JANUARY 25, 1915

It was an amazing day. A truly remarkable event took place that day impacted every single day since.

That was the day Alexander Graham Bell phoned his assistant Thomas Watson and spoke audibly and instantly from New York City to San Fransisco. In an instant, Bell brought one coast intimately in touch with the other – a continent away. The message passed over the wires with speed the Pony Express, for all its glory, could not dream (much less match). 

And at the same exact time, Bell quietly and ironically put a thousand miles between next door neighbors. 

Hardly a soul noticed.

When I was 20 years old, I volunteered for Hospice, and one of my clients was an old, last-of-his-breed cowboy more than eighty years old then. (He would have been alive when that first call was made but would have been out on the range with the cattle and antelope, not paying no mind. I was so young at the time I could hardly appreciate his point, but the old man lamented to me once that when he was young, his nearest neighbor lived almost ten miles away. But he knew that neighbor ten miles away better than the guy living next door just ten yards away at the time he mentioned it to me.

“Reach out and touch someone.” The telephone company ads used to say that when I was young. I haven’t heard that in a very long time.

I don’t wish to blame phones or Bell for this isolation, but technology designed to bring us together has an overtly ironic side. I watch my grown kids sit on the same couch and send text messages to one another rather than speak face-to-face. Somehow, sometimes, the media drawing us together is actually an impediment, but it can be hard to see.

I suspect blogging is like that in some ways. 

I used to keep private journals. I didn’t expect anyone to read them, but I could work out my thoughts there and occasionally revisit my own thoughts. About twenty years ago, I was introduced to blogging and began exchanging with others in this kind of forum online. (I had tried to navigate chatrooms a few times, but that was a lousy experience!) My early blogs never were terribly popular, and I never was a major influencer. But in recent years, I publish thoughts here that barely get a looksie, nary a like, and rarely, a comment. We NEVER (well, almost never) develop a discussion).

I remember my parents literally talking to the neighbor over the back fence when I was a kid. Maybe not a lot, but sometimes it was more than mere pleasantries exchanged. That NEVER happens now, not at my house, and I have tried!

I don’t hardly ever go back to look at my own posts either. If I was keeping a journal, I probably would do that from time to time. I almost never look at my own thoughts here after a day or two, and even then usually only to engage in conversation which is rare. 

I am thinking the blog is a waste of time, even a waste of thought.

I belong to a writer’s group critiquing one another’s work in creative writing projects, and I have begun developing my writing skills and style since joining them. I neglect this blog lately so I can attend more to those projects. But recently my work was critiqued so harshly, I was asked if I write for myself or others. It seems my work was so repulsive and disengaging, if it were not for the task of critiquing, this critic would have preferred to put it down and not read it at all.

Wow!

That’s face-to-face communication! Usually that kind of bluntness is reserved for the anonymity of the internet these days, but I got it right to my face, AND others in the group chimed in too!

I am still assessing that. There may be more than one way to understand that feedback, but on the face of it, it looks like I am not much of a communicator, certainly not a good writer, and my message is not wanted.

I am taking a little time to give that some thought and consideration. 

I feel the power of this keyboard to connect me to you, whoever you are, even if you are in Australia, Israel, Africa, Latvia, or Kansas. But I also feel as far away from you as that old cowboy did from his next door neighbor just feet away. I’m thinking about getting myself a journal again. Not sure if I want to read myself, though. 

That’s pretty detached. But it’s a cold world out there. I have said that a lot on this blog, and I feel it too.

Anyway, that’s where things are at the moment.

God bless you for visiting this blog – the few who do. Thank you for your visit over the proverbial back fence from time to time. Sorry if I bugged ya. Thanx for your patience with me and with the poor. 

 

THE “CHRISTIAN” MYTH ABOUT “THE TRUTH”

Going as far back at least as 1987’s publication by Prof. Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind, “truth” vs. “relativity” has been a political battleground for your thoughts and values – especially around the edges of church circles. While I didn’t personally read Bloom’s book, I certainly remember the splash it made in the news, and I recall the fodder it made for talk radio in the early 1990s. I listened to several conservative talk show hosts (Limbaugh, Hamblin, Liddy, among others) make comments about this stuff, and none of them were speaking for Christ, but for political persuasion. James Dobson and friends, though, specifically did specify they served Christ with this same thought process.

