Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Through Another's Eyes

I have an incredible family. Not only immediate but extended. My step-sister and her husband came and spent the night with us and stayed to attend Rescue Atlanta on a Sunday morning. I just got a call from my Aunt in Pennsylvania where her daughter's girl scout troop had just finished up their meeting by shopping at Walmart for all kinds of items they are shipping to Rescue Atlanta. I am feeling the family love. :)

My step-sister Lauren and her husband Jason have been married for a little over a year. They live in New Orleans. Both are students at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Jason is working on his Doctorate in Music (incredible pianist.) Lauren just finished her undergrad and has worked as a children's minister the past few years. She just started graduate work in Social Work.  Lauren is an incredible writer and has such a tender spirit. I asked her to share about her experience at Rescue Atlanta so you get a different perspective.

I introduce to you Lauren and Jason and Lauren's Blog:

"Have you ever been adjusted before?"

Not exactly what I expected to hear on Sunday morning, January 8th at Rescue Atlanta! The chiropractor was in that day, and he was giving free adjustments to the people that had come to be fed scrambled eggs, oatmeal, and Jesus.
Boy, did I ever get an adjustment. An adjustment of perspective, that is!

Jason and I arrived that morning to help serve breakfast before worship. Being in unfamiliar territory with unpredictable people, I stayed within about a 20 foot radius of Glenn most of the time. I loosened up through breakfast, getting a feel for how to act and think around the people there. Looking back, I wonder if a few of them thought the same about me.
Jason passing out utensils for breakfast
Lauren helping change out the trash bags

After sharing a sweet time with my step-sister Morgan and Sam (see Morgan's blog about Sam's story), worship began. Not knowing what to expect, Jason and I went into it with open minds, and open hearts.
The music part of worship was awesome. It was not what most people would consider "normal", but then again, what is normal? I just wrote down thoughts most of the time about what I was experiencing. Some of the words I wrote in my journal were, "free…unique…genuine…unhindered…personal…unafraid…
expressive…undignified…humbled…overjoyed…adoration." So many different expressions of worship, from colorful banners and interpretative sign language to sitting in quiet observation, but I believe that all of that can be true worship…it's all about perspective.

That night, Jason and I were playing at a large Baptist church in Chattanooga. I made the comment to him that afternoon as I was changing into my skirt and blue sweater, "I guess it's time to put on our real church clothes..."

After we played "In Christ Alone" for the offertory, (which is always a great time of worship for us…what a blessing to praise the Lord in song with your spouse!) we sat and quietly listened to the sermon. I was so distracted by my own thoughts of reflection on the day that I couldn't really focus on the sermon, so I decided to write. Here's that journal entry:

What an enormous spectrum of church we have experienced today. From unhindered, undignified, raw worship, to reserved, hushed, and hesitant. From the homeless to the high-middle class. From the hungry to the abundantly fed. And who gives more of themselves to the Lord? The least of these, that have the least to give. Those that are broken and poor in body are much more willing, it seems, to become broken and poor in spirit. We worship with one eye open, looking to see who notices us timidly raising a hand, and these people worshipped with hands outstretched and eyes closed tight, focused on the Savior. Oh, Lord, help me to humble myself so that I may worship you as genuinely as the homeless of inner-city Atlanta. Empty my heart of any pride in my position. I am just as filthy in spirit as some of them are physically. Help me to never forget that we are all equal as children of God, RICH in Christ!

What's your perspective? Does it need an adjustment? I can guarantee you that any Sunday morning at Rescue Atlanta will do it for you!

~  Lauren

Monday, January 30, 2012

The God of All Comfort

**Before I type this entry, let me just say...I really am ok. I still love Atlanta and what we are doing. But I always promised to journal honestly, because just as many joys as there are in what we do, there are struggles and sorrows. So, I'm trying to be authentic about each step of the journey. I hope people don't think I'm a negative Nancy on the hard days. Just trying to put words to some of my deepest feelings. Not always easy or received the intended way.**

So...I decided not to blog the past couple of days because I kind of wanted to "sit" on what I was experiencing, digest it, process it, and really try to see the situation for what it is before I vomited words on a page filled with extreme negativity. This..is progress for me. I usually spill it first, digest later.

So...Saturday night was a night I had been looking forward to for quite some time. I had registered Glenn and I to attend a Group Link at a local church before we were even married because I knew we would need to find community in addition to what we have at Rescue Atlanta. We needed to find a church or small group to get plugged into where we could be filled because we are always working while at Rescue Atlanta. The worship is amazing, but we always miss the Bible teaching time. I was feeling pretty lonely at times, but knew this event was "just around the corner."  Saturday night, I must have tried on 5 outfits, nothing looked right, nothing fit right...I was already starting to "Stress" and even that frustrated me. "Morgan, why are you so worried about this?" But...any time you are the "new kid" there's always that extra sense of anxiety and wanting to fit in. I know Glenn thought I was crazy.

And you know how when you're already anxious and then everything seems to go wrong only making that already insecure feeling seem enormous? (Ok men, if you don't get this, I know some of the women will.) Well....that was our night. The car overheated on the way to the church, there was no where to pull over, Glenn was freaking out (in a manly way) about pulling over, but I literally had no where to go. So we made it to the church, parked and decided to deal with the car afterwards. After we checked in and got our name tags, I almost felt like I was having a panic attack. We were surrounded my couples, none of who we knew. Trying to find a place to "fit in." My eyes immediately brimmed with tears and I went in the bathroom to fan my face and take a few deep breaths. This is SO unlike me. I usually don't meet a stranger. But then again, I'm usually on the welcoming end in those church situations. I love to make people feel welcome, but I hate being the new kid (although a very good reminder of what it's like).

I'll spare you the details, but let's suffice it to say it was a horrible experience. We had a terrible time trying to connect with a group and after the 30 minute Mingle, we were left standing next to a couple we had just briefly spoken with and then another couple walked up that they really connected with and it felt like we didn't even exist. So as they said, "Ok...now that you've found a group, lets get you signed up" Circles were forming all around the room with people who had hit it off and were about to start their journey together and it maximized that feeling of "one of these things is not like the other." So...we left.....with me in tears.....to then get in the car, struggle to find a gas station before the car quit, landing in bumper to bumper traffic on the interstate, and making a wrong turn to get home. It was just one of those night. I walked in the front door, washed my face and crawled into bed. A day I'd rather forget.

 But as we were driving home that night in silence, I listened to the Christian radio station in Atlanta, the Fish.  And it seemed like song after song met me right where I was. Especially this one, my current favorite. Click below to listen to it. I always turn it up when it comes on the radio.

