Crash. Burn. Fly.

I have had the remarkable opportunity during the last couple of weeks to follow a blog of a person newly facing homelessness.  (During my stay at Tent City in Lubbock, Texas a few years ago, I met a man who came to us on his second night on the streets.  He had been working and living in a home just two days before.  So I had a front row seat to his disaster!  And though I was not able to offer him a job or a house at that time, I did have some insightful conversations with him.  I certainly found myself stepping into his shoes rather intimately.  If I had come with an idea of gawking at the train wreck, I suddenly felt the pain and stigma and the fragility of life first-hand.)

I too experienced a brief stint of homelessness in my early twenties in Denver, Colorado.  I recall the near desperation I felt as it seemed I was slipping through cracks with no one to help or care.  But fortunately, my experience was brief.  I went without food for several days, slept in my car and sofa surfed, and managed to stay employed all through it.  But even my own experience taught me that the inside of homelessness is not the same as the outside.

So… back to my remarkable opportunity:  I want to introduce my readers to Scarlett Gypsy.  Her blog is short because the experiences she reports there are recent.  But she takes you into the life that slips in between those cracks.  I encourage you to familiarize yourself with her story.  Open your mind and your heart.  She shares her wounds and fears openly with anonymity being her only guard against vulnerability.

Some of you may be inclined to help her.  I definitely hope you will pray.  And if you help, I hope you do so with sensitivity and grace.  Some of you will be inclined to think she is a con-artist.  I cannot prove otherwise, but I always take people at face value, personally, and invite Jesus to share his outstretched arms between us.  So, if you only hold suspicion for her, please direct that at me and leave her alone.  But some of you will find that front row seat to the train wreck to be insightful.  And I think there is great value in that for the world at large – at least.  And so, I introduce you to Scarlett Gypsy.

“I Can Only Imagine”

I suppose I should take this opportunity to thank the music group MercyMe for retrieving our Christian imagination after John Lennon stole it from us.  (I love the John Lennon song, btw, but there is no doubt his version of peace is hostile to that of Jesus.  Yet much like Aslan taking Edmund for a short walk and talk, I hope that Lennon’s misguided desires, which were a natural response to his fear and disgust with war, can be rehabilitated with penance.)  Nevertheless, just mentioning these things acknowledges that “the world” (and the principalities and powers therein) are at war for the heart and soul of human imagination.

Back in October, I posted a fairly in-depth introduction to my thoughts on Christian imagination.  Today, I desire a chance to come into yours and explore the battle field of your mind with the maps they are using in heaven’s war room.  When various Bible writers did this, not least St. John, they called it APOCALYPSE.

This morning, as I look out my window at Winter’s impact on Lubbock, and as I consider how more than 300 area churches (according to the local newscast) canceled services yesterday, I note that the only way to survive the storm that blew through here was to be prepared (or to be invited in by someone who prepared ahead of time for you).

Of course it’s that last part that is particularly “Christian” (John 14:2-3), if you know what I mean….  Jesus goes ahead to prepare for those he loves.  The church today is his very body… the body of Christ (1st Cor. 12, Eph. 3 & 4 – among others) doing what the head directs it to do.  We (together) have become the body of that one who traverses those dusty Galilean trails touching lepers, healing the sick, feeding the poor and all those good things.

Our mission is to tell “the world” (thus confronting the powers and principalities and authorities in the heavenlies) that, “This Jesus is in charge!  Here is what his loving reign is like!”  We don’t run from storms; we turn straight into them.  We find peace in them and mystify “the world” when under his authority we tell it to “Hush!  Be still!  And KNOW that Jesus is Lord!”

I ask you to imagine how that is achieved by canceling worship during a blizzard?

I am not advocating for foolish recklessness.  I totally get it if your elderly and fragile parishioners cannot attend the assembly because the snow is too deep.  (However, I will wonder why we don’t all live at the assembly to begin with…. (House churches anyone???))  But these facilities we have constructed, supposedly to honor Jesus (some of which take the shape of monumental cathedrals and mall complexes), embody vast amounts of space under a roof which then sits empty while Jesus (in the form of “the least of these brothers” (Matt. 25:40)) wanders around outside.

