This stinks

stinksI want to change seats.

I had been trying to do a good thing, but on second thought, it’s too much for me.

It’s the smell.

I walk into Outdoor Church (well, technically Indoor Church today because it’s raining). I scan the crowd for the right seat. I don’t want to sit by the cleaned-up Christians like myself because otherwise what’s the point of being there?

So I choose a seat near the back by an older gentleman that is quite obviously different from me.

But two seconds in, I want to sit elsewhere. The stench is too strong. A mix of cheap cigarettes and no bathing for days (weeks?) is a horrible combination.

Outside, it’s not so noticeable.
But inside, it stinks.

If I get up now, would it be rude?

I glance at the old man’s clothes out of the corner of my eye. Ragged blue jeans, holes up and down. Worn-down tennis shoes. Dirty socks. Dirty shirt. Dirty cap sitting on his dirty knee.

I preach to myself,

Don’t walk out.

Don’t move to a chair farther away.

Don’t squirm in your seat or turn your head or take fewer breaths.


Just sit here.

It’s the most radical worship I can offer in this moment.

Just sit here.

Because how pathetic am I? I’m ashamed of my own shallowness. How can I walk away from repulsiveness when it’s an inside job?

Outside, it’s not so noticeable.
But inside, it stinks.

I stink.

Breathing in contaminated air, I sense my own need for grace. For a fresh blowing of the Spirit.

The preacher quotes John 3:16, and my homeless friend mumbles it along with me. The teen praise band sings on with “Oh, how he loves us” and Pastor Mike reminds us the clear message today is God loves each of us, just as we are, and I can’t help but grin at how God is playing this, working on me with such divine finesse.

After the service, I ask the gentleman, “How’s it going?” as I pick up his cane I accidentally kicked over. He starts talking and I lean in hard but I can’t discern many words. No teeth combined with a muddled mind makes him hard to understand. So I just smile and say “Uh-huh” and “Yeah” and “Wow” when each seems appropriate.

I interrupt to invite him to the hot meal prepared next door but he keeps talking so I eventually slide on out while he’s in mid-sentence even though I feel guilty about it.

I take a big gulp of fresh air. Even in the rain, maybe especially in the rain, it tastes delicious.

And I thank God.

For keeping his seat when I sit down beside him with my stink.
For pressing in closer instead.
For not waiting until I’m cleaned up and sanitized before he accepts my worship.

Oh, how he loves us.
Just as we are.

* * *

42 thoughts on “This stinks

  1. Linda@Creekside

    oh these kind of lessons are the ones we need the most … not another sermon or another Bible study. thanks for your honesty with us this morning, Lisa. my heart is touched and I’m taking what i’ve gleaned from you with me.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I appreciate your encouragement , Linda. It’s not always easy seeing ugly things about ourselves but it’s hard to grow out of them if we never see them first.

  2. Mia

    Dear Lisa
    This makes me think of Lazarus lying at the rich fool’s door! Can you imagine what he must have reeked of with all the sores the dogs were licking. Yet, he was precious in our Pappa’s eyes.
    Much love XX

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I don’t know that I’ve ever considered before that smell of all the sores being licked by dogs. Definitely creates a putrid image both to my nose and my eyes. 🙁 So thankful God sees and smells us differently than we do ourselves!

  3. Karmen

    Wow! Thank you for your honesty and humanity and obedience in telling this story. Oh, and to praise God for staying seated when we stink right next to Him?? Whoa! Such a blessing!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      It’s a little embarrassing to admit that sitting still was the greatest gift I could offer in the moment, but sometimes it is what it is. I appreciate your encouragement, Karmen. Yes, we are indeed blessed by the Company we keep.

  4. Beverley

    Hi lisa,
    There is or was someone at church who I didnt want to sit next to becuase I thought they stank but the lord changed my thinking too and now I wonder if others dont sit next to me because I stink? No one is better than anyone else and God loves us all the same x

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You’re exactly right, Beverley. Regardless of how good or bad we smell, we’re all loved equally by the Father. I’m glad you understand the experience first-hand too.