In my mid-twenties, such radio talk made a lot of sense to me. The religious and political perspectives made sense to me, and they seemed to go hand-in-hand (almost). There was a while there when I thought we were all talking about the same thing, AND it made sense of our world. Relativity vs. Absolute Truth. One side was an anything-goes movement of sin, chaos, and ultimately destruction. The other side built a world of reason and peace. Republicans and conservatives seemed, politically speaking, to coincidentally champion the same turf.

Almost.

Actually, I sensed erosion in the solidity of this assertion early on, but I didn’t know how to think a clearer thought on it all for a long time.

Today, I found a religious leader making headlines on my computer championing much the same old stand, though some of the key terms have changed a bit. This man, so the article claims, holds a Ph.D and leads a ministry in Colorado, has written more than at least one published book, and as such is a voice conservative Christians can trust. He also links this religious ideal to politics of our day.

I did not read his book, but I read the article, and I find that short bit of literature so wanting it seems embarrassing to me (for him). Perhaps his book and his speeches make better sense of the material, and the lame-stream media in which I find his story somehow skews his otherwise good and proper offerings. But I note I find this story covered by Fox News, and so take that how you see fit.

I thus challenge Christian readers to look more closely at these ideas than these presenters distilled through the conservative media, which I have been listening to for about three decades. I challenge you to think again, just like this leader claims he is challenging you to think. Only I will pick apart his more famous, better published, and extensively educated opinion(s) with my humble offering here.

For your reference, I here provide a link to the article I now pick apart:

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/opinion/christian-leader-says-enough-with-my-truth-society-must-return-to-the-truth/ar-AA14Sqav?ocid=msedgntp&cvid=6b9d2220fbdd42c3bdb57ae8348b03cf

In the article, Dr. Jeff Myers appears to be reacting to individuals who claim “my truth” over against “the truth” or possibly “your truth.” As far as that goes, I am with Dr. Myers. I too am disturbed by the overall acceptance, certainly in the mainstream media, of “my truth.” I heard this phrase used in a news item regarding a victim of Jeffrey Epstein recently. The commentator spoke of this witness who went to court to convey “her truth” for the jury to hear, and what a victory it was that she did so.

Let me pause right there a moment. I so completely sympathize with every aspect of that statement on so many levels all accept for how the use of “her truth” short-changes the truth. As best I can tell, Epstein was truly a sexual predator who damaged a lot of girls and young women for years. The courts seem to have affirmed that. This notion has pretty well passed the truth test! In large part, it seems, due to this witness’s testimony. And as long as she is/was honest about her experience, it always was THE truth, and not merely hers; she only had a personal perspective on it.

Thus, she never somehow owned it all for herself on the one hand, nor on the other was it reduced to merely her perspective. Either way you use that phrase, “her truth,” you mishandle it and short-change THE truth. The truth is available to us all, shared by us all, and necessary for us all. We must share this world, and the truth and reality of it is one, even if our experiences in it/of it differ.

To be fair, Dr. Myers did not react to this Epstein case in the article, but I expect he would concur with my view. I sense a great commonality between us at a few points, and I think this will be one of them. However, since I think his view is motivated almost entirely by politics, and not the Bible (as he claims), I wonder if he would in fact concur in the end. (I think Myers needs to get really, and unusually, honest with himself about “the truth” before we get there.)

Consider the use of the phrase “biblical truths” as we find them in the article. 

I don’t want to completely dismiss the phrase out of hand and claim in and of itself the phrase “biblical truths” is guilty of the very thing Myers and others like him say about “relativity” or “my truth” statements. I’m not prepared to go that far, but I am suspicious of it nonetheless, and for much the same kinds of reasons Myers seems to suggest. (Go figure.)

How many truths does the Bible attest to? 

At the very least, at a minimum, if you are going to publish an article explaining to the wider world how important “the truth” is over against “my truth,” have the decency to explain how you can use a phrase like “biblical truths” (plural) in your defense of “the truth” (singular) which also you claim is biblical.

