Sunday, August 25, 2013

It's a Peanut Butter Cookie Kind of Day

Today was a peanut butter cookie kinda day on North First Street.  Let me explain, see I have had to be gluten and dairy free for the past year and a half.  This might not be a big deal to someone who is extremely health conscious… but for me… it was extremely hard.  I have loved food my whole life and have used it as a way to treat others as well as myself.  I love to cook good food for people in hopes of bringing them some sort of happiness…. Yes I do see food as more than just nutrition for my  body.   Fortunately for my health… I have had to change to a gluten free/dairy free diet.  In doing so I also had to change my view of food.  I could no longer use it to hide hurts, anxiety, anger, frustration, tiredness…because once you take away gluten and dairy… a lot of my comfort foods disappeared with it.  This has been a wonderful thing for my health, but on days like today…I needed something.... and hot gluten free/dairy free homemade  peanut butter cookies fresh out of the oven were just the thing I needed.

Today was overwhelming for me.  I am not sure why though because I didn’t have to prepare any of the food.  It wasn’t physically exhausting, it was emotionally exhausting.  I have spent the last 6 hours trying to process the whole thing and I am not sure if I fully understand it even now.  In 1 John 2:7 it says, “Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you, rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning.  This old commandment- to love one another- is the same message you heard before.  Yet it is also new.  Jesus lived the truth of this commandment, and you also are living it.  For the darkness is disappearing, and the true light is already shining.” 

I believe this so much and North First Street is such a great example of this.  Over the past almost 2 years… I believe that the darkness has retreated some as the true light continues to shine.  Maybe I was overwhelmed by the out pouring of love that was lived out today.  Being the end of the month… the line was extremely long and people were hungry.  At this time of year the clothes are needed, but not as much as in the winter, none the less… the people are hungry year round. 

Someone asked me this past week why they are so hungry, “They have meals at the mission, so why would they be hungry?”  I agree… the mission is a huge blessing of resources for these people, but the truth is…lunch is not served on the weekends and to get breakfast, they must have spent the night at the mission the night before.  Many of the people we feed don’t sleep at the mission because they live in nearby hotel rooms, therefore their last meal would have been the night before at dinner.  And I don’t know about you… but when our house was filled with children… they didn’t just eat at the 3 meals I made every day…. They were growing and wanted food throughout the day and evening.  The people on North First are no different.  There are often 4 or 5 kids living in a hotel room with their mom, dad, or grandparents.  Often by this time of the month…they do not have much in the way of food hanging around.  Let’s just say the line was extremely long and people were just plain hungry.

The great thing is that we had plenty of food!! The Mormons have adopted us as their humanitarian project for the year and have volunteered to bring the meal on the 4th Sunday of the month for the next year.  What a huge blessing!!  We had volunteers today from so many different churches.  There were even volunteers who did not belong to any church.  They just wanted to come and help.  I am in awe and overwhelmed with God’s love and provision!  We had abundant food, abundant volunteers, and abundant clothes!  Thank You Jesus!!! The love that was shown today is what helps push out the darkness…. The love of children, teens, young adults, parents, grandparents reached out to people on North First Street today.  That is what makes me feel emotional….we had little kids handing out apples next to their parents, teenagers asking to come help, older people willingly giving up their afternoon to extend love to our North First Street friends.  That alone brings tears to my eyes….

But there is more…maybe it was the kid like excitement that Amanda had when we gave her her very own bag of go-gurt, strawberries, 2 bananas, and a peach…Amanda is about in her mid-30’s and has no teeth because of the drugs she has abused.  She loves soft fruit and is so excited when we bring her something special.  She flashes her huge gum-filled smile and I know that the light…is pressing on the darkness.

Maybe it is the Fulsom family that stirs my emotions….they are the family who we have been helping to find furniture and dishes for their apartment.  They came down today specifically because the father wanted us to pray over his family.  They start highschool on Tuesday and he wanted prayer for all of them….. The light is pressing on the darkness.

