Grace and Truth

…all the words of this life…


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Wisdom From my Homeless Friend Shaz

“You tell me this”, said Shaz* as we sat over coffee, “You tell me: if there was a homeless person lying in the gutter, would it be a Christian or a druggie that stopped and helped him?  It would be the druggie every time.”

The parable of the Good Samaritan came to mind.  And I knew she was right.

I said “I agree with you Shaz.”

That stopped her for a second.

We had met for a coffee, but when we got there she refused to have one. Said she’s not paying that amount for a coffee.  I offered to buy her one but she refused that as well.  So I drank my coffee and she sat opposite me with nothing.  Instead she had the sugar bowl.  With a spoon she stirred and stirred as she spoke.  The constant stirring was mesmerising and I had to tear my eyes away from it.  Also it was easier than looking in to her tormented eyes the whole time.

But when I agreed with her, she stopped stirring for a second and said,

“Ha – we agree on something. What do we do now?”

Shaz’s and my relationship isn’t an easy one.  To be honest, I have no idea how to handle her.  And that’s something I constantly say to the Lord, believe me.

Before Shaz, I thought I was pretty experienced with all sorts of people.  When we had our home church for the outcasts there were times where we had seven heroin addicts sitting around our table at once for lunch.  We have had neo-nazi’s in our home, murderers, profoundly mentally disturbed people, lonely people, homeless ones, ice addicts, people I met while street preaching, whoever God sent.  They were difficult and God always gave us grace for each one.

I first met Shaz in March.  I preached at the homeless mission in the city and she was there.  Full of anger, bitterness, hard, cold as anything, she told me what her father had done to her from a terribly young age.  She asked me how God could forgive someone like that if he repented.  And why would she want to go to a place (heaven) where that animal might possibly be? She spat at me that nobody has been able to help her, even Christians.

As I listened to her story my heart broke.  And she was right too, I didn’t know how to help her. What the heck do I say to this woman who had been so wounded by the one who should have protected her?  ‘Oh God’, I cried out in my heart, ‘help me!  I don’t know what to do! I don’t know what to say to her.’

I didn’t know what to do, so I just put my arms around her little body, my head on her shoulder and cried.  I sobbed. I said I am so, so sorry that this happened to you and I was. I cried and cried as she stood there silent, as stiff as a board while I wet her shoulder with my tears.

Then she moved away from me and I heard her swearing and cursing as she left.  I said to God that I am sorry I failed.  I couldn’t get through to her and I had no idea how to help her.

Two weeks later she was back at the mission.

She came over to me and said roughly, “the compassion you showed me that other night saved my life.  I was going to go home and neck myself but after I met you I didn’t want to anymore.”

Then she swore and cursed Christians and left.

And pretty much that has been our relationship since.  She clings to me, she pushes me away.  She seeks me out, she runs and hides.  Like a puppy who’s been abused and is scared of being hurt again.  One time she came up behind me at the mission and hugged me.  She literally clung to me.  The anointing and love of the Holy Spirit came upon me so strongly that I just cried and prayed in tongues while I hugged her back.  And she clung and clung.  Then she ran out of the building.

As we sat at coffee that morning she cursed and called me a hypocrite. Everything I said to her was wrong, and she told me off the whole time.  It was exhausting.

I left feeling like I had failed, yet there was an inexplicable joy in my spirit.

Two days later in the mail I got a card from Shaz in child-like, painstakingly neat handwriting saying that she can’t tell me this to my face but I am the only true friend she has ever had and that she loves me.

She said she doesn’t know how to be with “normal” people and that is why she hangs out with the street-people.

I cry for these ones. These ones who haven’t known love.

Not long after this we visited a local Baptist church, a good and decent church we sometimes go to.  The pastor explained that they want to build a bigger auditorium to be able to seat more people at once to cut down on the number of services over weekends.  To do this they are raising $2 million to replace the perfectly good auditorium they already have.  I looked around and I knew that they would get that $2 million.

I cry for the church.

 

 

*not her real name


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Over my morning coffee…

coffee

I used to think that God has a special place in His heart for the poor and needy, the widow and the fatherless – and He does.  But actually it is more than that.  When God says to share your bread with the hungry, to bring the outcast to your home, to spend yourself on behalf of the poor (Isaiah 58) it is not just that He is being kind, it is because this is the very essence of WHO He is.  This is God Himself, reaching down to us in our poverty, our need and our sin.  When God came to earth as the man, Jesus, this was the ultimate act of sharing with the poor, serving the needy and clothing the naked.  He could have stayed where He was, in the light and worship of glory, but He didn’t.  He spent Himself on behalf of the poor, by coming to this dark, sin-sick, broken world.  He not only identified with humanity by becoming clothed with human flesh, He went further.  By His death on the cross He was numbered amongst the transgressors and although He never sinned, He took the punishment in the place of the transgressors of His divine law – you and me.  This was the ultimate act of intercession.  This was the ultimate act of giving.

Even a cursory reading of the Bible will show God’s heart towards the widows and fatherless, the oppressed and needy.  Although we can never atone for the sin of humanity, that was His work alone, He does call us to share the burden of those who have been forsaken, trampled and broken.  To allow ourselves to see suffering and need and not to walk on by.  As Jackie Pullinger says “love looks like something”.  Love can be sharing your food with the hungry, helping out a single mother, even inviting someone in for a coffee.

God is not interested in self-serving religion or religious activities that are devoid of His heart.  In Isaiah 58 He condemns those who fast because “in the day of your fast you find pleasure, and exploit all your labourers…Would you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord? Is not this the fast that I have chosen; to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free and that you break every yoke?  Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh?” (verses 3-7)

Of course it’s not easy.  It’s not easy and it’s rather uncomfortable to allow yourself to see and identify with human need.  It wars against our fleshly nature which is constantly crying out to us “Comfort! Convenience!”

It’s been hard for me.  I am not going to pretend that I have found it easy.  The hardest part for me has been the intrusion upon my own time. I am naturally a bit of a hermit at heart.  I like my own time and space, and my own company.  But because we have a food
pantry that is operated from our garage we do often have people turn up unexpectedly and at inconvenient times.  In particular God has used one lady with serious mental health issues to crucify my flesh.  It has been painful.  From the start the Holy Spirit told me to never reject her, even in my heart.  That has been hard and I admit, I have not always been able to do it.

But today again she came.  I invited her in for a coffee.  We spent a lovely time together and she ministered to me by singing songs the Holy Ghost had given her.

“I refuse to give up

I refuse to give in

I keep hanging on to the King of Kings

The Lord of Lords…”

As she was leaving my home she turned to me and said “Thank you for always making me feel welcome.  Don’t’ ever lose that.  It is so important to people who have been rejected.”

OH God, help us to hear the cry of your heart and to do it! To become people of action, rather than just of words! To do something, anything!

Love looks like something.