Sunday, January 31, 2010


“Hey, Jena...”
“Do you think God is punishing me?”
“Do you think God is punishing me?”
“You mean...because you’re sick?”
“Yeah. My medicine makes me tired and I can’t stay awake at night to finish reading my Bible.”

Our conversation this morning broke my heart. I wish I would have had something more profound to share with her. But I didn’t. All I could come up with was something generic about God not being “like that”.

But, why?

He’s PERFECT. He gave SO much. More than anyone could EVER comprehend. And we keep living like it’s no big deal. I keep living like it’s no big deal. God didn’t let his SON...his ONLY son, be ruthlessly tortured and brutally murdered so that I could walk around and constantly spit in his face by living a life full of my prideful, selfish sinfulness.

All I know is that if God gave me the punishment I actually deserved, it would have to be something so incredibly horrible; I can’t even begin to imagine. Something comparable to what Jesus endured. But, God will NEVER ever bestow that punishment upon me...the punishment I so much deserve. His PERFECT son took MY place on that cross. I should have been hung on that cross. And that is simply the truth.

So, back to my God’s not “like that” answer. He isn’t. He loves me and He loves you and He loves EVERY person He created. Sometimes I have to remind myself just how much God really does love me. He sent his son to this earth to DIE so that I could live. So that I could be free from the bondage of sin in my life. So that I could spend eternity with Him. These words are so beautiful to me: “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus...” (Romans 8:1)

When I gave my life up for the life God had in store for me, I became a new person. The old “me” died, just like Christ died on the cross. (2 Corinthians 5:17) And just as he rose from the dead, I rose with Him. (Romans 6) That sin, that evil nature that resonated inside me, no longer has any control. My sin, those moments I look back on and feel as though I’ve spit right in God’s face, are no longer counted against me.

Can you even wrap you head around that? I can’t. The creator or the universe, the one who placed the stars in the sky and knows the number of grains of sand on every beach and made my heart beat...that “guy”...He is on MY side. I have a power in my corner, fighting for me, this power is greater than any broken heart or addiction or deep regret. He is bigger. And He chooses to lift every last bit of my junk off my shoulders. God wipes the slate clean. It’s gone. It’s ALL gone. Now, that is how He is going to see me for the rest of eternity, as flawless as the one who took my place, because that is how much He loves me. And that’s how much He loves each and every person on this earth.

So, no, I don’t have the answer to why my friend is sick. But, I sure don’t think its punishment.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

That Stuff Isn't Really For Me...

As I walked under the Pennsylvania Street bridge tonight I started quickly scanning either side, looking for friends among the heaps of clothes and blankets and piles of empty to-go boxes and scattered pieces of trash. Sometimes it's hard to tell if what I'm seeing is a person crouched over under a mountain of blankets or just a conglomeration of mere "stuff".

The first person I spotted was, Bob. I've known Bob for a couple months now...and as far as I can tell, the farthest he's moved these past couple months has been from the one side of the bridge to the other. He sits in his spot all day, everyday...reading. I still remember our first conversation. He had recently lost his home and had been walking back and forth from Greenwood to Indianapolis every day. That night was going to be the first night he would actually sleep on the streets, before he had been staying in "his" house...until the bank finally locked it up. He wasn't interested in going into a shelter, as much as I insisted he should give it a try, he just wasn't going to go. We talked for a while about his life and family and him being a veteran...then we started talk about what I was doing on the streets. I always hear, "What church are you with?" I started explaining who I was and what I do which naturally led me down a perfect avenue to ask him about his faith.

Bob told me he grew up in church, but when he was 13 he walked away from it all. He started to shut the conversation down, so I switched topics and continued talking with him for a few more minutes. When I saw everyone hopping back in the cars, I figured it was time to wrap things up. I asked Bob if I could pray with him...which, if you know me, would totally push me out of my "comfort zone". I just really felt like I needed to ask him though. He ended up telling me no. Told me he thought "Someone else could use it more..." and that "All stuff wasn't really for him..."

Tonight Bob was out of books. I took him four books a couple weeks ago and he's read them three times already. I keep promising him some Frank Peretti books, because he loves the Sci-Fi/Thriller type stuff...just haven't been able to snag any of those yet. Jokingly, I told him I had a Bible in my bag that he was welcome to. There we go, open door. He starts telling me about his Catholic cousin and gay evangelical brother and how the red letters in the Bible really irk him. Here's the problem, according to Bob...How could it even be possible for someone to quote everything Jesus said word-for-word. I'm not sure where he came up with some of the timelines and statistics about literacy back in Jesus' day, but he was sure that it was impossible for those to be Jesus' exact words. The only explanation he would somewhat agree with me on was the fact that the overall ideas in Jesus' teachings are way more important than whether or not his words were written down verbatim. And I'll take that...I will take his half-satisfied, almost-agreement.