This same “body of Christ” seems to find itself in the schizophrenic position of being ripped into pieces.  We are not, in fact, one body.  We are Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Catholics, Pentecostals, “churches of Christs,” and Episcopalians – not to mention 1st Baptists, 2nd Baptists, Primitive Baptists, Holy Spirit Baptists, Black Baptists, Spanish-speaking Baptists, Fundamentalist Baptists, United Methodists, Free Methodists, AME, and so forth… still not mentioning Biker church, Cowboy church, Indian church, Chinese church, Metropolitan Church, and finally individuals who resist “organized religion” and supposedly worship all alone!  Each one of these versions of the body of Christ seems to take some niche, or some piece of Jesus, from which supposedly to express his lordship over all and claims to honor that lordship without coming to the same altar, but rather ignoring, neglecting, or showing hostility toward all the other “servants” of the master.

Let me clue you in: That’s not the body empowered by the Spirit of God; that’s some other spirits that when they come together – to the extent that they do – manifests as a spirit of American independence as often as not.  And there is no humility in that!  In fact that spirit (those spirits) would rather look at a brother in a harsh circumstance (like say homelessness during a winter storm) and write him off as “lazy” so as to justify not reaching out to him!

Now of course there are individuals from all of these backgrounds who love Jesus and who want to reach out to the homeless and the poor.  However, they are finding, for the most part, that their own “church” does not really do much.  The “body of Christ” seems to be paralyzed in the face of the storm.  Of course, no one really seems to notice this, at least not in these terms.  These individuals from all these backgrounds largely still hold to those niches that keep the body in schizophrenic, ripped-apart, pieces.  But when they reach out to the poor, they find themselves joining forces with the 501c3 ministries – the “para-church” ministries.

Keep in mind, here, that Jesus did NOT say, “On this rock I build my para-church, and the gates of hell will not stand against it.”

No.  He said, “church” (Matt. 16:18).

The problem is that the 501c3’s are the only ones taking the outreach/ministry seriously.

Here is a God’s-eye view of the dilemma: We have a “body” that cannot worship together, but within that body, we have some hands and feet that seem willing to go and serve together.  We have this unspoken wedge driven between worship and mission.  And going into the world has a measure of unity about it, but worship of Jesus does not.  And really, I hate to spell this out, but there is precious little difference between that spirit and the spirit(s) of American independence.

So… I am asking you, “the church,” to IMAGINE worship and mission together here, and then to devote yourselves to unity in the Body of Christ.  It will mean giving up some deeply sacred cows to get there.  Perhaps the most important will be the spirit(s) of American independence that has/have come in and found the house swept clean and then took over the place (See Luke 11:24-26 to catch my drift.)

Imagine with me, just for a moment, various churches around Lubbock designating themselves as outposts for this ministry.  Imagine with all the churches of Lubbock supporting these outposts with volunteers and finances.  Imagine them strategically chosen to be geographically accessible for poor people all over town to walk to them in a fifteen minute walk.

We might need as many as 25 of these outposts, but possibly as few as 10.  But out of a city where just yesterday 300 some-odd churches canceled services due to the storm, I find either of these numbers easy to manage.  And out of the 85% of the roughly quarter million people in this town who claim Christian faith, we could surely staff these 25 outposts with shepherds who follow a crucified Messiah sacrificially enough to tend to the sheep that would seek shelter in their midst.

Considering the facilities most of these churches in this town have – between the kitchens, pantries, family life centers, gymnasiums, laundry and shower facilities and ALL THAT EMPTY SPACE of sanctuaries and classrooms that go empty 6 days a week – surely we could adequately house, feed, mentor, and shepherd 300 – 400 homeless and poor people.  And if we took it upon ourselves to do all that as part of our very worship of Jesus (for after all surely prayer, eating, singing, and dancing are all acts of worship), we would draw together worship and mission and the various parts of the Body of Christ that currently are schizophrenically ripped apart!

Now, lest you think I am talking about rewarding laziness of those homeless bums, let me first off note that your very salvation rides on how you respond to them (Matt. 25:31-46).  Any of your blanket caricatures about laziness are just your manifestations of contempt for Jesus himself, and will land you in the company of goats!  Secondly, there are many causes for homelessness that have nothing to do with laziness, which are suffered by the majority of homeless people in various ways – mental illness, physical illness, war-related PTSD, a down economy, alcoholism, drug addiction etc… etc….  Of those who are genuinely lazy, for certainly there are some, why would you treat them any different than you do your own teenaged children?  Yes, the laziness needs to be addressed, but you don’t do it by writing these people off!  And anyway, you need to get to know them like a shepherd knows his sheep before you can make that determination, and hopefully address it the way a shepherd would who LOVEs his sheep!  And we American “Christians” have a LONG WAY TO GO before we get there!

