In the early 1990’s my friend DB was with me as I got our mail from our box. In it was a check from someone as a gift for $200. I shouted “Thank You, Lord!” Money was tight for our family of four. Our income was around $1000 a month. If we ate out at all we all had to split a Happy Meal.

I forgot exactly what I said after that but it was concerning something we could spend it on.

DB burst my bubble though and said, “Why do you think this is for you?”

“Because it has my name on it and the Lord knows we could use the money.”

“But what if God sent it to you because you know someone that might need it more? Why don’t you hang on to it for awhile and see?”

We always had a need but I told him I would give God two weeks for someone to cross our path that was more desperate than us. Well, sure enough we ended up just being a conduit and the money was passed on to someone else.

We were just a conduit.

At Serenity we provide meals and devotions on Wednesdays and Fridays. This past Wednesday Cathy came with four boxes of groceries someone gave her for us. We do provide groceries but it is street friendly food: Pasta and meat in pop top cans, Ramen noodles, tuna fish packets, fruit cups and the like. There are other food pantry’s in town where people that have stoves can go and get groceries. Usually we refer these types of donations to those pantries.

However, I had just got off the phone with one of our friends that had run out of food and they had not eaten for a couple of days. Their car was not available to bring them to town plus they had no money. “Is there anything you can do to help?” The woman sobbed.

As a small ministry with a small budget I said,”We will do something. I’ll call you back.”

I was making plans on going to the store and buying groceries. I’m not much of a shopper so it would be a challenge for me.

Then Cathy shows up loaded down with food that God had prepared ahead time for the couple that contacted us. Someone gave to us so we could give someone.

Again, just a conduit.

Good Shepherd Episcopal Church provided The Friday night meal two days later. Several of us were sitting around visiting and Father David asked if we could use another refrigerator. I said maybe one day but we already had one in our cramped 450 square foot room. I thanked him for the offer.

Less than ten minutes later one of our dear sisters from the street came in to get a plate and a hug. As she hugged me she said “We finally got a place to live but we need a refrigerator.”

Father David was sitting to my left and I turned and looked at him. I didn’t know what to say but I know he heard her and he looked at me and gave a slight nod.

I invited our sister outside and told her someone had just offered us a refrigerator and they would like for her to have it. She embraced with a hug like she was my daughter, burying her face into my chest and with tears started thanking me. I told her it was all God using Good Shepherd Episcopal Church.

Again, just a conduit.

But isn’t this the way The Kingdom should work. Our Father sees ahead of time. The end of the Book of Ezekiel says: “From now on the name of the city will be Yahweh–Shammah:  “God–Is–There.” (Ezekiel 48:35 | MSG)

I have heard that a better expression might be God-Is-Here and at the same time He-Is-Already-There. He’s both places at once. Seeing and Providing at the same time. We become nothing more than the pipe line of Blessing. We do nothing but become a part of His Purpose. What the thirsty need is water. Our Father supplies the water. We are just conduits and don’t even know it most times.

When He provides for each of us, maybe we should hold these things loosely in anticipation they were never meant for us. They are meant to be passed on.

We are just conduits.

I’m thinking this morning of those we miss. At least some of those that I remember. Two have died of drug and alcohol related illnesses, another died of a drug overdose with the needle still in his arm, one died of a heart attack, one was shot in his sleep, and one was shot in the head during a drug deal.

I thought of them and prayed for their loved ones, our Serenity Team, and for me. I even prayed for this list of those who have passed on. I prayed that in our efforts to reveal Heaven on earth that those attempts will lessen the tragedies like those above. I prayed that The Church will find a soft heart that allows us to move in kindness and compassion. I prayed that We become aquatinted with the grief of The Streets. I prayed that We see those on the sidelines through the Eyes of Christ.

I thought of those listed above and prayed for them and I prayed for The Church, our team, and me. Then I prayed for our friends who are still with us. They hang out, pass through our doors, make demands, and ruffle our feathers. They make us laugh and make us cry. They show signs of strength and reveal the evidences of our weaknesses. They are pushed downed but always have a glimmer of Hope. I pray that through Christ we can fan the embers of Hope into Flames.

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’” (Isaiah 6:8).

I look at what we do and I ask in prayer: “Is it making a difference?”

I hear the voices of The Church that watch us doing what we do: “Is it making a difference?”

Then the Lord brings to mind a young man we met in 2016 who was doing drugs (any and all he could) who is now holding a steady job, is married, attending College to go into a ministry, and is active in a ministry internship.

