Sunday, January 27, 2013

Our Daily Bread....

Luke 11:2
"Our father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, they will be done... on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts
as we forgive our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, the power,and  the glory forever , Amen!

We are instructed to pray using this prayer as a template...Today the line that stands out the most to me is "Give us this day our daily bread..."  God provides us our daily bread...he provides just what we need for the day.  The bread that God provides is actual food, as well as spiritual food, and I believe it includes provision in general. 

Today on North First Street we had so many examples of God providing our daily bread.  Today was desperation Sunday...the last Sunday of the month when the physical needs are generally the largest.  This week was no different.  There were 30-40 people lined up before we even pulled into the lot.  We estimate between 250 and 300 people today showed up hungry and cold.  Thankfully the food this week was provided by one of the 7 Yakima Ward's.  This wonderful group of people brought pan after pan of spaghetti noodle casserole, rolls, and more.  Other volunteers brought rice dishes, beans, and desserts.  There were bananas, apples, and oranges as well as hot coco and coffee.  Wow!! talk about God's mighty provision!!  Cash and Carry donated some wonderful pastrami which made some amazing hot pastrami sandwiches to help people last through the week.  On this day...God gave us our daily bread.

As people moved through the food line, I talked to various people.  One paticular man didn't look very well.  I reached up and steadied his arm just as he started to have a seizure.  A man by me helped steady him just as he started to fall.  He lost consciousness for about 15-20 seconds which was a bit scary.  We held him up and carried him over to a chair while someone else dialed 911.  Within no time the medics arrived and began caring for him.  The man didn't want to go to the hospital, but Keith was able to talk to him and convince him that Keith could be trusted with his bicycle until he was released from the hospital.  The man was only 53, I thought he was much older.  He lives down by the river and has had the flu for the last few days.   Thankfully God provided for this man....there were around him to catch him before he fell, people with cell phones to call for help, and blankets on hand to keep him warm until help arrived....God's daily bread....

God's daily bread included enough food and clothes for those around us.  The previous blog shared about a woman named Rosa from last week.  God's further grace was shown in the rest of the story....Rosa said that this last week she went to visit her mom and for the first time in many many years she was able to talk with her without crazy drama.  She actually had some reconcilliation and she asked for prayer again before she left.  That is so huge for this woman!! 

Today I was overcome with gratitude towards all of the people who came out today to help.  It made it run so smoothly!  I was also overcome by appreciation for the relationships that have formed between the volunteers and our homeless friends.  There was a difference today...people were joyful, thankful, and I had more homeless people tell me "Thank you and God bless you through your week."  These are people who I have never heard reference God... Little by little as God provides all of our daily bread...layers are being peeled off, hearts are softening, people are reaching out to each other.

This blog is so short... but it is because I am way too tired.  I will try again tomorrow, but to be honest... I am wiped.  I pray that all who have taken the time to read this have an awesome week!  I pray that God provides you your daily bread each and every day.  I pray that you lean on God more and more each day and that you say, "yes" to whatever He is urging you to do... step by giving....and love more each and every day!!!

Thank You God for your daily bread...every single day you are more than enough!!! Thank you Jesus!!!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

My Friend.....

I would like to share with you my friend's story..
There is something so haunting about watching Rosa walk away…so sad, so empty…so grey.  What was it??? Her story had touched my heart so much.  Bumping along in the truck to take her back to the place which she called home…. It wasn’t a home, it was a wooded area outside of town, near the park.  It was a place near  the path people walked along to get their daily exercise in.  This was not a home for humans, it was a home for squirrels, chipmunks, skunks, deer, raccoons, beavers, fish, spiders, rats, mice, wild dogs, coyotes, and possibly bears, but it was not a home for people.

However, Since it was freezing cold smack in the middle of winter, bears were probably out of the question.  Rosa shared the insanity of her previous home.  She described the unpredictable violence of her mother’s borderline personality disorder, the suicidal depression of her teenage children who reside there, and the controlling/violent ways of her children’s father.  In all… it was too much to take.  A life time of this environment had made it unbearable to face any longer therefore the environment that surrounded me now as I sat warm and comfy in the pick up, didn’t seem to phase her at all.  As a matter of fact, it was inviting and comforting to Rosa compared to the hell she left. 