Over the past 2 days I've been thinking, "Ok God, my life is For Your Renown. How do I make you famous in the midst of this? What is it you are wanting me to learn? What are you trying to show me through this?"

And today, I read this passage of scripture: 2 Corinthians 1:3-11 taken from The Message.

 3-5All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too.
 6-7When we suffer for Jesus, it works out for your healing and salvation. If we are treated well, given a helping hand and encouraging word, that also works to your benefit, spurring you on, face forward, unflinching. Your hard times are also our hard times. When we see that you're just as willing to endure the hard times as to enjoy the good times, we know you're going to make it, no doubt about it.
 8-11We don't want you in the dark, friends, about how hard it was when all this came down on us in Asia province. It was so bad we didn't think we were going to make it. We felt like we'd been sent to death row, that it was all over for us. As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened. Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally—not a bad idea since he's the God who raises the dead! And he did it, rescued us from certain doom. And he'll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing. You and your prayers are part of the rescue operation—I don't want you in the dark about that either. I can see your faces even now, lifted in praise for God's deliverance of us, a rescue in which your prayers played such a crucial part. 

The part that really has been on my mind is the verse that says..." When we see that you're just as willing to endure the hard times as to enjoy the good times, we know you're going to make it, no doubt about it."
Am I JUST as willing to ENDURE the hard times as enjoy the good times?
I had to sit on that for awhile. Willingly endure hard times AS MUCH as I willingly enjoy good times?
Willingly? Willing involves a choice. So every time I am faced with a hard time I can CHOOSE how I will respond. Will my actions show that I believe God is in control? Or will my actions show that I doubt God and His promises? If I choose to doubt God, what will my life say to those around me? Or will my life say....."God's got this" and in turn reflect God...which makes HIM famous.

I have to be honest tonight and say....I'm struggling with choosing to endure, because tonight, I just honestly want to have a good hard cry and whine and throw an emotional and spiritual temper tantrum. That's my flesh.
But deep inside of me, I know that doing that is giving in to my flesh and says nothing about who God is or what I believe about Him. I'm reminded of His suffering. Of His endurance of hard times and ONLY BECAUSE OF THAT can I sit in a place of freedom in my salvation. If He had not endured...this would all be pointless.

So....tonight, even though I may shed some tears because life is sometimes painful, it is not because I fear. It is because I feel. And I am standing on the promises of God that HE goes behind and before me, hemming me in to His perfect will. Maybe there was a reason we didn't connect at that church. Maybe He has a more suited place for us. Maybe He needed me to endure this to in turn comfort someone else along the way.
Maybe this is all part of the cultivation process.

But as mentioned....your prayers are crucial, so I covet them now.

Though my sorrow may last for the night, His JOY comes with the morning. There's gonna be brighter days.

For His Renown,

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Perspective and the Power of Presence.

Ok..sorry for the major fail on not blogging a lot this week.  I was trying to keep it updated at least every other day, but this week has been a little different. I haven't been able to have as much interaction with people because I'm had some other projects to work on. And honestly, some of the stuff I'm dealing with, I can't exactly post on the internet due to the sensitivity and privacy of the subject and that it relates to a minor. Suffice it to say that Glenn and  I need some major prayers for discernment regarding one of the youth we worth with. She is in a bad situation, and we are praying about how we need to be involved and or help, whether that means just getting involved in the situation or actually opening up our home to her. So...as you can see....we need some serious prayer warriors regarding this.

Growing up in the church, I've always grown up been taught that you can read the same scripture 2 different days and get two different things from it.  This is due to the fact that every day brings it's own perspective with it.  If you're facing different situations, it can shed a different light on it each time.  I'm finding that this is not only true with scripture but with everything else in my life.  Yesterday, my husband picked up the daily devotional we read together every morning. I was using the same devotional last year by myself. There is a spot to journal underneath the devotion entry. It was the only day last year that I actually wrote something in it, but it was interesting to see how the devotional affected me last year and then to read it and see how different I was a year later...how much has happened.  How much I have changed and how much my life has changed.

I wasn't feeling well yesterday and Glenn popped in the movie, "The Blindside" for us to watch.  Well...I half watched, half napped, but it's one of my favorite movies so I've seen it several times.  The first time I watched it, I loved it. It made me teary eyed in parts and gripped my heart.  But this time.....I don't think my cheeks were dry the entire time I watched it. It didn't grip my heart. It broke my heart. Why? Because this IS my life today. A young inner city teenager who doesn't have a good home life is given the opportunity to live with a family who can love and support him. It is such a good look at the situation from EVERY angle. Again, based on a true story. If you have not seen this movie, do yourself a favor and go rent it TODAY. (And grab a box of kleenex.) I can also get this DVD for $2.99 for anyone who wants a copy. (Blockbuster in town going out of business.)

It makes me wonder how different our world would be if people would step over social and racial lines and just focus on HELPING whoever needed help.  I think the most heart breaking thing about it all is that many of the children and teenagers that I deal with are not where they are because of something they did. They are subject to the consequences of either their parent's decisions or just the situations that life has thrown their way.  It's really difficult for them to get out of a bad situation OR even believe that their life could be any different unless someone reaches out and is WILLING to INVEST in them. It takes time and repetition.

It is fantastic that there are programs like "Adopt a Child" for Christmas or even their birthday. And it's great when groups come in to do programs with the kids. Those types of  things are VITAL, NEEDED, and APPRECIATED,  but what a lot of these kids need are MENTORS. Consistent people who can and are able to invest in seeing kids through.  People who will hug them, encourage them, tutor them, take them to a ball game, invite them over for lunch or a movie night with the family. Someone who is willing to sit down and help them find scholarships or college programs. Someone who will be at their graduation and school events.
It takes sacrifice. It takes time. It takes commitment.

This isn't for everyone. Some people are so busy that they would rather send financial support than to take on a commitment that they can not keep. That is more than fine.  If you find yourself in that position, that is the better decision. The last thing these kids need is another person that can't see them through. But maybe just maybe you have some extra time. You have been blessed to be in a position to do something more. Maybe you have been thinking......"I wish I had something to offer," or "I wish I had something meaningful to be involved in."  You don't have to be hip. You don't have to know the latest trends. You don't have to have a lot of money. You just need to have time and love to give. One of the most powerful things in life is the power of Presence.

