Sunday, December 30, 2012

New Year... New Paths...

Today at church our Pastor described "The Principle of The Path".  Simply put... the Principle of the Path is that direction, not intention, determines destination.  Proverbs 7:6-27 describes a young man who is lured down the path of doom by a woman whose intent for him was not good.  In the end... by following this path, the young man met his demise.  The proverb ends... "Now my sons, listen to me; pay attention to what I say.  Do not let your heart turn to her ways or stray into her paths.  Many are the victims she has brought down; her slain aer a mighty throng.  Her house is a highway to the grave, leading to the chambers of death." 

The "her" that is being spoken of in Proverbs is obviously a woman whose intent is to harm, however in our own lives there is a "her".  It may be food, drugs, alcohol, lying, depression, jealousy... whatever the "her" is.... we don't want to go down that path.....because the further down the path we go... the closer we get to death... either physical death.... or death of your spirit.  This relates to the Path Principle because we can't expect to walk down the path of overeating and expect to be fit... or the path of laziness and expect to have a clean house (unless you have someone else clean it and that is a whole different story lol!). 

A 19 year old young man walks down the path of pot, partying, and women...he wanders the path further and starts to fail in school....further still and he starts selling pot on the side.... a little further still and he is addicted/dealing.... a bit more and he is in jail.... once out- dealing more... deeper still beats his ex-....misses court....winds up in jail again...This young man did not start out seeing himself as a drug dealing, girl-friend beating, drug addict.... but that is where the path has taken him.  If he continues down this path... as Proverbs says....he will be "on a highway to the grave, leading to the chambers of death" rather than on a path to a career...a family... a future.

Proverbs 14:12 says, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death."

Our North First Street friends did not necessarily start out saying, "Wow.. I can't wait to grow up so that I can live by the river, on the street, or out of a hotel day to day in the same clothes that I have worn for the last month," but for whatever reason... that is where the path has taken them.  You can see this so well when you see the 20 something guy with braces on his teeth- the brackets are still cemented on, but he has removed the wire- (Someone once paid for him to have braces, but then along the way he made decisions that separated him from them- he did not ever return so he did not continue seeing the orthodontist),  therefore he has brackets cemented on his teeth as he stands in line- waiting for something to eat to help with ease the ache in his  body from the drugs that he has to have so often through his day.  The drugs help keep him warm, but not warm enough to stop the cold from cutting through his clothes.

Old Carolina, as we call him, sings country songs to us with the most beautiful voice.  His eyes are clear some days and others he can barely focus on you because of the alcohol flowing through his veins.  With a voice like his... he must have at one time had dreams of being a singer.... some kind of dreams... certainly not dreams of napping in the empty lot, next to the cement building, on the frozen ground, breathing in the 29 degree air, but that is where the path that he took led him to.

And what about the young mother with three small children.  I am certain that after the birth of her first beautiful girl that she thought he would stop beating her.  Surely by giving him a child he would be happier.  But the beatings didn't stop... next came the birth of her son... a son!  A nice healthy boy to carry on the family name... now he will stop, but the path that she was on did not lead to a happy home with sweet babies snuggled up next to her.  Instead it lead to sweet babies crying at her feet because daddy wouldn't stop yelling and hitting mommy.

The awesome thing with God is that he is a "Path Changer" and a "Way Maker".  God can turn any path from destruction to life.  He gives people the hope and the strength to turn the titanic around.  The young mother with three small children finds strength from God to leave the man who abuses her and seeks a life filled with hope for her kids.  God turns people from the paths of destruction to the path of life every day... He just waits for us to call out for help.  God is a gentleman.  He will never force His way on anyone... but He will be there to respond as soon as the person is ready to "turn the ship around."

On days like today when the food line was so long... we see a lot of people who are on different paths.  Some are paths of destruction, but some are making changes, some slight...some a little larger than that... but they are changes.  Today one of the hard core meth addicts/drug dealers asked me to pray with him.  About a month ago the Lord put it on my heart to ask if he knew the Lord and if he knew whether he knew where he was going when he passed.  He said that he did know the Lord and that his father was a pastor.  You would never know it looking at him.  Most of his teeth are gone, he has sores all over from the drugs, his eyes are usually glazed, and he is strung out.  I was so glad that he wanted prayer.  Next week he has to have surgery and he is afraid- very understandable.  To most-it is a small change in the direction of his path...but for him- it is huge for him to turn towards God in his time of need.

I can't direct or redirect any one's path by myself, but when I team with other people who have a love for others... and we follow Jesus' lead....then we have a chance...and a chance that I want to take.  (If you ever saw the movie "Dumb and Dumber" you might remember the scene when Jim Carrey is asking the pretty lady out..."So your saying I've got a chance!!!" lol!)  (Sorry- I digress...talking about staying on the path..."Squirrel!"...and I'm off the path and chasing it up the tree!) I was saying with God..anyone can turn their path around.  God is life, love, hope, joy, peace...God is "The Way Maker!!" 

God has us on a path right now that is very fulfilling.  We handed out just over 150 pounds of ham, 20 pans of cheesy potatoes, sweet potatoes, cookies, oranges, and apples.  We had coffee, hot chocolate, and "Jones Juice" (as they call it down there :0)  If you are diabetic...stay clear!).  Faithful volunteers withstood the cold and the snow.  They served our North First Street Friends with joy, integrity, and respect.  They worked as a team and brought warm clothes, good food, and hope to a line of people that didn't slow down for an hour and a half.  Somewhere along the way, I am certain that God is in the process of changing some paths...

Thank You Jesus for being the "Way Maker", "The Path Changer", "Our Hope, Joy, and Peace".  Thank You for being our Savior, Our God, Our Future, Our Reason To Live!! We Love You Lord Jesus!!!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Savior is born....

Luke 2:10 “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news of joy that will be for you all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”

I love this verse…. God tells us of the joy that comes to all people… all people…. Not just those with good families, or functional homes, or for those who go to church, or for those who pray all the time, or for those who have it all together… no one has it all together, but sometimes we need to remember that Christ came for all people….

Christ Jesus was born naked in a manger, crying to gain his first breath, hungry for his first meal, with all of the hope, expectation, and purpose that God had for him.  Just the same…every human on earth was also born naked, crying to gain their first breath, and hungry for their first meal.  They were also planned by God, precious in His eyes, and made with hope, a purpose, and gifts. 

A lot happens between the birth of a baby and their adult years… a lot of life happens.  Sometimes that life is good and sometimes it is horribly dysfunctional and bad.  Every baby comes into this world as a brand new life….but we don’t all end up in the same places.  There are some things though that are similar amongst all people…. We all want to be loved, accepted, and safe.  Today was a great example of how people from both sides of the box were able to minister to each other.  Both volunteers as well as those in need today ended up ministering to each other which must have made God smile so big!

With only 2 days until Christmas…we were not sure exactly what to expect.  On the way down Keith and I both sensed that God was going to show up in a Mighty Way…. And He did through the incredible love shown by both the volunteers as well as our North First Street Friends.  The Kiwanis Club brought sloppy Joes, oranges, chips, and cookies.  Volunteers brought hot coffee, Christmas cards with the beautiful salvation message, homemade sugar cookies- frosted and decorated with love, yummy cupcakes to celebrate Jesus’ birth, and more….

There were warm hats, gloves, pants, socks, and hoodies…..toilet paper as well as a few blankets.  With canapés up and tables out…. We joined together in prayer to thank the Lord for all of His provision.  Food was handed out in abundance because that is how God wants us to love on each other.  Smiles, hugs, listening ears…. were also in abundance.  .  Friends stopped by with wrapped presents for kids…. Matched with a few candy canes made for happy faces.  

It is amazing what a special homemade cookie and a hand written card will do to warm a heart.  Snow fell throughout the day as we scurried about grabbing the right size of this, or a sack of that…. A truly blessed day!

I would like to share some of the stories that stand out in my mind from today.  First, I was very touched to get a Christmas card from one of our homeless friends.  The giving hearts out there amaze me.  I don’t know how many times I have seen someone share the little that they have with someone else that has less.  People will split their food, give their hat, or pass up on a blanket so that someone else can have it that needs it more. Olivia always says, “I bet people wouldn’t believe how much they care and share!” 

