Paul’s Message: Live the Now

LiveInTheNowAs I sit and gather my thoughts for this article, the snow is gently falling outside my window. It’s covered the trees and the walk. The day’s light is growing stronger.

Hala, our new puppy is nibbling on my slipper not so subtly waiting for me to play with her (she will get into some mischief here in a minute as if to say, “If you’re not going to pay attention to me, I will make you pay attention to me!” oh, how puppies are like us … ). Carrie is finding some much needed rest and recovery after a tough few work weeks. Lydia is home (acting all adult like) and Eric is on his way. It’s quiet right now … a blessed quiet.

One year is ending and a new one is dawning. I know that around New Years, we tend to gaze backward with thanksgiving or regret or both. We look forward with a sense of foreboding or anticipation or both. I intended to write about the new year coming up, but a friend reminded me not to get so caught in the past, or so lost wondering about the future that you miss out on the present moment.

2013 was full. 2014 will be too, I am sure. Some of it will be great/awesome/ life affirming and some of it will be challenging/overwhelming, perhaps even wounding. That’s life.

In a bit, I am going to have to shovel the driveway and walk. I am going to have feed the dog, finish the bulletin, and write my sermon (and take care of that mischievous puppy that has decided to steal ornaments off our tree … )

As a church, we will have a conversation about signs and faith, and faith and life. We will have a mission to follow, ministries to support, and lives to bless. Our agenda is full.

But we can’t miss the power of the present. There is possibility in this moment. We can focus on the present and enjoy it to its fullest. We can devote our full strength and attention to the present moment’s challenges. Our faith tells us that the Spirit is with us in our present. If we focus on this moment, we are more able to sense that presence. That’s living.

So live the now, my brothers and sisters. I know this isn’t original, but we can always use a reminder. Now about that puppy…

Peace, Paul

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  • A Season of Thanksgiving

    When I lived in Zimbabwe, I worked at City Presbyterian Church in downtown Harare (rhymes with Ferrari). I lived a few miles outside of the city but would drive into the city most days; unless I was traveling around the country visiting another church or a Presbyterian-run school. City Church, as it was called, was just a half-block away from Harare Gardens, the local city park. In addition to being a beautiful, if somewhat neglected, park, Harare Gardens was also the home to several unhoused people who had no family to turn to for help and few resources of their own. Some of these people, mostly young men but also children, would spend time outside the front gate of City Church. Here, they knew they could find some money or food when they were most hungry. They would earn a dollar by “guarding” the cars of anyone who parked on the street, ensuring that no one broke into or stole the cars.

    I got to know a number of these young men while I lived in Zimbabwe. One day I learned that some of them played on a soccer team (football in Zimbabwe). They played against other teams at a local park and dreamed one day of competing in the Homeless World Cup. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as the Homeless World Cup, but look it up; it’s for real. Only a few members of the team had proper soccer boots (secondhand cleats, which had been given to them after years of use by another owner). The rest of the team members played barefoot. Can you imagine organizing a soccer team when you’re homeless? This team has no funds and no equipment and is playing against local high schools or adult clubs. I bought these team members a few nice soccer balls so they could practice. Another day I brought my camera with me to work and took pictures of them playing in a game. I had some copies developed at a local store and gave the team some action shots of themselves. The pictures weren’t all that great, but they may have been the first ones they’d ever seen of themselves in action on the football pitch. 

    The Homeless World Cup is designed to bring attention to those around the world who are unhoused, with the vision of a world without homelessness. Their mission is to use football to support and inspire people who are unhoused to change their own lives and to change perceptions and attitudes towards people who are experiencing homelessness. I don’t imagine that those young men I knew back in 2011 and 2012 ever made it to the Homeless World Cup, but perhaps they did. The last Homeless World Cup tournament took place in Cardiff, Wales in 2019 (before Covid). A team from Mexico beat a team from Chile in the top-tier Level 1 finals, 5-1.

    It turns out that a team from Zimbabwe did miraculously make it to Cardiff to play in the Homeless World Cup, coming in 3rd place in the Level 3 Tournament. I wonder if any of those young men I knew wound up on this 2019 team. After all these years I don’t know what happened to those young men. Being homeless in a nation with little or no social safety net, I fear that they have perished from years of a rough life on the streets and no access to quality health care. But perhaps they’ve somehow survived the economic, social, and political turmoil associated with homelessness in Zimbabwe. If I can ever return to Zimbabwe, I hope to walk the streets around City Church and Harare Gardens and seek out any familiar faces. I know I would remember the faces and I believe they would remember me, as there hasn’t been a PC(USA) Mission Co-Worker in Zimbabwe since my departure. The stark reality is that if the faces aren’t familiar to me there will undoubtedly be new faces of those living on the streets and sleeping in the covered culverts of Harare Gardens.

    This season of Thanksgiving, you can be sure that the unhoused people of the world will be in my prayers, particularly those Zimbabweans living on the streets of Harare. May we too work toward a world without homelessness.

    Pastor Derek

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