Think You Shouldn’t Give Money To The Homeless??? Read This!

I RARELY find people who actually defend the idea of giving to the poor and homeless.  It gets such a bad rap.  People do it, but they don’t say they do because the prevailing judgment is that if you give money to a bum, it will just be used to support alcohol and drug addiction.  No one wants to support that!  Likewise, no one wants to be shamed for giving.  And so, most folks actually don’t give at all; it is just too easy to divert your eyes from the bum and pretend you didn’t even see her.  Meanwhile those who do give are made to feel unwise.  So, no, I don’t find many defending the idea.

Think you should give your money to a charity instead?  One that will use it wisely?  Yes, this is the conventional wisdom.  (Either that or buy food for the bum and take the potential drug abuse out of the equation.)  There are charitable organizations in the field staffed with professionals who know how to care for the poor and homeless, and you can give your money to them, sit back and feel confident that you have done your part.

But what if things aren’t so simple?

This blog regularly defends the practice of giving a few dollars to a bum – largely on theological/biblical grounds.  Honestly, I think that is the important vantage ground to work from anyway.  But then just today, my internet search has led me to an article that calls these usual assumptions and common sense reactions into question on more “practical’ grounds.  And, well, I find this article, even from this vantage ground, quite compelling.  I hope you will check it out.  And I would really love to hear back from you after reading it.

Here is the link:

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/is-begging-just-a-scam-or-a-lifeline-for-those-most-in-need-a7371516.html?cmpid=facebook-post

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Giving Tuesday??? Yay! (I guess…)

Apparently this is the FOURTH annual “GIVING TUESDAY“!

Somehow it slipped my attention in previous years.  But I am glad to find out, at last, that we have a “GIVING TUESDAY” to add to the holiday calendar!  What with Thanxgiving on Thursday, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, (I presume Sunday is still “The Lord’s Day” although if you saw Will Smith’s recent movie Concussion, you know that the NFL is claiming it now, so maybe that will finally be settled in the apocalypse), Cyber Monday…

I am glad that in this season of GETTING we finally established a day of “GIVING”.

I just hope it honors Jesus.

By my count, we need just six more holidays on the list to achieve the Twelve Days of Christmas that someone’s true love has been singing about all these years….

(Hey, I might be cynical, but I’m NOT BITTER!)

A Soft Sucking Symphony

I am learning what parents of twins, triplets, quads, and quints (and nurses in nursery wards) have long known: The sound of multiple babies sucking their bottles at once.

Yes.  It is a precious noise.  All the soft grunts, sighs, and swallows making rhythmic tempo – IN STEREO!  You have to turn off a lot of other noise in the house to hear it, but it is a special and beautiful noise.  Taking care of two or more babies at once is an enormous job.  Just one takes all you’ve got.  Two or more just gets to be mind-blowing, but then the Soft Sucking Symphony reveals the incredible blessing!

It’s like double the crap too!  Poo-pocalypse!  Dirty diapers at all hours.  One wakes up at 2 am hungry and starts crying, and sure enough the other one joins the fray.  Then after all the mess is cleaned up, all the lights turned back off, there in the dark Silent Night God plays his Soft Sucking Symphony – AND BLESSED ARE THE EARS THAT HEAR IT!!!

But then tomorrow, early before the rooster crows, before even Peter has a chance to deny his Lord three times, the pooping, the peeing, the crying, starts over – ALL – over AGAIN!  It seems there is no end!  And in the early morning, with the older children running around, the coffee percolating, the days headlines barking on the TV, your honey frantically searching for the car keys, you are not likely to hear the Soft Sucking Symphony.  No.  That is the blessing of the wee hours of the Silent Night with Baby Jesus away in his manger.  In the raw lucidity of, say, Monday morning, there is no time to notice or care and too much noise interfering anyway.

And it’s not like the infant says, “Thank you” or learns a lesson and never does THAT again.  No.  The rodeo is on again at “bedtime” Monday night… and Tuesday night, and Wednesday, Thursday… and Next Monday… and the Monday after that… and the next… on and on and on and on!  You can’t imagine how long this will go on!

