Posts Tagged ‘homeless’

Last night at 8:30 I was called to pick one of my friends up at the emergency room. He had walked north on Aurora, way north, entered a local drug store and swiped a half gallon of Jack Daniels and started drinking straight away until he passed out on the sidewalk.  A passer-bye called 911 and he got a ride in the ambulance that he won’t remember as they brought him back to this world in the emergency room.

When he came to and became a bit coherent the nurse gave him a phone to call for a ride; my number was lodged in his brain. He wasn’t sure if I would answer the call and even if I did, would I drive to the hospital and get him? 

I kissed Kristine goodbye and drove north. On the way I picked up my buddy, Brent, who is the youth pastor at Oakwood Baptist in Texas and was visiting the city with a group of high-schoolers.  He and I walked in the emergency room where my friend waited to be released.

I knew what I was about to do and it was going to be hard. I would take him from the emergency room back to his home…the park, just off Aurora Ave and 97th. He has been living in the park most of the winter and before that wondering the city for about four years.

As we drove south last night he told me he had stolen the liquor. The $40 that it would have cost to purchase the bottle was not something my friend had on him or would any time soon. I felt God’s direction. So I turned into the parking lot of the drugstore and told my friend that we were going to walk into the store, and I was going to pay for his crime. This kind of surprised me but that is what God wanted me to do.

My friend got very scared, agitated, verbally abusive and almost violent. His sin was surfacing and he could see it, taste it, touch it. He threaten to jump from my moving truck, right in the middle of a busy Aurora Avenue. Great fear confronted him as he was confronted with his sin and the payment for that sin.

Then the reason for this decision came out. I explained to him that God knew that we, too, couldn’t pay for the sin in our lives, we don’t possess the ability or the desire to pay it back. But, God knew this and so he paid the price through Jesus; the ultimate sacrifice to pay the ultimate price. 

Oh how I needed to be reminded of this. My friend lived in fear, but he could be living in the freedom that comes through Jesus.

The night didn’t get much better for him, I bought him a pack of cigs and dropped him off at the park. He thanked me, was apologetic, embarrassed, ashamed. I prayed he would not drink more tonight, but would find himself too tired and would sleep.  As we drove away, he was curled over dry heaving, sucking on a cigarette and I know wanting another drink, of which, if he indulged that soon he would be dead in the morning.

There are so many levels of struggle in this story…

What happens next?

What does his future look like? As long as he is on the streets, no job, no options, no home, he will return to the emergency room again and again.

His bad choices took him from an RN job to the streets in less than five years. Can it be reclaimed?

How do I continue to sleep in my warm house, soft pillow and bed and behind locked doors, knowing he, and many others, are living where he is?

What can we do? What has been done for him hasn’t worked. What’s next?

How does God continue to restore us even when we continue to run after the entertainment of our Self.

Can I continue to do this long term? Can my soul take this?

The truth is, the more I walk with people like my friend last night, the more I realize my own depravity and see the amazing amount of Grace my Savior has had on me, an undeserved Grace, paying a penalty that I could never pay. Jesus even paid for my return to my own vomit.

Thank you!

Aurora Avenue North

After reading a recent letter to the Major of Seattle, “Hell Starts Here, 145th & Aurora”, posted in the Aurora Seattle Blog (which does a great job of keeping ‘eyes’ on Aurora Ave. N.), my cranium started into a grey matter tsunami about the people I have encountered on Aurora, which Richard, the author of the letter to Major McGinn, tells us resembles Dantes Circle of Hell.

But what, or who does Aurora represent? Indeed if we have eyes that only see the physicality of our immediate surroundings which hem us in on all fronts accosting our eyes with the mere tripe of this facade of stone and steel. This plastic and glass empire wanes heavy and indeed does resemble the inferno of the underworld where man is hopeless without Christ.

At first glance, or for some at second and third glance if not at each glance through his or her life, the Corridor of Aurora Avenue accosts the eyes and mind and the innate desire to be surrounded by beauty, even if it is a man made beauty, stirs our beings to scream, “Hell Starts Here!