Wait now, here is the kicker. The man who told me two months ago that all this stuff really wasn't for him, tells me that us doing what we do and coming out every week has made him think that "...maybe we're right..." And you know, that may not seem like anything huge, but it sure brought a smile to my heart.

My prayer for now is that Bob would continue to ask questions and seek God...and maybe even let us pray with him soon.

P.S. If anyone has any good books I could pass along to Bob, that would be awesome! And if you'd like to come with me to deliver them and meet my friend, that would be even better! :)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Update On Mickey...

Mickey ended up back in the hospital a couple weeks ago after feeling like he was having yet ANOTHER heart attack! Come to find out, he may have even had another small stroke...the doctors weren't ruling that out.

But, that's not all...they found a growth on his spine that has affected feeling in his feet and may have something to do with him losing almost 100 pounds this past year and not being able to keep food down from time to time. He also has a rare strand of TB and is the 9th person in Indianapolis to have contracted it. He is being treated for it, but visitors sill have to wear those pretty "duck masks". :)

He will be having surgery in a month to try and deal with the growth on his spine. And there are talks of him being placed in some sort of housing so that his health can continue to be monitored. That would be a blessing in itself.

As unpleasant as his situation sounds, Mickey is such a happy soul. He lifts my spirits EVERY time I get to hear him talk or just see his smile. I feel like I could just sit and listen to him all a little kid with their grandpa! :) He has some really neat stories about his life and family and careers and is so knowledgeable about the Bible. Mickey is much more of a blessing in my life than I could ever be in his...and I'm willing to be that a lot of other people who know him feel something similar!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

News At Davidson Street...

I received a startling text message this morning from my friend Kim telling me that she had just received a starling e-mail saying there were emergency vehicles at Davidson Street -- one of the bigger homeless camps in our city. We have a number of friends living under that bridge, so we were obviously concerned. I went out and drove under the bridge to find...NOTHING! Everything was gone, it was bare...I'd never seen it so empty! Where was everyone? What happened!

I saw my friend Darvin moving his stuff back to his spot and asked him what was going on? Apparently a tent had somehow caught on fire and the city felt the need to extinguish more than the burning tent. The whole bridge...cleared out...the entire thing! Really! You're going to take people's tents, blankets, clothes, water...EVERYTHING! And do it when it's below freezing outside...

If you watch the clip from 6News & you can see them carrying it all off. My favorite part is the man on probation, doing this community service and trowing away everything these people have, "I gotta ask forgiveness for doin this. This ain't right..." Oh, wait, even better part is Mayor Ballard's feelings of frustration "with groups who make life on the streets possible". Hmm. Guilty. I mean, I'd rather make LIFE on the streets possible, instead of making DEATH on the streets a reality.

But there is really no point in bashing the government or our politicians, it is what it is. And I will continue to do what I feel is right and I will continue to go where the Lord leads. I'm sorry, but I won't quit loving people because someone else doesn't think I'm going about it in the right way. That's just not going to happen. If someone is hungry or thirsty or cold or sad or mad or whatever...I am going to give them food or water or a blanket or shoulder on which to cry. It's that simple. When God breaks your heart for something or someone, there is just no escaping it.

Tonight Curly, Birdman, and myself went out with One Body Ministries to check up on some of our friends...especially those at Davidson Street. It was pretty bare at the bridge. We gave out some blankets and bottled water to a few guys. Mike and Carlton were awake, so I was able to chat with them for a little while. A couple other outreach teams had already been out and brought big pieces of cardboard and Visqueen to help block the wind and elements. I'm not sure where everyone took off to, but I hope we can find most of them tomorrow night.

I also got word that Micky was taken to the hospital on Sunday. I am going to do some checking around tomorrow and see what I can't find out. Please keep Micky in your prayers. His health seems to be going downhill and I just don't know that his body can take an entire winter on the streets. As far as I know, he has no intention of going in off the streets this winter.

I don't know what is going to happen at Davidson Street this winter, but I know I'm going to do whatever I can to make sure the next time the news crews make a visit down there it isn't to report a story about one of MY FRIENDS who has frozen to death!

Sunday, January 03, 2010

It's Just A God Thing...

I am simply...BLOWN AWAY!

Have you ever had one of those moments where you KNOW God is completely behind EVERYTHING that is happening? A moment when you realize that there is NO WAY that a specific chain of events could just be "coincidence". The last few days smacked me square in the face with thoughts like those.

