James 4:14 "whereas you do not know what [will happen] tomorrow. For what [is] your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away." This was the verse our pastor spoke on today. He referred to our lives as a "Poof!" Pastor challenged us to look at our lives and decide what we want to do with our "Poof" of time here on earth.
Later in the day I listened to Richard LeMiuex, the author of "Breakfast At Sally's" speak at St. Timothy's Evangelical Church about his experience being homeless. This man was a very wealthy business man who lived in Seattle back in the 1980's. He traveled to Europe, had waterfront property, 3 boats, multiple cars, etc. however, when Microsoft came along with the computer age, his company went under because it was no longer needed. Richard eventually lost his business and sunk into a deep depression. He lost his business, home, wife,......everything except his clothes, a van, and his little dog "Willow". There were a couple of things that stood out to me during his presentation. One thing that he said was, "As humans, we were created to love...inside each and every one of us is a huge desire to love....we each have so much to give." We were created in the image of God and God is love so it stands to reason that as humans, we were indeed created to love.
When I look at the world around me and observe people from a newborn to a an elderly person on their death bed...I have never seen someone who was injured from being loved too much, but I have seen so many people who were hurt from being loved too little or in the wrong way. As humans we all desperately want to be needed, accepted for who we are, and loved. Today during church Keith and I were able to hold a beautiful little tiny baby boy who is currently in foster care with one of our church members. I watched that tiny little beautiful boy curl up against Keith's chest.... so peaceful, so safe, and so loved by a total stranger. As long as he continues to have loving hands and loving words care for him... he has a great chance to grow into a healthy, productive member of society. It is when the love gets perverted or does not exist that horrible damage occurs. Horrible damage that does not last for just the moment that it happens but for some....a life time.
The people out on North First Street are first hand examples of people who are or have been so deeply hurt. Their pain is so real and raw....which has led them to self-medication with drugs and alcohol. When I see them lined up out in the empty lot when we drive up, I see a line of people who once were somebodies baby.... who once were toddlers....and kindergarten students. All of the people standing in line waiting for some food or a clean pair of pants were created by God with a heart to love and be loved. Their cup that needs to be filled is the same size as any one of us.....it is often just much more empty. No one grows up wanting to sell their body for their next fix....but it is where some end up. No four year old says, "When I grow up, I want to shoot heroine so that I won't feel the pain and memories of my past abuse." No one wants that.....
I have been created to love....and I have decided to reach out to the people on North First St. as one way of showing my love. Love does not mean handing them money, or rescuing them, or enabling them, but it does mean treating them with respect and honoring them as people. Richard LeMiuex said that the one thing that stood out to him so much was when a church reached out to him with food every Friday and Saturday night. He said that the little lady that ran it would put white table cloths on the tables for them, she would look them in the eye and shake their hand, and she would serve them delicious food that was as wonderful as any of the food that he had eaten in his past life when he was wealthy. He said that it was the love, respect, and honor that those people gave that helped him to find hope again.
Jesus instructs us in Mark 12:30 "And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. The second is this....love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these."
So of all the things that Jesus said.....the greatest is to love.....My life is learning what it means to love....Continue to grow me and teach me dear Lord!!
Today one of our North First St. friends who I have spoken about before stood in line. He has Huntington's Disease and is in his early 30's. Huntington's Disease is a degenerative neurological disease that causes the person's muscles to slowly stop working until they die. D was standing in line twitching and writhing uncontrollably. His eyes were blood red from his drug of choice that relieves some of the pain but causes him to space out. With sloppy joe's on the menu, there was no way that he would be able to hold his tray while going through the food line so I told him I would get food for him. He went over and sat against the wall while I dished him up. As I walked up to him I could see his body twitching and moving continually as he propped himself up against the brick building. His sweat pants were down well below his bottom in back leaving his bare buns on the cold dirt ground. A strong smell hung in the air around him, but he was obviously hungry. I handed D his food and then went off to find him some clean clothes. Shortly I returned to find D inhaling his food. He seemed agitated so I did not bother him with a lot of conversation today. I did ask him if he wanted me to call a dr. for him, but he said he just needed to sleep. All I could think of was "How is D going to die? Will he be alone? Will he be outside or inside? Will he be wasted and numb or alert and aware? Will he be in pain? Will anyone notice???"
