Coffee, Violence, Theft, Addiction = HOPE

I just got inside from spending a few hours at the front gate giving away Gevalia coffee to passers by. We were also passing out invitations to the foot clinic we are hosting on Saturday.

It was so neat to hear Maureen belt out “Free Coffee!!” to people as they passed by or exited the building across the street.  She usually beat me to the invitation for the foot clinic too – making sure everyone knew about what was going on!  I was blessed to have her help and friendship this morning.

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Sitting by the side walk and giving out coffee on a beautiful June morning is a great way to meet your neighbors! There was no obvious connection from what we were doing to our love of Jesus, yet time after time people identified us as followers of Christ.  It always made me chuckle as I agreed “Yes, we do love Jesus! We’re not affiliated with one church, but we do love Jesus and our neighbors!”  I asked one guy how he could tell and he said “It’s on your face! I can see it on your face!”

My favorite encounter came with the last cup of coffee for the day.  A man walks up carrying a brand new walker over his shoulder yelling “$20!” I laughed and said “Now, there better not be a poor old lady back there that you knocked down to get this walker!” He laughed and said “No, I got it from the store!” I asked “The store? You stole it?” “Yep!” He replied “and I’m going to sell it!”

I thought that was hilarious – not that he stole, but how matter of factly he told us.  I offered him some coffee as I composed myself.  As he filled his cup up he looked at me and asked “how much do I owe you for the coffee?” (stop and enjoy the irony for a moment please) to which our reply was “nothing, it’s free!” Then he said “Oh! What are ya’ll? With Jesus?”  Yet again I laughed – such an interesting exchange this was – from start to finish!  After agreeing that yes, we indeed were “with” Jesus, we watched the man cross the street, aimed for a better target for his stolen goods – a lady hobbling along with an old cane.  This time he yelled out “$40!!”  One more good laugh escaped my mouth. I guess we were offered a discount! 🙂

Earlier in the day, around 12:30, there were close to a dozen shots fired just around the corner from where we were sitting.  Once I realized it was gunfire (seeing folks ducking, running, hitting the sidewalk) I called 911 and headed slowly towards the intersection.  No one was hit that I could tell and there were dozens of people out – all bewildered by what had just happened in front of them.  It sure gave us something to talk about as we continued to give coffee out.

It also hit me how many folks turned down our coffee because they had already started drinking today or were just coming from the liquor store – ready to get started.  In addition to watching a few drug deals within steps, and talking to several folks who were on their way to or from AA – I am struck by how pervasive addiction is.  I appreciate living in an environment where addictions are not hidden nor shamed.  I believe the potential for healing is much greater in these conditions.

Finally – I’m chewing on a new thought about what it actually means to be a follower of Jesus and I’d like to share it. This is the “deep” part of the blog – so get your mud boots out.

Many people remarked today, as they often do, “You are a good person. You really are just a good woman.”

More so now than ever before I am understanding that that has nothing to do with my ability to make “good choices”.  What I’m finally beginning to understand is people do not see Jesus in me (or you or us) because of our moral high road – but because of a hope we hold – sometimes a hope we hold onto for dear life as we wonder how we will survive life.  What did that man see on my face when he said he saw evidence of my love of Jesus? Hope. I guarantee it wasn’t personal holiness.

Hope.  My dad raised me to understand it as a “know so hope”.  It’s not whimsical. It’s not simple. It’s complicated and deep.  It’s a hope rooted in experience of rescue – of grace. It’s a hope that stems from a faith that wavers and is tested and shaken but that is powered by the Holy Spirit of the One who made us.

It’s a hope that finds it’s staying power in a Lord who will not let go of us.

“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”

My hope is not found in my blood or my righteousness.

Is yours?

Here’s the thing:

No one in my neighborhood is capable of that shadow form of hope we all know as self-righteousness.  When you’ve fallen to the margins of society, there’s very little within yourself to find false hope in.  True hope can only be found in the love of God through Jesus.

I am just beginning to see how living in this neighborhood has contributed to God wrecking me and prying my hands off of a hope that has been founded in my own morality and self-righteousness.  I cannot express the gratitude I have for being able to learn so much from my beautiful neighbors.

May God help us all to continue to know a hope that will not let us down.  A truly know-so hope rooted in Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

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