Pastor Steve’s Full Blog Posts
God the Father looked down on earth and did not see a world full of sinners ready to judge. Rather, He saw a world full of potential lovers. So He gave his Son to die for us all, even when we were in open hatred against God’s love, in order to give us a chance. God, to this day, does not give up on us, but gives us the Holy Spirit to prompt us to follow Jesus’ path of love.
God’s grace really is amazing.
He forgives us when we least deserve it.
He gives rain and food to all creatures, even the ungrateful and downright evil.
He gives us air to breathe, and berries to eat, and sun for growth and clouds for shade. All without cost.
He gives us strength to live, and struggle for justice and compassion so we can help those in need.
God gives us loving family and friends, so we can be supported.
And when we have nothing else, God gives us strangers to help us when we are at our lowest.
God is great and His grace knows no end.
How I wish we could say the same about those who call themselves by God’s name. Instead of being a people of grace, we work to create a society of hatred, assumptions, cynicism and anger. Grace leads to a society of love, distrust leads to a society of fear and poverty and violence.
I have seen pastors call the police to have the homeless arrested when they are simply seeking a helping hand.
I have seen Christians verbally abuse a mentally ill person, instead of trying to help him.
I have seen preachers express their anger at homosexuals and Muslims, stirring their congregation to hatred and words of violence.
I have heard born again middle class people consider the poor in need of salvation, simply because they were poor.
Instead of telling each other stories of grace and hope for redemption, we all too often speak negatively of those in need of help.
We will judge those whose only crime is being generous, because they make us uncomfortable.
We will separate instead of love.
We will condemn instead of forgive.
We will coldly regard those who disagree with us instead of oozing with mercy and grace, as Jesus did.
God, may we not be the dam of your grace, but channels of forgiveness and compassion and love.
Jesus was a man of peace. He did not come to a world absent of war. Rather, he came to create a community that slowly created a world where war is unnecessary, where everyone’s needs are met and the greedy are punished.
Jesus offered his true followers– those obedient to his love and mercy– peace (John 14:27). He commanded his people to always seek peace (Mark 9:50; Romans 12:18). He said his true followers would step into the world and make peace out of conflict (Matthew 5:9). He said that not a single human being should be excluded from the love and gentleness of his people (Luke 6:27-36)
So why did Jesus say, “I did not come to give peace but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34)? Because he knew the established order is opposed to peace. The established order must always have people they exclude, must always have fear, must always have conflict or else their whole system will collapse. (Matthew 23:23-27) Jesus’ way of peace is in a spiritual war against this philosophy. And Jesus will not cringe from battling in that war.
But Jesus has transferred the battlefield to the spirit realm (Mark 3:22-27). So Jesus will never attack human beings, but the ideas and spirits that cause human beings to do evil. Jesus and his community stands in the way of violence, especially against the oppressed and outcast, allowing themselves to take the sword that was meant for the rejected ones.
Air is free. We breathe in and out our basic life sustaining force without a bill.
Love is free. If someone’s care and devotion is a tit-for-tat we might call it “desire” or “lust” but not love.
Water and sunlight are free. God freely pours down from the sky to all what we need to survive.
So, City of Portland, why do you say that unless we pay for sleep, we might be ticketed or even arrested? Why harass and criminalize the homeless because they are trying to sleep? Sleep is a natural process, one that all of us do without exception, so why punish us for it?
Without a night of sleep, our mind is slow, as if we were drunk.
Longer lack of sleep causes extreme sensitivity to stress and pain.
Lack of sleep causes mental instability.
A longer time without sleep leads to hallucinations.
To still be without sleep risks death.
Well, perhaps sleep is a bad thing, but only in public, like sex or urination.
Because we know how disgusting it is to watch a baby sleep.
Or a child. I’m sure everyone is offended by watching a student fall asleep at a computer at a library. I don’t think anyone complains about a businessman, exhausted, fall asleep at a bus stop.
No, what sweeps really are is a punishment of the poorest people in our city. It communicates how the city despises them, and are willing to treat people unjustly for doing what we all must do: sleep. They are being punished because they do not have a paid-for place to sleep in, as if they are destroying the rest of our livelihood, just by sleeping in public.
Charlie Hales, Police Chief O’Dea, City Council: This is your legacy to the future: injustice, preventing people from having that which they need to sustain their lives. Your prejudice against the poor will be the most important aspect of your policies, that which will be remembered for all time.
If you would like to call Mayor Charlie Hales to protest the ticketing and harassment of the homeless who are just trying to find a place to sleep, then call his voicemail line: 503-823-4120. If you’d like to send a message to the city council, send an email to Nick Fish: Nick@portlandoregon.gov
He doesn’t want to simply own you, to retain you as a possession he would keep on a shelf. He wants to transform you to be a vessel for his love, love that you will pour out on others in need.
