Sunday, May 26, 2013

You Plant the Seeds but God Gives the Harvest!

Matthew 9:37  "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few."..... This may be true, but the Lord supplied plenty of wonderful volunteers this Memorial Day weekend to help serve up enough love to spread all over North First Street!  We had a great turn out of people who were ready to step up and share the work load today.  We never know how many people will show up or who will shoe up to help.  We do not have a sign up sheet or scheduled workers, we truly just rely on the Lord to provide the workers he needs and we have always had enough people..... God is 100/100!! Plenty of food was provided today by some wonderful cooks who gave of their time, talents, and treasures... we are so very grateful!!!

In my kitchen above the sink hangs a sign that says, "You plant the seeds but God gives the harvest." and yes He does!!!! Galatians 6:9 says:

Galatians 6:9

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

It is so fun to watch this happen right before your eyes.  A tall slender man who is probably in his late 50's or early 60's has been around for at least a year.  His name is Chuck... now Chuck is probably about 6'2 and is as thin as a flag pole.... He always wears his jean jacket and plaid shirt...most of the time walking with a cane.  He looks like he would have fought in Vietnam...Chuck sports a long full grey beard and we call him "Sy" because he looks like "Sy" from Duck Dynasty.  We've helped Chuck here and there throughout the last year but nothing very extreme.... Well today Chuck came up to Keith, leaned in close, and said with tears in his eyes and an incredibly humble spirit, "I got saved today."  It was harvest day on North First today!  We have ministered to Chuck over the year and have sprinkled our fair share of seed, but the Lord knows that there have probably been many other people speaking into his life Chuck opened up a little brochure from the church that he had attended and it read "Open Bible"....this is the church that Keith's brother Brian attends....Chuck accepted the Lord in His heart today and is confident in his eternity.... Thank You Jesus!!!!

See it not only takes a village to raise a child, but it takes a village or a community of believers ministering to one another to help plant the seeds that the Lord uses to reap a harvest of believers for eternity!!  If each person listens to the Holy Spirit and obeys the directions they are given then they plant the seeds, or add the water, or the fertilizer that eventually becomes the harvest for God.  It wasn't our ministry that saved Chuck and it wasn't Open Bible that saved Chuck.... it was God's incredible love and mercy that saved Chuck.  It was Chuck being open to God's love and mercy.  It was the cummulative acts of obedience by believers who shared the love of end in Chuck's acceptance of God's love.  Praise God!!!  We all need to not become weary in doing good... for at the proper time God will reap a harvest!!! I want to be apart of that Farm Team!!!! (Pick me, pick me!!!)  We are in this together!!

God's love is so magnificent!!! His love softly seeps into the hearts of those around us and in God's sweet time...He harvests His crops! 

Today in line as Keith was shaking hands with people as they waited for their food, one of our regulars asked for prayer.  Keith prayed with him in line and when he looked up one of my favorite older Hispanic men asked Keith for prayer also.  See this man is in his early 60's, has seen his share of rough life I would think given the tear drops tattooed next to his eye and the prison tat's on his hands.  I don't know what he was like back in the day, but as long as I have known him... I have sensed a very sweet spirit.  This is the same man that ended up getting my son's old Michael Jordan shoes last year... he is the same man that I see all over town and I can't help leaning out the window with a big wave and smile for him....every time I see him I give him a big hug and tell him to "stay safe"....I have never preached to him or had any talks about Jesus with him... but God's perfect timing....he asked Keith for prayer.  Keith prayed for him, for his heart, for his safety, and for his future.  Evidently the prayer for his heart was right on because the man nodded enthusiastically in agreement.... God knows his needs.... and in God's perfect timing... I know that God will harvest His people.   I am so blessed and humbled to be witness to His work.  I am sure that many people see God's work every day and it is the "norm", but for me... in my life.... I sometimes run around in a tunnel of my own "agenda", with my own "stresses", and my own "to do lists" that I probably miss a lot of God's workings around me.  When I do quiet my life... hear His words... and obey....I am ALWAYS blown away at the beauty of His works!!!

