Sunday, September 29, 2013

God- The Author and Illustrator!

God is the author and illustrator of this world well as life!  Today He orchestrated a beautiful smorgasbord of people, stories, and food down on North First Street.  God's orchestrated stories are so beautiful and filled with "aw".    Today was no different, God left me with my mouth wide open saying, "Wow!!!" 

The line was bound to be long since it was the 5th Sunday of the month.  It is long when there are only 4 Sundays in a I knew today was going to big.  In preparation Keith bar-b-cued about 600 hot dogs.  We had about 100 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that we had frozen from the West Valley High School kids.  An old friend brought by a big pan of baked beans, potato salad, and potato chips left over from their gathering the night before so I figured we would be set.  We had a big bag of Don's Donuts and a trailer packed to the top with clothes!

We had an awesome assortment of volunteers for sure today!  We had volunteers come who had not been here for about 9months come visit us and help, we had high school kids volunteering, foreign exchange students from Germany, Vietnam, and Korea (who loved it and who want to come back and help again! Yay!), there were our faithful ones who come so regularly, and even one who was homeless, but is not any more and who loves to give back!  Only God could bring together such a wonderful group of volunteers hungry to serve others!  (See, we don't have a sign up list... we trust that God will bring the people who need to be there... and there are always loving hearts who show up ready to serve. It sure grows my faith!)

There was such a huge mixture of people standing in line today.  There were some of our old favorites along with many many new faces who we have never seen.  There were young children, old people, pregnant mom's, healthy looking faces as well as sickly,  weak, under nourished meth- faces.  One of my favorite old timers lay along the wall of the near by building with his dog faithfully sitting there by him.  He had passed out with his jacket laying half covering his legs and a half finished fifth of whiskey.  I gently placed a bag of left over doughnuts next to him trying not to alarm him.  He made a couple unintelligible utterances and then lay back in his fog.  I have such a huge heart for Bill but I know that the bottle of whiskey has him shackled.

On the other hand... I heard that another favorite old timer was doing much better.  Willy was the older gentleman who was asleep inside a big hollow pipe when someone lit him on fire.  Willy wasn't able to care for his burns so ended up back in the hospital where they eventually moved him to a nursing home.  Henry, one of Willy's friends, said that Willy looks really good!  He said that Willy had a bath, that he gets 3 meals a day, and is doing really great!  Whenever he tells other people where Willy is staying, he always warns them not to bring any liquor around because Willy has not had a drink since he went in and he wants to see Willy have a chance.  The drs. at the hospital told Willy that if he hadn't come back in for treatment that he would have probably lost both of his arms.  I am so happy that Willy is not going to lose both of his could he hug me back?  :0) Please keep praying for Willy.

Our friend Amanda lives by the river with a few other friends who all take care of each other.  Amanda needs to get to Neighborhood Health this week because she is almost sure that she is pregnant.  If you could see Amanda, you would probably know she was pregnant.  I gave her my quick talk about the importance of getting pre-natal care for the baby.  We talked about special needs babies and how important pre-natal care is.  I pray that Amanda isn't drugging any more...if she is pregnant, we will have more talks about the effects of drugs on an unborn baby.  I like Amanda and her friends a lot.  They have kind hearts...being a drug addict does not mean that you have an uncaring heart... it means that something else dictates your every move...As we stood around, Amanda's two friends started sharing with me a little bit about their lives.  The only man in the group is in his late 40's.  He was standing with a lady who was his first friend when he came to Yakima back in 1979.  He was 12 years old when his mom threw him out of the house and said never come back.... yes, no kidding.... he has been on his own since he was 12 and his friend was 14 years old when she was kicked out of her house.  They have been hanging out ever since and just try to take care of each other as well as the few other friends that have joined them.  So is it a surprise that he is fathering a child that Amanda is carrying?  Not really, but it is a mystery to me how they have survived that way of life for so long.  Mr. D. as I call him, did not go on through school past 12 years of age.  He has worked on and off helping roof houses, carpentry jobs, etc. 

What God is showing me over and over is that I can not assume that every person started out with the same set of life experiences growing up as I did... du? right?  But we judge people as if they had the same roof over their head growing up as we did, the same table full of food, warm blankets, a bed, a mom and dad to kiss them good night, an education, someone to go to when school was hard or friends were mean....and we think-  "Why don't they just go get a job....stop living off of the system....get a life- we all had to."  But see, the race isn't fair-  we are running the race with legs.... and some of them are trying to stay in the race as amputees- running through life on the nubs of their amputated limbs.  I personally couldn't have made it on the streets at 12 years old.  I was still playing with dolls when I was 12... or at least dressing them and doing their hair :0).  I couldn't have found my own food, stayed warm, or figured out how to stay safe.  And if I had... I surely wouldn't have a kind hearted attitude to others like Amanda and her friends.  They care for each other and try to protect each other.  I pray that Amanda's baby is safe and that she is not doing any drugs at this time...  if she is... it only means that I have huge compassion for both she and the baby.

