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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
               Friday, September 13 2002 

Alms for the poor

One thing that came under great scrutiny when I became a student of Orthodox Christianity that seemed a "done deal" in my previous evangelical Presbyterian life, was almsgiving. I previously believed that the best and proper way to "give alms" is to write checks and send them or put them in the passing plate to ministries you support morally. To be "alms" those gifts would have to be above and beyond the tithes or pledges made to the support of your own primary faith community (parish and its ministry). But as I read scores of Orthodox writers I got the sense that almsgiving should be more like that described in New Testament times, offering a gift directly from your hand to the hand of someone needy on the street or, more likely here in the Bay Area, the freeway exit.

My Presbyterian conditioning—for we prided ourselves on having a reason for everything and doing nothing that hadn't been thought through—was at peace with the line of reasoning, which our mayors and city managers also endorse, that it is a bad idea to give directly to "panhandlers." It encourages more panhandling. It encourages them to keep begging rather than getting steady work. It probably goes from your hand to the hand of the liquor store clerk. All good reasons to make out checks. Even if you want to help the homeless, send a check to the Salvation Army or the local homeless outreach.

In our Orthodox major fasts, advent and lent, giving alms is considered almost as important as giving up meat and dairy products. In fact, contrary to the sense I was getting from most of my reading, our own national church leadership encourages filling a lenten bank during those periods, and giving our alms by sending the filled bank to headquarters in New Jersey at Christmas and Pascha (Easter) to alleviate problems in many areas where the church is ministering. We are encouraged to spend some of the money we would spend on delicacies and meats the rest of the year to the cardboard bank, as alms. There's nothing wrong with that, but I am more and more convinced the fathers and elders, most of the writers about spiritual life, have the right tack in encouraging the direct handout to the needy rather than accruing it and sending it off to some agency.

But having filled today's postcard already today and suffering from a maddening late-summer cold, I'll have to hold the rest of the story till next week, after David and Judy do their parts Saturday through Monday. Oh, and yes, the general topic is still "as" and "like."

New photos: Today's new tour gallery is "Mike and Kevin's tour of the Louvre"

—Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Things to never say to a cop...

1. I can't reach my license unless you hold my beer. (OK in Texas).
2. Sorry, Officer, I didn't realize my radar detector wasn't plugged in.
3.Aren't you the guy from the Village People?
4. Hey, you must've been doin' about 125 mph to keep up with me. Good job!
5. Are You Andy or Barney?
6. I thought you had to be in relatively good physical condition to be a police officer.

—Sent by Mike Harrison

Thought for today

If redemption is a moral restoration to the divine image (and it must be that ultimately), then we may expect one of the first acts of God in the Christian's life to be a kind of moral tuning-up, a bringing into harmony the discordant elements within the personality, an adjustment of the soul to itself and to God. And that He does just this is the testimony of everyone who has been truly converted!

— A. W. Tozer
Sent by Judy Martin

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