Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Recently returned from a week in L.A., I feel a little culture shocked.  The inner city seemed an intricate maze of buildings, graffiti walls, coiled wire, and dirty concrete. . . never ending.  With scarcely a blade of grass in sight, my eyes longed to rest on something green.  At times I felt claustrophobic, trapped in the clutter of oppression. 

I prayed for God to teach me something from the homeless.  Looking back, I don't think I really meant it, but God did.  The homeless opened my eyes to the value of dignity on a life.

How does a person gain confidence when their personal bathroom is at the city park, and their only shower is at the drinking fountain?  How can they apply for a job when they have no home address and no access to social networking?  How does a woman maintain respect when she has nothing clean to wear and does not own a bra or a brush.  No wonder these people continue to seek their addictions at great cost.  It is their escape from loss of dignity.

God showed me that I am not that much different.  When I get depressed or lose my confidence, much of it is because I feel ikky about my clothes, my hair, or my weight.  I know, we are not to focus on outward appearances, but there is something to say for taking care of oneself to establish a healthy self-image.

When I saw these people with a total loss of respect, yet still daring to hope, I was amazed and humbled.  I am not surrounded by concrete and filth, but I have days where I feel trapped in overwhelming responsibility, expectation, or schedule.  On those days, I'm praying God reminds me of Jason, a man who holds tenaciously to hope and chose to do the hard thing. . . make the committment to change.

Jason was our tour guide at "The Midnight Mission".  Well dressed and sharply groomed, he was witty and fun, possessing great talent in people skills.  We all assumed he was 'one of us', when in actuality, he was 'one of them'.  As he proceeded to give his testimony, my heart wept.

A business man from Denver, CO, he held great wealth and prestige in the community.  But social drinking led him into alcoholism, and later drugs.  He soon lost everything and ended up on skid row, one of  'them.'  None of us would have guessed that being a tour guide was part of his rehab.   

The Midnight Mission not only feeds over 700 homeless three meals a day, but they provide a way out for anyone who commits to the conditions.  The goal is to make it to the third floor where they begin paying a fee for their living quarters to practice life on their own.  The ground level is the feeding program and in between they provide dignity and rehab programs:  hair dressers, a home address along with a mailbox, showers, access to social networking, etc.  Yet, some choose to remain in their homeless condition.  They have decided not to try. 

Jason took us to the third floor where we were brought to a half wall that overlooked skid row.  It was a sorry sight.  At first I thought the view was for us, the outsiders looking in.  But then I realized it was for these homeless who had made it to the third floor. What a motivator for them to look down on that street and see where they once were and realize how far they had come!  It was a sacred moment.  (Sorry, I was not allowed to take pictures) 

As I thought about the radical change displayed in Jason, I thought of God choosing us before the creation of the world to be His own. (Eph. 1:4)  He called us out of our filth and clothed us with His righteousness.  I was drawn to this man's testimony because it had a familiar ring to it. . . in some ways like my husband's.   I do not speak much of my husband's BC days, (before Christ), because he is ashamed of them.  But my eyes well up every time I think about how God had his hand on his life and snatched him out of a road leading the wrong way . . . chosen in Christ before the world began. 

It is God who gives me value and respect.  Except for His grace which redeems and holds me fast, I would be right there along with the homeless on skid row.  There is nothing good in me except for the life and breath of the Spirit of God who gives me strength to live in righteousness and the blood of Jesus which cleanses me from all sin. My heart is forever grateful for such a great salvation.

My week in L.A. has caused me to see the homeless as real people, having the same desire for dignity as myself, looking to walk in confidence.  Because one has money that can buy nice clothes and shampoo does not make them more valuable.  The homeless often seem trapped in their condition, but Jason's testimony gave me great hope to see that there is a way out.  It confirmed the power of Christ to change a life.  God is in control.  He is sovereign, even on skid row. 

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