Book excerpts

23 May 2018

Who wants be Nothing?

By |2018-05-23T08:33:58+00:00May 23rd, 2018|Book excerpts|0 Comments

Oh yeah, Jesus does!

Here is an excerpt from my book: Hope you are blessed… and challenged by it! I know I am… all the time!

He Made Himself Nothing

“[Jesus] made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” (Philippians 2:7, NIV)

So here’s Jesus. He was God. He is God—the Creator of the whole universe. You can’t any higher or better, or more perfect than God!

So when he accepted God the Father’s decision to send him into our world to save us, he had to turn himself into nothing, by comparison. How difficult was that?

It was like he became a magician. He disguised himself, cloaked himself in the clothes and the manner of a servant. He became like the lowest of the low here on earth. He didn’t want to draw attention to himself, so he chose to hide himself amongst the poor and neglected.

The King James Bible translates this verse as “he made himself of no reputation.” This seems to imply that it took some “work”, and that it was a process.

Jesus had to choose to fly under the radar. While he was growing up and as a young man before he began his ministry, he must have had to “fight off ” often the inclination to raise his voice when face-to-face with sin and injustice.

Still, maybe it wasn’t too hard for Jesus to become like the poor. Why? Because he made them. Because he cares for them deeply. To him, they are just as important as anyone else.

So how do these observations speak to us?

They relate to all of us who are constantly wishing to be “somebody,” even in our service for the Lord. Many of us work hard at building ourselves “a good reputation.” We have a tough time imagining ourselves doing just the opposite—working hard at “becoming nothing.”

But maybe, just maybe, as we begin to see that this becoming as “the least” is indeed very pleasing to our God … well then, maybe we’ll be making more efforts towards imitating his son’s example.

And maybe we’ll begin to understand that this “becoming nothing” isn’t a bad thing. On the contrary, it’s a good thing!

Excerpt from ‘Discovering Jesus in the Least‘ by Chris Ramsey
Chapter 13, New Testament Teaching on Service to the Least (Part 1), Page 73
Copyright © 2017 Chris Ramsey.

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5 Mar 2018

My friend Earl – A Final Farewell!

By |2018-03-05T09:09:17+00:00March 5th, 2018|Book excerpts|0 Comments

So many precious memories!

Another long time friend has gone on ahead of us all. I’m talking about my good friend, Earl Owens, who I visited for so many years in the several nursing homes that he resided in.

To be sure, Earl was quite a “character.” He had a pretty severe case of OCD, or 0bsessive-compulsive disorder. Psychology Today defines OCD as an “anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, images, and sensations (obsessions) and engage in behaviors or mental acts in response to these thoughts or obsessions. Often the person carries out behaviors to reduce the impact or get rid of the obsessive thoughts, but this only brings temporary relief. Not performing the obsessive rituals can cause great anxiety.”

But since I view myself as quite a character with my own set of “quirks” it wasn’t too hard for us to relate. In fact, we seemed to understand each other only too well.

Earl was “big” guy to say the least… and he liked to eat! And he would quite often complain about the quality and the quantity of food that he would be fed at the many nursing homes he was “shifted” around between. And so, it wasn’t surprising when he’d repeatedly ask me to bring him as much food, cooked and uncooked as I could on my visits.

Since I’ve worked at our Cornerstone Outreach for so many years, I had easy access to much “extra” food that we would regularly receive, which included pizza, sub-sandwiches, fruits, cookies, chips, soups, drinks, and on occasion various meats.

At one nursing home they even had a grill in their outside “rest” area. And Earl was in his glory whenever I brought down all sorts of meats, including steaks, burgers, and sausages… for he showed me and many others how much of a “grill-master” he was. And we readily shared our abundance with other clients and staff.

Now, of course, I have to admit that not every nursing home staff was happy to see me whenever I’d come to visit Earl… with my box or two of items. But most of them didn’t really object to my actions… they knew that it brought a lot of joy to Earl.

