What’s up, everybody! My name is Conor Doyle. I’m one of the pastors here at Whitewater. I am honored to be hanging out with you today.
We are in a series called “Solve7 Summer of Love." Solve7 is our drive to remove physical barriers to make way for spiritual opportunities. If you weren’t with us 2 weeks ago, I would encourage you to go back and watch it. My wife shared her story and I’m so stinkin’ proud of you. And let me just say up front that if this is your first time and you are wondering if Whitewater is a place where you can belong and be cared for, let me just say that from personal experience, at my family’s all time low, not knowing what would happen with Abby’s health, God stepped up and God’s people stepped up to love us, pray for us… And I won’t spoil it for you, but let me just say that a MIRACLE happened. So go check that out.
Last week, JT made the ask for 5,000 pairs of underwear! Yes, you heard me… we need undies! My inner middle schooler giggles… and that is perfect to bring us into this week's Solve7 problem: “Clothe the Poor." We are going to talk about clothing the poor.
When you think of “clothes”, what thoughts, emotions or memories come to mind?
For me, I have a love/hate relationship with clothes. If you ask my wife, Abby, she will confirm with you that I am very weird and particular about my clothes. Let me explain. Wrinkles are from the devil. In my house, there is a very real monster in the dryer who steals my socks on a regular basis. Pray for me! And don’t even get me started on shrunken shirts. Jon claims there are shirts that exist where you can wash them at any temperature in the washer and dry them for however long you want and the material won’t shrink… I think he is lying. So just know that… in Heaven, there will be no more wrinkles, sock monsters and shrunken shirts!!!
Some of us have a love/love relationship with clothes. Like, if this is you, you LOVE clothes. Clothes is your jam! The amount of Amazon boxes delivered to your house over the last 18 months was astronomical! And in the last few weeks, maybe your shopping sprees went from monthly, to weekly, to…. well… you LOVE clothes!!!!
Some of us have a hate/hate relationship with clothes. Maybe growing up, you couldn’t afford new shoes, or even shoes that fit, for that matter. Maybe the place you called home didn’t have a washer or dryer so your clothes were often dirty or smelly. Maybe, you never had the new shirt or other people made fun of you because of what you wore.
I reached out to a few of our amazing leaders in our local school systems and asked them to send me any recent stories they had encountered with kiddos and clothes. Here’s a story they shared:
“One particular girl in my building was very "troubled." She had been abandoned by her father. Her mother was in and out of jail. She came to us because her brother dropped out of the military to take custody of his sister. Mom was being put back into jail and they called brother and said, "You either come home and take custody of her or she goes into the system." I formed a relationship with her quickly. She would always stop by my office and ALWAYS mentioned my outfits.
One particular day, she comes to my door while I'm in an online meeting. I answered the door but told her I was in a meeting and would call her down when it was over. I shut the door and went back to my desk to continue my meeting. Next thing I know, a piece of paper comes under my door and the note said, "I smell, kids notice, I need you."
Obviously, I turned off my camera and opened my door to let her in. Her clothes that she had (which were very slim in amount) apparently lay on the floor (due to not having her own bedroom and sleeping on a couch). The family cat had "sprayed" on them. I went into our school "stash" and found a sweatshirt that was her size but it was FAR from "cool" or something kids would wear. We had been gifted a box of these sweatshirts that had huge moths on the front of it. I gave it to her and told her to change in my bathroom and that I would wash her sweatshirt for her and get it back to her by the end of the day. She then said, "Everyone will ask why I changed my clothes and why I'm wearing THIS!"
Again, I told her to wait. I came back into my office a few minutes later wearing a matching sweatshirt and told her, "I will walk you back to class wearing mine and you can let everyone know that I gave you that sweatshirt!"
So, as you can imagine, that sweatshirt made its way into one of her rotations of outfits and we made sure to get her a tupperware container to keep her clothes in... UGH! The things we take for granted!!!!!”
If you’re like me, when you hear stories like this, you might be tempted right here to just check out. Even though you hate this and are filled with rage, it’s just the problem is too overwhelming. Doesn’t seem like I can make a difference. Other people have more experience than me. What I love about Solve7 is that we have designed it so everyone has a chance to contribute. We can ALL make a difference. ALL of us need to get serious about clothing the poor. So team, there is A LOT of work to do. Let’s go!!!
If you are ready, lean over to the person next to you and say, “Let’s go!” Type it in the chat, “Let’s go!"
Here are three things you and I can do to make a different in our communities and around the world when it comes to clothes:
1. Get rid of clothes you don’t need.
The key word is NEED. Not want… but need. So real talk, how much do we actually need?