I think of the felon fresh from Prison I met 3 years ago who needed IDs in order to get slotted into the real World. We were able to help with that. We sponsored him to go to a men’s retreat and walked with him as he struggled through past habits and fits of anger to where he is now: back with his wife, holding down a good job, and attending a Church.

I think of another felon in his mid 30’s who spent 9 years in Prison who is out on parole. His family rejected him as they have their own issues. When we met him he was Living in his truck. He was using Meth. He was alone and angry. He is still homeless but he works side jobs and has a desire to stay clean and get on his feet. He attends church regularly and has a intense heart to help others who are homeless. He has a focus to allow God to Work in him.

I think and pray for those who have died. I think and pray for us. I think and pray for The Church. Is it making a difference?

I think and pray for our Street friends and ask “Is it making a difference?”

And the answer: “Yep!”

Serenity Corner has the privilege of participating in the North Texas Giving Day. This will allow Serenity to be seen by many potential donors. We have a goal of raising enough money to keep the ministry running and move into a bigger building. This new building will have showers and laundry, which will be a real help to the home insecure community.

Will you be a part of that? You can give now – a gift of any amount is appreciated. And you can especially give on September 23rd during the official NTXGD campaign. God Bless You!

“Do not be conformed to the image of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)

I don’t have a word in my vocabulary that works for me to label what we do. Ministry doesn’t quite apply. That carries the connotation that it’s a job, work, or obligation. What we do goes beyond that. It brings a joy and a pleasure. It brings aggravation and heart ache. It brings belly laughs and many tears and sobs. We do what we do without compensation. I think if I was paid I would quit. It’s too hard sometimes. But one single little moment in the storms around us makes it all worthwhile.

Every Friday evening a church provides a meal for the street. Last night it was fried chicken, sausage ravioli, a Mexican casserole, and four desserts. Launny and his wife Debbie from First United Methodist Church here in town brought the dinner. Usually I have to ask some of the guys sitting around to help unload and help set up but this time James took charge and led a team out to get it done. I was free to continue to pray for one of our street friends and so I relinquished my obligation to James.

Just so you should know, James has been with us for some time now. We met him last year. He lived in his truck piled high in the back with his treasures that he found along the road, in dumpsters and put out with the trash. He is in his mid 30s and spent 9 years in prison and is out on parole. Estranged from his family who had their own problems and without friends, he was a soap bubble floating here and there and alone. He was angry when we first met him and would he would go into raging tirades over some common place inconveniences. He yelled and clenched his fists and tensed his body in a threatening manner. I’m sure the meth aided in those tantrums.

He kept coming by though and has been clean for a while now.  His emotions have leveled off and he has exhibited a welcome dry sense of humor. He attends church services on Sunday and has offered some thoughts (good ones) about the scriptures he’s reading and the insights he has. He is being transformed.

After the dinner and our Circle last night I gave him a ride to his current night location. He is still homeless. (He still needs some help in getting his IDs. This is common for many of our homeless Brothers and Sisters. We do what we can but sometimes it feels like the System is set up to keep them from moving forward.)

On the way to where he is bedding down he asked if I could take him to a service station south of town to get some cigarettes. I said sure and asked if he had the money because I don’t buy them for the guys. He said yes he did. The last couple of days he has gone to Home Depot and started helping people load their stuff into their vehicles. He just wanted to help them since he has received so much help. Of course some of them gave him tips. He had made $30 yesterday but he emphasized he wasn’t doing it for the money. I believe him. I believe he just wanted to help because he’s been helped. He’s being transformed.

He bought his cigarettes and got back in the car and we hit the road to take him to his temporary shelter. We had gone about a half a mile and he asked if I could do a u-turn and go back to a different convenience store. He said he met another homeless guy that hung out there and he wanted to give him one of the dinners he had. Again I said yes and we headed back.

Randy (the guy) lives under the I-20 Interstate bridge and during the day opens the door at the convenience store for customers going in and coming out. He’s well known there and people hand him tips for the service. This is the guy James wanted to give one of his meals to. They had met last year and had struck up a Street Guy friendship.

James brought Randy over and introduced us. We talked for a while and got to know each other a little. I asked if he could use some groceries every now and then. We provide sacks to the homeless that have street friendly food. Food that doesn’t need preparation. He said sure that would be helpful. What he really needed though was some foam to sleep on. “We’ve got that,” I said. “Someone had just brought some by our place several days ago.”

We talked a little more and James got back in the van and I took him to where he’s sleeping. He took his stuff out and then I asked him to get back the van for a moment.

“I want to tell you how impressed I am with you. It has not gone unnoticed how much you consider others and step in to help and to aid our Brothers and Sisters in need. I am honored to know you.”