But here’s the thing:  I am asking you to expand your Christian IMAGINATION here!  And surely that is a rich experience.  But up to this point, I have merely been addressing the nuts and bolts of the problem and chopped up your anemic imagination leaving it in pieces on the workroom floor.  I have not actually said anything particularly APOCALYPTIC yet!

So here goes:  When we open our houses of worship to those hurting souls we encounter on our own version of some dusty Galilean trails… When we turn the boat into the storm and shout at the wind and the waves (snow in some cases) to “Hush!  Be still!  And know God is here!” …  We do so in the turbulent lives of the poor and needy.  And we do so by taking up the role of “the Body of Christ” in the drama of the storms of life as they unfold in Lubbock, Texas by coming together and doing the things we read Jesus doing in the Gospels.

At first this does not have relevance to the bankers and the city or state legislatures.  But then everything Jesus did on those Galilean trails and waves went completely unnoticed by Rome too!  In fact, it was not until Jesus picked a fight with the temple in Jerusalem and managed to get the official “people of God” angry with him that they took him to Pilate for Rome’s attention.  In the meantime, Jesus raised armies (Matt. 14; Mark 6; Luke 9; John 6) of formerly hungry, poor people now healed of various lame diseases.  The Kingdom of God was breaking in on Galilee long before St. Paul reached Rome with it.  And with Jesus being both head and body (during his so called “earthly” ministry, prior to establishing the church as his body) the legions of Jesus were made up of just these humble masses!

But to them “who overcome, God grants to eat of the tree of life” (Rev. 2:7), and “will not be hurt by the second death” (Rev. 2:11), will be given “hidden manna” and a “white stone” invitation (Rev. 2:17) to the party in the Age to Come!

IMAGINE this:  Imagine the Kingdom Reign of God is a party (like the feeding of the 5000) and your job is to compel the poor to come to the party! (Luke 14:21-23).  Imagine what ever your version of “heaven” or “life in the Age to Come” looks like.  Is it a party?  Or did you think the goal of life was to become some slave of God on some cloud in the heavens?  No!  It always was meant to be a PARTY!  And that party is a worship gathering… that worship gathering is a party!

No, I am not saying that just any old party is the worship of the One True God, but I am saying that the party of the CHURCH is!  And the 501c3’s and other para-church ministries cannot by definition host that party!

This explains, in large part, why they are perpetually concerned with treating addictions, getting job training, passing out blankets or whatever….  And of course those things MIGHT play a bit part in the whole scenario, but at most only a part.  And really you were made for a reason… your life was spared for a reason… but not just any reason… and not some reason specific to your own purposes…  No, your life has a reason and that reason is to PARTY WITH GOD!  And once you come to know that, once the poor come to know that, laziness almost cures itself!  Suddenly you have a true “purpose-driven life” that seeks to take up your own part in the role of the body of the bride of Christ – and it is her wedding night about to come!  And when the blushing virgin presented to the groom receives his caresses and tender touch, HE WILL HAVE HER FULL AND UNDIVIDED ATTENTION!!!

Now, that’s APOCALYPTIC!

So… what are you settling for?  What is your “church” settling for?

How about we explore our Christian IMAGINATION together?

We can do that as soon as the church of Lubbock repents!

 

 

A Message To The Home’d (on behalf of the homeless)

Thank you for your concern. (If you are reading this, surely you are concerned).  And for any and all prayer, kindness, and charity you showed through the holiday season, thank you.  (Many of you donated to the Salvation Army red kettles; some of you volunteered at soup kitchens and/or passed out blankets etc.)  Every ounce of care you gave matters and is appreciated.  Thank you, again.

Christmas 2015 stockings

Thanksgiving and Christmas are now over.  Most of you turned your attention to your own homes in the last few days (not inappropriate for the most part).  After all, these two holidays celebrate HOME more robustly than any other.  You gave gifts to one another, celebrated various family traditions, and ate a lot of rich food – and did most of that in a warm house, perhaps next to a crackling fire.  And that was the two holidays all year that are most likely to raise your awareness of the homeless.