It might be the image of David’s face in my mind as he flashed his akward smile to me in the midst of his writhing twitches and movements caused by his progressing Huntington’s disease.  David’s eyes are as blue as a clear sky in Yakima on a Summer’s Day.  David can’t get much out, but the twinkle in his eyes says it all.  He enjoys sitting against the wall after he has eaten and watches all the busyness of the day.  David sat there until the last car drove away… and as I looked back I could see David taking the longest, deepest drag on his friend’s joint….David lives on the street and often uses drugs to help ease the pain of the Huntington’s…..”Bless You” he says as he walks awkwardly away.  I believe that David sucks in the love of Jesus as he watches us run around the lot helping others.  The light continues to shine on David.

A mother and father of 5 recently got their special needs child back from Seattle.  They approached me with requests for help with school supplies and school clothes for their children.  We talked about getting preschool special education services for their child and where to access those resources.  They were so appreciative of the help being offered and I felt the burden of their hearts for their kids.  You could tell that they were trying to do the right things and get it right this time….I pray that the light of Jesus… and the love of Jesus invades their hearts and blasts out the darkness.  They have a long road ahead of them.

Chris… a prostitute/drug addict who is about my age came back today.  I haven’t seen her for months and wondered if she was still alive.  She showed up wearing a platinum blond wig which caught me off guard and made me laugh inside.  She explained how she had been hiding from the police for the last 8 months but they finally caught up to her and she ended up serving a couple weeks in jail.   Really??? 8 months of hiding for 2 weeks in jail?? Talk about living in the darkness…She said the good thing was that she is finally off black tar heroin…. “Whew I thought”….”Ya… now I am only on meth.”  I am a speech therapist and I work with special needs children.  I spend my days thinking in baby steps…. I break curriculum into little tiny steps and measure little tiny bits of progress… so in a twisted way…. Chris is making some progress…Chris gave me a huge hug and the only thing I know for sure is that she feels the love of Jesus (even after not seeing us for 8 months).  The light continues to push out the darkness in her life and Jesus continues to love her as much today as the day she was conceived.  That thought overwhelms my emotions…..and brings me to my knees…with pure humble thanksgiving and awe!

I don’t know why my emotions were on high alert today…It just felt overwhelming to see Wild Bill sitting in line with his camping chair and his trusty dog tied with a rope… Bill gave me a great big hug and a kiss on the cheek.  Next to him was the guy who was drunk and manic a few weeks before.  He shook my hand and said that he was doing much  better now…”It was a bad couple of weeks,” he said.  Two of the teenage girls have been gone for quite a few months now and we found out that they were finally removed from the home because their mom’s heavy drug use.  It is the best thing for them I would think since they were being prostituted out so their mom could supply her habit.  These things seemed to weigh my heart down today….a much heavier burden than I usually carry.  I know what to do though… I know that God is the one who needs to carry the burden and I just need to leave it at His feet.  It is only a small feeling of anguish compared to what Jesus felt on the cross when He felt the sins of the entire world come upon Him as he hung on the cross.  It was through this great act of love that we are each propelled forward to love the world around us. 

God loves us with a relentless love that never gives up!!!  He chases after each one of us as if we were each the most precious lamb in the flock.  His love is big enough to help each of the people we encounter and He only asks us to be obedient and offer what we can in the process.  I am continually amazed at the love, kindness, time, and treasures that people offer up.  And I am continually amazed at the great love that I feel coming down from God the Father….each and every day!! I don’t need peanut butter cookies or any other food to comfort me on days like today… I only need Jesus and His great gift of love!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Don't Have One Without the Other...

James 2:26....."Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works."

Out on North First Street God is showing us this on so many levels.  See when I was growing up I tried so hard to do good things and to be good to earn love and affirmation.  In retrospect, I was banking on good deeds to get me the love I needed from those around me.  Sadly :0(  this road only leads to disappointment because the "works" and "deeds" that you have are never enough.  On the other my faith I saw a lot of people with lots of professed "faith", who treated others terribly and did not have any "works" to back up the words that they professed.  It is when Faith and Works are married together that God works through his believers!