Yesterday I was running and rushing around trying to work on that never ending to-do list. There wasn't too much going my way. My car isn't running, on top of that a tire is flat, I couldn't get the doors to the van unlocked because it was so cold, I got to the store and realized I left my debit card at home, when I pulled out my checkbook to pay my ink pen exploded ALL over my hands, and by that time I was supposed to be home 5 minutes ago to meet my best friend. Laura and I went to watch a move and got out later than expected. It was time to meet up for outreach and I still needed to run to the store. My phone starts ringing and I was sure it was going to be someone asking where I was, but it was Kim letting me know she was running late. Thank goodness, me too. I hurried home and threw my warm clothes on and the phone rings again. This time Kim was calling to let me know that the guys weren't coming. That left just us girls...and "outreach rules" say girls can't go out alone. Well, if you know Kim or me you could guess that we were going anyways. :)

We made it to the first camp and ALL the street lights were out, it was DARK! Really? Someone sure was trying hard to keep us from the streets that night...but, I hopped out and ran over to a few tents and hollered for some of our friends, it always makes us a little more comfortable to have a couple guys around that we trust. Mike, Eric, and Scott jumped right up with us. We hit a few more camps after that and decided we were going to head downtown to see if you could find anyone wanting to go in for the night -- it was bitter cold.

There didn't seem to be anyone out. We drove around the circle and spotted a couple guys who looked like they might want a cup of hot soup. I jumped out to go talk with them and as we walked back to the truck Kim came running around the corner telling me that we were taking this girl to the hospital now, so hurry . I had no idea she had even gotten out of the truck.

Mary was her name and Kim saw her struggling to carry an overstuffed duffle bag and a couple smaller plastic bags. She was in some serious pain. Come to find out the poor girl hadn't been to the bathroom in 8 DAYS! Ouch! Oh, and it happened to be her birthday as well...lovely way to spend a birthday, right? We got her to Wishard as fast as we could and sat with her until she was admitted. The doctors practically kicked us out of the room, so we headed back to the dat House to unload the truck. As far as we knew, that was that. Maybe we'd see her again one day, but maybe not. What we were certain of though, was that God put us exactly where He needed us that night. We hardly ever go to the circle anymore, because no one is allowed to feed there (and we won't even get started on that)...but God obviously pushed us in that direction for a very specific reason.

Here's where it gets good...

This morning I got up extra early and visited the 8:30 service at a church in my neighborhood. Well, Indy Metro, the church I attend doesn't start until 10:30, so I had time to kill. I stopped at MoJoe's and got a yummy latte and then started to head toward the bridges to see if I could talk any of the guys into coming to church. Here I am, driving down the street and all of the sudden I see that HUGE black and purple duffle was MARY! I hurried around the block so I could pull up beside her and asked if I could take her anywhere. She just wanted to get into a shelter. I told her she could come to church with me and then we would find her a place to stay. After church we ended up going out to lunch with some friends…and here is where it gets good again...

We asked Mary what kind of food sounded good and she said Italian, so we decided on Buca Di Beppo. Well, I was driving, so I dropped everyone off at the door and went to look for a parking spot. As I'm driving I spot a couple guys who looked familiar. I had to do a double take, but it was Eric and Josh, a couple guys from under the bridge. I honked and waved. Eric ran over and I asked him if I could give him a ride. So, I dropped the guys off at the library and went back around the block and continued looking for a parking spot. Okay, so there is no way this ISN’T a God thing. I saw the guys because they were walking up the street that Buca is on...We went to Buca because Mary wanted Italian...The only reason Mary was with us was because she was walking near the coffee shop where I stopped to get Chai...and the only reason I stopped to get Chai was because I was early for church since I miraculously woke up early enough (and I’m not a morning person) to make it to an 8:30 service. I mean, I could keep going...

Anyways, it was a great lunch. And back to my promise of getting her a place to sleep...the only shelter I could get her into didn’t do check-in until 4:00. I took her back to the office and got her a coat and some warm clothes and gave her the Handbook of Help, which lists all kinds of service providers (A good friend of mine called it the "Homeless Tour Guide", haha!). I walked her into the shelter and made plans to come get her in the morning to take her back to the hospital for her surgery.

This little snippet of the last couple days doesn’t even begin to explain the ways God is at work all around me. I’m just so glad that He is letting me be a part of it…that He has a purpose for me and can use me in small ways.

Please be praying for Mary if you would. I’m so thankful God brought her into my life. She is a sweet woman and has quite a story to tell. God bless you, Mary!