There are two other people from North 1st. who I haven't seen for a number of months. One had tumors growing in her abdomen and the other was an older man who had a severe drinking problem. Both had asked for prayer within the last months before they disappeared. They were kind, loving people with very deep hurts. I have asked around a lot to see if anyone has seen either one of them, but no one has. They did not hang out together so it is not like they both went off together. My question is...did they each die from their individual illnesses?? Were they alone? "Poof!" Does anyone miss them? Did anyone notice?? The truth is.... Yes... God noticed. He notices and knows every single person on this earth and He loves each and every one of them whether they are a meth. addict or an alcoholic or a schizophrenic just as much as He loves anyone of us.... Humbling and eye opening...they are my neighbor... I am commanded to love....respect, dignity, and honor...(not enable, enable or pity).
One more story.... There was a woman that I met this past summer on North First. She was in her late 40's to mid 50's...no more than 100 lbs. Cathy had a beautiful, kind, and gentle spirit. This woman shared with me that she loved Jesus so much but she was dying of cancer. Her body was visibly wasting away, but she had such a beautiful peace. Cathy shared that she drank throughout the day to try and lessen the pain. I could relate to what she said because 2 years ago I sat by my mom's bedside while she died of cancer. She was in so much pain that the drs. had to give her enormous doses of morphine to keep her body from crying out in pain. I remember my mom whispering to me through the haziness of the medicine, "Camille, you do not know how damn bad this hurts!" I would do anything possible to take that pain away. Blessedly...the doctors were able to numb the pain with medicine for the few weeks before she went to meet Jesus. If Cathy was my mom, I would want her to stay buzzed if it kept her from suffering. The man that was with her that day encouraged her to share what had happened to her in her past....Cathy humbly shared with me that day how she had been raped with a butcher knife. I can't imagine....I can't imagine....Shortly after that week, I was told that Cathy went back to Seattle where she was able to get medical care through her final days battling with cancer. What was remarkable to me was the peace and joy that she had despite the horrible things that she had gone through. I can't judge....but I can love...Cathy embraced love! Cathy embraced Jesus!!
Maria came up to me today...the same Maria who walked up to me a month and a half ago to tell me that she was going into rehab.....She went to rehab in Spokane and is back. She got back yesterday and so she had her husband drive her over to us so that she could share what has happened. Maria went to church every day when she was up there. She said that the first week was the hardest because of the depression and emotional stuff that she had to deal with. Maria said that nights are still really hard for her because she has night mares about her grandfather who molested her through her early years. She said that she fights the urge to numb the pain, but she is going to follow up with intensive outpatient care here in town as well as mental health. Her husband is a great support to her so I ask that you will pray that Maria stays close to Jesus' feet and is able to find true freedom through Jesus!! She asked about my church and expressed an interest in going so next week I get to bring both Maria and her husband to service! She is seeking Him...seeking the Creator....the Healer....The Author of our lives....The True Hope!! Praise God!!!
Chris...showed up this week....clean and sober....he has been released from jail and is following the guidelines of the court....he is doing the things asked of him by his parole officer and he is moving towards a clean life. A purposeful move down the path that leads to a future rather than death! Another celebration!! Please pray for Chris!
Last week may have felt discouraging... let's see... 1 Sunday out of 18 months of Sundays...that is 1%. That is nothing!! My heart hurts with a raw, sorrowful pain....a pain for people...a pain that only God can heal. God continues to impart on our hearts that we can not go wrong by loving too much!! Love is the great commandment....Thank You Jesus for showing us how to love...Thank You Jesus for continuing to take away our filters of "who" deserves love because you are showing us that ALL people deserve love and ALL people deserve to be treated with honor and respect!