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Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Samaritan Inn

It was the heat of summer. The hottest days last year in North Texas. The young stay-at-home mom was recently divorced, left with an empty bank account and a mountain of unpaid bills. Her home was foreclosed on, and she had no family. She wanted to work, but did not have anyone to keep her two baby girls - ages 3 and 18 months. A woman used to better circumstances, she was reduced to living in her car with her small children. She heard about Samaritan's Inn and decided to try to get in.

Unfortunately, the Inn is the only homeless shelter in Collin County (population 600,000). They remain at capacity all the time since the need is great, and the rooms are few. When spots become available, they are given away on a first come - first served basis. The young mom tried to get a bed for her and her babies. Day 1 - no luck. She sat on the park bench out front in the heat all day long, with the hot sun beating down on her babies, because she did not want to miss out on an opportunity to provide a meal and shelter for her babies. If she left, someone else might get the next available bed. At four, the shelter stopped accepting applicants, so she returned to her car. Day 2....Day 3....Day 4..... The cycle was repeated. She came early to make sure she was first in line. She was determined to provide a safe environment for her babies - No matter how long she had to wait in the hot Texas sun on a park bench. On the fifth day, a resident left and she got a room for her family.

I saw this woman and many others with similar stories today as I attended volunteer orientation at The Samaritan Inn in Mckinney, Texas. I was absolutely impressed by the facility and by their philosophy about how to help homeless people redeem their lives and start anew. I love how they attempt to restore dignity to these people who have lost everything. Some people are in the shelter as a direct result of foolish choices they have made. Others are in the shelter because sometimes life just sucks, and you have a rotten string of circumstances. Whatever the reason, the shelter works with them to find jobs, learn to budget their money, receive their GED (if needed), and get back on their feet.

The volunteer opportunities are almost unlimited - They depend on donations of toilet paper, dog food, diapers, ziplock bags, personal hygiene products, really anything you can imagine..... They need volunteers to help tutor adults for their GED, tutor children with their schoolwork, babysit babies while their moms look for a job, supervise the computer lab and assist residents with their online job searches, do filing and administrative work in the office, sort donations, restock supply closets, work at the thrift store, do yard work, paint, clean......

My favorite thing though, is the adopt an apartment program. When residents finally get a job, many of them cannot find an apartment to live in due to bad credit that resulted from their financial distress before they became homeless. The shelter owns Gateway Apartments. Residents are allowed to live in one of these for up to 18 months while they are restoring their credit and saving up enough cash for deposits, etc. Apartments are furnished by volunteers. Groups buy everything from towels, to kitchen wares, to furniture, to toys for the children. They decorate the apartment, then get the privilege of handing the key to the resident. But here's the best part - when the resident leaves, they keep it all. They now own all of the household goods that they need to start over. Then the apartments are adopted and furnished again.

I'll admit that I cried all the way back to Anna. I hurt so badly for the 40 children who are currently at the shelter. The row of baby chairs and the stacks of sippee cups in the dining hall broke my heart. However, I am excited that God showed me an opportunity to demonstrate love to people in need. I like that volunteering my time, or donating items to the shelter or the thrift store, can help to completely change a person's life. I am excited that God uses us to carry out his purposes in other's lives. I love that God lets us be involved as he redeems people's pasts and gives them new futures.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


If you don't know what a smattering is, it is wide-spread, scattered stuff. It's when your thoughts are all over the place - short of like shooting a shotgun instead of a rifle. Some nights when I sit down to blog, I am shooting a rifle. I have a very distinct goal, thought, or purpose. Other nights, it's a shotgun - I'm firing off lots of stuff all at once. Random thoughts - A smattering. Try to keep up with my randomness. It may take some effort.

Today at school we had a Veteran's Day program. (A day early, yes I know) The program was great. What struck me as I stood there listening to the veterans speak and hearing the children sing, was the sacrifices of women that I know. I have a student whose dad has been overseas in hot zones most of my student's childhood. I have another teacher friend whose husband has been stationed overseas most of their marriage. I saw faces of several other students whose moms are single, not by choice and not by divorce, but because their husbands are fighting in a conflict that began before my first graders were born. I was overwhelmed with emotion by the sacrifices these families make for their country. Whether you agree or disagree with the conflict, you have to admire these women who are doing an amazing job holding things together all alone. I was thankful today to call some of these women my friends. I count it as a great privilege to be involved in their children's lives.

Then tonight was small group. I am going to confess that tonight I was tired, and my house was dirty. I was not terribly excited about it being Tuesday night. Then it turned out to be a beautiful night with people who are not friends, but have become family. I love discussing God's Word with them and listening to their input and thoughts. As I listened to their burdens before we prayed, I realized that it is indeed a beautiful thing to get to carry their needs before our God. I love that while we do not pretend to have it altogether, we are still quick to point out where God is working in our lives. I also appreciated that as I shared some of my vision and heart for what's next for me as far as missions and ministry and asked for prayer, nobody laughed at my giddy excitement. They asked questions and wanted to find out how to become involved with me. They were excited and affirmed my thoughts and vision.

