More Homeless Babies

I thought I was gonna write a post and acknowledge the volunteers from Lowe’s Home Improvement store who are helping out at Tent City (It’s called Grace Campus these days) while the residents there suffer from all the rain we have been blessed with the last few days.  Yeah, they made the evening news, and I am thrilled to see the media pointing out that amid all the blessed rain, some people are suffering from it.  This means they are not being ignored.

But…

Then Mrs. Agent X comes home from work tonight with a second foster child – a two year old boy.  (His baby sister is in the hospital recovering from parental crimes committed against her, and she will join us too when she heals enough for discharge.)  And I am just shocked at how clingy this toddler is with me.  I barely met him, yet inside of 10 minutes he wants me to hold him; he wants me to hug him close and not let go.

JUST WHAT KIND OF NEGLECT HAS THIS KID BEEN SUFFERING???

He oughta be just a little nervous about meeting me… timid, you know?  But no.  Not this kid.  He reminds me of that scene from Pink Floyd’s The Wall where young Pink watches a father and son he does not know on the play ground swing set and he asks the father to push him in the swing too and then clasps the stranger’s hand in a vain attempt to get the man to love him along with his son.

Heart breaking.

And yet, it is our ticket to ride.  We wanted babies.  They are OUT THERE.  And this is the damage they deal with – addicted parents who neglect them and give them up at the drop of a hat!

Hey…  If you remember this ministry sometime tomorrow while you are doing … what ever it is you do…. Will you talk to God about us?

And if you live in Lubbock and think you might want to come join our little Jesus-party and help out, please let me know.  We could use some volunteers.  I have been dreaming that our home might be a place where the village comes together to celebrate these young lives and to worship God – and maybe do a few dishes, change a few diapers, eat a meal with us… all the stuff you might expect from church.

However, if you want to volunteer, you will need to submit to a criminal background check.  CPS regulates most of the people who come in and out of here.  But Jesus will welcome those who share the dream.  So will I.  And a community of Jesus-loving people is sorely needed when dealing with homelessness.

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Jesus-Pants

Jesus-Pants

Jesus-Pants

Jesus wears the pants in this house.

Yeah, it hit me like a two-ton heavy thing yesterday.  I was sitting there talking to my wife while she folded laundry, and suddenly she held up a tiny pair of baby pants that Baby Agent N has now outgrown.  She remarked about how cute they were, and we chuckled.  We will keep them as a keepsake.

And that’s when it hit me: Those are Jesus-Pants.

A bit of context here…

Mrs. Agent X and I prayed and prayed, and we invited God to come live in this house that he gave us.  And there are a lot of twists and turns in that story that I will skip for brevity, but the answer to those prayers has culminated in foster children – most recently Baby Agent N.  (A Meth-Baby whose parents are not fit to care for him.  A homeless child in need of God’s love.)  As far as I am concerned – Jesus incarnate!

But there’s more…

I am a big enthusiast of Tony Campolo – especially his It’s-Friday-But-Sunday’s-Coming sermon.  And in the midst of that sermon (if you link to it, cue up to minute 43 through 46) he tells a story about a mother in Haiti begging him to take her baby to spare it’s life.  In dramatic style only Campolo can pull off, he recites how desperate this mother was begging him to take her baby even as he boarded a small plane, and how she banged on the door as it took off pleading for him to “take my baby!”.

Then with full conviction, Campolo describes how once he was in the air, he suddenly realized who the baby was.  It was Jesus – the Matthew-25 Jesus who will meet Campolo in the Judgment of the Sheep and Goats… Where Campolo says he will ask Jesus, “When did I see you and not care?”, and Jesus will say, “At the Haitian border.”

Yeah.

Thank you, Tony Campolo, for that wake up call.  Thank you for expanding my imagination.  Thank you for healing my eyes so that I see.  I want to see Jesus.

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord, I want to see Jesus-Pants!

And, yes, Jesus wears the pants in this house.

The Tent City Video Documentary

When Tent City first opened in April 2011, I was there joining the residents in the sticker patch with a tent of my own – AND I brought a video camera with me.  I filmed hundreds of hours of footage – conditions, excursions, interviews, experiences and so forth.

Then I met a young man from LCU who fancied himself a film maker.  We collaborated and he produced a short preview for what was intended to be a feature length documentary.  He entered the short video in a film contest and took first place!

The film was never completed.  But the short video is out there on the web to this day.  And I think even in the short piece, the message is clear.  I want to see Jesus, so I went looking for him among “The least of these…” on Lubbock’s streets.

