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 room...living 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!)  But..as 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 canap├ęs 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!!!)