When I was a teenager going through all the craziness of teenage life and also through my parents divorce, one of the things that helped me through that time was that I had consistent people in my life that I knew were there for me.  One of them was my youth minister, Marty. He offered encouragement, love, and also some honest words when needed. On one of the hardest days of my life, I got in my car and drove to the church because I knew he would be there to talk to. I can't remember all the youth talks he gave. I remember some of them :) But what I remember the most is that he was at almost all of my choir performances. He showed up at football games to hang out with the youth. He and his wife would open their home for us to just hang out. He is in essence on of the major reasons I went into youth ministry. I wanted to be able to have that kind of impact in other teenagers lives. And now....I sit here finding myself coming into contact with more children and youth that need mentors than you can imagine. All of us who work together do the best we can, but the need is greater than we can possibly accomplish on our own.

So...I encourage you today to start praying about how God might open up a door for you to be an influence in a young person's life. If you can find a place in your city, that is the best because you can have the power of presence. I will personally help you hook up with an organization that will match you up with someone. Or if you are home bound or just want to do something small, I have many ideas for you. So, if you are in the Atlanta area and want to be involved as a mentor, need help finding an organization in your area,or want to be involved in some small way - just email me by clicking here: I want to help!

If there is one thing I know for sure, its that EVERYONE has something to give and there is SOMEONE who would be blessed to receive it.

For His Renown,

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Soloist: An Unlikely Friendship

I've decided that from time to time I'm going to do a book or a movie review of media and literature that compels me, and in turn might compel you.  Our local Blockbuster store is going out of business and Glenn and I stopped in just to browse. I came across a copy of the above movie: The Soloist. I remember watching it when it came out. I recalled it was about a homeless man who loved music but that's about it. For $2.99 I could own the movie, so it was must have in my collection.  Glenn and I watched it when we got home and I remembered why I loved it so much.

The story is based in Los Angeles on Skid Row. If you don't know much about Skid Row, it is known for being a highly populated by homeless people. A local news paper columnist (played by Robert Downey Jr.)  meets a homeless man is who happens to be a musical genius (played by Jaime Foxx). The reporter is looking for a story and ends up learning the homeless man's story.  Once he verifies it, the reporter sets out on a journey to befriend the homeless man and help him follow his dream.  It is a story of joy, sorrow, an unlikely friendship, and the best thing about it is it is based on a true story. I LOVE true stories!. It goes hand in hand with my previous blog: A Story and a Dream
(which by the way, if you read that blog, Bobby came in to meet with Glenn and I last week. We gave him a list of things to do before our meeting this week. He did them the very next day. We are meeting with him Thursday about getting him into VA housing. I've given him bus money the past few weeks and he showed me a card in his wallet where he is writing down every penny we loaned him and insists on paying us back. I told him it wasn't necessary, but he said, "Miss Morgan, business is business.")

Sorry for the rabbit trail. At any rate...the movie, in my opinion, is a must see. I will however give you a disclaimer. There is some foul language involved. It's not outrageous or consistent throughout the entire movie, but there are a few heated moments where some expletives are used. I'm not a fan of it, HOWEVER, it is real life. And in our type of ministry, it's rare that a week if not a day goes by where people don't feel free to express themselves....fully. :)

This picture is from a scene in the movie where the reporter is taking the homeless man to see a orchestra practice, but he won't leave his cart at the mission.......so the reporter helps him push it through the city all the way to the concert hall.

I give this movie two thumbs up.  I think Jamie Foxx did a phenomenal job portraying this character. And it just goes to show that the blessing goes both ways. If you can't find a copy of this movie and want to send me $5. I can grab a copy from the local Blockbuster and ship it. They had at least 30-40 copies of it. If you watch it and it impacts you: Pass it on or encourage someone else to watch it as well.

May we always encourage those in our path to follow their dreams.

For His Renown,

Monday, January 23, 2012

One of these things is not like the other.

Maybe it's the dreary weather. Maybe it's that I'm worn down from being sick, but I'm having "one of those days." Forgive me. Ever feel like the apple in a sea of oranges? That's kind of how I've been feeling lately.  Have you ever felt like this picture below? You can be surrounded by people yet still feel alone?
Well....this is where I am. Today. Maybe not tomorrow, but I just need to sort out my thoughts, and this is a reality of my today. Ministry can be lonely, period. Inner-City Ministry can be REALLY lonely. Yet...I wouldn't trade what I do or where I am for all the money in the world because I KNOW it's my calling. However, I'm human, and I have to process the emotions that come with it.

I've probably never really appeared "stable" to people. And by stable I mean, good paying job, good education, car, house, savings, social life. Etc.  I've always been one of those "follow your heart" kind of people. I could never do something just because it's what everyone thought I should do. As a result, I haven't finished my degree, I've never purchased a car, I've always lived paycheck to paycheck. What I do have is a list of experiences I never would have had if I would have followed the "norm."

So how do you explain to someone that you chose to take a leap of faith and take a job without a guaranteed paycheck? That you too, choose to live where you have to benefit from some of the services you offer others i.e. food pantry, and how do you make new friends in a new city when you're scared that no one will understand your feelings or what you do with your life? Or you fear being asked if you and your husband want to go to dinner with said new friends because you are already counting change to make sure you can buy milk or bread that week?

Glenn and I have been praying about and looking for a church to attend on a Sunday night. We serve at a church on Sunday morning, but it's hard to get lost in worship when I'm constantly trying to engage the kids in worship or telling them to put away their cell phone. We teach Sunday School which means we miss the sermon, and although we do devotionals everyday, there is something to be said for corporate teaching and fellowship. 

Well, last night, we went to Buckhead Community Church an off shoot of North Point Church where Andy Stanley is pastor. Andy gave the sermon at the Buckhead Campus and we decided to attend. Located in the heart of a very affluent city, the building was all glass across the front, we parked in a parking garage. We walked into a room where the stage was like a concert setting. Lots of lights. It was actually pretty awesome. The praise band was amazing, it was like attending a christian concert. It was nice to get lost in worship. To focus. We were surrounded by people of all races, and ages, although most of them were in their 20-30's, it seemed.  

Andy gave a message on Mark 8: 27-38.  You can watch the whole message here: Andy's Sermon. Please look it up and read it. But the basis of his message was found in these verses 34-38 taken from The Message: 

 34-37Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, "Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat; I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?
 38"If any of you are embarrassed over me and the way I'm leading you when you get around your fickle and unfocused friends, know that you'll be an even greater embarrassment to the Son of Man when he arrives in all the splendor of God, his Father, with an army of the holy angels."