Will you listen to his call? He is not calling you to misery, but a life of joy-filled compassion and heroic sacrifice. He is asking you to step up and change the world, one powerful act of love at a time.
Tremaine was the nicest guy you’d ever meet. He was always gentle, always generous, always kind. No one could say a word against him. Occasionally he would sleep behind the courthouse, and when the police saw him there, they tried to move him on. The secretaries who worked in the courthouse would tell them to leave Tremaine alone, and the police would shrug and leave him alone.
There was, however, one man who had bad things to say about Tremaine. That was his drinking buddy, James, who was a nasty drunk. Pleasant when he was sober, but when he got drunk, he would become abusive. He would lay into Tremaine, who would say nothing, just sit and take it. He would talk about how Tremaine stole, how Tremaine beat people up, how Tremaine judged people, but it was never true. Tremaine just smiled and let James get worked up, never defending himself, until James got so angry that he would hit Tremaine, in vengeance of his many “wrongs”.
Over time, James realized that he had a serious problem, sobered up and got a job. But Tremaine stayed on the street.
He would stay behind the local church a few times a week, where the janitor would buy donuts every morning and give them to Tremaine and his friend Donny. Donny never left Tremaine’s side, because he was concerned about Tremaine’s horrifying blood pressure. At times Tremaine’s blood pressure got so high that he would collapse and had to be taken directly to the hospital. Donny would make sure he got to the hospital, and the doctors would save Tremaine’s life, as they did so many times. Then they would release Tremaine back to the street, where he would find Donny behind the church.
Eventually, Suzie, the janitor at the church, invited Tremaine and Donny to permanently stay behind the church. They didn’t have any formal permission from the church, but Suzie would make sure that no one gave them any trouble. She continued to get them donuts and coffee every morning, and asked them to do some clean up. The guys would be glad to do whatever they were asked, as long as their health allowed.
Donny was often in pain because of his hip. He had a replacement hip a decade ago, and it had worn out. However, his insurance wouldn’t allow him to get another replacement hip, so he often walked in pain, sometimes all night long, because he couldn’t rest on the concrete. But he and Tremaine had a good time behind the church, comfortable and safe.
They would often visit the local park, where many other homeless folks hung out, especially young people. Tremaine was known as “grandpa” because his large grey beard make him look older than he was. The high school homeless kids would hang out and drink and Tremaine would make sure that they didn’t come to harm. If the police came to harass them, Tremaine would always take the brunt of their anger, allowing the kids to leave.
Once a couple of the kids had nowhere to sleep, so they asked Tremaine where he stayed. Tremaine offered them a place to crash for the night. The kids slept next to Tremaine and Donny that night and the next. And some more kids came. And a couple more. Eventually, a group of kids set up a tent in front of the church, where they would use drugs, drink and have a party all night. Finally, the pastor of the church, took the situation in hand and told everyone they had to leave. The kids in the tent were so angry that they vandalized the church before they left.
Tremaine and Donny, having nowhere else to go, went to a local mall, and slept in the wind and rain. A local Christian man, who had known Tremaine a number of years, became concerned after his latest bout in the hospital. Frank asked him if he’d like to come live in his house. Tremaine couldn’t drink in the house, but he’d have a safe place to sleep and he could eat the food in the house. All he’d have to do is to work for Frank, helping his friends on the street one day a week.
Tremaine wasn’t sure. He had relied on alcohol for years to keep him sane and forgetful about his miserable life. He wasn’t sure he wanted to leave his friends whom he helped on the street, including Donny. Donny and the kids on the street begged Tremaine to take Frank up on his offer. Everyone was concerned that Tremaine wouldn’t be able to live long, given his terribly high blood pressure. No one wanted to see him die. But Tremaine wasn’t sure.
Tremaine remembered that he had quit drinking years ago. Just one day stopped, and didn’t touch it. He worked as a gas jockey then, and he didn’t make a good living, but he made a living. Then he lost his job, and then his apartment. He started to live on the street, and became unkempt. As he was sitting in the park with his friends, he looked over and saw his sister, playing with her kids. He smiled as he approached her, as they hadn’t seen each other for a couple years. She looked up, recognized him, didn’t say a word, but picked up her kids, took them to the car and drove away. After seeing her reaction to him, Tremaine turned around to his friend James, pointed at his 40-ouncer and said, “Give me that.” He drank the whole bottle. And the next one.
He realized that he had people who cared about him. Really cared. Donny. The kids. Suzie. Frank. They all wanted to see him live. He couldn’t care less. But he would live for them. Quitting drinking wasn’t so hard. And Frank said that he’d drive him to see his friends every week. So Tremaine agreed.
Living in a house is something to get used to, but it was comfortable. Tremaine could live his quiet, gentle life. His blood pressure eventually went down as his stress went down. He went out every week and worked in a church and saw his homeless friends. And eventually, Donny moved into the house as well. Life wasn’t so bad after all.