But our relationship was not only about food. We’d always get into deep discussions about my work at the shelter, and how best to carry out my duties. And the following admonitions are the ones that he‘d repeatedly tell me.

  1. “Chris, don’t feel you have to “jump” whenever someone requests a few “extras.” Instead, you tell them to wait and say, ‘I’ll see what I can do a little later.’ Then you’ll find out who really needs these things, and who doesn’t. Because the ones that don’t will not wait around.”
  2. “Chris, you need to delegate much of your work.” And I’d respond much of the time, “Yeah, who am I going to delegate to?” And then Earl would say, “You just need to trust God, and you need to let folks help you a lot more than you do. Because don’t you see, these folks want to help—you’ve just got to let them, and don’t worry so much.”

And I’d take my good friend Stewart along with me to visit him for time to time. So he got to know Stewart (who’s so friendly, caring, and childlike) very well and he’d always ask how Stewart was doing. And I’d say, “Oh, he’s busy doing so many other things. He does so much on his own, now. And he’s got so many friends in our community and the shelter that he’s always on go.”

Then Earl would just smile and say, “Wow, that is so great. Wow, you must be so proud to have played such an important role in his life. He’s just “taken off” (carved out a life of his own) right before your eyes. You see how God works.”

And I’d have to admit these insights still ring true to this day!

Still, there were plenty of times that Earl would have to rant and rave about how his doctors, caseworkers, and nurses didn’t understand him, and were out to make his life “miserable.”

And I’d have calm him down (or at least try to) so that he could “sometimes” admit that his perceptions were “a bit harsh” and overstated.

And many times that I’d get so frustrated with my attempts to talk some “sense” into him that I would end up saying, “You know, Earl it seems like you aren’t even willing to listen to a thing I have to say.”

But then he’d surprise me from time to time by saying, “No, Chris, I do listen to what you have to say. You have no idea how much your friendship and your viewpoints mean to me.”

So, my friend Earl and I have had many great times and visits and laughs together over so many years. And to think our relationship simply started by our getting to know each other at our “Dinner guest” program about 20 years ago.

I will miss Earl. It still seems strange that he’s gone. He seemed to fight through and always come out the other side of so many health and psychiatric problems.

But I know now—he’s at rest. His journey is over down here on earth. But it’s only just beginning up in heaven!

Oh yeah, and I know what Earl would say to me right now. He’d say, “Chris, don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine. But don’t you ever forget that there are so many lonely and needy folks out there, and they’d be thrilled to have you as a friend.”

Thanks, Earl, I’ve been fortunate to have you as a friend all these years. Rest in peace, my friend. And oh yeah, if it’s not too much trouble can you save me a spot at the Lamb’s wedding feast? (Rev. 19:6-9) I’d be honored to sit by you. Your friend, Chris.

This story is about Earl -who I had named Charles in the Discovering Jesus in the Least book -to protect his identity at the time.

You’ll Be Alright

I periodically find myself examining my performance before the Lord. Am I really doing all that I should be doing? Couldn’t I be doing more? Shouldn’t I be doing more? Is Jesus really pleased with me?

One evening I was visiting my friend Charles in the nursing home that he lives in. Charles is a rather large man who is confined to a wheelchair, and in a lot pain. He has a myriad of health problems.

I had first gotten to know Charles about fifteen years earlier. He was walking then, and he’d stop by our dinner guest time quite often. He always seemed to have a word of wisdom not only for myself, but also for the many youth groups that came to serve.

He would be “in his glory” whenever a few young people surrounded him, hanging on every word he uttered. He loved to tell stories of life on the streets, and he was good at it.

Charles and I became friends over the years. We just seemed to hit it off. We would easily get into discussions about life in this 21st century and how it related to our work with the poor. I say “our work” because Charles was always so proud of the fact that he too loved the poor, and would share whatever he had with those in need. There was just a level of respect between us, a depth of understanding, such that we easily became friends, and even confidantes.

