Gordon ~ Homelessness Sucks

We met Gordon recently.

I don’t know his story other than he’s a black man who is homeless in Sumner, WA. My family and I were in town for an event when we saw him sitting on a downtown bench with his stuff. We all felt the God nudge so we stopped the car. We just needed to do something. In the back of my car are these bags…

20180917_112818.jpg

These bags came from the brain and heart of my 5-year-old daughter. She wanted to do something to help people who find themselves homeless and so she came up with this. We are incredibly proud of her. So my wife and I helped her put these together and now the two of us have these in our vehicles. We are currently in the process of adding to these bags and now others in my congregation want to help too. To God be the glory.

Anyway, we stopped and interrupted our evening activities to meet Gordon. My 4-year-old son wanted to get out with me so we grabbed a bag and walked across the street. I introduced the two of us to Gordon and shook his hand. Gordon’s eyes lit up as he smiled and introduced himself to us. We chatted for a bit as I handed him the above bag. Gordon thanked me and my son and we parted ways.

And now…

…my thoughts and prayers continue to be with Gordon. I wrote about Sofia’s story recently and I wish I knew Gordon’s story. So many regrets with my encounter with Gordon. I wish I had taken more time to listen but maybe God is teaching me. Maybe each and every encounter is one more step in my education and discipleship. I don’t know. What I do know is that I haven’t forgotten about Gordon; I can still see his face in my brain. And that’s good. I have a feeling that when the next opportunity comes around God will nudge me more.

God help me. God help us.

I/we have much to learn.

Remember Gordon and join me in praying for him. I/you don’t know his story, but God does. And God willing, I will see Gordon again so I can learn more of his story.

So, remember and pray. Learn and grow. Respond and act. To God be the glory.

The Pastor -|—

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 -|—

One of those days

Yesterday I had one of those days. For some reason my mind was not focused; running in different directions. I felt like a little kid with an attention span of a…

[look, squirrel]

…you get my point right?

I did feel focused during the sermon [praise be to God] but everything else was just plain flat.

[look, another squirrel]

Yup, that was pretty much it.

When we, mercifully, got to the benediction my mind wandered again. I walked out from behind the altar, raised my hands to give the benediction I have been giving for over 14 years. I opened my mouth…and nothing. I proceeded to fumble for words for a moment and eventually spit out something that resembled a benediction; trying my best to make it sound that I changed it up on purpose. I think I failed on that as well. Thankfully, no one said anything, but now, if they are reading this, my secret is out.

This morning did not go much better. I dropped my kids off at their “Animal Camp” hosted by their preschool. On my way to work I was talking to my wife, saying “Miss Kristen and the lady who drives the big truck, are leading this week“. My wife laughed at me because I could not remember the name of the other teacher.

[Brenda is her name. I eventually did remember that.]

The only saving grace this morning is that my 9:30 appointment with some perspective new members called to reschedule due to illness. I hate to say this but that is probably a good thing. I probably would have sent them running to another church.

God, I need a brain reboot this morning.

[LOOK, SQUIRREL!]

Yup, definitely a reboot.

The Pastor -|—

Birth Mother’s Day 2017

Some of you who stop by here regularly may (or may not) know that I am a proud daddy. My wife and I adopted our daughter, Mayah, in April 2013 and then adopted our son, Malachi in November 2014. They did not come from our DNA but we love them as if they did; for this was God’s plan for our lives. Some may be tempted to think that we adopted because we were unable to have children biologically ~ Yes and no. We weren’t able to have children in that way; not because of physical reasons (both of us were perfectly able to conceive children), but rather, God intervened, and praise be to God for that. After years of “trying” we finally answered God’s call. Long story short, 10 months after starting the adoption process, Mayah came into our lives. Eighteen months later, Malachi joined the family. God’s plan for our family, after He refined us through the fire of a failed adoption, was for us to parent these two beautiful children.

Why am I writing about this now? Well, today is an often forgotten day for many. Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. So much hoopla goes into that day, and rightly so. Our mother’s deserve this kind of attention but today is Birth Mother’s Day. This day is always the day before Mother’s Day with the purpose of remembering those loving mother’s who made a decision many of us can not even fathom. They may not be mothering a particular child today, but they showed an incredible love in deciding that it was in the best interest of their child to be raised by someone else. For whatever reason, these mother’s, instead of aborting their baby, carried them to full term in order that their baby could have a chance at life; a life given by God. These mother’s saw the baby in their womb as a living being who deserved to live, even if they couldn’t support their child. They recognized that their were others who were very able and willing to raise children, even through it was not happening for them biologically. These mother’s are special people who had the forethought and insight to do what they did and thus deserve their day.