The vision of Rosa walking away from me still haunts me though.  It has been so cold here the last few weeks dipping down into the teens.  Rosa needed under clothes like tights or long johns, but we didn’t have them this week.  We had some warm sweaters and a few things that might help, but I promised her I would try and come up with some for next week.  In the days that followed as I drove along the highway to work, I could not shake the thought of her sleeping out in her tent… with all of the other outdoor creatures. 

Each night I take our dog Marley outside in the back yard multiple times to go to the bathroom.  As I stand under the dark hazy night sky with the crisp cold air sneaking around the edges of the blanket that was flung over my shoulders-I think to myself, “Maybe it wouldn’t be too bad if you were stuck outside for the night.  Within a very short while, that nonsense is cast from my mind. It is freezing out and there is no way that I would ever want to try and make it. 

Rosa shared with me that teenagers often come down by the river on weekend nights to party and often stroll over to visit with Rosa.  They think it would be so great to be homeless, to live by the river and party whenever they felt like it.  Rosa tells them that it isn’t all fun and games.  “It’s hard, really hard out here,” she shares with a bowed head as she opened the truck door.  Her cold dirty fingers grasped  the clear plastic box filled to the brim with clothes and food we had given her for the coming week.  The empty lot that I dropped Rosa off in was desolate, nobody in sight.  She called out, “Thank you” over her shoulder and headed off to the far corner of the lot where a little cement path curved around the small lake.  As I drove away I saw Rosa standing with her heavy box sitting on a concrete bench resting before she walked on.   Rosa was dipping her hand into the plastic Ziplock bag filled with left over popcorn  from my daughter’s previous night’s sleepover.  I figured that I liked cold leftover popcorn, maybe she would also. 

Rosa returned to her tent alone since her companion would not be finished with the few hours of work that he was able to find for a while.  She was alone, but safe.  It was better than the other option of returning to her mother’s home.  I am sure that I only know a slice of the whole story, but what I do know is that there is a woman close to my own age who has chosen to live outside in the middle of the winter with little food and no running water because it is a better place than the place that she left.   God instructs us……Love not judge……I am slowly learning to do this. "Dear Lord, thank you for working on my heart... for giving me grace as I try and make sense of the whole idea of "love not judge".  In Jesus' Holy Name, Amen

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Wherever your treasure is....

Matthew 6:21 "Wherever your treasure is there the desires of your heart will also be." The desires of my heart.....the desires of my heart have always been my husband, my children, and their well being.   This last year and a half on North First Street the Lord has stretched my heart to include a group of people who may not at first glance appear to be the most appealing people.  They are usually dirty, often unemployed, misfits, sometimes off mentally, sometimes filled with sores, stinky, toothless or close to being toothless, unshaven, beaten, and sometimes drunk or high....Poverty is a commonality amongst them...often due to their own choices. 

So the question is.... how can I consider these people a desire of my heart??? How can I put treasures aside for a group of people who have nothing to offer me??  It is easy to see how we can consider our family the desires of our heart.... I birthed my children, went through ups, downs, and life with them.  We have laughed, cried, played, and experienced life together so it only makes sense that I would invest in them, but how does it happen that people who have  so little to offer, so little in common- find such a spot in my heart???

The answer is so simple and so not me... it is Jesus!  Only Jesus can soften our hearts and cause us to look outside of ourselves to the world around us....and to love the people we see.  Sometimes "Christian" people enjoy serving those in need  because it is the "Churchy thing to do".  You know how that looks- I am guilty of the above... you sign up to serve in this area or that because the clip board came around at church and if you are going to be a good-mature Christian, you need to serve.   You try "children's church" but kids aren't your thing... you try "ushering" or maybe "worship team" to try and find "your giftings, your passions".  As you serve, you feel good because you are doing "the right thing"- good things.  And yes... these are good things, but Jesus did not die on the cross so that we can "find our niche" in the church.... so that we can walk in our giftings "in the church". 