I stuck my fist out for a fist bump as that is the acceptable method of expressing “good job.” He just stared at my fist for several seconds and then held out his open hand. I opened mine and we shock hands. He didn’t let go. He said, “Thank you, Mr. Don.” And I nodded. He’s being transformed.

The weather in North Central Texas is brutally cold this week. Not to Canada standards but certainly to ours. Highs in the 20s and lows under 10 degrees is no where near the norm. It’s brought us to a near standstill. The grocery stores were packed yesterday like it was the day after Thanksgiving at Walmart. Most of us grabbed bread, milk, eggs and such so we could stay comfortably warm in our homes.

We opened Serenity several days ago when the temperature dropped below freezing with the threat of freezing rain, sleet, and snow in the forecast. We opened for our homeless brothers to have shelter and food. How can we say Christ in us would only pray for these friends and not provide shelter? Which is greater: to talk about Love or to practice Real Love (1 John 3:18-19), Love that has no agenda (1 Corinthians 13:4), Love that has no qualifications (1 Corinthians 13:5-7), Love that has no boundaries (Ephesians 3:14-20).

One of brothers that is sheltered at Serenity walks and drinks his beers on our streets. To make a little bit of money he collects beer and soda cans and sells them at the scrap yard to buy his beer. That’s his “job”. He makes enough to buy 6-8 beers and “sinks them”. We’ve fallen in love with him. 

We see him not just with our fleshly eyes but with our spiritual eyes. We see his worth. We see his value. The same Death that brought our Redemption brought it for him as well. How much Faith does God require? Mustard seed size. Our friend has that. We embrace him. If my blood brother was homeless and alone on the street living just to drink, would I give him shelter if I could? Of course I would. This man is my brother. Shelter is available. So we open our door for him.

Another of those staying in our place normally sleeps at an open car wash. He makes money by offering to wash and clean (detail) people’s cars that come there. I saw him one morning sleeping under the shelter next to the large vacuum cleaners at the wash. Someone had just donated a pair of New Balance sneakers and I just happened to have them with me and they just happened to be his size. I gave them to him. That was the start of his and my discovery of kinship with each other. This man is my brother. Shelter is available. So we open the door for him.

The weather will get back to normal maybe by Friday and our brothers will be back on the street. We’ll still see them. They’ll still come by. Life will get back to normal. I’ll pull the cover up over me in my comfortable bed in my warm house. My brothers will sleep at the car wash, in abandoned cars or houses, in the bushes or next to a sheltering dumpster. But for a week and a half the blows of poverty and neglect are softened by the Good News that is Preached to the poor (Matthew 11:5).

I saw Jesus today. 

He was lying under some cardboard and torn dirty blankets early this morning. I could see a little bit of a wool cap and the dirty fingers of his left hand sticking out. He slept behind a dumpster last night that sheltered him from the wind.  Homeless.

Later I saw Jesus pushing her shopping cart filled with her empty soda and beer cans on the way to the scrap yard. She shivered as she walked in the freezing temperatures wearing only a thin sweater. Worn out shoes and frayed socks protected her feet. Almost naked.

Around Noon I saw Jesus sitting outside a restaurant on the sidewalk next to his backpack. Head down and worn out from years on the road. People stepped around him avoiding eye contact. Hungry.

I see Jesus everyday. He doesn’t look like the pictures hanging on Sunday School walls. He doesn’t match the tall strong clean appearance that is often presented in Churches. He doesn’t look all that victorious. He looks neglected. He looks needy. He looks desperate and alone.

I see Jesus everyday. Didn’t He say he shows up as “the least of these”? Didn’t He say that when we provide for “the least of these” we are providing for Him? Did He really mean that? Do we really believe what He said?

How can we hope to find Him in our worship services if we ignore Him on our streets? Maybe we have a hard time believing that the King of kings and Lord of lords would be “the least of these”.

I see Jesus everyday. I expect to see Him today. I will look for Him today. I will reach out and serve Him today with maybe some coffee and a donut. Maybe a new coat. I’ll see what He needs and do my best to meet it.

Oh! I see Him now.

In the middle of the night I woke up and thought of one friend in particular that was trying to sleep in the cold.

Homelessness isn’t new to him. He’s been sleeping in his truck for over a year but it was towed a couple of months ago. It broke down in the parking lot of a small retail area and they called the Sheriff’s office.

