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Today our local paper ran an article about the opening of homeless shelters now that temperatures are dropping close to the freezing mark in the evenings.  One man interviewed stated he was thankful for the shelter where he could come in out of the cold and find something to eat. Homelessness is something I know exists but have never experienced, by the grace of God.

Last night my bible study ladies discussed a lesson on being thankful.  Without exception each lady stated they were thankful for a home that was warm and dry. To my knowledge not one of us has ever had to shelter under a piece of cardboard or shiver through the night on a frost covered park bench.

Two years ago a co-worker got involved in the homeless shelter her church opened and she told me a story I will never forget. She was helping deliver food to a community that had formed along the river in our area and was shocked to find a young couple and their two small children living there.  Their story was heartbreaking.  Both parents had lost their jobs and consequently their home. They were fairly new to the area, had no family or other resources to help them out and ended up where they never dreamed they would ever be – sleeping along a river bank with two little boys.

How many of you picture dirty, scraggly haired men when you think of homelessness? I do.  At least I did before that incident. God brought the message of judgment and compassion home to me in a big way that day. Homelessness is seldom a choice. It is the result of tragic circumstances.  Admittedly sometimes those tragic circumstances are brought about by bad choices people make. But not always!

My heart broke the day I heard the story of this little family. I was privileged to be a very small part of rescuing them from their situation. I don’t know where they are now but I’ve never lost my compassion for homelessness or my sincere gratefulness for a roof over my head, a warm place to come home to at the end of the day, and a soft bed to lie in at night.

Homelessness is like so many other issues we bump up against as we travel through our day.  Poverty, crime, abuse, pain and suffering are out there. We hear a story and for a moment our hearts are moved.  The problem is we tend toward apathy because we aren’t directly affected.  And I’m afraid that’s what Revelation refers to when it speaks of the church of Sardis.  Sometimes called the “dead church” they seemed to have little passion for the needs outside their doors.

I’m not trying to make anyone feel guilty and I’m not trying to push anyone into jumping in and offering up your basement.  But I do want us to keep homelessness on our hearts and in our prayers every day, especially as the temperatures drop and the snow begins to fall.  Here are some ways I think will help us do that.

  • Wake up praising God for a good night’s sleep in a warm bed. Don’t take it for granted.
  • When you see someone on a street corner, push that first thought out of your head and respond with an immediate prayer for people in need. Ask God to help you be descerning in your decision to give or not.
  • Get involved in some way with your local shelters – give food, clothing, blankets or time.
  • Carry items in your car that you could offer to a person in need like gloves, hats, scarves.
  • If you can possibly do it, call your local shelter and volunteer to spend a night serving a meal and making those that come in comfortable.
  • Always, always share the love of Jesus with the lost and lonely.
  • And when you walk into your house at the end of the day, before you yell at the kids for the mess or complain about another meal to prepare or lament over the power bill, thank God for all of it.

Finally, if you have trouble finding a heart for the homeless, remember that spiritually you were one of them once. But it was taken care of by the Christ who cannot look upon a child in distress and keep from weeping. Let’s be more Christlike.

“He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.” Matthew 8:17

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