And Andy used it to make these points:
1. Salvation is free, it cost you nothing. Follow Christ will cost you something.
2. There is always a point in a Christians life that if they go from being a Consumer Christian to a Follower, God will call them to do something that really pushes them outside of their comfort zone and when it happens it will:
  • Feel like a  moral imperative. 
  • Feel like a death.
  • Other people won't really understand why you are doing it.
  • There is no advantage. 
So why would you do those things? Because to be a Christ follower means to deny yourself, to take up the cross, and follow. No matter what.

And he made such a simple yet profound statement. If you got to the edge of your life and you could glimpse into eternity and your soul was at stake, what would you give up for your soul? The answer: EVERYTHING. So why do we cling so tightly to that which we can not take with us into eternity anyway? That which we lose in the end.  It was a simple message. But one I feel like I have so easily read quickly over. Today, however, it hits home with me. Is everything I've essentially "lost" worth it for the "cause of Christ?" I read over the list of things you experience when God calls you into the deep: moral imperative? check. Feels like a death? In some ways, check. People don't understand? check. No advantage? In most ways, check. The benefit, the blessings, the pay day, the win is that Christ is glorified and in some small simple way, I am used to bring Him glory and take care of His children.

While I may not see a physical paycheck, I know my basic needs are met. While I may never drive a new car off the lot, I have the blessing of transportation. While I may not be able to go out to dinner or to the movies with friends, I have a dvd player and groceries. And while I may never fully be able to explain all that goes on in my heart.....God gave me words and an outlet.

Please pray for Glenn and I as we go back to Buckhead Church this Saturday for a Married Couples Grouplink...where we can sign up for a small group. Please pray that I will be peaceful, not anxious, and that God would place us in the right group of people that we can start establishing some relationships here in Atlanta.

Thank you to everyone who has sent emails, cards, unexpected blessings. Your thoughtfulness and prayers are a huge source of encouragement for us on the tough days.

And to those who read this that I KNOW have these days and have had them for many years in this type of ministry. Thank you for paving the way and being an example and support. I know that although there are days when I FEEL alone, I'm truly not alone. 

For His Renown,

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Year Behind Us and So Much Ahead

This is another personal blog rather than work blog. Today marks the day, one year ago, that my husband Glenn and I went on our very first date. A year ago, I would have never expected the chain of events that took place following that date and especially the time table. Prior to dating Glenn I usually took my relationships by the horns and tried to manipulate them to be what I wanted. When I heard God saying "No," I chose to ignore Him and move forward because I didn't want to miss MY opportunity at love. It saddens me a lot because I did a lot of damage to myself and to those I was in a relationship with simply because I wasn't patient. However, I am SO thankful that God doesn't give up on us when we make a mess of ourselves. He loves us enough to pick us up out of the miry pit and set our feet on solid ground. However, it's almost always when we let go of the control and let HIM do HIS thing....which is always the best way. (Some of us stubborn ones have to learn the hard way.)

So Glenn and I were just friends and I was volunteering at the mission. I was actually dating someone when I met him so I didn't even think anything of him as other than a co-worker.  But once I was single, Glenn asked me out within the week. The night of our date, I was working at Lifeway Christian Bookstore.  I got off of work and had to change in the bathroom there because I was going to meet Glenn right afterwards.  I was oddly comfortable with him, but still remember my heart pounding out of my chest because it was "new." We ate dinner at Mellow Mushroom. Walking to and from the car he INSISTED on walking on the outside of the sidewalk. I had never experienced this before. I was kind of like, "huh?" (To this day, I can't remember a time that I've walked on the outside, unless it was just to pick at him.) The sky was clear. The moon was bright. The stars were out. Glenn said, "Let's go sit on the beach." Now I LOVE the beach. But let me mention it was January and FREEZING. However...that did not stop us. We drove out to Tybee Beach, got all bundled up and sat on one of the swings on the beach. Just as we sat down and looked up to admire the night sky, the clouds rolled in. We couldn't see ANYTHING! We laughed about it but continued to sit an talk for HOURS. It was one of the easiest conversations I've ever had. And it wasn't just surface stuff. We really shared our hearts..the past, present, and future. It was that kind of feeling when you know that it isn't coincidence that you have so much in common. I could see from that moment how God was already lining up our future and it wasn't just because I wanted it. God was at work. We snapped this picture before getting back in the car. It captures pure joy. (although my face was covered, my smile was huge, both on my face and on my heart.)

When I dropped him off, he got out of the car, gave me a hug a kiss on the cheek. He said, "I had a really great time. I'd love to do this again sometime." We were pretty much attached from that point on. It was like we courted from the very beginning. Everything was with purpose headed towards marriage. We attended marriage conferences and counseling from the first few weeks of being together. Some people would think that was crazy, but for us, we both knew how to do relationships the wrong way and we wanted to do it right. God was THE focus of our relationship from day one. I know it sounds cliche' and we definitely had our "moments" but for the most part...it was EASY. It was ENJOYABLE. We didn't spend our time defining what we were, or try to pick apart the other person's thoughts. We laughed, we spent time with family, we served together, we worshiped together. We had fun. And after trying to force relationships to go my way for my entire life, it actually felt like a huge deep breath. So THIS is what God meant about being equally yoked. So it DOES make a difference to have one purpose.  So it IS WORTH WAITING for the person God has for you. I wish I could have saved myself and others the heartache of trying to do it my way. I wish I would have spent that time just focusing on being the woman God was preparing me to be. I am thankful for the experiences of love and loss along the way. Each person taught me something and blessed me in some way, I'm thankful God made good of it all, but Oh to know then what I know now.  We don't have the perfect marriage. Honestly, who does? BUT....we have a purposeful marriage. I am continually challenged to be a better woman because my husband is continually striving to be a better man. I am humbled by the love he has for me. There is not a single day of our marriage so far that he has not told me he loves me and that I'm beautiful.  I don't say all of this to brag or rub it in. Here is the reason I type this for the world to see.

#1. This is part of the anniversary gift to my husband. Glenn, I want you to know that I am HONORED to be your wife. I am honored to carry your name. I am honored that you are blessed and spoken highly of in the community of people we know. It is a privilege to run the race by your side and it is easy to submit to you because you are trustworthy. I hope that if the Lord blesses us with children someday, that they will read this about their father and know he loved their mother. I know you will leave a legacy that will make God famous in your life.

