God’s Provision and a Pendleton Blanket

pendleton-blanketIt was a cool, fall-like day and I had the nagging itch to go for a run.  It was a weekend, so I decided to jog the trail on the opposite side of the river….a typical weekend thing that I like to do.  It’s pretty scenic and quiet…a good time to reflect on life and hang out with God.  So I laced up and hit the road.

As I was jogging down the path, breathing in the crisp air, my eyes and heart were drawn to a gal walking towards me.  She was pushing a grocery cart full of cans, clothes, food….basically her whole life stuffed in a basket being pushed with feeble, weather-worn hands.  As I passed her, I smiled and said hello, but I don’t think she noticed me….she was probably used to folks turning the other way or becoming conveniently preoccupied with their phones or whatever.

I continued down the path towards the end, where I usually turn around and head back the way I came.  My steps had a nice rhythm going and my body was warm, my blood pumping pretty good.  Through the rush of exercise came a gentle whisper in my soul….this whisper basically told me that if I happen to see the gal on my route back, that I need to stop and talk to her.  It was like one of those butterflies in the stomach feelings.  Almost like my whole being was on alert with the anticipation of seeing her, wondering what God had planned.

Guess what?!  As I followed the bend of the path, there she was, patiently pushing her cart, heading to who knows where.  So I listened to the whisper, or the Holy Spirit as I like to call Him and I stopped to talk.  I said something like “for some reason, I feel like I need to talk to you.  You mind if I tag along for a bit?”  She didn’t seem to mind at all, so I just walked with her for a bit.  I found out that her name was Karen and we talked about her life, faith and what it was like to be homeless, surviving off of the land and trash cans and shelters and hand outs and whatever she could get her hands on.  She gave me some tips on what trees were best to sleep under and other interesting stuff.  She was pretty street smart and really nice.

I didn’t have much to give her since I was out running and all.  The only thing that I had was the sweatshirt that I was wearing, so I gave it to her.  She seemed happy with it, but I wasn’t….I wanted to give her more.  So, after we parted ways, I sprinted back to my house (about 1 mile away) hoping that I could grab some food and clothes really fast and meet her at the end of the path in time.  So when I got home, I made an announcement to my wife and 2 boys that we were to quickly grab a bunch of food, some clothes, blankets, toiletries and whatever else was available so we could complete the mission of finding Karen.  After everything was gathered, we hopped in the truck and drove back to the river, where the path ended….guess what?!  We found her!

We basically just pulled up next to her and I reminded her of who I was and that my family wanted to give her a few more things.  We all participated in loading up her grocery cart with items that seemed pretty basic to us, but probably were necessities for her.  Along with the stuff that we brought from our house, I also noticed a couple of blankets in the back of our truck, so I gave those to her as well.  She seemed pleased, we said our goodbyes and that was it.  It was great.

Well, later I found out that one of the blankets that I gave her on impulse was a nice Pendleton blanket given to us as a wedding gift.  OOPS!!!  My wife wasn’t mad or anything, just bummed that I chose that blanket to give away and I can understand that.  My bad.

Here’s the cool part of this whole story….a couple of weeks ago, a family friend dropped by the house to deliver some Christmas gifts.  Really nice of her.  Guess what one of the gifts was?!  A BRAND NEW PENDLETON BLANKET!  My wife had told her this story in passing a while ago and our friend felt led to replace the blanket that we gave away.  Isn’t that awesome?!

I was so blessed not only by our friend’s generosity, but that God used her to remind me of His provision.  That blanket meant a lot to my wife and He replaced it.  What a practical, yet powerful thing.

God’s pretty creative and He never ceases to amaze me.  I had no idea that this story would blossom from a simple run on a fall day.  I hope Karen got some good use out of the stuff we gave her.  One thing’s for sure; we both scored some new blankets out of the deal!  Wink wink.

 

God Bless,

Paul

 

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My Homeless Friend, John

Homeless grocery cartSeveral of weeks ago, my small group from church got together and served some homeless folks.  It was a pretty cool setup.  We had tons of food, coffee, juice, clothes, toiletries and a trailer equipped with a large cooking griddle and burners.  Better yet, we had willing hands and feet available to serve and love.

Our goal was to make a bunch of fresh breakfast burritos for the homeless in the area.  Nothing too complicated.

We started cooking in the morning and noticed that the turnout was a little slower than expected.  It was pretty early and we figured that most folks wouldn’t be out and about until mid morning or so……..so a few of us hopped in my truck and starting driving around, looking for people to invite.