And then eighteen years pass and you watch your children leave HOME and you think it all went so fast!  You recall the Soft Sucking Symphony that you will never hear again, and you long for those late night meetings with Baby Jesus crapping on you.

No.  The baby does not say: Thanx.  And growing up is both PAINFULLY slow and fast AT THE SAME TIME.  It does not go in a steady straight line, but a day comes when the child is fit for college, or as one of our children found – the United States Marine Corps.  And you spend the rest of your life hoping you made them fit for the Kingdom of God!

Newborn babies seem to have a built-in excuse for all this sloppy behavior.  All this crapping, puking, crying, and peeing get a pass, and we hold anyone who puts one of these creatures out to the night criminally accountable!  They don’t know any better, we say.  And it’s true.

Grown up homeless men and women, however, have a built-in stigma and bare the blame for both their own behavior and that of others.  All the boozing, crapping, crying and withdrawing (whether caused in part of in whole by mental illness, a culture of drug addiction and divorce, or even war-related PTSD) gets little or no pass.  In fact, “helping” too much meets public scorn!

But I am a living witness.  If you go join a camp of homeless men and woman who share an interest in worshiping Jesus with you, then Jesus is there in your midst (Matt. 18:20).  And as you worship deep into the night, perhaps you will hear, as I have heard, another version of the Soft Sucking Symphony.  People snoring, or as I had the pleasure once of eavesdropping a couple who spoke of their dreams for the future home they wanted to build together.

It might take eighteen years to get them fit for living in a HOME, but who are we to say they are not worth it?  And why are we soooooo easily discouraged over the one baby and not the other?

HOME For The Holidays

In my years of experience speaking with people in churches, mental institutions, jails-n-prisons, in shelters and on the streets, when I ask what they “remember most of home”, they recall the smells of home-cooked meals coming from the kitchen.  I don’t claim it is the first thing everyone recalls, but I do claim that with the exception of (I think) two odd-balls, this memory makes the short list!

The memory of the smell of home-cooked meals in the kitchen is universal and powerfully symbolic.

Snapshot 4 Calendar attempt

(I took this photo of Ms. B in the scale-house at Tent City in 2011attempting to cook a home-made chicken soup over a waffle iron she had scavenged from a dumpster and tried to convert into a counter-top stove. (I am glad the Fire Marshall did not see it!)  She was a resident of Tent City in the months shortly after it opened, and took the role of camp-mom, trying to feed all the other residents.  It took her about six hours to get the soup hot, and it never came to a boil.  But she cheerfully gave all she had to serve her fellow homeless sojourners with the two bits she had to give.)

I do not wish to belittle the work and ministry of those who put on a massive meal for the homeless on Thanxgiving Day.  (Yes, it is a good photo-op for politicians and pastors.  Yes, the need is still there afterward, though by Thursday night 85% of the volunteers are gone and won’t be back for a year.  I know these things.)  That work is important, and it reaches out to the mobs and masses on a very symbolic day.  So, with that caveat, I want to commend all of those who help to host that feast!  To them all, I say, Thanx!

But this year I have three little souls under my roof who cannot be at home due to neglect or abuse, or don’t have one anyway.  Two are infants, and will not remember this day, but the other is old enough to carry this day to the grave.  And either way, I want, and am so pleased to witness, smells from our kitchen telling these homeless children that they are HOME.

We started this holiday yesterday morning with bacon and pancakes and smiling faces gathered around our kitchen table passing syrup and cracking jokes.  Then the older kids got busy making deserts for Thanxgiving Day.  The place is a mess, but it is HOME in full-operation!

AND, of course, I am giving thanx to God, that in those homeless children, He has seen fit to take up residence with me.  God came to my house!  And yet, in that paradoxical way He has, kinda like when the disciples on the road to Emmaus took Him in and He quietly assumed the role of host as he blessed and broke the bread, I find that this home is not really my house, but it is transformed into the Temple of God.  I have become the servant in the HOUSE of God, prepared for the Master’s Return!

Hallelujah!  Thank YOU, Jesus!  It is good to be HOME for the holidays.

