Thursday, June 23, 2011

Tree of Life

Every Saturday morning, when I was in elementary school, I used to go to Temple Beth Shalom in Miami Beach.  I would partake in various activities centered around the Jewish faith.  One of our common activities was music time.  During that period of what felt like forever to me, we would sing random Jewish songs.  Aside from the traditional holiday melodies, there is only one song that resonates in my mind.  It was called, It's a Tree of Life.  It went like this:
It is a tree of life to them that hold fast to it
And all of its supporters are happy

This past Sunday was Father's Day, so I hopped in the car and made my way down to Miami Beach to spend the day with my father and the family.  They were dying to see a movie, called The Tree of Life.  I vaguely remember hearing about it, but it sounded familiar to me.  

Last week was a rough one for me!!  I battled temptation, and gave in several times, letting Erika and myself down.  I had also began a little internally kept, self-cursing method, in an attempt to keep my head level while battling with my own thoughts.

I sat in the theatre, about fifty percent full, as the previews rolled away.  On the black screen appears two bible verses:
Job 38:4, 7 Where were you when I laid the foundations of the Earth?  When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for Joy?

Why is it that when we get caught in the rain, we run to shelter, but if we are in an enclosed area when it rains, the sight and smell of rain entices us to run in it?  

As I watch the movie, I can't help but think about how incredibly made it is.  I have never seen a movie that has kept me thinking as much as this one.  Also, I am absolutely taken aback by how it is written and made.  The creativity is displayed in full form, keeping me alert and focused.  

I was in the garage with my father, attempting to reorganize some things.  I felt a cool breeze, and before I could think about it, the rush of rain echoed through the garage.  I stood at the edge of the open door and peered out.  It smelled sweet to my nostrils.  I took a step head outside.  The cool water ran over my head and neck, until I was nearly engulfed in the droplets.  

The movie concludes to the chatter of confusion.  Not one person, who was talking about the movie they had just seen, knew what the movie was about.  I would say that this movie is not for everyone, yet I would definitely encourage everyone to see it with an open mind.  It is the kind of movie that has the possibility of broadening ones perspective, but requires a large amount of thought and attention.

Hallelujah, grace like rain falls down on me
Hallelujah, all my stains are washed away, washed away

I was one of the few people who got the movie, and it changed me.  It gave me a fresh perspective on my life.  When I see how faith in God and Christ helps guide others' lives, even in fictional movies, I am moved.  I have a newfound passion and desire to serve the Lord even more than before.  I have made a promise to myself, that even in the worst of times, there is no reason to fret the possible outcomes.  Instead, I have come to terms with the fact that God is in control, and in those times, HE will be the one that pulls me out of the mess I am in.  I have the understanding that God is my tree of life, and as long as I hold fast to it, I will forever be well and happy!


I have also come to terms with the fact that God is not always going to be doing his work solo.  I have learned that he tends to use other people or things as vessels to put his works on display.  If the question is, where is my vessel!?  Just pray and be patient, because the day she comes into your life, you'll know! ✝

Thursday, June 9, 2011


is in the eye of the beholder...

It's truly amazing what you can find!  A place, hidden, 25 (or so) miles away.

We get off I-95, make a few turns and we are here.  Upon stepping out into this new environment, I am perplexed.  I look around, expecting to find some sort of direction, anything, a yellow brick road?  I look behind me.  I was attracted to this familiar sound.  The sound of sneakers on a gym floor drew my eyes upon the county jailhouse.  Looking up at this monstrous building, I swallowed hard.  Immediate thought, "This is going to be interesting."

The city of Miami is usually hugely overshadowed by the night life, the rich neighborhoods, and the vast amount of tourists. This is true for good reason.  As humans, life is lived in the fast lane, only slowing down in order to take glance at the luxurious things.  These material things are commonly perceived as beautiful.

So the routine begins: lights out at 11, up at 7.  A full list of projects and locations are posted on the wall waiting for us to move at full steam.  Breakfast is eaten, the lunch is packed and we are on our way by 830.  Monday:  Touching Miami with Love.  We begin our journey down the street towards Overtown.  It is about a 10-15 block walk, but it all looks the same to me.  With every run down house we pass, I think of how privileged we are to have the things we do.  We are greeted at TML with two great hearts, Jason and Angel.  They run the entire operation, helping children to be occupied and entertained through camps and after school day care.  Our job is to help with various odds and ends throughout the building.  We complete everything by 4 and head back to where we came.  Day 1=good, successful, but seemingly slower for me than the rest of the group with us.

