Sunday, December 30, 2012


AJ is a regular fixture at The Mustard Seed; he's a slight man, in his 50s, and is of middle eastern descent (his real name is long and somewhat unpronouncable, so AJ does the job just as well).  When I first met him, he always greeted me with a smile, saying, "God bless you" or "Thank you for looking after us."  He's told me a few snippets of his history - homelessness, drug addiction, a common story in the inner city, but he has had a home for the past eight years and is drug free, and he is not afraid to share that he owes everything to God.

What an example AJ is!

On Friday, not my usual night, but I felt like going downtown anyway, and I had a chance to speak to AJ behind the coffee bar - he was volunteering for the night.  He told me that he had a heart attack a number of years ago and was in God's presence, but he was sent back to Earth, and now feels that it is his job to tell everyone about our Lord.  He confessed that he has never learned how to read or write, but that all of his Biblical knowledge comes from the Holy Spirit.  I was amazed, because AJ can speak Truth as well as any literate church-goer that I've ever met. 

He then went on to explain how spiritually dead The Mustard Seed is, and how no one speaks of God, but he does, to anyone who will listen.  He doesn't do it to show off or appear knowledgeable - he does it because he truly believes God sent him back to spread the Good News.  It made me think of my actions when I am downtown - yes, I help, yes, I'm a "good person", but am I intentionally creating disciples?  Not really.  I can talk about God to those who ask, but that's not very often - it's those who don't ask who probably need to hear about God the most.

Yes, the church may be spiritually dead, but it only takes a bit of effort to bring God back into His house.  I'm going to follow the lead of a former drug addict, a former homeless man, a child of God, and spread the Word to those who need it most. 

We can't wait for a near death experience to decide that we need to spread the Word - time is of the essence.

Friday, December 14, 2012

One day He will wipe away every tear

I am not a crier, and on the rare occassion that I do cry, it is usually in a burst of rage or stress, and it is very short, and then it is over and I can move on with my day.  But today, a day that will live in infamy much like September 11, 2001 or April 20, 1999, the tears started the moment I heard the news and have continued throughout the day, to the point where I have no more tears left to give.

I cried for the little ones who headed out the door this morning, grabbing lunchkits and backpacks, kissing their moms goodbye for the last time.

I cried for the moms who were out shopping last night, out buying one last gift for their little one.

I cried for the dads who heard the news at work and rushed frantically to the school in search for their children.

I cried for the lego and Barbies that won't be opened on Christmas morning.

I cried for the teachers who were planning activities for the last week of school and looking forward to their Christmas vacation.

I cried for the mom whose last moments on Earth were left gazing at her son as he killed her.

I don't know why this tragedy has affected me so deeply - there have been other recent tragedies, and while sad, they haven't thrown me into a state of catatonic depression.  Maybe this was my "last straw", after being numbed by violence for so long, and they were just all bubbling below the surface, waiting to explode.

Can you imagine how God feels?

Tragedy after tragedy, not only gun violence, but human slavery, poverty, brutality, children dying in the streets of east Asian slums, building and building until we become numb to it all.  It's just too overwhelming.

But as I was sharing my grief with a friend, I remembered something that my sister once said:  You can't help everyone, but you can help one person at a time. 

And one of my Pastors, half way around the world, comforted me unknowningly with his Revelation quote.

Yes, one day He will wipe away every tear, but until then, we will cry for the lost, and provide hope to all that we can.  One person at a time.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Frogs and Muffins

First of all, I must say that there is no way that it's been over a month since I last posted!  November was just yesterday....wasn't it?  Try as I might, I just can't seem to keep the days and weeks from zipping by.  I was hoping to slow down December, but here we are, on the 12th already, and still so much to do!

Life goes on in the inner city, most of the people are aware of the Christmas season but many don't care; it's a painful time for many and they just want to get it over with...but are still appreciative of the many festive meals served during the season.  Last week was a tough week at the Mustard Seed; it was bitterly cold and windy, and I was yelled at more than once and also sworn at, and I left feeling drained and tired, but would never quit trying to befriend these people; all God's children who have just taken a wrong turn somewhere in their lives.

I remember when I first started volunteering and a woman named Tammy would come in every week, never smiling, never saying thank you, but I was determined to break through her rough exterior and now we are buddies!  On the days that I see her she tells me about their new place, her grandchildren, and what she's been up to since I last saw her.  I am reminded of Tammy as I approach the folks who look grumpy, who don't say thank you, who bark responses to my questions, knowing that inside there is a mother's son or a father's daughter, and at sometime in their lives, even if it was a long time ago, they had a spark of hope. 

And we can give hope to so many, even if it just through a smile.

Last night was one of those fun nights downtown - it was cold but the mood was festive, and my volunteer pal Minnie brought me an apron that was shaped like a frog.  Even though I am not typically an apron wearing person, I thought it was pretty cute and might generate some smiles throughout the night.  Boy, was I right!

My frog apron struck up many conversations with the community, prompted lots of smiles, and kept me in giggles for the entire night.  We had plenty of food and I was able to hand out muffins until the end of the night, and everyone left with something extra for their lunches the next day.  I joked with a community member who was trying to get us to guess his name, and rather than cheating and asking one of the staff, I just decided we would call him Rumpelstiltskin.  That evoked more laughter and giggles.

We all went our separate ways at 10:00, they to the streets and I to my car, but I left with a lot of good feelings and a prayer that maybe some of the community members will remember that evening of joy and fun, and that it will bring some hope into their lives that things could be a little better.

Where You go I'll go and what You say I'll say.......