You Have Heard It Said…. (again)

I know… I have said it before, but it bears repeating again:

 

You have heard it said:

Feed a man a fish, and you feed him for a day.

Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for life.

But I tell you:

Feed a man a fish, and you’ll get him to stay.

Teach a man to fish, and he will go away.

….

 

Seriously.  Think about it.

A Fat Beggar’s Parable of The Two Addicts

So…  these two addicts are going down the street.  Well, they are on different streets, but they meet at the corner.  Did I mention one of them is driving a car?  Yeah, a BMW, to be exact.  Anyway, they meet at the corner when the guy in the car parks to get out.

So… anyway, these two addicts meet.  Two hard-core addicts.  Both of them come from addicted families too.  It is their heritage.  Each has a different drug of choice, but they have addiction in common all the same.  What do you think they have to talk about?  Did I mention the guy on foot has been in and out of AA and NA for years?

So… as I was saying, these two addicts meet and strike up a conversation.  It only takes a minute or two for the guy on foot to recognize a fellow addict when he sees one.  He has been around, you know… all those AA meetings and NA meetings… Yeah, he knows an addict when he sees one.  And he pretty quickly suggests an idea to the guy with the car.  Did I mention the addict on foot is almost 2 years sober and acting as a sponsor for other addicts?

But first… it becomes obvious that the guy with the BMW is still in that part of the addiction cycle where indulging in his addiction gives its victim a thrill.  He isn’t exactly NUMBING the pain, yet.  He is still creating conditions for which that will eventually be his daily existence, but at the moment, he still feels invincible against addiction.  And so the guy with the BMW cannot actually hear what his fellow addict says to him because he is too deep in denial.  Did I mention he is driving a BMW?  Yeah, he lives in a really nice house too with a swimming pool out back and a Jacuzzi and 2.6 kids – the whole enchilada.  You could talk to him all day long about his addiction, but he wouldn’t believe it if you talked ’til you were blue in the face.

So…these two addicts have a brief conversation – these two addicts that meet on a street corner.  Do you know what they talk about?  Did I ask that already?

Yeah, even before the guy on foot can suggest his idea, the guy with the car asks the guy on foot for directions.  He says, “This part of town is not safe for a guy like me.  I might get robbed and killed here.  How do I get back to the other side of the tracks?”  Just then the guy on foot asks the guy driving a Beamer if he could spare a dollar or two.  Did I mention the guy on foot is homeless?  Yeah, he is a Fat Beggar, actually, the kind that draws some of the worst contempt from the public.  After all, a guy that fat ain’t going hungry, now is he?  So, yeah, he hit up the guy with the car with a standard line.  But immediately, forgetting his fear of the mean streets, the Beamer guy thinks the fat beggar is a bum who probably would just waste the money on his addiction.  And that is a real risk, alright.  You give a couple dollars to an addict, and they are definitely faced with a difficult decision – assuming they even bother trying to be sober.  But the guy with the Beamer thinks he is smarter than the beggar.  Did I mention he too is an addict – one living in denial?

Yeah, so… the guy with the Beamer tells the guy on foot that there is a homeless shelter around the corner a couple blocks back (he just passed it by on his way there).  He tells him, “Giving you money will not help you; it will only cause you harm, because you are an addict who cannot help but use the money unwisely”.  And the bum, who was looking at the rich man and felt great affection for him (after all, that BMW was pretty!) is stunned by the lack of respect.  But the rich guy turns away, gets back in his car, and leaves the homeless guy there.

Did I mention the homeless guy is Jesus?  Well Jesus certainly does (Matt. 25:40).

And as the guy with the Beamer starts up his motor and pulls into traffic in denial of Jesus, he heads off to find the church he is scheduled to preach at on the other side of a town – a town he has never visited before.  Did I mention he is a Christian?  Did I mention he is an addict?  Yeah, God blesses him with great wealth actually, and when he is given an opportunity to give just a few crumbs from his table back to God on a street corner, he chooses to keep that cash in his own pocket instead.  After church, on his way home, he buys a latte with it, even gets one with whipped cream on top (despite the fact his doctor warns him about how sweets are harmful to him), and thus this addict harms himself with the money God gives him as he indulges in his addiction to every consumerist whim while living in denial of God in his life.

Yeah, the Beamer guy thinks the fat beggar is a bum who probably would just waste the money on his addiction.  And that is a real risk, alright.  You give a couple dollars to an addict, and they are definitely faced with a difficult decision – assuming they even bother trying to be sober.  But the guy with the Beamer thinks he is smarter than Jesus.  Did I mention he too is an addict – one living in denial?

 

 

“If It Cries” – Why Jesus Doesn’t Abandon the Lost

Preston Searcy does it again. This post barks right up the alley Fat Beggars is all about. I invite my readers to check this post out (and the whole blog, actually). I love the line: If it cries, hold it! That’ll preach, brutha! Amen to that!!!

Preston Searcy

I’ve known Trevor and Karen for a couple of years. They aren’t married, but they have two children together.

Karen was adopted from the foster system when she was ten years old. She can’t remember a time when she didn’t struggle with alcohol or substance abuse.