The upper middle class families bask in their ability to eat, shower, and sleep in a comfortable bed whenever they please, without skipping a beat.  Why would anyone choose to not have these luxuries?  Why doesn't everyone have everything?  Why is it, that most people don't even turn their eye to those in need, as if they are more human than the underprivileged?

Tuesday:  Miami Rescue Mission.  We take the van a few streets over from our location.  Graffiti covers the walls of this part of the city.  People lay on the sidewalk.  They hug the doorsteps of the buildings.  We enter the warehouse, and get to work sifting through all of the materials in storage.  Apparently a party is going to be thrown by this organization in the near future and we turn out to be a BIG help in rearranging their things in an orderly fashion.  Before we depart, we are given a tour of the entire organization.  They cover a few street blocks, and the vast amount of buildings and employees make the Miami Rescue Mission possible.  Day 2=better than day 1; still a bit lackadaisical and a bit slow.

Homelessness surrounds us.  It is all over, yet we tend to ignore it.  We sit in our air conditioned cars with music blasting, as there are people walking by your window wondering...wanting a measly penny from you.  We walk swiftly on the street when we pass a person laying on the ground, and immediately place a tight grip on our belongings, as if the resting person is some sort of thief.

Wednesday:  Yvonne Learning Center.  We hop in the van and get on the road for a little longer of a journey.  As we pull off the highway, it becomes evident that I am the minority in these parts of town.  Little Haiti.  We arrive at the center and make our way inside.  Patrick, the said leader of the organization, greets us with great enthusiasm and starts the day off with his story of why he is where he is today.  As we walk through the school, the children in the classrooms stand and greet us with a kind good morning.  Then we are split up into groups, and  Patrick lays out a list of tasks to be completed for the day.  We conclude the day with me in a mango tree.  Patrick has an apparent affinity for mangos, and he went to great lengths to get them.  Odd to figure that, even though he was not the one in the tree.  He blamed his back.  I just hope, now looking back, that he didn't have a mango tree accident of his own.  Day 3=The best day so far!  Went by very fast, felt as though a lot was completed, and related very well with our leader, Patrick.

Why do the majority of people clench up and pick up speed as they pass by someone foreign to them?  Why is it that when people are met face to face with someone of the opposite race, they can't help but awkwardly say [with all of the nervousness possible in their voice] "hey. how are you?"  Why are 95% or more of the jokes told, racial?  Why are people so stuck on labeling by race?

Thursday:  second day at the Yvonne Learning Center.  Again, back to the lobby where we await Patrick's arrival.  I wonder what sort of adventure he may have in store for us.  I also ponder his thoughts regarding our work from the day before.  Sure enough, as he addresses us, the first thing he talks about is Wednesday's work!  He tells us that we all did a good job and he has a lot of things for us to do.  We get to it, and before we know it our half day there is over.  Goodbyes are said, and we drive from little Haiti for the final time on the trip.  It was a half day because we had a dinner planned for us back at our place of origin.  We have a little bit of down time, then we start to set up for the dinner.  Everything is in place just in time for the flood of people through the doors.  The less fortunate, the needy, the homeless, come in to receive a hot meal, a shower, and have the option of swapping out their clothes for some new, clean ones.  Day 4=Incredible!!  The day flew by, and it felt like it was the most productive day of the trip, even though there was a lot of down time between our morning work, and the evening dinner.

We expect so much from this world.  That is the problem.  Why do we live for this world; the things in it, the people in it?  What is so important that we need to have, all for us?  What we all need is God!  Jeremiah 29:13 says, You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  

We were told on Sunday, when we arrived, that the mission of the D.O.O.R. Network is to see the face of God in the city.  By the final day, I was able to comprehend that statement and I saw God's face in everything we did throughout the entire time we were on the trip.  The face of God shouldn't only be seen on a mission trip.  The face of God is something that should be seen every single day, in everything that we do.

Once I put my heart into it, God showed me true beauty.  The kind of beauty that you can't find in a magazine--the kind of beauty that you just might have to go to the slums of a neighboring city to find.