My friend ended up going to county jail a couple of times for misdemeanor charges several times after that. His family has no place for him to stay. They’re struggling with their own issues. He’s not allowed near them. Abandoned, alone, confused, desperate, angry, and frightened my 35 year old friend shivers in the cold each night in a small pop up tent and sleeping bag next to a dumpster.

He wants to go to a rehab program but because of a specific conviction he’s not admissible. The hole he is in is very deep. Is he responsible for it? Yes. Is Christ with him? Yes. Does the Church have a responsibility to him? Yes.

But he fitfully fights alone in the cold for sleep.

He has no skills and apparel for a job. He has no income. He feels all hope is gone in his friendless world. The loneliness is very deep. Is he responsible for it? Yes. Is Christ with him? Yes. Does the Church have a responsibility to him? Yes.

But he fitfully fights alone in the darkness for a glimmer of hope.

I don’t have any answers for him. We provided the tent and sleeping bag. We’ve provided food. We’ve provided clothes. But is there more that can be done? I pray for a place he can go and be safe. I pray for a program that will take him and lead him through recovery. I know there are hundreds of thousands like him in the same situation but I know this guy and I have emotions invested in him.

So I pull the covers up to my chin, roll over and close my eyes but still can’t sleep. I pray. And when I’m done I pray some more.

I sat with a son and his father tonight as a friend, encourager, and as a fellow sojourner. The son is in his mid thirties and has been an active Meth user for years. The father is on a small disability stipend and struggles financially and because of his son’s addiction suffers emotionally.

The son was released from county jail yesterday after serving 6 weeks for criminal trespass. His latest in a string of offenses. I’ve known him for over a year. He lived in his truck until last November when it was towed for sitting several months in a storefront parking lot.

I met the father once and he called me this last Monday wanting to know what to do about his son once he was released from jail. We talked for a while and I felt the pain of his heart. He mourned for the loss of the little boy he raised. He said he could not let him live with him but he agonized daily not knowing where his son was.

I had no answers. I had no advice. I am of little help and I said so. “I understand,” I said. “You’re not alone.” I felt frustrated and powerless. The only Hope is that his son allows Jesus to change him. But that’s his choice. I am confident that Christ’s Love extends to and surrounds this young man. I am confident in the expansive Grace that embraces all of us in our darkness. 

The father and I talked for some time. It was difficult. 

The son was released on Wednesday and they called and we met on Thursday. After a month and half in jail the son was sober and so we were able to have a calm and coherent conversation. Just the three of us.

He wants to go to a program but he wants to go to one that he can get a job and work. I don’t know of any like that I told him. The programs I have a relationship with require him to be the job. He has to work on himself for about a year. During that time they’ll feed him and give him a bed to sleep on. They’ll tell him when to get up in the morning and when to go bed at night. He’ll have Bible Studies, chores, and will have to hand out food on the street and other ministries.

He’ll practice responsibilities and disciplines necessary to reenter life. He’ll develop structured living. 

“I need to make money,” he said.

“You shouldn’t care a rat’s a** about money right now,” I told him. “You are more important than any amount of money. Invest in yourself. Let Jesus do for you what you’ve never been able to do for yourself.”

I gave him several programs to call. I don’t contact the programs for guys anymore. I was counseled, wisely, to let them do it. And they will if they want it enough.

We talked a little more. He seemed to take it all in. His father looked encouraged. 

We walked outside and I pointed at his father and said,”this man loves you and is your biggest cheerleader. Remember that. You can do this and it may be the hardest thing you’ll ever do but see it through to the end. Trust in the Lord because He’s cheering you on too and will get you through this.”

The son looked at me and for the first time since I’ve known him, he reached his hand out to me and as we shook hands and with tears in his eyes, he pulled me close and said “thank you.”

The father and son got in their truck and drove away. Will he make it? I pray he will. I know he will if he allows Jesus to help him.

We in Terrell know it has been a drenching cold couple of days. Most of us are sheltered and warm inside somewhere but on the streets of our tiny community are some that shiver from the rain under any covering they can find: a store awning, a shed, a tree, a bush. Not only are they exposed to the elements but have nothing to eat. It seems odd that for the majority we are in between Christmas and The New Year and our thoughts are back on ourselves. The explosion of generosity has faded and our hopes and dreams for the promise of the New Year lighten our hearts. But for some in the shadows there is still little hope. They grasp onto a thin thread of strength and fight for each moment of life.

These ignored and downtrodden are not forgotten though. We may forget. We might ignore but God in Heaven has them in His sight. He catches their tears in jars, labels them with their names, and cherishes each of them. He says to us, “Go and Love them. Feed them. Shelter them. Clothe Them. Warm them. Visit them in their sickness.” And as we do, in them we find Jesus.