  5. floyd

    I’m proud of you, Lisa. I’m not sure I could have pulled that off… Funny, my stench in my Father’s nostrils is probably much worse than the homeless mans body odor…

  6. Alicia@theOverflow!

    Oh, Lisa. I’m humbled by your honesty. Convicted to the core by the reminder of my own stench before the Lord.. THANK YOU. THANK YOU for not letting me sit comfortable in my own mess- even though it “looks” tidier than others. I LOVE your heart for being transformed into His likeness.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      It’s easy to be like the Pharisees and think if the outside of our cup is clean, we’re good to go. 🙁 Thankful God doesn’t let us get by with “easy” and presses in hard for the real changes. I appreciate your encouragement, Alicia.

  7. amandaconquers

    Love this: “It’s the most radical worship I can offer in this moment.
    Just sit here.” –Yes. I want to offer Jesus radical worship in each moment… whatever that looks like. Live surrendered. Thank you for this reminder.
    Love your heart for Jesus that is so apparent in your words in this space. I feel like I met a new friend today. I will definitely be back 🙂 (visiting from #TellHisStory)

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Aw, I’m glad you stopped in today, Amanda–it’s nice to meet a fellow traveler on the same journey. Even though what we each may be called to do on any given day may differ, when we’re doing it for His glory, it all looks to Him like praise.

  8. Betty Jo

    Lisa thank you for sharing. It always amazes me how God puts the exact words on a blog that I need at the moment. Never in all my years of blogging have I read a story about this subject. I’m right now, today, in the midst of a stinky situation, which has to do with a close friend. I can’t go into details, but suffice it to say I’m learning soooo much through it; mostly about myself! I’m learning how God wants to love others through me, and how sometimes He calls us to care for them in very difficult circumstances. I’m learning that anything can be tolerated in His capable strength, as I die daily to my own weakness and limitations. God’s grace is sufficient.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m glad God used this to minister to you, Betty Jo. It always amazes me too when he gives us just the right thing at just the right time.

      It sounds like your situation is a hard one. I pray you will continue to tap into God’s strength to see you through it in the loving manner that you’re striving for. You have a sweet heart to want to help your close friend despite the struggles in the circumstances. Yes, God’s grace is sufficient!

  9. Helene

    Thanks for your story. I did years worth of social work and one thing I learned is that lots of people want to help right up to the point where life gets messy. But that’s the spot where God shines. He works right in the middle of messy. I bet the little stable where Jesus was born didn’t smell all that great either. Nor the disciples after fishing all night.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Good point, Helene. Jesus started and stayed in the messiest places while he was here. I’m afraid I’m too often like the people you refer to–I want to help until it gets too messy, then I want to back out. I pray for more endurance to plug through regardless.

  10. Falen

    This is one of those posts that has me sucked in from the first word, because I relate and because at any moment you could get up… God is so good – all the time. Thank you for sharing, Lisa! Those lessons and situations to shine mold our hearts as much, if not more, than it does those we shine on. Huge hugs girlie!! Have a great week!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You’re exactly right, Falen, that those times shape our own hearts more than those we’re supposedly *helping*. So thankful for how God is indeed good all the time! He knows just the situations we need to transform us more into the image of his Son.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m glad you were blessed by your visit here, Vilisi. The Lord is gracious to connect us to each other’s stories from across oceans in ways we never could have just a few short years ago.

  11. jdukeslee

    I am inspired, Lisa, by your grace in action here, and also by the metaphor for all of us. We might be freshly showered and wearing the latest fashion, but be feeling pretty messy on the inside.

    Did you see the man at your church dinner afterward? I wonder if he took you up on the invitation. And I’ll be eager to hear if he comes back. You helped make your church a welcoming place. That’s so much like Jesus.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Jennifer. I did see the man show up at the dinner! I was thankful for that.

