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