From Lemons to Lemonade

High on Homeless Hog

I love this picture.  One of my guys from the streets, who asked to be called Agent Zero (We already have two Agent J’s), has an indomitable spirit for the outdoors.  He lives quite extravagantly for a street homeless man.  I figure he has a knack for acquiring “stuff” and probably loses it as fast as he gets it.  He seems never to have a care in the world, a perpetual smile on his face, and, despite his drug addiction, a friendly disposition.  He will share anything and everything he’s got for the asking!

Anyway, one morning last year, I rolled up on his “spot” in the park and found he had run an extension cord almost 300 feet to an outlet he found across the alley.  He and his friends camped under the gazebo with a coffee pot, a radio, an alarm clock, and a toaster oven!  Except for the outdoors and the illegality, it was better than my house!

Daring and shameless!  Agent Zero is incorrigible!  And I love it.

The Gospel of Lord Caesar vs. The Gospel of Lord Jesus

Check out this quote from Caesar.  Let it bounce sparks off your Christian imagination.  If you have not studied Roman (and/or early Christian) history, this will likely be new for you.

An ancient inscription unearthed by archaeology:

The providence which has ordered the whole of our life, showing concern and zeal, has ordained the most perfect consummation for human life by giving to it Augustus, by filling him with virtue for doing the work of a benefactor among men, and by sending in him, as it were, a savior for us and those who come after us, to make war to cease, to create order everywhere…; the birthday of the god [Augustus] was the beginning of glad tidings that have come to men through him….

(I found this quote when studying N.T. Wright, btw.)  The message of this inscription is Rome’s imperial gospel message about Lord Caesar and how world order is created by (and through) him.  He is called “savior.”  He is credited with ending all wars in the whole known world for forty years!  (Thus, elsewhere, he was known as “Prince of Peace.”)  This inscription even calls him a “god!” and characterizes itself as “glad tidings” – another term for “gospel.”

Since Christmas is upon us, I ask you to imagine with me the birth in the imperial palace of a son.  This is hypothetical rather than actual history, I know, but it was an on-going hope of the empire whether realized in actual history or not.  Visualize the queen pregnant by Lord Caesar coming to full term and all the public anticipation for the coming news of the emperor’s next generation.  (You might liken that anticipation to Caligula, the third Roman emperor.)  Then, suddenly the bards around Rome call for everyone’s attention and for crowds to gather in the palace square.  An announcement and a presentation will be made shortly.

Go there with me, in your mind, and join the throngs of well-wishers.  You can see the politicians from the Senate, lords and ladies of nobility, and even military commanders elbowing each other to take important positions down front just below the balcony window of the palatial delivery room.  You are just an imperial peasant, maybe even a slave, but you manage to squeeze into the forum near the back of the venue where you see the full scope of the crowds and the cheers of delight when the curtain is pulled back and the proud father raises the newborn child (the future leader of the world-wide empire) over his head almost like Michael Jackson dangling a baby!

Imagine all the titles of nobility, power, hope, and strength thrust upon this child as the crowds celebrate his birth!  The hope of the civilized world expressed in joyful noise, dancing, delight, gifts and sacrifices, parades, gladiator games, shopping malls decorated in seasonal colors, feasts, orgies, parties, worship services (of pagan varieties of course), and all the private homes decorated for the party season too.  Now, imagine this celebration becoming an annual event.  (Actually, this part is historical, and you don’t have to rely strictly on your imagination.)  Sound familiar?

Yeah.  But here’s the kicker: Augustus Caesar’s birthday was September 23rd, 63 B.C.

So, let me ask you: Did you remember Augustus Caesar’s birthday this year?  Did you celebrate it?

I strongly doubt it.  I bet you forgot.  (Oh?  You didn’t even know about it???)

Hmmm….  I promise you that everyone in Bethlehem heard about the world in mass hysteria and celebration over Caesar’s birthday.  Even if those good Jews refused to celebrate, the seasonal event did not go unnoticed!