Today I met a very sweet 23 year old young man who is presently homeless.  He helped us throughout the day lifting, carrying things, and tearing down at the end.  He asked for a blanket knowing that there was hardly anything thing left at the end.  Keith had one more blanket and gave it to him.  He turned around and walked over to the fence where an old man was sleeping on the ground.  The young man spread the blanket over the old man and tucked it around him.  It darn near made Keith and I cry.  The young man has nothing and yet he gave what he had for someone else.  It was beautiful and so touching.  Keith talked with the young man and asked about his past.  He was born in Tennessee but has been in the foster care system his whole life.  He has been passed around to so many different families but still had a soft heart.  Keith asked him how he could still have a soft heart to others after everything he has been through.  He said that he has been exposed to so much in life including a variety of different faiths.  The young man concluded that the love of Jesus is the only thing that sustains him.  Wow!  Such a simple answer but such a powerful one!

A young mama drove up in a little pickup truck with her son who looked like he was about 4.  He was wearing shorts and she had a very thin shirt and jacket on.  Both looked very cold and hungry.  In talking with the mom I found out that she has 4 kids and is by herself.  Her husband beat her and she finally was brave enough to leave him.  She didn’t want her kids to grow up thinking that that was how a family treated each other.  She took the kids, the truck, and left.  Both afraid and hungry, she asked for whatever we could give her.  It was so awesome to see a number of volunteers immediately respond to her need by bringing her food, water, a few clothes, hope, and prayer.  The young mother was so touched by response.  She cried and told me about how her husband abused her.  I hugged her so big and told her how proud I was of her for keeping her children safe.  She is a good mama trying her best to make a better life for her family.  We told her to come back next week at 2:00 and we will be able to help her more.  God’s love encircled her.  The Holy Spirit wrapped her with love from so many volunteers… it was so beautiful to see!


A mother and father came and asked if we had any presents.  They also have 4 kids who are boys.  Keith knew we were out but asked the dad if he could wait while he looked around in the car.  The gifts Keith found were not wrapped, but God brought such wonderful things to his attention such as…candy canes,  batteries, flashlights, jumper cables for their car, socks, and jackets….. I think God is so cool how He fills the needs of His children in such amazing ways.  Maybe not the way we would think, but when we make our requests known to Him, He provides an answer every time!

God showed up today so beautifully.  I can’t describe the intensity of the emotions because I don’t understand them totally myself.  So much happens in such a short time.  So much love and encouragement happens in these short little snippets… each interrupted within seconds by someone else who needs something.   But it is during these times that a short hug and a whispered word of encouragement make me so aware of the Holy Spirit working throughout our interactions. 

I am so grateful for the baby that was born in a manger so many years ago.  I am so grateful for our Father God who gave up His one and only son to come down to earth, to walk among men, and to eventually give His life up for us…. For All of us.  I pray peace and joy for all of our North First Street friends as well as for our incredibly generous and faithful volunteers and supporters.  Thank you for joining us in this great adventure!!!  I can't imagine any gift better than the joy I have when I share the love of Jesus!  This is a very amazing life!! :0)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Shine Bright!!

Now more than ever I hear the Lord say, “You are here to show the world My love…”  That is it.  It doesn’t matter what you get for Christmas, what you don’t get, if your house is decorated, if you win the best cookie award, or if you are sporting the newest look of the season…. It is just…. Love on the world!!! Shower the world with my love!!! Show love, compassion, empathy, encouragement, joy, give….. give…. Give of yourself, give of your time, give of your encouragement, give of your transparency,  give of your dedication, give of your belief in people…. It is through your love that people will see Jesus….
There were wonderful stories today out on North 1st Street where Jesus’ love was shown…
A Filipino man has come out to North 1st to get food and clothes since this past summer.  When Keith saw him the first time Keith said, “God is not mad at you.”  Now you need to know that Keith had never seen him before and has never since given that message to anyone out there.  It was a message specifically for this man.  Ever since that time, every time Keith sees him he always says, “God is not mad at you.”  Well fast forward to this week… The man is standing in line for clothes and Keith asks him what he needs followed by, “God is not mad at you.”  “No, not this time,” the man replies.   Keith responds, “No, He is never mad at you.”  The man just looked at Keith like, ‘Why do you keep saying that?’  Keith handed the man a pair of gloves, looked him square in the eyes, and said, “I love you.”  The man’s eyes filled with water as he gazed back with a questioning look.  Hopefully one day he will truly believe that “God is not mad at him.”
Another cool thing happened today.  We had some sleeping bags to hand out, not many, but some… Keith had one in his hand that he was about to give to a man who was sleeping down by the river.  Another man came up to Keith and well…. Long story short… ended up taking the sleeping bag leaving Keith standing there angry and feeling terrible for the man who was supposed to get the bag.  Keith asked one of the volunteers to check the car one more time to see if there were any,  even though he knew the last ones had been handed out.  But… never doubt God because Diane returned with one last sleeping bag that she was able to hand over to the desperate man who will sleep in it tonight as the snow comes down over head. 
OneOne particular homeless man who has come around since last winter didn’t follow through with his parole and ended up in prison.  He writes letters to Keith each week… The letters break my heart… his spelling and hand writing alone make me think of maybe a 3rd grader.  Very sad…. He has had a very terrible life filled with abuse, no parents around, drugs, etc.  but somewhere along he way he learned about Jesus and gave his heart to the Lord.  He writes about hope in Jesus and the things he is thankful for.  This man has himself been molested repeatedly, is a pedophile, and is locked up in jail, and yet he clings to the promises of Jesus and the hope of tomorrow.  Jesus has something for each one of us and no person is disqualified from being on God’s team unless they choose not to be.
Today I was talking to a woman who lives by the river.  She said, “I have a hard time with Jesus.  I have issues with men… and Jesus is a man.  How can I trust Him?”  We talked about how people in her life have hurt her badly and that God didn’t make those things happen, but how God has been with her the whole time.  God has never left her and never will even if people fail her.  She bowed her head with tears in her eyes…. She has to be so tough and mean so that people will leave her alone, but really her heart is so soft and injured and only wants to be loved, respected, and safe.  God is the only Christmas present that will fill her needs.

Jesus was born….He was crucified….He (past tense) rose from the dead…. All of these are past events except for this one…He currently sits at the right hand of God in Heaven and lives (present tense) in us through His Holy Spirit…..   The only way people will know that He is more than a story in history…. Is if we let Him live on through us… If we set ourselves aside and allow Him to work through us in our encounters with other people. 

I shared this with our volunteers today before we started serving, “The people out here need to be treated with Integrity, Respect, and Love.   Please let it show through you today!!  You may be the only Jesus they see- Please let your smile and your words reflect this.

This next week….let yourself be the “Big Screen HD TV” for God… Let others see God’s love, compassion, and joy projecting out of your very being…. Radiate God like the Bethlehem Star that shown so bright for the Shepherds.  It is a conscious choice every day…. Less of me…. More of Him!!!



Sunday, December 9, 2012

Grace and Mercy for All...

