Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Glimpses of Grace

I started the day with our Tuesday morning Hope 4 All Group. It's a group that began a year ago in response to our church leadership discerning that no one should be sleeping outside. In the last twelve months, we've gathered with many different people as we seek to fulfill our calling to journey alongside individuals who are seeking to transition from homelessness into housing. We've learned a lot about different resources in our city and which organizations can be counted on to help provide people with jobs, medical care and housing. It's been a humbling journey for anyone who has participated in the group as either a facilitator or a guest.

I don't get to the group as often as I used to. I have not been there since the start of the new year, in fact. But I learned again today why I need to go more often. Today I needed a lesson in grace.

I watched as one of our key volunteers went to purchase 10 Metro SmarTrip cards for people who participated in our group today. The thought that kept going through my mind was, "Wait a second. We don't even know these people. How do we know they will use them to get to a potential job or housing opportunity?" "Is it really good stewardship to give out so many cards?" "What if we run out of money?"

And then I heard Jesus speaking to me once more about grace. I heard again that grace is God's unmerited favor that has been bestowed upon us. Grace is a second chance. Grace is an ability to see beyond someone's past and into who someone is today.

What I realized is that what we do in our time together on Tuesday mornings is exactly what we pray our community will do for and with our guests.

George spent 20 years in prison. While I've been tempted to ask what he did, I know I don't need to know. What I need to know about George is that he's working so incredibly hard to get his commercial driver's license. I need to know how he's worried about how he'll repay the $7 he borrowed from someone to get his driving record. I need to remember the time we promised him we would meet him to buy him shoes but were not able to go because of a medical mishap and how he kept saying, "Please don't worry about me. I'll be okay." George is overflowing with grace. I've never heard him complain. He keeps his word. And it's going to take people giving him grace to get him housed - individuals who are willing to look beyond the words, "Felon" stamped on his record.

Sam spent 3 years in prison. He's a veteran who shared how hard it is for anyone to look past his record. "Felon is what people see when they see me. But that's not who I am anymore." He needs grace.

We had three women at the table today. All three of the women are staying at the same shelter. And while they all had the capacity to share what happens inside the shelter, they're somehow managing to look beyond it. But they need grace. One can tell you what happened when alcohol reemerged as a force in her life, spoiling the hard work she had done. Another can tell you how hard it is to get a job at age 67. And still another one can smile through debilitating back pain. Grace is needed to look past the alcoholism, the debilitating pain, and the age.

And then I think about one of the women who helped us start the group who gives so unselfishly of her time to guide our steps. I think about a church member without whom the group would have never started as he's the one who said, "We cannot just move people from our porch to someone else's porch." He's showed up nearly every Tuesday since. I think about one of our ministry interns who shows up each week to give and to learn. They are offering valuable time and arriving at 7:00 in the morning. It's an unmerited, undeserved gift.

I wonder what I need to give today.

Not because someone is expecting it. Not because I'll get a thank you note or a perfect follow through with whatever I give. But I wonder what I'm invited to share because all I have is a gift - an abundance of favor that is completely unmerited.

There go I but by the grace of God.

Dear Jesus, thank you for church members who continuously widen my heart to make more room for your friends. Thank you for each person who has given a gift to fund our Tuesday Morning group, originally giving up Easter lilies in order to give life to our community. Thank you for the ways you powerfully show up whenever we step outside our comfort zone and seek to spend time with people who have little when it comes to material possessions and so much when it comes to the true riches of your kingdom. Thank you for the grace you've given to me and the way that offering has been duplicated by so many other people in my life. Help me to share grace just as freely with whoever is in my path this day and on all my days to come. Amen.