The bottom line

She walked up to me after a church service. “Can we talk,” she said. We stepped away from the crowd. “Can I have some toilet paper? We’re out at home.”

She knew we had a closet with paper goods. We got it for a few cents a pound from a local non-profit that distributed paper and personal products and diapers and cleaning goods. They got it for the price of shipping from the returns center for a major discount chain. It was a great deal. Toilet paper by the pound is cheap.

How did the returns center get it? Because packages snag. Because things get returned. Because people go to the store and need toilet paper. They open a big package and take one roll.

A couple months ago, the returns center closed. This week, the non-profit closed. But people still need toilet paper.

Not all of us, of course. Some of us can afford to throw it into trees, rolls at a time. Some of us have both dry and wet tissues.

But some of us have to ask for help, quietly away from the crowd. People with kids, or medical bills, or other challenges. People with full hearts and empty hands and cupboards.

I know that there are a variety of reasons that people can’t afford things we consider basic. But I also know that it’s pretty easy to meet basic needs. Giving away two rolls of every twenty we buy would help.

I knIMG_0011ow. You could just buy a package with the equivalent of 72 rolls, or a case of facial tissue, or a pallet of paper towel. And be done with it. And food banks or shelters or churches with helping hands like ours would be grateful.

But I think that a weekly or monthly sharing would keep the need fresh in our minds. And just think. Several times a day we’d have a reminder to pray for people who need things like toilet paper.

Reading together – three suggestions

The other day I talked about reading the Bible together. I thought I’d offer some places to start.

The immigrant. 

Ask a group of four other people to read Ruth with you, meeting once a week for six weeks. Eat supper first. Talk about your week. Then read Ruth out loud. Talk about how her life reflects difficulties people you know are facing: immigration, widowhood, in-laws, physical danger for women.

Write down all the things that you don’t understand:

  • What’s the writer referring to?
  • When is this being written?
  • What does that mean?

Take a week. Spend the week looking for answers. The next week, come back and read the whole book out loud again. What answers have people found in their living this week? What answers have people found in their digging in Scripture during the week? What have people found in conversations with people? What answers have come from meditating on the text? Do it again for another week. (This means reading the whole book six times.)

Letters to young churches. 

In the early part of the book of Revelation (chapters 2-3), there are messages for seven churches. With six other friends, divide up the messages. Use a study bible or wikipedia or whatever resource you can find to learn about the city, the culture, the church. Then spend a couple hours some Friday night over dinner reading the messages and sharing what you learned.

The Job

Read the book of Job out loud. Break it into sections. Figure out a little staging with narrator, Job, wife, friends, and God. Read every section in the staging. When reading the messages of the friends, use a tone of voice that you think best captures the speaker. After each section, talk about why the speakers’ words might not be comforting.


You can read through the sermon on the mount in a reflective way in Learning a New Routine: Reading the Sermon on the Mount a Little Bit at a Time.

apparently ordinary woman renounces regret.

She was out walking with her husband. It was an ordinary night.

Actually, it was a kind of special night. It was garbage night.

At some times in their lives, garbage night was a furniture shopping night. Dumpsters, garage sales, curbs, castoffs. Every room of the house has some reminder of these shopping trips.

She looked at him. “It’s too bad we’ve got so much garbage furniture.” They walked a couple steps. He was still figuring out how to respond when she said, “No, I’m not sorry.”

walk in loveThey talked about the church in the community built on the garbage dump. (They have a rock picked from the floor of the church.) They talked about the choices that have taken them on walks like this. They talked about contentment.

They’ve discussed second-hand furniture in the past, while sleeping in the bed resting on a frame first used a generation earlier. Sitting at the supper table, they can still find letters formed while a child pressed too hard while doing homework at a table rescued decades before from a house torn down.

This could be, of course, a story about old and new. But that’s not exactly the story for this apparently ordinary woman.

It seems to be more similar to other people, out walking, two at a time. Before they headed out, Jesus, their teacher, said, “Don’t take much with you. Travel lightly.”

He then gives a whole chapter worth of instructions about where to stay, how to interact, what to do. Much of it is about resistance and conflict. By the end of the walk, he said, you could end up in jail. Which makes us think that following must be crazy and scary and odd.

But really, it might look just like two people, out on a walk, renouncing regret.

Inside the processing.

Paul does design work in the housing industry. Someone else works with customers who want cabinets. Those dreams and dimensions come to Paul. He takes spaces and figures out how cabinets will fit in them.

A new guy is sitting with him these days. He’s learning how to do this work, too. Paul said, “Part of my work happens inside my head, as I look and plan and adjust the drawings in my head. But then I realize that the new guy can’t see in my head.”

Paul has to explain the processing to the new guy. Not just the process. The processing. How Paul looks at a situation and his experience with design and with installation and with the product and with the customer and brings them together.

It’s hard to explain this. But the better Paul explains, the more successful the new guy will be at understanding that processing is necessary. That this work takes reflection. That what happens when the fingers are off the keyboard is as important as what happens when they are entering dimensions.

Paul gets this.

So did, I think, another Paul who reminded his apprentice Timothy that Paul had lived his life in a transparent way. Timothy got to see the work and the teaching and the struggles and the testing and the wrong and right responses.

The risk with lots of people who talk about following Jesus is that we don’t do a very good job of explaining the inside part. We focus on the actions which are easy to measure and criticize. We don’t explain how we process.

But maybe I could say more often, “I’m not sure how these two pieces fit together.” Or “I’ve been working on understanding this for a couple months, what do you think?”

You think?

Planning to do good.

1. I’m sure that you are way ahead of me on this. I’ve talked elsewhere about my friend Becky’s 6 things to do list. At the end of the day, you make a list of six things that must get done the next day. Only six on the list, don’t need to be big, have to get done. And then you do them.

Until Sunday, I never thought about making any of those six things be about a particular prayer, or a particular Bible passage to read or a particular action of kindness or gentleness or self-control.

I’m sure you have, though. That’s why you remember to pray for that person you promised to pray for. Right?

2. It’s possible you’ve been wanting to be part of a small group that read a bit from the Bible and then does it. Bob Goff calls his a “Bible doing” group as opposed to a Bible study group. I’ve talked about ours as a sabbath group. But you are waiting fro someone to start one and maybe ask you to be part of it. But what if you just asked a few people you know if they want to read a bit from the Bible and do it? Nothing fancy. You could even start by reading from a book about Nehemiah if you want some training wheels. And this isn’t for everyone. But maybe it’s for you.

3. A prayer for Monday from Psalm 130

If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
    Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
    so that we can, with reverence, serve you.

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
    and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
    more than watchmen wait for the morning,
    more than watchmen wait for the morning.