#2. Because there are so many young girls, teens, women out there who either feel like their day will never come, or feel like it may have already come and gone. Sweet daughter of Christ, YOU are WORTH the WAIT. And a man does NOT define your worth. So much easier said than done. I realize that many of us don't feel like we are worth the wait so we try to "Make" our fairytale come true, only to end up jaded, hurt, or miserable because it was not the fairytale that THE author wrote. The Author (God) is the one who created the characters (us) with their personalities, quirks, and all. And HE knows all the story ends. Instead we treat our life like one of those alternate ending books deciding how the story ends. If you've ever read one of those books, you know that there is always one ending that is better than the rest. Let your life be that ending. Let it be the best because God is in it. It doesn't mean that it turns out perfectly or that it doesn't come without trials or pain, but you can take a deep breath because you know that if you're where God wants you, He's got you....no matter what. Please wait for the man who KNOWS you are a gift. It makes a difference. And if a man left you.....he does NOT know your worth. Don't spend your days living in the bondage of someone who did NOT carry out the biblical commands to "LOVE" his wife as Christ loved the church.
You are first and foremost the BRIDE of CHRIST....and no man on this earth will live up to Him. Hopefully they will REFLECT Him.

My "Fairytale" that I thought could never happen was there all along, God was just waiting for me to hand over the pen.

So....here's to a great and memorable first year. I can't wait for what the next year holds.
Thanks Glenn, for always striving to make me smile, making me laugh, and reminding me that my worth is in Christ.

 For His Renown,

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Cold and Dirty Feet of Innocence

I type this blog after little sleep because my heart was so heavy upon going to bed that I just laid and wrestled with some things on and off through out the night.  Yesterday I had an encounter with a family that will not soon leave my mind. In fact, it probably changed me forever. I was sitting at the front desk answering the phone and door while my co-worker stepped out for lunch. A couple probably in their late 30's early 40's came up to the window and asked if they, along with their kids, could take a shower and get a set of clothes.  We typically don't have the clothes closet open during the day, but I could tell this was an exception.   The woman stepped up with urgency and said, "Ma'am, please, my little boy is sitting in his own pee." It went from an exception to an emergency.

I had them all come in, they had four children ranging in ages from about 18 months to 10 years. The kids were bouncing off the walls with energy while the man signed everyone in. I started writing down all the sizes of clothes I would need to pull out of the clothes closet for them. That's when the mom said, "Can I get some socks or shoes for the youngest ones?" I looked down. The little 3 year old was running around in just socks, no shoes. The toddler had stockings over his little feet that had been tied in a knot at the end. He was screaming at the top of his lungs. The kids, with soiled clothing were climbing on the furniture, the Mom was embarrassed and tried pulling them off. That's when the little toddler peed on the floor, wailing with tears. It was a heartbreaking scene. I had so much sorrow for these kids and you could see the embarrassment on the Mom's face.  I tried to make it comfortable and easy as I ushered them back to the shower area. I grabbed Glenn out of his office with a panicked, "I need your help." He stepped into the clothes closet with me and we tried to put together an outfit for each person from their head down to their feet. Our clothes closet is fairly organized but when you're rushing to grab total outfits, it took forever. This is why we desperately need people to volunteer and help us in this area. I'd love to have some pre-made bags with full outfits in them so we can easily grab them in situations like this.

The sad part was, I had no men's underwear, and no underwear for the kids, no pair of pants for the oldest boy, and no pair of "fitting" shoes for the toddler. Then I remembered that I had gone to Target and bought an entire outfit for "Sam's" brother from a few weeks ago, but he didn't come to church last week, so I was able to give those jeans to the boy, and open the package of underwear and give a pair to each child, even though it was the wrong size.  I made sure they had a coat and hats, and gloves, a pack of diapers and wipes. While the mom was waiting with the two youngest children for her husband and other kids to finish showering, I sat with her, played with the children, learned all their names, and said, "What is your situation?"

She went on to explain that they used to have a place to live, but Social Security sent them a letter saying they had overpaid them and were cutting off their payments. They found themselves unable to pay rent and therefore evicted. They stay with relatives on their floor when they can, but when that option wears thin, they sleep in their car, which is what they have been doing lately.

A Family of  SIX in one car, including a car seat.

It had warmed up a little bit during the day, but I gave them a bunch of blankets and the phone number and address of another local ministry where I thought they might be able to find shelter. I didn't realize it at the time but later discovered it was only for women and children. I helped them out to their car, and as they opened the door, the smell of urine was overwhelming. It was packed to the brim. They thanked me over and over with "God Bless You," but as I turned to walk back inside, my eyes filled with tears and I was left feeling like I should have done more.

All I could think about last night was that I was living in a house that had 2 extra bedrooms, plenty of space and warmth, and this family of 6 was sleeping in their car. Should I have just offered to let them stay the night? Is that what Jesus would have done? I had no idea it was going to dip below freezing last night. We didn't run our heat and when we woke up this morning our thermostat read 47 degrees.....inside my house where I was warm underneath a down comforter. Where did those kids wake up? Were they frozen? Did that mother cry herself to sleep as she cradled her little boy in her arms trying to keep him warm? Do I give to a point because it's my job and then go home to my normal life? Or am I supposed to do more?

I know that I can't help every person, and I know God gave us the ability to discern for a reason. I have sympathy to a point for adults because they have the mind and ability to get themselves into a shelter or wrap themselves up in blankets. But children, sitting in their own urine, with nothing but a stocking tied around their feet.........that cuts to the very heart of me.  When I got to work today, I educated myself on the different shelter available for entire families in our area so next time I'm in that situation, I can see it through and make sure I get people to the proper places that CAN help them when it deals with needs beyond what we can meet here.

So today, my mind is kind of consumed with, just how far does God call us to go to help our neighbor?
I think it does cause us to get outside of our comfort zones and if we are always comfortable in our giving...is that really doing the best we can? Do you think the Bible is literal in the following verses? I don't have the answers, it's just what I'm grappling with today.

"Jesus answered, If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'" Matthew 19:21

"Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys." Luke 12:33

"When Jesus heard this, he said to him, You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'" Luke 18:22

Lack one thing? This obviously is of utmost importance to our Lord.  I know if I sell anything at this point, I too, will find myself in the same situation of those I'm trying to help. I'm only a step away as it is, but I am asking the Lord today, to show me to what He would do in the situations I find myself in. I would implore you to do the same.

We all have so much to be thankful for. The next time you put on your socks and shoes, or better yet, put on your children's socks and shoes, thank God for providing for your most basic needs. Unfortunately, as I've seen this week, it is a privilege, to some, to have those basic items.