John 8:12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
It was a wonderful blessed day on North 1st today! We have been adjusting these past couple weeks to the “wet season”.  What that means on North First St. is figure out where we can set up that is not covered with water.  Small puddles, “mini-lakes” have started pooling along various areas of the lot making it difficult to figure out where to put clothes, cars, tables, food, and people.  People have been patient though and most always so gracious.  I think that they are so used to life being “really hard” that they don’t really seem to mind the “inconveniences” as much as we probably do. 
Today seemed to have a lot of people who were hurting, cold, hungry, and scared.  New faces both young and old were in abundance, lined up and hungry.  We’ve come to learn that for a lot of people, Sunday at 2:00 means warm food, smiles, safety, and a time when they will be treated with dignity and respect.  It is a time of the week when they can relax a little bit and be served, when life isn’t quite as hard, if only for a few hours.  We try to serve them as if we were serving Jesus…

Towards the end of the day, a lady came up to me and told me that she has been off meth for 3 weeks.  She said that it was really hard and she was so scared, but that she has gotten through the physically challenging part.  Now she faces rehab up in Spokane.  She is optimistic and prays that it will work.  It has been 3 years that she has been addicted to meth.  I told her that I felt so bad for her not because of the meth addiction, but because of the pain that she must have been going through that led her to use.  At hearing this, she opened up and told me that she had been sexually and physically abused since she was a little girl.  She married a man who continued the abuse and perpetuated the lie…. The lie being that she deserved what she got and that she was created to be used and tossed aside by those who were supposed to protect her and love her.   Lately, she has been tormented by night mares related to the abuse.  I asked how old she was and she told me “40”.  I was shocked!  She looked much older because of the hard life that she has lived, but she cried tears of a young girl that just wanted to be loved and safe.  We prayed and I told her that I would continue praying for her as she was going through rehab. 

It is so humbling to hear the stories…. To see the faces….. to hug the shoulders of people who are just like the rest of us…. Humans in need of acceptance, love, safety, protection, grace…..

When we serve down on North First Street we often first think of the unsaved… of how if only they had Jesus then their lives would be so much better…. If only they knew the truth!  We think of how Jesus died on the cross for their sins and that His grace and mercy are the gift that He brings to them….

But I sit here with a mirror reflecting back to me the image of myself….that grace and mercy is as much for me as it is for them.  I am as much in need of forgiveness and grace as any drug addict, prostitute, murderer…. My sin is much quieter, much more hidden, but equally as rebellious and wrong…. My sin is apathy… it is rebellion against spending time in the Word of God… not in a “works” manner involving a certain amount of time or certain number of passages per day…. But in a true manner…. Purposefully choosing to not spend time in the Word of God because of some inner rebellious feeling that says, “But I can’t concentrate right now, but I just need some down time that doesn’t involve thinking, I just need some “me” time with facebook, a novel, a Christmas chick-flick, Hallmark Channel.

 I have no problem studying autism intensely with this huge passion to try and figure out how to help the children I work with all day…. But why don’t I choose to study the Word of God with such intensity! Why don’t I dig into it like I would dig into a chocolate pie, or a mine filled with gold?? I don’t because of a rebellious spirit that has to die.  I repent of that Spirit God and ask for forgiveness.  I choose time in Your Word, Time diving in and learning more about You!   Yes, I understand there is a balance, but I know myself well enough to know that I am not addressing this as a slave to “works”, but as a sinner who knows that the root is rebellion and not misguided learning. It is not a brain problem, or a time problem, or a comprehension problem, or a focus problem, it is a heart problem.

The more time that I spend in the Word, the more that I start to understand what the face of Jesus looks like, what the words of Jesus sound like, what the touches of Jesus would feel like…. This in turn effects how I treat my husband, how I speak to my children, how I love my neighbor as well as my enemy.  In my human rebellious spirit I have no choice but to act in the flesh…. But when I throw off the rebellious spirit, I embrace the Holy Spirit.  This is true freedom, this is true joy, this is true life!  Peace, joy, wisdom, healing, rest, and strength are found here.…  I pray that my friend who is going off to rehab… I pray that she finds these things….

Lord I thank You that You give Mercy and Grace in abundance and that it is not just for our friends on North First Street, but for all of our deep rooted sin that keeps us apart from You.  I repent and turn from my sin… please continue to uncover the things that keep me far from You because what I truly desire is to be so very close to You!  In Jesus Holy Name,  Amen!
(Also,  We are so very thankful for ALL of the amazing help that has come along beside us through this adventure!  Your prayers, clothes, food, time, blankets, etc.  are so very appreciated!!!)





Sunday, November 25, 2012

Today was a cold, clear day on North First.  It is the end of the month so we knew that there would be a lot of hungry people waiting when we arrived.  I have been so blessed the last two weeks by people who have provided all the food that I felt really excited to cook this week.  It was fun to see what the Lord would unfold since that is exactly how it happens.  Over the last month, people have blessed us with some turkeys, ground beef, bread, etc.  So.... I felt like the Lord was saying... "Use it all up!!" So today we had a wonderful schmorgasborg!! (spelling?) We had turkey soup, hamburger beef stroganoff, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rice, potatoes, various wonderful desserts- much of which showed up by wonderful volunteers!! Needless to say... many people went away filled and happy-  As well as warm because many coats, pants, blankets, hats, shoes, etc. were distributed.

As I was driving home today, I was thinking about what I would write about for this blog.  I was trying to picture what stood out to me the most and I came up with 2 words.... season.....attitude.
These two words have been rumbling around in my head.  The word "season" kept standing out to me because I have heard it said many times, "Sin is good for a season"... but eventually the consequences of your actions set in and it is not so fun.  This is my paraphrase.  I tried to find it in the bible and could not... but it is an idea that I have heard many times. 

"Sin is good for a season..."  Last February/March we met a couple who had been living down by the river for a short while.  They were young-- 20's, happy, and definitly a "couple".  At one point they thought that they were going to be having a baby and were as giddy as any expectant couple.  The boyfriend was affectionate and protective of his girlfriend.  He seemed proud to be an expectant dad.   Each week that we saw them, they would talk a little more, smile, and share about their week.  After about a month or so... they didn't seem as happy and the young mom didn't seem to have a growing tummy.  Week after week went on and it was obvious that they must have lost the baby.  Life down at the river continued on.  In the spring when we were taken on a tour by the river, we got to see where they lived.  They still had some happiness in their faces, but not nearly as much as when we first met them.  The summer blazed by and we would see them off and on... sweaty and dirty, sometimes smiling, sometimes not.  They looked different though... rougher... dirtier.... "harder". 

The only thing that I could think was..."Life by the river isn't as fun as it once might have seemed."  The couple told us how they had rigged up an outdoor shower and that it worked well through the summer... the cool fall air must not have made it as easy or enjoyable.  Fast forward to this past month..... I see them each week- he is sullen and seems very angry.  She tip toes around him as not to upset him.  He snaps at her and she grumbles back.  Both are filthy from head to toe.  Their clothes, faces, hands, hair, covered with a layer of dirt.  Today they stood in line feroshously hungry.  They arrived towards the end when we were passing out bowls of thick turkey soup to the people waiting in the food line  so that we could see how much more we needed.  The girl flipped the top off her bowl and started eating it with her dirty fingers. (The spoons were at the other end of the tables).  What a different sight from the happy, smiley, girl that I first met months before.  Here she stood, dirty-hungry- sores on her face from the meth...whiskers that the women often get cover her chin- (A lot of times if they are abusing stimulants, it causes adrenal exhaustion which upsets the hormones and causes them to produce too much testosterone leading to a lot of unwanted facial hair.)  The boyfriend was equally as dirty.

My heart continues to  break each week as I watch this couple turn from two young people that were excited about a new adventure to two dying young people.  Their death is a slow death of spirit as well as body.  What may have started as an adventure and drug dabbling has turned into an addiction that has them by the throat.  It is a vicious cycle...When they do the drugs- they want more... and when they want more...they have to do something to get the money- the drugs are killing their bodies, but their bodies are screaming for the drugs.... Their physical appearance has changed through time as well as their spirits.  They come with an aura of "hopelessness"... of just barely getting by...I don't know what will happen to them, but I know where they can go to get a smile, a hug, some warm food, some clothes, and maybe some blankets.  I know where they can go to get some hope.... but I don't know if they are ready for that.  I continue to pray that they will be ready to turn things around, to start working the other way on the number line.  I picture them digging deeper and deeper down like a number line.... counting backwards....,-2,-3,-4.......How far down will they get??? 