I think you might like the video if you saw it, so here is the link:

Enjoy

X

3 Blog Posts I Wish Had Got More Attention

Some of the things I write and post here are more important than others for various reasons.  And there are at least 3 posts from the last year on this blog that I wish had gotten more attention.  If you are a new reader here, I invite you to check them out.  They help to engage your imagination in what this ministry does – We go to the places of shame, pain, and despair in Lubbock, Texas, and bear the image of God there – an idea we got from Jesus at Golgotha.

Click the titles below for linked viewing:

We Are The New OUTSIDERS

Walk A Block In Their Shoes

The Fat Beggars School of Prophets?

Thanks for reading here.

X

Beneath Contempt

Have you ever drove up to the parking spot near a dumpster and discovered a lady pulling up her pants after squatting to pee?

I have.

And she was someone I attended church with.

Do you ever see that person the same again?

I suppose not.  I always tried to imagine she had more dignified options, but the reality of her situation slapped me in the face.  Her life on the streets is stark like that.  And most people driving by just don’t care, and if they saw her would be filled with contempt.

But I was her friend, trying not to notice – not to shame her.  I did not draw attention to the situation, but invited her to worship – to pray, sing, read some Scripture and preach sermons to each other there in the alley.

And we found Jesus there.

Beneath contempt.

What IS Home? What Does HOME Mean To You?

I simply asked this question on a post almost 3 months ago, hoping I would get lots of feedback from thoughtful people.  I have my ideas about how to answer – ideas I am sure are unique to say the least.  But I am sure some of my readers do as well, and I would not want to miss out on the wisdom that surely could be shared.

But I only got 4 responses.

I was bummed.

And then tonight, I find this video on You Tube where an artist asks the question and supplies thought provoking art in response.

Please watch the video, and respond…

Perhaps there is a worthwhile discussion to be had even yet…???

Getting Baby Jesus Off His Meth Addiction

I am pleased to announce that the diaper rash is now under control.  This baby that has come into this house (when we asked God to come make his HOME here) seems to be growing and adjusting fine.  He is getting plump!  His little cheeks and tummy are round; his eyes are wide and sometimes focus on me; and he is so very handsome!

We attend to his every need as best we can.  And I think he feels welcome here.  He does not get illicit drugs through an umbilical cord; he gets all the love and attention a baby can handle.

I hope he stays here with us and never experiences drug abuse again.  I hope he grows strong in the grace of God.  I hope he grows “in wisdom and stature and in favor of God and [people]” (Luke 2:52), and then makes a difference in our troubled world.

This Just In… Jesus Came Over For Dinner Last Night!

Wow!  What a serendipity?  Jesus? Coming for dinner???

(I started writing this post yesterday, the morning after, but I am only finishing it now.  So bear with me if the dates are off just a bit)

Mrs. Agent X and I very purposefully invited Jesus to come to our wedding (almost 5 years ago), and he came.  (I offered a post on this called Proph-O-Drama Wedding.)  Then we invited him into our home, and he came.  And over the next 3 and a half years, I prayed that we servants at the house would be prepared for the Master’s return (like the parable Jesus offers), and last September he moved us to a new house where we started taking in foster kids.

Then last night, in addition to Baby Agent N, who has been living with us over a month now, Frank Morrison (from The Coronado Project) and Jenni Castillo (from Restoring Hope) both accepted invitation to join us for dinner.  These two ministers have been offering God’s love to the poor and homeless of Lubbock with unparalleled commitment and sacrifice for several years.  They are leaders in the field who have risked everything they have (and always continue to do so), they have attracted media attention to the cause, and have actually housed multiple people from the streets as well as feeding, helping, and loving them.  They have done what the church of Lubbock has failed to do.

But Frank and Jenni have never met each other before last night.

TESTIMONY

And so as we ate dinner, the stories of adventures and sacrifice came flowing out.  It was stunning to hear all the incredible things Jesus does in this town with these two lowly servants… to hear of all the imaginative expressions of love, faith, loss, and learning.

And one of the more meaningful moments for me was when Frank shared how he talks about these things with people he meets, sometimes to church groups and gatherings, and how socially awkward it becomes as these folks begin to twist off from the conversation and/or find ways to suddenly change the subject.  But at our little dinner party, we were all eager to hear more, share more, bear more of our souls.  Jenni brought videos we watched, and I was amazed at all the faces of people I regularly pray for finding love and help from her ministry!

WORSHIP

I am so pleased, also, to say that Mrs. Agent X’s (and mine too) 18-year old son, Agent Z, who is heading off to live in the dorms at LCU this weekend, led us in a worship/devo AND offered to devote his class project to raising funds and awareness for The Coronado Project and Restoring Hope.  Thus he facilitated worship (the dwelling place of God – Psalm 22:3) and helped forge new partnerships in ministry.  And all this happened in the house God gave us to live in – the HOME where I lay my head in rest!