This week there have been so many of our homeless friends who have chosen to step out in faith and step into change.  Brenda has chosen to leave Yakima for a nearby town to get some distance away form the life style that only leads to death.  She asked her boy friend to go with her and he declined.  As hard as it is to leave without him, she has chosen to trust God and move away so that she can have a better life.  This is a huge leap of faith for this woman.  She knows that the life style that she is living in is not what God wants for her.  I am so proud of Brenda!  It is a huge scary step for her, but she is taking a chance on God! 

Les from North Dakota called again this week to update us on his new job.  He was so excited!  He has a 9 month contract with the John Deere Company to work on the assembly line.  He took a huge leap of faith when he bought his one way ticket to North Dakota.  His faith married his actions and God met him right at the junction where the 2 came together.  He never leaves us or forsakes us!!

Lucy, a woman who has been seeking God got a call from Walmart last week!  She may have work for the winter!! When we actively step out to meet God.... He draws near to us!!! Lucy's faith met her works....she stepped out and applied for the job... and God met her there!  It is so encouraging to me!

Lester (different from North Dakota Les) shared in our prayer circle today that he starts his new job tomorrow.  Lester has been searching for a job for 7 weeks.  He professes his love for Jesus and has united his faith in the Lord with his active job search....right where God met him! 

Today was such a great day of joyful stories!  I made a ton of tator tot casserole for today.  I spent the morning listening to preaching on-line as I cooked and prepared for the day.  In faith I made the number of pans of food that the Lord seemed to be indicating.  As the food line continued to move along, I grew fearful that we wouldn't have enough food.  It was only the 3rd week of the month, but we seemed to have an unusually large amount of people today.  I prayed that the Lord would stretch our food to the very last person....My faith joined my works and God met us right where they crossed...yes there was just enough food!  We did not have to turn anybody down.  Things like that grow my faith exponentially.

After returning home from serving on North First Street today, three wonderful young adults stopped by our house to talk about their experiences today on North First.  They had served with us side by side and wanted to "de-brief" afterwards.  What happened next ministered more to our hearts than theirs I think because their stories seemed to represent the whole idea of faith with works equals life!
The girls are walking testimonies even if they don't fully yet know it.  They have overcome huge obstacles in their lives that most kids don't have to deal with while maintaining an incredible trust in God.  They serve the Lord throughout their weeks and are an inspiration to me.  It is the young man's story that seemed to move me so much today. 

You see... this young man has overcome the life that we see every week on North First Street.  He has overcome a prostitute, drug addicted mother as well as incredible neglect and abuse.  From birth until age 10 Pablo was raised on the streets of Yakima by his mom who was a prostitute and huge drug addict.  He and his 3 siblings were beaten regularly and neglected most of the time.  Pablo said that he generally got about 3-4 meals a week and often went a few days without food.  I personally have never gone a full day without food... never.  Pablo shared that you just get used to the hunger pains.  Summers were the hardest because he didn't have the school to feed him.  At least during the school year he could count on breakfast and lunch.  After a long time of mal-nutrition, Pablo said that it was hard to eat certain foods because his body would get sick and reject it.   Pablo's mom would use her food stamps to buy food and then would sell it for drugs.  If the kids got clothes from the mission, she would sell them. 

Pablo had to repeat first grade because the first time around he missed too much school.  His mom would beat him us so badly that he couldn't go out of the house.  Needless to say,  he had to repeat first grade.  Pablo said that he was so afraid of his mom.  He was scared to say anything to anyone because he believed that his mom would kill him.  "I believed that my mom owned me and that she could do whatever she wanted with me."  Pablo's mom frequently told him that he was worthless and that she was the best mom that he would ever get.  She often would beat he and his siblings so badly and then would take them to the hospital.  Pain meds were prescribed and then she would use the pain pills. 

Keith and I had so many questions.  We asked him when the point was that he decided that he didn't want that for his life?  He said that he was 7 or 8 and decided he didn't ever want to do the things that his mom did because he didn't want to be like her.  Throughout a 2 year period of time (when Pablo was 8-10 years old) Pablo's older brother started to try and get the kids removed from the home.  during this time there was a lot of talk about the mom selling the kids into the sex slave world.  Pablo's older brother had left the home and wanted desperately to get his siblings out of there before they were gone forever.  Finally when Pablo was 10 years old, his brother successfully convinced CPS to get the kids out of the home.  Pablo was called down to the office at school and was put into foster care.  From that day on... Pablo never went back to their home again.  This was a blessing for the kids because of the families who they were placed with. 

