Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Where Are Your Red Dots?

Dear Friends,

We are hunters and gatherers. Ever since Adam and Eve foraged in the Garden, we have been on the hunt. It’s in our DNA – what we’re wired to do. Friday is the day she and I often go hunting.

We pause outside the store and look at each other one last time. She will go her way and I mine – we are after different prey. We anticipate the next moments and adrenaline courses through our bloodstream. There is a surge of synaptic brain activity. Senses are sharpened. As we enter, a tinkling bell over the door signals our arrival and the hunt is on. She moves quickly to the left. The women's "Goldstar Collection." She’s incredible. A glance at an article of clothing and within a second she can determine and evaluate the brand name, size, color, style, cost and how it will look on her. I move to the right. I’m hunting for hardcover books and within minutes I’ve captured two for me and three for her. Nearly new. Read maybe once. Original cost is $26.95 apiece but now they’re only a dollar. 

She catches my eye and holds up a red jacket with western embroidery. It’s a Scully – a high-end brand of western clothing. Not a brand you wear when you grab the reins and step into the saddle. Scully outfits are worn when you grab your guitar and step up on stage. Original cost was well over $200. It looks brand new. Never worn. Price tag says $15 and she tries it on. Perfect fit. Too good a deal to pass up! We take our plunder to the cash register. The lady looks at the tag on the Scully and tells us that green tagged items are the daily special. The jacket is only 99 cents. YES!! Thank You Lord!!!

She and I are far too mature and cool to be doing a happy dance on the way to the car, but we are both very excited. This has been one awesome hunting trip. We’ve just bought approximately $285 of almost brand-new merchandise for six bucks. I guess that’s why they call them “thrift” stores.

The thrift stores we like to go to are the ones run by churches, parachurch organizations and those with a mission to help disadvantaged children. Our favorite thrift store, the “Bargain Box” in Ventura (described above) generates about $200,000 a year for at-risk children and those with special needs. That’s why every year we love to take boxes of clothing, books, household items, even collectibles, crystal and furniture to this thrift store. Some “thrift stores” are actually just second-hand stores but when you donate to and purchase from thrift stores operated by non-profit organizations, you are actively participating in their ministry and mission to help others.  

Many of us are familiar with the St Vincent de Paul Thrift Stores. These are run by a world-wide Christian organization dedicated to providing assistance for the needy. Income from their thrift stores provides the funding for food programs, job training, disaster relief, shelter for the abused, youth programs, prison ministries and indigent burials.

Vincent de Paul was born in 1581 into a peasant family in a small village in France. As a young priest, he was sent to Paris to minister to the wealthy and instead came face to face with French peasants living in squalor and misery. From this point, God changed the direction of his life. He enlisted others in helping orphans, the sick, and the hungry and a religious order was formed that became the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

On a wall in a mission chapel founded by Vincent is a map of the city of Paris. Small red dots cover the entire map. Each dot marks a place that was touched by the humble priest during his life. An orphanage founded. Starving people fed. The sick healed. People helped. A sermon preached to those hungry for the Word of God. Each dot representing the fruit of his ministry. Vincent believed in the priority of action – in spreading the Kingdom of God into where God had placed him. Not just preaching about God’s love. Showing people what God’s love looks like.

The Gospel calls us to a life of love. Love for God. Love for others. The upcoming season of Lent is a time of self-reflection as we await in semidarkness for the glory of His Resurrection on Easter Sunday. Take a moment and reflect upon your life. What does your map look like? Do you have a bunch of red dots scattered all over and filling the map of your own lifetime? Do you have dots showing where you have made a difference in the lives of others? Where God’s love has been manifested through you? Where you have helped others? Where you have reached out and touched someone with the Kingdom of God? Do you have red dots spread all over your map showing your kind deeds, gentle words and loving actions? What does the map of your life look like...?


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