Friday, September 28, 2007

When I first started writing this blog, and first began with the Ministry of Broken Hearts, I posted a quote from a Bethany Dillon song that had influenced my decions and desires greatly in this process. “You sit at the table with the wounded and the poor. You laugh and share stories with the thief and the whore…”

There was something so powerful about that to me, that exemplified how Jesus lived, who he came for, who he associated with, and how he would have been able to befriend anyone who wanted to know him or needed him. He did not just preach, he shared his time and his life and showed people that he cared for them specifically. Yet this picture seemed so far from my own life. How many friends did I have that were not Christians? Maybe a handful. And how many were leading really terrible lives? Less. What relation did I have to this picture, how could I ever be that type of person, even as inspiring as it was. But it is what drove me each week, and I would listen to the song in preparation.

Reflecting on last night, as well as many other evenings in Hollywood…it appears that somewhere along the line, in just a few short months, that God made me into that type of person. I don’t know how…prayer and dependence played a part for sure…but I give credit to the Holy Spirit. I don’t like street evangelism, or being out of my comfort zone, or even staying up late. And yet, here I am talking to people about Jesus on the street by my own choice, giving up my own comfort, and befriending the types of people I would never have expected to meet.

Last night I didn’t have much deep discussion with anyone. But I got to hang out, laugh, and enjoy the company of so many fun people. We met a new friend on the street with whom we all shared stories with of crazy stuff we did as kids, and what kinds of movies and music we like, and laughed as he told us many of his stories. He even asked for our cell phone numbers and asked one of us to call him the next day, just because he enjoyed hanging out with us, even though he’s got tons of friends on the street.

After bible study I was grouped up with a guy that one of our team members befriended long ago and they have been very close ever since. He’s incredibly warm and funny and thoughtful, and we sat on the sidewalk talking about everything from the bible and forgiveness to text messaging and stories from the past. I sat at my desk laughing this morning, recalling his humorous retelling of how he sprained his ankle recently, which was probably one of the funniest things I’ve heard since being down there.

Yet this is not a one-time occurance…this happens fairly frequently, when we get time between serious discussions to just hang out and laugh and share stories and get to know each other. And that’s what struck me recently listening to that song again. I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere in these last few months I got comfortable with “the wounded and the poor” and sharing stories and fellowship with “the thieves and the whores”. It doesn’t seem like a stretch any more to have these types of relationships, to share my life with people so incredibly different from me. But I enjoy it, I get to learn from them as well, I get to find peace from my worries and joy in their humor and distraction from my miniscule problems when I’m down there. I have the exciting opportunity to invest in their lives, make them smile, listen to them and be an extension of Jesus Christ each week. And I know this has nothing to do with me, it is entirely God working through me - through my hands and feet and mouth and heart. That is why this is so exciting to me - I know i am not capable of this on my own, this story is only exciting because God is doing what he does best, and transforming me to be used by Him for his purposes. And I believe he can do the same with the people we meet.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

By Grace, I have been saved

Over the last few days, I have been praying that God would give me a better understanding of both his power and might, that I might tremble in reverence before him; and also that I would be able to grasp his grace and mercy towards us, that pleasing him would me my greatest and only concern in light of who He is and how gracious he has been to me when I only deserve death. Because, it's true that God is our friend and father, but far too often I make him just that, so much less than all that he is, and don't come before Him in awe as creator of the universe.

Last night, in Hollywood, God in his mercy gently began to open my eyes to his grace in my life... I just returned from my lunch break, where I spent a good portion of it crying because of the darkness and depth of despair that I have witnessed in this sick world. Last night I spent my evening in Hollywood, as I do every Thursday. Our friend "Zoe" had just returned from rehab, now 28 days sober (from meth), which was the highlight of the evening.

For some time I wandered around with a young "girl" who even I have a hard time remembering that he is actually a transvestite, born as a man. He spent most of his time looking for work, getting groped by some strange man, and taking a few hits of marijuana. The week before he had come to our bible study, but was completely drunk and left with a scary looking man.
After our bible study I sat with Antquan and a homeless man that we know well. He talked about his time in prison, his transgender girlfriend, pan-handling, and the car dealership that he sleeps at.

The rest of the evening I sat with a17 year-old boy who recently ran away from a group home and is now living on the streets and prostituting for money. There are some people who seem to stick in my mind more than others, for whatever reason, and this was one of them. Many people either deny or hide their unhappiness..."Evan" was not one of those. He could barely smile, and almost started crying as he talked about how he has no hopes or dreams anymore, believing that they would never come true, so he never lets his mind go there anymore. It was hard to find things to talk to him about, because everything seems to be depressing to him. He has aboslutely no hope and no happiness, and the sadness in his eyes is still seared into my brain.
I offered to help him, asked about what kind of work he could do, only to hear all of his I.D. had recently been stolen. I told him we could hang out sometime....I tried to come up with anything to help him clothes, anything, yet feeling like I could do nothing. He's a Christian, but doesn't know how to reconcile that with his lifestyle...I can barely even offer the hope of Jesus.

And it hit me after talking to me...what makes me any different? He was born to parents who abandoned him and has been in and out of foster/group care his whole life. I was born to loving, middle-class white parents and well taken care of. I did absolutely nothing to deserve the life I've been given. Granted, I have probably made some better choices based on my family and God-given wisdom and the Holy Spirit's help, so my life has turned out well. And perhaps this young man has made some poor choices to end up where he is. But still, I have done nothing to deserve what God has given me. Why is that?...Well, His Grace. For some reason, God chose to give me great parents, great family, a nice place to live, and wisdom to make good decisions. I have a home, more food than I need, a great job to go to every day, and plenty of opportunity to do new things, see new places, continue my education, etc. When I look into the eyes of these people, I think...that could be me. I could be in the same place in my life if God had chose to put me in a different situation. There is nothing that makes me more deserving, except that God has been so merciful to me and allowed me to know him. How humbling an experience! I still have so much more to learn about his grace, mercy and much that it causes me to fall to my knees every day...but this was a step in that direction.

When you see with your own eyes what you have been saved from, how can you not turn, cry out, and worship your Savior? How can I not give my life back in gratitude, forget my problems, and give to others until I'm worn out? I pray that God will always be my greatest pleasure, and am learning that understanding his mercy in my life is part of that. When that can be grasped, what else would I want to do but please him?... Dear God, thank you for demonstrating just a taste of your grace and mercy!