Encounters

I have had encounters with financially needy (possibly homeless or near homeless) people on each of the last 3 days.  I have a desire for the Father to lead me in these encounters, but feel like I batted .333.

1.  On Friday we were packing up our campsite at Leo Carillo State Beach when I noticed a homeless woman in a vacant campsite across from ours.  Coincidentally, my wife and I had seen this same woman a day or two earlier on a street corner in Malibu.  At that time she seemed to be teaching an exercise class to nobody.  I at first blew her off as insane, but did feel the burden to pray for her.  When she showed up at my campsite, I knew God was knocking on my heart.  I walked over and prayed for her.  She was an African-American woman named Karen, and we had a short, but coherent conversation.  She thanked me, and I went back to camp.  Nothing spiritually cool seemed to happen.

A few minutes later, I was getting breakfast, and my family was still asleep, so I invited her to join me. (She apparently forgot the social convention of leaving after she gets prayed for and someone says goodbye.  O crap, she didn’t leave, does God want me to do something else?  Come on God!  I prayed for her, isn’t that cool?)  She came over and sat down, and we had about a 30-minute interaction.  She knows the Lord.  Well.  As she talked, more of her story came out.  I didn’t get the full reason why she is homeless, but it was obvious there was unresolved issues in her heart.  Mental illness?  I don’t think so but it’s possible.  The acting out (e.g. teaching exercise classes on the street corner) may have been her act of worship, or a coping mechanism.  But obviously who am I to say after talking to her so briefly?  I prayed for her again.  She prayed for me.  We hugged, I gave her some extra supplies, and she went on her way.  I know our time was a blessing to her, and it was to me as well.

2.  Last night, I was leaving Fletcher’s Coffee here in Hacienda Heights, and on the way to my car, I was approached by a man who was all sweaty.  The fact that he came from the direction of the strip club in the next parking lot gave me concern (Judgment or discernment?  I’m not sure).  His story was that he had run out of gas on the freeway and needed a few dollars to get his family home.  He had run all the way from the freeway (thus explaining the sweatiness, I thought).  Truth be told, I had zero cash on me, so I told him so, and he went on his way.  Oh how I would have liked to offer to pray for him.  Jesus had a way of cutting to the heart of the matter when he came across people.  Jesus relied on the Holy Spirit, as I am trying to learn to do.  (It is a common misunderstanding that Jesus did miracles or knew things a human couldn’t normally know because he was God.  Of course, he was fully God, but during his time on earth, he had to restrain the use of his divine attributes to experience full humanity.  Thus, he had to depend on the Holy Spirit for his ministry just like us.  Now, he was better at it than us, due to his divine nature that knew no sin.  And he had a specific role and calling that we obviously don’t.  But he exercised the gifts of the Spirit just like we are called to do.  I can demonstrate this from the scriptures if anyone thinks I am wrong here.)  What if God had placed me right there and wanted to do something really cool in his heart?  I think I missed my chance here.  Thanks to a gracious God who gives us so many opportunities!

3.  Finally, tonight, I was getting gas in Placentia.  This guy drives up behind me and tells me that he needs some gas to get home.  Deja vu.  I immediately remember that about 2 months ago, this exact same guy approached me at the exact same gas station and told me the exact same story.  At that time, I had given him about $15 of gas.  So, I called him on it.  I thought that would end our conversation, but it didn’t.  He pressed me.  “Just because that may be so, doesn’t mean I still don’t have a need…” etc.  I suggested to him that the odds of this happening twice when I don’t even live near there were so unlikely that I felt like it was just a well-practiced story and I was being taken advantage of.  Well, this guy was smart.  He then noticed my Biola shirt and played the “fellow brother in Christ” card.  He essentially accused me of judging him rather than responding to his need.  Admittedly, he kind of had me.  I had judged him.  But I think I judged wisely as the scripture says.  I ended up saying something like, “well, if you know Jesus then he will take care of you, and he can take care of you without me. God bless you.”  That pretty much ended our conversation but not the turmoil in my heart.

Lord, when will I grow in my skill of hearing your voice in the moment and responding according to the leading of your Spirit?  “I don’t have any cash,” and “let Jesus take care of you” aren’t exactly words of life.  It is possible that I helped the Lord expose the third man’s sin.  But I don’t take consolation in that.  What joy is there in exposing sin?  Lord, grow my heart to have compassion, and grow my ability to walk in your Spirit!

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1 Comment

  1. Emily Ma

     /  September 23, 2008

    we see homeless people and think that they don’t deserve to be in the circumstance that they’re in. so then we give out of a sense of justice. in fact, this is usually the only time we feel inclined to give. but then again, there are times when you realize that the homeless people don’t exactly put the money that you give them to good use. but you know what…it’s a good thing to give out of mercy as well. and they’re both very different things. giving out of justice is saying, “i’m doing this for you because i feel that this is unfair and unjust to you.” but giving out of mercy says, “you may not have been doing this right in the past, but i want to give this to you nonetheless.” as the book of matthew says, “be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect.”, the book of luke says, “be merciful as your Father in Heaven is merciful.”

    the only reason why we’re alive today is because of Jesus…and His mercy. if we didn’t have His mercy, we would have gotten what we deserved by now. so yeah. 🙂 let’s be like Jesus.

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