A Prophet’s Prayer

This weekend marks the first anniversary for this blog.  It’s not really that big a deal, I don’t think, but I do notice and care.  Still, I expect to be too busy to post.  So, I want to get a quick post in now before I miss a chance.

Today, I want to post my routine prayer for the homeless of my community and the community with them.  This routine has morphed and grown and includes a lot more than I will share here now, but the part I share is the more relevant part (for purposes of this blog).  Also, I published this prayer in the Fat Beggar’s Spot, the Revolutionary Rag I used to circulate on the streets of Lubbock.  So, actually, it has been publicized before.

I hope my readers here will join me in this prayer.

 

 

Morning Prayers

 

I have a regular routine of prayer that I want to share with you. I use this routine, especially, when I am driving to work in the morning – a path that takes me along Marsha Sharp Freeway [Now days I live in a different area and travel to yet another place of work, so this location has changed] from West Lubbock to East Lubbock and past downtown. It goes like this:

 

As I start my car in the morning and let it warm up, I pray:

 

Hear O Israel, the LORD our God is one, and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. (Duet. 6:4)

 

Then after a moment of silence:

 

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. May Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth like it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debt as we forgive those with debt against us. Lead us not to temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen. (Matt. 6:9-13).

 

Then as I reflect on all my friends sleeping in the streets of Lubbock I say:

 

Thank You, God, for the warm, dry bed I had to sleep in last night. Thank You for the wonderful woman I have to share it with. Thank You for our home, our food, and our good kids.

 

Then I reflect on the car I am sitting in. A 1984 Volvo that runs great.  It was a free gift that I paid no money for at all. [Now days I drive a 2003 Lincoln LS which also was a free gift from God!]  And I say: Thank You God for this car that takes me to work and to every other place I need to go.

 

And finally, I thank God for my dad living just a few blocks away. He is a blessing to me and now lives close enough that I can look in on him when he needs me.

 

 

Then, as I pull on to the freeway, I begin to sing:

 

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases.

His mercies never come to an end.

They are new every morning.

Great is thy faithfulness.

The LORD is my portion says my soul.

Therefore I will hope in Him.                                              – Lamentations 3:22-24

 

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

Cast me not away from Your presence, O LORD.

Take not Your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore unto me the joy of my salvation and renew a right spirit within me.

– Psalm 51:10-12

 

O LORD our LORD how majestic is Your name in all of the earth.

O LORD our LORD how majestic is Your name in all of the earth.

O LORD… We praise Your name.

O LORD… We magnify Your name.

Prince of peace, Mighty God, O LORD God Almighty.      – inspired by Psalm 8

 

At about this point, I begin to see the downtown district along the South side of the freeway. I begin to reflect on the school of prophets out there waking up in those streets and I pray:

 

Father, remember Your prophets today. Be with them. Comfort them, of course. Bless them, of course. But especially, I pray, that You express Yourself through them today in Your mighty mysterious way that by bearing Your image they will draw all of Lubbock to You afresh.   Particularly God, I ask you to be with Thomas, Mark, Jerry, and Jason, Heather & Dennis, Ricardo, Ishmael, George, Belinda & Leo, Pedro & Sylvia, Charles & Autum, Aaron, and Aaron, Dustin, Justina, Andy, Jeremy, Damien, John, Gina, Jessica (and her friends from Denver), Erica & Rudy, Faith & Mike, Samuel & Jenny, James [RIP] & May, Lee & Suzy, Mary, Tex, Matt, Ryan, Roadkill and Scarlett …and so many others of which this list is only a small representation. Bless and keep them today Father.  Give them Your joy, Your peace, Your comfort, and Your hope!  But in their suffering, to the extent that they do suffer, I ask You to express Yourself through them, so that they can bear Your image in this community!  I ask You to call Lubbock to You afresh in Your mighty, mysterious way, through them – like you did those beggars of old [see II Kings 6 & 7] and bring Your kingdom to bear on Lubbock in their midst – even going so far as to turn our economy on its head so that it benefits everyone!

 

This is a sample of my regular prayer. And as one who cares for your soul(s) and the streets of Lubbock, I want you to know that I regularly pray for you – many of you specifically by name. And I thank God for you.

 

Imagine That!

 

Wilson!

Being an enthusiast of N.T. Wright, I often view myself much like Tim (the-tool-man) Taylor from the (now long forgotten sitcom) Home Improvement – especially those recurring moments when Wilson, the wise old neighbor, would reveal some deep wisdom, and Tim, the dim wit, would try to regurgitate it all for his wife.  I consider my Christian faith to have been challenged at a level of about 90% by Wright!  And no one, but no one, has challenged me sooooo deeply and helped me reimagine my faith more biblically!  But when it comes to Bible study, Wright is the master and I am a bumbling disciple.

Nevertheless, with 90% of my faith so challenged and reformed, almost everything I say and do is affected by this man’s teaching.  I find even this blog to be a Tim-the-tool-man-Taylor reworking and implementation of the things I have learned from Wilson (Wright) and devoted to ministry among the homeless.  When I look at my own work, I see Wright’s eyes and forehead over my backyard fence!  His face is not here, but his voice and influence is.

Perhaps I should have called this blog “Homeless Improvement”.

To be fair, I have never seen, heard, or read Wright address homelessness directly – and certainly not comprehensively.  No.  Not at all.  He tends to stick much closer to The Bible than to the various ways its implications work out – especially in the realm of homelessness.  That is my part.

But Wright spoke at Pepperdine University earlier this month (a sister school with my alma mater and part of my faith tradition).  And right now, while his message is fresh, I have this opportunity to introduce you to the voice behind my backyard fence – so to speak.  If that interests you, then prepare yourself for a depth of biblical analysis and preaching you will not likely find hardly anywhere else.

 

The Blessed Rain

The past week in Lubbock has been dominated by rain and cool temperatures.  Rain… “always a good thing” in this arid country… is cause to celebrate.  But when it lasts more than a day or two, it’s funny how we begin complaining.

Up until last week, I was working strenuously to get enough water to my lawn and the flowers.  Several patches were turning brown and brittle.  The hot, dry wind was getting relentless, and I found it a challenge to keep my lawn up with the Jones’.

I listened to a friend a week ago complain that he was about to spend the weekend camping, but he had hoped for good weather.  An adventurous, young man full of vitality, he sought sympathy because it appeared he would face the trip being cold, wet, and muddy – for a weekend.  I couldn’t help but think of my friends and those prophets facing this stuff day-in and day-out (night-in and night-out) with no relief in sight and no one offering any sympathy.

And then last night’s local newscast featured a lengthy explication of the impact recent weather has on cotton farming, which is our backbone industry in this area.  The weather girl wanted to assert that rain is ALWAYS a blessing, but this much at this point in the season, especially when the temps drop as they have, is like a “return to winter”.  It shortens the growing season, increases the risk of crop failure, and drives up costs due to replanting.  Of course farmers hate to complain about rain ever, there is a heightened concern as too much creates a critical condition.  It almost feels like God is not on our side!  But of course no one ever says that!

But you know what did not make the news?

Homeless.

Oh yeah, I thank God for maintaining the vanity of my castle; my friend gets sympathy for braving a couple of nights in the wet and cold, and the farm industry makes the headlines navigating acts of God and insurance policies while keeping the rest of our local economy in suspense since we tend to rise and fall with the tide of their success or failure.

But no one pauses to think whether (the Matthew 25:35-36) Jesus is honored.  Beholding to insurance policies rather than the image of God, what will that say of this “Christian town” at the Great Coming Judgment?

Worth asking now, I think.

Please Bear With Me (In Transition)

I fully recognize that this blog has slowed the pace in recent weeks.  I really did not realize how many people I was reaching with it.  Most don’t give me direct feedback.  I have a number of friends – some international – with whom this blog is my primary form of contact, and even they seldom give feedback.  However, I have received multiple messages via email and text message expressing concern for the silence here (it seems).  Yet, I am making a number of changes just now that require a slow down.  This post, then, is meant to explain that.

If you are really interested, please read on… I sense this post is somewhat administrative after a fashion.  I had not intended to post this stuff at all, just merely employ some changes.  But to mitigate fears (if the concerns actually rise to that level), I want to say that I am okay.  And if that is all you need, then skip the rest of this post.  If you want more explanation, read on.

A number of things are surfacing for me personally just now that call for a change in gears.  My professional life (now in the law enforcement field) is demanding more of my time and attention – especially as I adjust to the new routines and demands.  I get stressed easily, especially in the professional settings, and yet I have never lost sight of the fact that ministry is my real vocation.  And, yes, I blend my job with ministry as much as I imaginatively can while keeping it all low-profile and un-offensive.

Also, Mrs. Agent X and I are transitioning our home-ministry so that it no longer focuses solely or even primarily on street-homeless people.  Instead, we are becoming foster parents – officially.  This means we must document and regulate who enters our home with an official vigilance.  And though this provides relief from some forms of stress (after all, when you invite street bums into your home to eat, shower, and sleep, you make yourself vulnerable to mostly unknown factors), the limitations it brings with it on that account are also accompanied by tons of training, paperwork, meetings, and home inspections among other things.

That said, this is not an abandonment of homeless ministry, but a transition.  Foster children are homeless too, just not street-homeless.  A fine example of the many different kinds of homelessness that pervades our culture.  I expect my own vocation among street-homeless to continue full speed ahead, but now it will be dissociated from my own home.  Thus I will continue primarily blogging as the main expression of that part of the ministry.

As a side note, I would confess that my street ministry in recent months has dropped off significantly.  If you are a street-homeless person in Lubbock, chances are you saw a lot of me being with you on the streets and in the alleys in years gone by, but over the course of the last six months, you probably have not.  I wish this were not so, but I continue to verbalize what I can where I can – mostly in this forum.

Back to the chase, I also sense that I am largely repeating myself on this blog.  Sure it gets nuanced differently here and there, but more than half the time, I am stating and restating “OPEN THE DOOR, CHURCH(es)!!!”  I keep quoting Matthew 25 and Revelation 3:20.  I keep holding communion services in alleys, streets, parks, and in front of locked up churches and/or writing about such prophetic acts.  I feel like a broken record!  I am tired of it.

Of course I recall that brilliant story of the missionary in South America (seems like it was credited to Juan Carlos Ortiz) who, after decades of preaching and leading the peoples, was invited to be the key speaker at a nightly revival event for a solid week.  It was a huge event with thousands in attendance – people who respected the old missionary devoutly.  And he got up and preached a powerful sermon the first night, whipped the people into ecstatic joy.  But then on the second night he preached the exact same sermon.  Yet out of respect, no one wanted to criticize the old man and suggest that he had lost his memory of preaching the same sermon the night before.  So, no one said anything to him.  But then the third night he preached it yet again, and the people began to worry about him.  Still they said nothing – you know, out of respect.  But on the fourth night, after preaching the same sermon yet again, and fearing that the revival was losing it’s steam from the first night, the critics finally interrupted the old missionary to tell him that he had already preached this sermon three times this week, perhaps he should get on with the next one in the series.  At that, the old missionary announced, “No.  I will keep preaching this message until it takes hold!  When you people finally get it, then we can move on!”

The key difference here is that I am no respected missionary, I am a prophet.  I earn a prophet’s wage.  It was a prophetic message the old missionary gave, but he was respected, and that is a key difference between his story and mine.  And, so, I am the one bored and tired of it, and yet I have this fire in my bones! (Jer. 20:9).

That said, I will not abandon the message.  But I do want to enhance this blog a bit.  After all, I am coming up on the first anniversary of this blog.  (I have blogged many times before on other blogs – mostly deleted now, but) this one is ripe for some new enhancements.  I want to interject some new emphases.

Fat Beggars School of Prophets has always emphasized Proph-O-Drama – prophetic acts – over preaching per se.  In fact, I wrote a book on it.  (If you are interested in obtaining a copy of Proph-O-Drama by Agent X, please send a request to Vandelia Church Attn: Fat Beggars School of Prophets, 2002 60th St, Lubbock, Tx 79412 with your address clearly printed on it.  I will send it to you free (unless I get overwhelmed with requests (seriously doubt that)).  This blog recounts a number of those Proph-O-Dramas, but even recounting them is not the same as doing them.  Prophetic acts are but one kind of prophecy.  The other kind (other main kind) is oracles – prophetic preaching.  Just talking about Proph-O-Drama is actually more of the later than it is the former, and that is what this blog really does, and what the whole ministry is almost reduced to given the present circumstances.

And so… I have begun thinking about moving more purposefully into prophetic oracles (perhaps we could call them “Proph-acles”??? (Idk… open to suggestions actually)) and to equipping others for both kinds of prophecy via this blog.  After all, in recent months, I have discovered – largely through the blog-O-sphere – other street preachers and prophets.  They influence me, and I might just influence them in the exchange.  One can hope.  After all, if you are willing to humble yourself before the Lord and play the fool before the world, you might be looking for insightful ways and content with which to present his message.

FBSOP has always put the meal Jesus gave us on center stage.  I do not expect that to change.  And I only mention it here now because I want to acknowledge that other messages are useful and fruitful, but I rarely pursue them.  On the other hand, the meal Jesus gave us is usually either ignored or treated as an after thought – even amid most outreach ministries.  Yet it is through the meal that Jesus is most potently revealed (Luke 24:30-31).  Israel still commemorates the Exodus with the Passover Meal to this day, and it was that meal that Jesus transformed into Eucharist.

Thus, if ministry were like mining for Gold, the meal would be like California in 1849 to the prospectors.  Ministers should be selling all they own, abandoning their comfort back east, and investing all they have in this venture: discerning that WHO YOU EAT WITH (AND HOW YOU EAT WITH THEM) DETERMINES HOW THE WORLD IS ORDERED!  Even Walter Brueggemann rightly observes that the Civil Rights Movement came to a head at the lunch counter!

It is with these things in mind that I am retooling and rearranging many things in my life, my ministry, and this blog.  Please bear with me in the transition.

Meanwhile, I invite you to pray for this ministry.

Thank you,

Agent X

 

“City Forces Church To Close Its Doors On The Homeless”

Perhaps you have heard such stories and others like it.  Government entities in the USA pressuring churches for anything is out of bounds according to the laws of the land.  But I have no desire to appeal to the US Constitution, not really.  That is not the final authority.  God is.  But even so, I think a church has a responsibility to stand up to this kind of pressure!  Not appealing to human laws, but to human conscience.

Churches are made up of groups of people who together show their love for God and one another to be more important than anything else in creation.  A willingness to suffer that love is itself the most powerful witness for God before the principalities and powers.  I am not saying write your congressman.  I am not saying rise up in rebellion against the government.  I am not even saying you should bad mouth your government.  No.  I am just saying, the church should take a stand for self-sacrificial love.

Just hold the ground, church.  Just go there to the place of shame, pain, and despair and say to the powers, if you must punish poor people, we will take the punishment for them.  Bulldoze our church building, if you must!  But we will let them sleep here until you kill us!  We will feed them until you kill us.  We will make them welcome until you kill us!

Oh… and if you really take it that far, then you are picking a fight with God – not just a few homeless people.  You are killing God’s people, not just a few bums!  And he loves these people, but we will take your punishment for them!

Maybe you don’t realize it is even happening.  But if you are God’s people, you have an obligation to look into it before the Matthew 25 king comes and holds judgment on the sheep and goats.

Check it out for your self:

 

Schizophrenic Voices

I hear voices that tell me what to do and what to think.  I hear them coming from the TV, the radio, the internet, books, magazines, teachers, colleagues, friends and family – and even my church.  And these voices are hardly in agreement.  They pull me every-which-way and rip me up in pieces.

I want more than anything to hear the voice of God – to trust what he tells me to do and think.  And the purest way (theoretically) is for his voice to manifest in my ear while my heart trusts that it actually is him and not JUST my imagination.  I have rarely, if ever, experienced that (or anything close to it).

Second to that ideal, it seems, would be the Bible – the Word of God.

But hold on.  The impurities of all the other hearings of God’s voice that I might perceive pretty much are constituted in the media by which I hear it.  The TV, radio, internet… friends and family.  All of these have been my teachers at some points.  All of these resources have contributed to and/or distorted the way I hear God’s voice and trust him – and they are the very voices that tear (schizo) me apart.