Yes, I do believe that we need to work together in a church and serve in different areas, but that is not the Great Commission that Jesus commanded us to do in Acts 1:8....Jesus says, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."   To be honest, it is easy to love my family... it is relatively easy to love the people that I go to church with.... but it starts to get a little more difficult when I walk out my front door or out the door of my church.  Jesus' word tells us though that we can do this with the power of the Holy Spirit.... and the Holy Spirit is who makes North First Street happen. 

The Holy Spirit gathered us all together today in a huge oval before we started serving food.  The line of North First St. friends was long and straight so all the volunteers looped around so that we were connected in one large sphere.  We prayed all together as thanks to all that God had provided as well as his continued safety and protection.  It seemed like the only way to pray.... it is not "us" and "them".... The Holy Spirit's presence brought us together as "His" children gathered together... it was beautiful. 

The verse, "Where your treasure is... there your heart will be..." talks about how our paths will follow the direction of our hearts...I can't see the people lined up waiting for food as "those people" any more.  The Holy Spirit has changed all that.... When we pull up and we see the line of people that extends almost to the fence... my face lights up with great joy!  From the toddlers all the way to the oldest people out heart cries out!  I don't know how to put into words what I feel inside.  It is almost like a crushing, sorrowful, weeping feeling... that coexists with a feeling of love, joy, and happiness.  It sounds a little crazy, but when the Holy Spirit is in the equation and you are not just doing another "Good Work"... I think that Jesus breaks your heart for the broken hearted.... Sometimes people will say, "I have a hard time with the homeless... or I just don't have a heart for the homeless...."  I now have a problem with that statement because I am not talking about where you "prefer" to serve in the church... such as I prefer to work with children's church rather than church clean up.  The homeless are the broken hearted, there are elderly who are broken hearted, there are children in Africa who are broken hearted, there are people in our church who are broken hearted.... We can't pick and choose who deserves our compassion and who does not.  You may not feel called to hand out food or clothing for the homeless, but I pray as Christians that all of our hearts will break for ANYBODY who is hurting or suffering.... Jesus didn't pick and choose, nor did he minister only to those inside the walls of the church.  Jesus didn't say to the woman at the well, "I am training to be in ministry, but I just don't have a heart for people like you."  He didn't walk by the lepers and say, "Sucks to be you, you shouldn't have been hanging out with other lepers, maybe you wouldn't have caught it."  Jesus didn't minister to only the cute little children who were poor or to the people who lived on the right side of the tracks..... If we call ourselves Christians then we need to pray that our hearts will break for the broken hearted.... that we will be moved to action.... that we will reach outside of our comfortable/familiar little surroundings to the world that is aching for a Savior!!!  I don't care where you choose to serve or where you choose to devote your time... just choose something... someone.... give of yourself... let your treasures reach further than people who "grew up the same way you did".  Our motto has become "Love... Not Judge" for a reason.  Not because we are these "Great Christians" out doing the right thing... but because the Holy Spirit has come in and has started breaking off those hard crusty places in our hearts so that we can't just look any longer and say, "Only for those who deserve it". 

Psalm 34:18 says, "The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as those who have a contrite spirit."  Today I had an interesting conversation with a woman who lives down by the river.  She said that her mother has borderline personality disorder and that she grew up with such abuse and chaos that it is better for her to live by the river than to go back to that."  I know that many people have survived horrible circumstances and did not make the poor choices that this woman may have made, but Jesus didn't just come for those who made great choices... he came for those who did not also.  The lady walked away from me carrying a box filled with food, clothes, and a blanket.  Life is hard for her...but she keeps moving forward.  The Holy Spirit made it easy to embrace her with a huge hug and a prayer for healing hearts.  It could so easily have been me.... walking away carrying my box.  My heart broke for her....

