Sunday, July 28, 2013

"Whether You Eat or Drink...."

1 Corinthians 10:31  "Whether we eat or drink, or whatever you it all to the Glory of God!"

It is almost 9:00 and I am just sitting down.  I feel hot, sweaty, stinky, and tired.... I feel "fussy" like I want to cry.  I don't know why I always react that way when I am really tired, but I revert to a 3 year old that is long overdue for a nap!  I bet the disciples felt that way at times...I am never tired of serving the Lord.... I am just physically and mentally "tired" but let me back up to the start.

This morning we got a call that we could not go to the Mission to set up our tables and canopies like we usually do because there was a big semi- in the spot that we usually set up.  They thought it would be out of there by 12:30.  We loaded the trailer and rigs with the clothes, tables, canopies, toiletries, water, etc.  that normally go down and we headed down early so that we could set up.  Blessedly we did not have to worry about the food though because it was the weekend that the Mormon church was supplying all of the food.  On the way down to  North First we received another phone call saying that the semi was still there and that we wouldn't be able to set up our tables.  There is no way that God was going to allow that detail to de-rail our efforts.  We told the guy that called Keith that we would just set up in the lot next to the mission like the good old days.  Needless to say... we prayed fervently that the Lord would help work out the details because this was the biggest weekend of the month.....  

By the time we pulled up to the empty dirt lot a long line of people had already formed from the road out to the middle of the lot anticipating the set up of tables and food.  "Whether you eat or drink... do it all to the glory of God!"   No one said that ministry is nice and neat.... no sometimes it is totally relying on the guidance of the Holy Spirit and being flexible enough to re-organize about 25 volunteers, their cars, tables, food, and a massive number of homeless people into an organized event that flows with order and efficiency in a timely manner so that the people who have been waiting out in the hot sun don't pass out from the heat.  There are a lot of fragile people out there whose health is very compromised.  Life of addiction and poverty is very hard on a person's body as well as their spirit. 

But... "Whether you eat or drink... do it all to the glory of God!" The Lord has helped me learn to step under my husband's lead during times like this.  Can I whip out a line of orders and get people moving??? Absolutely... but there needs to be only One we promptly took Keith's lead and set up as quickly as possible.  As we were setting up I realized that we were not going to have even close to enough cups and it was way too hot to not have drinks ready to go so I quickly took off to the local Fred Meyer to grab cups and the back pack that I had been promising a man.  (Yes, my disorganization helped increase the intensity of the day a bit).  It was probably good that I left because I had time to just pray... pray for the volunteers, pray for the homeless people, pray for Keith who was re-directing a lot of people in a little amount of time.  I just prayed....

When I look back at the day I can see how we prayed before, during, and after our 90 minutes of organized chaos. Jesus was there walking amongst the least of these....He worked through all of us.  Sure there were complaints from the volunteers about the thousands of goat heads, the heat, and the huge number of people but that is such a small price to pay for the beautiful things that happen during the 90 minutes.  The line of people did not end for about 75-90 minutes.  It was solid....that means that lots of tummy's were filled.  There were jeans and clean shirts distributed as well as lots of love. 

One particular family lives across the street in the Sunshine Motel.  There is a mom, dad, and three children ages 8 to 17.  The kids are set up to go to high school, middle school, and elementary in the fall.  The mom was so thankful that her kids had food in their bellies.  This family has come on Sundays for over a year.  They were usually hard, emotionless, and closed.  Over the past month, they have softened and softened with Keith.  Today he was able to share with them how Jesus has changed his life.  "It's all about Jesus..." Keith explained.  By meeting their physical needs, Keith was able to be in a position of encouragement and ministry.  He told the 17 year old girl that she would finish high school and he asked her about college.  He continued to encourage her that by going to YVCC or any college that she would be able to get out of poverty and have a future.  He went on to tell her that someday she would have kids and would bring them down to North First Street to show them where she came from.... how the Lord met their needs right where they were at.... and how He helped them work their way out.  The mother took off her sunglasses and wiped the tears from her eyes.  She hugged Keith and just as she let go.... the 17 year old girl who was the hardest and most closed of them all... leaned over and gave him a safe side hug.  She had a smile on her face and tears in her eyes... obviously hurt and damaged in the past.... making it huge step after a year.... to flash a small smile and reach out in a small (but huge) demonstration of thanks.

