I get lot's of mail. It litters my desk as it piles up day after neglected day. Other things have priority like sermons, Bible studies, phone calls and counseling. So once or twice a week I take a deep breath and dive in. About 10% are requests from evangelists, comedians, Christian magicians and vocalists who want to preach, perform, sing or play at Dallas Bay. Those can be sorted into file 13 pretty quickly. I only prayerfully entertain those I have personally encountered somewhere along the way or have been referred by a trusted friend or colleague. Another 5% are periodicals or magazines. Some of which I have subscribed to and others are trying to sell me something. Another 10% or so are correspondence from members, convention agencies or local pastors. Let's see if my math is correct that leaves another 75%. The remaining 3/4 of my incoming mail is comprised of requests for contributions from various charitable organizations from either me personally or DBBC. Most of these are legitimate groups who are doing some great work. They consist of orphanages, both domestic and foreign, mission churches needing start-up funds, pro-life groups, independent foreign missionaries, para-church organizations, shelters for the abused and homeless and so many others I cannot even begin to list them all. I have to be honest with you. I do not read them all. It's just frustrating to be reminded that we live in such a broken world and in such difficult times there are too few funds to go around.
So how do you deal with such frustration? How can you toss so many requests for help into the cylindrical file draw under your desk and just keep working? I can only share how I deal with it. I ask God to make me sensitive to any need that He would have me to contribute to. I have learned long ago that a need does not necessarily constitute a call. There are too many good causes and truly needy people to help them all.
So I guess I should tell you what has prompted these thoughts. This morning I was going through my mail and painfully tossing one request to help into the waste basket after another. I grabbed one and the Spirit prompted me to look further. Being the uber-spiritual person that I am I tossed into the file along with the others. Then trying to get on with "more important" tasks I could not get my mind off the newsletter now next to spent handkerchiefs and post-it notes. Not being able to concentrate on anything else I decided to at least skim the paper and thus alleviate any guilt on my part. Why, I might even pray for the organization or person who sent it. That would sure win me some browny points with my Boss!
As I looked at the newsletter I tried to skim over and get the gist of the articles. Each one drew me into the story. One was about a homeless single mom with an autistic daughter who had gone to college to better her situation. Not only did she get a degree, but she bought a home after finding employment and is now mentoring young women in her neighborhood. Another was a story about a monk who is praying for tents. Not for himself or his family, but for the homeless in Chattanooga. He talked about the homeless having to keep moving from one hiding spot to another to stay ahead of the police. He even quoted Bob Dylan. "How does it feel to be on your own, with no direction home? Like a complete unknown? Like a rolling stone?" Any monk who can quote Dylan is a friend of mine. Then turning to the front page I read of another family who are not poor, nor homeless. As a matter of fact, I'll bet financially they are better off than most of us. So why are they in this newsletter? Maybe because they volunteer at night shelters for the homeless and serve meals at the community kitchen. Then it hit me why the Spirit had prompted me to retrieve this one correspondence. I have been blessed with so much and in return I give so little. No I can't help everyone, but I can help a few. If we all helped a few, then the few would become many.
I decided to write a check and give it to this organization. I thought about how much I should give. Immediately, I came up with a number that would definitely alleviate my guilt for not giving much in the past. But just as the Spirit had caused me to look at the paper the first time He prompted me to put down the pen and reconsider. Now what, I thought to myself. You want me to give more? I looked at the paper again and the Lord directed my attention to a part of the story I had neglected to read before. The paper asked that I consider skipping one meal and sending it to the organization. The Lord said that is what I want you to do. He said this is not about writing a big check. This is about being obedient. So I wrote the check and a note to go with it. I put both in an envelope and sent it if off. I then tossed the newsletter back into the waste basket and there it now awaits the janitor. My prayer for you is that you are more sensitive than I am when it comes to being open to the promptings of the Spirit in your life. My desire is not to have you impressed with what I do. I'm afraid I have neglected God's voice more often than I have been obedient. My desire is that we all work together to share the blessings of God with some of those who are hurting the most.
Matthew 12:20 (NKJV)
20 A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench, Till He sends forth justice to victory;