Sofia – Homelessness Sucks

Sofia died on Sunday.

She wasn’t a family member.
She wasn’t a congregation member.
She wasn’t really a friend.
Sofia was just a woman I got to know over the last 2 1/2+ years.

You see, Sofia was homeless. Actually, she kind of had a home but most people would call it a Suburban. For 5+ plus years she lived in that vehicle with her cat. She received a extremely meager social security death benefit of $700/mo but that had to pay for a storage locker for some belongings, gas, food (for her and her cat), a basic cell phone, and for other incidentals that you and I would take for granted. She barely got by on that $700. When something “catastrophic” would happen in her life; something that most people would not deem “catastrophic”, she often came to my office for help. Sometimes she just needed a break and thus I would give her a night or two in a hotel. Thankfully my congregation has a fund for such emergencies. But as for housing, we searched high and low for resources to help her, but homelessness here in the Pacific Northwest is an epidemic; one of large proportions. Daunting, really, and sad. We were overwhelmed.

Earlier this year Sofia was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. At last count she had 12 tumors scattered throughout her body. One, that she showed me, was the size of a grapefruit sticking out of her armpit (sorry for that image, but she had to live with that). It seems strange to say, but it was a blessing when she ended up in the local hospital for the final weeks of her life. She got to die in a warm bed, having been well fed and surrounded by nurses and doctors caring for her. It may not sound like much to you, but for Sofia she died like a queen. Sure beats dying in anonymity on some park bench somewhere in the Pacific Northwest rain.

Many of us haven’t thought much about it but maybe we should. There are many people out there like Sofia. People who, for one reason or another, end up on the streets. Not all homeless people are drug users or alcoholics who made bad choices. Sofia was neither. Her husband died (her sole support) and then 6 months later she was left with no home. Nothing. This wasn’t her fault and it wasn’t due to her lack of effort. Often times, people who find themselves homeless are blamed and accused of being lazy and irresponsible. That is just a short-sighted stereotype and wrong. Many find themselves homeless due to conditions outside their control. Sofia was one such person.

Sofia and I had many conversations about faith. She questioned me often about why this was happening to her; why God wasn’t doing something. Then, in the next breath, she would express her faith and trust in God. She was rough around the edges and rubbed some people the wrong way but she tried everything she could and nothing happened for her. Sometimes I wondered if God indeed did forget about Sofia, but I know that wasn’t the case. In the end, though, I believe she kept the faith.

Now, I am left to reflect and wonder. The question I ask myself is, did I do everything I could? Could I have done more?  I just don’t know. There’s so much guilt. Did I do enough for the “…least of these” (Matthew 25:31-46)?

What is my point for writing this? I think part of the reason is for reflection purposes but mainly because I don’t want Sofia to slip into anonymity without anyone knowing her story. At least now, this will forever be out there on the Internet. Hopefully someone will stumble across this post and read it. Sofia’s story is not going to die with her. Will it change the world? Will it cause someone to come up with a solution for homelessness? Probably not. Will it change you? I hope so.

So the next time you see a homeless person, don’t just turn a blind eye, but do something. I’m not suggesting that you clean up a spare room in your house, but don’t just ignore them. Don’t pretend they’re not there. Don’t turn them into the background noise of a messed up world that is someone else’s problem. Look at them. Notice them. Pray for them. Maybe even talk to them. Listen to their story. Learn. And then, pray for change in the world, but let that change begin with you and I. That’s what I’m praying for because something needs to be done and it needs to be done now. Homelessness sucks. Plain and simple.

May Sofia rest in peace. At least now, she is no longer homeless. Praise be to God. Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Time to Reap

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
[Matthew 9:37-38]

Have you prayed about this? Have you noticed what Jesus is saying; that the harvest is plentiful? Have you asked Jesus to send people into the field to reap the harvest? Well, have you? Now, have you included yourself in that prayer? No? Well, why not? I bet you’ve said something along the lines of, “I’m not qualified“, “I’m too old“, “I’m too young”, “I’m retired”, or any number of other lame excuses. Yes, I just said that, “lame excuses‘, because that’s what they are. If Jesus sends you into the mission field then Jesus will qualify you. And Jesus has sent you because your mission field are the people in your immediate social network.

