Mats

I am about to start my youth retreat with my students. We are going to St. Louis on a Discipleship Retreat via an Amtrak train. The trip is called,”Soul Train.” We will be going over the book of James. (Remember that Lent is 46 days…I am using 5 days for this retreat…see post “46”)

James was Jesus’ little brother….that had to be a strange experience to have Jesus as your brother. Talk about pressure. Nonetheless, James learned to trust his older brother in due time, and later became a leader of the early church.

James was all about an active faith. A faith that was not stale and static. A faith that experienced God’s love and expressed it through dynamic acts of mercy.

While on this trip, my posts will be shorter as I reflect on the simple aspects of my journey. (I will also have my friend, Bryan Fillette, reflect on his experience being homeless with me for 2 days). He is an MD and a Reverend….so it should be interesting.

Mats.

At the Outdoor Shelter, everyone who stays there can receive a mat from the shelter at 9pm sharp. Don’t be late! They can run out on certain nights…and sleeping well is important.

Trust me. You want a mat! If you miss out, you will be sleeping on the hard cement with little padding other than a blanket or sheet.

When I first arrived at the outdoor shelter, I assumed the mats would be like yoga mats. Thin, durable, and not too comfortable. However, the mats for the homeless are not that bad. They are about 4 inches thick, made of foam, and covered in a black vinyl covering that keeps it sanitary. They are not too far off from mats you see at summer camps. (The plastic ones that fit on bunk beds.)

At the shelter, these mats are lifesavers. You really can sleep a lot better when you have one for the night. I have never been so grateful for 4 inches of foam before this journey…but in the shelter, you begin to appreciate the little things.

The only down side is that the staff pick up the mats at 6:30 in the morning, regardless of whether you have work or not. “Sleeping In” is rare at the shelter. They say they want the mats back to begin the process of cleaning them…but I believe the real reason is to get us up…motivating us to work and not sleep the day away. (You can keep the mats 24/7, if you have a medical exemption.) Maybe I need to get sick more…

The mats remind me of John 5…

Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda[a] and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”

But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ” So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?”

The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.

Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well

It was simple. All the man had to do was take up his mat…Jesus did the rest. I like that. At my church, we make it a lot more difficult to follow Jesus. Just look at all the committees we have. It’s not a simple process at all.

But following Jesus can be that simple. It is sometimes as simple as picking up your mat and trusting in Him even if the future is unknown. It’s simple…but it takes a lot of faith.

Many of my homeless friends have unknown futures. Hopefully, they can learn to pick up their mats and trust in God.

Maybe that’s why the staff gets us up at 6:30am…at takes up our mats.

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