Trevor, on the other hand, is the youngest of several siblings. He grew up in a loving home, but he also suffers from drug addiction.

I appreciate this couple because they are open and honest.

Most recently, they came to one of our ministry’s pizza lunches. I hadn’t seen them in a few weeks and wanted to catch up.

They were both quiet and stared down at their plates when they talked. I learned they’ve been living on the streets and that both of their children had been placed in foster care. Trevor can’t hold down a job because of his drug habit, and…

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In This HOME, We Are Not Animals

My partner, Agent Z, and I slept on the ground under a gazebo out back of the church we attend a little more than a week ago.  I spent most of the night lying awake.  The bed was hard, not firm, HARD.  The breeze was a bit windy and chilly early on, and constant with its intermittent buffets all night whether heavy or light.  The place we chose was fairly dark, but bright lights shown from the distance on three sides.  And then there was the traffic.  The traffic of 82nd Street was loud and heavy until about 1 – 2 am.  But the church parking lot played host to creeper-traffic as well.  At least three cars came creeping through.  One stayed for about half an our with the motor running, another moved through quickly, but another one cruised by slowly and circled around to come back by at least a dozen times, yet it never stopped to engage us.

I felt like an animal on display or a rabbit in the grass that might catch one’s eye.

At about 2 am, a cop paid us a visit.  I had drifted to sleep briefly when the cruiser pulled on to the lot.  I must have heard him, because I became conscious then and saw him pass by.  Sure enough he spotted us there and stopped about 30 yards past the gazebo.  A couple minutes later, he approached on foot from the other direction and asked what we were doing.  He stopped short of harassing us, didn’t even ask for ID, but it was clear to me then that we were not completely out of sight.  We had been seen by the creepers.

Then I felt a little like a prairie dog on view for the kids at prairie dog town.  We were sleeping under the gazebo in a little groomed park out back of the church house.  A great place to go pray and meditate, if you don’t mind the noise of 82nd Street, or to take a girl to smooch and do naughty things late at night, if no one is around.  (But we were.)  And we were on display for any who happened by, and there appeared to be a few young people roaming the area looking for a secluded place to park and a cop keeping watch over the area.

It felt embarrassing to answer the cop.  I am sure that if we had been breaking a law, he would have sanctioned us with either a warning, a ticket, or hauled us in.  And there was some concern about that.  I really wondered if it would be meaningful to say, “We are serving Jesus here, just now”.  But we told him we go to this church and yet we are street ministers who sometimes sleep out with the homeless all over town.  For once we thought we would take refuge at the church we go to.  He must have been satisfied.  When he left, he said, “If you need me, call”.

I have since been home in my bed each night reflecting on the experience – that one and a whole lot of others too.  I think about these foster kids and how I am their shepherd.  I check on them a couple times in the night.  I don’t ask them for ID either, but then they are where they belong too – the HOUSE of God where I am a servant keeping watch at the door.

I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the HOUSE of the Lord.  Our feet shall stand within thy gates O, Jerusalem!  (Psalm 122).

I thought about when I was lost and homeless as a young person.  I actually sofa surfed with friends in Denver and slept in my car a night or two back when I was a 20-something.  The experience was brief.  I rented a couple different rooms with no furniture.  One was in Castle Rock, where I took a job at the nursing home which offered cheap apartments on their grounds.  The neighbors were pot heads who showed great concern for me, especially when they dropped in one day and took it upon themselves to open my fridge to find it bare – as bare as the rest of my apartment.  I had been sleeping in a bed roll on the floor.

These kind hearted pot heads started inviting me to eat with them each night, and the husband, who was a grounds keeper, had access to a storage shed where the nursing home collected furniture from residents who died.  He decked out my apartment in dead peoples’ furniture!  And I was loved by these people who then tried to set me up with their young friend on a date.  We all went down to Colorado Springs and found a drug party.  I sat there and watched people I never met before snorting speed and smoking pot.  But what can I say?  They really TOOK ME IN!  It wasn’t the HOUSE of the Lord, exactly, but even this parody of love was far better than the concern I got from my church at that time.

Yeah, I looked up the number at a local church – the same denomination in which my parents raised me.  And I don’t think it was the preaching pastor who answered the call, probably a deacon, but he insisted on meeting me at McDonalds – a neutral place.  He was nice enough at first.  He bought me a burger and coke and asked a lot of questions.  I don’t know if my story added up or not.  I do know I was sober and had not done any drugs, but as my burger came to an end, so did his kindness.

The man pointed out nicotine stains on my fingers and told me that if I quit smoking, I would have money to eat with.  He suggested I get a job, which I already had actually, and get serious about life.  Well, that of course is not bad advice, but not terribly helpful either.  He certainly wasn’t wearing his WWJD bracelet!  And of course his “help” proved to be a very, very pale parody of that other parody of love the pot heads were showing me – AND I AM BEING GENEROUS! as I describe the deacon and his church.

He treated me like an animal.  And I felt like one.