What social network? I’m not on Facebook or Twitter?

I’m not talking about social media but your social NETWORK; those people you interact with on a regular basis. They are your family, friends, neighbors, restaurant servers, child’s teacher, UPS delivery person, coworkers, etc, etc, etc. You get the point, right? You are already smack dab in the middle of the plentiful harvest. And the workers that are needed?

YOU!!!

Pray not only that God would send workers into the harvest but pray that God would use you. Don’t just pray for revival in the church but pray that revival begins with you. I guarantee you that if you pray boldly like this; for God to send you into the harvest, God will do something amazing through you for His glory. Besides, those people closest to you, why wouldn’t you want them to know about Jesus?

So go ahead, pray the prayer and then hold on. The harvest is ready. Will you go for Jesus?

The Pastor -|—

Announce!

Loving Father,
You sent Your Son,
Jesus Christ,
to die and rise for us that we would have forgiveness of sins
and thus the hope of the resurrection.
And now we wait
excitedly and
patiently
for Jesus’ return;
knowing that at any moment the trumpet will blast,
and our Savior will ride in triumphantly,
and bring us into the great wedding feast.
May we not be found wanting when he returns,
but also,
may we not be quiet until then.
Therefore,
may our preparations also include
announcing to all that Jesus WILL return.
In Jesus name we pray,
Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Amazing

Sunday’s sermon text is Matthew 20:1-16; the Laborers in the Vineyard. The following is the prayer of the day I wrote based on our hymn of the day, Amazing Grace. For it is only through God’s amazing grace that we are saved through Jesus Christ; no matter the work or amount of work. Let us pray…

Oh God,
your grace is amazing;
such a sweet sound to our ears;
for through Jesus Christ you have saved us;
a wretched people.
Once we were lost but now we are found.
Once we were blind but now we see.
And now,
oh God,
may we see You as our shield and portion
for as long as our lives endure.
In Jesus name we pray,
Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Following unto Life

Holy God,
You are awesome and great;
mighty and wonderful.
You call us to leave behind all that we have
in order to gain so much more;
Life
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Grant us faith to see that what we have in stuff
doesn’t even come close to Your infinite worth,
and thus may we boldly carry our cross
and follow Jesus.
Oh God,
we praise You,
for You save sinners such as us.
In Jesus name we pray,
Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Who are You?

In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 16, Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Can you answer that question? I am not talking about the first question he asks which is, “Who do PEOPLE say that I am?” That’s an easier question to answer, but not the one a follower of Jesus needs to answer. Who to YOU say that Jesus is?

Father God,
You are holy.
You are mighty.
You are love.
Through Jesus Christ,
You are Life.
You are hope.
You are grace.
I ask, oh God, that each and every day
You reveal to me who You are
and then may I live in that revelation
in order to bring glory to Your holy name.
Oh God,
I worship You for You are my all in all;
more than words can describe.
In Jesus name I pray,
Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Facing Jesus

I was struck by a convicting thought during our congregational text study this morning. The Gospel text for Sunday is Matthew 14:22-33; Jesus walking on the water. As we were discussing this I began to think about facing fears. Peter was afraid in that boat as the wind and waves were causing havoc out there on that sea. To top things off, a “ghost” was heading straight towards them. Upon seeing it was Jesus, Peter asks to be near Jesus and thus it happened. Instead of facing his fears, Peter was facing Jesus and eventually, face to face with him out there on that stormy sea. It wasn’t until Peter looked at the wind; his fear, that he began to sink.

As we continued to discuss this text the issue of North Korea came up. All the talk about them attacking Guam and potentially the main land of the United States. It’s kind of scary when you dwell on that but why am I dwelling on it. I began to reflect on the fact that I normally close my day by watching the news and then going to bed. On many nights, the final images and words in my brain are the crap going on in the world. How dumb is that. It seems like a no-brainer. Face my fears or face Jesus. The answer is pretty simple.

[Click]

Off went the T.V.

Now if you will excuse me, I’m climbing out of the boat…

The Pastor -|—