This morning Keith went down to North First early in the morning to set up all of the tables.  While he was doing this, a couple came up to him and asked if they could help him set up.  As they worked side by side, the couple shared some of their story.  They had fallen onto hard times and were staying out "in the weeds" until the first of the month when they would have their money and be able to continue on their way to Coos Bay where they had family.  It was wonderful to be able to visit with them and hear their story.  See the thing about stories is that everybody has one.....Everybody has a story of how they got to where they are.  I am where I am because of the support that I had along the way.  Even though I grew up in a home with a mom who suffered from Bi-Polar Disorder...I had two parents who loved each other...and who were committed to each other.  When my mom would have episodes of depression or mania...we all felt it, but dad never left her.  That was not even an option in his mind....We had church together and we had a loyalty to one another.  Even though I did not understand at the time that Jesus forgave ALL sins and that I wanted salvation....Jesus was a very real part of my life....Keith and I in turn have been able to raise our own children with love, security, Jesus, faith, and a future..... The 18 years at home for each one has been a daily speaking life, training, shaping, and loving a vision of future and eternity into them.  What about those people who didn't have that.... we are always so quick to criticize those who are not "winners at the game of life", but who are definitely survivors!!  Many people have been raised seeing their own parents use drugs, share drugs with them, beat on each other, and beat on them.  They don't have the security of love or safety....for some the people who are supposed to be there to protect them are the very people who are violating them....survival is the name of their game.

If you took 10 baby tigers away from their mother at birth and put them in a jungle by would not surprise us if most if not all of the baby tigers did not survive because they did not have a mother train them how to care for themselves and hunt for their own food.  Many of the children in our world are in the same situation.  They basically have cared for themselves since they were under 5 and would be considered the 1 or 2 tigers that survived the wild.  These children grow up and have their own children....If I was talking about the tigers... I would say that those 1 or 2 tigers that survived were amazing and incredibly tough/brave to have survived on  their own.  In our society, the people who have survived this type of upbringing... are considered "losers", "a waste of life", bums.... in my eyes they are brave, strong, survivors that have endured in a life that has not offered them a lot of structure, encouragement, or training.  I do not blame our society for them.  I am just terribly sad for them....and thankful for the family that I was born into.  I encourage young people to make the most of their future, I try to breathe life into as many people as possible, and try to encourage them to make healthy choices for their lives.....but at the same time, I try not to judge the people who have not had as much success in life as I would want for them.  Willy told me today in line, "I'm a screw up.   I have screwed up my whole entire life.  I am good at that.."  Willy is also an older gentleman who is funny and very kind.  He is a "lover not a fighter" but often shows up with his face beat up because he often gets jumped when he is drunk.  "God don't make junk!!!" I tell him.....He just chuckles and moves a long.

Last week I didn't blog, but I had quite an experience with one of the women from the streets.  She told me through sobbing tears how her dad used to dress her up when she was a little girl and would put her in a cage with other little girls.  The men would try to lure the girls out with candy or toys and whoever they lured out... they would get to do whatever they wanted to do with the girls.  Through sobbing tears she shared how she hates dresses and bows, and shiny shoes!!!!  I don't know how you heal from things like that.... She said that meth helps ease the night mares and stabilize the emotions.  We discussed mental health and she expressed a desire to get the help that she needs.... I didn't see her this week, but I pray that she will accept the help that is offered.  I share this story not to shock or add drama, but to show that everyone has a story....and I can't judge how the person has managed to survive....I can only continue to plant seeds, water the soil, our on fertilizer, and love the plants that God puts in my life.  I pray for all of the people not only on North First St. but around the world who have experienced pain, sorrow, and loss.  Nobody deserves it....I pray that they turn to the One who can heal....the One who can comfort..... the One who can protect....the One who can provide....the One whose love is always enough....the One whose wisdom is right on....the One whose peace surpasses all understanding!!!  Dear Jesus, I want You!!! And I want the world to want You!!!! Thank You for this Memorial Day Weekend, for the freedom we have, for the home I was raised in, for the parents I have, for the people in my life who gave me support and encouragement... Thank You for Hope and Love!!!!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Imitation Worthy....

