Sunday, December 22, 2013

What I learned on Skid-Row

Last night my husband and I watched a documentary called ‘LOST-ANGELS: Skid Row is My Home’.  That seems like an odd pick for a Saturday night by the fire but the past several months God has taken us down an unforeseen road and we have had the opportunity to minister in Downtown Amarillo to people who are either homeless or in dire poverty.  We chose this documentary hoping it could give us some insight into a world we are unfamiliar going into.  Here is a summation of what God is teaching us in this new ministry encounter:

In the documentary you meet a lady who has government housing but prefers to stay out on the street most nights.  She pushes around a large shopping cart filled with trash.  She loves cats and birds and spends every day walking the 50 blocks that Skid-Row occupies in LA feeding them.  I started thinking of the times I have encountered the homeless population whether in Dallas, New Mexico, or 6th street in Austin.  I have seen SEVERAL people pushing carts filled with trash; I have to wonder, why?  Why is a cart filled with trash so important to them?  As Roman and I discussed it, he said, “We all do the same thing.”  Then today in my Word time the Lord confirmed this to me.  Let me explain.  The Word tell us:

Matthew 6:19 "Don't store up treasures here on earth, where they can be eaten by moths and get rusty, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 Store your treasures in heaven, where they will never become moth-eaten or rusty and where they will be safe from thieves.

But what do we all do?  We store things up and pack them into our garage, attic, storage unit, junk drawer, hall closet, lay-away, etc, etc, etc.  Most of these things we never look at once they are packed away yet we refuse to get rid of them.  Is it possible that the extra coffee pot I have had stashed in the garage for 5 years looks the same to God as her cart of trash looks to me? Temporary and of no real value.  Perhaps I am more like this woman than I thought as I too am guilty of storing up  "Treasure/Trash" here on earth.

As I read on from Matthew 6 the Lord highlighted this verse to me. 

Verse 25- 25 "So I tell you, don't worry about everyday life -- whether you have enough food, drink, and clothes. Doesn't life consist of more than food and clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don't need to plant or harvest or put food in barns because your heavenly Father feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than they are. . .
In my last post I shared about the gift I received from a homeless man.  This man has become very precious to my family, in-fact, we now consider him family.  I went to see him earlier this week.  The downtown resource center was having a Christmas party for those that they serve.  Each person was given a bowl of cheese nachos and two cookies.  My friend offered me some of his nachos and gave me one of his cookies.  NOW, think about this.  That was more than likely the ONLY meal he would get that day and he did not know if there would be one tomorrow, yet he offered some to me!  Perhaps he understands the Words of Jesus in Matthew 6 better than I do.  (This week I worried that we might have to “dip” into savings to pay the doctor bill for our sick kids).

After my friend offered to share his meal we walked back to his storage bind.   It is a plastic tub the size that I pack my kids summer shorts in.  It holds EVERYTHING he owns.  He pulls out five red Christmas stockings that he has purchased for my children, my husband, and myself.  Mathew 6 goes on to say:
31 "So don't worry about having enough food or drink or clothing. 32 Why be like THE PAGANS who are so deeply concerned about these things? Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, 33 and he will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.
If this had not shown me the true nature of God, the lesson is not over yet.

This man has my husbands phone number.  He has medical issues and is crippled.  We have asked him repeatedly to call us if he needs anything, yet he has never called. . .until Friday.  All three of my kids got the flu this week.  It is contagious a full seven days.  We had invited our friend to come to Christmas Dinner but had to leave a message with the shelter that due to the illness in the home we would need to reschedule with him for New Years.  That is when the phone call came.  Not a complaint that he may not have a warm home or meal on Christmas.  Not a call to tell us of his medical needs.  He called to check up on our family and prayed God to bless us.

So for all my learning about homelessness: whether in Downtown Amarillo, or on Skid-Row Los Angeles;  I suppose the Lord has me there not to minister, but to learn what it is to be more Christ like. . .after all. . .Jesus Himself was a homeless man.

Matthew 8:19 Then one of the teachers of religious law said to him, "Teacher, I will follow you no matter where you go!" 20 But Jesus said, "Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but I, the Son of Man, have no home of my own, not even a place to lay my head."



Thursday, December 12, 2013

A homeless mans gift

Today my husband and I got to minister together at Central Church of Christ for an outreach called Loaves and Fishes.  As we were getting ready to leave we both joked about the condition of our gloves on this cold December day.  His had a rip in the seam, I had to borrow some from my children.  One was an army/camo glove and the other was a black skeleton glove.  (It was certainly a bold fashion statement). 