"Whether you eat or drink... do it all to the glory of God!!"  Every week whether a heavy load or a light load... we do it all to the glory of God!!  For some reason being out in the empty dirt lot made things look different.... out in the open you could see the whole line of people standing patiently holding their grocery sack ready for a homemade lunch.  You could see the depravity.... the need....the poverty.... the struggling.  It just seemed to stand out more in the field than it did in the parking lot of the mission.  But you know what??? God showed us once again that He is big enough for all of it.  He can handle the numbers, the needs, the pains, the change of plans, the varied personalities... he can handle it all!  And you know what??? He did.... the last scoop of food went to the last few people.  We had so so much wonderful food, but as the line continued to flow... so the food most rapidly did go!!! (Yes, I do like Dr. Seuss :0)  I do have my own issues lol! )  

Enough food.... enough clothes... enough volunteers, and enough grace that hopefully our volunteers will understand that the goat heads that they are probably still digging out of their shoes... is just a small cost of serving Jesus!!! "Whether you eat or drink.... or pick goat heads... do it all to the glory of the Lord!!!"  But fear not!  It is worth it!!!

Kaecey spoke with one of our older women who comes down to North First.  Kaecey asked how her week has been.  She replied..."It's a living hell."  but because we are "church people" in her eyes she quickly said, "No not hell."  Kaecey was awesome... she told her that it is totally o.k. Sometimes life on earth feels like hell.  Life is not easy.  This particular woman has a couple sons in their early 20's.  She had to kick them out of her apartment because they wanted to pimp her out.  They wanted to prostitute their own mother so that they could buy their drugs.  They were not happy with her and ended up selling a lot of her things.  As a young girl, she was raped by her father.  This woman has definitely experienced a life that is not easy however, she told her Pastor "I put my sons on the Internet."  "You mean on a prayer chain?" he asked.  "Yes!"  She told Kaecey, "I know that it will be o.k. because I have a heavenly father.  Will you pray for me?"  Jesus is big enough for all of it!!! Jesus is big enough for our smallest problems all the way up to the largest problems that we could ever imagine!!

Towards the end of the day, a lady drove up with a pan of food and said, "I'm sorry I'm late!  I didn't get it here on time."  One of our volunteers said, "No you are right on time!"  because that last pan of food fed the last people in line.  We have all been in that same position where we thought "I'm too late..."  What if she wouldn't have brought it?  If the Lord is prompting you to do something... do it!  It won't be too late!!!

My last story is just a reflection on my part... a time to process what I can't quite get my mind around.  The lady that I wrote about last week who passed away.... doesn't have a last name that anyone knows so she is at the morgue listed as a "Jane Doe".  She was in her early 50's and had one very good friend "Larry" who misses her very much.  He said that he misses her so much and finds himself looking for her hoping that it had been just a bad dream.  The problem is... it wasn't.  She had severe mental illness and severe drinking problem.  She had a problem with her esophagus caused by the alcohol and probably drugs that she abused.  Over a three day period of time, she bled internally, and died.  We used to drive by her and wave... she wore a size 8 shoe.  Julie always was very appreciative of the things we gave her.... but she died.  God knows that she wasn't a "Jane Doe" because God knows every person.  He knew us before we were formed in our mother's womb....He knows the end of the story... but He has given us each a choice.  He didn't make Julie drink herself to death....she chose that for whatever reason... but His word says that He does not leave us or forsake us.  He loves us......whether drunk or sober... whether addicted to things we can see or addicted to things we can't see, whether rich or poor, clean or dirty, convicted or free, perfect or far from it... He loves us!!!

As long as I live... I hope that I continue to profess the incredible love of Jesus and I pray that I walk it out also.  There is a song that says,  "Was I Jesus to the least of these?"  I pray that the answer is yes!  We all bleed the same......we are not so different.  I pray tonight for Julie as well as for all of the homeless, the volunteers, and for humanity!  "Whether you eat or drink... do it all to the glory of God!"

Monday, July 22, 2013

A Day of Thanks And Adventure!

Today was a great day of thanks....thanks and joy just seemed to hang in the air today which is amazing because it was in the high 90's and low 100,s.  We were all so hot, but it just seemed that the people on North First were very happy today and thankful.  The people waiting in line were joking and laughing with each other...Keith said, "On a scale from 1 to 10 with 10 being the happiest.... today was a 9 1/2 with everyone. 

When I first got down there today, one of the regular prostitutes came up to me.  I thought she needed something, but she just wanted to tell me how much she appreciated what we do.  Later I learned that one of the homeless ladies got a card and passed it around to a lot of the regulars there at the mission to thank us for being there.  It was so touching!  The card was a Christmas card which was so great because that was probably all that they could find.  (Christmas in July)   Her words really hit home.  So many people throughout the day thanked us.  The great thing is...Jesus loved everybody so we love not judge...It's about Jesus....Jesus walked amongst the people.... where they lived....and He loved.  He is teaching us to do the same.  This is often quite an adventure! 

