What's Ordinary

My good friend C gave Lulah a money jar for her first birthday last month. It is an old tin coffee can with a slit in its plastic top for coins and a small sign on the front that reads “Lulah’s EDU Fund.” When he was writing out the words for the sign, it became clear to me that he didn’t feel that comfortable spelling the word “education,” so we left it at that. Every time I’ve seen him since her birthday, he has come back to my office with a sweaty handful of pennies for her jar. Last week he pointed out a quarter in all the copper and said with his toothless grin, “This week there’s some silver too!” C is our most devoted food project volunteer and also a meal recipient at one of our truck stops. He had some health trouble a couple months ago and when I went to visit him in the hospital his nurse told me, privately, that upon arriving at the hospital he first identified himself as a volunteer at The Nashville Food Project…

A few weeks ago my family and I landed in BNA after a weeklong vacation. While Robbie and Lulah were waiting for our bags at baggage claim, I ran into the women’s restroom. As I turned the corner, I saw a young woman and former camper of mine, T. She was servicing the bathroom stalls, working now as a custodian for a company who has a contract with the airport. We had our own little reunion in the bathroom, hugging and squealing with delight at seeing each other after all these years. We caught up a little and I heard about how she wasn’t in school because she was needing to work, how her sister has a job over on Elm Hill Pike and how her mom and grandma had been facing some health problems. I introduced her to Robbie and Lulah, exchanged contact info and we made plans to get together soon.

My staff and I have been fortunate enough to work with a small group of men who are living in a halfway house after many, many years in prison. They volunteer in our kitchens every week and do a lot of our baking for the hundreds of meals we send out on our trucks. Because they are at the food project so often, we have had some great time to get to know them and hear their stories. They were all locked up before they had the chance to finish school and get jobs. Now, with criminal records, it is almost impossible for them to find employment—the critical objective before their time is up at the halfway house. My staff and I are hustling now, trying to figure out how we can offer these guys some opportunities or hire them on at a living wage.

I recently heard an interview with Father Greg Boyle of Homeboy Industries in L.A. say about Christians:

“We have to have our sacred in a certain way. It has to be gold-plated and cost millions and cast of thousands or something… We’ve wrestled the cup out of Jesus’ hand and we’ve replaced it with a chalice. Because who doesn’t know that a chalice is more sacred than a cup? Never mind that Jesus didn’t use a chalice... Jesus doesn’t lose any sleep that we will forget that the Eucharist is sacred. He is anxious that we might forget that it’s ordinary, that it’s a meal shared among friends.”

As I grow in faith and in my ministry, I feel God pulling me toward what is ordinary. Pennies in pockets, old coffee cans, a joyful reunion in a bathroom stall, friends in need of work – any work. It is not always comfortable being there. But I don’t think Jesus calls us to be comfortable.

Would love to hear from you this week about times you’ve found God in what is most ordinary and how we can best share the cup in our hands.

Grace and peace and love, tallu