The tsunami in my mind is fierce, flooding and disorienting my thoughts because I live in this great city called Emerald that has no belief or desire to believe in a God who is loving yet just. This city, a landscape of 700,000 souls with millions just over the fence, pretends to believe there is no moral Right…but is quick to condemn the many who are described, not by their ideas or character or eyes or even their names, but instead by the “concrete waste land” they have been forced to inhabit.

How is it that a society that believes there is no God and therefore no moral right or wrong can pass judgement so quickly on people who are suffering deep despair and isolation? But when our focus is on our surroundings and the eye candy that we ignorantly suck on, we will miss the souls of the people who drive those cars, who sell those cars and who live in those cars that traverse “Gasoline Alley.”

The common solutions, that I have heard and read, to the problems of Aurora Avenue go something like this, “We need to bulldoze the entire strip of alley cats and rats who call Aurora home, and while we are at it put in a bicycle path running from Pike Place Market to 145th in a park that once was Aurora Ave. N.”  The fact is; if Aurora Ave. N. “closed” thousands would be out of work and thousands would lose their businesses. It would displace businesses into the coveted, almost worshiped, neighborhoods and their quiet streets. Causing yet a greater crisis.

Does it ever occur to anyone that we need the commerce of Aurora? The basic needs of a city lie along this strip along with those who derive their livelihood, those who, by the way, have names. Names like Pericles, Azi, Chey-Sun, Cynthia, Bud, Ryan, Fay, Will, and the list goes on. Sure there are many nefarious activities that occur along the strip but does that mean we throw out the baby in the proverbial bath water? Or…do we make a shift?

What if we seek to transform instead of throw away?

I wish you, yes you, could sacrifice one of your precious well paid hours and walk on Aurora with me and look long into the eyes of the small business owner, or the customers who frequent the same businesses. Come look into the haunting eyes of the homeless, prostitute and “dancer.”  My hope is that it breaks your four chambered muscle pounding with in your chest. My hope is that you and I remember these people where once children with bright eyes, hopes and dreams. Many ruined by their parents and hence trapped in this prison we so easily condemn to hell.

At some point we need to stop throwing insults and condemnation at the problem and start getting involved.

At some point we need to stop throwing money and hopes that the “government” will do something and start getting involved.

At some point we must stop speeding down the Aurora Corridor with blinders held tightly to our eyes and start seeing and hearing.

In a somewhat crazy emotionally unstable state,  I truly believe this strip can be transformed, healed and reconciled to beauty. Don’t ignore it, don’t throw stones. Take a lesson from Jesus, “You who are without guilt may throw the first stone.”

Want to link arms and see North Aurora Transformed…Please join me.

Just a few days ago I tweeted that the Epic Life Church Sunday service was quite messy and it was beautiful!

I wish I could explain that a bit more, but it is hard to do without writing about individual people and betraying their confidence. But I also believe it is so important for those of you who read this, and are outside of the Epic Life family here in North Seattle, to understand what God is doing the lives He is re-creating right now.

So I will craft this gently. If you read this and believe I am writing about you please don’t take offense, it is not my goal to embarrass or point fingers, but to encourage prayer and support as well as encourage others who may be going through the same things or are afraid to go through what God is taking us through.

God has counted us worthy to worship with several homeless men and women throughout this summer and it is my prayer they continue to attend and that God will allow us to be helpful to them as we are to the Body as a whole. This past Sunday these men and women played an important role at Epic Life. Let me explain.

Every Sunday we arrive bright and early at the Oaktree Cinema to begin the “set-up” process. The truck and trailer usually arrives at 7:15am when we begin off loading the stage into the theater. This week as the rain fell hard the truck showed up at 7:45 am. The late start pushed everything and we found ourselves scrambling, but found out it was all in God’s plan of allowing church to be messy and loving it. The sound and band practiced late into our prayer time, the prayer time ran late, frustrating me and not adequately allowing us to prepare for the morning. We welcomed rain dampened guests and regular attenders into the theater as we began to worship a few minutes after the start time. (But we are discovering the bizarre world of half of our people showing up 10-20 minutes into the service.)