Keith spoke with a lady today who told him that she and her family live in the Sunshine Motel 2 weeks out of the month because that's all they have money for.  It costs $200.00 a week to stay there and they can't afford 800.00 a month because then they wouldn't have enough to live on.  $800.00 dollars a month was my house payment at one point in my life.  She would have to pay that much for a one room hotel room for 4 weeks.  Hmmm.... The other 2 weeks she and her family try to spend a few nights with her sister and then find somewhere free where they can park their motor home.

We saw a guy on Sunday who we haven't seen for quite a few months.  I was worried about him and just wondered if he was still alive or doing o.k.?? This guy actually has a lot of hurdles in his life.  He struggles with a severe drug addiction, he is a male prostitute, and most of the time he dresses like a girl and calls himself a girl's name.  Despite this young man's obvious mental health issues and drug problems, he was so thankful and grateful for everything.  He always tells Kaecey  who is 17 years old (volunteer)  and has known this young man from the beginning--- he says, "Don't do drugs. Don't let anyone ever hurt you.. please don't do what I have done."  He tells her this every time he sees her and numerous times in the conversation.  Once you get past the visual shock....or the pre-conceived find a caring individual who needs Jesus as much as any of us.  People like him are why we keep going.

Well it sounds like the afternoon was filled with a lot of thankfulness and kind hearts.  I didn't know about the card or all of the thankfulness until the end when we were standing around talking because I found myself in the middle of drama...When we first got down to the lot, we started setting up the food and clothes.  It is usually a little chaotic and rushed because we know that the people have been waiting in the hot sun for a while and we don't want to make them wait longer than necessary.   I noticed a man and his dog sitting back a ways from our tables by himself.  As I was setting up the donut frosting station (lol- now that sounds real normal right? :0)   he yelled over to me that his dog needed food because he was going to die.  I walked over to him to find out what he wanted.  I grabbed a tray for him and got him some food because I didn't want him to get more agitated.  When I brought him his food, he was agitated and a bit hostile.  Possibly against better judgement, I engaged in a conversation with him.  The more we talked the more he settled down.  Eventually I sat down on the cement and listened to his story.  He told me how he had had a very bad week- someone in the family had passed away so he was on a drunken binge for the week.  He also told me that he was a bi-polar artist that didn't want to take his medication because he didn't like how he felt on it.  He didn't want to try other medications because it was too long of a process so instead he just drinks.  He also admitted that he was in a manic state at the moment. 

I know, I know... how many signs do I need to get the heck out of there.... but we were having a great conversation about Jesus and how Jesus reached out to people in love.  He didn't like church but he professed his love for Jesus.  He calmed down considerably and shared a lot about his life.  He even offered to give his backpack to a man who came up to us and asked if I could find him one for next week.  He had a bag and a backpack and was going to give up his backpack, but the man declined.  (A giving heart hidden under dysfunction.)  The conversation was going along just fine until someone asked him if he could not sit in that location next time because the mission wanted everyone to be on the other side of the parking lot. Well needless to say, the man I was talking to "snapped" "crackled" and "popped!"  Yep... he kind of lost it. He felt called out and embarrassed in front of the other homeless people so he had to stand up to the guy in his eyes so that he wouldn't lose respect.  A big argument continued on and within minutes two police cars showed up.  Wow....I didn't see that one coming.  I really didn't want to see the guy thrown in jail though because I know he was in such an agitated state and needed to go calm down.  The guy who asked him to not sit there did not do anything wrong.... he was just doing his job, but once the other guy snapped,  he reverted back to a "street mentality".  He was cussing and screaming back at the man.... After it was all said and done... the manic depressive man headed home with his dog.  He gave me a hug and thanked me for talking to him, then off he went.  The man who worked at the mission thought I would throw him under the bus and lie to the police about starting a fight.  The funny thing was... he didn't know that I was Keith's wife.. he thought I was some homeless person who would lie to the cops and get him in trouble.  After we cleared up who I was... I told him that I would never throw him under the bus.  I think that his default reaction was to not trust anyone because that is what he has experienced.  It was nice  that he could see that we walk the talk and don't just speak the words of Jesus but act with respect for truth also.  It is never a dull moment....but every conversation and every individual is always worth the time.  I know that conversation about Jesus is never for is always worth the effort.