Now… with Thanksgiving and Christmas behind us, the homeless return to “normal” – largely forgotten.

Meanwhile, the weather continues to bring winter cold.

Fat Beggars tent of communion

The TV newscasters don’t have holiday photo ops for preachers and politicians down at the shelter now.  The homeless tend to just slip back into obscurity.  Before you know it, it will be fashionable again to look down your nose on the homeless and blame their plight on their own laziness or say that they choose it.

On behalf of the homeless, I ask you – and this is especially directed at the church and the faithful – to pray for the homeless and seek ways to serve.  That is Jesus out there (Matt. 25:40) that you drive past on your way to church.  That is him you label as “lazy” without even talking to him to find out what complicates his life and makes him endure your scorn, your neglect, and/or your punishment.  And if that is not your own attitude, it certainly is the attitude of plenty of your friends and neighbors.

Surely we can do better.  Think about it.

Take Shelter Immediately

A significant weather event now has Lubbock in the grip of winter.  Our weather this morning has the attention of the nation.  Churches are canceling worship assembly today!

If you are homeless:

The snow is not deep, but it is icy and it bites on the ferocious wind.  This weather will kill people who do not have shelter.  Please seek shelter.  Go to Tent City or Salvation Army.  Those facilities are taking people (so my contacts say).  I expect Tent City to keep people in the barn for the next several days.

If you have a home and love Jesus:

Open your door to the one who knocks (Rev. 3:20).  Think about this… if you have the luxury of staying home today because church is canceled, keep in mind this is an emergency situation for the homeless.  Unless you have small children, or are a single lady, who would be at particular risk by hosting strangers, you could be killing someone by turning them away!

Since it is very unlikely that a homeless person will knock on your door, if you see someone walking the streets or alleys, offer them a ride.  Take them home!  Or at least offer to take them to Tent City or Salvation Army.

Pray for the homeless.  If this weather lasts very long, Tent City’s barn is going to be crowded with difficult people in difficult circumstances.  They have few volunteers and the fatigue is sure to set in soon.  These people need your prayers and support in whatever ways you can offer it.

If you are a church or church leader:

OPEN YOUR DOOR!  You represent God Almighty in all his grace and mercy in this town.  The going has just got tough, and you canceled worship services.  In my view that is exactly opposite of what you should do.  Certainly you should have your elderly and fragile folk stay at home, but some of your leaders are able to be at the sanctuary opening the doors to needy people at this time of need.

Many of you have kitchens, showers, laundry capabilities, family-life centers, gymnasiums and lots of empty space under a roof where the poor and homeless could be taking shelter under the watchful eyes of shepherds – IF ONLY YOU WOULD!

REPENT!  And do your job!  You are giving away your glory to the 501c3’s just as fast as you can.  And I cannot imagine why.  What will the King say on that great day of Judgment??? (Matt. 25:41-46)???

This is your time to shine.  Don’t blow it!

’tis The Season

It’s Christmas eve now.  A night filled with expectation.  Expectation of God.  Expectation of LOVE.  The candles lit, the stockings hung, the Christ-child is in his manger, and all through the house… not a creature is stirring, not even a mouse.

This is Christmas – ground zero.

Camp Jesus: Ground Zero

Camp Jesus: Ground Zero

And my heart hurts for anyone who does not have a home to be in tonight.  For anyone who is not with their family.

Snapshot 7 April 30 Joe n Missy at Whataburger Snapshot 5 Calendar attempt Mike fixing tent poles after storm wind Snapshot 4 Calendar attempt Snapshot 9 Calendar attempt

I really want you here with me, celebrating.  We have a fire.  We have some hot chocolate.  There is room for one more.

It might be meager, but if you ain’t too proud, you can fit in here.

I am thinking of you just now, as the flames burn low and dim the light on mistletoe.  I pray that like that child in a manger when there was no room in the inn, God comes into our world and expresses himself though you tonight.  I pray that through your lonely suffering, we all see God and open our hearts to let you in.

Asleep in snow

It’s a cold, hard world out there.  And as soon as we learn to let you in, that can change.  And then maybe, just maybe, we will have peace on earth and good will toward men (and women).

