From: Sondra Brasile (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Mon Jun 30 2003 - 02:02:39 EDT
Thank you for posting this beautiful poem.
I've been following this thread with unrest, although I cannot put me finger
on why, exactly.
I am personally leery of the "prosperity" teachings out there. If God wants
a person to have money, they'll have it and if he means for a person to live
one day at a time, not knowing "how" their needs will be supplied for this
day, but trusting that it will happen, this is how they will live.
If God meant for every Christian to be materially prosperous people would be
beating down the doors of the church to "cash in", it seems.
My family of 6 (plus the numerous "strays" that we take in) has never been
"prosperous", not for the past 18 years at least, (things seem to be getting
better recently, but I don't count on it). I've questioned God at length as
to why this is asking Him, "wouldn't we be a better witness if we had our
needs met?" "couldn't we be more of a blessing if we were more blessed?"
We have struggled for everything. More, it seems than anyone else I have
ever known. Everything has been HARD HARD work and it seems we ALWAYS get
the short end of the stick in the "prosperity" department. For other people
it seems making money is so easy, for us it seems impossible. It's not for
lack of asking either, or trying, I started out by asking for a lot, when
that never came I tried all the name it and claim it crap and even resorted
to quoting the Bible to God about "ask and shall recieve", etc...all to no
avail, I went through depression, doubt, anger, resentment, bitterness,
self-doubt and eventually reached acceptance...that we are just destined to
be this way for some reason.
BUT I will not complain, my family has always eaten well, they have always
had clothing and shelter and we have always shared everything with anyone,
no matter how little we had.
As my children grow older I am starting to possibly understand why God has
made it this way for us. If we would have been affluent even a little, our
children would have no doubt been spoiled. Just like every other parent on
the face of the planet we would love nothing more than to give them their
hearts desires and couldn't resist it. But as it is, one Christmas we spent
trying to keep our bank from foreclosing on our house, we couldn't even buy
a Christmas tree until Christmas eve when they were giving them away. We had
no gifts, but the children understood that our "gift" was that we weren't
homeless. Every Christmas since then the kids ask "are we having presents
this year?" Last year, again, the answer was "No". I was a little suprised
that they didn't seem disappointed, it was an "FYI" question, I didn't hear
any whining or anything, just "Oh"... no sadness, no pouting and then at the
last moment we found ourselves feeding not only our own family, but another
family (mom and 4 kids) for that entire week. They had in fact, become
homeless (one of the kids stayed with us until they could secure a place to
live). It was actually my own kids that told me that it was a "blessing" not
to have gifts to open that morning since that family would have no doubt
been extremely uncomfortable and it would have added to their distress. I
have to tell you that when my youngest daughter made that comment to me, I
had to hold my breath to hold back the sobs.
I started recognizing the positive difference in my kids when my son began
going after school to volunteer at a soup kitchen and another time when he
asked if he could give a card table, that my husband had "garbage picked"
from work, to a girl he knew at school. Her parents had just finalized their
divorce and the dad got "custody" of most of the furniture, which left them
without any tables or chairs. My kids are constantly helping people, my
daughter has brought two of her friends that were suicidal and seemed to
almost miraculously lift their spirits, one of them plans to move in for
good. (One of my daughter's tactics is a series of severely silly
"productions", soap opera style, on video. Numerous kids have taken part in
the "productions", they also have a spoof of "Cop's", and the "Blair Witch
Project", it's hilarious. Apparently, no one can resist her contagious
"zest" for life and her particular style of humor.)
Although they constantly bring their "needs" to us and walk away
unfulfilled, they aren't angry or bitter toward God; they get frustrated, as
do I, but they "get over it" and apparently deal with it. The necessities at
least, always get provided for somehow. They've all been involved in mission
work. I have watched what I would call my most "self-centered" child spend
almost an entire week, caring for babies and toddlers and working selflessly
at a home for abused and neglected Native children in Arizona.
I ask myself, if we hadn't been "needy" would my children have so much
compassion for needy people? If my children hadn't have gone without, would
they be so willing to share? If my children hadn't been so close to
homelessness would they have been willing to sleep on the couch for a week
to give a homeless family their bed?