Linda from the river came right at the very end today wearing a short little skirt and a borrowed coat.  We had all of the boxes packed up and we were getting ready to pray.  She said, "I missed the food, but I am here for the best part!"  She joined hands with us and we all prayed a beautiful prayer of thanks for God's beautiful provision!  After we were finished, Linda whispered in my ear that she has been clean for 45 days.  She only needed a coat or sweater because the one that she had on was borrowed.  Keith looked in the back of the trailer and laying on the top of a ton of empty clothes bins were two nice warm women's jackets that were perfect for her!  I don't know how they weren't given out because we went through so many bins of clothes, but they were waiting right there for her!  God is so amazing and it was fun to share that with Linda!  I am so proud of her and happy for her that she is trying very hard to get clean. 

My friend Lucy started working at Walmart and is back with her man who would like to marry her and who has stopped drinking.  They are both seeking the Lord and seeking a life together without the things that messed them up in the past.  Praise God!!!

So as you can see there were a smorgasbord of stories, but there was also a smorgasbord of food!!! We brought about 600 hot dogs, plus the food I spoke of above, in addition to a huge roasting pan filled with chili dogs that someone brought, pans and pans of macaroni and cheese, quiche, potato dishes, spaghetti, water, chips, 20 Domino's pizzas that they donated, Don's Donuts, homemade cookies, fruit snacks, a huge cooler of homemade potato soup,  and probably more that I am missing, but you see God orchestrated all of it!  He knew that the need for food was going to be huge today and he prompted so many different people's hearts.  We don't sign up on any lists or call each other. I told a couple of the ladies that we were doing hot dogs, but everyone else brought the food on their own accord.  The Lord prompted them and they acted in beautiful obedience!  Close to the end, one of the volunteers said that we were not going to have enough hot dogs and wanted to know if I had any peanut butter or jelly in the car.  I did not have any because I didn't think we would need it.  By the time that I got over to check and see exactly how many people still needed food, the volunteers at the front of the line all looked at me with amazement and then told me how they only had one hot dog left, but when they went to move the pan, more hot dogs rolled across the juice filled pan.  I also stood in amazement as they pointed to the last man in line and said, "See, that was the last hot dog."  I wanted to jump with joy and cry at the same time!  How great is our God that He cares for each one of those homeless people-  even the ones at the end of the line--- the man at the end of the line today was looking up, talking to himself- looking quite disconnected from life-  yes, God cares for ALL people!  Even the ones who don't look like they have a purpose or a place.  At God's table, there is Always a place for EVERYONE!  Thank You Jesus for Your amazing provision!  Thank You that you never give up on us and that You Pursue ALL people!  I talked with a lot of people today who knew and were very thankful that God prepared a banquet for them! 

I have been reading in Colossians this week.  Colossians 1: 6 says, "This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world.  It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about
God's wonderful grace."  How beautiful is that?  God is changing lives.... changing the lives of the volunteers as well as the lives of our North First Street Friends.  What I see happening on North First Street... is that lives are changing... people are making changes towards improving their lives... changes in their daily decisions, changes in how they see God, and changes in how they see that God views them.  Further in Colossians 1:10 it says, "Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit.  All the while, you will grow as you lean to know God better and better."  Every day I am learning to know God better and better.... til the day I die I want to keep learning to know God better and better.  I know that many of our friends on North First Street are also getting to know God better and better.  Thank You Precious Lord for Your beautiful, gentle way that You reveal Yourself to us as we continue to trust You and lean into You!  We love You Always!!! In Jesus Holy Name-  Amen  :0)                                                                                      

Sunday, September 15, 2013

I want a tender responsive heart....

God spoke through Ezekiel to the Israelites…. In Ezekiel 36: 25 God says, “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean.  Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols.  And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you.  I will take out your stony, stony heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.  And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.”