May the shepherds find you.  And if not the crew, then may the Good Shepherd come to your aid tonight.  I pray your heart open toward him.  I pray he bring his Christmas miracle into your life.  I pray you are humble in his presence and can see it and receive it.  I pray you be healed.  And I pray our hearts be made soft toward you.

Merry Christmas… to those of you who are OUT THERE tonight.

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And may God be with you.

Come LORD Jesus.  COME SOON!

Amen.

Wishing You a Fat Beggar’s Merry Christmas

Do you remember that Shane Clainborne-ish video that came out a few years ago for Christmas that asked you to rethink American style Christmas giving?

Well, I found it again.  And I think it does a fine job of turning the When Helping Hurts book/philosophy inside out and backward.  If giving to the poor is harming them, why not ask about giving to the rich?  Does that harm anyone?

No.  The video does not address When Helping Hurts, at least not by name per se.  But if you put the two side by side and critique them, you will see what I am talking about.

In the end, I suggest that if there is any harm to be had from giving, then it is more harmful to give to the wealthy than to the poor.  But of course, let me be clear, I never had a problem with giving before I read When Helping Hurts.  I have been reading Jesus all my life, and until that book came along, all my ministry friends just assumed that when Jesus said, “Give to all who ask…” (Luke 6:30), he meant it.

Merry Christmas

Enjoy this video.  It’s an oldie, but a goodie!

They Wouldn’t Hire Me

About 4 years ago, it was recommended to me that I should apply for a chaplain position with one of the homeless ministries in town.  I had lots of experience and interest.  My education made me a superb candidate.  Between my references and enthusiasm, I managed to be scheduled for 3 interviews on 3 different occasions.

It was a part-time job.  The pay was low.  Because of those things, to take it on would be rather sacrificial, because it would mean I would have to take other work too to make up for the financial difference.  But because it appeared to fall front and center into my main ministerial passion and career ideals, even my wife was excited for me to get the job.

Needless to say, a job like that does not attract a lot of interest.  Who wants a tough job that amounts to 3/4 volunteer work with difficult people in desperate circumstances?

Not many.  In fact, I was the only one that applied.

As far as I could tell, my first two interviews were stellar!  I seemed to make a very positive impression.  My enthusiasm only increased.  But the thing was… I needed to meet a couple of key people on the board of directors before the process was finalized, and neither of them had been available at the appointed times of the first two interviews.  The one guy that had interviewed me twice gave a good report back, but because the rules stated that these other VIP’s needed to meet me first, it meant one more interview.

“No problem!” I thought.  “My pleasure,” I thought.  “Small price to pay,” I thought.

I arrived at the 3rd interview full of confidence.  This was merely a formality.  I dressed professionally.  I brought my ministry portfolio that I had created back in school.  Everyone was smiles and seemed very positive.

But then about 10 minutes into the 3rd interview, one of the board members asked me, “Would you ever give money to a homeless person?”

Hmmm….  I had read the book, When Helping Hurts, and I knew it was a buzz among various ministers/ministries around town.  I had a sneaky suspicion that the question was prompted because some (or all) of the board of directors had likely read it.  I still felt confident, however, after all, I answered the question with Scripture. I was sure that I would be okay.

I cited Luke 6:30 and said, “To follow the word of Jesus: Yes, I would.”  I went on to note that Jesus told the rich guy to sell all he had and give it to the poor (Mark 10:21), and that if Jesus would tell that rich man to do that, then he would have no problem with me giving a few dollars away.  I went on to suggest that there is a fear that money given like that to a homeless person could be used to buy booze, but since the Bible, in Proverbs 31:6-7 actually directs the reader to give booze to the destitute, that I would not worry about how a homeless person spends a few dollars I might give him.

I mean, I answered the question with the very words of Jesus!  But I sensed a heavy cloud form over the room as I spoke.  I could see the smiles turn to uneasy glances between interviewers.  As I spoke, one lady even closed up her notebook and started putting it away.  And very quickly, even abruptly we might say, the interview was over.  The main contact guy told me he would call me the next Monday or Tuesday with an answer for me.  I walked out feeling gutted.

Sure enough, the guy called a few days later.  He did not reference the question or my answer that changed everything, but he did tell me that currently the board had no other applicants for this job (that almost nobody would even want for low pay).  And then he told me that he was “sorry, but the board [did] not think [I] was a fit with [their] team,” so they would “keep looking.”  He thanked me for applying and cut me loose with that.