The first stop was a park, then down the main drag….our eyes were searching left and right, in hunt for those “in need”…then we saw John.

He was coming up a side street, pushing a grocery cart full of cans.  He had dark sunglasses on, a running nose, a scruffy beard and a heavy heart.  I would guess that he was roughly 35 or so.  He was pretty open to chatting, which was cool.  We invited him up the road for a burrito and some rest….we were about a mile away.  John mentioned that he had to take his pop cans back first and then he may hike up the road later.  I glanced at my friend Jeff with a “should we?” look and then we proceeded to get creative.  We ended up putting John’s grocery cart in the back of my truck and my other buddy David sat in the back with it, bracing the cart so it didn’t fall over.  John sat in the front seat with me, while Jeff squeezed into my small back seat.  One big happy family!

When we arrived to our location, all of us piled out of the truck and we made sure that John was fed and comfortable.  There were other homeless folks there also: one gal was sitting in a corner, talking with one of the team.  Others were chatting about the “system” and how hard it was to get ahead in life when faced with such a steep uphill climb.  Most of the conversations were laced with hopelessness, paranoia and the desperate confusion of what to do next.  It was a humbling, eye-opening experience and I was grateful that my friends and I were able to be there.  To listen.

After an hour or two, John had to get going, so we headed back up the road to return his cans.  Jeff was in the back this time, holding the grocery cart in place and just John and I were in the truck together.  What a great, short, yet powerful conversation we had!

In a nutshell, I thanked him for coming with us and for sharing his story.  I felt the need to be kind of blunt with him.  I mentioned that I noticed his hopelessness.  That maybe he thought his past mistakes defined him.  That maybe he thought God somehow looked down on him for who he was and the choices that he’s made.  John agreed with me in a simple, yet moving way….he nodded and began to cry.  His eyes were hidden behind sunglasses, but I felt his pain and I heard his desperate need to be loved.  I felt God’s powerful presence in that truck.

The few words that I could muster were “Jesus loves you man.”  That’s about it.  We talked a little about forgiveness and grace and in about 5 minutes, we were unloading his cart and he was visiting with his buddies at the can return.  Short but sweet….so sweet.  God works in crazy ways doesn’t He?!

My hope is that John was encouraged that day.  I know I was!  Only God knows outcomes and heart conditions and I’m ok with that.  It was an honor to be a part of God’s plan and to serve strangers with a group of selfless people.

The homeless folks weren’t the only ones being fed that Saturday morning.  My soul was filled to overflowing.

 

God Bless,

Paul

 

 

 

 

 

Putting Thoughts Into Action

please helpEvery single year during the holidays, I think about how I can serve others.  How I can give back.  How I can make an impact on somebody’s life for the good.

I imagine scenarios where I buy somebody’s groceries, or I pay somebody’s car off, or I show up in a Santa Claus costume and bring presents to kids in need.  My mind gets pretty creative during these daydreams.

Don’t get me wrong, these are great things to think about….better yet, these are awesome things that folks should be doing for each other.  On a personal level, that’s where I struggle….the whole DOING part.

Typically, I have a lot of ideas.  I think about them for a bit and then they subside after facing an obstacle or I can’t see the final outcome.  It’s kind of lazy really, and I’m fully guilty of that.

I’M SLOWLY STARTING TO CHANGE THOUGH.

Last Saturday, a couple buddies of mine and I went downtown Portland and fed some homeless folks.

The idea blossomed from a simple conversation at our church small group.  My friend David has a passion for feeding the homeless and helping them out with other basic needs such as providing clothes, toiletries and blankets for them.  So we talked about how cool it would be to serve in a soup kitchen or something like that.

Randomly, after that conversation, I thought about how cool it would be to simply make PB&J sandwiches and hand them out to folks on the street…..no church affiliation or anything, just a couple of us with willing feet to walk and willing hands to give…long story short, we ended up putting the talking into action.  Simple sandwiches turned into sack lunches, toiletries, cocoa, coffee, candy canes, granola bars, pears and peppermint patties 🙂  It’s beautiful how ideas evolve sometimes!

We all had the chance to serve together, to feel sympathy together, to get soaked in the rain together, to love together and most importantly, to be Jesus’s hands and feet together.

None of this would have happened if thoughts only stayed as thoughts.  Action happened….beautiful action….and the rest is history.

The moral of the story is this: Please don’t let time slip by as you sit on the sidelines.  If you feel inspired to help someone or bless someone, FREAKING DO IT!  Whether it’s the holidays or a Tuesday, Let your “DO” loose!  You and those you’re blessing won’t regret it!

 

God Bless,

Paul

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