      It’s a special “church” that serves one Saturday a month at Manna House, a food distribution site (of sorts) that gives away supplies to the homeless and needy three times a week. There are several who are faithful to keep it going; I’m just one of the add-ons that comes when I can, but I’m always, always blessed when I’m there. I do see Jesus every time in so many faces.

  12. Barbara H.

    This ties in beautifully with a poem I just heard in the last Mitford audiobook:

    Let the stable still astonish:
    Straw-dirt floor, dull eyes,
    Dusty flanks of donkeys, oxen;
    Crumbling, crooked walls;
    No bed to carry that pain,
    And then, the child–
    Rag-wrapped, laid to cry
    In a trough.
    Who would have chosen this?
    Who would have said,
    “Yes,Let the God of Heaven and Earth
    Be born in this place”?
    Who but the same God
    Who stands in the darker, fouler rooms
    Of our hearts
    And says,
    “Yes,Let the God of Heaven and Earth
    Be born in this place.”

    by Leslie Leyland Fields

    I am easily affected by smells and can understand what you’re talking about. I am thankful as well that God stays by us in spite of our “stink.”

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, this poem captures it well! I appreciate you giving it to us in full here.

      “Who would have chosen this?” Only our God. Praising Him for it.

      So you understand my smell issues. ha. My family says I have an extra-sensitive nose because I am always commenting on smells they don’t seem to notice. It’s a blessing and a curse. 🙂

  13. Pingback: Saturday Shortcuts | Planned Peasanthood

  14. Pingback: Lessons Learned in 3D — The Waiting Room | 3-D Lessons for Life

  15. Pamela

    Your heart is just so beautiful, Lisa. You will never know the influence you have had on me. Thank you allowing God to use your experiences to teach me so many lessons on loving others.

    1. Lisa notes...

      Your comment really touched me, Pamela. I appreciate you saying that, and know that I continue to learn so much from you; you show such unconditional love to your family through all kinds of circumstances and that inspires me.

  16. Carol

    Lisa, thank-you for your transparency in telling this experience. So many of the homeless have mental illness. My brother has schizophrenia and currently lives in a group home. My family has taken him to church– his behavior and bearing can make people feel uncomfortable. I have my own discomfort when I visit the group home. I recognize my need to find ways to sit, listen and converse with my brother’s house mates. I need God’s help with this.

    The mentally ill are on the perimeter of church community if there at all. We, as the church, can get better at this. I am praying for more grace and opportunity.

    1. Lisa notes...

      You’re so right, Carol, that so many of the homeless do suffer from mental illness. I see that every time I’m with them and feel so helpless against it.

      I can imagine that you do feel quite a bit of discomfort visiting your brother in the group home. The rules of normal social interactions aren’t the same and you probably don’t know what to expect from one visit to the next from the different residents there.

      I so admire you wanting to get better at visiting with his housemates. It’s not easy. I have a long way to grow in this. I’ve been helped by watching how others love this special community and I’m far more comfortable than I used to be, but I’m not where I want to be.

      You’re exactly right that the church needs to and can get better at this. There’s been too much suffering for too long already when we of all people should be the most loving. I join you in praying for more grace and opportunity. Blessings to you!

  17. Vicki

    A friend sent me this and it was spot on concerning the day I had! Mind if I re-post this and give you credit in my column– loved it!

  18. Pingback: Let the body worship | Lisa notes . . .

  19. Pingback: But what will happen to me? On discrimination

  20. Pingback: This Is How We Do It! A Compilation of Voices for Reconcillation | Osheta Moore

  21. Pingback: A daily dose to overcome anxiety

  22. Cindy

    What a blessing you are to me. I love your honesty and your sharing your feelings in the moment with us. Yes, it continues to amaze me that His grace is with us in our stinky and worst times. Love the life lesson you shared through your God moment with the homeless man. Lifting your new friend up in prayer!

    I love you, Cindy

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You’re always so encouraging, Cindy. I appreciate you so much. I definitely need lots of grace, every day and every way. I’m very glad that God is generous with it! Thanks for your prayers, sweet sister. Love you too!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *