnessed the center–that center of affection where home and heaven are found. Full with loaves and with fishes and other such dishes, we all simply went on our way. But the couple that coupled with anger before now held hands in their “home” that same day.

    My third story happened while driving around late at night, well downtown and quite lost. I had stopped at a light and I got a small fright when a tapping was heard on the glass. I rolled down the window for a woman who wanted what no one had yet asked me for. She just needed a ride to a shelter to hide from the storm and she asked nothing more. She promised my safety and thanked God for kindness. She was weary, and weathered, and worn. But her heart knew of angels. Her heart knew of home and she understood Truth to be true. My life was inspired, being led by the Christ and I’m sure that your life could be too.

  63. paul boy says:

    I’ve been spending several afternoons each month with an accused murderer, too young to drive a car. He’s being tried as an adult, and could possibly never be released for as long he lives.
    I’ve found that offering unproven, arms-length platitudes to someone in situations like this doesn’t have a scintilla of healing effect. The need and demand is to reach right into their hearts and souls with the most absolute sense of God that can be communicated.
    My friend likes music, and really related to a verse from David’s “tunes”: “From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” (Ps. 61) He was encouraged by The Message’s translation of a verse from Jeremiah: “This is God’s word…I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out – plans to take care of you, (and) not abandon you – plans to give you the future you hope for.”
    This young man’s greatest hope comes from starting to understand that regardless of what we’ve done or not done, our forever and only identity (not just his, but the gangster enemies that surround him in his jail unit also) is beloved hijos de dios. There’s been modest-appearing but wonderful progress and change in my friend’s character, as he’s started internalizing these truths. He told me with great satisfaction that he’d started saying “Thank you” when one of his enemies handed him something in class. “And you know what”, he said with a joyful sense of spiritual power, “they were totally shocked at first, but now they’ve started saying ‘Thank you’ back to me.” He told of how he and another former enemy had stepped apart from the main group one day, and both boys briefly wished each other well in their upcoming trials. Not a big thing in the “outside” world that you and I inhabit. But in the highly magnified “inside” world of incarcerated gang interaction, this was a very big deal.
    We concluded our visit last week reading together the words of Hymn 148. It made us both feel like we’d temporarily transcended the oppressive surroundings we meet in.

    In heavenly Love abiding,
    No change my heart shall fear;
    And safe is such confiding,
    For nothing changes here.
    The storm may roar without me,
    My heart may low be laid;
    But God is round about me,
    And can I be dismayed?

    • Carlos says:

      Paul, what a great story. Thank you so much for sharing…

      I’ve been visiting a prison in the Houston area since January and will be reporting on that a bit later. What wonderful deliverance awaits the captive heart!

  64. Melody says:

    I loved reading all the responses to this powerful radical act. When I encounter the homeless, I have felt insecure and frightened. I took a trip to New York through discovery bound and found that it is one of the most happening places in the world….the rumors are true. But after the first day of experiencing this amazing city I found I was most attracted to the homeless sitting everywhere. I thought of everything I was participating in, in this vacation and could not rid my thought of how blessed I am and why these people did not live like me.
    The next morning at our buffet style breakfast I waited for everyone to go through the line and get the food they wanted. I proceeded to ask the adults what they did with the extra food, when they responded having no idea, I started shoving tons and tons of fruit, cereal boxes, and chew bars into my backpack. I told everyone I’d be really hungry later. For the rest of the day I walked in the back of the group and handed my backpack food out to the homeless people I saw.
    I no longer saw them as scary but felt empowered that I was able to meet a need at that moment in time. I think about this special vacation for me often and wonder if I can do more in my day to day experience.

  65. Carlos says:

    Hi everyone! I am so delighted with all your comments. My hope for this summer is not merely awakening a desire to “do something” for those in need, but to dig deeper and discuss the type of perspective which enabled Jesus to see past a “person in need” and bring about reformation. To heal, to transform, to set someone free. Well, I think we have started to do that already!

    Keep it up! I am so excited about this adventure we’re embarking on…

    • Dear Carlos and all,

      I’m inspired by the idea of digging deeper not just to “do something” but to feel and live the motivation behind Jesus’s work. In my studies and prayer I feel like Jesus didn’t “will” or “force” anything. He simply lived good, God in every action. I feel like it’s almost so simple that we often miss it. His parables and experiences are not rocket science for me. They are just pure and simple Love expressed through action.