That is the prayer of Keith and I, “please take out our stony hearts and give us a tender, responsive heart.  And I will put my Spirit in you….”  I need God’s spirit in me.  I need His spirit to soften my heart that so quickly can harden.  I need God in order to handle what happens on North First Street every week.  Sometimes I get filled with anxiety and get so nervous before we head down.  This week I decided to try something different….I am a speech therapist and have been learning how to write “Social Stories” for kids who are on the autistic spectrum so that they can better understand social situations.  Social stories help autistic kids decrease their anxiety in given situations.  I figured…hey it couldn’t hurt to try and write one about going to North First Street to see if it helped my anxiety. What came out was as follows:

On Sundays we go down to North First Street to hand out food and clothes.  I drive down there and pull into the lot and then people rush around to ask what needs to be done.  I tell people where to put things and where to set the tables up at.  Sometimes they ask me for things or for help.  Sometimes I can give them what they want and sometimes I cannot.  When I have what they want, they are happy and hug me.  When I can’t give them what they want they walk away with a frown on their face or a sad look.  My heart feels sad when I can’t help them.  I feel like I am disappointing them, but I am only supposed to hand out clothes and food.  I give them everything that we have but sometimes it is not enough and I take on their pain.  The pain makes me feel like I want to cry and throw up and it scares me like I don’t want to be in their position.  But their position is not like a sickness that you can catch.  If I don’t have what they need, they will not hurt me.  They will just ask someone somewhere else. 

I get nervous because I get scared that someone will be mad and come and hurt me or my family.  Or that God will put me or my family in a position like they are in and I get scared of that.  I get scared that God might do something like that to me too and I don’t want that.  What I need to remember is that God loves ma ND my family as well as the people on North First Street and He did not make the things happen to them.  If I can’t help them, I need to say, “I am sorry but I don’t have that today and let God take care of the rest.”  I need to suggest to them to “Ask God to show them where they can get help.”  I need to love them without taking on their pain.  I need to trust that God has the rest taken care of.  I also need to remember that the volunteers will be just fine too.  It is up to God to teach them what He wants them to see and it is not up to me to make their experience perfect. 

Dear God, I relinquish control of the events that happen on North First Street.  I leave the people and the events solely in your hands.  I know that you have it taken care of and that I do not need to carry it on my shoulders.  Please help me to grow in this area.  Please lift the weights off of my shoulders.  In Jesus Holy Name, Amen.

After writing this Olivia and I loaded up the food and headed down to North First.  Keith had already gone down a bit earlier to set up.  Little did I know that he was having similar anxiety.  When he pulled up in the lot to set up the tables, he saw a huge line of people already gathered in the shade.  As he got out of the car, people were pulling him in all different directions, needing instruction on how to set up the tables, where to put the boxes, and numerous personal questions about their individual situations.  All Keith felt was a huge wave of desperation and chaos.  Everyone seemed so needy today and did not take instruction well, therefore he had a lot of people trying to help but actually just causing a lot of confusion.  As more volunteers arrived, Keith started to relax a little bit but not for long because as his eyes traveled back down the line, he saw the huge number of people lined up.  Keith stayed at the start of the line shaking hands with people as they received their plates.  Waves of panic kept hitting him, “what if we don’t have enough food…”   As he was reacting to the fear, he was also trying to talk it out to the ladies who were serving.  “We are not going to have enough food,” he told them, “I know that I do not have any faith right now.  Lord I am sorry that I do not have any faith but I see these hungry people and I see the food and I don’t know how you are going to do it!”  Keith continued to reason out loud saying, “I know that God has provided for almost 2 years now and I should have more faith but I don’t.”  He said that as he looked down the line he felt overwhelmed by the heaviness that people were carrying.  He felt the sorrow that so many have felt…the oppression and desperation that was thick in the air.  This went on for a bit longer until finally Keith gave up.  He threw both arms up in the air and said, “I have no faith God and I am so sorry.  I give up control and put it into your hands.”

What was interesting was that the women serving had total faith that God would provide and they kept reassuring Keith.  Shortly after, a man walked up to the table with 2 more huge pans of food.  Yes…. 2 pans of food that we were not expecting.  God has such a great sense of humor.  It wasn’t until Keith finally gave up control that God was able to make things happen and sure enough…..Willy came up to the table…. The last person in line and received the last 2 scoops of spaghetti… I am so so so thankful to God that He is the God of provision….that He is the God of all things!!!   That He carries the load and not us  (When we finally give it to him  :0)  and that He is the only true anxiety buster!!!!! 

After I wrote my “Social Story”  I received immediate comfort and peace.  After Keith gave up control and gave it to God…he also found joy and peace.  When we look to God, He gives us new tender,  responsive hearts.   God lays us out on the table and gently cuts an opening in our chests….He looks to His right and He sees Jesus laying on the other table.  He gently cuts open Jesus’ heart and transplants it into ours.  It is in this transplanted heart that we receive the ability to love more like Jesus.  The beautiful things is that this transplant is available to anyone who would like it! 

