Sunday, October 27, 2013

We are made to be relational!

God has made us in His image…He has made us relational.  God seeks a relationship with each one of us but leaves it up to us as to how, when, where, and for how long we will interact with Him.  At different points in my life I have been at different points with God.  There have been times when I have been desperately  at his feet as well as times when I have been as far away from him as ever.  The times that I have been the farthest away from him were the times that my life was the most dysfunctional and when I was making the worst choices for myself.

It is no different with our relationships with the people around us.  When I was living way off base…. Making horrible choices….I was also very distant from my loved ones.  I didn’t want anyone telling me what I was doing wrong and I also didn’t want them to know that I was so off base.  Our North First Street friends are no different.  Many of them have come to where they are because of a series of steps that have led them away from anyone who could help them.  Many have left family because the family was so dysfunctional and others have left family because their choices were so dysfunctional. 

I am always looking for measurable ways to indicate that people are making changes in their lives for the better out on North First ST.  In my constant view “the cup is half full” mentality, I want to see that what we are doing is making a difference.  I know that there are way too many variables involved to ever be able to say that the changes we see are due to a 2 hour a week ministry….but what I can report are the common trends in behavior that I observe.  That is all they are….observations.

 And what I have observed over the last 6 months is a trend of people who have approached us and said that they are making a change in their life by moving back to where they came from.  For some, it meant moving back to their home state of California where family lives, others- moving to Spokane where relatives are…some have moved with a friend as far away as North Dakota for work (by the way…they guy has a 9 month work contract with John Deer, an apartment, and just bought a van—he is so happy!), others have moved to Belingham…again because family is there.  The change may be to move from the river, to a hotel room.  Or from a hotel room to an apartment….it may be from the river, to the mission recovery program or from the river…to the triumph recovery center.

I see the moves as a move forward for each one of them.  In the beginning, each person ran from something and was living in a semi-isolated community…one filled with darkness and secrets just as I did when I was making horrible choices.   The tents camouflaged out in the brush by the river, the bed made in the corner of a parking lot with a sleeping bag or a blanket, or the people crammed into a dark motel room are all places where they can continue to carry out their choices without a lot of relationship with people except with people who are making the same choices that you are making.  I see the moves that many of our street friends are choosing as positive steps forward in their lives.  I believe that we were able to help sustain them during their low time with food, clothes, and relationship until they were ready to start on the long path back home…the long path back to society. 

I am so encouraged to hear when someone tells me that they are making a change… rarely is it backwards because the people we see are kind of as low as they can if they are not ready to start moving forward…they just stay where they are at (because you can’t get much lower).  And there are people in this situation also.  They are the people who are still in much the same situation as they were a year or two earlier when we met them.  They may have changes happening within them (Only God knows) but I think they will stay in their situations until they are sick and tired of being sick and tired.  It is then that they will start seeking change… and I am so thankful that we are there each week to be able to encourage them at whatever stage they are at. 

I am not at the same place that I was at 25 years ago, because I was finally sick and tired of being sick and tired... it was then that I turned to God.  Only God could move me from where I was to where I am now.  Only God could change my heart and my mind… Only God could break through the darkness and show me the light… the hope…the incredible walk that I am able to have every day with God.

Keith has made a relationship with a guy who has helped him set up the tables on Sunday mornings.  He told Keith today that this last week was the first week in 2 years that he has been able to work a 40 hour week.  Praise the Lord!!!  Keith was able to give him a bike today and he was so happy! We are made to be relational…and we seek relation with one another.

The family that I have spoken of who have 4 kids and earlier in the summer they got an apartment… many people donated things to go in their place since they did not have anything.  Well today they asked if I had anything that they could store the ashes of their tiny baby who passed away  :0(  MY heart was so sad for her and

Yet at the same time, I was so happy that she would share something so private and personal with me.  Keith and I lost a baby boy before we had Olivia.  I trust God that He has it all under control… we wouldn’t have Olivia if Kordell was born.  God has us in the center of his hands!! The mama also asked if we could pray.  It was wonderful… the mama, her teenage daughter, and I held hands and prayed together to Our God and Father!  Beautiful!! We are made to be relational J

A man shared with Keith today… he said, “Man, I really appreciate you guys so much!  I know that you may not hear that very often, but I really appreciate you.”  He shared how he knew we were coming because he saw the tables set up this morning and he said, “I know you will be here whether the tables are up or not.”…. yes people seek relationship.