Prayers For Trump Seem To Be Working

So, don’t give in, lose heart, or get bitter just yet!

Yes, I understand he is not trustworthy, but the God I’ve been talking to about him is.  And He listens… He cares.

Personally, I think we modern, Western Christians give too much credit to “Free Will”.  Donald Trump is not the first world-leader God ever USED despite himself.  As far as I can tell, that honor goes to Pharaoh of Egypt (Exod. 9:12).  That is a looooooong track record for God, and a short one for Trump.

Keep praying!!!

Holy Heartburn! -The Method In The Madness

Do you remember that scene in the movie The King’s Speech when Myrtle Logue recognizes the day of her visitation from King George?  Yeah!  He (along with his bride, the queen) shows up unannounced as if they were mere commoners (even more humble than that, really), and it gives Mr. and Mrs. Logue a shock to the system!

 

I must advise you:

WHEN JESUS DROPS IN ON YOU THAT SHOCK IS APPROPRIATE!

Don’t believe me?  Have you not read how the two disciples on the road to Emmaus hosted Jesus unaware??? (Luke 24:28-32).  Yeah, and in this case he appeared as a sojourning bum!  This is not the only time in Scripture where God appears as a homeless bum passing by and some hero of the faith invites him to dinner; see Abraham host the three strangers trespassing his front yard by the Oaks of Mamre (Gen. 18:1-21).  The writer of our Book of Hebrews likewise informs us that if we host strangers, we might entertain angels and not even know it! (Heb. 13:2).

How much would you pay?  How much vacuum cleaner would you run?  How much dusting of the fine China, putting away of the clutter, and maybe even touching up with fresh paint would you do if you thought Jesus was coming to dinner?

Well… get ready!  “Behold! I stand at the door and knock.  If you open up, I will come in and eat with you!” (Rev. 3:20).  And of course, he tells us plainly in Matthew 25:40 that the stranger among “the least of these … brothers (and sisters)” we tend to and take in our homes are him!

People!  This isn’t rocket surgery!  Real basic Bible, actually!

Here at Fat Beggars School of Prophets, I find myself frequently confronting both the lack of homeless ministry on the one hand and the misguided nature of it on the other.  I keep challenging the blind and deaf church who sees without understanding, who hears but does not listen (Isa. 6:10; Matt. 13:15) to open their doors to the Matthew-25 Jesus!  The open door is the goal; the criticism of method is all about dispelling the fantasy that our current strategy is working.  It is not.  But that doesn’t mean there’s no method in the madness.

I say “madness”, not just because it is a catchy cliché, but because I know that when I quote Proverbs 31 (where we are instructed to actually give booze to the destitute) or Mark 10 (where at least one rich guy was instructed to sell all he owned, give it to the poor, count his riches in heaven after that and then follow Jesus), to those ears that cannot hear and to those eyes that cannot see the invitation sounds like chaos and looks like a foolish stumbling block.  Who in their right mind wants to pursue that???

Sure I use Bible, but I must have misappropriated it!  Surely God does not want us to endorse poverty and help laziness and lack of discipline takeover of the poor and vulnerable!  Surely Proverbs 31 doesn’t mean what it says.  Surely St. Paul is after all talking about street bums when he tells the Thessalonians that if they won’t work, neither will they eat!  We need a more balanced understanding of these passages (perhaps something a little more Republican and less Democrat), so we close our ears to the Fat Beggars message and turn a blind eye to “least of these”  at our door.

Am I promoting a middle ground?

No.

Am I suggesting a third way as of yet unseen?

Not exactly.

It’s like a third way, but really its not even that, because I am pointing you in the direction of the things you fear and hold in contempt, but insisting that FAITH in God as you go there will lead to JOY beyond comprehension (kinda like crucifixion surely was for Jesus (Heb. 12:2)).

Holy Heartburn!

The disciples on that road to Emmaus, the moment they realized that the stranger from the road they had invited in was actually the risen Savior of the world, suddenly became flooded with a JOY you can’t put a price tag on!  They tell us, in verse 32 that their “hearts were burning within” them!  And that Holy Heartburn is a gift from God – a touch of Heaven breaking in your life in surprising ways!