On the lighter side... a funny thing happened today.  Keith was working the clothes side.  He was asking people what they needed and then would call back the sizes, types of clothes, etc. for the volunteers to get from the boxes.  At one point he held up an orange tarp that was in a clear bag and asked a gentleman if he needed it.  The man replied, "What's that?"  Keith laughed and said, "If you don't know what this is you must live in a house hu?"  The man answered, "Your right, I don't.  I live in a house."  Another man close by said, "Ya, he lives in a house.  I know what that is and I need it because I live down by the river."  The lesson we learned... if you don't know what it is used for... you probably live in a house. lol!!!!  (We have a lot of people that come who are able to pay for a hotel room or a small apartment, but do not have enough money to pay for extras like clothes, blankets, food, etc.)  We continue with our motto-  "Love, Not Judge" 

Another positive-  There is a couple who we have helped since last winter.  The husband has a job now and just comes down towards the end of the month when food gets low at his place.  Many of the people we serve have small part time jobs or are on disability...  There have been many children this past month though... that is hard to see.  It is a joy to be able to put a pair of shoes on a child who is wearing sandals at this time of year as well as a nice warm jacket.  There are young moms that are trying to make it the best they can on their own... so many situations.... so many needs.... and One Jesus who knows each one of them by name. 

Thank you Jesus for loving us... for providing for us... for allowing us the honor of serving your children with respect and dignity.  Whether infant or elderly... Lord Your love is for all!!! Thank You Jesus for bringing us loving hearts to help serve You!! Please protect them throughout their week!!! In Jesus Holy Name, Amen :0)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Lord is Good.. and His Mercies Endure Forever!!

The Lord is good and His mercies endure forever!
You know how at football games the cheerleaders rally the fans to cheer on the players??? They lead the fans into chants that rally the players and lead them to victory… well on North First Street today… there was victory!!  Jesus Victory!!!   Today the food line snaked its way down to the sidewalk and across to make a huge “L”… Keith ran up and down the line of people leading them in a chant…”The Lord is good!!!! And they would reply…”The Lord is good!!!”…. “And His mercies endure forever!!!”… and they would reply “And His mercies endure forever!!!!  It was a beautiful site seeing the huge line of North First Street Friends shouting out to the Lord that even on a cold, overcast, muddy fall day… “The Lord is Good!!!” and yes… His mercies do endure forever… We are proof of that every week.

This week I felt extremely blessed as I did last week.. A wonderful group of women who all attend bible study together put together what had to be 15-20 crock pots of stew for us today. Wow!!! God heard my prayer a few months ago that I didn’t know how I was going to be able to meet the growing need on my own… He brought beautiful loving hearts who wanted to bless us with a meal for 200.   Thank you Jesus… for showing us your amazing mercies…they do endure forever. 

We had all of the stew, numerous platters of homemade cookies- (thank you Tracy! :0) … hot dogs, rice and beans, apples, ….soap cut and bagged (thank you Diane P. :0) ….Our need for more hands to help serve food… sort and serve clothes…. have been met… new volunteers have come to us from Selah…West Valley….East Valley…people from Kiwanis… people from a variety of churches… people who have a heart for the lost… a heart for the less fortunate.  Older people… younger people… all tied together because of their love for people.  A young boy selflessly served stew today with the most beautiful heart, “Have a good day!”  It is so beautiful to see how the Lord is growing us and stretching all of us every week. 
Our merciful God is chipping off the callous attitudes… the hard hearts… the judgmental ways…”The Lord is Good and His Mercies Endure Forever!!!”  It is never our job to decide “Who deserves Jesus… and who does not…. Who deserves mercy… a hand out… and who does not.”  My heart is bursting with such a mixture of feelings…. My heart feels broken for the people who believe that God is only for “the deserving”… you know.. the people who have their lives together… the people who live “a respectable life”… you know those people… the people who finished high school… the people who are not “addicted”…. The people who wear “clean clothes”…. the people who speak English…. Yes… I said it…My heart breaks for them because they are missing the point… they are going through the religious steps… but they are missing the heart of Jesus!! It doesn’t have to be serving our ministry… it has to do with serving all people throughout their lives… whomever they run into…. It has to do with seeing people with Jesus eyes…. With a Jesus heart…..but just as Jesus extends his mercy on North First Street… Jesus extends His Mercies to us….
Our merciful God continues to chisel away at my own heart…He allows me to grow  and He stretches me farther than I would have ever expected… I think the more that I allow God to step in and reach out to others… the deeper I experience Who God is and get to know more of His attributes.  I feel such deep sorrow…joy….compassion….love….trust…. thankfulness…… and humility… the more I serve the least of these… the more I see how alike we all are than how different… this in turn shows me how much Jesus sacrificed and how undeserving we all are… in the end I feel so grateful for how good the Lord is… and how His Incredible Mercies Endure Forever!!!  Lord please help peel the layers from my eyes so that I can see the world with eyes more like yours… with a heart more like yours…and with mercy more like Yours!!! (P.S. thank you Tina for the awesome Turkey and stuffing… that will be our food for next week!! You blessed us so much!!  I pray that you can feel a fraction of the joy that you will be giving next week!)  (And for our faithful friends who drop off toilet paper and water every week…please know that you are making a difference… people may not be dropping to their knees and claiming healing every week, but week by week – layer by layer… the Lord is infiltrating their being…healing hurts…providing triage where necessary… and long term care for others… Thank You Jesus for Your Sweet Mercies…They do Endure Forever!!! :0)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Dr. Seuss... "The Cat In The Hat"...

Do you remember the Dr. Seuss show “The Cat In The Hat?”  Remember how they show the little box that opens up flap after flap and then out pops this incredible machine with a cat driving it???  Remember the bright colored carpets, thing one and thing two….And then at the end the machine shrinks down and disappears in to this little box that closes up so that there is not anything left except for an empty room….. That is what happens on North First Street every Sunday at 2:00.  The empty lot sits there untouched and then at 1:50 car after car pulls in, tables are set up, boxes are unpacked, food is distributed, clothes and toiletries fill bag after bag…. The line continues as need after need is met… One person at a time.

Jesus’ love covers all…. His love makes a group of people go out on a cold fall day to create an incredible two hours of love and hope….that is real… it is tangible.  There are real people handing out hot food, shaking hands with real people…., hugging the necks- squeezing the shoulders of real people.  The smiles, the encouragement, the tears are real… face to face…. Laughter, tears, consoling words, and sometimes prayer… all given with hearts of Jesus.  Words of affirmation, acceptance, and concern….words of shared sorrow, grief, and joy- all given in the name of Jesus…  He makes it happen… He makes the clothes show up, the food, the volunteers, the details, the recipients… Jesus brings them all.

This last week the Kiwanis Club and one of our local churches pitched in and brought piping hot pots of chili, rice, brownies, bread, corn bread, coffee, water, tea….and a pickup load of blankets.  It was such a blessing to us all….They came in with all the food and with volunteers to boot! 

It is amazing to see the faces of people who are served week after week…they are shown love week after week and nothing is being asked of them.  They know that it is safe and that these crazy people come every week that say, “We love you and Jesus loves you….” It doesn’t matter what you have done, you are loved…. And every week they return….because they know that they have a safe place once a week that they will feel the love of Jesus.

It may take 5 years before some of them accept the Lord….We meet their physical needs and then they are open to hear from the Lord and open their hearts….It does not have to be jammed down their throats… I believe that every single one of them know that those crazy people that come out every week represent the Lord God Almighty!!

            Our message is always the same…. Jesus has not forgotten you… He loves you more than ever- despite what you may have done or will do…His love covers all…. And just like they take our food and clothes…. They receive the little packages of Jesus’ love that come in the form of smiles, hugs, hand shakes, nods, warm gloves, hats….but I would be naïve to think that those packages of love are only for the people on the other side of the table…because every single person that is out there feels the love of Jesus week after week and it doesn’t matter if you are living by the river, under the bridge, or in a nice warm house in a beautiful neighborhood…. Jesus reveals himself through our relationship with one another. 