For His Renown,

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My Word for 2012: Cultivate

* This post is more on a personal note rather than what is having at Rescue Atlanta. This blog also serves as my journal. These are my opinions, feelings, and my canvas for which I work through a lot of issues/thoughts. I still love input, and hope that when I type these type of entries it still causes people to think and act.*

Recently my friend Abbi wrote a post about her word of the year.  I thought about it for a few days and declared that my word for 2012 was going to be "dig."  I liked the Webster's definition of it and thought it would push and motivate me. Then another friend of mine turned my attention to this website: My One Word.
After reading through the website and the suggestions made, I decided to spend some time praying about my word. See, this is a replacement for a bunch of New Year's Resolutions.  You focus on one word. I liked the thought of really "Digging Deep" or "Digging for strength," but as I prayed, it just didn't seem to rest completely with me. That's when the word "Cultivate" came to mind.  The more I prayed and thought on it, I felt confirmation that THIS was my word for 2012.
to come to have gradually 
Synonyms acquirecultivateform

to help the growth or development of 

to look after or assist the growth of by labor and care 

to work by plowing, sowing, and raising crops on 
Synonyms cultivatetendtill

The season of life I find myself in leaves me feeling like I have to start over and work for everything I want again. Things don't just happen....or should I say rarely do things "just happen."  Sometimes I'm left feeling discouraged, overwhelmed, or feeling as if the carrot is dangling just far enough that I can't grab it.  If I want to have new friendships, I have to work at cultivating them. If I want to have deeper relationships, I have to cultivate them. If I want to make new contacts for the the ministry, I have to cultivate those connections. If I want my youth to open up to me and talk to me, I have to cultivate those relationships. I find that I can use the word "cultivate" a lot when it comes to relationships.

If I want to be healthy I have to cultivate better choices. If I want to have peace, I have to cultivate forgiveness. If I want to have a deeper knowledge and relationship with the Lord, I have to cultivate my mind and heart by the study or God's Word and prayer. I feel like I have to cultivate before I can really dig. It's the first step in the process....and one thing that keeps coming to mind is it takes TIME. Patience. Repetition. 
A plant starts as a seed and is cultivated to growth....the soil is prepared, the seed is planted, it is watered, fertilized, and eventually it buds...and even then, some of the plants need continual care.
I also realize that something can not be cultivated if it continually changes positions and moves. It has to be planted, rooted, established and THEN the cultivation can begin. I feel like this in particular is something God is teaching me. Unfortunately, cultivation can sometimes be a painful process because there are times in which things have to be pruned, plucked, trimmed in order to later flourish. I know that there are "weeds" in my life that need to pruned in the days to come, but I truly want to be freed from the pain that they bring. Or maybe there's not even pain associated with it, but its keeping me from being all that God wants me to be.  And I know that I need to be content with starting out as a seed while looking at the rose bushes with the beautiful blossoms.....they too were a seed at one point. I pray that the Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control, will become more apparent in my life (Galatians 5:22-23).
I pray that by focusing on this one word for 2012, I will be able to put some simple steps into place to cultivate my mind, heart, spirit, and surroundings to bear fruit in the days to come. And I pray that God will also use me to nurture, cultivate, and pour into those around me in more positive ways. I truly pray that God will use me and Glenn to promote what God is doing in the ministry as well.....that 2012 will truly be a year For His Renown.  I plan to have a journal with this word on it that I can use to write about this topic. I also plan to use this word to do art as well. I'm sure God has way more to teach me than I can even begin to imagine.

I encourage you to pray about your one word for 2012. Throw out the long list of resolutions that eventually end up in the back of a journal or in the trash. Don't make a list of all the ways you don't measure up and simply ask God to give you a focus. Allow that one word to help you makes healthier choices in every area this year. If you decide to do this, I'd love to know your word and be able to see and hear the testimony of how it shapes you this year.
 And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Ephesians 3:17-20

Let the cultivation begin.
For His Renown,

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Modern Day Foot Washing.

It was a cold morning in Atlanta. Temperatures were in the 20's last night and as Glenn and I pulled up to Rescue Atlanta about 8am, there were about 15-20 people bundled up waiting for a new pair of tennis shoes. Some had been waiting since before sunrise. Today, an organization called Samaritans Feet hosted a foot washing and shoe give away at Rescue Atlanta. When is the last time you had to stand in line for hours in the freezing cold, just to receive a pair of shoes?  As we prepared the rooms so we could open the gates, we had two more volunteers show up to conquer the cleaning of the oven. This is a non desirable task for anyone, but they volunteered with selflessness and worked for hours.  Thank you! Thank you!

While they were in the kitchen cleaning, we had an amazing group of teenagers from Church of the Apostles setting up the church to bless the men and women who would soon enter the doors. Here is the set up before the event began.

Once we opened the doors, we got as many people into a "holding" area as possible because it was so cold outside. To say they were tired, impatient and cold is an understatement.  I'm having to thicken up my skin, because when you are have physical discomfort, you tend to impose verbal abrasion on others. I was told I didn't understand, got accused of being impersonal and I filed people into chairs.  It's a difficult balance because you have to try to express sensitivity while keeping order. Thankfully there are the those who were grateful and expressed their appreciation in the midst of it all. We had the token argument and "take it outside" warning..and I experienced my first "headlock" today. I bent down to listen to a woman who was almost whispering, and when I did, she wrapped her arm around the back of my neck and squeezed tighter the more I tried to release myself from her grip. It was a little scary for a moment, but God kept me calm. She was mentally unstable and Glenn had to later escort her out of the building when she literally started screaming at everyone in the room. This is just a typical day in our life. Say a prayer for her.

Can you imagine how humbling it would be to have your feet washed by a teenager after you have had the same pair of socks on for a week? Or maybe no socks at all?  It was a beautiful thing to watch. We had 25 chairs lined up on each side. On one side would sit a teenager, on the other the person receiving the foot washing.  The student would introduce themselves, send a runner to get the right size shoe and then enter into a time of personal ministry. They would ask for any prayer requests, pray for the individual, wash his or her feet, and replace the old shoes and socks with a pair of new shoes and socks.  Here are a few pictures below.