(I’m thinking that is either a really tough task OR it just shot a fatal hole in your case. But maybe that’s just me. Either way, I can’t imagine how you expect “everyday” people (another phrase I struggle with, btw) from the wide world of public discourse, to take you seriously or understand your meaning.)

How about we just stick the “biblical truth”? Let it be singular. At least for the case presently under consideration. 

Call me crazy.

But then if we are going to talk about “biblical truth” and use it as a claim on “the truth,” we are effectively saying they are the same thing (or something very close to it). No?

Even if we make a strange case that “the truth” is not exactly a one-to-one synonym for “biblical truth,” we are surely claiming they go together so intimately, and in agreement to such an extent, that they cannot really be separated, and certainly never oppose one another.  That, of course, does make a case for “the truth” being completely singular arguable. And you might win that argument, but you really need to make it, address it somehow, OR just go with the notion they are the same.

Either way, the next order of business is to appeal TO THE BIBLE!

Dr. Myers wants us to believe in THE TRUTH, not in “my truth,” “your truth,” “or any other pronouned truth. And as a Christian leader, he wants us to be biblical about it somehow, but for whatever reason (politics???), rather than appeal to the Bible, he goes straight to the Founding Fathers of our nation. 

Oh, to be fair, he claims they studied Moses’s law (in the Bible) and discovered it to be the foundation for the laws they codify, but not only is that hearsay, it’s not actually biblical. It makes no mention, acknowledgment, and certainly no explanation for why, then, these same Founding Fathers instituted a “separation of church and state.” (Hey, that’s right off the quill of the Founding Father himself!)

No mention at all – much less an explanation. 

And yet, he claimed to be biblical while taking THIS tiptoe path through the toolies! 

If Dr. Myers’s concern here is to head off some anything-goes mentality by appealing to God and “the truth,” I am right there with him. But he needs to appeal to God and his word for this, not the sinful Founding Fathers who are not in the Bible anyway. If you want to get biblical, then get biblical! (What did they teach this Ph.D.?)

Myers’s opposition to “social justice” is a bit odd too. He wants social justice folk to be biblical, but he isn’t. He finds something unbiblical about social justice and demands people of the wide world of public discourse go read the Gospels. It’s a small demand, he would have us believe, and we will not find the “redistribution of wealth” to be biblical, he says.

Really?

If I open Dr. Myers’s Bible to the Gospel of Mark and turn to chapter 10, verse 21, will I find that passage cut out? How does this Christian leader not notice the redistribution of wealth there? It’s pretty staunch and in your hostile face, actually. It’s not some insinuation either; it’s right there in the black and white print. It comes across in English quite strongly.

If, Dr. Myers were to see a problem with the government ordering people to do what Jesus orders them to do, he should say THAT instead. It will not have the same punch to it, but it will be a significantly different message from the wrong one he clearly champions.

I must confess, I am not entirely sure how to handle this term “social justice” myself. What exactly is meant by it, and are we all meaning the same thing when we say it? I am sure that Jesus is social, and he is just. Neither of those things are evil, and in fact together, they are quite good. IF we mean something else by the term, and if the mainstream media and the Left and liberals and Democrats have truly hijacked the term so that it means something else, then explain that while you are tearing it down. 

I am personally convinced that Jesus is not making some exception for liberals or poor people to lord it over the rich or Republicans in some political court. But I wonder about a religious leader who is more worried about some nebulous notion of “social justice” in service to “my truth” than he is about whether the poor are going cold and hungry tonight. I would really hate for pagans, sinners, and godless Leftists to outshine the love of God! Heaven forbid that ever be somebody’s truth!

By now, you surely see why I think Myers is motivated by politics rather than Jesus or even THE truth. I think he wants to make this ethereal case sound godly and shore up any cracks in what he hopes is a monolithic voting bloc among conservative “Christians.” Perhaps I am wrong about that, but he sure fails the smell test right about there.

