"The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork." Psalm 19.1
We have been having a wild and wonderful summer out here in Southern California. The work of Inherit the Earth continues, which many of our normal routines and rhythms intact despite the heat! Our Thursday Bible Study is thriving. We’ve had at least two friends find housing and get off the street. The Rescue Shop is thriving, being used for one-on-one and group meetings: problems puzzled through, prayers offered and answered, lives changed, and blessings enjoyed. Some of this is very practical, like having a place to get cleaned up before a job interview, and all of it is very relational: a place to be able to sit and rest without a pretense or agenda other than escaping the heat and having someone to talk to.
We have also gotten to experience some delightful disruptions through our summer excursions. It probably comes at no surprise that being homeless is not exactly fun, and times of recreation are few and far between. Back in June we planned on doing something outside of Redlands every other week, and we’ve done a pretty good job of hitting that goal.
Some of the places we’ve visited: Doheny State Beach at Dana Point, Lake Fulmor and Thurman Flats in the San Bernardino National Forest, and swimming at Jerry Lewis Swim Center. We have some time left yet, and we are hoping to take a couple more trips further afield. Here are some pictures of all the fun:
Ok, so some people might be wondering, “Why bother?” Like everything IEO does, we try to be thoughtful and intentional about the "how" and the "why" with these trips. As I’ve already mentioned, recreation time is just not a big part of the “homeless experience.” ...But aren’t "homeless people" just lazy, loafing away the hours “doing nothing”? Well, to be fair, it can often appear that way, but appearances can be misleading. Most of day is consumed by the “hustle”: where’s the next meal, shower, or service? Collecting cans, belongings in tow, always looking over your shoulder. Not knowing where to sleep at night. And drug addiction can be experienced as constant borderline panic, looking for the next hit, only relieved periodically by the numbing madness of the “high.” All of that goes on at street level: paved over, encrusted in concrete, traffic and trash. A land flowing with filth and money.
Getting out of the mindset that has convinced itself that this is “normal” requires a leap of the imagination. Living in a world that is different from the only world you’ve ever seen can feel impossible. Getting out of town, being physically removed, can be a powerful relief; its proof positive that there is something outside that still exists and can still be reached.
So as simple as these little trips aren’t just about filling a schedule or killing time. They certainly aren’t about giving people who “do nothing” another opportunity to sit around.
On our last trip we went up to Thurman Flats, which is a spot that is hardly going to end up on a postcard. It’s a picnic area with a short trail down to a small creek. There are power lines overhead. There is graffiti on some of the rocks. But its just enough of a leap, enough a crack in the fog to be a huge blessing. While we were there some of our friends shared what a difference being out in nature makes for their mindset. Sitting with our feet dangling in the sandy creek, listening to the water, feeling the mountain breeze we were all reminded that there is more to life than whatever has been immediately in our face. We shared about this with each other; we shared that we need help seeing outside of ourselves; we shared that God speaks to us through nature. We are humbled, joyful, and happy.
These moments give us the opportunity to pray together, laugh together, play silly games together. It gets us out of our ruts and routines. Its a disruption of a disrupted life, and that little bit of shaking can make all the difference. It is God's kindness, after all, that leads every single one of us to repentance.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. - Matthew 6:33 (ESV)