We don’t know the date of Lord Jesus’s birthday.  St. Mary stored up a lot of things like that in her heart, but none of the witnesses there that day saw fit to store the date up in our Scriptures.  Nevertheless, we have chosen, for good or for ill, to celebrate Jesus’s birth on December 25th.  And our annual celebration goes on almost globally, and is celebrated at a level that rival’s that of Caesar (minus the orgies and other pagan aspects) while Caesar goes ignored almost completely!

Of course that observation is a tremendous over-simplification, as any thoughtful reader here surely knows.  The holiday has become tremendously commercialized, deeply secularized, and always did collude, at least a little, with paganism.  Nevertheless, Lord Jesus is celebrated in a turn-about of fortunes with Caesar, while Caesar – that Prince-of-Peace pretender, that Savior-of-the-world pretender, that Lord-of-lords pretender – goes almost entirely forgotten!  That’s a coup d’état, ya’ll!  Two thousand years later and Rome is not a world power, Caesar is not emperor, but that born-homeless peasant (from a back water part of Caesar’s reign) has usurped him without firing a shot!

Wow!!!

Now, I ask you to go read Luke’s Gospel (chapter 2) and see that first Christmas celebration.  See, don’t imagine, see Luke portray for you the inside-out, the upside-down, the back-hand across Caesar’s face inherent in the power of the Gospel St. Paul later told Rome he is “not ashamed of!” (Rom. 1:16).  Luke makes a lot of mention of Caesar’s rule in that chapter, but then he bestows imperial titles that were normally reserved for the emperor on the peasant child instead.  Luke is subverting empire!

Watch the courts of heaven open like a curtain from God’s palace balcony, only it’s a barnyard where YHWH, The Great God Almighty’s only begotten son is born!  The angels announce that a Savior is born!  The shepherds, some of the lowliest, smelliest, most forgotten and left-out people in Caesar’s empire, are ushered to the place of honor down at the front!  No politicians, nobles, or other elites would bother to come if invited (except Matthew’s sojourning astrologers from the east!).  It’s just humble people and the angels of heaven getting it together in a back lot mostly unnoticed by the powers and principalities and other authorities – but the invitation to come and see is made to you if only you will answer the call.

Behold! This is your God!  Humble yourself that you might join the celebrations!  And let us find the world order his reign brings as we forget Lord Caesar’s birthday yet another year!

What does this have to do with a blog on HOME and HOMELESS???

I think you can figure that out.

Amen?  Anyone???

Asleep In The Snow

Here is a scene from the streets (an alley actually) of Lubbock last winter.

Asleep in snow

Will history repeat itself?

WWJD?

I put out prayer requests to churches around town last week on their websites – those that have prayer request sites.  I asked for prayer and for those churches to consider hosting street homeless during cold weather.

It appears I was ignored by all but one.  (To be fair, some of them might be praying without sending me an email response.)

The one that did respond only responded negatively and argumentatively.  (Hey, at least I was taken seriously and engaged! … and not only that, but with actual Scripture too! … but negatively nonetheless.)  The passage in Matthew 25 about Judgment for how we treat the poor was acknowledged, but dismissed by suggesting it only applies to “brothers” and not random people from the streets.

Wow!  You have to be a member of that church on the streets before that church will help you?  Does that ring true with Jesus?  What do you think?

Of course the responder totally misconstrued my request as a ploy to get money.  I made no such request.  But the response was largely about that and denied me money that I did not ask for.  It ended with a quote from 2nd Thessalonians 3:10, where St. Paul says, “If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.”

That is a powerful verse.  I cannot deny that it is the very Word of God.  And it is one that gets trotted out frequently to defend a stance against loving the homeless.  But this is a deeply mistaken application and misuse of that verse – in my view.  (I must respect that others will hold a different view, but I expect that its meaning and usefulness is a matter of debate.  Also, I am actually thrilled to have a response that seeks God’s Word on these matters.  So often, “Christians” don’t even bother!)

I will not explicate a proper use of that verse at this time, but I will note that it is not a blanket directive for all people on all occasions.  We don’t use this verse to deny sick people food, for instance.  And many of those living on the streets suffer with various illnesses that prevent them from working.  Therefore, a blanket denial of loving street people by way of this verse is actually very unloving and reveals a hard heart.