In the end, I believe truth is relative. How can LOVE not be relative? You absolutely must relate to love to have any, and Jesus is the truth, while God is love. (Both statements are in fact found IN THE BIBLE.) I do not, thereby, believe in an anything-goes world order at all. But between Dr. Myers and Fox News, so very many of my conservative “Christian” brothers and sisters are in fact NOT REALLY reading the Bible, but they ARE trying to lord it over the gentiles (over liberals and Democrats) acting as if the Bible would endorse them doing it.

THAT I have a problem with. THAT I seek to address in whatever small fraction of a Christian readership I can muster here.

It’s a Christian myth about “the truth” that isn’t helping anyone, but surely is dividing a nation and drafting “Christians” to the division cause.

Thanx for reading.

 

SICK DAY

Looks like we are taking a “sick day.”

I don’t feel good about it either.

Perhaps that goes without saying. But I’m not the sick one. 

But the part that troubles me most is how so far this post is making sense. It is making sense… right? Take a sick day and stay home.

Yeah. In any other context, I get it too. I don’t want to spread our germs. The sick don’t feel like getting up and out anyway. All that adds up and makes sense – if we are talking about school or work. It makes sense if we are talking about a party or a vacation (though in those cases we are more likely to really feel the irony). I mean, turning a vacation day into a sick day is just devastating.  The world don’t make sense when that happens.

But this is assembly time for the church, the hope of the world. This isn’t work or school, and it’s not vacation or some party either. It’s a party, sure, but rather that just A party, it’s more THE party.  In fact, it’s THE party FOR THE SICK specifically.

When Jesus shows up at synagogue, the sick suddenly find the moxie to get themselves down to the assembly in hopes of a healing touch, and WOW! They come in droves!

If Jesus suddenly decides to disappear and lay low in the wilderness, the sick (and their friends the poor) go searching for him, find out where he is heading, and they rush to get there ahead of him. 

Just think of it: all these bums and sick people (and sick bums) showing up for the surprise party for Jesus. What decorations do they bring? Who gets the cake? Who handles the punch bowl? Who spikes the punch bowl? These poor bums, all sick and everything, don’t provide any of that stuff! No. That’s Jesus’s bit. (Manna and vino, anyone?) When the food and drink runs out, they count on Jesus to bring the party to life, and of course, they come for the healing touch! 

But three or four of us in our bunch have a nasty cough, copious boogers and snot, and we are an overly rowdy crew to begin with (should’a seen the scene we made at the Poncho Claus public event yesterday!) It plumb wears out these aging parents!

But when it comes to packing up our motley bunch and crashing the party hosted by “the church” down the street, I get no sense we are missing out on a party, or healing, or Jesus for that matter. A sick day feels like sobriety to me.

Wow! That’s crass just to say.

But what if we were street bums? Just going in doors for a couple hours on a cold, dreary day would be good news for our cough. Not the healing touch of Christ, but a little relief as our health dwindles on our way to visiting the ER we will never pay for. (Thank you TAX PAYERS (not Jesus (just ask any Republican’t))). 

I’m feeling a bit sick now since starting this post.

Oh my.

Woe is me.

Can somebody point a sick family to Jesus today?

Anyone?

Thanx for reading.

 

THOSE POOR LITTLE RICH PEOPLE

Are you like me, one of those rare types who just has a heart for rich people? I mean, I hate to call them “those people” or anything offensive, but there ain’t no seminar correcting me. So, I make do.

Rich people. You gotta love them. They are the overlooked, the underappreciated. They are the unsung heroes of the faith. What would Jesus do without them? 

This year for the holidays, I encourage you to find some rich people and stop them just to thank them for being rich. In fact, give them some money, if you can. Don’t lock your door and roll up the window. Reach out and see if you can help.

Act now while supplies last!

Peace on earth!

Praise Jesus!

3 SIMPLE STEPS TO PLAY A MEAN TRICK ON THE HOMELESS

So, you wanna play a mean trick on the homeless. Agent X can help. Just 3 simple steps, and you too can be mean to the homeless. (Just in time for Christmas too!) Here’s how ya do it:

Step 1: Go out and obtain a copy of Corbett and Fikkert’s When Helping Hurts.

Step 2: Do like they say in the book.

