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.... 10.9.8.7.220.127.116.11.2.1.0.-1,-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!
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
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 Street...it 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)