It just so happened that on this visit I was in one of my more introspective moods. And so, I shared my self-examination with Charles, not really expecting much of a response. But I was wrong.

“You’ll be alright, Chris,” he said matter-of-factly. He was calmly affirming me and my service to our Lord. He was reminding me of God’s love and care for me, particularly when I find myself debating my own sense of value and worth in God’s eyes. He was reminding me of something I need to hear often.

And so, on this visit, instead of me bringing love and support to Charles, it was he that was dispensing the love and understanding to me.
I’m just glad that Jesus still knows how to get through to me. I guess having a friend like Charles is a good thing—for me!

Thanks for stopping by. Chris

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17 Feb 2018

Jim and Sylvia come to volunteer

By |2018-02-17T21:24:07+00:00February 17th, 2018|Book excerpts|0 Comments

Hey, that’s my folks names!

I had a beautiful couple come to volunteer with us at our Sat. afternoon dinner guest program. They were from Northbrook Evangelical Covenant Church in Northbrook, IL. I had met them last month, and now they were happy to return again. Their first names really struck a chord with me. Jim and Sylvia. For these were the names of my mother and father.

“What did you say, your names were?” was my immediate reaction.

They calmly repeated their names.

“Wow, that was both my parent’s names,” I told them.

“Oh well, that is quite interesting,” they said.

“Yeah, cause you know you don’t hear the name Sylvia, much any more,” I said. “It’s kind of an “old school” name it seems.”

They both readily agreed, and they had a great time serving. They had even bought a copy of “Discovering Jesus….” And now the Martins were back once again.

And so we started in talking once again. “You know, Chris, we read your book, and we really liked it,” said Sylvia. “We were especially were touched by “The Rainbow Story.””

“Oh, yeah, that was quite remarkable, wasn’t it?” I said.

Sylvia went on then to tell how they knew Dave and Jean Larsen, who also attended their church. Dave was the brother of Paul Larsen, a former President of the ECC, and long-time supporter of JPUSA and Cornerstone, and the proud father of his daughter, Kathleen.

And they, the Martins, had showed the story to them and they reported that Jean had said, “Yeah, that’s how it all happened.”

You see, Jean Larsen, had been in attendance at this CCO playground dedication in honor of Kathleen Keri Larsen, her niece, who had unexpectedly passed away a few years earlier.

So here’s the story as it appears in the book:

The Rainbow Story

Kathleen Keri Larsen was the daughter of Paul and Liz Larsen, a couple of steadfast supporters of the work and outreach of CCO. Paul was the former President of the Evangelical Covenant Church, and a long-standing friend of JPUSA. His daughter had volunteered at CCO, and her favorite act of service was playing and interacting with the children of the shelter.

In 1996, 27-year-old Kathleen’s life was unexpectedly cut short. Her parents were devastated.

In the months that followed Kathleen’s death, Paul and Liz found great comfort in catching sight of numerous rainbows. These rainbows spoke to their grieving hearts of the covenant promise God had made to Noah (Genesis 9:16). To them, God was telling them that Kathleen was alright, that she was in his care.

The Larsen’s chose to honor their daughter’s life by setting up a memorial fund that would build a roof-top playground at CCO. The playground itself would be dedicated to her memory.

The day came for the memorial and dedication service. The air was filled with mixed emotions—sadness for the loss of Kathleen, but also joy, knowing that she would be happy for the kids who pass through CCO.

The service was beautiful, and included a close friend of Liz Larsen. This friend shared with the crowd that Paul and Liz had been comforted by the sights of various rainbows throughout the past few months.

The mood was somber as JPUSA Pastor Neil Taylor, who was leading this service, continued speaking. Suddenly a young CCO boy blurted out, “Well, there’s your rainbow.” He was pointing to a small but very distinct inverted rainbow shining in the skies.

Everyone looked up to see this rainbow and a hush fell over the crowd. Everyone just stopped for a minute or two, pondering what it was they were witnessing. And then it just vanished.

