You never know how far you're reaching.

Church community rocks. I mean, real life community living together because of Jesus, united by His blood, is downright transforming. Last weekend (our normal weekend is Monday/Tuesday) we went backpacking with the youth group. We didn't rent any supplies; everything was lent from people within this church community. Amazing.

While we were gone, we had friends staying in our apartment as their house was being worked on. Long story made short, we came home to a completely filled kitchen. Cupboards, fruit bowl, wine, and fridge stocked with our favorites. Such a gift right? We have the best of friends. How we roped them into being our friends stumps me.

I've been hit with the reality of REACH we can have as individuals. As I think back on the life lessons I have been taught by many, I realize I am empowering others with those same truths. The REACH that they poured into me is furthering into more lives than they know. Thank you to the countless humans who have poured themselves out and into me. Your wisdom is being passed on...past me. Into more lives. It's the same with this blessing of stocking our kitchen. fruit bowl You never know how far your reach is; when you bless one human, you more than likely are blessing many. It's a ripple and it's beautiful. Pouring ourselves out for others is miraculous. It multiplies.

I ran some errands today before heading to our church camp out -- because our church is this crazy community of people where we like to spend days at a time together, getting all sweaty under the blazing heat and wearing filth in our finger nails, not showering for days. We like each other. Anyways..I'm re-reading Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker. My heart has never been hardened towards the homeless. But too often I grow numb when I see the many standing on the corner with a sign. I'll be writing a book review later this week on Interrupted, but just know she has been reminding me of the command to "feed His sheep."

I was needing to consign some clothes, because that's how I satisfy my guilty pleasure of new clothes, and I had to park two blocks away - very abnormal. As I pulled into the nearest parking spot, my eyes noticed a woman standing with her sign in front of the post office. I prayed. "Jesus, help me serve this woman how You want me to." I crawled out of our Ford Focus, back seat overflowing with clothes, and shook her hand. Susie. Sweet, sweet, tender Susie. Her hair was growing in from her last chemo treatment; her breast cancer spread to her brain. She explained that 4 treatments of chemo drained her bank; she is now living with a friend. I asked her of any immediate needs and she explained she is out of chicken, garlic, and vegetables. -pause the story- normally I would go to the store and get the needs stated; I have never handed cash over. Why? Because I have this deep rooted arrogance that I must discern what someone should spend "my" money on. Oh the arrogance; embarrassing. -play the story- I asked Jesus for guidance and immediately a picture of a $5 in my messy wallet flashed into my brain. I hesitated. But then I obeyed. I then asked her if there was anything else? She quietly and slowly said, "I could always use prayer..." OF COURSE. LET ME GIVE YOU THE LIFE SOURCE THAT I KNOW SO WELL.

So then and there I laid my hands on her and we prayed. We prayed the protection and blood of Jesus. We prayed for His companionship and closeness. We hugged and I carried my 15 bags of clothes to Second Glance (okay there were only 4 but I felt entirely consumer-American). As I walked away from Susie, my heart cried out for her. I'll never forget the glimmer of humanity I saw in her eyes -- the look of dignity, that "I" would hug her. It took maybe 7 minutes of my life. 7 minutes. Oh my soul, how far have I strayed?

She is no less human than me. How ignorant and inhumane for us to treat homeless begging people the way we do. To think of humans the way we do. I'm not pointing fingers at anyone -- I'm behind the pointed finger.