PRAYER

I pray all the time.  My life in prayer has grown in new dimensions and depths the last 6 or 7 years, and that has accelerated even more in the last 2 years.  I began writing numerous posts on my experience(s) with prayer recently, and I had in mind creating several more, but my plans are interrupted by “life” it seems.  And though this post is not part of that series, I think it is deeply related because the part of my prayer that has grown the most in recent months is the part where I ask God to come to this house.

My ministry on the streets turned more specifically toward homelessness back in 2009.  That was two years after (2007) my first wife announced she was agnostic and left me, my mom died, and I lost my job all inside of a four month stretch.  Those events did not leave me homeless in the strictest sense of the word, but I definitely was cut loose from nearly any meaningful sense of home I had before that.

Ever since, I have prayerfully explored the power and meaning of Psalm 23:6, 27:4, & 122:1-2 and have sought to make my home with God as I minister to fellow homeless sojourners and call them to enter the House of God with me.  And when I get there and find the doors locked, I knock that Revelation-3:20 knock, and ask the church to be the servants prepared for the Master’s return.

Yeah… Jesus knocked on the door of this house last night, we invited him in, and he ate with us!

Jesus Cliques

I figure nearly 100% of my readers went to high school, and 99% went to different schools than me.  But the experience of most of high schools has enough commonality for my readers to understand what I am about to say.

If you walked into the lunch room at my old school back in about 1984, you would find kids gathered in groups we called “cliques”.  Nerds, jocks, band-fags, preppies, skaters, and North-Gaters.  Yeah, we had a gate in the fence along the North side of the complex (out back) where “stoners” and “rejects” hung out, and so we called them “North-Gaters”.  My observation here is not so different from your school whether in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, or 90’s, and I seriously doubt much has changed in that regard to this day.

When I was there, the movie The Breakfast Club came out and seemed to expose and examine the phenom in some meaningful way.  Perhaps you will recall Anthony Michael Hall’s character making the observation that: “…each one of us is a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal…”  However, what the movie did was mix these people up in a situation where they shared their thoughts and feelings in vulnerability with each other.  In reality, that rarely, if ever, happened.

No.  That is why we called them “cliques”; the term depicted the separated groupings as opposed to their blending.  My goodness, just a few years after I was gone from high school, we heard of an infamous group of disaffected youths known as the “trench coat mafia” with Eric and Dylan as their supposed representatives.

Since my church experience has turned out so bad recently, my family has taken to that other phenom we call “church shopping”.  As if church were a consumer product we might wish to purchase.  We spend our Sundays visiting different churches looking for one where we “feel comfortable” and hopefully “fit in”.  And this is the language we use, though there is nothing remotely biblical about it, AND I strongly suspect is a betrayal of the church’s purpose and meaning.

But the first thing that I notice in this “shopping” experience is the cliquishness of the churches.  They are not all gathered in a school lunch room where it is readily noticeable, but if you take in the big picture, that is what we have going on all over town.  Over here we have Cowboy Church, Biker Church, Homeless Church, and Gay Church.  Over there, we have Black Church, Chinese Church, Indian Church, White Church, Trucker Church, Traditional Church, Trendy Church, and the new one – for me anyway – Hipster Church where all the men (as well as the women) seem to have gotten the fashionista memo to wear their button down shirts too tight and their skinny jeans too short.  These folk make up the segment of society we might call “young professionals”.

The experience reminded me of night clubs I visited when I was a 20-something.  The Sanctuary was dark, with a stage down front featuring a full-blown rock band under spot lights jamming as loud as a concert.  In the lobby, they had a full-service coffee bar with espressos, lattes, and cappuccinos.  The whole interior design and décor was sleek and posh, and the sermon kept addressing our career goals and climbing our corporate ladders.  The only thing missing was the bouncer with his velvet rope letting in only the cool people and keeping out all the undesirables.

Isn’t this pretty much the nightmare St. Paul addresses at Corinth?  What is the demon that drives us to our little enclaves and cliques rather than toward each other blending our various parts into one body?  I must say, there really weren’t many old people there.  I did not see any poor and homeless there.  And I kinda felt like I was shopping at the mall in some upscale Jesus boutique getting my cross monogrammed in gold-leaf on a Burgundy leather cover.  Perhaps my wife and daughter could get shoes to match!

Something is deeply wrong with this picture.  But no one seems to notice, and I find no one talking about it.

Maybe Mr. Vernon should put us all in detention together one Saturday where we can smoke dope and really get to know each other better.

Probably not, but that would seem to be an improvement!

Jesus & The Hooker

Some of you have read that passage in John’s Gospel (7:53-8:11) about the hooker caught in the act and brought to Jesus as a test to see how he would judge her.  It is a favored story among Christian types.  But someone recently read (and left a nice comment on) the story I tell of the hooker Jesus gave me to love.  You can find it on my post – Stupid Things I’ve Done For Jesus – if you’re interested.

