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[June, 2008]: If you haven’t heard yet, let me brag about my kid for a minute (I know, it’s annoying when people brag about their kids, but let me annoy you for a moment, it’ll be worth it!) Last Winter, AJ came with me when the Crosswalk students and I held our CW Christmas party under the bridge in down town Salem. We fed about 50 people (over 100 hamburgers) most of whom were jobless, without money and without any kind of home or shelter. That night, it was cold -- VERY cold -- and my poor six year old son was miserable and frozen.
When we got home later that night and he had finally warmed up, Traci and I put him to bed and I began to tell her about the night. A few minutes later he called to me, “dad...” I went into his room and he was almost crying as he asked, “are those people going to sleep outside tonight?” I thought for a moment and then replied, “yes”. He then asked a very deep question for a little kid, “will they die because of the cold?” He was genuinely heart broken over the condition of the people he had met and he was genuinely troubled by them being outside in sub 20 degree weather. We prayed together and AJ went to sleep.
A couple days went by and then AJ stunned me when he asked if he could hold his next birthday (June 19th, 6 months away) party under the bridge for the homeless. He asked if we could do a BBQ, serve chips and even give them birthday cup cakes (AJ prefers cupcakes to cake)! I was totally speechless and very emotionally touched. We talked about it for a while and agreed to a plan. After I told Traci, she and I agreed to sit on it for a while and see if he’d bring it up again.
Sure enough during the weeks and months following that event, he kept reminding us about his plans -- and in the interest of full disclosure, he also made sure that he could still have a regular party with his friends, he was a little worried about not getting any gifts on his birthday! His heart for those people overwhelmed me as we felt we were beginning to see the work of God in his life demonstrated through a tenderness towards others.
Well last night was the culmination of six months of planning, and what a night it was! We fed over 70 homeless and less fortunate people downtown under the Marion St. Bridge. 120 dogs rolled off the grill and over eight dozen cupcakes were handed out. Chips were crunched, soda cans emptied and one little boy brought a lot of joy to a lot of people.
While standing in line waiting for their dogs, one young man (in his early 20’s) asked me, “why you guys down here tonight?” I told him about my son and his desire to serve and all he could say was, “No way....no way. That’s so cool.” Others were blown away and so many of them wanted to make sure and give him a Hi-5 or knuckles or just shake his hand and say thanks. One teenage homeless girl who we’ve seen in several of our ministry outreaches over the past few years must have thanked him five or six times before she left. Everyone was touched (and truth be told, the kid wasn’t too pompous about it, which was another blessing). One of the last people of the night came through, got his dog, asked about the dinner and then said to me, “you must be one proud father.”
Gulp. Indeed, I am a proud father. I’d like to take credit for AJ’s heart of gold but I’m sure most of that belongs to his mom more than to me. But even she can’t take much credit because truth-be-told, AJ’s heavenly Father has shaped him to be the kind of boy and future young man that He wants AJ to be. According to Psalm 139 it is God who stitches us together in the inmost parts, the hidden place where only His eyes see. It is God who assigns our personality and gives each of us our unique and beautiful identities. It’s when we respond to that work of His and act according to His will that we are able to do anything good or praise worthy. Yes, AJ made me proud last night, but he had another Father who was even more pleased, his Heavenly Father. Last night AJ had two proud fathers.
My prayer is that AJ’s tenderness for people will grow as he does, and that he will choose to serve the Lord in whatever capacity God leads. (I can’t lie, selfishly I am praying that God will lead him to full time Christian ministry.) I also hope that his example will motivate others to love and good deeds and that in the end -- most importantly -- he will please God by being the boy, young adult and man that God wants him to be. That he will continue to live exercising the God-given nature of his make-up bringing glory to the Father in all that he does. That kind of life is one that ends when the Father says, “well done good and faithful servant, I am proud of you!”
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Whether you're six, sixty or one hundred and six, God is calling you to live your life for Him, out of the comfort of the boat and out on the water where Jesus is building His kingdom. Sometimes that means celebrating your birthday under the bridge with 70 homeless people. Other times that might mean making your family vacation a mission trip to the inner city somewhere in our nation. It might mean walking across the street to a neighbor and sharing a meal, helping with a project or just offering an ear to let them chat. Let God move you out of the boat and into his service.
Go ahead and take the plunge -- life is better on the water!