We were both humbled and blessed to be a part of this ministry in Downtown Amarillo.  People of hard circumstance are blessed with not only groceries but a weekly worship service as well.  I provided this week’s “Word” and Roman led the worship.  In all the places I have ever been blessed to speak I have to say this one was my favorite.  I was blown away by the love of the people and the way they responded to God’s word.  My message was simply “My Redemption Story”.  I didn’t go into all the Hebrew and Greek meanings of the Exodus and Pentecost.  I simply told the story of me, a sinner, and how God’s amazing grace came to “save a wretch like me”.  I gave a simple white card to write confessions on if the Holy Spirit had convicted their hearts and they wished to surrender some things to God.  Many times when I speak I don’t know if I truly reached the audience. . .but today I saw tear stained faces as they humbly brought forth their cards asking for God’s mercy.  Some cards saying “I am tired God and ready to surrender”.  Some confessed sins and addictions; many with tear stained faces.  When the service was over the minister at Central Church invited the people to come forward and lay hands on my husband, our pastor, and myself to offer prayers for our church and ministry.  So there we stood surrounded by those that, according to Mark 10:31, might be called least here on earth. . .but called greatest in heaven. . praying for us, that the Lord might bless us.  It was all very humbling to say the least, but then came the biggest lesson that God had for me to learn from this group.

Mark 12:41 Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. 42 Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. 43 So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; 44 for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood."

Remember my glove situation?  I had taken the mismatched gloves off and put them into my pocket.  A homeless man noticed I didn’t have gloves so HE GAVE ME HIS!!!  Everything in me wanted to refuse his gift but I knew the Lord wanted me to accept it.  He gave me his ALL out of his lack.  Through a homeless man the Lord met my need for new gloves.  So. . .who is the greatest one in the Kingdom?   The one who stands up and gives a great message, or is it perhaps the servant of all? 

Lord make me like one of the least that I might one day be called great in Your Kingdom.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Not a fan?

At times the Lord asks me to do things that seem a bit odd to those around me.  I have been in a season of one of those times.  I was reading in the gospel of Mark and I came to chapter 8 verse 34: “If any of you wants to become My disciple he must turn from his selfish way, take up his cross, and follow Me.”  I realize Jesus spoke of that cross in a metaphorical way, but on that particular day He asked me to take it literally for a season.  Right now I am wearing a 12inch wooden cross around my waist.  Yes, this  gets me some odd looks and it has pushed me out of my comfort zone on more than one occasion.  The cross is not the point of today’s blog (perhaps another time).  Today I want to bring up this question:

“If following Jesus cost you everything, would it still be worth it?”

After I started wearing my cross I had about five people ask me if I had read the book, “Not a fan” by Kyle Idleman.  I had not but I felt the constant question might be an indication that I should read it.  So the above question comes out of the “Not a fan” book.  I read the question and thought about my honest answer.  I wanted to take a real assessment and not give an “everyone in church is standing, so I will too” answer.  I really felt at first that my answer was yes.  . .  If all of the sudden I lost my job, and then my house due to my job, and then my husband to cancer, and my children in accidents. . . .  Yes, I would still be a follower of Jesus because He would be all I had to turn to.  My Rock; My Tower, My Comfort; etc.  Then I realized the question was not “If you lost everything would you still serve God”.  The question again is. . .

“If following Jesus cost you everything, would it still be worth it?”

Meaning if following Jesus was the reason you lost your job, your home, your spouse, your children, would it still be worth it?  If it was against the law in the US to hire anyone who was a believer in Jesus Christ and I lost my job; would it be worth following Him?  I think I am still able to say, yes!  If my house was foreclosed on due to the job loss that was due to following Christ, would it be worth it?  I think I am still able to say, Yes!  BUT. . .what if losing my husband was the cost of following Jesus?  What if my husband was like Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani who has been imprisoned in Iran 429 days for his resolve to follow Jesus at all cost.  What if he lost his life in this process?  Would I still feel it was worth it to follow Jesus?  What if my children like Rachel Scott of Columbine High School were shot and killed at school because they refused to deny their faith in Jesus?  Would it still be worth following Him?  I am now homeless, have lost the love of my life and all of my children for the sake of His Name. . .

“If following Jesus cost me everything, would it still be worth it?”

If that is not hard enough let’s look at Luke 14:26- "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.

Notice it doesn’t say “he will be a ‘B’ disciple instead of and ‘A’ disciple”. . .it says “he CANNOT be My disciple”.   Now hate in the verse actually translates: not to choose; or to hate in comparison to; but still He is saying if you do not choose Me over all others your CANNOT be My disciple.  I am going to end this blog on an abrupt note with the feeling of a good slap in the face or wake up call. . .because that is how the question left me feeling as I assessed my answer. . . to be honest. . .I am still in process of trying to give Him my yes. . .what about you?

“If following Jesus cost you everything, would it still be worth it?”