      Thanks for this reminder. :)
      Ian

      • Ann says:

        I again agree – and here’s a little story about just how simple it is, like your own story:
        For the first time in my life, I was living in a city in a dorm without a car and needed to stock my fridge with food and drinks for each meal that I’d have to also provide myself with. Then it hit me, I don’t have a car to load groceries into, I’ll be walking – how will this work? So I thought a bit and realized I could take my duffle and stuff some things in there, too. But I was still worried – would that be enough? God answered, “Just don’t worry about it, it’ll all work out” –

        I had many opportunities to go shopping before my roommate came, but I thought, no, she’ll need food, too, when she gets here and we’ll be eating together at times, I want to do my shopping with her. Lo and behold, when she finally arrives a day and several hours after me, her parents came with her, with a car…and we store we ended up deciding to go to happened to have a parking lot. Everything worked out without a single more worry from me.

        I’ve enjoyed living like this, and loving each other is no different (i.e. feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and sheltering strangers and visiting prisons)…in fact, my brother and I were also hopping around place from place and at time with my mother for the first week of summer, but we were ALWAYS provided for. And when we were thinking we were low on money and found ourselves at a hotel where the breakfast served was a $10 buffet (even if we just wanted a bowl of cereal) and in the morning, we woke up, met a couple in the elevator and found out from talking with them that apparently electricity and hot water were out previously in the morning (before we woke up) and therefore, when we went to breakfast, they never asked for money and we didn’t find out til the end of our meal that it’s because they were giving it for free that day because power was out. My mom was in tears….I could keep going on as to just how much it’s God, OUR Father-Mother, that provides for each one of every day….people are only REsources, and God is the only source.

  66. Ann says:

    Carlos-
    Your words are so true. That quality of honesty is so powerful and wonderful-and so is that unselfed expression of humility for all we are, for God’s ideas that include everyone.

  67. Amy says:

    Isobel — your daughter’s desire that everyone be housed (and her inability to turn a blind eye to the needs of the homeless) reminds me of something that happened to me with my daughter a few years back.

    We’d been a Sunday School workshop and open house at the Mother Church during Annual Meeting time. There was more food than was eaten and one of the caterers encouraged me to take a platter of cheese home with me. I thought it would be a good treat for the people who we were staying with so I took it.

    We walked 3 blocks to the subway with this enormous tray. As soon as we passed through the doors to station we saw a man who was homeless and who seemed especially needy. I asked him if he wanted some cheese and fruit. He gave us an enthusiastic yes. I started doling it out onto a napkin and my daughter (maybe 8 at the time) said, “Mom, give him the whole tray!”

    That man was thrilled. I don’t know what I was holding the food back for, but it was that childlike clarity that taught me something about giving with my whole heart. And that whole heart included praying for that man and other homeless people with more consistency ever since.

  68. Isobel says:

    My sweet 4 y.o girl was disturbed for weeks when she discovered there were people who did not have homes hanging out on street corners of our city, often scrounging for meals. She was baffled that they didn’t have what she did and really wanted to do something about it. Her empathy was a wake-up call to examine in myself if I was modeling the Christian life I knew was possible. I knew I could do better. We talked about praying for them to discover the home God is providing for them because a home exists for them as God is not impartial. We had great intentions, sometimes we managed to carry extra soccer snacks, a bag of oranges. But if we forgot to have food to give, I made a point to greet each person by making eye contact and wishing them well sometimes offering prayer, often buying the homeless newspaper they sell. Many reply with joyful appreciation to be acknowledged. One day, I was taking a walk and prayer break at a viewpoint overlooking our city. I felt impelled to pray for the homeless with a tender sense of compassion, acknowledging God’s love and provision for those in need. I felt a Christly sense of Love wash over my heart and the whole city. Within a day, I found a homeless person sleeping on my porch! Surprise! I made a sandwich and cup of coffee for him before he went on his way. A couple days later, another one was asleep on my porch. There were more encounters this week, then it stopped. It seems to me like an example of how our prayer connects us to the opportunities to care for our neighbors in tangible ways. It’s time again for me to wake up to loving God’s children in all walks of life. I know I can do better. My art studio is in an area of town with many homeless people and I meet them constantly while in the neighborhood. I’ll begin by slowing down to say hello and see where my prayers take me this time. Putting the prayer out there and I might be surprised again.