            Today one man touched my heart so much.  He is a lively character who has a huge problem with alcohol.  He has a gentle, happy spirit and he always sings to us… it is a little obnoxious at times because he is often so drunk that he repeats himself over and over, but he is a kind man.  He also loves Jesus…. Well today he came up to me half way through the afternoon and asked if I had a pair of pants that were his size… My eyes started at his face but then eventually locked on his very wet stained pants.  My eyes went back up and locked on his… They were filled with embarrassment and pain… This man who had to be close to 60 had wet himself and was standing there soaking wet and totally humiliated.  The Lord poured compassion through my veins… I found myself patting his shoulder saying, “It’s o.k. sweetie, don’t be embarrassed… I am so sorry. We love you and Jesus does too… I am so sorry that your battle is so hard.”  I felt the love of Jesus pouring out through my eyes and embracing him.  Tears ran down his face like a kindergarten student who had an accident in class. I gave him a huge hug and a box filled with a pair of jeans just his size along with a clean shirt, underwear, socks, and some soap…. The Lord filled his physical need as well as his heart need.

            The more I serve, the more humble I feel.  I am no better than JoJo the homeless man… it is just that my sin is better disguised than his….I have hurts like him, sadness like him, and sin like him…. Knowing this makes it easy to honor the toothless, dirty person standing in front of me.  Some people say, “I don’t want to give to the homeless because they got themselves into their own trouble, I would rather give to organization _____”.  I just don’t think that Jesus’ love should be given based on “who deserves” it more.  Let’s just say I am not the person to make that judgment call.  Who am I to deem someone more deserving of God’s grace and mercy than another??? That is not what the Lord calls us to do. 

            All in all, I am thankful, humbled, filled with joy, and honored to serve Jesus Christ in the manner that He has called me.  It was a great day on North First Street….The boxes closed up, the tables, came down, the garbage was bagged, and everything folded up into a nice little box so that as the truck and trailer left the lot on North First looked as if nothing had been there.... but truth be told...every single person left that lot being touched by Jesus.  Thank you Lord for letting me spend another great day serving You!  I pray protection and covering over all of our family and friends… In Jesus Holy Name… Amen!! :0)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Walking It Out In Faith... Step by Step...

Today the sun shone down on us despite the crisp air.  The blue sky was like a smile from heaven looking down on the line of people reaching across the lot.  We drove into the lot and the line was already out to the side walk.  People gathered across the street in anticipation for the food that was on its way.  Some people sat up against the fence that  lines the lot waitting to see the actual truck before they made their way to the back of the line.  The volunteers gather around for a few quick words before reaching out to hold hands in prayer for the day to unfold, "Your Will be done on North First Street! Amen!" 

As soon as the prayer is finsihed, the back of the trailer is opened and like little ants marching along, the tables are carted out, followed by the bins of plates, napkins, cups, food.... bin after bin are unloaded and organized along the tables.  Once everyone is in their place ready to serve... Keith jumps up on the tailgate of the little red pickup truck and addresses the eager faces in the long line.  He takes off his hat and begins to pray in Jesus name... thanking for God's provision, for the safety of all our lunch guests, and for the amazing grace that only God can give! He shares in less than a minute the stoyr of the feeding of the 5,000 and shares the fact that a man last week who was prayed for got a job this week!  The crowd shouted out "Amens, and Jesus!!" and before we knew it, the food line was started.  Homemade Macaroni and Cheese, hot dogs, apples, pears, homemade cookies, sheet cakes, and "Don's Donuts" were on the menu today.  But what stuck out in my mind this week was the "How" of how it comes about.....

There is no manual for this stuff..... we just try so hard to listen to the lead that God is giving
us and it looks something like this. 
  • I go to Cash n Carry and ask God... how much do week need? And God replies "Four Boxes of Pasta, 5 large bags of cheese, butter, milk, and 10 aluminum roasting pans.
  • I go home and ask God... how much should I cook? And God replies, "Keep cooking until it is all gone."
  • "Where will I store it all after it is cooked God?"..... and He replies, "In the 10 aluminum pans... put them in the freezer. .... You know, the freezer that I just brought you this week that someone donated...."
  • "But how will I warm them all up in the morning Lord?"...."Ask your neighbors if you can use their ovens... and don't forget the 4 roasting pans that I provided for you."
  • "O.K. God, so I did all of that... but we are just about ready to go and I don't have enough room to transport them all down to North First Street."....."Pour all of the pans of Macaroni and Cheese into the 36 gallon rubber bin and serve it out of that."
  • So...... We did..... and it was so heavy that the neighbor man had to come and help Keith lift it.  It truly had to be over 100 pounds because the two of us couldn't lift it.  "But Lord, isn't this too much food? I have never in my life seen this much Macaroni in my life...."
The rest of the story..... We got down to the lot and when it was said and done, we had served over 200 people.  There was nothing left over.... 250 hot dogs, over 100 pounds of homemade mac n' cheese, apples, pears, desserts...

  • "Lord, that was crazy!!! There were so many people and they were so thankful and they are smiling more!"...... God replies, "I knew there would be.... and that is why I had you make so much... I love them as much as I love you and I want them to know me...."
In my heart of hearts I know without a doubt that they feel Jesus' presence!  I know that they feel His love and that layer by layer; like a huge Walla Walla Sweet onion- their layers are peeling off.  Little by little, week by week they are opening up to the love of Jesus!  You can see it in their smile, in their hugs, in their renewed hope.... even if for some it is just enabling them to hang on a little longer.... Some may peel fast, and some may take years... but no matter what.... the layers are peeling.

Thank You Jesus for speaking to each one of us... for guiding us and leading us along this path called "life".  Thank You for being so specific as to the amount of "cheese to buy" or the right person to offer a certain coat to.  Lord, You know their needs and You know our needs and You have not forgotten any of us..... Thank You Jesus for being my guide.. my Light!!! In Jesus Holy Name, Amen! :0)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

It has almost been a year now that we have been going down to North 1st Street to feed the homeless.  We have had a variety of responses, some of which surprise me.  I am still caught off guard when I meet someone who wants to jump in and help.  They want to either bring by clothes or drop off water and toilet paper by our house.  Some people bring by hotel room shampoos and conditioner that they have collected over the years.  Every little bit helps so much and blesses so many people.  I so badly want them to know that their "small" act of kindness blesses more than they could know. 

Other people have said, "That's neat that you are doing that, but it is just not my thing." or "I don't know how you do it, there are so many other people who I would rather help. You know that they got there because of their bad choices." or "It is their choice to be there, they could help themselves if they wanted," and finally, "They deserve it and you are just making it easier for them."

I have spent the last year being obedient to God but internally wondering if we were doing the right thing.  What the Lord has put on my heart is simple, "I have commanded you to feed and clothe the poor."   The question remains..."Does one person deserve 'Hope' more than another?"  "Does a person who is so hurt and damaged that they would sell their bodies for drugs deserve 'Hope' less than someone who does not?"  I think that we like to classify people into those who "deserve" healing and those who do not; those who 'deserve' forgiveness and those who do not; those who 'deserve' our time and effort vs. those who do not.  This is not biblical.... this is convenient.  God said, "Go out into the world and preach the gospel," "feed and clothe the poor and the widows",  "love your neighbor", and He came for ALL people. 

With all of that said, I can only encourage you to reach out to someone, anyone.  They maybe homeless or have a home, they may be old or young, they may be rich or poor... these things to not matter, but just try to open your eyes a little wider and try to see the world around you from God's perspective.  It is both alarming and uncomfortable.  It makes me feel sorrowful at times yet joyful knowing that I can make a difference one person at a time.  If we all reach out to someone in need rather than pass them by, our world would be a kinder, healthier place.  There are elderly who are incredibly lonely, children who need someone to encourage them, single parents who need to know that they are not alone.... face it.... We all need the HOPE that Jesus Christ offers and when we have that... we need to pass that gift on to someone who does not. 

Today as we were wrapping things up and putting the tables away, Glen just wanted to be heard.  He didn't want food or clothes, he just wanted to be heard.  He said, "I just want to sit and have a cup of coffee with someone who is not going to try and take something from me."  " A cup of coffee?  He is actually asking for a friend.  Can I really call myself a Christian if I can listen to that request and ignore it?  How much more clear does he have to be?  It has been almost a year and Glenn just wants to sit and visit over a cup of coffee. 