My aim in recent posts is to help readers peek behind the veil.  I have communed with street bums in alleys, empty lots, and city parks, under “No Trespassing” signs, and in front of locked up church-house doors.  And when the homeless themselves get moved by the Spirit of God and start praying, preaching (sometimes really good sermons too!), sharing, dreaming, hoping, prophesying, and sharing songs (one lady wrote praise songs while in prison and taught them to us in an alley behind a liquor store), you begin to have that Holy Heartburn!  When you hold a communion service with a circle of bums on their knees on a sidewalk along a busy street and a car load of women screech a dangerous U-Turn in heavy traffic and skid to a stop, pile out and say that they “could see something important was happening” there, you get the Holy Heartburn!  When busy people passing by stop to ask if you are a Christian and if you can pray for them – EVEN WHEN IT APPEARS YOU HAVE NOTHING IN THIS WORLD! – you get a case of Holy Heartburn!  And when you get this Holy Heartburn a few times on the streets, but never experience it in church NOR see others experiencing it there, you begin to think its not right to keep it to yourself (II Kings 7:9).

Perhaps we need to ask God to “open the eyes of our heart” because we have been looking and looking and not seeing Jesus because we have been blinded by our contempt – the same contempt through which those religious leaders who mocked him as he hung on a cross could not see and recognize the day of their visitation.

The method in the madness then is to go behind the veil trusting Jesus, taking him at his word.  That is him you are either loving or not.

 

Beggars, Bums, and Prophets Behind The Veil (Invitation Series Post #2)

Easter Tent City II

Handouts and Hand-Ups???

How many meetings have I attended…?  How many seminars…?  How many books I have read…?  How many blogs???  How many times?  How many ways, have I heard it said that we must not give a “handout but a hand-up”?

There is a feeling – a philosophy of thought, a notion, a fear – dictating that if we freely give the LOVE of God to a bum or beggar then our efforts to “help” will at least be wasted, probably harm the one(s) we serve, and might even hurt ourselves.  There is a constant push, by that feeling of fear, that drives this to get behind “root causes”.  It then gets bogged down in paralysis of analysis.  And as soon as someone offers a new gimmick that sells a lot of books and gets a lot of hype, it isn’t long before we realize we’ve reached another false summit, and the problem is just far bigger than we had imagined.  We just don’t ever create the utopian ideal where we ministers can finally just go back home and trust that the poor have now been helped, that they have joined the middle class, and that they no longer need our care.

I, of course, am quick to point out the elephant in the room: a quiet contempt and disgust grows in the hearts of those who have taken up the task to serve.  How many meetings have I attended where someone in leadership has observed that in the last few years of our benevolence ministry, we just keep seeing the same faces show up for their free handouts?  The problem just never goes away; it seems perpetual!  Our LOVE is not fixing them!  We must cut it off and do something different!

(And there it is – contempt; though no one wants to admit it.)

Let’s Go Behind The Veil

Despite the fact that Christian ministers have published (and I presume raked in some cash) books, blogs, seminars and so forth offering remedies peppered with Spiritual sounding wisdom and a few biblical citations to match, this blog has repeatedly called the bluff on that garbage.  Try as you may, you just will not find Jesus, the apostles, nor saints or angels anywhere in the Bible, outlining these problems in anything remotely like you find in these books.  The Good Shepherd never says, “Okay, boys, after you have left the 99 on the hill to search for the one seventy times seven times, then on the four hundred and ninety-first time out, you can put that lamb through a job training course, an addiction treatment center, AND make him pay a token fee before you give him any more of God’s Grace – because that lamb needs to learn that God’s LOVE ain’t a free ride!”

So, what does the Bible really say?  What will we find behind the veil?

I want to explore the psalms just a bit.  There are several psalms, and bits of psalms, that address God’s care for the poor and needy.  And since the psalms are our tour guide behind the veil, it is appropriate that we follow where they lead rather than our conventional wisdom which has birthed a quiet contempt in us for the very people God LOVEs.