Another woman...probably close to my age..stood in line waiting for clothes.  She caught my eye and I asked what I could find for her..."A mitten" she replied.."Just one though because my hand is deformed."  My eyes fell from hers down to her left hand that she was holding up.  The right hand had glove on it, but the left was bare and deformed.  It bent at a 90 degree angle at the wrist with her fingers gnarled and frozen in place.  She needed a left mitten to fit over her hand to keep it warm.  The lady had a great smile and didn't seem to be discouraged or down... she just needed a mitten.  Needless to say, I was determined to find her a mitten!!! I dug and dug through the box until a beautiful knit pair of mittens popped into sight.  You would have thought that I gave her the moon!  She was so excited! With a big thank you and a quick wave, she was off... but her image sticks in my mind... the image of her holding her disfigured hand, trying to keep it warm.  Such a simple request... She blessed me more than the mitten blessed her.  Jesus wants our hearts to be soft.... subtle, and open. 

My prayer is not that people will all rally behind North First St. Ministries, no my prayer is that people's hearts will begin to break for all of the hurting people of the world, for all of the injustices done, for all of the lost....Jesus gave such a simple command, "Love the Lord God with all of your heart and love your neighbor as yourself."   We obviously can not help all people.... but our hearts can break for all people and we can show compassion and love for all people without judging them.

All we do each week is love on a group of people who are hurting so much... we ask them to "Consider Jesus" and it is so amazing to see the tiny shifts in attitudes and behavior in those who each week are "Considering Jesus."  Dear Lord, we love you so very much and want to live our lives serving You.  We can not love on people on our own... Lord we need You to soften our hearts and to open our eyes to see the world as You see it. We pray for this daily!  In Jesus Holy Name, Amen! :0)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Praise the Lord, O my soul

Psalm 146

Praise the Lord,  Praise the Lord, O my soul.  I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.  Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save.  When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing.  Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them- the Lord, who remains faithful forever.  He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry.  The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous.  The Lord watches even the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.  The Lord reigns forever, you God, O Zion, for all generations.  Praise the Lord!!!

This is our prayer today and forever, Praise the Lord!!!  God is so mighty, so generous, so awesome! Part of this verse was on the sandwich board today on North First St.  We have started writing a verse on a white board set at the front of the food line each week on North First St.  The Lord is our freedom....and we need it no matter what we look like on the outside.  There is something very special that happens when we get to the dirt lot on North First Street. The Holy Spirit rises up in each one of us in such neat ways.  The boldness, the love, the words that pour out are of the Lord. 

Keith walks down the line and shakes each person's hand one by one.  He is able to ask if they want prayer or see how their week has been.  The bond between these people and ourselves is so strange when you look at it through earthly glasses.  On the surface we look like we are so very different, but every week there seems to be this connection that is so real and so true.  Today I had such a cool experience..... I was going around picking up garbage as people sat up against the wall eating their lunch.  Many had finished eating and were waiting with their friends to head back from where they came from.  Their stomachs were full of warm food and their bags were full of dry clean clothes, toothbrushes, soap, and toilet paper for the week.  As I bent down to pick up some garbage by one older gentleman, I asked how his week had been.  He was very friendly.... probably about 60-65.  We started chatting and he shared about his 4 grown children as well as his experiences in Vietnam.  He told me how Napalm had burned part of his inner arm and how he still feels pain from it now and then.  This man was not upset or angry... he just said matter of fact  that he did what he had to do in order to serve his country.  Further in his conversation he shared that his wife had left him a few years ago because he drank too much.  Through the process he lost his house and truck, but he shared how he lives down by the river.... just he and his dog ( a very cute fluffy mutt that goes with him everywhere :0).  Again.... no anger.... no blame... it's just the way life has gone and where he is now...He shared how he loves the Lord and thanks Him every night for taking care of him.....thanks for the tent he shares with his pup and the warm blankets that cover him at night.  And he said that he thanks God that we come down every week to bring food..... This man's peace was evident in his easy, kind manner.  He was not harsh or abrasive... just dirty...and in need of a little shave.  He said, "Darlin', God is good to me.  He takes care of my needs and I tell Him how thankful I am."  In this moment, I could see so clearly how similar we were rather than how different... I could see that we were both just two people working through life's curve balls.....leaning on the Lord to sustain us....and feeling the peace of Jesus.  It was more than the nice warm sun beating down against my back was was joy. 

