a worthy pause … God’s worthy cause

“Pray that God restores a place in me…”

That was her request. It haunts me now, some seven hours down the road. She spoke it from a place of absolute brokenness and ample isolation. She also asked me to pray that the devil would stop doing bad things to her … that God would be stronger than the devil and make him sorry for all the evil things he’s been doing in the world.We didn’t talk theology and where she had it “wrong” as it pertained to the devil’s power in relation to God’s power. We simply held hands and ate some lunch and prayed for a better day, all the while sitting on the curb in front of the local Bed, Bath, & Beyond.

I found her there, slumped on a park bench, completely unaware of her surroundings. I’d just finished up my Tuesday lunch with the “ancients”. While making my way to the van, I spied her out of the corner of my eye. People were pointing, commenting, and stepping quickly past her obvious brokenness.

It’s not a sight we see very often in these parts. Our lives are fairly sanitized and void of the “in your face” kind of moments that call for involvement. Yes, we take our mission trips overseas, and we stock the local food pantry, but when it comes to “hands on” and “in the moment”, well, rarely are we presented with the occasion. Thus, when such profound “need” comes knocking, it always warrants my notice; not always my intervention, but certainly my notice.

I’ve been noticing “need” all of my life. I suppose it began as a young child while watching my father’s intervention on behalf of the needy within our community. He has a special place in his heart for them, an even more special knack for intervention. If hugeness of heart is learned, then any measure I possess began at home. I learned from the best. My daddy is a foot-washer, both with the tangibles and the intangibles.

Today, my heart was called upon to remember. And so, rather than leaving the parking lot with regret, I circled back around, rolled down my window and simply shouted,

“Ma’am, are you hungry?”

By this point, she was stumbling down the sidewalk, after having been rudely interrupted from her slumber by a honking horn (apparently someone less comfortable with her “park bench” status). Her bleary eyes and mumbling response assured me of her appetite. I told her I would be back and that she should wait for me.

After what seemed to be an extensive wait at the local Chick-Fil-A, I returned to find my new friend sitting on the curb where I’d left her, barefoot and with the few items she carried strewn around her. She quickly offered me her thanks for the food, confident of my needing to make a quick escape. But I didn’t need to … escape. She was where I needed to be.

I sat down on the curb beside her and shared a half-hour of my day with a woman whose fifty-seven years on this earth have left her with some scars and certain hopelessness. She talked about her three children, especially about the one she aborted long ago and how he/she would have been 38 years old this year. When she discovered that my husband was a pastor, she asked if we could come and be the pastors at a church unfamiliar to me. She assured me they needed a good pastor. I assured her I was married to one and that I would like her to meet him someday.

We talked about other things; some strange “others” and some that made more sense. And then, my new friend, Gail, was ready to leave. I asked her if I could pray for her, and without hesitation, she grabbed for my hands and uttered a small request for some restoration within her own heart. Her words; not mine.

For all of the things she could have asked for, for all of the ways her conversation seemed to wander and weave in confusion, when it came to prayer, she asked from a place of understanding. She knew she was in need of God’s restorative power in her life. And so for a few moments, I prayed. Others milled past our make-shift altar with quiet conversation and knowing glances.

And then, as quickly as our sacred intersection had arrived, it passed. I hugged Gail, returned to my van, and she returned to her wandering. Even now, I can’t type these words without some painful tears of remembrance and a few questions alongside.

Does compassion have a limit? If so, what’s mine? Where does it end? Is thirty minutes enough? Should I have done more, been more, given more, loved more? Where do my needs end so that hers can have ample time and room enough to know a deeper sustenance beyond a chicken sandwich and a few moments of conversation? Should I have said more about Jesus, been more declarative about the truth I hold in my heart?

I couldn’t look at her feet, Heidi, and not think about washing them … literally. Not just her feet, but her entire body that signaled it had been a long time since her last shower. But I didn’t offer her a basin. Instead, I came home and immediately washed my own hands and thought about taking a shower to further separate me from the unpleasant smell.

I’m conflicted about it all, and quite honestly, I don’t know what to do with these feelings that wrap themselves around such “open-ended” moments of ministry. Chicken sandwiches aren’t cutting it for me; most assuredly, they’re not cutting it for her. Not really. Seems a pitiful offering when the need is so great.

Still and yet, I suppose it’s something. A beginning, perhaps. The seeding of a further wrestling that seems to be growing in me now more than ever before.