Philippians: 1: 4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

On a beautiful Mother's Day God's peace was with us out on North First Street.  The Holy Spirit seemed to weave and meander around people, hover over us, and wrap us lovingly in a warm embrace.    Soft singing voices with light guitar notes lightly sparkled through the air.....Mother's Day effects all people male or female because everybody has or had a mother, many are mothers, and the reactions are a mixed bag.  I was surprised today from the comments that I heard as our North First St. friends worked through the line of food today.  Knowing that some of the women out there had lost custody of their children, I told them that there would be a table with flowers and note cards to write down prayer requests for their children.  One young man raised his hand and asked if he could fill out one to ask for prayer for his mother...another asked if he could make a card for his mother. Absolutely!! I told them they could use them for whatever they needed.  One young lady explained that she had been a mother but she miscarried at 5 months.  Another asked for prayer for his mother because she is a drug addict and he wants her back in his life.  One of our regulars has lost visitation rights with her baby, but thinks she might be pregnant again.  She is only 16 and said that she doesn't like shots because "they hurt" so she doesn't want to go to the dr. I tried to explain the importance of prenatal care, but she really is a child having a child.....very sad.  It takes so much more than just carrying a baby to be a mother.  Many of the people who we see out there have been so injured by their own mothers.  People often repeat what they see....they treat how they were treated, they beat how they were beat, they degrade how they were degraded, and they abuse the way they were abused. 

I love being a mother with all of my heart.  My children are truly precious gifts from God that I have had the privilage of breathing words of encouragement and life into.  Each one is so different and unique from the other, but my love for each of them is immeasurable!  I remember thinking after my first baby that I could never have enough love in my heart to love the next baby as much as the first... God's funny though because He makes our hearts out of some crazy stretchy material that stretches and expands around each and every person that the Lord puts in your path to love.  There was plenty of room to love the next baby, and the next, and the next...and all of the people who have come into our lives where I have provided that "mothering love". 

Jesus tells us to treat others the way we want to be treated.  He tells us to love one another. We repeat what we see.  As Christians we are good at quoting the right scripture and preaching it either verbally or non-verbally.  We like to do the trendy "Christian things"... such as small groups, meeting for coffee, bible studies, wearing cross necklaces/bracelets/rings, but what God wants us to do is to love one "show" people what it looks like to be Jesus with skin on.... to live it out every day with people of all races, all ages, either sex, all socio-economic groups, gay or straight....People learn by repeating what they see.... I need to keep working on being "imitation worthy" lol!  When we were out on North First Street today it felt easy to love felt comfortable like my favorite pair of comfy shorts and t-shirt.  Familiar smiles, friendly hugs, words of encouragement flowed so easily.  I am always so encouraged by how appreciative they are and how generous to each other they are. They want to make sure that there is enough for everyone....they don't seem to care if the person is tatooed, pierced, gay, striaight, hep-c, or HIV...they will reach into their bag and share what they have...We can all learn from each other.... no matter which side of the table we are on. 

One of the young men who stay at the mission brought us an invitation to his graduation.  He has been staying at the mission and going to Stanton.  He said that after going back 3 times, he is finally graduating.  He was so happy and had printed out an invitation to see him "walk" at the Capital Theater.  I guess my mother's heart stretches out way past my own children.  I am very happy for him because he cares enough to try.  Another guy told me that he is going to sign up for the rehab program at the Mission this week...again I felt that "mom" feeling again.."I am so happy for you!" I told him, "You are worth it!  You are worth the work that it is going to take to make it through, but I believe you can do it!"  I believe we all have that piece in us ...the words of encouragement to offer others that help nundge each of us closer to the person that God has made us to be. 

We are all so different, but we are all so much the same... we all want to be loved, accepted, safe, and encouraged... Our Holy Father in heaven does just that... He is the father that we may not have had or the mother's love that we may never have gotten... He is the filler of our emptiness and the encourager of our dreams.  Like the heart of a true mother.. He only wants the very best for us!! I pray that you all had a wonderful day today whether you are a mother... or whether you just have one :0)   I encourage you to go out this week and try to be "imitation worthy".... I also encourage you to keep your mind fixed on "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy."  Have a great week!  In Jesus Holy Name... Amen! :0)

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Alabaster Jar....