Step 3: Claim you are doing it in the Name of Christ.

There. That’s some pretty mean shi… -ahem- a… stuff. Claim you are the church representing Jesus, the same Jesus of the Bible who tells at least one rich man to sell all he owns, give it all to the poor, count his blessings in heaven, and come follow. Yeah. That One. It’ll really confuse the poor who, without your interference know the Good Shepherd’s voice.

3 simple steps, and you too can be mean as hell!

(Wanna take this to the next level? Just make a video of the process, then charge Christians at church $30 to watch it. Call it a training class and act like you are all professional and everything. -Wow! This is too easy.)

Merry Christmas!

(Don’t “like” this one.)

(No. Seriously. Don’t “like” this one.)

3 SIMPLE IDEAS FOR THOSE ENDLESS HOLIDAY LEFTOVERS!

So, it’s Monday after Thanksgiving, and God so blessed America (certainly your home) that you are still – OH MY GOD! – trying to finish off those turkey and casserole bits and even some of those desserts that just never end (and neither does you waist). There is just sooooo much there! And you are grateful, but maybe you secretly are suffering gratitude fatigue.  No?

Oh, yeah. I searched the web for new recipes too, and I found a great way to finish off our turkey which turned that holiday meal into a spicy Mexican inspired dish which surely helped another helping of that burdensome blessing go down at our house too.

Somebody drop down and give the post an AMEN!

And God has blessed us.  We almost lost our democracy, some of us are still sure we did a couple years ago.  Inflation bogs us down, and yet somehow, we manage to emerge from pandemic with a huge celebration that just won’t quit. And you don’t want to seem ungrateful, unhopeful, or uncaring, but those leftovers are beginning to wear you down (not to mention this long out you wonder if some if it is still even safe to eat).

Agent X is here to help.

(Oh, I know!  A blog site for homeless ministry, and you find the perfect solution for those Holiday Leftovers Blues?  Who knew?  Right?)

3 Simple Ideas

Here’s how you handle this problem discreetly, tastefully, and completely in line with honoring the God who so blessed you far beyond anything you deserve:

1-Thanksgiving Blessing Bags

Yeah, blessing bags with a twist.  You know those blessing bags you have been reading about on the web for years?  Yeah, those same blessing bags the youth group is now championing at church?  Yes, those baggies with fresh socks, a toothbrush, a few single-use hygiene products, and a granola snack or two in it that you keep in the glovebox of your car or maybe in a box in your trunk?  Yeah.  Those thingies.

Well, here’s the twist.  Pack a bunch of baggies (or better yet recycle those plastic cartons you bought a ton of last week which were full of sour cream, cool whip, heat-n-eat mashed potatoes and whatnot, and fill them with leftovers.  Then load up your clan in your gas guzzling SUV to go driving over to the rich neighborhood to see the Christmas lights, only swing by skid row on your way there and pass out your leftovers to the poor and needy.  If you are resourceful, you can cut your leftovers in half or more AND feel good about yourself in the process!

(Let’s face it: Greenbean casserole is pretty good, but it’s horrible microwaved later.  And honestly, it’s not as good as it was when Grandma made it 25 years ago. So, yeah.  SHARE THE WEALTH!)

2-Thanksgiving Picnic

This idea is a twist on the twist in the blessing bags.  You do mostly the same thing again, only this time you pack all the food into a family picnic celebration.  Yeah, just like going out to watch fireworks in July, only this time your family will wear coats.  You can still go see the Christmas lights after you eat, if you like, but in this case, you plan to actually sit and eat WITH the people you bless.  Yeah, find out what it’s like to observe Thanksgiving on the curb.  Take some containers for the leftovers from the leftovers, because a few of these bums will have a friend they want to take some to later, and that also rids you of your overabundance!  All while blessing God and feeling good about yourself!  You can’t beat this!

3-Hosting for Thanksgiving

Okay, maybe I wasn’t completely honest just then.  You can beat that idea, BUT you really must plan ahead because you’re too late this year to do it now.  But then again, if you pull off the first idea this year, the second next year, then in a couple years you are more likely to feel comfortable pulling off this one which is the best of all.