You would never know by looking at this young man the hell that he has lived through.  He is a happy upbeat high school guy who has such a love for Jesus!  He actively seeks opportunities where he can serve others and does not seem to have any bitterness or anger.  Of course we had to ask why and what made him want to try Jesus?  Pablo's answer was so wonderful... he said that he could see how God put certain people in his life at different times... people whose faith-----had met their works---and he experienced the love of God through them.  He said that as a ten year old, he could see that all the people who had helped him in his life had one thing in common.... the love of Jesus!!! Isn't that so amazing???? A ten year old could see that there were people who reached out to him and his siblings to help... and they did it in the love of Jesus! 

Pablo loves Jesus and Pablo knows how real Jesus is.  The other two young women we were talking to have lives that mirror Pablo's story in that they have gone through some really rotten things... but they continue to be walking a life where their faith meets their actions.... they have not given up on God... they have not buried themselves in bitterness or self-pity... but instead have chosen to seek the life that Jesus has for, and tomorrow, and the next day.  Their faith married to their actions are an inspiration to me!  They are under 20 and they get it better than a lot of people 3 times their age.  People... we need to step out... we need to reach out to those in need... to those people who are hurting emotionally as well as physically.  Just think what would have happened to Pablo if people hadn't reached out to him throughout his life.  He said that he remembers people handing out food like we do.  Sometimes it was the much needed meal that filled his stomach because his own mom was too messed up to care for him.  People ask us..."Don't you think that you are enabling them?"  Jesus instructed us to clothe and feed the poor, so we do.  Who knows what "Pablo's" were standing in line today.  Who knows what "hope" we were able to give someone today. 

Jesus continues to stretch stretch my mind (I can't wrap my head completely around neglect and abuse)...he continues to stretch my heart around loving others... around "love not judge"...and he continues to stretch my faith around his incredible love, provision, healing, reconciling, all encompassing ways.  Father God I thank You for always being enough, for never giving up, and for continuing to pour into all of us on North First Street.  It really doesn't matter which side of the line you are on... God is pressing us to match our faith with our actions.  As you go about your week... take a step closer in the direction God is moving you.  It is always worth the risk!!!  Pablo said, "The worst thing you can do in your faith is to do nothing."  I think Pablo got it right!  :0)

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Faith, Hope, and Love!!!

In 1 Thessalonians 1:2  Paul writes a letter to fellow believers in Thessalonica.  His words were encouraging both then and now.  He wrote, "We always thank God for all of you and pray for you constantly.  As we pray to our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Last night a friend was sharing this scripture with us and it seemed so fitting for today on North First Street.  The man shared how faith refers to looking back at what Jesus has done for us in the past and how our faith grows because of what we have witnessed.  Love takes place in the present... in the now.  Love is what we do now to effect other people, and hope deals with what will come in the future.  Hope inspires endurance and never gives up!  You see it is all three of these concepts that bring us to North First Street every Sunday afternoon at 2:00. 

It is in faith that we step out in every week.... Faith that our Lord God has been there for us... He has delivered us from some very dark places in the past therefor He can deliver others... It is faith building to get a phone call like we got this week.  Les is a 50 something year old man who lived at the mission and who would help us set up each week.  This last week Les called Keith from North Dakota to share with us how God has gotten him a job.  We hadn't seen Les for a couple weeks and we wondered what had happened to him.  Les called to apologize for selling his scooter that Keith had given to him... he sold it so that he and his friend could buy bus tickets to North Dakota. They were following a tip that they had received about a job opportunity.  Within 26 hours of getting to North Dakota, Les had landed a job with John Deere.  He was so excited to share what the Lord was doing in his life!!  He signed a contract for a 9 month trial work period with an option to continue longer after that.  It was so neat to hear what the Lord had done.  See every time we see or hear what the Lord has done... our faith muscle grows stronger!