There’s got to be more to my mission on this planet than my words and my feeble attempts at pacifying a temporary ache. I know I can’t be all things to all people; who needs that kind of guilt? But, maybe, I can offer a good thing to the few people who God so graciously scripts into my every day and my along the way. Wasn’t that the lifeblood of his ministry here on earth?

The everyday and along the way? The one over the many? Jesus never rushed his earthly encounters with his created. Instead, he offered people his time and his undivided attention. He even offered a basin and a towel and the humbled posture to cleanse the needs of a very dirty people in order to make them ready for very difficult walk to the cross.

He’s still doing it, and he’s using the likes of you and me as his conduits of reconciliation. He’s entrusted us with a great deal; seems a bit risky to me, for I am well-aware of all the times I could’ve, should’ve offered grace at a deeper level. I’m not there yet, but I’m growing closer in my need to do so. Christ’s love compels me along these lines.

I want to walk like Jesus and touch like Jesus and give the “Gail’s” of this world the peace and restoration that their hearts are hungering for so that, indeed, the devil will get his due and my God will get his glory. I don’t always believe God for the restoration of lives that seem so lost … so far gone and so deeply broken. Tonight I confess my unbelief and ask God for Gail’s complete restoration, for the tiny spark that was lit this afternoon to flame into a full-blown fire of holy cleansing within her heart.

I don’t know what that might look like for her in days to come, but I believe God knows the best way to get there. I only wish I might have done more.

Next time.

By the grace of God, next time, thus I pray…

Grow my heart to a Jesus-sized heart, Father. One that doesn’t put boundaries on love; one that is willing to bend and to wash and to pray until restoration finds its home within the brokenhearted. Forgive me for my complacency and move my will to action on behalf of the kingdom. Guard my friend, Gail, this night with your careful watch and tender care. For all of the demons that assail her flesh and invade her mind, speak your peace and freedom over them all. Let this be the day of her new birth and understanding in you, Lord, and remind her of your love and mine with every step she takes. Thank you for intersecting my life with hers, and should our paths never cross again on this side of eternity, I pray for her salvation that will land her in my path when I get home to you. Break my heart for your people, again and again and again until I no longer have an agenda of my own but only one that lives and breathes for you. Amen.

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33 Responses to a worthy pause … God’s worthy cause

  1. "Does compassion have a limit? If so, what’s mine? Where does it end?"

    I struggle with the same questions, Elaine. And, I also desire a Jesus-sized heart. Thanks for an awesome post and a beautiful prayer. I'm praying for the same thing.


  2. Oh Elaine. I'm all fixed up, yet I see myself in that woman. Maybe this is the start of compassion? When we begin to get over ourselves? And maybe that defines the limit of our compassion too.

    You are awesome. Keep reflecting His heart.

  3. Every day I ask the Lord to "break my heart for what breaks His" because where does compassion end? Am I doing enough? How will I know if I've given what I was called to give in the moment? Could I have done more?

    Just break my heart, Lord. For what breaks Yours.

    Lately, I've come to a place where James 1:27 has not left my heart or mind. I keep hearing the words and knowing the Lord is calling for my MORE.


    Father, I want to give You more. By giving it to them.

    <3, Kristen

  4. When I read your post today this scripture jumped into my mine. I know that the scripture is not exactly about the situation with this precious soul but it is what came to my mind.
    You had a Holy encounter and it was for the moment and I feel that not to be subject to the scrutiny of our minds but left to the awesome timing of the Father God that is so in love with this precious woman that HE moved mountains and time and took you right to her.

    What an encounter with the business of God….What a gift HE gave you to be involved with HIM in the lives of those lost and undone….. How I long for such encounters…….

    Blessings to you friend and I pray that your summer time continues to be filled with such encounters..

    Mat 10:19 take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.
    Mat 10:20 For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.

  5. Dear Elaine,

    When I was a bitty girl my father held services at Peniel Mission in downtown Lost Angeles. Every third Saturday he packed up our aging car and we traveled the 20 miles or so to LA's skid row district. It would be there we would minister…and sing…and pray for those who were hurting. Simply put, my family was trying to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

    I remember at first how I hated the monthly visits. The pungent smell of meat and cabbage being slow cooked while mingling with the unclean bodies overwhelmed me. The men and women, long overdue for physical cleansing, sat through the makeshift church service because they were hungry for a morsel of bread…more so, for the human compassion extended to them by the hand of my father.