In the past, we have ministered to a lady who was probably in her early 40's or late 30's.  We have given her clothes and shoes numerous times throughout the last year.  She was very mentally ill and addicted.  Over the last 6 months, she has stayed mostly on the outskirts of the lot... pushing a grocery cart and always wearing layers and layers of clothes.  A friend of hers had to call the paramedics and by the time she got to the hospital... she had died.  This makes me so sad.  A couple weeks ago I was taking our oldest son back to Seattle when I passed her as I was getting on the on ramp.  The lady was standing out in the grass next to her grocery cart with the sprinklers on.  I think that she had been sleeping out in the grass and was woken up by the sprinklers.  I felt so sad for her thinking what a horrible way to live.  I pray that she is with God and that she as peace.  I don't know where she was at with the Lord but I know that she always listened....and that she was seriously mentally ill.  I believe that because the Lord is pure love...that he must have a special way of dealing with mentally ill people.  God is a fair and just God.  God has given each of us a choice as to whether we want to call Him Our God or not..... He never forces us... but gives us the choice.  This woman was extremely mentally ill and not in a normal state of mind....When I get to heaven I want to ask God about this... What I do know is that God is always fair, just, and loving!! Thank You Jesus!!!

I loved the thankful stories and I grieve the sad ones.  My heart continues to break for the broken...each individual is responsible for change in their own life, but my heart breaks for the broken person underneath all of the dysfunction.  I want to be more like Jesus.... I want to walk amongst the people and give them words of hope and encouragement found in Jesus Christ.  Thank You Jesus for the opportunity to serve!!! I love You with all of my heart!  In Jesus Holy Name.... Amen! :0)

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Life Giving Water!!!

Most people who have grown up in the church setting are familiar with the story about Jesus and the woman at the well….In John 4 …. The story tells how one day while Jesus was ministering…he grew tired and sat down next to a well while his disciples went off to find food.  While Jesus was resting a Samaritan lady came up and Jesus asked her to give him a drink. The Samaritan woman was shocked that Jesus would even speak to her since she was a Gentile…..and it is here that Jesus offered her the water that gives “everlasting life”.  Upon hearing about the water that gives everlasting life… the woman replied, “Sir give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”  Jesus further revealed himself to her…. The woman left the jar of water and ran back to the town to tell the people about “The man who knew everything about everything I ever did.”


Now I share this scripture because of the way the lady responded… upon hearing about Jesus and everlasting life she basically said, “I want some of that!!!! Can I have some?”  Today a young man named Logan approached Keith towards the end of our time on North First Street.  He asked, “Can I get some food?”  The young man was 21 years old and was holding a sign that said, “Seattle” on it.  He had been standing down at the Arco station and was hoping that he would find someone to give him a ride to Ellensburg or to his true destination which was Seattle.  Keith told him to help himself and grab a couple plates of food then Keith asked him if he would like a bike.  Logan said, “No man, you don’t have to do that…really.”  Keith told him he wasn’t kidding and he could have a bike if he would like.  (The person we thought the bike was for didn’t show up…I guess God really had it picked out for Logan.)  “Why are you doing this?” Logan asked.  Keith explained that he was just doing what Jesus would do.  He went onto explain to Logan about Jesus and how He died for all sins and how He gave His very life…. A bike doesn’t even compare to a life!  Keith continued, “You have tried everything else in your life and it didn’t work… how about trying Jesus?”  “Am I too late?” Logan asked…….. Am I too late…….WOW~  It about broke our hearts to hear this…. “Am I too late?”  “No, “ replied Keith….Logan said, “I want Jesus!”


Keith explained to Logan how his life will never be the same…just like the woman at the well.  He shared that wherever Logan goes, Jesus will be with him and that it isn’t about “church”….. it is about Jesus.  “Wherever you go Logan, Jesus will be with you.  People will help you from here to Seattle and you will wonder why…. It is Jesus!”  “I never thought anything like this would ever happen to me… “ Logan said.  He said, “I don’t feel worthy.”  They talked further and then Logan said, “The love that you have given me is more than my dad or family has ever given me.”  “That is Jesus!” Keith replied.  Keith called all of the remaining people over… about 15 in all- volunteers as well as homeless who were standing by witnessing it all.  We laid hands on Logan and prayed over him….. Just as the woman at the well who would never thirst again…. Logan will never thirst again…. He has Jesus!!!  When you encounter Jesus…. You will never be the same.  


