Who Are The Unloveables In Your Life?

Last night was our church’s small home group. Each week our group will discuss the sermon from Sunday, or chose a story from the bible to study. Our leader chose the book of Jonah for the next eight weeks. All I knew about Jonah was he was swallowed by a whale. I did not understand why and had never read the story. Here is what I learned last night.

God asked Jonah to go to Assyria and call the people to repentance.  Assyria was an evil empire known for brutal murders. Jonah hated the Assyrians and only wanted vengeance rather than forgiveness for the people, so  Jonah was disobedient and run away from God. Here we learn that Jonah had a selfish heart, wanting nothing to do with the “unlovable” people.  He did not want the Assyrians to receive God’s mercy. In Jonah’s mind, they did not deserve forgiveness.

The question from the study asks us, who are the, “un-lovables” in our lives?  Who do we feel uncomfortable to be around and share the word of God? All of us seemed to agree on particular groups of people; drug and alcohol abusers, homeless people and those of other non-Christian beliefs.  I was reminded of a situation years ago that I knew I had to share.

While living in Oregon, I often asked God about the people I’d see on the streets begging for money, doing drugs, and causing havoc in the city. These were also God’s children, but could He expect Christians to feel the same way he did toward these people?  This question had been on my heart for months.   Most of us would be terrified to be anywhere near these people, which is why I avoided certain areas of downtown Portland.  The famous, “Burnside Bridge” area was known as skid row.  That was where the shelters were. Any day you could drive through the area and see dirty drunks, drug addicts, and undesirables just sitting on the sidewalks or mulling around begging for change.

It was an early Saturday morning when I woke up and heard God speak. “I want you to go down to Burnside and get the answers to the questions you pose. Remove all your jewelry and go as you are. Take your dog and do not be afraid, for I will be with you.”  Like Jonah, I wanted to run the other direction.  Was He trying to get me killed?  That area is dangerous place, for a woman alone.  However, God was persistent. I put on an old pair of thongs and a dirty pair of jeans and a ripped up, paint spattered T-shirt. I didn’t bother to brush my hair or my teeth.  My 70 pound lab was excited to go for a ride. I was trembling as I neared the area. “Really God?” I asked.  “Are you still with me? What do you want me to do?”  ‘Just go’ is what came back in my head.  “Trust in the lord your God and do not depend on your own understanding.”  ~Proverbs 3:5.

I parked the car, and my dog and I walked toward the area where all the people hung out.  It was still early so I rationalized that most of them would still be sleeping.  I saw a man standing along- side the street with a sign asking for change. I asked him where the woman’s shelter was (I didn’t even know if there was one). He was very polite. He asked to pet my dog. He gave me directions to the shelter and asked me, “Do you need money miss? I only have 75 cents, but if you’re in need?”

I was touched by his generosity. I politely refused by saying, “God bless you, but I’m fine.”  I continued my journey until I arrived at the destination.  Tears filled my eyes at what I saw. There before me, stood twenty or more people, smoking cigarettes, drinking coffee and socializing with each other.  I felt God’s presence and no longer felt fear. The questions I had began to fill my head. I was overwhelmed with emotion and suddenly, the tears were streaming down my face. A middle aged woman saw me as she passed by. She quickly turned around and asked me if I was ok. I explained that I wasn’t sure why I was here, but that God sent me. She smiled and said, “God sends most of us here. This is where we find refuge. You’re welcome to go inside and get a cup of hot coffee, tea or hot chocolate and some breakfast.”  Again, I was touched by a generous heart.  She obviously sensed how fearful and uncomfortable I was, so she asked me to wait for her. She went into the shelter and came back with a cup of hot coffee and some pamphlets of services to help the homeless.  I never knew such places existed.  They had places to get clothes for little or no money, health care, haircuts, food, churches that welcome those in need, medications and services to get people signed up for food stamps and low income housing. It was another world.

The woman’s name was Jean and she introduced me to her close friend Marie. They both wanted to know my story, but I was just as interested in theirs. (I couldn’t reveal that I was not,  ‘one of them’ so I listened). They had both been meth users.  They had lived on the street for two years. The questions came pouring out of my mouth with such compassion and non-judgment,  I knew it was God using me to help resolve the issues I had had in my heart. “Do you believe in God?” I asked. They both lit up with enthusiasm,  “Yes” they answered. I posed an even more personal question,  “Do you blame God for your situation?  Don’t you think that  God should help you?”  What I heard next revealed to me what God wanted me to learn. Jean responded, “God has, and is helping me. It’s not His fault I’m an alcoholic and meth addict. Those were my decisions. Though it all, God kept me safe. He brought me to the shelter and is helping me get clean. We have our name’s on the low income housing list and are waiting for our own apartment.  In the meantime, we meet with our sponsor, attend AA meetings two or three times a day sometimes, we have a roof over our head, food in our bellies and the holy spirit in our hearts.” She then pointed up toward “Snob Hill” where all the rich people live.  “See those people?  Those are the people I don’t want to become. They have huge mortgages, expensive toys, clothes, cars,  and are stressed out all day, every day. Most don’t even know God or give thanks. They just go about their lives feeling entitled and look at those of us here as an eye sore, but I pray for them anyway. I pray they will find the Lord and have compassion for those of us that were less fortunate than they were.”