When you make your Thanksgiving meal plans, set the table for two or three bums, then send your uncle, the Christian one who always wants to argue his conservative politics at the holiday table because he thinks it honors Jesus, yeah, that one, send him out to find some bums to bring in and quote Luke 14 and Matthew 25 at him so he will take you seriously.  The extra guests you host will eat into your bountiful blessing big time!  In fact, if you worry that there’s not enough, you are finally celebrating God’s blessings the way they were meant to be celebrated!  (Read the feeding of the 5000, if you don’t believe me.)

Oh, and when Uncle Jed is backing away from the table to unbutton his pants and argue his politics, load the bums up with extras (there’s those blessings bags with the twist again), and send him to take these bums back to the streets where they can share their blessings with their street friends.

Of course, you gotta plan ahead for this one, but when you are finally ready to live for Jesus – REALLY LIVE FOR JESUS, you will find it an exciting joy to be a part of.  It’s almost as good as being there at the party with Jesus when he turns water to wine, when he breaks a few loaves and fishes for thousands, when he breaks the bread and reveals himself, and when he turns the Passover into Eucharist – the THANK YOU MEAL of the Apocalypse!

Don’t you WANT to follow Jesus on those dusty Galilean trails, to see him face-to-face, to hear his voice, to be with him?  Doesn’t discipleship, when you REALLY think about it, sound adventuresome.  Are you tired of the leftovers?  Are you tired of that twinge of guilt you feel for having SO MUCH when your neighbors have so little?

Thank about it.

IS ALL COFFEE HOUSE THEOLOGY ELITIST?

I used to be one of those “Bible nerds” when I was in school.  I get it.  Loving God with all your mind is really interesting, there’s great joy in it.  It’s fun.  It gets a bit snooty too – at least sometimes.

Elitist.

It’s almost hard to use that word for a Bible scholar anymore.  The Bible is so little respected in the wider culture today that anyone devoted to its study is wasting a lot of time (culturally speaking).  If you spend money getting educated in Bible, that is a waste of money.

Who knew?

Studying God’s word is a waste of time and money.

Well, sorta.  There’s a real sacrifice in it.  But there is a joy too.

And there is that snooty thing.

I find it everywhere among all people, but not all the time.  It’s rare.  It’s not widespread and deep.  It’s around, but not in every gathering of Jesus lovers.  Not every gathering for study hosts a pecking order of elitists, but some do, and sooner or later, nearly all of them do at least sometimes.  When I was in school, no doubt I belonged to the clique.  No doubt plenty of churches are led by such a pastor with the name “Dr. _____” on the marquee. No doubt jobs teaching in Seminary, writing books, and speaking at SBL conferences attract such people.

Also, it’s likely many of us only flirt with this snootiness, pass through a phase, or maybe dabble in it only occasionally.  Likewise, perhaps the snobbery of it is unfairly pinned to one’s reputation when really this person is quite humble in loving God with their mind.  It’s not always an accurate characterization of the individual’s full life and career.

But I think there is a trend – a gathering of such elitists around coffee.  I get the idea they like to gather in coffee shops to develop their snobbery. 

You can learn a lot listening to these fellows talk.  They are well studied, usually.  But there is a love, it seems, for the sound of their own voice.  A desperate ploy, I think, for relevance.  Those particularly charismatic and/or persuasive talk a bit louder and dominate the discussion.  People nearby act impressed.

I remember when I was a kid, this was the guy who could quote and cite the most Scripture.  By the time Gen X was grown, there was a sense of phoniness about that.  I remember when I subtly stopped calling my degree a “Bible degree” and referenced my studies as “Theology” instead.  I was trying to distance myself from the hayseeds and wannabees of my youth, to establish myself as a bit more respectable.  I look back on that now and think I was behaving elitist.

I don’t really enjoy coffee shops so much anymore.  They used to have something of a broader cultural appeal.  They used to even have a pagan feel to them.  The ambiance was a bit bohemian.  Not that it was good to have a pagan vibe, but they were worldly, almost like a bar with no alcohol.