No one could really put into words what they were feeling. But words weren’t necessary to explain the tears—of both grief and comfort—that were shed by Paul and Liz Larsen.

Everyone in attendance knew that they had just witnessed something extraordinary. And what a blessing it was to simply be in the crowd!

A North Park University Professor and close friend of the family, Klyne Snodgrass, was in attendance at the service. When he got home, he called the National Weather Service in Chicago. He asked if they had seen a small, inverted rainbow appear for a few, brief minutes at the time the service was taking place.

The answer he received was that, “Yes sir, we certainly did.”

The weather bureau explained that the rainbow was actually a “circumzenithal arc.” And according to Wikipedia, “the Circumzenithal Arc has been called a ‘smile in the sky,’ its first impression being that of an upside-down rainbow. It is rarely noticed, however, because it occurs so far overhead.”

So, was this a “God-thing”? That, of course, is a matter of opinion. But I’m not surprised that God showed up in such a spectacular way. He was merely affirming his deep affection for Kathleen, Paul and Liz, and their love and service to the least.

Thanks for stopping by. Chris

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24 Oct 2017

Rock Star Witnessing

By |2017-10-25T00:09:19+00:00October 24th, 2017|Book excerpts|0 Comments

Lifestyle soon earned us the label ‘Jesus Freaks’

In my early years (the late ‘70s), I was introduced to the fundamentals of the Christian faith. I discovered that this Jesus Christ that I had personally encountered was the same Jesus Christ that had also touched so many other lives.

These initial years of our JPUSA ministry were rightfully branded as “radical.” We were out on the streets, witnessing to anyone who would listen. We were not ashamed of our faith. All we knew was that God had touched our lives, and we desired to follow him. This type of lifestyle soon earned us the label “Jesus freaks.” (We even owned a big red school bus with JESUS painted in big, bold white letters on each side!)

Besides witnessing, our days were filled with worship, prayer, and Bible classes. Everyone was assigned chores—washing dishes, cooking, cleaning—whatever was needed to make our group feasible. We also started our own businesses. Painting, moving, printing, and roofing were some of the first undertakings we launched to help support ourselves.

In addition, we published a magazine called “Cornerstone” right from JPUSA’s origins. Throughout the 1970’s and 80’s it served as a newspaper and a witnessing tool. In it we featured all kinds of articles that dealt with the issues of the day. It was very artistic, creative, and challenging. It was one our ways of reaching out to our generation.

Another significant outreach was our very own “Resurrection Band.” This was “Jesus rock” at its best, which we affectionately called it “music to raise the dead.”

But it was the magazine that attracted me. I don’t even remember how it happened, but somehow or other I began showing an interest in writing for the magazine. JPUSA had a general policy that said anyone could try anything. So I was blessed to try out my writing skills for Cornerstone. And the rest was history.

I was honored to write, research, and interview for Cornerstone for thirteen years. During that time, I wrote a wide variety of articles. I even wrote a couple of personal stories about the homeless. For one, “Out on the Streets,” I pretended I was homeless for a couple of days. For another, I did the same and ventured out to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, which had become a refuge for the homeless during those years. (Both of these articles are included in this book.)

I also, became involved in what we called “rock-star” witnessing—which evolved into rock-star interviewing for the magazine. I’d always had a love for music, and an interest in the messages proclaimed in rock’n’roll music.

These interviews became a passion of mine. I would study a group’s lyrics, do my best to assess what the group’s spiritual beliefs (if they had any) might be, and then respectfully dialogue with them.

As one might imagine, I received all kinds of reactions from the various rock stars I tracked down as they came through Chicago on tour. A few of the stars I was able to have brief encounters with included the Rolling Stones, Robert Plant, Pete Townsend, Ozzy Osbourne and Iggy Pop. There were many others as well, and I have fond memories of those adventures.

Excerpt from ‘Discovering Jesus in the Least‘ by Chris Ramsey
Chapter 7, How I Discovered That I Fit in With the Least, Page 38-39
Copyright © 2017 Chris Ramsey.

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