Psalm 72

   Give the king your justice, O God,
    and your righteousness to the royal son!
May he judge your people with righteousness,
    and your poor with justice!
Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people,
    and the hills, in righteousness!
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
    give deliverance to the children of the needy,
    and crush the oppressor!

May they fear you[a] while the sun endures,
    and as long as the moon, throughout all generations!
May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
    like showers that water the earth!
In his days may the righteous flourish,
    and peace abound, till the moon be no more!

May he have dominion from sea to sea,
    and from the River[b] to the ends of the earth!
May desert tribes bow down before him,
    and his enemies lick the dust!
10 May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands
    render him tribute;
may the kings of Sheba and Seba
    bring gifts!
11 May all kings fall down before him,
    all nations serve him!

12 For he delivers the needy when he calls,
    the poor and him who has no helper.
13 He has pity on the weak and the needy,
    and saves the lives of the needy.
14 From oppression and violence he redeems their life,
    and precious is their blood in his sight.

15 Long may he live;
    may gold of Sheba be given to him!
May prayer be made for him continually,
    and blessings invoked for him all the day!
16 May there be abundance of grain in the land;
    on the tops of the mountains may it wave;
    may its fruit be like Lebanon;
and may people blossom in the cities
    like the grass of the field!
17 May his name endure forever,
    his fame continue as long as the sun!
May people be blessed in him,
    all nations call him blessed!

18 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
    who alone does wondrous things.
19 Blessed be his glorious name forever;
    may the whole earth be filled with his glory!
Amen and Amen!

(text copied and pasted from BibleGateway.com)

Perhaps we American Christians lose our orientation to God when we think of living under a KING.  Our whole culture was born from the idea of rebellion against the king and the abolition of kingly rule!  Shame on us! 

BUT…

I ask you to notice: THERE IS NO HINT OF CONCERN REGARDING HANDOUTS VS. HAND-UPS!

If we can recover our orientation behind the veil, we see that this appeal to the KING is comprehensive in scope.  Yes, I highlighted the references to the poor and needy in red, but the dominion of this KING stretches “from sea to sea”, and “from the river to the ends of the earth”!  His “name endure[s] forever” and “the whole earth [is] filled with his glory!”  Read the whole psalm!  It is within this context of everywhere and for all time that we find appeal to care for the poor and needy!  And the appeal is not for a smarter job-training program, not for a better addiction treatment program, and not for a token fee, or even to teach these people a lesson!  No.  The appeal is to the KING for his justice!  -AND-  For a crushing of the oppressor!

NOW…

If the church wants to be relevant to the world that desperately wants to see behind the veil, what part might we play in this drama?  Dare we take the part of the hands and feet of this KING?  During this holiday season, NOW is the TIME.  Our streets are the PLACE.  WE are the people.

Think about it…

Why Aren’t You Rich Christians Jealous Of These Beggars???

St. Paul’s words in Romans 11 are ringing in my ears.  The Gentiles are saved and that makes the Jews jealous.  The Jews have been seeking the favor of God for all they are worth, but find exile continues to ravage their hope.  Suddenly, according to Paul, the Gentiles have the favor, and he hopes the Jews will drop their petty games and join God favoring the Gentiles.

Let’s back up just a bit.  Not in time, but back into a context we are more familiar with here in our day-n-age.  I am recalling a movie I saw when I was young called Thunderheart.  I doubt the movie made anyone’s top ten list, but it provides an interesting and humorous illustration of the kind of jealousy St. Paul is talking about (pardon the rough language).  Check out this link:

The true blood Indian (better called Native American) begins to recognize that the half breed FBI agent has mystical experiences he only wishes he could have, and he is jealous!  And that makes me think:

IF THAT IS SO EASY TO SEE IN A QUASI-PAGAN, NATIVE AMERICAN EXPRESSION, HOW MUCH MORE SENSE SHOULD IT MAKE FOR US CHRISTIANS READING ST. PAUL?

Is this making sense to anyone else yet?