I was at the gym working out one day. I listen to podcasts sometimes when I work out. (We got any podcasters in the house?) I discovered these guys called the “Minimalists." Their whole thing is about how we are happier with less. They have a movie on Netflix right now called “Less is Now." Maria Kondo also has a show on Netflix about having less and choosing joy as well.
The Minimalist has this 30 day challenge, which I found to be really fascinating. So Abby and I decided to try it out. The challenge is each day, you get rid of one thing on day 1, two things on day 2, three things on day 3, and so on. Abby and I bent the rules a bit and said, “What if we got rid of at least one thing for 30 days?” So we did. The first 2-3 days were kind of painful… but after that, it was exciting! One day, we got rid of one item, other days we got rid of 10 items. I found myself excited to go home from work, thinking about what item I was going to get rid of. I bet if you did the same challenge, you would feel similar, too.
Why is that? I found it is because I’m happier with less. I would argue to you we are happier with less!
Abby and I got rid of four trash bags worth of just clothes…!!! Four trash bags!!! And we were able to donate those clothes to the blue box outside our campus on St Rt 128. This blue box in our parking lot is for Matthew 25 Ministries who takes clothes we donate and gives them to people in need all over the world! Four bags in 30 days. So much stuff!!! We got rid of shirts, shorts, my toddler… (:
Question: how many bags do you think you could come up with?
Here is a picture of my closet... I still have clothes I won’t wear until next year… I’m still on a journey. But you can journey with me!
When I was studying for this message and looking at what the Bible had to say about clothes, I realized that what the Minimalists are saying, the principles, were actually written in the Bible a long time ago!
Check these out:
Luke 12:15 And he (Jesus) said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness (jealousy/envy), for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
The value of your life is not determined by what you have or what you wear. That dress, that tank, those shoes aren't going to make your life complete!!! In reality, when you buy the thing you don’t need, can’t afford, to impress people you don’t even like, it will leave you feeling more empty.
You are not what you wear.
Later in Luke 12, Jesus said, “Sell your possessions, [Didn’t say keep em’. Didn’t say hoard em’] and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart will be also.”
Jesus is saying, “Listen, when we have SO much stuff, it’s hard to move." So when God calls us to go and do something, we need to be ready to respond. My hope for you is that your treasures/what matters most to you is not clothes or your stuff…. But God, and what Jesus is asking us to do.
Like when you are traveling on vacation and one person in your group has to pack their whole wardrobe, their box fan, all their toiletries and shoes for each day. It’s miserable moving with so much stuff! I think Christians should be the most versatile people on the planet. Why? Because our stuff isn’t what matters most to us. It’s what God asks of us. And by the way, God is asking us to GO, not to hoard…
According to Forbes magazine, “The U.S. apparel industry today is a $12 billion business and the average American family spends $1,700 on clothes annually, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”
Jesus said in Matthew 6:25-33 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, [oh man, we could stop right there for a long time!] what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: [This is in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus would have been outside. Can you picture Jesus on a field with a bunch of people listening and as he’s talking, he sees birds fly by...] they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon [He’s a dude in the Bible and it said God blessed him abundantly. So he had the swag, the stuff and the dollar bills...] in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
Don’t let stuff get in the way of what is most important. Get rid of the stuff and the clothes you don’t need. Your life will be cleaner and you won’t miss the stuff you got rid of.
If you do get rid of stuff, and you give to people in need, you have no idea the difference you could make in someone's life.
2. Give clothes to people in need.
My favorite part of the story of the student who needed help was how the school administrator responded. It was so huge, massive that she stopped and gave the student a sweatshirt and took the time to give the student what she needed. She not only gave her a sweatshirt, but she also walked with her and made her feel safe, valued and protected.
This reminds me of a passage of scripture and every time I read it, it’s inspiring and challenging and terrifying all at the same time. It’s Jesus talking.
Matthew 25:31-40 He said, ”Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was (somebody say it) hungry and you gave me food, I was (somebody say it) thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a (somebody say it) stranger and you welcomed me, I was (come on somebody) naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, (and sisters) you did it to me.’"
This is inspiring and challenging because Jesus is saying He is the person at school who stinks and needs clothes. He is the homeless person under the bridge. He is the sick person in need of healing. And that brings a whole new perspective on people who need help. I love the world Jesus is painting in these verses. It’s a world where Jesus followers actually respond to people who need help, like the school administrator who helped the student.
This verse is also terrifying because there will come a day when you and me and all of us will stand before the King, Jesus, and He will separate people to the right as His sheep and to the left as goats. And y’all, it ain’t good for the goat! I don’t want any of you to walk another day without knowing that God loves you, you matter to Him and He is inviting you on the greatest rescue mission of all time, to love people and redeem our broken world back to Him. And a major part of that is physically helping people!