Keith gave Logan his business card and told him to call him whenever he needed. 
“You mean you want me to call you if I get in trouble?” Logan asked….”yes”….”You want me to call you when I get safely to Seattle?”…. “Yes, Just call me.”….”Like you mean I can call you any time?”  “Yes… call me any time,”  Keith replied with a big smile and hug.   I don’t know if we will ever hear from Logan again or see him, but it was amazing watching this young man being filled with hope and love to a degree that he had never experienced before.  Once you encounter Jesus…. You are never the same…..just ask the lady at the well!   :0)


The last year and a half has taught me to hear the Lord so much better than I ever had in the past.  I  know that God has always been speaking to me… as He does with all of us….but I don’t think my brain was set on the right frequency to hear Him.  Last Sunday a lady came up to me at the very end when we were packing up the trailer.  She asked for help and wanted to go to the YWCA for battered women.  I listened to her story for about 20 minutes but couldn’t get a clear picture because she was a little bit “all over the place”.  She seemed to have some mental illness, but there were also so major parts of her story that made me worried for her.  I told her that we would wait for her while she grabbed her things inside the mission and we would take her to the YWCA.  Well….. we waited….and waited….and waited and she did not come back so we thought she could have been “a little off” and maybe forgot about us or got distracted, so we left.  The next night when Keith got home from work we both agreed that we should bring the street people some water because it was such a hot day.  Now we had never gone out during the week before…. But we both felt the prompting to go this night.  We loaded up the coolers filled with water bottles and headed down to North First.  A few of our regulars were lingering here and there and were very appreciative of the cool water bottles and apples.  We headed down a side street on our way towards the river when we looked over and saw the lady from the day before!!


There she was…. Standing on the grass with one of her friends.  I jumped out of the car and she ran over to me.  “Do you still want to go to the Y?” I asked.  She definitely did.  I was so thankful for a 2nd chance with her.  I hadn’t been able to get her out of my mind from the day before and I was so excited that the Lord gave us another chance to bless her.  She grabbed her sleeping bag and garbage sacks filled with her belongings, said good=bye to her friend, and loaded up.  “I will be safe tonight!” she shouted back to her friend with a big smile.  Keith drove through the drive-thru of a hamburger place and got her a hot meal to fill her up.  She cried in between bites….”Why are you doing this???”  “Because that is what Jesus did for us….   He came for all of us!!”  We had an awesome talk about the Lord and about her life.  When we got to the YWCA I ran up to the door and rang the bell.  The lady who answered shared that they could only take women who were being abused by their “intimate partner”.  Being a “newbie” at these things, I ran back to the car to get more details from my new friend about her situation.  “Are you running from your husband or boyfriend?”  She started to share her story….her husband would beat her up if she did not perform “what he requested”….worse yet… he would pass her around to his friends and they would beat her if she would not perform “what they requested”.  Yes… I think that she qualified for temporary shelter at the Y.  “You are precious…. God made you and you are precious to Him!” I said as we hurried inside with her few bags.  Soon after we hugged and said our good-byes.  “I love you!” she whispered as we squeezed each other one last time.  “You are going to be o.k. sweetie!  God has got you covered!  And I love you too!”  I ran out of the building and jumped in the car with Keith knowing that all three of us had experienced Jesus in a very big way.


Today was a little different for me than most of our North First St days.  Close to the beginning of the day before we had gotten started, one of the men who shares a tent with one of the women I have befriended asked if he could talk to me in private.  Most of my afternoon was sitting on the pavement up against the concrete building talking to Tom.  We have known Tom for over a year and a half.  He lives down by the river and has a very sweet personality….as well as an alcohol and meth addiction.  Of all the things that Tom discussed, the one thing that stood out so much is when he said, “I just needed to talk to you guys (Keith and I) because I know that I can trust you.  I can’t talk to these guys out here about my personal life.”  It hit home because most of the people we serve are dealing with addictions and/or mental illness….there are not a lot of people to befriend to discuss serious/personal topics.  We really aren’t just handing out food and clothes….so much more happens each week.  It is the relationships…..the encouragement… the hope…..the Jesus that nobody can see, but everybody can feel.  HE is the SOMETHING DIFFERENT that both the volunteers and the North First Street friends feel.


I feel so blessed that each week we have people come down to volunteer…. People who I have never met before, but who have heard about North First Street.  Whether our volunteers are brand new or our awesome regulars…. We Praise God that there is always enough… always enough food, volunteers, clothes, love, hope, and ALWAYS ALWAYS enough JESUS!!!! Thank You Lord!!! I love You forever!!! :0)