Thursday, January 1, 2015

finding "Yahweh" on an abandoned corner lot

Earlier last month my husband came home from work and joined me in the kitchen as I fixed dinner.  We exchanged small talk about our day, but no major incidents colored our conversation.  As we sat down together as a family he mentioned that he was starving and hadn't eaten a thing all day.  I found this peculiar because I had packed him a lunch that very morning.

It turns out that while he was out and about driving and working that day, he came across a homeless man and gave away his lunch.  I love his heart.  This isn't the first time he has come home with a story like this.  He won't readily talk about it, but he's been known to give away his lunch, buy lunch for someone in need, pick up a person walking alongside the road and give them a ride, or stop to help someone change a flat tire.

He inspires me.  His life is a good example of someone who reaches out to "the least of these."  

"Truly, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me."
Matthew 25:40

So, it was no surprise that night when he brought up the idea of our family making lunches and heading downtown Detroit to pass them out to the homeless.  We have done this several times before in the past.  He is always the mind and the heart behind these family service projects.  We've been surprised by how much we have been blessed when trying to bless others. This time around was no different.

And the timing of it all was spot on.  November wasn't a great month for us.  So much talk about gratitude and thankfulness was floating around the internet and casual conversation.  Yet, our month was shaded in cloudy gray and the grumbling and bickering sprinkled over our days (and our hearts) making that posture of praise and thanksgiving more difficult to maintain.

It was perfect timing for a little attitude and heart tweaking.  After a quick trip to the grocery store, our assembly lines began.
 The kids rolled up their sleeves and pitched in, perfecting their sandwich-making skills.
Even our youngest was in on the mix, decorating bags
and filling them with water and goodies.
In no time we were packed up and headed downtown.

These trips always offer a perspective shift in heart and mind.
 To personally lay eyes on the destruction and devastation in these communities is sobering and disheartening and sparks fires of gratitude within a heart.  
 The kids had many questions and the trip offered many teachable moments for all of us.

 Often times, we find we run out of lunches before we run out of the need for them.
And we always wished we had more to give.
But on this day, everything seemed so desolate and we found ourselves driving around and searching with much more intentionality.
We drove and prayed that God would lead us to the right people.

We were able to have a few good conversations and moments with some of the homeless people we saw on the streets.
Some were openly receptive and grateful.

Some were hesitant and ashamed.
This man Darcy is talking to accepted a lunch "this time," but denied his need for it.
We stopped to offer him one when we saw him redressing and readjusting the three layers of dirty pants he wore just to keep warm.  

Our hope is never to judge or offend.
Often, discernment and the courage to love, despite unfavorable reaction, 
come into play.
Many homeless people are ashamed of their condition and don't want to be viewed as different or in need.  Our hearts are mindful of this.

I pray they come to fully understand how valued and loved they are by God and that we are just trying to extend that love to them in a simple, practical and humble way.
The last man we encountered was a self-admitted addict who lived in this abandoned building pictured above.  He stood outside our car for a while and shared part of his story with us.  The kids sat in the backseat and gave full attention to his words as he described how difficult it is to be homeless...How cold it is to sleep here in the winter.  I wished we had an extra blanket in our car to give to him.  And I wished he knew that our God is capable of healing and restoring all brokenness within.
As we began to make our way out of the inner city, we came across this house that sat on a vacant, abandoned corner lot.

The word "Yahweh" was colorfully painted all up and down its siding. 


And I thought to myself, "Yes, God is here."  Though brokenness and devastation lurk in the center of many of these hearts and homes, His presence is the siding that covers over all.  He still restores, rebuilds, and redeems.  Often though, He begins from the inside out.  I know this firsthand.

Though it looks like all has been abandoned, He is the One who will never abandon.  He will fill any vacant, empty heart that makes room for Him. 

As we end this season of celebrating "Emmanuel; God with us," let us be reminded that it doesn't take a holiday or certain time of year to embrace this.

God is with us.
God is in us.
God is for us.

Anywhere you are, anywhere you go...and even in the most unlikely of places, He still can be found.


  1. Very moving post. I wish I had seen this in time to share it around Christmas time next year. Later this year feel free to share this on my FB page for my followers to read, or remind me to share it. Thanks.

    1. Thanks for checking in and visiting Warren! And, as always, thank you for your encouragement. You are always welcome to share anything that comes out of this blog. Thank you for your support!