Now his eyes are really lighting up.
Lunch is almost over, served by beautiful Methodists who volunteer for this rotation spot in November every year. The line is tapering off, mainly only stragglers remain, stuffing extra hot dogs in their backpacks or in plastic bags for their afternoon back on the road.
Susan has finished eating. She is waiting on Cowboy to walk together back to their tent.
But Cowboy is still talking. We’ve been chatting for several minutes about this, about that.
Yet now it’s taking a turn. I can feel it. I lean in closer for what’s about to come.
Cowboy takes me back to 2004. He didn’t know where to go next, so he prays to God and flips a coin. Heads: he goes to Huntsville. Tails: he goes to Gadsden. (Thank you, God, for heads.)
As we stand here together now as friends for several years, I listen to more of what Cowboy tells me.
What Cowboy tells me is how good God has been and how God continues to guide him.
But I also know they’re now homeless again after a guest spent the night in their apartment with a pet, a non-negotiable in their housing complex.
Yet Cowboy keeps smiling today and tells me more about God.
With excitement, he says this is next: he’s going to build a chapel in the camp. His homeless camp. The one that’s called the jungle because it’s so rough.
He says he’s learned to be careful about what he asks because he knows God will answer. God always has given him what he wants, he says, this man who lives homeless in the jungle.
And he’s asking God to help him build a chapel to minister to others who live alongside him.
His chapel will be outlined with the slats of pallets that make their way into homeless camps. He has strips of red carpet to use on the inside. He wants to build a pulpit. He’s already picked out the site.
You really see all this, Cowboy?
Yes, he tells me, he really does.
So I believe him. Because I know he’s right: God is that big.
Cowboy has purpose. His life has meaning. And because of that, he puts up with more inconveniences and discomforts than I can ever, ever, ever imagine.
And he continues to dream and plan and minister, right where he is, just as he is, disabilities and handicaps and limitations included.
What about us? When we believe there is meaning behind it, aren’t we more content, too? Even when things don’t go our way, don’t we keep moving forward if we’re on a mission? When we believe there is purpose, don’t we trust God to overcome the barriers?
We do when we believe. If we believe.
Believe that each of our lives has meaning. That God wastes nothing.
- No experience is wasted.
- No pain is wasted.
- No connection is wasted.
And not a single person is wasted.
God knows how to use it all. He can place every piece together to create something fruitful, something to help us love each other better.
That’s what Cowboy is doing.
He’s taking the raw materials he’s found and the skills he’s honed and the faith he’s grown, and he’s dedicating them to God for a higher purpose: to love other people.
It’s the grand purpose for each of us: To embrace the love God gives us, and lavish it back on others. Whatever our circumstances. In plenty or hunger. In abundance or need. It’s living proof of the truth of Philippians 4:11-13.
We just need to believe.
- Believe there is purpose.
- Believe there is good.
- Believe there is God.
If Cowboy can do it, so can we.
Thank you, Cowboy. My time with you is never wasted.
* * *
Who is teaching you contentment? Who shows you real faith? Please share in the comments.
- Whose world is real: Theirs or ours?
- Your grace looks different than mine
- Until God is finished
- When you don’t know what to say
- When our love isn’t enough
- Books I recommend – November 2015