What about cold & flu?  What about alcoholism and drug addiction?  What about mental illness of various kinds?  What about war-related PTSD?  Would you deny a veteran food if he is out of work and on the streets after he “defends” your nation?

So…

Back to my questions at the start of this post.  WWJD? and Will history repeat itself this winter in Lubbock?

Thank God for Restoring Hope, Paul’s Project, and the other 501c3’s that are out there doing the Lord’s work, because without them making the church look good, no one would (I think).

WOW! part 2

Check it out.  This is mind-expanding.  Homeless people stretching the imagination.  Hey, if Fat Beggars School of Prophets can help someone from the streets do that…!

Anyway, here’s the video.

If you are homeless and reading this, please consider how worship of Jesus on the streets (whether celebrating Christmas or some other way) bears the image of the loving God in a way that can only draw the people of Lubbock closer to him as they take lessons in love from you.

Almost 100 Posts and No Mention of N.T. Wright

I really rambled out a stream of consciousness post last time.  And that is a the raw way I think and sometimes write.  I figure it seemed to come out of left field and disappear into the ether for most folks.

So what?  Here’s a bit more, but not so long winded this time.

I have written 99 posts heretofore and made absolutely no mention of N.T. Wright.  I made mention of Walter Brueggemann, Walter Wink, and even C. Leonard Allen (among others).  But I made no mention of N.T. Wright.

That’s not significant if you don’t know me.  For a handful of critics who know Agent X, this should be significant.  And for those who don’t know me (but likely still won’t care), N.T. Wright has had the single biggest influence on me of any Christian thinker.  I only mention this because I have a strong sense that at least a handful of my critics have made off-hand comments which marginalize my ministry based on a mistaken notion that I am too heavily influenced by this thinker that they themselves have not given enough credit to on the one hand, and they think I only regurgitate on the other.

To be fair, I don’t recall a single line out of Wright dealing with homelessness.  However, one of his students, Brian J. Walsh, co-wrote a fascinating book entitled Beyond Homelessness that I highly recommend – but which I hold a few criticisms of nevertheless.

I only post this observation (which I know is out of the blue) to lay down a marker.  I think for myself.  I bring a message that is not a regurgitation of the great theologian, and besides the fact that these critics are short-sighted for not giving Wright a better hearing themselves – and who dismiss me for being his enthusiast, I will now resist that criticism too.

But also, I will now feel free to quote from Wright anytime I want.  And I will point my short-sighted, blow-me-off critics to the previous 99 posts for any messages from God they may have missed in an effort not to deal with Wright.

For the rest of you, thanks for your patience.

Faith Involves Risk

Another word for “terror” is “fear,” and here in the “Land of the free and the home of the brave,” our daily headlines are full of fear and terror.  We put up defenses and some scary people get through.  I remember taking a flight for a Christmas vacation in 2001, only two months after the World Trade Center attacks, and eyeballing every fellow passenger that displayed even a hint of middle-eastern dress or features!  And the media told us that we were on “heightened alert” and recommended that Americans “be vigilant” and report anything suspicious to authorities.  And it seemed that everything was at least a little suspicious.

The problem is that LIFE is not born out of fear and suspicion.  LIFE only occurs amid trust.

Oh sure, you can become pregnant by a rape.  That is possible, yes, but it is not the norm, nor is it anywhere near the ideal.  Babies born of rape should be celebrated just like those born into stable families, but their origins are anomalies rather than normal or desired.

I point that out because LIFE (and thus society) depends on trust – faith.  Even without mentioning Jesus, Bible, or God the Father, it is plain to see that mutual trust is foundational to human life.  Fear is a parasite on LIFE – a parasite that dare not kill its host or else fear itself dies.  However, LIFE can live, in fact thrive, without fear sucking the life out of it.  Thus fear depends on life to live, but life does not depend on fear at all.

We need to think about this abstract stuff just for a moment.  Not that we need to get bogged down in erudite cogitation.  No, not at all.  Actually the stated case is fairly simple.  But it is somewhat abstract when put like this.

We need to think about this stuff in this way because our nation, our society, our culture – really world-wide – is under attack by terrorism.  And the fear is growing.  We see more and more people killed, gunned down senselessly.  We see internet videos of people beheaded, burned alive – and crucified.  YES, crucified.  I saw an image of an actual crucifixion on CNN last year!  Never saw it before, except what Hollywood and St. Paul (Gal. 3:1) portrayed, but now I have seen the real thing.  Wow!

And my experience with the media, our politicians, and even talking to my West Texas neighbors, finds that we want to fight fear with guns!  We want to return parasite for parasite – escalate the fear by exporting it back to our enemies.

Meanwhile, no one, but I mean NO ONE I know, makes any mention that what we need is more TRUST!  1st John 4:18 tells us, “Perfect LOVE casts out fear!”  That is the Word of God, folks!  And I don’t want to live in a world run by fear!  I want to live in the Kingdom Reign of LOVE!  But that means I am gonna hafta TRUST God and promote TRUSTING my neighbors.

Why is this important to a blog all about HOME and HOMELESS???

Glad you asked.

Because it is part of the same problem, actually.  Fear just happens to be the buzz at the moment, whereas homelessness is the red-headed step-child of both social issues and Christian ministry usually anyway.

Think about this: What is that “home security” system you have installed at your house?  My God!  You even decorate your flower bed with a sign that says in bold letters “ADT” or some other brand.  And it’s a sign that you don’t trust your neighbors!  You have effectively decorated your home with your fear!  “ADT” signs are not attractive additions to your flower beds!

Why do you lock your car up when you leave it at the store?  Because you don’t trust your neighbors!

Why do you carry mace in your purse?  Because you don’t trust your neighbors!

Why do you carry a firearm under your coat?  Because you don’t trust your neighbors!

And this is part of the same fear, lack of faith, that turns your home into a fortress of locked doors, locked windows, security alarms, and arsenals of weapons.  But when I was a kid, and certainly when my grandpa was a kid, no one (let me say that again) NO ONE, (one more time) – NO ONE! – shot up movie theaters and churches.  Then in 1966, Charles Whitman shot up the University of Texas at Austin.  Over time, schools, post offices, and restaurants became the sites of mass shootings until now it seems almost commonplace.

And we retreat to our homes for cover.

But we are betraying our homes in hundreds of other ways every day.  You can send your 18 year old off as a soldier to a distant land with a gun in his hand to defend your home, and meanwhile you betray the same home at the drop of a pair of polka-dot panties?  Why all the divorce if we want to defend home so much?

What is this home we have been defending??? 

I know that at my house, we get up each morning and go our separate ways ALL DAY LONG almost every day.  When was the last time your family all sat down to eat a home-cooked meal together AT THE TABLE? – with no football game interruptions? Really???

I mean, between school and work, football practice, piano lessons, youth group, awards ceremonies, late nights at the office, grocery shopping, and PTA meetings, there is hardly any time for eating together.  I know more about my kids from Facebook than from face time!  And this is eroding our celebration of HOME and of trust!

My grandpa grew up in a huge family.  They all worked the land together.  The women and girls had house chores, the men and boys worked the land and the animals.  The work was hard, but perhaps what made it special was the sharing of it.  And all the work stopped at meal times, at least twice a day!  And everyone ate together.  And you did not start eating until after it had been properly blessed – and God was honored.  And no one “left home” for college.

I recall one old friend from my youth – I mean he was about 90 years old at the time – telling me that when he was a kid, he remembered being closer to the people who lived on the next ranch 7 miles away than he was as an old man with his next door neighbors who lived only 17 feet away!

But then with the Industrial Revolution, dads and fathers began leaving home to work (actually moms and kids did too, but that got worked out after a while).  But then eventually, the moms returned to “the workforce” – away from home – and the kids went to “Day Care” and the home became four walls and a roof where occasionally you bumped into strangers you called “Dad” or “Mom.”

But I exaggerate…  I know.

But the mass shootings do not exaggerate.  They just keep getting worse and worse.  The fear grows more and more.  And the call to get more guns, better home security systems, and more sophisticated means of protection just gets louder and louder.  We seem to have traded a world of trust for a world of fear.  And I say what we need is more TRUST – more faith.  Perfect LOVE casts out fear!

But we have to accept that faith involves risk.  Until we accept that, we will not know LOVE at all.

Bud, The Invisible Man, and a Prophet’s Call From God (partIII)

(If you have not been following the last two posts, I am copying entries from old journals to share a story of my spiritual experience relating with a difficult person in difficult circumstances.  Skipping a couple of journal entries, entries where I report actually having a measure of depth of conversation with him (which lent itself to spiritual matters), I want to share one more fascinating report on Bud the invisible man and my answer of God’s call to love him.  For background on this post, see the previous posts on this subject.)

September 27, 1996

Mesa, Arizona

Once again I want to make an update on Bud, the invisible man.  He has been less and less vulgar around me.  It’s not entirely gone, but it seems to be dissipating.  I do my best to ignore it and force the subject of conversation to change when it comes out.  Sometimes this gracious method is successful.  [And anyway,] it seems to come up less frequently.

Today Bud told me about a dream he had last night.  He was in a bar and was “checking out some chicks.”  They found out he works at [unnamed corporate complex].  They figured that meant he was a [test] driver.

Bud said he didn’t want to “tell them the truth, that [he] really cleans toilets for a living.”  Besides, they were impressed that he might be a test driver.

Then he said I came into the bar and saw him.  [Suddenly I had become a character in his dream.]  I came over to talk to him, and he was trying to “give [me] the hint” that the “chicks thought [he] was a driver!”

Well, that’s really about all he told me about it.  And, well, I thought [the dream] was noteworthy.  It reminded me of one of Jim McGuiggan’s stories in his book Applauding the Strugglers.  The story was called, “Pretend you know me.”  The very first sentence in that story is this:  “J. H. Jowett called Jesus a ‘receiver of wrecks.'”

Then McGuiggan tells a story about a bum on skid row.  This bum always told big stories of better days of wealth and prestige etc…  The other bums never believed a word of it, though.

One day he saw a successful man across the street and in desperation claimed that he’d known the man in years gone by – that they’d done business together and were close friends.  Of course saying that was a mistake, because the other bums urged him to prove it.

Well, out of desperation the bum approached the rich guy and whispered, “I’m not looking for money or handouts… but please, mister, pretend you know me!”

When the rich guy saw the other bums he figured out what was going on immediately and let out a loud whoop and threw his arm around the bum.  He said, “I haven’t seen you in ages!”  Then he cleaned him up, fed him, gave him some cash and new clothes, and then went on his way.

The bum went back to skid row then, but now he had dignity.  The compassionate rich guy hadn’t been ashamed of him.  That’s how I want to be with the riches God has given me.

[The writings above were my thoughts at the time.  Here are some reflections I have today after much more maturity and hindsight.  The inside/out of Bud’s dream and the fact that he shared it with me revealed multiple facets and levels of my relationship with Bud.  He was dealing with the same social anxieties I was, and lacked the words to express them – for one thing.  And he was telling me what it was like to be on the other end of these anxieties – for another.  I could tell that our friendship and the social anxieties it thrust upon both of us were important to him if for no other reason than he actually dreamed them and then spoke about it.]

Bud, The Invisible Man, and a Prophet’s Call From God (part II)

(The following post is an edited copy of a follow-up journal entry to my previous post on Bud, the Invisible Man and my vocation to take up the role of Jesus in his life and in my workplace. This post is a continuation of that story.)

September 19, 1996

Mesa, Arizona

I have an update on the invisible man.  I have shared my lunchtime, at work, several times in the last 3 weeks or so with Bud, the invisible man, and his invisible partner, Norm.

Bud is a grody, unattractive individual.  Norm isn’t much better.  Bud is, however, vulgar in his conversations; Norm is not.  In fact I have felt repulsed by Bud’s conversation.  This is not uncommon for my experience with him. Still, I consider him one of God’s creatures, and I show him friendship.

Today, Norm was not there.  I took lunch a little early, and so I sat outside at the smokers table – alone.  Soon Bud came out for break and joined me.

I had chosen a place where quite often people gather for lunch, and soon we were surrounded by [test] drivers.  Bud spoke freely among us.  However, he was like a drummer without rhythm in a marching band.  He did not fit.  Fortunately, he did not get vulgar, but I kept fearing he would.  I was afraid my new friend would become offensive to others.

When I finished my sandwich, I got up and quietly left.  I went to get a pop, but I knew I had left Bud there alone among the drivers, and socially he was out of his element – really far out.  (Though I felt uneasy there with him, I also had a morbid fascination wondering what would happen if I left.)

I felt like a mother leaving her baby to the wolves.  But I did not know a more graceful way to spare myself or Bud (or the others) the pain and awkwardness of dealing with him if he chose to get vulgar.  [I was hoping my absence might induce Bud to step away too before he got up his steam.]

Then I came back to my spot shortly after that, and as I’d figured, Bud had gone back to work and left the group.  I felt sad for him, and I watched him dump trash.

After a few minutes we were joined by Janice.  She is a somewhat attractive, friendly – even bubbly blonde.  She is a [test] driver, like most of us at that break table were.  She announced, “That scuzzy janitor told me a really bad joke yesterday!  He is disgusting.  I told him not to talk to me anymore.”

Well, that’s not an exact quote, but she did say “scuzzy.”  [Suddenly,] I felt eyes on me.  What would be my reaction?  I thought they were waiting….

At first, I had none.  Ben asked her to tell Bud’s joke.  “NO!” she replied with her cutesy, flirtatious whine.  “It was really bad.”

So I said, “I bet I can top it.”

Ben laughed, “Me too.”

I have been wondering where this will lead.  That seemed to be the extent of today’s relevant conversation and subsequent feedback.

I understand Janice’s  reaction and repulsion to Bud.  I hope that a monster of vulgarity has not been unleashed on all the young, sweet, attractive ladies on the [corporate complex].  Simultaneously, I see that Bud is no longer invisible.  He is now disliked outright.  My care for him opened his imagination to new social possibilities, and I had subtly ushered him into the midst of “the in crowd.”  But then I abandoned him at the lunch table.  I was out of my element too.  New territory (for everyone).

Bud was not received well.  The ice on the dialog of this topic cracked.  I am curious to see where it will lead, but it does not look pretty.  I fear it could be me they crucify in this, and Bud and Norm will scatter.  I learn this from the [script I read for this drama – for the one taking the role of Jesus].

Mark 14:27 NCV

Then Jesus told his followers, “You will all stumble in your faith, because it is written in the script: ‘I will kill the shepherd, and the sheep will scatter.'”

I figure that if I am to imitate Jesus then I will pay in a similar fashion as him. [Not with outright crucifixion/execution to be sure, but perhaps it could lead to social ostracism, lousy assignments from the boss, or even getting fired!]  I need to offer to Bud and Norm a love that they can take with them.  They may disappear or any number of things could separate us.  Probably time is of the essence.  Or perhaps I should try to pursue this even more in my off time hours.  I do not have great expectations for these guys.  Maybe God does.  [I trust] that he is at work here.

If Janice goes to supervision, Bud could lose his job or be asked not to socialize with drivers.  He could be told to take his lunch elsewhere or even work at another location.  If these things happen, he deserves it.  He will not get what he deserves from me.  He will be shown the love of God from me – I hope.

I look at my supervisors.  They are not dumb.  They see what is happening.  What are they thinking about him? … about me?

Time will tell, but I doubt that they are concerned much with God’s love for invisible people.

[As I look back on this entry, I fully recognize that I can be criticized for having a ‘savior complex.’  But I also think that is actually appropriate at some levels.  The only thing missing here is that I should have been someone else’s lamb too.  I was a novice Christian, exploring my life in faith.  I really needed a mentor to speak with about these things, but I did not have that.  And in the 19 years since, I have yet to find one in my church.]