Kaecey has a special heart to minister to the prostitutes. There is one specific lady who she loves to visit with.  After chit-chatting with her for a short bit, Kaecey asked her how her week has been.  She replied, "It's been o.k."  Kaecey followed up by saying, "O.K. well I love you and hope that this week is better."  Next thing Kaecey knew....the young woman burst into tears.  What seemed rushed and so normal to Kaecey touched this young lady so much.   I don't know her story... but by her tiny thin 0 waist and her messed up teeth/sores on her face...I can only guess that she is addicted to either meth or heroine.  She is not so different than you or me....her heart wants to hear those words as much as any of us..."I love you..."  She told Kaecey how much she looks forward to is not because of is because of the Jesus she encounters.  Isn't that what we all desire??? To be be cared be special...Thank You Jesus for continually showing me how similar we all are... and how much we truly desire You!!!

David came out today.  David is a homeless guy who I have talked about before.  He is tattooed all over his face and neck.... he walks with spastic jerks and has a hard time getting his words out... in the past David has shown up partially dressed and extremely high, but today David came out and was very coherent.  He had such a beautiful smile and kind soft blue eyes.  David's spastic jerking motion when he walks is caused by Huntington's Disease...I am sure that he has damaged his body a lot with drugs which he uses now as a pain killer when it gets bad. David stayed for prayer at the end.  As I looked around the circle of people holding hands with heads bowed, I caught David's eye...he had such a peaceful smile and joy on his face.  It was the joy of Jesus....the joy of a peace that goes well beyond the circumstances that surround him....Huntington's....limbs that don't work correctly....the mission as his home....and very cold temperatures that don't seem to care whether you have a home or not.   David stayed with us until the very end... as a matter of fact he was the last person that I saw heading back towards the sidewalk as I drove away.  Olivia said that it looked like he was dancing as he walked off...but really it was just from his muscles spasming and jerking under his worn jeans.  Thank You Lord for setting us free!  Thank You Lord for helping me to see that I am more like David than different from him...He wants similar things as I do... love, acceptance, safety, care.....

An older mama and her daughter have been coming down to North First for probably about 4 months.  The mom looked older than she probably was...I would guess about 55.  She works hard...long hours so that her daughter can go to school and get her degree.  But since the fruit season ended a few months back...she has been desperate to find adequate housing.  Today she stood across the table from me with a big beautiful smile.  "We have a place now!" exclaimed the daughter, "We finally have a place."  This mama is no different than me.....she wants her daughter to have a good life....she is not afraid to work hard for it....and now that she has a safe place for her daughter...her face shown with a restfulness that must have been from relief!  We thanked the Lord for His provision and celebrated with big hugs across the table. 

In life... we try so hard to separate ourselves out with distinction from the stand out as a "superior" person....God wants us to take our eyes off of ourselves and to look up to Him first and then to look around at humanity around us.  When we embrace God's love and let Him heal us and fill us... then we can start looking around at the world to see that we are so much more alike then we ever could be different.  God asks us to look up at Him daily.. to keep our eyes on Him and our ears tuned to His voice so that we can hear what He has to say about the people around us...and to my surprise I heard and saw some very beautiful things in people today that I might not have seen with my own senses. 

Thank You Jesus for being my everything.  Please help me through my week to experience life with eyes more like yours, with ears more like yours, and with a heart more like yours.  You alone are my peace....You alone are my strength....You alone are the Most High!!! In Jesus Holy Name..... Amen!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Olivia's Perspective....

Tonight Olivia wrote what is written below.  She is our 11 year old daughter and has been on this crazy adventure with us since the beginning.  She wrote this regarding her feelings the first night we went out and how she views it now.  It made me want to cry...Very insightful!

That night was dreary and frightening, it was dark and it was light. The darkness of those around us and the light of God inside of us shone. The street lamp above us had no comparison to the light of God. Physically that street lamp has a greater value than our light. Our light can shine forever, but that street lamp can burn out. Can your light burn out???