But at least the Bible has a remarkable track record of consistency.  Despite issues of canonization (what books are included/excluded), textual variants (errors in ancient copies), and a few other concerns, the Bible puts us in almost direct touch with the writer (or better yet – the Inspirer).  If we let the Bible be authoritative over us and submit ourselves to the voice therein, we are in a much better place to do and think what God says and trust him with our lives even where some bits don’t readily make sense to us.

It’s an ideal, I know.  Lot’s of room for variance of opinion still, even on important and delicate matters.  But the moment we abandon the ideal, we are left with the chaos of Schizophrenia!  No?

Even so, there are those voices, and yet I too venture into the echo chamber adding my voice to the cacophony.  I do so largely through this blog.  I dare to speak for God!  That is a prophet’s raison deter.  And prophets are called by God to do this work even in the Bible, which suggests that even the Word of God tells us that his voice is heard in the cacophony!

And I really struggle with this.  I want to be heard!  I believe that I have a message from the master!  It is an urgent message for his people!  It is a word of love, a word of warning, a word with a cutting edge and a pointing finger.  The finger points to guilt on the one hand, but in the direction of correction on the other.  And it suffers indifference from hard hearts, stiff necks, and closed ears on the one hand and drowning in the cacophony on the other.

I find myself somewhere between “conservative” and “liberal” on a lot of meters.  I find myself somewhere between soft and loud on others.  But I don’t see myself, or this message with which I have been entrusted, as free floating on an apocalyptic sea of chaos somewhere between shores.  Instead, I see it asleep on a cushion in the belly of the boat while all the sailors are fighting the winds and waves!

And so it seems even my voices hear schizophrenic voices.

On the right of me, I hear one deeply devout and careful blogger (and a number of church friends) preach the love and gentleness of Jesus.  This love and gentleness (an invitational approach) goes to extraordinary lengths to avoid offending anyone, lest the message get lost in the offense.  The only demand, it seems, is not to demand anything!  But in today’s world of political correctness, which seems to have become a pacifist’s blade that replaces yesterday’s politeness, it seems Jesus does not even amount to a speed bump on the road to destruction.

On the left of me, I find more than a few bloggers of deeply devout conviction who preach blistering, scathing reviews of Evangelical pop-religion (and the politics that go with it).  The message there has all the heat of the hell-fire-and-brimstone sermons of yester-year with none of the commitments and little of the content of those old fashioned sermons.  A real Give-me-Jesus-keep-your-backward-ass-politics message.  It’s all demand with no invitation.

Which voice has the True Jesus?  Is my addition to the cacophony somewhere in between or somewhere completely off the Spectrum?  We could place Pastor Phelps out there between… No?  But he certainly would not have me!  Nor do I resonate with him, except I appreciate his tenacity.

Didn’t Jesus make demands?  Didn’t Jesus get shrill sometimes?  But then again, didn’t Jesus carry lambs on his shoulders back to the fold after leaving the 99 in search of just one that was lost?  Was he not both on different occasions?

But then that raises the question: Was Jesus schizophrenic?  Was his message?

The daily prayer of the Jews, dating back to the Hebrews of old, is the Shema – “Hear O Israel!  YHWH our God is One!”  (Duet. 6:4).

I am clear about this: God is One.  To be with him is to find harmony with him.  The humility of the invitation on the one hand and the humility of submitting to the demands he makes on the other are the only way of harmony with him.  A crucified King of kings both inviting you to love the impossible and taking the punishment for not submitting while placing a demand to follow only him as the way, the truth, and the life requires a humility down at everyone’s core.

Jim Morrison (one of the voices in the cacophony) said, “No one here gets out alive”.  Bob Dylan (another voice in the cacophony) said, “Those not busy being born are busy dying”.  You have heard it said… but I tell you, you cannot hear, obey, or join the voice of God without humility. You cannot really live with out humility.

I speak particularly to believers.  Non-believers are welcome to listen in – and hopefully find conviction.  But only the humble will hear the voice of God.  If you can’t humble yourself to hear it, then one day you will find yourself humbled by his wrath.  Woe to those who think they can wield his wrath casually!  Woe to those who give up their spine to the wrath of lesser principalities and political correctnesses.  Both approaches have my sympathy at various points, and I share some characteristics of each.  But in listening to both among the cacophony, I am sent back to the Word of God to humbly examine myself, and I urge others to do the same.

Otherwise, you will be ripped apart by the voices.