Wednesday, August 10, 2011


I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not much of an evangelist, but I'm also glad to admit that I’m working toward the day when I can comfortably affirm my faith before others. While I'm still a bit chary bringing up my faith with family and friends, neighbors and co-workers, there is one group of people with whom I'm a bit more comfortable in sharing my faith. When I give some panhandler a couple of bucks, I try to remember (and I do remember, about 85% of the time), to also give him God’s blessing.
But there's more to it than just giving a panhandler God's blessing, and that's what I'd like to address right here.
Which brings to mind something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Panhandlers. Beggers. I’m sure there are other names, but you know who I mean. People who are down on their luck and can't help it, or small-time con men who make it their business to look down on their luck. They often have hand-made signs. They seem prone, if the opportunity presents itself, lets show their physical deformities.  Who try to present, physically, the “case” for making a donation.

Some are frauds, good actors, but one man I saw recently had a sign saying he'd been burned - and he wore his shirt open so you could see the burns and blisters - he should have been in a hospital instead of on the street corner, but his plight broke my heart and opened myself to act in a way I hope God sees as generous.

I used to swing between handing out something to those among these panhandlers whom I “thought” were in real need (and who therefore “deserved” my help) and swinging toward avoiding all of them like they were plague carriers.

However, sometime in the past year, I latched onto a scriptural passage (Matthew 25) in which Jesus says he’ll judge harshly those who denied him – using as an example, “when you do this for the least of these, you do it for me” – then blending that scripture with another scriptural old favorite, “judge not, lest ye be judged” … (Matthew 7)

Having thought this through, having prayed on it and now feeling guided by God's influence, what I try to do is NOT judge panhandlers based on whether I think they’re worthy of my charity or not. I’ll let God judge their heart. Instead, if they ask for help – or if they just look like they need help – I give them a couple of bucks – and with that, I give them God’s blessing … Over time, I've also seen that my giving has grown - from a literal "couple of bucks" to a five or a ten. Not because I'm in a better position to afford this spontaneous charity, but because I find my heart demands increased generosity.

And when I have this opportunity, I to remember to give thanks that they have provided me with an opportunity to help one of those who just might be one of Christ’s “least of these.” That they have given me an opportunity to live my faith. I even try to keep several packets of gift bucks - two or three five dollar bills folded into my shirt pocket, ready to be plucked out and donated at the drop of a hat.

I don't know if I'm supposed to judge and evaluate panhandlers - I don't know if I should risk being an enabler (I know the stats say lots of these people are addicts or alcoholics, looking for their next score), but I do know that if I try to make judgements, sorting the worthy from the unworthy, then I'm indeed making judgments. Jesus was pretty specific on that point. And I know that everyone I take a pass on might be one of those who - in their need - are Christ visiting my life - and in my love of God, I dare not miss the opportunity to help those in need.

I know giving panhandlers a few bucks doesn't fulfill my obligation to help others of God's children, but I also believe that it's a start. And looking for people in need as I drive through "Sin City" keeps me focused, thinking about how God expects us to help those in need, as if they were Himself. I think I'm on the right track, and I ask God through prayer to help me make sure I stay (or get on) that right track.

I pray that God will help me figure things out in my life, so I can fulfill the mission He's given to me in this life. This is a small step, but it's one I take in hope that it will lead to a better understanding of what God really wants from me.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Surprise - an email exchange

This is an email exchange between me and a professional colleague of mine from Washington DC. He and I have "known" each other online for a number of years, and have talked on the phone, but we've not met - and as far as I can recall, I don't believe we've ever talked of matters of faith.

However, in a recent email exchange, I mentioned doing some volunteer fund-raising and PR work for my church, which prompted this email back-and-forth with Michael. You might find it interesting ... I hope so.

Ned Barnett - February 28, 2011

Michael wrote:

Has something changed? I thought you had been raised in a church as a boy but had either become an atheist or agnostic. If you’ve come back, then welcome home. We missed you.

To which I replied:


I don’t know if I was an agnostic; I know I wasn’t an atheist, but I also wasn’t much of a believer. My faith was shaken by the death of my son ten or so years ago, and it was rattled by my wife’s suicide going on four years ago. At the time of her death, I had been going to church for the first time in two decades, but when God’s answer to my prayers for her was “no, not this time,” I took a holiday from faith. I literally told God I’d see him later … which didn’t mean I didn’t believe, but it did mean that he could go his way and I’d go mine.

But something was missing. My new wife (who’d basically “escaped” from a cult-like ministry she and her ex- and been officials in) and I both knew that God was in our future, but we couldn’t find an expression for it. Then last summer, the star of The Passion of the Christ, Jim Caviezel, was featured at a local mega-church, Central Christian, and we decided to go hear him. I’d seen this place for years, always felt “something” but had never thought about going – and I had no idea what they believed. This place looked like a modern high school, and when I went in, the auditorium (not sanctuary), the rock ban, and the pastor in blue jeans all took me aback. But there was something about it that attracted me.

So I went back the next weekend (BTW – they have Saturday late-afternoon services, allowing me to sleep in on Sunday, a big plus) and got to see the regular service (with the rock band and the pastor in jeans), and was impressed. So Lynn and I started going to their “First Steps” program, a seven-week course to prepare people who might want to become members (I liked the fact that you couldn’t just “join” without going to school to learn what they believed). And I read the pastor’s book, “Uncensored Truth,” which gave an articulate review of the beliefs of the church (beliefs that I found resonated with me – especially those centered around “Grace” – which seems to be the driving force behind this church which proclaims itself as being for broken people … like me, apparently). So we completed the First Steps program in October, I was baptized and joined – but even before then, I’d reached out to the pastor, got an introduction to the communications director (then the woman’s minister, who I’d met in the First Steps program), and the finance director) and began offering my services.

I learned that the church was going through a strategic branding session following the precepts of Seth Godin in his book Meatball Sundae. So I got a copy, read it – and did so at a time when I was professionally just trying to come to grips with Social Networking and Social Media and all that “stuff” which (except for blogging) I’d largely ignored. Over the holiday, I helped the church with press releases and a tempest-in-a-teapot media “crisis” and I put together for the pastor a book-launch/book-promotion program for his new book, published by Zondervan, Throw it Down (which is about beating addiction AND about the book of Exodus – a fascinating blend of the two concepts). He really liked the plan but chose not to embrace it because he didn’t want to leave the church to tour the book – and I respected that (he’d pass up “gain” in favor of his primary mission).

Now I’m working (again) with a former client – we met today and agreed to do so – and I’ll be helping him with social media. But what’s really interesting is this friend-since-’92 had found Christ in the last year, too – so we began comparing notes, and we’ll probably wind up collaborating on a social networking project around Revelations and Prophecy (his focus, and something that’s long fascinated me). He’s really going to town – reading everything he can get his hands on, really analyzing it, even trying to learn Greek so he can better understand the real meaning of the Gospels and the other books of the bible. He and I spend far more time talking about our understanding of faith and the bible than we do talking shop … it’s like I’ve discovered a new friend all over again.

So, anyway, Michael, this is my story (in brief).

BTW – I’ve started a blog on my faith journey – would you have any objection to me publishing my comments here (in answer to your question) in my blog?

Either way, thanks for asking. I appreciate you noticing and asking.

Your friend (and now your friend in Christ)


Ned Barnett, APR
Marketing & PR Fellow, American Hospital Association
Barnett Marketing Communications
420 N. Nellis Blvd., A3-276 - Las Vegas NV 89110
702-561-1167 - cell/text - twitter @nedbarnett