Today had such a sweet sweet aroma of Jesus on North First Street. It was the first Sunday of the months so our numbers were much lower than last week. The pace was slower…we had more time to visit with people and to spend some time with our much loved volunteers. Some weeks are so hurried and frenetic but today was slower…. More gentle. There were a lot of laughter smiles… probably had a lot to do with the fact that many of the people down there had received their money for the month so they were not as desperate. They were hungry, but not as desperate. And as always….they were very grateful and thankful. Keith and I were also very grateful and thankful. Alicia and Tricia’s prayer group brought awesome Taco Salad and with the awesome extra dishes that come rolling in (Thank you Amy!!)….people had plenty of food. It is such a blessing when people help out with the food because it means that I get much more of a weekend and I appreciate it so much (as does our family!). The toilet paper, bottled water, soap, and apples as well as yummy desserts all come together into this wonderful banquet before the Lord each week. It is so cool to watch unfold. Keith and I felt like this week was a wonderful day of giving thanks to the Lord for what He has done. We had time to visit with our volunteers and take some time to share what the Lord has done this past month both with our North St. friends as well as with His wonderful provision. Last week Keith and Scott prayed with a couple of guys for bikes….Well we had just provided a few bikes the previous couple weeks so I thought…good luck! Oh yee of little faith (yes… that would be me). When we got home last week, one of Keith’s friends text him and said that he and his wife felt like the Lord wanted them to donate two brand new mountain bikes!! Schnikees!!!! God is so so cool!!! The bikes went to two gentlemen who have jobs in the valley and it will ease the stress in their lives very much. So…..this week comes and another guys asks about a bike…so…..Keith calls Scott over and says, “Brother….we need to pray for another bike” lol!!! God is so funny….each time the person asking for the bike says, “ya sure… I’ll pray”. So needless to say…. Scott and Keith prayed for a bike and a bike with a gas motor on it! Hey… nothing is too hard for God!!! A lady from the River who I had not seen for a couple of months came by today. I was so happy to see her. She didn’t look that great so I knew that my hunch was probably right on…I hadn’t seen her…just her boyfriend each week….translated…she was struggling with drugs badly and couldn’t get it together to walk the ¾ mile to where we were. I didn’t care though. I was so happy to see her and see that she was alive. Her t-shirt was filthy dirty and she was just wearing shorts and flip flops. “Can you get me some things to wear?” she asked, “this is all I have to my name and my feet are covered in blisters.” Whatever binge she had been on had taken its toll. Her face was streaked with dirt and sores….but thankfully she wasn’t out of it. I gathered together clothes and a bag for her and presented it to her with a big hug. I told her that if she ever wanted help getting into rehab or just needed help getting somewhere safe to call me. “I love you,” came so easily over my lips. It doesn’t matter that she has been drugged up for two months or that she hadn’t had a shower in who knows how long….I felt like the Lord just reached down from heaven and through me….He made His words flow out of my mouth. She was so thankful….she may not be ready to head down the scary road of rehab but she does know that she has friends and that Jesus loves her so much!! She has a lot of mental health issues that hopefully will be treated sooner than later. She is in God’s hands for sure! It has been really fun to see some of our students come down this spring to get their school service hours. We appreciate their help so much! It is a great opportunity for them to see life from a different perspective and a great for us to have the extra hands . This morning Keith went down to the Mission early to set up the tables in the parking lot. A few guys came out to help and one of them was a guy who gave his life to the Lord a few weeks ago. This time he came with his friend, “See this is the guy I was telling you about.” Keith shook his hand and asked him if he needed anything. The young man sheepishly said no, but his friend jumped in encouragingly and told him that Keith could help him with whatever he needed or at least would try. At this point the conversation took a wonderful turn and the saved young man began to witness to his friend about how awesome God was and how everything they were talking about was really true. Keith said it was so neat to see this young man praise God and give the glory to God as he spoke to his buddy. God is making a difference. He is changing lives. He is changing atmospheres. He is changing hearts and souls. He is changing each and every one of us… beautiful ways. This morning I was thinking that the person whom I identify most with in the bible is probably Mary Magdalene. Keith and I were listening to CeCe Winans’ song “Alabaster Jar”. It is a song that tells how Mary Magdalene took her jar of very expensive perfume and poured it lovingly over Jesus’ feet and she wiped his feet with her hair. Before this event, Mary had been a prostitute who did not feel worthy of the gift that Jesus offered. Jesus had cast 7 demons out of her and freed her from the hell that she had lived in. He offered a new life…He offered her salvation! In receiving His forgiveness….she must have felt such overwhelming gratitude and thanks. She knew what she was then….and how close to hell she had been….She knew what a HUGE MASSIVE GIFT Jesus had given her….In a wave of incredible gratefulness….she poured the most beautiful, extravagant thing she could fine…..all over her sweet Jesus’ feet. I feel like Mary…..I feel so incredibly thankful and humbled by what the Lord has done for me… is pure JOY serving on North First Street….it is like taking the alabaster jar each week and pouring sweet perfume on Jesus’ feet. Thank You Jesus for saving me from the hell that I deserved….It is an honor Dear Lord to share Your Love! In Jesus Name—Amen! :0)