 

 

BUD, The Invisible Man, and a Prophet’s Call From God (part I)

(Years before I used the internet and maintained a blog, I used to keep personal journals.  This post reproduces one of those journal entries. I was in my mid-twenties at the time, young and naïve to be sure.  I made a number of editing adjustments to the reproduction.)

August 30, 1996

Mesa, Arizona

I am intrigued and moved by the invisible people.  I have shared lunch with an invisible man at work 3 times this week.  His name is Bud.  He is a strange and … creepy little man.  But he is so incredibly invisible, and I [saw] him.  I wonder how many times I might’ve looked right at him and not see him.  I hope that I was not so insensitive.  But I could have been.  I am only recently struck by him and his invisibleness.

I like to think that I see him with eyes of compassion.  Or maybe the sight that comes with faith in Jesus….

Bud is a janitor at [my work place (a major worldwide corporation, btw)].  He works for a contractor called BSI.  I’ve seen many BSI employees many times as have everyone who works [at our complex].  But they rarely, if ever, socialize with [employees from other companies there].

Most BSI people appear to be poor and uneducated.  Upon initial observance, they all wear blue shirts as a uniform of sorts.  …Many are of Hispanic ethnicity and speak Spanish to each other.  Perhaps they do not know English.  Often this secludes them to their own Spanish speaking social circles.  Of those who are not Hispanic, most appear to be what is commonly referred to as “white trash.”  This is evident by their missing teeth, second-hand clothing, and also most of them smoke.  It’s an all-around unattractiveness.

Many times these people go unnoticed and not spoken to by other corporate personnel, except when one of them is mopping a floor and the other personnel must walk on the wet surface.  Even then typically the BSI worker goes ignored (or at least not spoken to).

I have never seen [corporate personnel from either my employer or other contractors] share their lunch hour visiting with BSI personnel.  In fact the notion barely occurred to me, and then fled my mind as quick as it had come – until this week.

What words would I say?  What interests could we share?  Wouldn’t I make a fool of myself if I tried?  What if I spoke to one of them and he was a complete moron or a weirdo?

Well a few days ago I bumped into this one guy 2 or 3 times in a row.  I smiled and made polite comment, which was not too far out of the ordinary, but more than most.  But it was kind of funny how we crossed paths and tangled the way we did.

[I entered the men’s room to use the urinal, but had to wait for him to clean it.  When I was finished, I had to wait for him to finish cleaning the sink.  When I wanted to use the paper towel, he was changing it out.  At each step, he was both serving me and in my way at the same time!]

So, I inquired his name.  “Bud.”  I must have shared my name to because when I saw him the next day, he remembered… [Agent X].

I shared my lunchtime with him.  We sat and ate and visited in plain sight of everyone.  I felt a social taboo, and I was breaking it.  It felt powerful.

The conversation was dull, for me anyway.  But I had decided that my motives were not for rich conversation, but to be Christ-like [and see where that would lead me].

Jesus was a servant’s servant.  He reached out and hand picked 12 apostles.  At that time, they were invisible men living out pointless lives.  They all failed Jesus as a friend and disciple while they were with him, but he found them to be friend-worthy anyway.

Today we fail to see that Peter, James, John and the gang were uneducated fishermen and the like.  They were not equipped with royalty or status or knowledge to tell the world what God has done.  Rather they were empty shells, or empty cups, and in fact so empty that they could not resist the Master when he filled them up.  They did not understand fully until they had hindsight and faith was born.

Jesus did not come to fill up the empty cups of the [elites].  The [elites] had used their pride, for they had their royalties and status and knowledge to have that pride in, to fill their own empty hearts and lives with the pleasures, lusts, and power of humankind.  They looked for a king on parade.  They wanted to go on parade with him [and ride his coat tails through whatever violence that might incur].  He could feed their arrogant pride and justify their self-serving self-righteousness.

This [pride] is what they hungered for and what they manifested in their clean living.

