Set an Extra Chair

img_2149A few days ago, I sat in a coffee shop in downtown Little Rock, Arkansas. It was my Friday morning date with Jesus so MaryEllen set up at one side with her Bible and I went to another table. We were both meeting with Him at the same time… how cool is that?
Ok, that’s off topic.

As many of you know, God has been really working His truth into my heart about brokenness and healing and how He is the answer to those spaces. It’s been a journey…and it’s absolutely BEAUTIFUL. He has given me so much compassion for the lost and hurting of the world. The kind of compassion that is forged through hardships and knowing Jesus is literally the bedrock of your existence.

Back to the point at hand.img_2153

As I was sitting there, I was overwhelmed with the memories. For those of you who don’t know me…I grew up in Little Rock. I spent some key teenage years in this very neighborhood. This was my home.

No doubt, you’re picturing something very different from the place I actually lived. Our house was nice…but it was in “the hood” of LR. I’m being serious. We had a home in the middle of the rougher side of town. My bedroom window literally had a bullet hole in it…thankfully it was already there when we moved in. Broken down houses with bars on the windows and you get a mental picture of my neighborhood. Yes, this was the kind of place I lived.

The funny thing is that I never feared. When there was shouting in the group of houses behind us, I wasn’t afraid. When there were gun shots and sirens, it didn’t freak me out. I guess it just seemed normal. It was just part of life where I lived.

This coffee shop was a place I was familiar with from my years there…although at the time I wasn’t a coffee-drinker. I remember getting donuts there and loving the hustle and bustle of a corner bakery/coffee shop.

As all this was going through my head, an older gentleman came walking up to my table of two. He motioned to my extra chair. I took out my ear buds and smiled. He asked to borrow it, I agreed. “No problem,” I said, “I don’t need it.” He took it to his table full of older guys who looked distinguished in their suit jackets and I went back to my thoughts.
My neighborhood growing up was diverse and I loved it. All different people groups and stages of life and backgrounds. I grew up with churches on every corner (Little Rock is in the “Bible Belt”) and the State Capital only a few minutes from us.

I smiled, sitting there. With the sun shining through the coffee shop window, it felt warm. It felt strangely like home. My past and present blended together as beautifully as my French vanilla latte. The old me–growing up in this broken but incredible city. The new me–recently learning to understand that life is both broken and beautiful. It was as if my two worlds had collided.

These beautiful people.

I don’t want to be weird, but this city is mine…so it felt like these people were mine and this place was home. How do you feel that after eleven years in another state? It always surprises me how much my heart feels grounded here. Why do I still exhale here as if this place holds me? I don’t get homesick for Little Rock like I did when I first moved. I feel very at home in my little Southern Michigan town…but when I come here, it’s like I melt into the surroundings.

The strangest things seem normal to me, because I grew up with them: homeless on every corner or digging in trash cans. Lines of people standing with the groceries at the bus stop on the corner. Parking meters in front of store fronts. Police cars everywhere. Occasional shouting and gun shots a night. Graffiti on the back walls and alleyways. People asking for money for gas or groceries…even coming to our door and asking for handouts.

Jesus died for this–for us. For these people who walk every day in their brokenness….not even knowing Someone has paid for them to live free. To give beauty for ashes. The brokenness of this place calls my heart to action. This is my city. These are my people.

Sitting there, Isaiah 42:5-9 leapt of the page and straight into my heart.

This is what God, Yahweh, says— who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and life to those who walk on it— “I, Yahweh, have called You for a righteous purpose, and I will hold You by Your hand. I will keep You and appoint You to be a covenant for the people and a light to the nations, in order to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the dungeon, and those sitting in darkness from the prison house. I am Yahweh, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another or My praise to idols. The past events have indeed happened. Now I will declare new events; I announce them to you before they occur.”

I want to be like Jesus. I want to see with His eyes. Redemption. Grace. Love. Mercy. It’s His will that none would perish. He wants every soul at His Table. And I get to carry the invitation of Hope to the world.

Maybe since I’m heading to the women’s prisons for two weeks of volunteer work, I see myself in this equation. He has asked me to be like Him… there are prisoners sitting in darkness right now. Could it be that God would choose me to be His messenger of Hope to them? Honestly, the thought overwhelms me. But what an honor…for Jesus to invite me on such an adventure with the sake of the Gospel.

Reminds me of the song by Lauren Daigle,
As we call out to dry bones
Come alive, come alive
We call out to dead bones
Come alive, come alive
Up out of the ashes
Let us see an army rise
We call out to dry bones, come alive…

God of endless mercy,
God of unrelenting love
Rescue every daughter
Bring us back the wayward son
And by your Spirit breathe upon them
Show the world that You can save
You alone can save

He can save. He can bring life to dry bones, friends. He can bring back prodigals and raise an army for truth. He is faithful and compassionate and loving.

This was all bubbling up in my soul while I was sitting there in that Little Rock corner shop. Like God was unearthing a passion for hurting, wounded people who I didn’t even know I had. I’m suddenly more comfortable with the shattered, broken people and less enthused with my friends who think “they’ve got it in the bag”. I crave meeting the hungry. Having conversations with the weary and imperfect…because I’m one of them and I know Who has the Hope our souls are yearning for.

Brokenness has stamped itself on my heart–and I see differently. But it’s not just brokenness. It’s the brokenness married to the beauty of His Hope. I’ve tasted it, and it’s real. It heals.

Men in business suits. Homeless with their bed rolls tucked under their arms. Pregnant women with kids at their knees. Little girls with curious, sad eyes. Hollowness and longing.

These are the people I see from my seat. And it makes me wonder…how can I give hope to others? How can I offer them Jesus? How can I live my life as an invitation to His Table. Then I feel His finger on my soul.

His Table. My table.

Just at that moment, the older man who borrowed my extra chair returns it with a smile. “Just in case,” he says, “You might need it.” He winked at me. As he walked away, I smiled through tears. Oh, sir. You have no idea. You have no idea.

Set an extra chair. Someone needs you to offer them Jesus.

One Comment on “Set an Extra Chair

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