Another man shared with me today that he finished his program at YVCC and he graduated from his program!!We were so excited for him and it was so fun to celebrate what wonderful things the Lord has done.  Doors are opening in so many areas of this man's life....

It is in looking back at what the Lord has done that helps build our faith.... and it is in sharing these stories with others who are working through life's "stuff" that helps encourage them!  We have been helping 2 high school students and their brothers, collecting school supplies and trying to help them work through the "bumps" that could de-rail them along the way.  The girls were so encouraged by our stories of  Lord's faithfulness.  I believe that it is faith that moves in our hearts and causes us to spend our Sunday's on North First Street, but it is also something else... and that is Love.

Love happens in the present... in the now.  Paul speaks of "loving deeds".  See, love is what compels us to bar-b-que 500 hot dogs, to sit down and listen to someone pour out their heart, to do the things that sometimes don't make sense to others.  Parents do this all of the time.... they do many crazy, hard, time consuming things for their children... out of love.  God's so cool though because only God could put it in your heart to do crazy time consuming out of the way things for people that you don't really even know.  We don't really know know the people we serve on North First Street.  We know as much as they are willing to share with us, but we don't really know them.  God is the one who puts love in our hearts for people, for humanity, for the hurting, and the lost.  And it is from this place of love that loving deeds pour.  It is those deeds that are done not for ourselves, but others that show God's love.  God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son!!

And finally Paul speaks of hope... enduring hope.  Hope inspires endurance.  It is the hope in what is to come that gives us the endurance to keep on...keeping on......that keeps us reaching out...handing out....showing the world... the love of Christ.  Everyone of us have endless opportunities to show the love of God throughout our lives.  It may be in the line at the grocery store, at the bus stop, at work, or at home... we have  opportunities to speak of the love that God offers.  We believe God's promises and we remain filled with hope for people to grasp the love of God. 

Luke 1:37 says, "For nothing is impossible with God."  Wow! It couldn't be more clear than that...Nothing... not anything is impossible with God which means that ALL THINGS are POSSIBLE with God!  All things.... prostitutes, drug addicts, and alcoholics can find strength and freedom from their addictions with God!  Emotional and Physical abuse can be healed through the love of God!  Poverty can be escaped through faith, hope, and love!

This last week I was watching a movie where a priest told a young woman, "Poverty is not just an absence of food, money and clothes.  It is never feeling what it is to be respected or valued as a person."  One thing I do know is that besides handing out food and clothes, we are able to love and respect the people who come through the line.  God has given us the honor of handing out the Love of Jesus as well as dignity and respect despite what they look like or what they have done. 

It was fun today to celebrate with the people in line when we shared with them that Les had found a job in North Dakota.  We gave God the glory as well as a huge shout of praise.  Last week we honored Julie's death by recognizing her passing with the North First Street friends before we started the food line.  Her friends were given 7 balloons to release up into the air in honor of her passing.  Keith shared that Jesus is available to them 7 days a week.... nothing can separate us from the love of God!  The last 2 weeks we have celebrated as well as mourned as a community...As a community of believers and non-believers.... all of which need the love of God!!

Today as Keith stood at the start of the line, he could take it all in.  He could hear the laughing and joking of the volunteers with the homeless.  He could see the love and smiles exchanged..... It's all Jesus!  It is only Jesus that could bring us all together and only Jesus that could sustain us.  2 Corinthians 4:7  "We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure.  This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves."

Praise God from whom all good things come!!! Praise His Glorious Name!!! Only Jesus can transform our hearts....only Jesus can transform our minds... only Jesus can transform our lives.  I pray that we all release our lives daily to Jesus.... to be used as He sees fit for the Glory of our God and Father!  It is through the day by day listening to the Holy Spirit that the transformation is propelled!  Thank You Jesus for allowing me to be a clay pot... complete with cracks and punctures... You meet me where my cracked pot ends and You fill in where my offering comes up short.  Thank You for always being enough!!!  In Jesus Holy Name... Amen :0)