Now, I don’t like them so much.  I find budding, mostly budding, theologians lounging around impressing each other with their big books and big words.  There are well established trends in theology, and that makes the thing “trendy.”  If you are well read enough, you can actually tell which wave of trend this-or-that theologian surfs.

I doubt you pick up chicks doing that, but apparently there is a gaggle of potential preacher’s wives to be found like puritan groupies gathered to listen to this wisdom.

I never see them on the streets, though.

Oh, I find them in the office at the 501c3 working for Pastor Bates, alright. They get “internships” where they “work with the homeless” for a season and build their resume.  But I don’t find them with the homeless people Pastor Bates kicks out of the shelter when 5 o’clock (quitting time) rolls around.

No. They are down at the coffee house spewing elitist drivel.

(Reminds me of that armchair theology I posted about recently.)

TEACHING HOME: HOMEOLOGY 101

If you are an outreach minister for a church, the CEO or Executive Director/Minister of a 501c3 caring for the poor, the needy, and the homeless, AND if you find your work isn’t really achieving the goals, please consider the notion covered here. I expect it is revolutionary, risky, but if you are honest with yourself, the last twenty years have not seen a decrease in “the problem,” and despite your efforts, it has grown worse overall. So, really, you have nothing to lose by reading here and taking this post seriously.

I’m striking out on a new idea (sorta). I’ve been dancing all around the idea here for years, but I am going to funnel my broad thinking into a more succinct approach. Rather than emphasizing all the drug and alcohol treatments, the anger management, the job training, interviewing skills, and budget training that typically gets baptized with a little prayer at the periphery, let’s make a course in HOMEOLOGY the centerpiece of outreach.

Sadly, I’ve already couched the idea in standard rhetoric of rehab training. Already, those of you who find the paragraph above interesting or possibly inspirational are imagining some kind of lecture series, a TED Talk, or some sort of structured training which might involve taking notes and having study questions, discussion questions, and the like. And I don’t mean to outright reject any of these things, these methods, these programs. Not at all.

Is there value in learning to budget your money?

Sure.

Is there value in addressing addiction?

For some, there certainly is.

Can a homeless person benefit from a job training program?

Absolutely.

And any, or all, of these approaches involve some lectures, some discussion questions, possibly even a bit of homework and study questions.

But HOMEOLOGY will be more the lab course, and even saying that overly formalizes it.

Hear me carefully here: I’m not outright rejecting those other programs and methods; I’m suggesting the emphasis move HERE:

HOMEOLOGY.

What am I really talking about here?

It’s a word about HOME, to break down the terminology.  A study of home, in a sense.  Certainly, a matter of teaching it and learning it.

What is HOME?

I have asked this question and proposed deep answers to it on this blog several times in the past.  Not to exhaust the answer all over again, but we can safely say four walls and a roof are a nice start, but they do not fully constitute a HOME.  Not even close.

(By the way, I contend that a large part of the failure (not the whole reason, though) of the outreach as it’s been practiced for the last two decades, is that training people to work, making them proficient in budgeting and sobriety, and even helping them manage their emotions, (all while taking care NOT to give them any money) does not provide a HOME.  It might create independence and pay the bills and keep a roof over their heads, but as a Christian ministry, that is not yet success!  Even when we aim and hit that mark, we have not hit the mark God sets out for humanity.)

HOME is a place to belong.  HOME is where you are FAMILY, where you are a loved and valued member of the group sharing the living space.

Does that ring true to anyone reading here?

It is possible to live in a house, a trailer, or an apartment alone.  It is possible to live in a dorm, a barracks, or a frat house with friends and colleagues, but in reality, those experiences are generally temporary, transitional, and a long way from the ideal of HOME.  In fact, if one is not very careful, those living arrangements express varying degrees of homelessness.

So, how do you teach HOME?

I give a lot of thought to this as a foster/adoptive parent, almost every day.  In our case, most of our kids (and all of those currently living with us) were acquired as newborn infants.  They know no other way of life than what we provide them.  There are huge advantages in that, but also the arrangement provides something of a baseline ideal, to my mind.