Chuck is moving to Spokane at the end of the week… he said that he is going to go up and be with family…”but you have been my family here,” he said.  It really isn’t just handing at food and clothes…. It is making relationship…like Christ did.

A guy was out there today who shared with Keith that he had 5 by passes 8 weeks ago.  Keith had him sit down by the car and rest a bit.  He was so thankful for so little.  He seemed to open up and enjoy sharing a bit about his life with Keith.  We all seek someone to share life with.

At the end of the afternoon, a young man (early 20’s) came over for some food.  He has been coming for over a year now.  I asked how his girl friend was doing…(who is really a guy who dresses up like a girl).  His response broke my heart… not because his girlfriend is a guy…but because he said, “We aren’t together… I don’t know where she is… I probably killed her last time I beat her up.”  My heart broke…. I pray that the person isn’t dead and that he/she is safe somewhere away from anyone that would hurt him/her.  It doesn’t matter if it is a man, woman, or child… No ONE ever ever ever deserves to be beat…. Ever!!!!!

Some people in line today who were new… looked away as Keith made his way down the line shaking hands.  They looked like they wanted to disappear… to melt into the crowd and not be seen… they are still running into the dark…. Away from something or someone….Other people in line looked shocked as Keith approached… like, “Why are you talking to me?  Why are you being nice?”   My prayer is that those who are running away from relationships…. Will find renewed hope in the basic need that we all have…. The need to be relational. And I pray that they will begin to feel the stirring in their very core that comes from the Creator of the Earth…a stirring that says, “I have always loved you and you are enough just the way you are!   I will never leave you or forsake you!” 

Thank You Jesus for Your unending love!  I give You all of the praise and glory! In Jesus Holy Name… Amen! J

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Two Year Anniversary...God is So Amazing!!

The two year anniversary of North First Street is this weekend…yes, it has been two years, 103 weeks (We took 1 weekend off last year).  We had no idea that first week that it would extend into another 102 weeks. I never would have believed it if you told me back then that that is what we would do…never in a million years.  God is so funny-  He just takes it one week at a time….Love on the people in front of you…one week, one day, one hour, one minute, one person at a time.


The Lord promises us in Jeremiah 27:11-13 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.


This is my life verse…you see I grew up believing that God was a tyrant and that He only wanted me if I made the right choices.  When I didn’t…I believed that He did not want me anymore. I didn’t know God’s character at all.  Once I gave my heart to the Lord and learned Jeremiah 27:11-13, I knew that my God is an amazing loving God who wants a good life for me. 


Over the last two years Keith and our family have been seeking the Lord with all of our hearts on North First Street.  We have listened to the voice whispering in our ears to go out of our comfort zone, out of our normal sphere of influence into a world that we knew very little about.  The cool thing is that when you know that it is God whispering directions to you…you know that God has your back and He will never leave you or forsake you!! 


As Christians we know that Jesus is the answer… is the answer to all the world, the hope that we all seek!  Jesus is the way, the truth, the life!!  God meets us right where we are at….He never forces Himself on us in any way shape or form!  He also takes us at whatever speed we can handle.  If we need to take little tiny baby steps… then He moves us with little tiny baby steps.  If we need to take huge steps…. He moves us in huge steps. 


Well let’s just say that He has moved many people over the last two years forward… closer to Him.  The people who have been moved have been people on both sides of the box-both the givers and the receivers.  We have been so blessed to see many people from North First Street move closer to the Lord and closer along the path to a healthier life style. 


