It’s good to be in the land of the living

I visited the St. Francis House on Thursday morning. They are a wonderful organization that provides services to all of my favorite people. They are down the street from Nightwatch, so I walked and pretended that I was exercising. When I arrived, I sat at a table in a freshly painted, remodeled kitchen/breakfast nook, and read the prayer of St. Francis that’s written on the wall. It’s hard to argue with the first few lines.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;

I love hanging out with the older Catholic ladies, drinking coffee, eating donuts, and waiting on the Lord. I patiently sit with my breakfast, silently praying and wondering if it’s normal to feel as comfortable as I do. It should feel awkward, sitting by yourself in a homeless drop-in center wearing a clergy collar, yet I feel completely at home! I say hello to a man at the table next to me who pretends to not see me. I have another cup of coffee and continue to wait. Another man looks familiar, and I ask him if he goes by the name Memphis. He tells me that he is from Tennessee and asks me if I am a pastor. And just like that, a conversation is born. I learn that he lives near me and that his wife died of cancer eight years ago. He still struggles with grief from her passing but is thankful that he is still, “In the land of the living”. He asks me to pray for his brother-in-law who is going through chemotherapy. We bow our heads and pray.

Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

 A young man walks in, looks at me, and says, “Good morning Father, can I sit with you?”  He tells me that he checked himself into a mental hospital for three days and just got out. He is on his way to a housing appointment and feeling better. I encourage him and his mental health self- care. He tells me about the parish he grew up in and shows me the cross tattooed on his forearm. “I am always representing Father!” He asks me to remember him when I pray. He gets up to leave, and in a coffee, donut, pb&j whirlwind he is off to face the day.

A woman sitting alone at the table by the door waves and says, “Didn’t you come around and visit me in the tiny house village?” It’s Nancy! She is now living in an apartment upstairs and doing well. She wants me to thank my coworker Reverend Paul Benz, for his prayers and the giant comforter he brought her when she was staying in the tiny home. It’s amazing how much good you can do with some coffee, donuts, and Jesus centered prayer. May we, “Always preach the gospel, and when necessary use words.”

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Michael Cox

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