The woman at the well or the woman “caught in the act” or the woman in Luke 7 who came to Jesus at Simon the Pharisee’s house did not live clean lives.  The very nature of their uncleanliness compelled them toward Jesus.  Granted the woman “caught in the act” was brought against her will, but her unclean living is what compelled her to him.

By contrast, Simon’s approach to Jesus was curious [and] aloof.  He held his pride in reserve.

Bud is a servant.  He mops floors and dumps trash.  People step around him in a crowded room as if he did not exist.  If he died and did not show up for work tomorrow, it would only be other BSI people who would notice.

But Bud is a servant.

I’m reminded that in John 2, at the wedding feast, Jesus turned water into wine.  It was his first miraculous sign.

Miracles proved who Jesus was to the people of his day.  It was the servants (people seen, but not heard (and not seen, for that matter)) – INVISIBLE PEOPLE – who saw and knew of this glory.  The servants were the ones to witness this glorious act!

John 2:8-9 from the NCV

…So they took the water to the master.  When he tasted it, the water had become wine.  He DID NOT KNOW where the wine came from, but THE SERVANTS who had brought the water KNEW.

THIS is who Jesus befriended and loved and [played the role] of God among.  He even loved and served criminals.  Zacchaeus (Luke 19) would have been considered treasonous by good Jews of his day!

Suddenly when I saw the invisible man – Bud – the other day, I realized that a friend to him would be priceless.  If I were Bud’s friend, I’d be priceless.  That’s what Jesus became to his friends.  [And if I wanted to take on the role of Jesus in the drama of my workplace and social world, I should do likewise!]

One day after I met Bud, I sat down to lunch and several other test drivers [contractor personnel] joined me.  They crowded around me at the lunch table.  I’d picked a remote spot before that hoping that I’d have solitude, and that when Bud came to lunch, he [might feel comfortable joining] me.

Well, since I was surrounded by the time he arrived, he could not have sat with me anyway.  But I watched him across the room.  He sat next to a driver that did not notice him.  Then he read his Louis L’amour book.  He had lunch alone in a crowded room.

I thought, “How lonely it is to be invisible… How dear friendship must be.”

I said to the man next to me, “Would you believe that I can see invisible people?”  He laughed it off, [thinking I was just clowning around with him].

The next day Bud came and visited me again in the break room.  He lights up in his expression when he sees me.  It turns out that he is pretty creepy.  He invited me to a keg party down on the river this weekend.  He tells me there will be naked women there and lots of booze, music, and “action.”  He even described a similar party some time back where a woman stripped and went off into the woods to masturbate or another time when he hid a naked woman from the sheriff’s deputy.

I don’t even know how much of this, if any, is true.  I find it all repulsive though, and I shudder to imagine the kind of woman Bud describes.  I declined the invitation, but Bud does not hear me saying, “No.  I won’t come.”  Rather, he eagerly goes home and draws me a map to follow!

Well, I won’t be going.  My first ministry is to my marriage, and this kind of thing would really damage her faith in me.  Besides, I have no desire there.  But I am reminded that Jesus was characterized as a glutton and a drunk who hung out with the wrong crowd on more than one occasion (Matt. 11:19 & Luke 7:34).  And THIS, God saw fit to record in the Scriptures.

So, I will continue to be social among the invisible.  Actually, my contact with them causes them to be noticed.  Jesus would do it.  So will I.

I worked side-by-side today with another odd-ball man.  He seems to hold to a New Age style faith, or mentality.  He has a criminal history of drug abuse and dealing.  He is in every sense of the word a “goof-ball,” bless his heart.  He is a driver with my company, however he is a new-be – a rookie.  I sensed that if I asked if he believes in ghosts that he would affirm it.  He did.  I told him that I knew some ghosts right there on the [corporate complex].  I told him that I spoke to them, AND that they spoke to me!

He believed me!

He was right to believe me.  In fact, you could say that he was “blown away.”

Of course he told me about some ghosts he has seen or heard or felt as a cold chill on a hot day.

Somehow, I just was not impressed.