There was Wayne and Virginia- some of the first people we met down there.  They were living by the river in a tent.  They looked like they were about 15 years older than us, but it turns out they were about 4 years younger.  One night they decided that they wanted to start turning their lives around so they chose to stop doing drug runs for people.  This idea didn’t go down so well with certain people so in retaliation- the person lit their tent on fire while they were inside sleeping.  Both had significant burns but didn’t seek medical help.  That night they decided it was time to change their way of life.  Keith and I spent a few evenings speaking life into the couple and encouraging them to seek a better life for themselves.  They ended up leaving town shortly after to return to Oregon to reunite with family.  They were Christians who had fallen away in the past and who decided to run back into the arms of God. 


We have been blessed to see many people get jobs, choose to return home to their families,  or to enter into a rehabilitation program.  One young mother went into rehab, got cleaned up, and then reunited with her children who she had lost custody of.  The love that people have shown by donating clothes, food, money, toilet paper, toiletries, and time have meant so much to so many people whose stories we may never know.  But it is o.k. because by being obedient to what God has told each of us…has made eternal difference for so many people.  Many people who have already asked the Lord into their hearts in their past, have found their way back to Him. 


Just today Keith was driving through town and he saw one of the guys that we used to always see on North First when he was homeless.  He is now in Triumph Treatment Center and is trying to get his life on track.  He walked with the Lord earlier in his life, but fell off the path somewhere along the way.  Today was wonderful because he asked Keith if he could lose his salvation.  Keith had the joy of telling him about the great gift that Jesus gave us when He died.  Keith explained that Jesus didn’t die on the cross so that the gift could be taken away if we make bad decisions….. no, Jesus died on the cross to save us from ALL of our sins!!  Two years ago Keith would not have been sharing the gospel on the side of the road with a recovering addict.  Today it is one of the best parts of his day!!


One young family and a separate young man…both returned to their families in California last month.  Both went for different reasons, but both were seeking healing and more of God! 


God has grown us all so much!  He has brought together both believers and non-believers to volunteer on Sundays.  We have never in 103 weeks of serving, asked for people to sign up on a list to volunteer.  We have just trusted that the Lord would bring enough people to serve and help out.  Every single week there has been enough volunteers and enough food to feed the many friends that come on Sundays.  We have seen salvations, a demon cast out, healings, births, and deaths…. God’s might provision as well as His protection!  Fishes and loaves is real!  We have witnessed it so many times.  These things don’t happen with a lot of “hoop la” and attention…but when we look back over the two years…. We can see where these visible miracles were dotted throughout and where many miracles that we could not see…must surely be strewn throughout the weeks also.


We have learned that every single homeless person has his or her own story and that each story is unique.  There has never been a story that could be solved simply….they are always layered with complex issues that have truly made the phrase “Love Not Judge” real and necessary.  We have not just ministered to strangers… we have made true relationships with so many people.  I can only say that we have given many of them hope because that is what they have told us.  My words to the line of strangers 2 Novembers ago “Jesus has not forgotten you and you are not a bum!” meant more to them than I will ever know.  We just know what they have shared with us.


The Lord has shown us that all people should be shown love….it is not based on whether we deserve it or not because none of us deserve it.  We all have “stuff” in our pasts, the stuff may not be as visible as a homeless person’s but it is all the same- sin. 


I am so thankful that I get to be a part of God’s work.  It is not a credit to me as a person….it is a credit to God for bringing so many people together in a beautiful way to show love and support for others.  We are not promised a “next week” with anyone.  We have learned that if you have something to say to someone, say it this week because there may not be a next week.  If the Lord is nudging you to step out of your comfort zone and to reach out to someone else…. Try it…. God won’t leave you hangin’  ….. He will take care of the details… just step out!

Dear Lord, Your love is incomprehensible to me and I can only understand a fraction of it.  What I do know is that You , Lord my God has plans for me…plans to prosper me and to not harm me.  Plans to give me hope and a future. And when I call on You Lord, You will draw near to me.   Thank Your Lord for your faithfulness to us, Your unending love, and Your unending hope!  I pray that