It is with this heart that I wept for Willy who was jumped by the train tracks and set on fire this last week.  Willy is about the kindest guy around.  He is always drunk but is very kind.  The people who jumped him burned his arms from just above the elbow down to his wrists.  Willy was wearing a short sleeve t-shirt and his arms were wrapped with gauze which was loose and falling down.  Dark black charred skin and huge blisters covered his elbows.  Burned flesh twist down his forearms into the wrapping of white gauze.  My stomach turned and I wanted to cry.  No one deserves torture… it broke my heart.  Some of the people by the river said that they have been terrorized over the past 2 weeks.  Someone has beat people up with a metal pipe breaking and fracturing bones, burning others.  My heart was very tender and responsive.  I have never seen anything like that before.  Please pray for Willy and for the other people who have enough on their plates without being beaten in the process. 

The homeless often take care of the homeless.  They check on each other and watch over the ones who suffer from P.T.S.D., anxiety, and depression to the point of not being able to be around other people.  They bring bandages, ointment, and hydrogen peroxide around to try and mend the wounds.  The medical care at the mission is a blessing for the people who live on the streets.   It is so easy to for me to judge as I drive by in my car, but it isn’t as simple as that.  There are so many other things that play into “homelessness”. 


As I was getting ready to leave, I had a great visit with a man who frequents our Sunday afternoon lunches.  He is about 6’5’’ and probably doesn’t weigh more than 170 pounds.  He shared about his experiences in Vietnam and how he was spit on and cursed at when he got back home.  A few years after returning home from the war he was in a very bad car wreck that left him with traumatic brain injuries which caused seizures.  He shared how his memory isn’t what it was before the wreck and it was obvious that his story is like many other people out there…. It is uniquely his…See every person out there has a different story and no story is the same.

God is in the process of softening my heart… of making it more tender and responsive.  God doesn’t ask me to solve the problems of North First Street.. He just asks me to show love and He will do the rest! 


Lord I trust you to handle the big things and the little things that worry me….I trust You to be my peace and my joy!!  In Jesus Holy Name…. Amen!  :0)

Monday, September 2, 2013

Love One Another...He was telling us...not asking us! :0)

2 John 1:6  "Love means doing what God has commanded us, and he has commanded us to love one another, just as you heard from the beginning." 

Remember when your parents used to say, "I've told you so many times.....!" John is saying it in a nicer way, but he is saying the same thing. (My paraphrase--O.K. so listen up, God our Father has told us from the very beginning to love one another.  This is nothing new to any of us so let's go out there and get the job done!!! o.k. now on 3...break!!!)  Loving one another is what propels us into action.....

Love is what makes me ask each kid in line on North First Street if he has his school supplies....if he is registered for school??? Education will give these kids the tools to try and get out of their current living conditions- It is hard to be successful in school when you don't have things that your teacher requires of the other students.  My human side wants to think-  It is someone else's problem. I'm sure the teacher will find materials for this student.  Then the Lord whispers in my ear.....ask them....I will supply the resources...just ask them.  And sure enough by asking, it bring the awareness to some new parents that they need to get their kids registered for school.  It isn't just an optional kind of thing.... their kids need to be in school!  As we were handing out school supplies to kids we had adults ask for some paper and a pen or pencil....we take so many things for granted....

Love is what propelled people to donate school supplies over the last few weeks.  It propelled someone to drop by 6 huge watermelon!  Someone else was propelled to gather up baby clothes and wash them all, fold them, and drop them by.  Another person brought by 2 big boxes of granola bars to hand out in line and another was propelled to donate ice cream, yes ice cream!!  The owners of Baskin Robins gave us about 150 cups of pre-scooped ice cream to hand out.  They even let us borrow their portable freezer to serve it out of.  None of these people had to do what they did....but they did it out of love.  Love shown to people who had nothing to offer back.  Those are incredible seeds sown into the Kingdom of God!!  Those seeds do not go unnoticed...those seeds are making a difference in lives!! 

Love propelled the large number of volunteers to show up today.  It set Alicia and a few of her friends from her bible group to make the main dish this week for 150+ people on a beautiful Labor Day weekend!!  Thank you ladies!!! Love moves Megan to make yummy zucchini muffins.  People look at us sometimes like we are crazy for what we do, but to me, it makes logical sense.  Let me explain.... if I was making soup and it tasted bland.... I would add spices to make it taste better because that was what was missing.  If a child is crying because he can't find a toy, I would help him look for it because that is what is missing.  The people on North First Street are missing or poor, people need love and when it is missing- they do crazy things to make up for it.....drinking, eating, gambling, over-exercising, using drugs, sex....people use these things to hide their pain... pain usually caused by someone they loved. 