We all have something to offer someone... some time, an ear, a loaf of bread, or a coat.  Today we served piping hot beef stew with potatoes and carrots.  There is something so amazing and joyful about looking into the eyes of another human being and hand them a nice plate of hot healthy food that will bring nutrition to their bodies with a side of "hope and love" served right up with it.  Our lives may seem miles apart from the "needy" but when you look them in the eyes.... you see someone's baby girl or someone's little boy who has grown up... you see someone that is a whole lot more like you... than different from you. 

As you go through your week... take an extra minute to look beyond your "normal" routine.... and see someone who could use some words of encouragement, some dignity, some hope.  Actively seek God in all that you do and your life will never be the same again!!! :0)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Summer Sundays....

Today is August 12, 2012.... School starts in 2 weeks and I will be back in the routine of work, kids, school, etc.  My last blog was back in June right after school was over for the summer.  For whatever reason, I have not felt the urge to write over the past few months.  It may be that I needed to relax and take a break from "producing" something... It seems like so much of our lives are going through mental lists of "to do" items, completing them, and then checking off our accomplishments.  I think I needed a break from any "to do" items for a while. 
     Taking a break from blogging did not mean taking a break from the homeless though.  On the contrary... we have been going down every Sunday at 2:00 to bring food and hope to our North 1st. Street friends.  There were some days when they did not think we would be there because it was so hot, but there we were.... setting up our canopy tents, lining up the tables, arranging the food, and passing out the water... lots and lots of water... and sometimes even popcicles :0)  
      The heat has not kept us away, nor have the long lines of people, the summer schedules, or the thunder storms.  Amazingly we have always had enough volunteers.  There are no sign up sheets or scheduled workers...we just get the people who show up... and to my amazement... we always have enough people to help.  I shouldn't be surprised, but I am.  They show up in the blazing sun with smiles on their faces... ready to serve the Lord.  It is humbling and so appreciated.  There is something wonderful about standing shoulder to shoulder with other people who have "like hearts" for the people we serve.  Our volunteers this summer have ranged from grade school age to 80+ years old- (bless their hearts!). 
      We have also not lacked for food or clothes to distribute.  See... the Lord has spent the last few months working on my heart.  He is in the process of growing it and transforming it to be in alignment with His Will.  Throughout the summer, I felt like the Lord was trying to teach me something... but from week to week, I couldn't put my finger on it.  Today I felt like I had a glimpse of some of the things that I've learned. 
1.  The first thing that I can see the Lord working with me on is to give up control... control of all the details.  As I have mentioned before, I tend to worry about where we will get what we need, if we will have enough, and how it will impact our family.  The Lord has shown me this summer that He has it all under control.  God has shown me that all that we have belongs to Him and that my job is to just obey what I have been asked to do... Specifically- to feed and clothe the people on North 1st Street.  I am not to worry about where the things come from, God provides.  If food is not donated, then I am to go out and buy what is needed.  God will take care of our needs. 

2.  The second thing that I have learned has been to stop questioning "why" we are doing what we are doing and to not "add" extra tasks on to our directions.  God said very specifically to "feed" and "clothe" the people on North 1st with food, clothes, hope, and love.  That is all.... We are not to try and fix their problems, give them rides,  find them housing, or "church" them.    Our job is specifically to feed, clothe, and speak hope/love to the poor.  Our message is clear.... "Jesus loves you very much and so do we."

3.  Finally, I have learned that God is infiltrating North 1st St. and that I can not even  begin to understanding all of the amazing things that He is doing in the hearts of our volunteers as well as the hearts of our First St. Friends.  We have seen a wonderful number of people find jobs this summer.  We have watched them transform as hope continues to grow in their lives.  Some people have opted to go into rehab while others have found better housing.   One man replied after Keith inquired about his week, "It has been a really good week.  I am not sure why things have  gotten better.  Maybe because I have been hanging out with you guys."   It was not us... that made the difference... it was  God in us... that he encountered. 

Today a lady made an interesting statement.  She said, "I watch you guys give every week to these people who chose to spend their money on drugs instead of food for themselves and their children.  You never judge them for this or make them feel bad.  You just give and give.  You dont' ask anything from them.  I want to start giving back.  Can I help next week?"   (She is homeless, but observed this over the past weeks.) To me, this was very humbling and rewarding.  She gets it... she described how Jesus loves us.... Somehow it is showing through. That is all I want... I just want them to know that this way of loving... is how Jeus loves us!

We have met homeless people from Yakima as well as people who have ended up here from clear across the country.  One special lady I was able to pray with is not much older than I am but she is suffereing from the late stages of pancreatic cancer.  She is so thin with a beautiful sunny smile.  Unfortunately she is homeless and has so much pain that she uses alcohol for pain relief.  A year and a half ago I lost my own mom from ovarian cancer.  Her last weeks were mostly incoherant to her because she was so heavily medicated with morphine due to the severe pain.  I can't blame the lady I met for self medicating with alcohol... when I think of the pain mom was in.... I can only pray that this lady is able to find pain relief in this last stage of her life.  She is a believer, but is also suffering from a painful disease.  Today she told me that she was beaten up last week.  My heart cried for her...I stopped and prayed with her for protection and relief from the pain.  This summer has helped me drift down the spectrum of "judgementalness"....We just never know what we would do in someone else's shoes. 

Over the past few months we have seen people thrown into jail and people released.  We have seen couples broken up and reunited.  Babies have been born and babies have been removed from homes.  People have been filled with hope, jobs, and a future as well others filled with depression and despair.  New people have come and filled in the places in line where old friends once stood.  Some of our regulars have disappeared while others have remained and grown.  The Lord has taught me this summer that "He" is responsible for the growth and development of each invidual and that each person is at a different point along the path of life.  My job is to be obedient to what is asked of me by God and to do my part with joy.... God takes care of the rest.... All of the rest!!!

Through this summer I have gained a peace and contentment with my life... I have become comfortable with a simpler, less stressful day.  It is not necessary to make "busyness".  God has specific things that He calls us to... and sometimes we need to be quiet enough to hear what those things are so that we are not just running around being "busy". 

Thank you Jesus for being my Lord, for loving me, and for continuing to grow me.  I love this adventure that you have us on.  Please keep my heart soft and open to you.  In Jesus Holy Name- Amen!  :0)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Can you see air?.......

Genesis 1:1  "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth...."  fast forward in time.....and Keith is standing in the lot on North 1st street asking a 20  year old  "Can you see air?"  "Well you can see the wind blo...", Keith interupted, "Can you see air?"  "Well you can see condensation.." replied the young man.  "No, can you see air?  So you think your lungs are working?" Keith continued.."No you can't physically see the air that is going into them, but you know that they are working and that the air is traveling into your blood stream...."  This was the conversation that lead to a young man who proclaimed to be an atheist  accepting Christ as his Lord and Savior. 

What a day on North 1st Street....The day before had been rainy and stormy with thunder and lighting.  The morning had traces of hail falling from the sky with threats of further storms.. but by the time we were ready to head down to North 1st street the weather had cleared and the sun was shisning!  On our way back from Seattle on Friday, Keith announced that he would love to bar-b-cue for our North 1st Street friends.  By the time that we got to Ellensburg we went from "maybe we can bar-b-cue sometime this summer" to "We need to do it this weekend!"  So with coolers filled to the rim with hotdogs and hamburgers, iced bottles of water, and a ton of treats... we were off... off with expectation that the Lord would show up!  That the Lord would be in the mood for a cook out! lol :)

I should have known from the line that was already formed out to the side walk that it would be a busy day!  Usually when we pull into the lot there are people waiting, but this day we had a line formed that almost reached the sidewalk before we were even parked!  We lined up the tables, layed out our food, and gloved up!! We had a lot of hungry friends to take care of.  Keith led us in prayer and the day began... We had already cooked some hotdogs to get started then we fired up the bar-b-cue and cooked the rest right there... there is something really nice about smelling the bar-b-cue smoking away that just makes the food taste so  much better.  It was awesome!  We had wonderful volunteers that brought homemade cup cakes,  apples, candy, and cookies! 