  69. Amy says:

    I had similar experiences while living in France, Alex. I had a broken leg and people picked me up and even sometimes turned from the direction they had been headed to get me where I needed to go.

    I didn’t hitchhike in the States during the same time period and I was wary of the warnings. I made sure that I prayed and listened when I did it in France. I didn’t take every ride and I used public transportation when possible. And truth be told, I don’t want my daughter–or her friends–to give it a go. ;)

  70. Alex says:

    I love that the Bible tells us to be “given to hospitality.”

    Over many years, I hitchhiked thousands of miles, and all the while lots of people were telling me I shouldn’t because it was so dangerous. Meanwhile, God was telling me, “You are innocent. People are innocent. There is only love between you.” Again and again and again, over and over, I met wonderful kind people who blessed me and were ready to be blessed by me.

    I met hundreds of people over that time and we were all fed by the meetings. Seeing the real man really enables AWESOME interactions that break from fear and open up paths for us to really feel good and be useful.

  71. itsaboutgood says:

    I was hungry and homeless in Kyoto, Japan. Reggie, A French guy who I met through couch surfing, gave me enough money to get back to Tokyo, and we blew all the money he had on expensive sushi and spent the last of our cash on getting into a rave at a club called “The Womb” with the intention to crash somewhere in the booming darkness.

    It was so packed that we left around 2 AM and found a park of homeless people nearby. We both spent the night there that night, sleeping on cardboard with rocks for pillows. That night staring up into the sky I heard the voice of Jesus in my head, “Foxes have holes, birds have nests, but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head.”

    I felt so comforted and close to the Father.

    We decided to move on around dawn and scrounged up enough change to get on a metro that went in a circle with heated seats. Around the tenth loop I remembered there was a place we could go for shelter and peace on that Sunday morning.

    We showed up at the First Church of Christ, Scientist Tokyo and after the service an American couple offered us a place to stay. Reggie already had a place, but I still had one night before my flight back to China. This beautiful couple took me back to their home, cooked me dinner, let me shower, and gave me a bed to sleep in.

    I never imagined that I would ever be the hungry who needed feeding or the smelly stranger to be sheltered, but in this case I was. And it taught me that God always provides and that his children are everywhere if we just open our hearts and our eyes.

    Thank you to all those who live Jesus’ teachings. Whether it seems big or small to you, his words turned into actions transform lives.

    • J_in_LA says:

      Just wanted to say I kind of loved reading this comment. That Japan adventure sounds amazing, except maybe the sleeping on rocks part. I really want to visit Tokyo, and choosing expensive sushi and partying at Womb over a sensible hotel is exactly something I would do…but interestingly, in all the situations I’ve made, um, questionable decisions–or been in less-than-stable environments (plenty of raves)–I’ve felt protected and cared for too. And always had solutions unexpectedly provided when I needed them ^_^

  72. Amy says:

    I always wanted to have a big family. When I was a kid, I told everyone I wanted 18 kids and I didn’t really shift my plans until I became a full-fledged adult. I ended up with just one kid so I’ve made up for the small number by inviting pretty much anyone and everyone into our home — sometimes to the dismay of the one other person who legitimately lays claim to a bed in our apartment.

    We’ve housed family, friends, friends who are family, friends of friends and sometimes people with a really tenuous link to anyone we know. Sometimes even people we don’t know at all. We live in NYC and people are always looking for a decent place to stay. ;)

    Once I got a request from someone my father knew to take in a couple she knew for a few days. It wasn’t a good time. I was overwhelmed at work, getting ready for a work trip, and my personal life was closing in on me too. I said no. But I felt bad so I offered to try to find them some place else to stay.

    That was more work than just letting them stay at the apartment. And something or Someone (God!) told me to reconsider so I went back and said they could come.

    It was a huge, huge blessing. I knew it the minute they walked in the door. I can’t tell you how much fun we had with these people. But it was more than the laughs and good company. They are spiritual seekers and livers and my daughter and I saw firsthand how they put God’s laws into practice…just in those 3 days. They agreed to meet with a group of young people we knew who aspired to be in the same business this couple was in and I watched them share the truth about the way God set things up in the most natural way that I don’t know that the kids even knew that they were being fed solid spiritual concepts. It was awe inspiring and has helped me shift the way I connect with others, too.

    I don’t always take in everyone who asks these days. It just isn’t always possible. But I still say, shelter strangers when God tells you to. Treat people the way you’d like to be treated if you were in the same situation. You are going to be blessed.

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