 Dark, light, happy, sad, structured, loose, hot, cold, winter, summer, small, large; these are all opposites. All of these adjectives apply to the Lord’s ministry. The people we serve are complete opposites of us, but they are the same too. How is this possible???? Jesus is just like us but is also the complete opposite of us.

- the glasses :o)

To mom and dad
(Thank You Lord for planting Your love inside this very special little girl.)
Read below for this weeks blog....

God Logic....

Psalm 40:5  says, "Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done.  The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare."

I agree!!!! They are way to many to declare and I think we actually only know a fraction of the incredible wonders that God does all around us every day!!! It is God Logic at work all the time...24/7 and it simply blows me away every darn time!

Here are some examples of God Logic....In my  mind I am so thankful that we have a Suburban and a little pick-up truck because I think that we got them for Keith's business. "Oh what a blessing!".....but God Logic says, "So you think you got the vehicles for work hu??  Oh sure you will be able to use them for work, but what you will really need them for is for transporting boxes of clothes, food, tables, and garbage cans down to North 1st. every week to feed my people."  "Oh ya, and I will also throw in a little trailer so that you can pack it to the top each week when you go to visit my friends and tell them that I have not forgotten them."

I feel so blessed because 3 years ago God set Keith up in a nice little shop with a main floor and an upstairs, then 3 months ago Keith was able to also rent the little warehouse next to it.  The warehouse house a little upstairs and a great big work area and work bench.  Perfect for loading and unloading his medical equipment..... God Logic...."Yes I will set you up with an appropriate work space, but the extra room will be used for something completely different....You will use it to load an unload the boxes of clothes so that you can sort and re-distribute the clothes that I bring you.  You will also be able to store them here for my people." 

God Logic adds...."And with the work place, you will have access to 3 dumpsters because I know that a lot of garbage is generated when you are feeding my people."

Further evidence of God Logic.....Keith goes down to Cash-n-Carry this morning to pick up chili to go with our hot dogs.  While he is down there he changes his mind and grabs chips... no big deal right??? Wrong... God Logic steps in.....The checker asks what Keith is doing with all of the chips so he shares what we do on Sundays.  The checker gives him a 50% discount on the chips and says, "Could you use some frozen food?"  He then proceeds to give Keith over $1500 dollars worth of frozen food that was supposed to be picked up by the food bank but wasn't.  What???? Who does that???? Who gives someone chicken, pastrami, seafood, etc. for free???  God Logic says, "You thought you were going for this reason...but really you are going down there for My reason...which is always the best reason!"

For the last 9 months there has  been one particular man down on North 1st street who has managed to annoy almost all of the regular volunteers at one time or another.  He is homeless for some unusual reasons and seems to hoard whatever he can get his hands on.  He is persistent, appears greedy, and forceful......  Up until recently Keith and I wondered when God was going to change this man.  When was God going to soften his heart and teach him some manners???  God Logic says...."This man is not here so that I can fix him ....he is there to show you that your hearts need the surgery."  Within a matter of seconds it became clear to us that God was working on all of our (the volunteers) hearts ...we went from waiting to observe God's surgery on this man's heart to being the ones on the surgical table getting operated on.  God Logic.... who knew???

I go through my days and weeks trying so hard to plan out the details... to make my lists and make sure that I have prepared for whatever is to come...I set short term goals and long term goals....Since I am a speech therapist..I try to "fix" my students.  When I come upon difficult cases, I pour myself into trying to figure out how to make their world better....What I am learning though is that God asks me to do certain things and if I would just do what He asks....then He can handle the rest..  Yes that is right...God is saying that He really does have it all covered....even better, bigger, and more creative than I could ever imagine!!!  All I have to do is listen to Him and trust Him...He really does have it all covered!!

Thank You Jesus for having an amazing Big Plan! A plan that is bigger, and better, and funner (I know "more fun"), and wiser, and funnier, and more radical than I could ever imagine!!! Lord please help me to trust Your ways and to enjoy this crazy adventure that we are doing together called life.  I love You Lord with all my heart and pray that I will continue to listen, learn, love, and serve You the best I can.  In Jesus Holy Name... Amen!  :0)