    It was during those formidable years that I would come to understand many things about the love and mercy of God as well as His endless grace. Most notably the quiet understanding behind the meaning of a sign hanging in the back of the old mission…

    It said this:


    I'm quite sure the woman you stopped to minister to felt the love you carry in your own heart for the Lord…

    May we all strive to be the hands and feet of the Savior and to serve others with such selflessness, compassion and love..

    Bless you~Rebecca

  6. Wow! Beautiful story. Thank you for reminding me of what is sometimes staring me in the face…

  7. Elaine,

    Thank you so much for sharing. You raise good questions that need to be asked. You've moved me to tears and may the tears…and God's grace…move me to action.

  8. Elaine,
    You are great!
    There are so many overwhelming problems in the world, sometimes it feels like anything we do doesn't make a dent. But, oh how it does!!!
    If every person stopped what they were doing to help another person in need, then a huge slice into that "overwhelming" need could be made!
    One person at a time is how to change the world and you are doing it!
    God Bless You, Kristen

  9. Elaine,

    I think you looked exactly like Jesus to Gail. You met her at her point of need, just as Jesus would have done. Only the HOly Spirit is responsible for seeds that you planted in Gail's heart. Your job may only have been to show kindness, compassion and plant a few seeds for the next person to water and the HOly Spirit to bring forth a harvest.

    You were called and you answered the call and inspired all of us.


  10. Elaine:

    I just finished reading chapter 4 of Jonah this very minute. The book doesn't end well with Jonah's childish complaint about God's compassion. God asks him, "What right do you have to be angry [over My compassion]?

    My heart broke reading the words of your post… pondering many of the same questions you had. Is it enough? Where does the line between my life and another's begin and end? What good can I do if the need is so great?

    But in all our answers I see God continually saying "Feed my Sheep! Just give them ME!… one-on-one – and one person at a time."

    I want to echo your boldenss to reach out – yet I fall so short more often.

    Oh – may God's compassion that saved me and brought me new life – spill over onto ANY other He puts in my path.

    This is one of my favorite posts! The words God gives you always blow me right out of the water.

    Bless you for your faithfulness and your humble heart! I echo Leah words… "you inspire us all".

    Choosing JOY, Stephanie
    [JESUS – the One I Thirst For]

  11. wow – what a powerful story. Thank you for sharing … may we always love "the least of these…"

  12. Thank You Father for using Elaine to get out the word of compassion. I pray that compassion would sweep this world and people would fall on their faces before You. In Jesus' name, amen.

  13. wifeforthejourney:

    A heart-wrenching moment for you to remind us all of the needs that await our obedience. Questions always nag: who? when? where? how?

    May we all find the measure of grace and wisdom we need to follow God's calling on our lives, to go to the least and the lost. May the Lord temper our hearts so that our motivation to help others will never be driven by guilt, or trying to be a "hero." Both motives will leave us feeling overwhelmed because we will find that the need is always bigger than we are.

    So may God teach us to respond like you have – out of gratitude.

    That our acts of kindness and mercy would flow from our relationship with Christ and what HE has done for us all. And when we get it wrong, may we find the grace of God in abundance to cover us as we follow Him.

    Thank you for your obedience and your love for God and others!

    ~ billy

  14. Thank you for your honesty here.

    'I don’t always believe God for the restoration of lives that seem so lost … so far gone and so deeply broken. Tonight I confess my unbelief and ask God for Gail’s complete restoration…' I struggle with this as well, and I know it comes down to total faith and obedience. Help our unbelief, Lord!

    Thank you for sharing Gail with us so that we can join you in believing God and praying for her restoration.

  15. I am joining you in praying for Gail. The chicken sandwich you gave to a homeless woman was given to the Lord too.

  16. Thank you for being there for Gail. You were His arms and reached out to her when so many walked past.

    I too struggle with this. The how, why, when, where of it all. The Jesus-sized heart said it all for me. Thank you so much!

  17. Elaine, this is an inspiring and heart-warming experience of spiritual companioning. Many lives were blessed because of your gifts of love; thanks be to God!

  18. Elaine, so glad you reached out to Gail. You may not feel like you did enough, but maybe you did exactly what was needed at the moment. May we all be as compassionalte and as sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit…

  19. What a beautiful post….thank you for posting….and sharing…

    Have a great week,

  20. Elaine, I think you do have a Jesus sized heart. This story was just beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing it and touching me deep in my soul.