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I offered some thoughts about church and whores just a few days ago and mentioned another hooker I met nearly 20 years ago in that post.  That experience caused me to rethink church – at least one I would attend.  I don’t want my church to endorse the sin(s), but I do want her to love the sinner(s).  (A fine line in today’s world!)

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But seeing how I attracted some attention with that tale of loving a hooker for Jesus, it occurred to me that I have an abundance of stories to share about my hooker and Jesus.  And in fact, one of those stories has resurfaced as I draw from the experience in that ministry to make application to my ministry in Foster Care.  (As I mentioned in yet another recent post, my family is keeping a young child who was born prematurely and who tested positive for Meth.  I will leave the rest of that connection as a mystery, for it is business I do not need to air publically, not even anonymously.)

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But it nonetheless reminds me of my beloved, HIV-infected, Crack-addicted, Schizophrenia-suffering, hooker whom I befriended and shared passionate ministry with about 11 years ago.  We will call her Agent E.  And while I could tell dozens of incredible stories – and perhaps over time, I will.  But in this post, I will share a tale she shared with me about the birth of her third child.

It had happened several years before I knew her.  But Agent E managed to collect a monthly disability check.  It was not a lot, but it was substantial and dependable.  The fact that she was addicted to Crack meant that she spent it all on drugs as fast as she got it.  However, her enterprising drug dealers saw an opportunity and made her an offer she could not refuse.  They got her to rent a house with her regular paycheck and let them operate their business in it.  The trade off was that she would always have dope, while they had a legit address to work from.

Her place became a “Crack-House”.

She earned her own money “the old fashioned way”, but she never lacked for dope.  And her house was the scene of an almost non-stop party with people coming and going at all hours every day and night of the week.  And it suited her fine.

But she became pregnant during this time.

She took me to see the house where this all had happened.  She pointed out to me the old-fashioned lampstand on the corner out front with a flanged base where she could actually situate her butt – almost sitting – as she leaned on it and called to passing motorists who might be looking for a quickie.  She said the bigger she got, the more she appreciated that seat.

But then one evening, she got high in the house.  Went on a real doozy of a binge.   It caused her to pass out on the floor in the living room amid the partiers and the business-dealers.  There she was, big and pregnant, passed out, and suddenly going into labor.  Everyone in the house freaked – and left!

Agent E described to me how she woke up having dreamed that she gave birth, looked around for anyone to help, but no one was there.  She passed out again.  She woke up again having dreamed of the baby coming and then passed out again.  This happened several times.  But at some point she saw that she was lying in a pool of blood with a baby at her knees.  She passed out again.

As best she can say, someone had ventured into the house thinking to score some dope and saw what had happened.  Whoever it was had the decency to call 9-1-1 from the pay phone at the 7-11 before running off.

Agent E said she saw the child for a few minutes in the hospital, but they took it away.  She never saw him again after that.

When she told me this story, it broke my heart.  I felt sooooo horrible for her.  She wanted to be a mom to that child, but she was too messed up for it.  If you are reading this and thinking it is all her own fault and thus she deserves the pain, hold that opinion until after I write a post on what I know of her childhood and see if you still feel that way.  Yes, I am glad the child was taken from her… but not because that is a good thing.  No.  Because it is the lesser of two evils and there was no way around evil in that situation.

But what really broke my heart was what she said next.

She said she got out of the hospital two days later and went back home.  When she arrived, the house was buzzing like business as usual.  You would not think the Crack business had even missed a beat.  But to her shame and dismay, when she entered the living room, she found her birth mess still in the middle of the floor.  No one had cleaned it up.

She was mortified.  She scrounged together a couple dollars and walked down to the Dollar Store on the corner, bought some Comet Cleanser and a sponge and a brush, and then walked back to the house where she cleaned up the birth mess of the child she never saw again in front of all her friends who watched but did not help.  (Except that she was grateful for who ever anonymously called the EMS for her.)

The shame, pain, and despair of that tale is so mortifying to me that I can hardly imagine how to heal it.  And all these years later, I must say that I don’t think we have.  But when I tell you about how we celebrated our find (go read the post I mentioned at the start), where we hooped and hollered, threw our arms around her, took her out to eat, and all that, I see that she encountered something powerful in us.  The LOVE OF GOD.  And that love reached out to her across a very deep and dark divide.  The hooker was putty in the Master’s hands!

I pray he is still working on her heart today.

(Meanwhile, I now live with a child born to another mother whose story seems familiar, and I deal with the issue on the other side of the coin. Btw, your prayers and encouragement are welcomed here.)