January 12, 2016

A Blog Update for GSM for January 2016

         A new year, a new month, a new week, a new moment... each breath is a renewal of life, a gift, a chance for awakening. Fine idea to ponder this New Year's, but most of us are not living in that awakened state of gratitude. Certainly the people we meet and share with on the streets and in the shelters are often stuggling to survive, physically and mentally, living in a tsunami of suffering. Yet, they teach us often about strength and aliveness.
  Ten years ago, when I was first starting this work,  I met a fellow who had been sleeping in the bushes the night before. I was walking along in a kind of numb state. His radiant face stopped me and he asked me, “ Pastor, did you see that moon last nite?”  “No”, I replied, I had missed it. He went on, describing its beauty. And so the learning continued.
Suffering and anxiety can take us down and there is so much pressure it seems to deepen our fear. Yet, we have a choice to choose love over fear, moment to moment. We are learning what that feels and looks like through our work. People teach us every time we are out and about with them.

So, at this beginning of marking a New Year, we stop to thank all we have had the privilege of learning from and loving through this ministry,those who have died, those who are still struggling and those who have moved on to more secure environments. 

We love you,  Pastor Mair, Pastor Bob and Pastor Jeff

December 14, 2015


A couple weeks back, a woman at the shelter told me that her Bible had randomly fallen open to Ezekiel, Chapter 14, and – given that we had an ongoing discussion about the possibility of grace within what she saw as the evil of the shelter – she wondered what I thought?

I said I’d get back to her, and over the next week I thought about how the worship of idols by the citizens of Israel had caused God to turn his face away from his chosen people, and more importantly what that might mean to those on the street.

We talked the following week, and touched on the pagan idol worship that predated Judaism, about the idea of sin as an idol separating us from God and about the voluntary ceding of individual autonomy giving idolatrous power to others. 

We finally came to the idea of addiction – something common at the shelter -- as an idol that would cause God to turn his face away.   We wondered whether drug use was a disease or a choice; was it merely the craving of the body and not the longing of the heart, and as such an understandable human failing that would find forgiveness in the eyes of God?

What is it in our lives that would cause God to turn his face from us?

We came to no firm conclusion, but the simple fact that we could have this conversation outside of the day shelter on the cusp of winter highlights the undeniable fact that the divine is always present, no matter the circumstances.  We just have to slow down, breathe, look around and realize that our simple human shortcomings are no bulwark against divine love.  If we are facing God with a longing in the deepest recesses of our heart to know him, I am convinced that he will not turn away.   He will meet us exactly where we are – as the saying goes, warts and all.

September 21, 2015


There is the world of True Shalom and then there is current reality. We are asked to hold True Shalom in our hearts-the Jesus path- as we walk in limited current reality.

The other day, we met a father of four, on the sidewalk. The family was homeless and down to their last diaper. The day before their stroller had been stolen. This was their current reality.

We were able to find them a double stroller and to hand off two packs of diapers. The father was extremely grateful and pointed to his wife and four children sitting nearby under a tree. True Shalom - where everyone is valuable and all know they are loved - broke thru.

We are coming into a cooler time when hoodies will be very needed by the homeless. Please look around and see if you can donate a clean hoodie (L or XL) Love to you all.

August 11, 2015


Last June, Jim was new at Preble Street. He had crushed his foot in an auto accident 25 years ago and had since held a succession of manual, heavy duty jobs. Now I can’t do without this crutch, he said, wincing, and with all my weight on this other leg, my good foot is giving out too. Can you help me, pastor?

I met Jim on Tuesdays or a Sunday thereafter. We’d talk. I got him cushioned sneakers, which helped. But it didn't address the deterioration of the foot bones. It's been bone on bone for years, he said. Mid-July, Jim’s Case worker and I brought him to Maine Med's orthopedic clinic. There, an empathetic specialist fitted him with a "boot," which surrounded the injured foot and ankle and eased the pain. At the desk, preliminary steps were taken for a surgical appointment. I love you two, Jim said on the way out, hobbled but hopeful.

Ten days passed. I looked forward to seeing Jim again, to hearing how much better his foot was in the boot, how much his pain had eased, how much he looked forward to his surgery date. Instead, outside the soup kitchen, Jim described how nothing of this had happened, how the pain was back in force, how no surgery could be scheduled until a raft of papers were assembled and processed. Jim was back in the hole, flush with pain, in despair.

Nearly every one of our people faces a version of Jim's plight. Nearly every one carries the burden of this or that past injury and is alone with it in one sense or another. We pastors can facilitate connections to health care, to housing, even to employment. We can and do address physical circumstances with boots, sneakers, socks, hoodies, underwear, t-shirts, and the like. But we know we succeed in this giving when somehow we also communicate God’s own mysterious and abiding love. And that’s when it happens: a knowing look, a gesture of gratitude, a prayer or a blessing, or just an “I love you, pastor.”

Then the burdens re-assert, the tide of needs comes back in, and we know, and our people know, that the work is always, always up-hill. Then we all wince, and we go on.

June 25, 2015


Out on the street, in addition to the socks and the t-shirts, the sneakers and the coffee cards, we do a lot of praying.  We pray for the souls of loved ones who have died, we pray for children who have been taken away, and we pray for the strength to get through another day out on the street.  In prayer, there is the hope of a new and brighter day.

Most of the time it’s hard to know if our prayers have been answered.  One has to take the long view and have faith that over time change will come to the circumstances of our lives, and that our immediate comfort is tied to that hope for the future.
But then there are the times where there’s a clear and dynamic answer, an unambiguous affirmation that our prayers have been heard and answered.  That happened last night when the City Council of Portland voted unanimously to restore funding for the overflow shelter at the Preble Street Resource Center, keeping 75 homeless adults safe and off the night streets of our city.   And by continuing to provide General Assistance for asylum seekers, the council showed that “Life is Good Here” isn’t just a motto for upscale condo residents, it’s a motto for all of us.

Compassion ruled the day.  Our prayers were answered.   Amen and blessed be.