Tonight at small group, we found out that on our Mexico mission trip in December we will be ministering in an orphanage to 150 children. That means we need to provide Christmas gifts for 150 children. That's a lot for a church our size. We expect to have complete details within the next week about ages and sizes. Please pray about how God can use you to provide Christmas for these needy children. I love our church, that we continually seek to reach out to others. Service is worship. Loving the needy is worship. Ministering to orphans is worship. This is how we love God. Loving the least of these. (Matt. 25)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Monday Morning Laugh

Many of my readers are close personal friends who know and love me. For those readers who do not know me well, you must understand that my friends live to laugh at me. I have never quite outgrown that clumsy and awkward stage we all went through in puberty. I still fall down, run into objects, crash into doorways, and have total ditsy moments. I would love to be graceful, sophisticated, beautiful, and athletic. However, God did not design me exactly like that. Fortunately my husband finds it preciously and adorably attractive (don't know why?) and my friends seem to love me anyway. Since so many of you love a laugh at my expense, I'm going to share a story from the other night.

I've been having to run after dark since the time change. The other night, I was running through a particularly dark spot on my road while listening to the new Kutless album. To understand this story, you will need to listen to "It is Well," especially the first few seconds before the full bands kicks in.

As I was listening to those first few moments of the choir singing, I heard footsteps. Remember that the street was dark, and I was alone. The footsteps grew increasing louder. I began to freak out. I decided that a stalker was about to nab me. I screamed and turned around ready to fight off whoever dared to attack me. The street was empty. I was confused - I knew I had just heard footsteps. Then I heard a door open. I realized that the door opening and the footsteps were sound effects on the Kutless song. I was totally and completely scared out of my mind by "It is Well." Now I can't listen to it without busting out in laughter.

Great album, by the way. Definitely worth the 10 bucks. However, I will say that I slightly prefer the new Crowder "Church Music" album.

Monday Morning Update 11.8.09

It was an amazing weekend. I spent Saturday at a local balloon festival, helping out where I could, and hanging out with friends. The band I'm in, "Chasing Lions", played as well. There was lots of cool stuff happening that I could share, but the thing that really stood out to me was the sense of community. When we began preparing to launch The Crossroads, we surveyed hundreds of homes to ask them what was the greatest community need. Every survey stated in some form that they did not feel connected to other people, they wanted community.

So Saturday, I watched families mingle and visit. I heard parents say, "I think our kids are in the same class." I saw neighbors meeting neighbors. All day, I hugged on kids from school and talked with parents. At the end of the day, as I sat on a blanket in the field to watch the fireworks (wow), Shawn and I talked about how thankful we were to be church planters. We are so thankful to have completely done away with the concept of church being about a building, but instead to find church being about loving people outside the walls.

We had great services at The Crossroads today. We had a family reunited after several weeks of living in different states due to job transitions. It was incredible to watch them hold hands as they worshiped. Their thankfulness was contagious. Every week that I stand on stage and scan the congregation, I am increasingly thankful for each family. My awe of what God has done and is continuing to do continues to grow.

Worship was good this morning. We were going to be without a drummer this morning because Tammy was working in the children's area. I was feeling whiny about that since the music that we do is much better with drums. As I expressed that to God, I had a very clear impression of his voice in my head, "You have not because you ask not." So I'm thinking, "Okay, who can I ask? There's nobody here except my family." At that moment a new member walked out of the truck carrying a ficus tree. He's been helping me run cables on the stage, and the other day I saw him set up the drums. So I asked, "I know you can set up drums, can you play them, too?" He said, "No." I am not easily deceived and can be very convincing. So he was persuaded to try. He took a percussion class 16 years ago in college. Some of it seemed to have stuck. I was thankful to have someone sitting in for Tammy, but mostly I was awed that God had a plan and let me be a part of it. I love how God provides in the moment of need.

Shawn preached a great sermon this morning about seizing opportunities for Christ. I was very convicted that my routine keeps me from seeing God opportunities. I think that I set myself on autopilot and forget to be aware of God's hand around me. One of the verses Shawn used today was Eph. 5:17, "Don't act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do." I have always applied that verse to rudeness, unkindness, or ignoring other people. But today I thought about how much of my life I live thoughtlessly - on autopilot - and I think that I need to make a point to live my life with great thought and awareness.

The entire sermon, God spoke to me about my future in ministry, and his specific plans regarding that. I have several opportunities immediately ahead of me that I feel a very urgent call and need to explore. Pray that I will be available, and that I will listen closely to God's voice, and be quick to obey.