The Lord instructs us to love one another... over and over throughout His word... love one another.  God is facilitating the healing that needs to take place in all of us!  We all have hurts from a lack of love... it may be from a parent, betrayal from a friend or love, or someone who we loved more than they loved us.  God propels some to reach out in love so that he can heal the hurts in the giver....meanwhile he works on the heart of the receiver through the act of love shown.  Everyone has hurts...  Chris had to have hurts to lead her to a life of prostitution and heroine.  She recently got out out of jail and says that she only does "meth" and drinks now.....Chris has hurts that God's love needs to heal.  Sophiya is a high school girl who looked very sad today.  "How is it going?" I asked her.  "Not great," she responded as she sat down on the cement with her head in her hands.  She looked like a poster child for depression-hopelessness.  I didn't act in love-  I was busy running around getting things set up and didn't stop to ask for the rest of the story.  She ended up sharing with Keith that her family was going to be moving to Tuscaloosa, Alabama today.  She was not very happy.  In love Keith told her and her brother to do whatever they could do to get themselves to the Church of the Highlands.  He shared with them that if they could just make sure and get there...they would be able to find people who would be able to help them get on their feet.  So how did Keith know without a doubt that they could be helped here?  Because he has listened to the church's sermons on line for a couple years now and he knows that they share the same beliefs in the merciful glorious God that we serve....the same God that tells us continually to love one another.  I pray that Sophiya begins to see that a live with God blasts hopelessness out the window!!  God love covers every square inch of this world!! 

Sherrie's life certainly needs more love.  How do I know?? Because anyone who lives with a man who beats her..."but only when he gets angry"  needs some more love.  I could talk until I was blue in the face, but only God can impart the kind of love that she needs to heal all of her hurts.  On Sundays at North First Street- people are guaranteed to find roughly 2 hours of love poured all over them.  It is a time of celebration, laughter, fellow-ship, peace, and safety.  It is a couple hours of love that goes beyond us.  Love that is exponentially grown and dispersed by God! 

Some may say that it is rather "bold" to make such statements, but I can safely say that it is true...because everyone can feel it... it doesn't matter if you are volunteering or if you are receiving the help....God's healing love is radiant!  Some weeks when I head down to North First Street I am tired or distracted with my own life issues, but it never fails....once I get there....the love of Jesus sweeps through and the day is attitude is heart is changed!

We had a lot of people down here today for a first Sunday of the month.  It was more like a 2nd or 3rd Sunday.  Blessedly there was plenty of food, plenty of volunteers, and plenty of love.  God has made us so relational...we all need someone.  Lucy came by today to tell us that she got a job at Walmart this week~  Praise God and I am so glad that she wanted to come and share her good news with us.  Amanda and Dennis are always looking out for each other.  If one gets food, they always share it with the other.  They are there for each other for protection, but also for friendship.  We all need someone, we all need love. 

Today while we were driving down to North First St I saw Michelle sitting on a bench by himself in the park.  He was dressed like a girl and talking to the air.... nobody was around, but he was having a conversation with someone.....Michelle is a meth/heroine addict who is a male prostitute.  He stays with a guy who beats him, but his desire to be loved over rides his desire to be respected.  Michelle has so many hurts that he is trying to numb.  I pray that the Love of Jesus can eventually heal the vast expanse of pain that he must be in before his lifestyle kills him.

There were so many kids there who are being raised in extreme dysfunction.  We can't save people from the consequences of life...but we can choose to love not judge... we can choose to allow the Love of Jesus to propel us do things that don't have another explanation other than love.  I think that God mentions loving others so often in the bible because he knew that it would take repeating over and over in order to penetrate our selfish lives. 

Right at the end of the day on North First Street after the rigs were all packed up two different ladies came up to us.  Both apologized for being late, but wondered if we had food and water which thankfully we did. After we took care of the first lady and she left, we started helping the second lady.  She and her boyfriend had walked from the other side of town.  She was hot and sweaty and a bit out of breath.  She said, "We knew if we could just get here that you might still have some food."  They were trusting... if they could just get there....What they were counting on whether they knew it or not was that Jesus' love would cover their needs....and that is exactly what happened.  The lady had one more request.  She asked, "Could you please remember us in your prayers? We are trying to find jobs."  We did not say anything about church or about Jesus but when we act in His love....the message is transmitted.  It crosses all language barriers, age barriers, and race barriers.  Everyone...Everyone...Everyone...needs the Love of God!!!  Take time today to receive the love of Our Father and to share the love of Our Father...Your life will take on so much more joy!!!!  Have a great God filled filled  Week!! :0)