Each night, during our prayers, we pray for Mayah and Malachi’s respective birth mommies. We don’t hide the fact that they are adopted. We celebrate this. We talk about their respective stories and we honor their birth mommies. So if you know of a mother who has made this difficult but loving decision, make sure you honor them as Mother’s Day may be a difficult day for them. Thank God for these special people. We certainly do, and not just today, but each and every day.

Happy Birth Mother’s Day 🙂

The (daddy) Pastor -|—

Avoid One and Done

I have discovered a proliferation of door to door sales people here in Washington as compared to rural Minnesota where I lived for 44 years. I’ve had people come by trying to sell me home security services, pest control and lawn services. I listen to their sales pitch but I tell them that I am not going to buy anything now but rather I want to do my own research. I want to get to know their company and what they are selling. I want to trust them before I make an investment. They usually don’t like this response as they want the sale now.

The same mentality is often seen among Christians. One presents the Gospel to someone and then wants to see the fruits of their efforts now. They want to make an instant “sale” and then move on; feeling good that their numbers are going up. This tactic, though, is rarely effective in the long term, especially for the one “buying the product”. One and done evangelism is often more damaging to the one being evangelized. It’s like selling someone a whatchamacallit without an owners manual.

Instead, we need to spend time with people and develop relationships with them.  We can’t have a “one and done” mentality. We need to invest in people, provide for any needs, be a guide and help them along the way as they grow in Christ. When you look at the early church in Acts, the apostles spent time in the towns in which they planted churches. They didn’t just preach and go. They weren’t one and done evangelists. They invested in people.

Door to door ministry can be effective, but only if a relationship eventually ensues. Leading people to Christ can be a time consuming thing but it is important work as we are called and commanded to “Go therefore and make disciples…”. Spend time with people and live out your faith. Show them Christ’s love through your words and deeds. Be a “little Jesus” to them. Walk with them and when the opportunity presents itself, tell them about Jesus. Basically, earn the right to be heard.

So all you door to door sales people, don’t expect me to buy what you’re selling until I get to know you. Make an investment in me and earn my trust. Not practical for you, I know, but for you, Christian, it is. It’s what Jesus and the apostles did. Follow him and walk AS Jesus did and don’t be a one and done evangelist.

The Pastor -|—

11

On May 4, 2006, this blog, The Heart of a Pastor, was born. I didn’t pick this day because it is Star Wars Day. You know what a I mean, right? “May the 4th be with you“. Dorky I know, but even though I like Star Wars, this day was completely arbitrary 11 years ago.

Eleven years ago my wife showed me this thing that the pastor at her former church was doing. I had never heard of a blog before so I explored this “thing”. I liked what I saw so I decided to give this blogging thing a whirl. I started at Type Pad and wrote there for a while. I liked it but I had to pay for it, so when I eventually discovered WordPress, I transferred everything over.

My blogging over the years has been up and down, and this blog has gone through a number of changes. Through it all, though, I have grown with this blog. Even though the readership of this blog may not be all that large, I do enjoy writing; even if only for one person. So if you’re reading this, thank you for stopping by. I hope and pray that God is glorified through my writing. How long will I keep this up? I don’t know. As long as God keeps giving me things to writing, I will write.

So there you have it. The eleven year anniversary of this little blog. My God bless your day and May the 4th be with you.

Sorry, I had to say it 🙂

The Pastor -|—

 

Doors

Doors open
and
Doors are closed

Sometimes they are slammed shut.
Sometimes they close ever so slowly.
Whatever the case, a closed door signals
mourning
grieving
loss.
A closed door feels so
final
scary
uncertain.
A closed door means we can’t see.
A closed door means we’re
stuck
trapped
confined.

Oh God, I don’t like closed doors
but…

closed doors also signal something

NEW

we just can’t see it
and therefore we need to live by faith.

Oh God,
grant me the faith to trust in you;
to trust that when a door closes
that you’ll open another one.
Grant me the faith to cling to you.
Grant me the patience to wait for the right door to open.

Doors close
and
Doors are opened

My child, I AM the Faithful Doorkeeper

The Pastor -|—