  21. What a heart-searching post, which is where I am as well. How can I from my own brokenness, from my own spiritual poverty, yet with a desire to be more like Jesus, treat everyone with the same love he has for me, for all of us. Tons of food for thought and action.

  22. I love what you wrote about your dad being a footwasher in tangible and intangible ways.

    It is true, your young heart saw compassion in action, and there was an impartation of that spirit in your formative years.

    I see what you did as being a very noble thing to do… All the others were just like the ones in the parable that Jesus taught to show us just really who our neighbor is…but you listened to the voice in your heart that told you to go and reach out to Gail.

    There will be a next time. Because a step of obedience always brings us to the next level.

    I appreciate reading this post, Elaine. Surely, God will give you more opportunities to go out of your comfort zone as you allow the compassion of Jesus to rise up in your heart when the need calls for it.

  23. What a touching piece! As I read your words 'chastising' yourself for 'not doing more', I could not help but think about something that I'm not sure I can put into words. You are boxing your action into a little capsule of limited time whereas with God, He takes it and blesses it to last across time. It becomes as the fish and loaves. What you did goes beyond the confines you are troubled over. What you did is limitless in God's hands. It will return to her over and over. Not only that, but now she is forever in your heart and prayers…and that will transcend time beyond the little compartment to which your mind wants to place it. I don't know if I'm making sense, but I feel that what you did is much larger than you think. And not just to Gail, but to all who witnessed it and now for those of us who have read this.

  24. Such a sweet story! You may never know what kind of impact you have had on this woman's life! I ask myself some of the same questions Elaine. Am I doing enough? Where do I stop?

    There is often a ragged, bearded, 60ish, man sitting on the bench outside our local Wal-Mart. On the Fourth of July my husband was working and I went real early to town on some errands. One was at Walmart. When I saw the man sitting on the bench in his usual posture….head down in his hands…I felt compelled to go to McDonald's and buy breakfast for him. But I didn't decide until I had gotten to my car so didn't do as you and tell him I would be back with food. I had to wait an awfully long time at McDonald's and when I got back….he was gone! I took the food to my step-mother and had a good visit with her but could not get the man out of the back of my mind. Had I mis-understood God? Had I really been supposed to visit my step-mother all along? (She went into the hospital the following Monday and was there 2 weeks and now has to have round the clock nursing at home) I have thought that maybe I was just being tested as to being obedient.

    God bless you my long-distance friend. You are such a great example of a caring soul.


  25. "But, maybe, I can offer a good thing to the few people who God so graciously scripts into my every day and my along the way."

    Thank you for the gentle reminder that the few that God puts in our path are divine appointments. You stepped up to one. Those similar ones I've had in downtown Portland always make me second guess many things as well. But the fact that you connected with her as a human being, worthy enough to talk to and feed is much.

    My few right now are in-laws. One you know and love. We are having a delightful time together and we are both feeling well enough…with the necessary naps and workouts (that's mine) along the way. I know I will still wish more things could have been done or said. Trying to live in the moment and enjoy the sweet relationships I have with them.

  26. I don't know how to respond to this my friend. Know God is speaking deeply to me.

    Love IS such a worthy cause,

  27. So very powerful, convicting, and thought-provoking. God most definitely spoke to me through you today – and to Gail, I'm sure. (Truly)
    Bless you, my friend.

  28. You were the gospel to Gail that day. I have been challenged with the same type of questions in my own life. The video posting was great – I actually added it to my facebook pg. Thank you for entering into Gail's life and bringing heaven to earth.

    With gospel affection,

  29. “hands on” and “in the moment”

    This is a powerful, compassionate VOICE. All the Gail's…

    my heart is full as I've sat with and prayed with a few Gail's and Mike's and Steve's along the way. Always struggling with some questions of my own but trying to show them JESUS…

    I love you my friend.

  30. I read this post several days ago. But I didn't leave a comment.

    I still don't know what to say.

    You did what you could. You showed her God's love.

    You can't fix her. Or her problems.

    Only He can do that.

    I prayed for her.

    For you.

    For me.

    That I'll love like He loves. In obedience. In sacrifice.

  31. My husband and I were just talking about this very subject… and so today I spent the time while I was getting a manicure praying for the women that worked there… knowing that my words to the Father superseded any words I might have forced out of my throat. We have to stay close to the Lord… close to His Heart… so that we can hear Him speak.

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