We, the Agents X, invited God to come live in this home with us. I often reference our ministry with just that turn of phrase. It’s a short-hand reference, of sorts. But in reality, this is the house God built (Psalm 127:1) – the home he chose for me.
I read a blog post a couple nights ago by a Christian man freshly faced with divorce. His wife called the family together and made the announcement just recently, and he is bewildered. His post took me there to feel the pain with him. I have been there/done that. (Well, my own version of it, but it’s not that different really.) Feelings and memories came flooding back. I survived utter destruction of the “home” I thought I wanted, but not without a deep, dark, very powerful sense of death overwhelming me for several years.
When I met the future Mrs. Agent X, we both were recovering from the home-wreck disaster – that other form of homelessness commonly called “divorce”. We had a lot in common that way, but even more, we both had a deep love for Jesus and ministry for the poor. And over the course of much time and energy, I found a place at her table where I seemed to fit.
Eventually, we decided to get married. We joined up the broken pieces of our lives, dreams, and ministries, and dedicated ourselves to opening our home to the poor in the name of Jesus. Asking him to come in meant our previous ideas about home would likely change – and grow. No longer did we seek the fairy-tale they sell at the mall, in the movies, or at the bridal services. We wanted to join Jesus.
Not the HOME I would have dreamed
Radical Hospitality (vignette #1)
I reflect on some experiences I had in years gone by, and I wonder if they are meant to shape my expectations for today. The first one that comes to mind is “Greek Breakfast.” Not that the food was Greek, but I took three years of biblical Greek when I was in school. I immediately realized that the subject was going to be a big challenge. I pleaded with classmates to study in groups to help manage the course-load, but that did not work.
I spent hours each night studying Greek – even to the detriment of other classes. I was so tired and overwhelmed, until the results for the first test came back. I had done decently, but most of the class had done poorly, and suddenly I had two classmates asking if I still wanted to form a study group. At this point, I suggested: “Sure. Come to my apartment on Saturday morning ready to study and eat breakfast.” Then by the second week, I had half the class coming and everyone making contribution to the food – usually simple pancakes and sausage. And we gathered for the meal and to study and finished all the week’s worth of homework by noon each Saturday as a group!
It turned into a remarkable and repeatable event. Soon I had 8 or 9 guys sitting around my table working out the translations together and enjoying the process so much that several of us decided to request a 3rd year of it, which opened up Classical Greek to us as well. Yet even more, on a couple of occasions our instructors joined us too, after hearing of all the success our communal efforts were making.
The memories are burned in my mind. Those were good times. But it was not leisure – not at all. It was a lot of hard work, but we shared the load and it became a party, in fact a rich joy in all of our lives. And I think now how two of those guys (I think it was two – maybe more) went on to earn prestigious Ph.D.’s. I like to think my humble breakfast nook played a part in that!
Radical Hospitality (vignette #2)
But then shortly after I left school and moved to Lubbock, I joined a prison “after-care” ministry called The Shepherd’s Servants. The founders were Doyle and Madene Shepherd – the original owners of the Shepherd Shutter Company here in Lubbock. They have both since passed on to be with Jesus, but when I met them, they had already founded quite a successful family business and owned a fine custom home in one of the more plush parts of town. A mutual friend had suggested that I pay them a visit, which I did.
The Shepherd’s Servants was a cell-group ministry based out of City View Fellowship. And while they attended Sunday worship with City View, they hosted Wednesday night gatherings in their fine custom home.
Now, I don’t want to make it sound like I entered Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee exactly. The Shepherds did not live that high on the hog, but their home did resemble a museum to me. The house was remarkably beautiful and unique and furnished with fine things including a pool table, big screen TV’s, a grand fireplace, crystal ornaments and décor all throughout. Yet, both in the kitchen and in the dining room, the Shepherd’s had long dining tables that could easily seat 8 – 10 people comfortably (and more if we were willing to crowd in). And in the midst of all this near opulence, I witnessed the Shepherd’s host at least that many ex-con’s for a meal and fellowship each Wednesday evening!
The first time I saw it, I was stunned. I knew I wanted to be a part of that kind of Jesus-party and hospitality! The vulnerability of it was divine. I joined that ministry on the spot, and found out that Doyle and Madene also operated (at their personal expense) two “safe houses”, one rented the other owned, where they housed men coming out of prison as they sought healing, a church community, and jobs (many of which the Shepherds supplied in their family business).
Dreaming of God’s HOME
It is with these experiences tumbling through my heart and through my mind that I dare to imagine HOME. I too became homeless for a while, but God gave me his. His is the foster home run by the Agents X and taking on more pointed and communal ministry. I do not have all the details worked out, but I dream of volunteers coming to this home weekly, if not daily, to celebrate Jesus living here with us – to eat with us, sing & pray with us, and to change a diaper or two as well as wash up the dishes afterward.
This home has spare bedrooms that go empty night after night. We beg God to come fill this house like he did Moses’s tabernacle (Exod. 40:34) and like he did Solomon’s Temple (I Kings 8:10-11) – with the smoke of the presence of the Lord. What a terrifying thought!, God coming to live in his house, and us being the servants prepared for his arrival! (Matt. 24:44-47). May we be so blessed.
Mrs. Agent X has a bunch of nurse friends up at UMC hospital, some of whom already help, many of whom express the desire. Nurses are the bomb! But Mrs. Agent X’s sister is an elementary school teacher who likewise has made mention of this ministry to her teacher friends! And I am hoping we tap into just those resources. But I am also open to expanding and clarifying the vision.
So, once again, I put out the call for volunteers who live in or near Lubbock and who read here from time to time. I put out the call for prayer from all the others. And I invite you to the Jesus-party to play a part whether great or small and to fit in to the work God is doing here – even if it is a matter of making suggestions and helping clarify the vision.
It is my Dream HOME.