I felt the guilt swell up in me. I was one of those people she was referring to.  And she was right, by most accounts, I did feel entitled.  I had worked hard to get where I was.  I believed in the Lord and I gave thanks, but there was something I had missed.  How could I be more like Jesus?  Marie then added,  “And Jesus used to eat with the undesirable people in the community. He said they needed him more than the rich people thought they did, and he gave his love and blessings on them.”

Since that day, I have looked upon the homeless and the downtrodden differently.  I realized than many of them are more obedient to God than those who play “Christian” on Sundays.  I have been eternally grateful that God gave me this experience, and I felt His presence with me the entire time. I never felt in danger.  He removed the fear and replaced it with curiosity and compassion.  Thank you Lord Jesus.  This was truly a leap in faith for me.

Time. How Do You Spend It?

I realized my mortality last week. I looked up a friend I hadn’t seen or communicated with since we moved to Idaho. When I searched her name, I saw a picture of her with that sweet smile and funky looking hairstyle. I snickered at first until I noticed it was her obituary. My friend had passed away two months ago. Devastated I searched the story to discover there was no mention of the cause of death, but since the family asked for donations to go to the American Cancer Society, I put two and two together.

She was only three years older than I, and it had been four years since I last saw her. Where had the time gone? I had traveled to Oregon a half dozen times since we’d moved, and not once did I take the time to stop in and say hi. I realized that it could be me in four years, next month, or today. For,  “Each man’s life is but a breath”.~ Psalm 39:5.  We are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. ~James 4:14.

We often fill time with things that don’t matter. Phone calls, texting, emails, social media, TV, video games, the internet. *Adults in the United States spend over five hours each day on “non-voice mobile activities,” including Internet use on phones and tablets, and about four-and-a-half hours watching television according to a study released by e-Marketer. *(www.huffingtonpost.com/2013)

Have you heard, “The jar of life — Rocks, Pebbles, and Sand” story?  In this metaphor,  the sand represents the small things such as email, texting, phone calls, and non-essential material possessions. The pebbles represent the other things that matter in your life, such as your job, your education, and your home. The rocks are equivalent to the most important things in your life, such as family, health, and relationships. By filling the jar with all the sand first, there is still room for the pebbles, but many of the large rocks don’t fit, so they get left out. When we fill our time with little things that don’t matter, we have little time for the things that truly matter.

How much of your life is built on sand rather than rock? As we allow the physical things to dictate rather than the spiritual things, we feel empty.  Real life does not comprise your earthly possessions. God created us with a hole in our heart that only He can fill. Worldly priorities will never satisfy. Know how you spend your time.  Always remember, the Lord comes first.


How Will You Glorify God in 2019?

As 2018 draws to an end, we look to the beginning of a new year (As a teacher, the ” New Year” always began Labor Day, but I digress).  When the subject of New Year Resolutions comes up, I tend to remind myself of Romans 12:2;  “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Rather than stressing myself out with the same old “resolutions” year after year, I enjoy sitting in my big walk-in closet with a single candle burning, focus on the Lord, then humbly ask, “How can I best serve you in this coming year? How can I best glorify your name?” Since He was the one who made me, it seems only right I ask my creator what areas I need to improve on, how I should be spending my time, my money and sharing my gifts to those who would greatly benefit from them.  By spending time with the Lord and in the word, becoming depressed, unmotivated, and lethargic is kept at bay. While the secular world focuses on themselves and believing material goods can bring them happiness, my physical and spiritual health is far more important.  Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:19; “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.”  For me to represent the Lord, in the best possible light, I have been working on two scriptures;  1 Corinthians  6:19-20 “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”  And Romans 12:1 “I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Since the age of eight, I have had a weight problem. I loved food more than anything else. Sugar was my god.

As I have matured to trust the Lord,  I begun to ask Him how to deal with the demons that have taken over my body, have caused decay and disease and brought me to the depths of despair.  Over my entire adult life, I’d spent thousands of dollars on diets and counseling.  The results were minimal as well as temporary.  After hitting rock bottom in August, I decided to turn to the Lord and ask how He could help rid me from the grip sugar had.  He put Proverbs 3:5-6 on my heart. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”  That was thirty pounds ago.  I have sixty more to go.

How will you glorify God in 2019?