Jeff Campbell, our pastor who is over the House Church ministry, spoke about the Apostle Peter and how he blew it but made a comeback because of Jesus’ grace.  Jeff was nervous and felt fairly insecure about his talk, as he is learning and discovering the giftings that God has given him. He was prepared well and the message was spot on, but this morning presented a particularily difficult environment to present this message.

Often a few of our homeless brothers and sisters talk and agree during the message, which if you are not use to can be a bit challenging to stay focused. Often several of them come slightly intoxicated or high. No problem, we love it that they feel comfortable enough to attend and build friendships with us, now becoming their family.
This past Sunday one lady not only had way to much to drink that morning but had a full coffee mug of liquor, which she accidentally spilt at the beginning of Jeff’s talk. As he tried to focus this lady stands up cursing because her boose is now running down the floor under the six rows of people in front of her.
It became a scene quickly a she tried to get oriented enough to leave. She stumbled around trying to figure out what to do. Kristine stands up and puts her arm around her and helps her walk out as another lady joins them. They help her get back to her camper, parked on the street a few blocks away.

I have to say I was disappointed to see her go. I am praying she is able to return this Sunday and doesn’t feel bad or unloved, because we do love her, a lot.

God prompted me to stand up at the end of the service and speak into the situation, so we would all know and be confident that we as Epic Life Church will always love those the world does not. And let’s face it, there really isn’t that much difference be her and me.

Thank you Father for counting us worthy to minister to the lease of these.

This past Sunday at Epic Life was so sweet! The power of God’s Spirit is amazing and the place I get to journey at this particular moment of my life is phenomenal.

There is nothing I am about to write that I mean to be disrespectful to anyone.

This month’s series at Epic Life is “Three Men Who Blew It and Made A Comeback, and One Who Didn’t.” My intro in the Journal is here.  We are speaking on the lives of John Mark, Peter, King David and Solomon and each Sunday will be from a different speaker. I spoke this Sunday on John Mark and told the story of a young man who ran away but was restored by God.

The Spirit moved and even though it was a Labor Day weekend we had many in the service, including several from the streets, many from international communities, families, singles, old and young.

As I finished up the message and Averi brought in music on the keys I told everyone that it is time to Stop running, Drop to our knees and repent and Roll – Turn back to God and follow after Him. He is always there to forgive and has, in fact, already done so. He will restore us.

Recently our Family has been expanding with several men and women from the streets who have the propensity to talk back while I am speaking from the stage. It doesn’t bother me. I just figure they must be paying attention because most of the time what they are saying out loud has something to do with the message. (Not always though). This week I offered prayer to who ever wanted to join me in the front. All of our homeless friends came forward along with a few others and we, (Jeff, David and I) got to pray over each of them. They smelled of alcohol and a lack of bathing, but they did step forward, a couple to repent, another to ask for prayer for someone else, another for prayer as she enters rehab.

So here’s my big prayer! I am praying that we as Epic Life will be able to exemplify the beauty of the Acts 2 Church and have all things in common with ALL the believers. I am praying that we never become like the Corinthians (1 Cor. 11:20-22) who didn’t even share their wealth during communion. I am praying that we are able to break bread together: rich and poor, learned and unlearned, old and young, from every ethnicity, every language, every socioeconomic level, and every spiritually mature level.  I pray that joining us on our knees in the front of church repenting will be all of these people together, side-by-side, without judgement. I pray that this work the Spirit is doing will draw people to Christ and not scare them away.

I know that what happened this past Sunday was scary for many and way out side of their comfort zones, but it was so beautiful!  And, I praise God for counting me worthy to experience it first hand, to see with my own eyes and hear with my own ears the full family of God. If you are reading this and you are part of the Epic Life Family, be Bold! See beyond any selfishly focused motives and judgments. Be humbly confident that God has placed you in this place at this time for his purposes and you get the amazing privilege of being in the front lines of something completely remarkable.

