Friday, December 6, 2013

how a pastor's family learns to live the gospel

Last night we bundled up our kids, shared some peanut butter and graham crackers, and headed to the church to help with CHI street, our homeless ministry.

Because sometimes we need to put the gospel we love into action.

When we got there, the lobby and kitchen were buzzing with people, loading bins with sandwiches and wrapping hot dogs in foil. Everyone was so happy, cracking jokes in the midst of instructions about what to put where.

All these joyful faces make you wonder. Do only happy people decide to go out in the icy cold and pass out socks, blankets, and hot cocoa? Or does it simply make our hearts happy to love someone more than we love a good night of television?

Whichever it is, we were all grateful that we chose to be there. And that is a valuable lesson learned.

We stood in the parking lot, shivering a bit as we prayed. Then we headed out.

It's difficult to find homeless people on cold nights. When weather warnings include ice and freezing temperatures, they seek warm nooks to hide in. Some of the regulars on the ministry team went hunting for them in ditches by the roadside, and behind dumpsters in parking lots.

Our family has some this before, but we aren't regulars. The regulars know most of the people personally. They wave and hail them with friendly chatter. They hug them when they hear bad news, cry with them when tragedy has struck in some way, and laugh with them about funny news. They help them find shelter when their health declines.

They are their friends.

With our children bouncing around on the roadside, and only one or two homeless people at each stop, I began to feel like we weren't a particularly helpful addition to the crew that night.

Even so, I knew it was valuable for our kids to be here. In the car between stops, the questions always inevitably come, about how people end up homeless, and about why we would leave warm homes to do this.

A thorough lesson on the importance of living the gospel, loving others more than yourself, and making good life choices comes to all of us out here, children included.

At the last stop the temperature had dropped to freezing. The kids were so cold that my friend Cori had them dancing the Hokey Pokey to stay warm and to keep them out of the street.

Mr. Fantastic had been chatting with a lovely woman from Louisiana named Amy and her friend Lewis. Amy said they sometimes go days without speaking to anyone besides each other. She was extremely grateful for the clothes and food, but even more so for the simple gift of friendship.

They came over to see the ridiculous spectacle of seven kids putting their left feet in and shaking them all about.

Amy began to cry a little. The sight of joyful children was overwhelming to her, for many reasons. She promised they would come to church on Sunday, and apologized in advance that they didn't have nicer clothes to wear. We assured her it didn't matter at all.

Yes. This is the gospel we love in action.

It was difficult to be there last night. The Lady was tired and cold and she complained a lot. The boys were rambunctious in the backseat and I thought I might lose my mind at moments. I was cold to my bones. Mr. Fantastic's injured ankle made getting in and out of the car painful.

And we will do it all again soon.

Because it's the right thing to do, to care of the poor.

Because it's good for our family to remember that a warm home is not always easily to find in the world.

Because Jesus is out there, and what we do for others we really do for Him.
After we were done we went to a diner and the kids sat with mugs of cocoa topped with mounds of whipped cream. Boy 3 began to cry because he was so tired. I carried him to the car and when we got home the kids all collapsed into bed, exhausted.

Mr. Fantastic and I did the same, and our bed seemed far more warm and comfortable than it ever has before. Which only made me want to give more, love more, and serve more.

I hope I always feel like this, grateful and ready to put love into action.

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