Next stop: groceries. Good ole Trader Joes. Insert Diana on the corner - I have spent many moments with her on this particular corner. Her constant needs are diapers and pull ups. Her sweet tooth likes Sweet Tea. She doesn't ask for much. She wears an army pull over jacket, is shorter, and stands at TJ's frequently when she is not working her very part time job. She has 2 kids. Today when I saw her, she smiled a friendly smile. No caution in the air as usual. When I asked her if she wanted sweet tea & diapers, she quickly said, "Not today; baby girl has been begging for chicken nuggets. She is finally in school! But all I can send in her lunch is Ramen. And she is tired of it." At the exact same time, her eyes exuded sparkly love and deep brokenness as she spoke of her baby girl. I asked what else and she listed off a few more items. Guess what's awesome? I had $50 left over from grocery money, because our friends purchased so much food for us. Their reach went further than they could have dreamed or planned. They helped feed a family of four; not only stocked our kitchen, but purchased much food for a very-much-human family: Diana and her kids and her husband. Humans. Starving, living off ramen noodles and watermelon. And the joy and dignity Diana's eyes shone when I brought her bags of food out? All for a few dollars. All for a few extra moments. All for Jesus.

The provision of food was not ultimately from Daniel & Jesse, our friends. The provision of food for this family was not from me. I am in this season of being humbled and ripped up and wrecked in many areas of life; I am learning how deeply un-incredible I am. When we give and pour out unto others, we bless, yes, but we are also being so blessed. We are being made holy. I was so filled full and completely satisfied today - I was refreshed. And here is what The Lord has reminded me today: "The provision was not from you; it was from Me. What you have is not yours. You have a lot to learn. The first thing is this: you can trust Me when I call," {excerpt from Interrupted}.

What is ours, our resources and knowledge and wisdom and life experiences...isn't ours at all. None of it. It's not ours to hoard and keep to ourselves. It is from The Lord and He intends to love his broken, poverished, starving sheep. We are His plan A, as Mike says. He calls us to this.

We can trust Him when He calls And we may never know how many He reaches through us.

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(take out the) Homeless (in) People

homeless peopleLoren and I are crazy. We don't feel crazy but to receive some of the looks we have, apparently we are crazy. Last year, we spent more time building relationships with houseless humans than in our entire life combined. And I have always found pride in enjoyed spending time with the marginalized. {I've grown okay? I am learning to see humans as humans and not projects...oh the arrogance}. Last year was different. Last year we took off the labels and made friends. Listened to stories. Shared meals. We invited Steve to our home once a month {not nearly enough} to offer him a warm cooked dinner. You know what I did the first time? While setting the table, I initially began with paper plates so I wouldn't "make him feel uncomfortable with all of our nice things." But then Jesus' sweet gentle nudging voice whispered, "Natalie. How you prepare for him is how you prepare for me." SCRATCH THE PAPER AND BRING OUT THE CHINA! We used table cloths and cloth napkins and ate like Kings. I was honored and overjoyed to welcome Steve in with such lovely things. He probably didn't notice or care, but in my heart I was preparing for the King. You know why the men we spend time with are houseless? Because a few are convicts. I won't tell you why, lest you condemn them and us. Some were war veterans and were injured, can't work, can't make money, therefore they live in a tent in the hills. Did you they have families? You guys. Last year, one of our close houseless friends texted us at 10 pm with this message:

"I tried over dosing on [a drug I had never heard of] mixed with alcohol and it didn't work. I am heading to the hospital. Please pray for me."

Loren and I like our sleep. But we felt the call so we went. Do you know that he cried when he saw us? Who cares if he was drunk..did you know that when the nurse asked him if he had any religious background, his answer made my bones chill with peace and love and confidence and deep deep brokenness, thankful for the truest Savior we all desperately need? This was what he said, stammering through slurred words:

"Yes. I am a Christian. I call Jesus my Savior and King. And I believe, that He died on the cross a sinless death for this very sin I am committing even now. Intoxicated and violent and trying to take my life. Yes, He died for me."

Oh my soul. I can't even. The least of these get it. They are at the bottom of the rung, basking in the presence of He who came and died for you and for me. So why would I not join Him down at the bottom and befriend those who know Him more intimately?