I just got home from a small party some of the Epic Lifers threw at a small garden space located on Aurora tucked between the Cicada tattoo parlor and the Easy Smoke shop and directly across the street from the newly established “Dancing Bares” club, a very seedy strip club. We have been given this space by the owner of the land to do with what we would like, so in this space of darkness we are in the process of creating a space of light and color. Tonight the lights were strung over the space as we gathered with a few of the local homeless around some live music, food and conversation.

We are praising God for this moment that began one year ago as we began speaking with the skeptical owners, creating relationships with the business owners and being present on the street. And actually three years prior to this event, prior to moving to Seattle, God shared a vision with me that we would be entering a city with no color and seeing color come to the homes because of Jesus’ blood. Tonight, after being “opened” for less than a year we were gathering with the homeless, the recently drug/alcohol free, the recently released from prison, families and singles who were gathering to bring glory to God. I believe it was a true picture of our favorite verse, John 10:10 “…I have come to give an abundant Life.”

We are positioned in a fantastic place on a not so fantastic highway called Aurora, which is full of prostitution, drugs, abuses, homelessness, human trafficking and everything you can imagine that may come with these. We are in the middle of establishing the Church on the very street that represents the beginning of John 10:10, “The thief has come to steal, kill and destroy…” At this young stage of the life of Epic Life we meet in a theater located in the middle of this darkness and God is giving us great influence and a beautiful name in and amongst the neighborhood. We are seeing men and women come to Christ and be baptized from seven different nations, young and old, affluent and poverty stricken, Lost and Returning. It is truly beautiful.

Sunrise

I love the sunrise, to see it you must get up early. Many people miss the sunrise because it forces you to go out of your way to see it. Those of us who have seen it know the beauty and will find ways to be present when this miraculous event happens.

I see the world around me in the same way.

I have recently gotten to walk with Ben Carlson along Aurora and introduce him to what God is doing on our street. Ben is visiting us from South Africa where he works with the Navigators and is a professional coffee taster. He has a lot of vision for life and future, and talking with him gives me a huge shot of encouragement.

As we walked from the AXIS to the garden space along Aurora and I got to introduce him to business owners and homeless men and women and show him where we minister, sparks started to fly as we praised God for his greatness. We entered the garden space and started envisioning the space green and with a small stage for music and tables and chairs and umbrellas for conversation and a coffee cart where we could sell or give away java to the “customers” of the Space.

Wouldn’t it be beautiful if this space was where we held a Bible study for whoever may be walking on the street? Maybe very late at night or really early mornings. That gives me the chills just thinking about it. How about small concerts just for the purpose of bringing music to Aurora? Maybe some vegetables that are growing and people have the freedom to snack? Then Ben says, “Maybe this is your coffee shop that you’ve been dreaming about? It doesn’t even need a building!” Maybe? Oh yeah! What if the tattoo parlor next door actually started partnering with us and looked forward to us being there? Or opened up their back “yard” space to join up with the garden space for a larger venue?

The “what if’s” are huge, when you allow God to push it…

So…on another note but not really, we are at a place financially as Epic Life Church where we are living in the negative, you know – the red numbers. This is a scary place to live, that is strengthening our faith and resolve. But just because we don’t have the finances and resources to pull off dreams doesn’t mean the dreams stop coming. In fact if anything the dreams are growing and God is asking more of us. So we are trusting him in our poverty and owning this new Church as a community in greater ways than if we hadn’t found ourselves in the negative.

Praise God for people like Ben and the business owners who may not even have a personal relationship with Christ and those who are walking Aurora and those who are on our Finance Team with beautiful gifts and leaders who are moving forward even in difficult times and for a church Body who know what they are here for and vision, pure God-driven, life-infused, transformational vision.

“To see North Seattle transformed by finding an epic life in Christ Jesus.”

Find ways to “see” the “sunrise” in your world. It is beautiful and miraculous!