In the middle of people of coming in, a young man walked up to me and asked if he could speak to Pastor Mel. I told him that he was out running the buses and asked if there was something I could help him with. He went on to tell me that he was not homeless, but he was downtown today when he saw the bus with "Jesus" on the side. He said he needed prayer and had heard that Pastor Mel and Rescue Atlanta did a lot for the community, so he got on and rode to our facility, not knowing what was going on.  He is in college part time and works part time, is 23 years old. He said, "I don't really need a new pair of shoes, but I'm willing to do whatever just to get someone to pray with me."  He had entered the room with everyone else and sat crying because his older brother was involved in a car accident this morning and was in the hospital about 30 minutes away. He had no way to get there. I had one of the pastors pray with them and then sat and talked to him for a bit. I assured him that we would get him to the hospital even if we drove him ourselves. I told him I really wanted him to sign up for a pair of shoes, not for the shoes, but for the ministry that would take place. I told him that God obviously led him to get on that bus today and come to Rescue Atlanta, and that he would be blessed by what took place.  Because he was the last person to go through the line, there were lots of teenagers surrounding him. He engaged them in conversation and had his feet washed in a very difficult time in his life. He grew up in foster care and said his older brother was like a Dad to him.  Isn't God good? He plans out our day with no chance interactions.  We were able to get him bus fare to get to the hospital and he is planning on attending church tomorrow. This is a picture of his foot washing.

Whose feet need washing in your life? Literally or figuratively? Has anyone tried to "Wash" your feet lately? Have you accepted the blessing or been too embarrassed to let them see the "dirt" on your "feet"?

"‘Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.... Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them’" (John 13:14-17).

For His Renown,


Friday, January 13, 2012

A Story and a Dream

One of the items on my bucket list is to write a book called, "The Story Behind the Smile" or "A Story and a  Dream." and in it, have different pictures of the homeless or poor with their "story." Maybe someday. I really wish I had a picture of the man to go with the story I'm about to tell you. Maybe I will someday soon. I had mentioned in a previous post that everyone has a story. We all have a past, dreams, failures, lessons learned that have made us who we are. Every decision we've made both good and bad have led us to the place we find ourselves in today. Had we made one decision differently, we might have found ourselves in a completely different circumstance.

Last week, I was answering the phones at Rescue Atlanta, and I received a phone call asking for a gentleman named, "Bobby Smith." (Name changed for privacy). I tried to tell the man that we didn't have a Bobby Smith that worked there, but we had a public phone in the back where people could make calls, but I had no idea who that might be. He went on to explain that Bobby had called his place of employment to let him know he had found the man's wallet and wanted to return it to him.  The man on the phone said his green card was in his wallet and he desperately needed it and was going to come up to Rescue Atlanta anyway.

When the man arrived, I walked him to the back where alot of our visitors take showers, do laundry, and use the phone. To be honest, I was quite skeptical that we were going to find "Bobby."  When we walked into a big group of people, I asked one of the guys who lives there..."Hey, do you know anyone named Bobby?"
That's when this older African American man with a scraggly beard stepped out from the crowed with a smile and said..."That's Me!" I had only seen him one time since I have been working at Rescue Atlanta.  We stepped into the lobby and Bobby handed the man his lost wallet. Everything was there, including his green card. The man was so thankful and said, " I wish I had something to give you. I get paid next week and I'll bring something by for you." Bobby said.."You mean you're gonna give me something?  I just wanted to do the right thing and give you your wallet back."  The man with his reclaimed wallet left and I commended Bobby for doing the right thing.

Well fast forward to this week. Bobby would ask me on occasion if the man had brought anything by to which I sadly had to reply, "No." But I told Bobby that God blesses our obedience and that regardless if that particular man came back, God would bless Bobby for doing the right thing.  On Wednesday while Bobby was eating breakfast at Rescue Atlanta, I pulled up a chair and sat knee to knee with him so I could look him in the eye. Bobby told me that he was hoping the man had left some money because he was going to bring his mother some groceries after Bible Study (we give away food bags), but she lived on the other side of town and he was gonna have to walk because he didn't have bus fare.  I told him not to worry, that he would have bus fare by the end of meeting. He smiled and said, "That's my blessing."

Then I looked him in the eyes and said, "Bobby, I want to know your story."
Looking very shocked and confused he said, "Why?"
"Because I know you have one, and I want to know it," I replied.
His eyes brimmed with tears and I wondered when was the last time anyone cared to "know" him.
Almost aggravated he said, "Well I was a crack head!"
Immediately, I locked his gaze and with every bit of sternness in me I said, "No Bobby, crack is what you DID, but that is NOT WHO you are. I don't want to ever hear you use that word to describe yourself again. You have allowed yourself to believe that you have nothing of worth to offer and that is just not true. Tell me about when you were younger, your family, your hopes, dreams, anything."

Bobby went on to tell me that he went to medical school for 3 years, but did not finish because he had trouble with spelling and saying some of the larger medical terms. He went to Vietnam and served there. We didn't get into the specifics, but I'm assuming that in Vietnam there was some Post Traumatic Stress issues. He started using heroin and other drugs. He said that now all the VA wants to do is put him in a psych ward and dope him up. His expression softened, he lowered his voice, looked me in the eye and said, "But I don't want to be on dope. I'm not crazy." He also told me that he has a daughter and 3 grandchildren that he does not have any contact with even though they only live 30 minutes away. He found out 3 years ago that they were looking for him. He had a phone conversation with them but never met up. He was too ashamed of who he had become and didn't want to talk about the past anymore. He is no longer on crack. He said his addictions now are drinking a coke and having a cigarette.  He smiled and said..."But I have a plan. I am going to go back to school in 2 months for fixing refrigerator units."  I validated this choice and told him I believed he could do it.  Service started and I went back to my office to get his bus fare so I could give it to him after lunch.

When I gave Bobby his bus fare he said, "I need to ask you for one more thing."  I have to admit that at first I was thinking.."ok...here we go." Unfortunately sometimes when you give an inch you will find yourself being asked for a mile, but God quickly convicted my attitude when Bobby said, "I am supposed to be getting a check from the VA in the amount of 1300. I just have to provide them with some paper work and a local agency is helping me with that.  But Morgan, when I get my check, will you and your husband help me learn to budget my money? I want to do the right thing."

I said, "Of Course we will!"

When I saw Bobby yesterday, he had a smile on his face and an extra pep in his step.  When he walked in the front door of Rescue Atlanta he said, "Hey..I started working on something last night and when I finish it, I want you to read over it." I said, "Great. What is it?" He said, "It's a vision for my future." I said, "Well I am excited to read it."

Let's be honest.....a homeless ministry is the last place you expect to have someone want to return a wallet with everything in it. It just goes to show that the stereotype is not always right. And I'm thankful that the man who had he wallet return got to experience that. I hope he told everyone he knows.

The main thing I learned though is the importance of community and mentors. Think about a time in your life when you felt discouraged. You may have an a seemingly impossible task in front of you.  Maybe you felt like you couldn't do it. Maybe you felt like no one would even care if you did. And think about a person who came along side of you and encouraged you, spoke hope into your life, and walked with you as your personal cheerleader until you accomplished it. OR....stood by your side and encouraged you and comforted you if you didn't get the result you wanted.

