Poverty, My Greatest Blessing

I love old, beautiful churches, so it is no surprise I was drawn off the busy streets of downtown Chicago and through the front doors of Fourth Presbyterian Church this past Thursday morning. Inside I sat down to enjoy sacred shelter from the cold and the hustle and bustle of what was going on outside the majestic doors, although that was not my motive for going in. I walked into the church wanting to experience Jesus and expecting I would. I had no pre-conceived notions what that would look like, but imagine my surprise when I found what I was unknowingly seeking in the eyes and embodiment of a homeless person.

After a couple of minutes inside, I broke through my fascination with the beauty around me, and I noticed near the front of the church a handful of people sitting on both sides of the middle aisle. I quickly realized they were homeless. They had come in off the streets to warm up and rest. I sat silently in the back just observing. God began to make something evident to me. I wasn’t there to watch homeless people in a beautiful church. I was there to remember one of life’s wealthiest truths.

There in that reverent church, I felt drawn to engage, so I walked forward and sat down next to one of the men. I said, “hello.” His disposition was gentle and relaxed. He was soft-spoken. It was apparent that he and his friends were broken, impoverished, homeless, needy, unclean and dependent for every need.

His eyes. I will never forget them. They looked sad but settled. They were sunken yet soft, wrinkled while welcoming. The story they expressed was foreign yet familiar.

This man and his friends bore no weight of expectations beyond shelter and rest. No schedules were taunting them, and no plans or unmet duties were daunting them. They just came as they were, destitute, weary and worn.

I sat there in clean, warm clothes seemingly not lacking, yet oddly I knew that even though it looked like the homeless people had nothing, in a different way they had everything, the most important thing, I need every day. A fresh awareness of the poverty of my heart is my greatest blessing.

As I sat with this man, I asked God to make me more like him. That sounds crazy, right? Not at all. I want to enter into The Lord’s presence fully aware that I am poor, needy, lost and unclean without a Savior outside of myself. I want to come free of distracting thoughts about schedules, deadlines, and duties, and for the love, thinking about what I will eat next! I want to come as I am, not as I feel I should be. I want to come aware of what is but more focused on the hope of what will be. I want to come empty of myself because it is only then I can be filled by my Savior.

These people were an exposed and unfiltered expression of me. I can dress up in my best smile, clothing, and accessories, surround myself with desirable things and people, but underneath it, and right in the middle is an impoverished heart that cannot be dressed up. It is destitute, broken, frail and in desperate need of a Shepherd every day.

Just like the people I encountered, I am a homeless heart wandering around grasping for places of shelter and rest because this world is not my home and everyday-everyday-I feel the ramifications of my exile.

The good news is this, though, I do not wander without hope or direction when I remember it is my poverty, not my perfection, popularity or “power” that yokes me to the love of my Provider. Neither do you, friend. Neither do you.♥️

And, this was the hymnal song that was on the board.


It is Our Poverty That Makes Us Rich

Yesterday we took a boat to the British Virgin Islands.  I did not know much about the BVIs and was fully expecting nothing but beauty.  Once we reached the first island, we boarded an open-air taxi and headed for The Baths National Park.  We had to go through a small village to get there.  I was immediately shocked and impacted by the sights of poverty we were driving through.  There were signs and smells of depravity everywhere I turned. Residents sat outside to catch fleeting bursts of refreshing air because there was no air conditioning.  I felt like I was intruding into their small world as a privileged, undeserving sightseer as we drove by each “house.”

In those moments I felt an incongruence in my soul of extravagant gratitude for what I “have” and extreme grief for what they seemingly do not.  I wanted to hide from the sadness that was invading my heart, but I could not numb myself to it.  I wondered who these people were, and if they knew they were poor, or if this was just the way of life to them?   Were they happy or were they sad people who felt trapped in a world of destitution?  Mostly, I wondered, if they know Jesus?

I found myself wanting to close my eyes and not look because not seeing would have been easier, but I could not turn away because what is not seen cannot be known, and what is not known cannot be seen.

I went on our tour with a heavy torque gripping my heart.  We navigated through beautiful rock formations, caves and swam in beaches so pure and beautiful that it took my breath away.  Despite it all, I could not shake my heartache.

On the taxi ride back to the boat, we again passed through the small, indigent village that is now branded into my existence.  I was questioning The Lord, how can this be that there is so much poverty woven in the midst of all this untainted beauty?  How can these two things co-mingle?  Immediately a sobering reminder graced my struggling spirit.

 D’Anna, this is a picture of you.  You can dress up in your best smile, clothing, and accessories, surround yourself with desirable things, but underneath it all, and right in the midst is an impoverished heart that cannot be dressed up.  It is destitute, broken and in desperate need of a Savior every day.

Broken people, broken places, broken worlds; they may all present differently, but a common brokenness is indigenous to us all.  My awareness of the destitution of my own heart is my greatest asset.  It is when I realize just how poor I am, that I become rich. When I or my world becomes sufficient in my estimation, I am in trouble.

In this life wealth is most often judged by superficial appearances or numbers indicating monetary things that can disappear in the blink of an eye.  Regarding eternity, however, being rich is knowing that we are helpless to the presence of our splintered souls yet that is the avenue by which we find abundance from the sacrifices of a Savior, who longs to be in a relationship with our bankrupt souls.

On the ride back to the boat I paid closer attention to details throughout the small village.  I was very comforted by the presence of spiritual graffiti everywhere I turned.  There were bible verses right in plain sight that I did not see the first time because I was so blinded by the presentation of the land that I missed the presence of The Lord.

The hope I left with is this; life is often incongruent to my desire for everyone to be happy and comfortable.  Happy and comfortable are circumstantial frailties, not gospel actualities.  The people of The British Virgin Islands clearly understand that it is not what they have, but Who they have that makes their lives sufficient.  This side of Heaven, where there is beauty there will always be brokenness.  I tend to forget that so quickly.  Lord Jesus, may my wealth always be found in you alone.


Are We Living In Poverty or Provision

The little girl took the bread and, crumb by crumb started eating it.  I said to her, “Eat, eat the bread.  You are hungry.”  And the little one looked at me and said, “I am afraid.  When the bread is finished, I will be hungry again.” (A story from the life of Mother Teresa).

This story not only pulls at my heart but rips it apart.  Sadly, though, when I minimize God and maximize fear, I am living in poverty just like the afraid little girl.  Fear says you cannot trust God for His provisions to be enough.  You do not have to be homeless and hungry to be impoverished.  When we do not feel secure, we live a small and static existence.  God invites us to enjoy a free and bold way of living because He alone is the grantor of our daily bread.

In what ways are you suffocating your life because you are afraid?  Will your life be derailed by fear or defined by faith?  The decision to choose faith, and be free to get out and live, love, leap, and lead is one we must make every day; in doing so, you will be amplifying The Father and annihilating fear.