A Pastor with a Dark Jealousy

I THINK I had a similar experience with the pastor at the church where Mrs. Agent X and I got married.  We purposely called it a prophetic wedding.  I have posted the tale of it here, and if you have not read it, I encourage you to do so now.  The Spiritual experience of it alone was powerful, but the fact that it prophetically broadcast God’s participation excited the imagination of the pastor – among other attendees.  He began asking me about Proph-O-Drama after that, and so I wrote a short book on the topic.

I think he was jealous.  He had been leading the church for years but had no such divine encounters – at least none he ever spoke of before.  Perhaps his jealousy took him to a dark place, like Simon the Magician wanting to possess this strange power, because shortly after that our relationship deteriorated.  Try as I may, I could not get him to participate in writing the book, and it wasn’t long before he kicked me out of his church!  Goes to show jealousy can go either way.

So Where Is St. Paul’s Positive Jealousy?

Yeah… I really want to explore the intersection of heaven and earth behind the veil – like I wrote about two posts back.  I pointed out and linked several previous posts I have published on this blog that were intended to share some of that exploration from my own experiences.  My hope is that they inspire readers and/or pique their curiosity.  If you realized that God was moving among the beggars, bums, and prophets on the streets of Lubbock in his mighty and mysterious ways and bestowing his LOVE on them, wouldn’t you want to come join us there?  Or better yet, wouldn’t you want to invite HIM into the sanctuary – or even your HOME?  Wouldn’t you be just a bit jealous that the bum is getting the affectionate favor of God that you are missing out on unless you open the door?

And I keep hoping that by tapping into that godly jealousy, I can get traction into your heart where harsh words fail.  But instead the message goes ignored.

And that sends me back to St. Paul again.  He hoped two thousand years ago that he could provoke his fellow Jews with a godly jealousy to come to the Lord’s Favorable Party among the Gentiles.  And in two thousand years, that jealousy had had precious little traction so far.

Pope Francis and Jealousy

A little over a year ago, Pope Francis visited the United States Congress.  Talk about access to power!  He delivered a speech in front of the world’s most powerful leaders just before they broke for lunch.  Now that is what I call “POWER LUNCH”!  But rather than eat with the congressmen and women, Pope Francis ventured across the street and ate with D.C.’s poor and homeless!  He effectively snubbed congress to eat with Jesus!

Now all of a sudden, homeless people had access with the man all of congress turned out to hear!  The moment was soooooo moving that John Boehner quit his job out of deference for the man he had heard speak truth to power.  And it was right around that time that Pope Francis was calling on his own church to open its doors around the world to the flood of refugees that world leaders were desperately trying to shut out.  And I posted then asking if the Protestants might not be provoked to a godly jealousy.

A year has passed, and it seems the answer is “NO”.  Or if it is “YES”, then our gratification is delayed – perhaps right along with St. Paul’s.

I am calling on you pastors of Lubbock (and elsewhere) to look into these things carefully.  Your heart is hard, but it longs to be softened by the Lord.  Let HIM in!

Fat Beggars Freeze Alert

Lubbock is forecast to experience our first freeze tonight!

I am grateful to the Survive The Night program at the Salvation Army and to Grace Campus (formerly Tent City) for their efforts to provide emergency shelter to the street-homeless of Lubbock tonight!  A BIG THANX to those charitable organizations is in order and duly offered here.

HOWEVER…

To my knowledge the church of Lubbock has dropped the ball on this YET AGAIN.  Isn’t this precisely the church’s job???  Why are we leaving it to the charitable organizations?  And, yes, I particularly look at The Premier Homeless Church of Lubbock and ask why are you AWOL on this?  You should be taking the lead!

Disagree with me?  This this is not the church’s job?  Does the church want to join the sheep or the goats in the great Judgment?  Go take a look at Matthew 25:31-46.  Notice the indication that Judgment hangs on whether we take in the stranger or not.  Who should take the lead on this if not the church?

Actually, you might check with St. John Neumann’s Catholic Church to see if they are hosting FAMILIES in this weather.  I am unclear at the time of publication whether they are slated for emergency shelter tonight, but they are the one exception to the church absence from the scene IF THERE IS ANY.