Our homeless friends had plenty to fill their stomachs with today... There was a enough for seconds and thirds if they wanted.  Keith grabbed a couple boxes of hamburger patties "for an emergency" in case we ran out of hotdogs.  Well... it wasn't long before the hamburgers were cooking... yes... we went through all of the hotdogs and all of the hamburgers....

As soon as most of the people got through the food line, we started taking out the boxes of clothes.  Every where I looked seemed to be filled with people.  People eating, people talking, people digging through boxes for clothes...people visiting... I loved the day... It was neat to meet new people as well as to see some of my old favorites.  Part way through the afternoon someone called for Keith... they wanted to speak to a young guy who had a lot of questions about the Lord.  It turns out that this guy had been in jail for a period of time and while he was in jail he decided to pray... he was a self- proclaimed atheist and had never prayed before.  He prayed while he was in jail and then his circumstances improved and he was released from jail.  One of the volunteers asked him while he stood in the food line if he would like a bible.  He said "yes", but he wanted to know more about "this Jesus guy".  The volunteer called Keith who then was able to share the Lord with him.  Keith addressed his questions and disbelief  using the example of "seeing air" because the young man kept saying that he didn't believe anything that he couldn't see. 

 The story continues though... because a man had been following Keith around all day.  Every time he turned around this guy was there.  Keith didn't know who he was but as Keith was getting ready to speak with the young man, he noticed this stranger standing by him.  Keith shared about Jesus then the stranger started telling his story.... He shared that he also had been in prison.... for 4 years... he had been in the wrong place at the wrong time and had to serve 4 years for a crime that he saw, but did not commit.  The man shared that instead of being bitter, he chose to dive into the bible and learn more about Jesus.  He was able to relate his relationship with the Lord to the young man in a way that made sense to him.  The young man could easily relate to the 60 some year old stranger's story becasue they shared similar circumstances so they were able to share peer to peer.  Keith jumped in and shared, "We are here because of Jesus! God is real!  You felt it in jail or you wouldn't have prayed!"  God knew what this young man needed to hear because when Keith asked him if he wanted to give his life to the Lord... the man agreed enthusiastically.  He gave his life to the Lord Sunday 6/24/2012 in an empty lot on North 1st Street!  Praise God!!!!  If for no other reason but that..... these last 8 months have been worth it!  His life will never be the same.

This was such a cool example of how one person does "a little something" (volunteer offers young man a bible);  that "little something" turned into a "someone" (the young man); And that someone's life was dramatically changed by the power of the Holy Spirt!  The 60 something year old stranger also chose to do a little "something" by sharing his story which spoke directly to the young man's heart!  If our church wouldn't have done their "little something" and donated the bibles, the topic may not have come up.  We all can do a "little something" and God takes care of the rest!!! Thank you Jesus!!!

Other wonderful things happened this week,  a husband who has been coming all winter handed me his cell phone.  "It's my wife...she wants to talk to you."  I took the call and spent the next few minutes encouraging his wife who is in treatment.  She is pregnant and is is treatment for 3 months.  I encouraged her to hang in there, that she could make it.... for their baby and for their family!  After ended the call her husband told me that he was going to go into treatment at the end of the month.  I was so happy for him and was able to breath life giving words into him also. 

Shortly after that, "Freeman" (the name we have give one of our friends who we met the first day he was out of jail) shared how long it had been since he drank and how long it had been since he had smoked weed.  Again I encouraged him to stay with it!..... That is the only way that the future is going to crack open for him otherwise he will be locked in his own personal hell.  After giving him a big hug and squeeze... he was off... "I'll be praying for you!" I called after him.  He returned my encouragement with a quick flash of a smile and wave of his hand.... I pray that he is able to stay dry!

This must have been the day of encouragement because fianlly, a lady who has come all winter shared that her husband had been dry for 4 months but that he was angry that he had to take a breath alyzer test now after all this time.  As I was walking the field picking up garbage I was able to catch him before he left..."Wait!" I called after him....."Do it for yourself!" He looked at me with a question on his face.  I explained that his wife had shared with me how he was feeling.  I felt like I was the North First St. cheer leader!! "You stay clean for you!  Don't worry about the law... they have to follow their rules, but stay clean for you... and your family!  God made you special... he made you because he has a purpose for your life!"  The husband's eye brows went up and his eyes widened as I continued....."You are special and if you can stay dry... then you have a future!  A life!!! The world breaks open with possiblities for you!"  A wide smile broke out over his face and he thanked me.  He trotted off and joined his wife with a little bit of "joy" in his step. 

These are just a few examples of the wonderful things that God is doing out on North 1st St.  They are just little glimpses into the things that I was able to experience.  I know that each volunteer has their own wonderful stories... the little bright spots that they see from week to week.... the places where they see God shining through!  I think God sends us each other.... and that He works through each of us to breath life and hope into each other so that we can get a glimpse of the Glory of God!!! Our actions and words are used by God to further the Kingdom of God! They are not said and done to point back to ourselves.... the joy comes when we listen to the promptings of the Lord and let His words encourage, heal, and breath life into the people around us..... In doing so, we are healed, encouraged, and filled with life.

Thank you Lord that You have made it so easy for us to receive You.  It only takes looking out the windows at your creation to know that you are real!  I pray that all of our friends on North First St. will come to know you and invite you into their lives... because even though life will always have trouble of its own.... with You Lord.... It will never, ever be the same!!!! In Jesus Holy Name..Amen

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Audacious Faith!!

I want "Audacious Faith" just like Joshua!  Our pastor has been preaching about Joshua's Audacious Faith from Steven Furtick's book "Sun Stand Still."  Joshua had such amazing faith in the Lord!  In Joshua 3:5 Joshua tells the people , "Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you."  And amazing things He did do... for the Israelites crossed the Jordan river- not by swimming it, or boating across, but by walking in their sandals across a dry river bed.... during the flood season... how is this possible?  Of course because our God is amazing and because Joshua believed... he had "Audacious Faith". 

Later in Joshua...10:12 "Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel: 'Sun stand still over Gibeon, and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon."  Joshua prayed an Audaciously Huge prayer!! He asked the Lord to stop time... for the sun to stand still and for time to stop.... ' so the sun stood still and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies.'  Wow!! Can you imagine having such huge faith in God that you would ask for such a huge prayer to be answered .... and expect it to be answered??? God dammed up the water and dried up the riverbed so that His people could cross the Jordan.  As soon as they stepped onto dry land, the riverbed started to fill with water again.  His people had not doubt that it was God that performed the miracle... It was God that loved them so much that He kept his promise to protect them and never leave them. 

Fast forward to June 2012 on North First Street in Yakima, Washington.... we stand with our North First Street friends and with Audacious Faith we ask God to supply the needs of the people.  We ask for specific sizes to appear, for shoes to be located in the bottom of a box that would  be the perfect fit for Heidi or Melissa, or Raul.  As we walk back to the car after holding our finger up to someone, "Just a second, I will check and see if we have that..." we pray "Lord please let there be one more roll of toilet paper left in the car for this person, or please let there be more food back here for the hungry couple standing in front of me."  We don't pray these prayers in vain so that we can be the heroes or so that we get great thanks... we pray the prayer so that we can then turn to the person in need and say, "Wow! Look how awesome God is... He saved one more roll just for you"...... or "Look- God knew just your size... He will never leave you or forsake you." 

It is so cool because God just keeps growing my faith... I don't test Him... but by the nature of what we do on North First St... it demands this kind of faith because we never know what we are going to get.  We don't know who will show up, what they will need, or what will be donated... it is all on faith.  We don't know how many people will show up to eat or if we will have enough... We don't even know most of the time if we are going to have the time to put it all together.  But guess what?.... we always do have enough.... and clothes always do show up... and there is always enough time... and food always comes from somewhere... and the sizes do appear... not always immediately... but in those cases we tell our North First St. friends that we will pray for their needs during the week and see what God brings us.

Please do not think that I believe that my God is a genie because I surely do not!  I do believe that God knows our needs and that He makes a way.... it may not always be the way we expect... but He always makes a way.... My own faith is not yet "Audacious" but it is growing... daily.....weekly as we step out in faith and head down to "the lot" where we meet "the least of these"... "the desperate and the broken....". 