 

Who was Jesus broken and poured out for? "We don't get to opt out of living on mission because we might not be appreciated.We aren't allowed to neglect the oppressed because we have reservations about their discernment. We cannot deny love because it might be despised or misunderstood." -Jen Hatmaker

- - -

It is not unusual to see a homeless person on the corner with a sign much like this:

This is a daily event. Walking into the post office, driving to the grocery store, etc. It has become habitual to smile and nod without a hint of compassion. It has become easy to turn our face the other direction to be sure we do not look into the beggar's eye. The eye that begs for companionship, friendship, warmth, Love. A horrible numbness has been birthed within us.

"They deserve it."

"If only they would get off their butt."

"They're lazy."

"All they want is alcohol/drugs."

"They're dangerous."

"They stink."

Oh the statements we use to dehumanize. Can you imagine anyone saying those words about you? Try it: imagine it.

The justifications to withhold help from homeless people are plenty. The justifications to dehumanize and see homeless people as objects are too easy, too accepted. I understand that more than likely poor decisions have been made to place people in this position: but they are no less human than before. This morning as I drove my comfortably warm car, I knew that I was about to meet a beggar face to face. Every time, my heart hurts; I hate knowing so many go hungry & cold. As I rounded the corner, I asked Jesus to fill me with His heart, move in me how He wants. I pulled my cozy vehicle into the parking spot in front of the post office and saw her. I mean, I saw her. A human. A beautiful, young woman sitting up against the brick and holding her sign: "Homeless. Anything Helps.." Her sweat pants were soaked from the rain and I whispered to Jesus, "What can I do today?"

"Co-suffer. I am with you."

Compassion. Co-suffering. Turn towards suffering. I sat in my car for a few minutes and had this brain dialogue:

"Jesus, you said that you want those God has given You to be with You where You are...because God has loved You before the world was created. (John 17:24). Jesus, you lived out Beloved. We need to see ourselves as Beloved. That lady there, she is yours. She is beloved and she is suffering. If I throw a dollar at her, that is not co-suffering, is it? That is not reminding her or telling her of her belovedness. Jesus, help me co-suffer with her."

I got out of my car. I walked up to her, "What's your name?" I asked. "Letha." I asked if she had eaten yet this morning, her response was no with a glance to her feet. Whether she had or hadn't, I was ready to offer her a warm something. I asked her if she needed anything I could currently provide, she said "Anything helps. Really." So I asked if she wanted to walk with me to New Morning Bakery. She declined. I asked if she didn't like anything particular -- she said she didn't like tuna. Do you want coffee or hot Chocolate? "Either or, that's more than I would have asked."

I walked the half a block. Purchased her sandwich and coffee with cream. Continuously thinking of how loved she was. How valuable this human being is. I approached her smiling, she was timid. I handed her the sandwich and hot coffee. But something in me told me to stay, to truly co-suffer. Providing this small meal was really not co-suffering. "What are you doing out here, Letha?"

She then started crying. She is a human. A person. With a story. With hurts and pains and dreams and goals. We chatted and we cried. I told her she is valuable and that she is beloved. I didn't want to leave her.

Every time I have stopped to hear the story of a homeless person, my heart removes the label and sees a human. My heart co-suffers and though it hurts, I am convinced that one more person felt valued, loved, needed. That one more human being didn't feel like an object. Never have I regretted slowing down to do this. Can we just take some time in our life to love the labeled and remove the labels? To truly co-suffer and rid of all the numbness we have allowed? To ask questions and offer a listening ear? We have stories to share and dreams to dream: so does every other human. Humans are eternal; post office tasks, computer work, money, laundry...those things are not. I have so much to learn and I want to learn from you. I want to be inspired by you. Can we inspire one another towards greatness? Towards seeing humans as humans? Who have you grown numb to? Who are you called to truly co-suffer with, today? A widow? A neighborhood kid? A friend who lost a job? Your older sister, who happens to be the "black sheep?" {Label}. The waitress that feels the weight of the busy restaurant?

May we not only see our own identity as {Jesus's} beloved, but also those around us that we have chosen to view as objects. What we believe about our self matters. What others believe about their self matters. We are all disordered humans. We are all beloved. May we see people as people: Beloveds.