There is a term that describes clothes and the way they make us feel and/or think. It’s called “enclothed cognition." Scientists performed a couple of experiments where one group wore normal clothes and the other group wore normal clothes with a doctor’s white coat. Then each group performed a series of tests and what they found was the group with the doctor's white coats scored much higher than the other group without coats. You might have heard of the saying, “Dress for the job you want." When you wear athletic clothes, you’re probably more apt to do athletic stuff. When you wear business clothes, you feel more business-like. And so on…
Just imagine what the girl at school was feeling… “I smell, kids notice, I need you.”
What we wear doesn’t define who we are but it does impact the way we feel about ourselves. This sweet little girl's story is unfortunately the story of so many people all over the world. Kids in Uganda walking for miles without shoes. Adults in Russia freezing to death without a coat. Teenagers in Cincinnati not wanting to go back to school right now because they don’t have shoes that fit or shoes without holes in them.
And we have a chance to do something about it!!!!! We can step in as the church and say, “Nope, not today Satan. You don’t get to use this barrier anymore to keep people from hope!” When we give clothes, we give so much more than, just clothes. We give hope!
Now remember at the beginning I said Solve7 is to remove physical barriers to make way for spiritual opportunities? The reality is, whether you are the person who needs clothes, or the person who needs to purge clothes, we ALL are in need of new clothes.
3. Jesus gives us new clothes.
There is a theme throughout the Bible and it is using clothes as a metaphor for our connection with God and life. Check out this verse:
Ephesians 4:20-24 "to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness."
Put off the old self and put on the new self. Somebody say, “Putting off the old.” Somebody say, “Putting on the new."
The Bible describes all of us as being adopted into his family. He has never left us out to dry. We are His His sons. His daughters. Created in His image.
But… life happens. We get messy! We got stuff… I don’t know about you but I got problems! And I don’t mean too many clothes problems. I mean life problems. The stuff that makes us feel guilty, shameful, and sinful. The stuff that has hurt us or has even caused us to hurt other people.
And so, the thing happened this past week. Didn’t plan on it. Didn’t even mean for it to happen but it did. Maybe it happened last week, or a decade ago, or just last night. And the guilt is almost too much to bear.
Maybe you’ve had an addiction that has been around for a while. Maybe it’s public. Maybe it’s private. Maybe it’s with porn, or alcohol, or people pleasing. But it’s eating away at you. You just can’t seem to quit no matter how hard you try.
And the thing that happened to you that was the unimaginable. You were taken advantage of as a kid... and you are so angry at yourself, and the world, and the person who did it to you. And it’s been holding you down and holding you back for years.
Somebody cheated you out of the job or you relocated your family or you didn’t do as well as you wanted on a test, and you feel like a failure.
Anybody ever felt like this before? A mess? So far from God… tried so hard… hit rock bottom.
I have my story of being a mess. On the outside, I could say the right things but the inside was empty.
Check this out, this is the reason why we are so excited about Jesus! He stepped into our world and into our mess and said, “I’ll take it! Put it on me!” And so He helps us take off the old. And He helps us put on the new. Jesus died on a cross and this is a picture of what he was doing. He took it. He took it all!
Maybe someone sent you this link to listen to or somehow you were driving by our campus and needed hope, so you decided to try this out as a last ditch effort. If that’s you, please hear me.
Jesus clothed us by dying on the cross.
Because Jesus clothes us, what are we going to do? We get to clothe people, like Jesus has clothed us!
And this is for all of us! This is why we talk about clothing and Solve7 because Jesus clothed us. Now we get to clothe others like Jesus did for us! And we can stand in the gap and say, “Not today Satan. You don’t get to use this barrier anymore for that girl who is without hope!"
So team, here are our big asks:
Shoes for Souls - Whitewater has been blessing local students with new gym shoes for over nine years! If you wonder if shoes can make a big difference, all you have to see is the smile on a child's face when they try on new shoes or ask them how the shoes make them feel. The most common responses are "They make me feel AWESOME or special!" Here's one note we received from a local teacher, "Thank you for delivering shoes for my student. I love the smile the shoes put on my student's face. It will give them the opportunity to be able to have good shoes for gym class and has increased their confidence. Thank you, Whitewater Crossing for all you do for our kids."
Information Cards with shoe sizes written on them can be taken off the boards at all three doors as you go out. If you are watching online, please send any size gym shoe to Whitewater Crossing. Bring the shoes back to church by August 8. Pick up a card if you are on campus, or go on our website and either bring shoes in or send them in.
Clothes Pack with Master Provision - Help sort and connect clothes to people in need on Saturday, July 31.