I think one thing that is hard for me is that I want to be able to give them an answer to their questions... I want to fix their needs... When a 31 year old guy named Chris says that "His mom asked him to come to Yakima, but wouldn't let him live with her..."  "She lied," he says, "My mom lied to me."  I want to say something that will fix it... that will bring first aid to his broken heart.... God is the only one who brings words to my lips... He is the only one who can minister to Chris' heart... We give him words of hope, but only God can direct his path.  I step out in "Audacious Faith" as I say..."Hang in there... we will do what we can and God is taking care of you."

At church today I was truly inspired and moved by a young man.  He has Down Syndrome, but it sure didn't seem to stop him from having "Audacious Faith".    During the few seconds between worship songs I heard him free worshiping.  He said in a wonderfully full voice, "God, You are my Father... Happy Father's Day... I love You God!"  It was so beautiful.  The sincerity in his voice made it clear that he fully believed that God is his father and that God loves him so much that there was no doubt in his mind that God was listening to his prayer right that moment... You may say that we all believe this... but do we really? Do we really believe that God is listening to us and loves us individually and intimately??? It was a precious intimate peek into the faithful heart of a loving young man.   

I pray that God continues to grow my faith... that He continues to stretch me and grow me so that I do not even hesitate to ask God to dry up the river bed.... or to ask for the sun to stand still.... or for Chris to come to know Jesus as his Lord and Savior, ...... for him to heal from the inside out.... oh yea... Chris is HIV positive... with Audacious Faith I pray that Chris will come to know Jesus as Lord of his life and that he will be able to touch many people's lives with his testimony!

We are all at different places with our faith... but we can all do something.  As Keith told me, "We can all do something, because when we do something for someone... they become somebody... and when they become somebody they can be moved by the power of the Holy Spirit!!!"   Lord please help us all to hear your prompting.... so we can do a little something! In Jesus Holy Name,  Amen!  (P.S.  Happy Father's Day... every day is Your day.... I love You and thank You for being my Father!)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Let My Life Be The Proof....

1 Corinthians 13:1  "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love.  I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.  And though I have the gift of prophesy, and understanding all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor and though I give my body to be burned but have not love, I am nothing."

I have heard this verse so many times but it was not until I heard it sung by the group For King and Country that I really connected with it.  In the lyrics from their song "The Proof of Your Love" they sing, "If I give to a needy soul but don't have love, then who is poor? It seems only the poverty is in me."  At the end of the song, it changes from singing to speaking and paraphrases 1 Corinthians 13:1.  Wow was that powerful!! I can do all the volunteering that I want to, but if I don't have love in my heart for the  people- then it is all for nothing.  I can cook up all the food that I want to for them, but if I don't really love them... then it is for nothing. 

Today on North 1st Street it was great!  I felt God's love percolating like a coffee pot in the morning.  It seemed like the volunteers had their hearts into it and that they were really enjoying reaching out to our North 1st St. friends.  The line of people snaked out to the sidewalk again as we set up pans of piping hot "Que Bueno" cheese sauce and chili.  The menu was "nachos with cheese and chile" along with other wonderful sweet yummy things to eat.  I don't know if it was the fact that there was a lot of hot food to go around or if people were thrilled with the sunny day.... but people on both sides of the tables seemed extra happy.  Sometimes there is an overall feeling of solemness or hopelessness, but yesterday most people seemed to have a little extra warmth in their hearts.

It is a lot of work getting prepared for a Sunday.... a lot of organization of clothes, boxes, shopping for the food, food prep, etc.... but what hit me so much was that if I don't truly love the people.... it is for nothing.  With the lyrics of this song ringing in my heart... I saw North 1st St. with different eyes.  Chris- my friend that lives under the bridge came and filled up her bag with clothes.  Between her food, the garbage bag filled with clothes, and her normal bag she carried-  Chris had too much to carry.  She asked if I would give her a ride  home.  Right away I knew that she meant a ride to the bridge.... and for right now it is home.  Immediately I replied, "Absolutely!"  As we were getting ready to leave- she saw the stack of bibles that we were giving away and she said, "Hey can I have a bible?  I've never read one before.  It sure couldn't hurt to give Jesus a try."  After 8 months of knowing Chris.... my heart leaped!!! Yeah!! I handed her a bible and told her to start in John  "The Old Testament isn't the best place to start.. just skip right to the gospel of John to start with." 

Chris, Kaecey, and I jumped into the car with bags in tow and headed off to the bridge.... Again Chris said,  "Well the bible will give me something to read under the bridge."  Once we got to the overpass, I parked the car along the side of the road so that we could help Chris with her bags.  She brought us to her "home".  It was the underside of the freeway... with cars racing overhead... muffled engines roaring off to their next destination... drivers unaware of the lives that reside under the asphalt that lines the road.   We used a rope to help pull our way up the steep incline only to find four long cement chambers made by the trusses of the highway.  Each opening was draped with a blanket hung to allow for privacy and warmth to the resident inside.  Chris proudly showed us her place and explained how she had cleaned it out for her roommate who she shared the space with.  A wooden posted homemade bed sat towards the back of the living space.  Odds and ends were lined against the wall... it was amazingly quiet which totally surprised me... but had the heavy smell of urine.  ( I wouldn't try and get down the steep incline in the middle of the night if I had to go to the bathroom)  Unfortunately that only left the entrance to each living space as an area to relieve oneself.  Old tattered clothes and garbage were strewn along the entry ways of each space.

Inviting??? No... but the love that I felt in my heart for Chris went beyond the shock and smell.... I gave Chris a big hug and told her that I hoped that she had a great week.  She told me she was going to go into her place and change into some comfy shorts that she had gotten from the clothes give away.  I told her I loved her and then made my way down the incline with the help of the rope so that I didn't wipe out... As Kaecey and I walked back to the car, I shared with her that I felt like I could vomit... she agreed, but it didn't really  matter because we both feel the same about Chris.  She is a special lady with a whole lot of strength to withstand her daily conditions.  God is revealing to us each week more of what he meant in 1 Corinthians 13:1. 

It is so easy to love my husband and my children... I adore them and would do anything for them.  This week, I was able to feel the tender love of a person that I barely know.  David is a homeless person that we have known since the beginning.  He was the guy that scared me so badly the first time I saw him because he was so tattooed all over his face and looked so scary.  David has softened over the months and has become a favorite amongst the volunteers.  He usually stays around until the end and prays with us.  David has problems,  he has a degenerative neurological disorder as well as a fried brain from so many drugs (our best guess), but David also has a heart.  This week he actually reached out to hug Keith before Keith hugged him.  This is the guy who would not even have eye contact with us in the beginning.  Before I left I went up to give David a hug because I hadn't been able to talk with him.  I gave him a big side bear hug and then held his hand for a moment.  David squeezed my hand in the sweetest way.  It was not in that yucky lecherous way... but more like a little boy holding onto his mom's hand because she felt safe and nice.  David grinned his sideways grin and then it was over.  For a tiny instance in time... God showed me a peak of His great love... it was that unconditional, sweet love that says... "I don't care what you have done... I love you for being you."  Thank you God for letting me experience more of your 1 Corinthians 13:1 love for the lost and the broken.  (It is only You God!)

Casting Crowns has a new song out also... "Jesus Friend of Sinners".....First off.. I am a sinner, so this song is not only for me, but about me.  In the song lyrics it says, "Open my eyes to the outcast..."  Lord Jesus... thank you for opening our eyes each week to the outcast and for helping to break our hearts for what breaks yours.

I am so thankful for the wonderful bunch of volunteers that show up each week.  We never know who will make it down and who won't, but it never fails... there are always enough people to serve...  God always provides the people, the clothes, the food, and the love to reach the lives of the outcast... the lives of our new friends..."  Please continue to grow my heart... to help me love like 1 Corinthians love....and to see people more like how you see them.... Please let my life be the proof of Your Great Love... In Jesus Holy Name.. Amen