I sat in our room at Serenity yesterday with some of our Brothers who have no shelter or food. The rain was cold and was not going to let up. “Where are you staying tonight?” I asked.

“Wherever we can,” they said.

I got with our landlord and he graciously agreed to let them stay in our place. Joe Cobb, our part time care-taker agreed to stay with them for two nights. I contacted the Police Department and let them know the guys would be in the building.

We don’t have cots. Just an L shaped sectional sofa. The guys have to sleep slouched on the sofa. There is a small coffee table they can put their feet on but it’s only big enough for 3 people to share. The good thing is the sofa has cushions and it’s warm dry inside. There is also a television they can watch westerns, movies, and sports. It allows them to get out of survival mode for a little while.

Last night four homeless men found reprieve from a night of survival and found a night of rest. Jesus said, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.” Matthew 11:28-30 | MSG

A real rest. Isn’t that what we all want. 

Last night and tonight my Brothers are resting. They’re also safe. At rest and safe. A  small example and experience of Heaven. The door is unlocked for them. It’s revealed to them. It’s a picture of the Eternal Rest that waits for us. A place without hunger or thirst. A place where there no homelessness. A vision of what should be and will be.

In these in between days of Christmas and New Years, four ignored and downtrodden souls found a Piece of Heaven on earth and I can’t help but think Jesus smiled and maybe whispered, “Thank you to all who did this to Me.”

The other day someone brought up the discussion of being fortunate. The root of fortunate of course is fortune. I copied this explanation of fortune: fortune is wealth, good luck or what is going to happen. An example of fortune is what someone had after inheriting millions of dollars. An example of fortune is the luck of having oil discovered on an otherwise useless piece of your land. 

If anyone was to come across either of these examples of fortune they would certainly be fortunate. However, the use of the term “fortunate” is not reserved for huge fortunes. Everyday use is for much smaller things. But the size of the fortune has no bearing on the significant impact it has.

Several weeks ago Pastor Pete called and asked if we knew of anyone who could use a pair of shoes. Yes we do! Everyday. I was going out to the dry cleaners and called Pastor P and made arrangements to come by and get the shoes. They were a pair of new New Balance sneakers. Very nice. I noticed they were my see size and I began to think of how I could keep them for ME. Just so you should know I quickly dismissed that thought…reluctantly.

My next stop was at a car wash in town. I had received a call that a homeless man was seen sleeping under a covering at the car wash. I stopped at a fast food place and picked up some sausage biscuits, coffee, and orange juice to take with me. Sure enough Tony was asleep on the concrete under a thin blanket. 

I rolled my window down and said, “Good morning.” He pulled the blanket off his face and looked at me. We introduced ourselves and I handed him the grub. He was grateful and let me know what a blessing that was. I also had a hoodie left over from a batch we had bought to hand out. Our last one and coincidentally was his size. So I gave that to him as well.

At the foot of his blanket was a pair of rubber mud boots. I asked about them and they were his only shoes. I asked his shoe size he said 10 1/2. Again, coincidentally, that was the size of the New Balance sneakers I had picked up from Pastor P.

We talked for awhile. I go by to see him a couple of times a week. He earns a little money by washing, drying, and cleaning the interior of cars. It’s not much. Certainly not enough to afford shelter. 

It’s getting colder and he feels fortunate to have the hoodie and a pair of new comfortable shoes. He feels fortunate that we bring him a couple of bags of food each week. He feels fortunate that several people notice him and check on him.

In a small way, Tony considers shoes, a hoodie, some food and new friends a fortune. These are his treasures. 

A fortune is relative to each person’s situation. In coming close to brothers like Tony who cherish each blessing as a fortune shames me for taking for granted all that I have.  Scripture points out that we are responsible to share our fortunes. We are stewards of the treasures of those less fortunate. We have been given much so that we can share with the unfortunate. We’re not better than them, especially if we horde our treasures.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-20)

I believe Jesus was clear about how to store Heavenly riches: “35 And here’s why: I was hungry and you fed me,I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,I was homeless and you gave me a room,36 I was shivering and you gave me clothes,I was sick and you stopped to visit,I was in prison and you came to me.’”

(Matthew 25:35-36 | MSG). We store up by giving away.

This should be our investment. This is where our fortune lies. We are fortunate to be trusted with what we have been given in order that we may give. In the words of Saint Francis of Assisi, “it is in giving that we receive.”

Thank you Pastor Pete for sharing a fortune. Thank you for all who share a fortune.

Tony thanks you for his fortune.