The bright side of it is that I found out I was not a fit with their team.  The dark side was that I was not a fit for their team.

While no one ever referenced the book, When Helping Hurts, in that exchange (thus I cannot be 100% certain that that is the source of my misfit), I happen to know that the prevailing attitude among Lubbock ministers toward giving money to the poor coincided with the discovery and dissemination of that book.  It is my top suspect.  And so, I believe When Helping Hurts has hurt me specifically in career goals as well as making ministry in Lubbock not fit with the Word of God or with me.

Add this post to a long list of posts that gripe about that sorry book (When Helping Hurts).  I am sorry if it makes me out like a broken record, but the attitude persists and the misfit right along with it.  Therefore I continue to persist in denouncing it and resisting it.  And I am happy to make the homeless and poor in Lubbock aware of what’s going on, where this problem comes from, and arm them with Scripture with which to counteract it.  My continued discussion of it over the course of many posts makes this rebuttal more likely to hit on a Google search too… and well, I think the world needs to know and to reconsider.

 

Homeless Mystics

I remember one of my college buddies, a fellow Bible student, daring to think that he might become a “drifter for Jesus.”  He was actually from a very wealthy family that, as I understand it, hob-knobbed with big-shot politicians you might have heard of.  So when this buddy began dreaming of cutting loose all his worldly possessions, getting a one-way ticket to Russia or China, and letting the wind and Jesus take him on a mystic’s journey and mission, it all sounded so spiritual and Romantic.  I envied him for his fantasy.

IMG_1177

Somehow, though, that buddy got re-grounded shortly before graduation.  He did not unload all his worldly possessions and take off “drifting for Jesus.”  Instead, he got married, had kids, bought a home and all that.  And honestly, I can’t really see the benefit from that dream except for the sheer trust he would be putting in God for his daily living, but at what expense?  Would he be a perpetual free-loader?  Of course, part of the charm is the idea that you can’t really know those answers this side of that leap of faith!

But then I find some of my homeless brothers and sisters to be pretty mystical too.  Not all of them.  Not even most.  But a handful of them are strongly convicting about it.  Strong believers in Jesus who do not put their trust in stuff – in the complex commitments to mortgages, car loans, social clubs etc.  They never have to face questionable dilemmas about what evils their 401K or other investment plans may or may not be funding.  No.  They are in the world, but not of it – so it appears.

And when you couple that loose societal connection with a strong familiarity with Scripture and what appears to be a habit of prayer and/or spiritual formation, you might really feel compelled to show the prophet a bit of respect.  I mean especially if she isn’t asking for nothin’!  You know… not begging for money or anything.  I mean if one of THESE homeless people offer you a special blessing, you sense that you need to be very careful not to offend God by how you treat them.

We have one guy who (I feel confident everyone on the streets of Lubbock knows his name) dresses in toga sheets and sandals, carries a bag with his Greek/Hebrew Bible and a few needful things, but walks the streets blessing others.  If you sit and talk with him a moment or two, you quickly see that this guy knows his Scriptures, practices spiritual piety, and has a very pastoral approach to others.  He is a “drifter for Jesus” if ever there was one.  In fact, I heard of him from other street people long before I met him, and THEY ALL called him “JESUS.”

He has a number of friends who, though they don’t dress like him, search the Scriptures and meditate together frequently.  I have seen one of them (we will call him Agent M) on TV stating that he prefers to live outdoors.  And I know this man’s heart for Jesus, and that he literally would give you the shirt right off his back if you asked for it.  That is about all he’s got, but he will not withhold it from you if you ask!

I am not sure what to make of these homeless mystics.  I trust that Jesus loves them, that they love him, that they are dedicated to serving him, and that Jesus is honored by their service.  I could raise a lot of difficult questions beyond those observations; it is true.  But I sense that I must do so with great care that I respect them as I do so.  So, instead, I just call them “Brother” and “Sister” and try to learn from them as much as anything.

I point them out on this blog because I sense rather strongly that I have readers here who have NO IDEA about them.  Likewise, I sense that lots of my friends and family, if they did have an idea about them, could EASILY dismiss these mystics amid contempt and thus dismiss the image of God.  And, well, I would like to make this offering as a way to hopefully mitigate that.