Needless to say, I don't question God about it anymore. We never really go
without, although we struggle and fight for everything we do have, we must
have more than enough because we always seem to have enough to share. We
have so many THINGS too that have been given to us, expensive camera
equipment, a washer and dryer, our stove, a 3 station exercise machine,
furniture...etc...Heck God GAVE us our house for a fraction of what it was
worth, we just found out it's worth 145,000, we just had it appraised, we
paid 57,000 for it 9 years ago.
I don't think it's really either way, God will bless whom he will, how he
will, no one can say "this is the way God blesses" because sometimes he
blesses people by NOT giving them things or money. I feel that if I start
dogging myself for "not being prosperous", doubting God or my relationship
with God, I would be ungrateful for the "blessings" he has obviously
bestowed upon my children and my hubby and I, by and through our "hardship".
As it is, how can I complain? If a person has things and money I'm glad for
them that they don't have to work and struggle as hard as we do, but I
sometimes think we have an advantage. Sometimes, I honestly feel bad for
them. Our family seems so close, theirs usually seem so formal and distant.
Ironically, the girl that wants to move in with us, comes from a very
affluent family, she spent the entire summer with us last year and most of
the winter, she's back again for most of this summer and plans to come back
to stay for good in February, somehow God makes us able to afford even
extras. Her parents brought her up (they live in New Jersey, we live in
Michigan) and stayed a few days to talk it over. No one can understand why
she would rather live with us who have so little compared to her own family
(I'm thinking maybe it's "the grass is always greener" kind of thing). They
also wanted to "compensate us" for all we have done for their daughter
(which is the reason I said things seem to be getting better, but I'm not
counting on it) we never asked for anything and felt guilty for accepting
it, but they tricked us into taking them to the mall and proceeded to buy us
everything we laid our eyes on to the point we were afraid to talk or even
go into anymore stores. She's still buying my daughter things back in New
Jersey, she told me today there should be a package coming in the mail for
her tomorrow. To be completely honest, I'm torn between the joy in watching
my kids get so many gifts and fear that the kids will get the "bug" for
"getting things". They've become so used to getting so little, I'm afraid if
this woman gets them used to it they may not be able to handle it so well
when she stops, which she inevitably will. I think though they'll be fine,
they know how cool it is to get things, but I really don't expect them to
become spoiled so quickly/easily, I hope :) Even more ironically, they are
of the "prosperity teaching" bunch and preached it to us the whole time they
were here, they claimed that God "told them" to buy us a whole boatload of
stuff, too bad he didn't "tell" us to accept it, although eventually we did
Anyway, that's my "story" and I don't feel right when people say that we
should be "prosperous". I cannot think of anyone that is "rich" that seems
to "deserve" it better than any "poor" person that I know. I think an
appropriate verse would be "God causes the sun to shine on the just and the
unjust and the rain to fall on the evil and the good" or something like
>From: "Iain Strachan" <email@example.com>
>To: <firstname.lastname@example.org>, <email@example.com>
>Subject: Re: Concordist sequence--why be a concordist? (off list)
>Date: Sun, 29 Jun 2003 21:47:31 +0100
> > >God. How can we show how great God is if
> > >we all live in poverty?
>I think the following poem, by Nigerian writer Ben Okri (not a Christian)
>perhaps shows us what we should aspire to in this materialistic world. I
>think it answers your question. The poem made a profound impression on me,
>and was also used some years back in our Church as the "epigraph" quotes
>a sermon series.
>It is not a Christian view; it is adapted from Okri's Booker-Prize winning
>novel "The Famished Road", which is more about African spirit-world
>religions. But I think it should teach us a thing or two.
>An African Elegy
>by Ben Okri.
>We are the miracles that God made
>To taste the bitter fruit of Time
>We are precious.
>And one day our suffering
>Will turn into the wonders of the earth.
>There are things that burn me now
>Which turn golden when I am happy.
>Do you see the mystery of our pain?
>That we bear poverty
>And are able to sing and dream sweet things
>And that we never curse the air when it is warm
>Or the fruit when it tastes so good
>Or the lights that bounce gently on the waters?
>We bless things even in our pain
>We bless them in silence.
>That is why our music is so sweet.
>It makes the air remember.
>There are secret miracles at work
>That only Time will bring forth.
>I too have heard the dead singing.
>And they tell me that
>This life is good
>They tell me to live it gently
>With fire, and always with hope.
>There is wonder here
>And there is surprise
>In everything the unseen moves.
>The ocean is full of songs.
>The sky is not an enemy.
>Destiny is our friend.
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