We all need those people in our lives and we all need to be that to someone else.

Who can you encourage today? There are lots of Bobby's out there with a story and a dream.

Maybe you need to review your story. Are you living in your failures or do you need to learn to "re-tell" your story - learning from the past, living in the moment, but pressing on to the future.

I can promise you.....your story is important and with a purpose. Start sharing it.

For His Renown,

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Changing Face of Homelessness

I was going to do a blog about how to talk to the homeless, but found myself simply wanting to type: You talk to a homeless person just like you talk to your neighbor or friend. You start with LOOKING at them and saying, "hello." However, I know that many people are intimidated by the homeless and usually are tapping their steering wheel hoping the light will turn green so they don't have to feel awkward as the homeless guy with the sign sits and stares. Or maybe you cross the street to avoid having to walk by a man or woman with a change cup. I wonder if its really that people are afraid or more afraid of feeling guilty if they don't do something. Maybe you simply don't know what to say or will be afraid you don't know how to help them. Or maybe you are the person who thinks..."They probably just want money for drugs or alcohol, they just need to get up and get a job."  The fact is...you may be right about that for some people, but the problem is when we assume its all people.  Homeless has become a label that is associated with LOTS of assumptions.

I saw this video on a friends Facebook page and it gripped my heart. It's about 13 minutes long but I think you will find it very insightful. I personally ask you to take the time to watch it and pass it on. It's about the changing face of homelessness in our country and especially how it influences kids and families.

Click Here to Watch Video 

There are many Americans, maybe even you, who could be one or two paychecks away from not being able to keep your house or car. What if you had an injury and didn't have insurance? What if you lost your job and didn't have another one right away? What if you didn't have a family to depend on? The truth is, any of us could find ourselves in that situation.

Let's look at the definition of homeless: having no home or permanent place of residence. Homeless doesn't mean that you live under a bridge. You can have a roof over your head and still be considered homeless. There are thousands of people who are sleeping on the floor of a friend or families home and are still considered homeless. There are families where the mom and dad are working, but its not enough to pay the bills. They are having to live in a temporary hotel room or in their car...hardworking, honest individuals who can't seem to make ends meet. They are considered homeless.

One thing I have discovered in my time working with homeless individuals  is that each person has a story, but rarely do people stop and ask them what it is. Many of them have family or kids that they have been estranged from. Many once had a great career. Many have dreams and hopes for the future. Many simply want someone to treat them like a human and give them their identity back by using a name. I can promise you that it's not as easy as "just getting a job."  If a person finds themselves in a situation where they have lost their ID...it can be a very long process to get an ID. It's really hard to get a job without an ID, a contact phone number, or address.  So rather than assume, judge, or be in fear.....start by asking a question, "Hi, what it your name?" And you don't have to give them all your money. That's a common misconception. It kills some people to have to ask for it.

Unfortunately there are those people who are homeless and give up. There are those who will take your money and use it for drugs and alcohol. It is a sad reality. But it doesn't mean they all do. You do have to exercise discernment and you do have to be careful. I'm not telling a single female to roll down her window in downtown at night, alone. I'm just saying, the next time you find yourself in a position to look away, choose not to. Smile. Look at them and smile.

I came across an article that was written by an ex-homeless guy. I really liked the following quote:

"People ... reached out to me with genuine concern and said, 'Hey, how are you doing?' and meant it," he says. "You know, we don't have to empty our pockets every time we see a homeless person. But to offer a word of cheerful encouragement, instead of a hurtful comment — how hard is that?"

You can read the entire story here: Ex-Homeless Speak Out to Change Perceptions

I love to study and learn about the people  Jesus really spent time with.
They weren't the most popular, wealthiest, stable individuals. It was the people who were trouble makers, outcasts, poor and dejected. Why is it (generally speaking) that a lot of times the only time we hear sermons on this is to prepare the congregation for an upcoming outreach or mission trip?  Like its a one time a year thing or something.(Again, generally, I do realize there are some awesome churches that live and breath helping the poor). If we are willing to go across the world, we need to be willing to go across the street, or downtown. Love thy neighbor....be it in the gated subdivision or the hood. We all live in the same world. Associating with people different from us with the purpose of being the hands, feet, and heart of Christ is not being OF the world. It is living out some of the greatest commandments of the Bible. People should see Jesus in us. That goes for those that are closest to us to those we pass by on the street.

"Jesus sent his twelve harvest hands out with this charge: "Don't begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don't try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously." 
 Matthew 10:5 (The Message)

If it sounds like I'm on a soapbox...I am. I'm so passionate about this topic.

If you really want to help but feel uncomfortable giving out money, here is a practical "kit" you can keep in your car to give away. I don't suggest giving money, however, there are times when God specifically prompts me to do so. In those moments I know that what is done with the money is not my responsibility, I'm only being obedient to what God has told me to do. That's why I say to pray for and use discernment. The Holy Spirit will prompt you with what you need to do and take care of the rest.

We will always accept donations at Rescue Atlanta, but if you would rather give to a local organization in your neighborhood...please do. If a person is helped. Praise God. We're all on the same team.
If you would like to send homeless kits or items for homeless kits to Rescue Atlanta, please send them to:

Rescue Atlanta, Attn: Morgan Paddock, 410 Englewood Ave SE, Atlanta, GA  30315

If you need helping finding a local place to donate to, message me, and I'll help you locate one in your area.
I would suggest keeping a few in your car to have "on hand." Pray specifically for God to put the people who need them in your path. This is a great project for a bible study group, youth group, or school group.

Suggested Homeless Kit Content:

1 gallon Ziploc bag
1 Juice box
Throat lozenges
Trial size Ibuprofen/Acetaminophen
hand sanitizer
hand or face lotion
packaged hand wipes
lip balm
Small selection of ready-to-eat protein rich food such as:
   Cheese and crackers
   Power bar
   Tuna in a bag (no cans requiring an opener)
   Vienna sausages
   Beef jerky
One sweet item such as canned fruit or pudding
Plastic utensils and napkin
Small bible or bible tract
Bus Schedule
Prepaid phone card
Gloves/ knit beanie 
Resource list for the homeless
Pair of men's socks

Be a blessing. You will in turn be blessed. 

And remember a simple smile is worth gold to someone who rarely gets one.
If anyone ever wanted to find Christ when he was living....I'm sure you would have found him sitting among, "the least of these."
May we all be a little more like Jesus today.

For His Renown,