“Stewardship” – A Hideout for Selfishness???

“But, Agent X, wouldn’t you agree that we are to be good stewards of the things God has given us?” (Not an exact quote, but close.)

Yeah, it’s hard to argue with that.  Makes it sound like if I promote selling everything one owns and giving it to the poor, then I am against good stewardship of the blessings God has given us.

There’s just one hitch: Jesus told at least one rich guy to sell everything he owned, give it to the poor, have his riches in heaven, and come follow (Mark 10:21).  If I promote the same thing Jesus commanded that rich guy to do, then surely selling everything and giving it to the poor is not actually a violation of good stewardship after all!  In fact, maybe, just maybe, having your riches in heaven counts as truly good stewardship!

I don’t go to Mark 10:21 for a lesson in stewardship, actually, but I suggest that it is not a violation of stewardship.  There is a delicate difference there – think about it.

Here’s the thing: I have recently raised this passage as part of my rebuttal to the When Helping Hurts program.  I was rebutted with a question about stewardship.  I never raised the issue of stewardship; the defender of When Helping Hurts did that.  Personally, I think that was a worthwhile reaction.  Because somehow, on the surface of things, giving away wealth to the poor does seem to violate good stewardship.  And while I am not prepared to exhaustively analyze stewardship, I can confidently say that based on the commands of Jesus, either giving away wealth to the poor does not violate good stewardship OR stewardship does not matter!  (And well, I am inclined to think the former and not the latter.)

In the exchange with the guy about stewardship, I also quoted Luke 6:30.  That verse, in part, quotes Jesus saying, “Give to all who ask….”  Again, I was confronted with the question of stewardship in defense of the book and program called When Helping Hurts.  But as part of that rebuttal, the guy seemed to conflate (or seemed to think I was conflating) Mark 10:21 with Luke 6:30 – as if to say you must always sell everything you own and give it all to the poor every time a poor person asks you for something.

Let me be clear:  I SAID NO SUCH THING.

Again, my point was that Jesus himself would have all of us give to all who ask.  Jesus did not specify on that occasion that you should give everything you have just for the asking.  He did not specify that it should be money either.  For all I know, he was making allowance for giving prayer (or better yet a healing touch like Peter and John in Acts 3:6).  It could be as little as give a listening ear, a moment of time, but probably carries more weight with some kind of material sacrifice since the over all context suggests giving forgiveness for theft and giving up coats and shirts.

Nevertheless, you are commanded to give to all who ask.  Giving is not a violation of good stewardship, or if it is, then stewardship just does not really matter to Jesus!  (You decide. I will leave that debate for another time.)

Meanwhile, I have seen with my own eyes in real life (and read about others on the internet) who felt justified after reading When Helping Hurts in not giving to the poor.  In fact, in the name of “not hurting” them, some of these “Christian” ministers have actually sent the poor away empty handed so as to be good stewards, guard against humiliating the poor, and teaching the poor a lesson!  And this is in direct opposition to St. Mary’s depiction of Jesus’s message and mission as she portrays them in Luke 1:53.

Consider this:  Giving, whether everything or something, is not a violation of stewardship at all.  No.  Giving is a violation of selfishness!  And while I will refrain from accusing my fellow discussant of disguising his selfishness as stewardship by asking me his question, I will ask him to consider if that is not in fact the root motive for asking it.  I will let him decide for himself.  But I raise the whole thing here too so that you can consider it with me.

Perhaps I am in the wrong.  If so, show me.  I am interested.

 

“God Bless Road Kill”

Yeah, I thought that was funny too.

If you saw my post a few weeks back called A Field Shepherd’s Report to Headquarters, then you know I mentioned one cat out at Tent City that goes by the name “Road Kill.”  And since I frequently pray for the homeless by name, I found myself praying for this new friend a few days ago.

…and that’s when the words came out of my mouth: “God bless Road Kill…”

Suddenly I had to stop and explain to God that I did not mean some grease spot out on the highway.  And then I realized, “Oh, yeah, I am talking to God here.  You already know what I mean.”

What can I say?  Heaven and me had a laugh.  But still, I pray for Road Kill.

If you are reading here, I invite you to join me.  Road Kill needs all the prayer he can get!