When a newborn arrives in our home, they cannot communicate complex messages; they are either laughing/smiling, quiet/content/sleeping, or they cry.  Crying almost always indicates one of three things: hunger, fatigue, or dirty diaper.  When the newborn first arrives, they contribute nothing of cash value to the family, but they tax the hound out of our resources, energy, and patience.  Yet we find deep spiritual value in their presence as they call forth the best (and sometimes the worst) from those of us teaching HOME to them.

Teaching HOME begins with bonding with the infant.  This little person’s first orientation to HOME is the relationship they develop with us parents/caregivers.  That involves a lot of holding, smiling, babytalk, and bottle-feeding.  A lot.  And it goes on for years with little advancement.

Eventually, we begin encouraging the learning of walking and talking, of ABC’s, colors, and numbers.  Eventually, these little people begin to “want to help” with household chores, and eventually, we push them to handle some of these chores independently as team players in the family.

Ahhh… that sense of belonging coming to fruition!

Outreach as it is currently practiced has little patience (by comparison) and aims at independence from the start.  The homeless are not newborn infants, but one of the challenges they bring which infants do not is all the unlearning required before learning takes root.  That can take years!

But, in both cases, the BOND is important to establish as early as possible.  Orienting your new life toward trusted teachers in loving relationship is the bottom line, not money, and not independence.

My main observation, which I expect to be particularly challenging to the status quo, is meal-centered teaching.  The act of sharing a meal is itself a self-fulfilling teachable moment.  It also is DEEPLY biblical at so many levels I cannot analyze them all in a single blog post.

When God creates humans, he makes the mother’s breast, the source of natural nourishment for a newborn, just the right distance from the mother’s smiling face to set these two humans on the path to a deep relational bond as the child takes her meal.  The mother literally shares herself physically, spiritually, and relationally with the child in those bonding moments.  There comes a time to wean the child, of course, but not before the bond is well established.  And even then, the family that eats together stays together!”

(You teach a man to fish to make him go away; you feed a man a fish if you want him to stay!)

The first sin in the Bible was the breaking of dietary rules, and, therein, the breaking of humanity’s bond with God.  As part of the healing of that sin, Jesus gives his church the communion/Eucharist meal.  We eat with God; we eat his flesh and blood.  This is right at the heart of God’s answer to all the world’s problems.

It also is completely overlooked in contemporary outreach programs for the needy and homeless – or where not overlooked, it is marginalized to the spiritual edges of the program.

Teaching HOME means bringing a homeless person (newborn or full grown) into your HOME and extending your family to this person.

I do not suggest we expect this person never to grow in maturity.  Not at all.  I expect these children in my home to grow and mature, but I recognize they come with difficult challenges not normally faced by most kids.  They were born hooked on dope and have life-long impact characterized by learning delays and other deficiencies.  We will have to compensate for the sins of the parents, in some ways for the rest of their lives.  And anyway, I want them to always think of this HOME as HOME, even if they move out at some point.

Grown up homeless people also suffer these things, AND they must unlearn a lot too.

But again, even to the extent you achieve moving a person off the streets, through drug rehab and job training, and transitional housing, establish sobriety and employment, and finally an independent rent payer, you have not aimed at God’s target, much less hit it.  In fact, assuming you achieve all of that, you have not healed the person’s homelessness at all.  AND, BY THE WAY, homelessness is a GROWING problem, not a shrinking one – by anyone’s account.

At the core of teaching HOME to the homeless is sharing the meal (Eucharist at the center of that).  In the sharing of the meal, the lab work of HOMEOLOGY, you open yourself and the stranger to a new SHARED HUMANITY – a bond.  And if you are particularly Christ-like about it, you help establish this bond IN CHRIST and WITH CHRIST.  (This is discipleship in the church!)

I hope reading here will cause you to reorient yourself to Jesus.  We haven’t got ourselves in the right place if we keep missing the mark by design, by aiming elsewhere from the start.  But, of course, my overall concern is the fuller package, involving the homeless.  At root homeless people NEED A HOME.  Let us teach HOME to them as a matter of discipleship.  It means opening your HOME and sharing your MEAL right at the center of everything else we do.

Think about it.