I remember when I was in high school, there was this clique I ran around with a time or two who smoked a lot of dope.  These kids were so grunge way before Nirvana and Pearl Jam came along, and I wasn’t close with them at all.  They were a bit strange, I thought.  But friendly and accepting.  But I heard rumors about some of them – that they were “Satanists”.  And well, I never asked, never saw direct signs of such, but they sure did seem to know all the really cool underground kind of stuff alright.  I never heard of Hunter S. Thompson and his book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas before I met these kids.  I never heard of the Anarchist’s Cook Book before I met those kids.  I never saw such a pile of pot in a teenager’s bedroom either.  So, I really didn’t know what to think about them.  I was always a little uneasy around them, but they always treated me with care and respect.

But to many, they were animals.  And a few years after high school, one of them went to prison for murder.  And I always thought about those rumors and those times I went hiking down in the canyon or up on the mesa with them.  If there was any truth to those rumors, I could easily have been their victim.  But I felt loved instead – so I thought.  Kind of like that kid in the movie Alpha Dog, I was vulnerable.  Or maybe it was just all rumors with nothing to them; maybe they just loved me with their broken love and that’s why I remember them so fondly.

When I got divorced several years ago, I found out just how sheltered I have been all my life.  I mean, I know things… lots of things.   I know things I should not know.  Even as a teenager, I saw lots of porno magazines and a few porn videos.  This was before the internet, so there was no way of getting this stuff, this information, FROM my home, but I visited homes where it was accessible, and I saw things.  People behaving like animals.  Fiendish people doing fiendish things and allowing their animalistic passions to run loose.  And when I got divorced, I suddenly felt thrown to the wolves.  I actually was attacked by more than one woman.  Even was grossly hit on by one cowboy who really hinted a lot with his hands!

I will spare you details!

But I will say, I was in a storm of sexual frenzy.  I was repulsed by a lot of it, but it also was the offer of love – or a parody of love.  And there were times my moral scruples prevailed, and there were times when I failed.  And this circus raged all around me.  Even at church!  In fact, that was where I let my guard down and found myself in the most trouble!  And I finally separated myself from the other animals by secluding, which also was quite dangerous, because by that time I had reached out to a doctor for medical help stabilizing my depression/moods.  But being poor and uninsured, I did not go back for follow up, and when the side effects, the ones that cause suicidal thoughts, came calling in the night, I stopped taking the meds.  And years later, I learned that stopping those meds suddenly like that increases suicidal tendencies all the more!  But at least I was out of the circus.

All these years later, I have a stable home.  I live in the HOUSE of the Lord.  I have a good Christian wife who loves Jesus and we live in the house God gave us working the mission God gives us to bring PEOPLE into his presence.  (We find bringing them into our love is his expression of bringing them into his presence.)  Little people, big people… I am not allowed to mix the two.  There are good reasons for that.  But I sometimes go out on the streets searching, sharing, caring and then come back INSIDE where there are diapers to change and bottles to prepare.  And the PEOPLE who find LOVE in here are humanized!

Hey, if you haven’t already popped over to Thompson’s blog, go check out the story he has linked there to a Texas woman who took a homeless man in to her HOME and changed his life.  And I remember, those pot heads back in Castle Rock, set a bar a little too high for some of my church friends.  But if you want to enter the HOUSE of the Lord, this is how it happens.  And you are no animal in there.  And if the church is reading here, I hope you will take notes…

 

 

Just Some Thoughts I Have…

I share a lot of thoughts here on this blog, and by far most of them relate (either directly or indirectly) with homelessness and bearing the image of God.  Once in a while I stray off that path a bit, and this is one of those times.  Actually, I see a relation to it all, but only in the most complex and esoteric ways.  So, let’s just consider this as being off the beaten path for this blog.

I like to talk about Jesus a lot – mostly Jesus.  And I enjoy conversation about faith and biblical things.  And I like to challenge other people’s thinking and to be challenged by other people.  Sometimes this means debating, but I am not actually a great debater.  But often there is a sense of it.

And often people get into some complex ideas.  So do I, for that matter.  And it really happens when someone is making a complex statement that I find I agree with some parts and not with others.  And then trying to share that, and iron out the distinction between them becomes even more complex.

So say a friend writes a blog post and makes almost 8 or 10 theological points about a passage of scripture.  One or two of them I find really important and meaningful and well said, three or four of them I think are okay, but not crucial – or whatever.  But then one or two I find objectionable.

Now, I can try to engage the post critically, which is my main modus operandi.   Or I can just give it the nod… after all, some of it I really liked, most of it was pretty good stuff, even if less than richly inspirational, and the small bits I didn’t like are, after all, small and possibly insignificant.  But that is not really engaged, that is just flattery.

But of course I cannot engage every blog post all the time like I would prefer.  I don’t have the time or energy.  And of course in the engagement, I might, just maybe, be persuaded to change my mind on some points.  But of course, I am not likely to go in to it thinking that.

So what do I do?  Engage or not?  And if I do, then it becomes complex.  I must of course be nice and supportive of the stuff that I really do like.  And of course if that part is something truly rich and enlightening, then I will be enthusiastic to do so.  But then there are the bits I contend with, and I must somehow go sort out which bits they are and then begin explaining why I differ.  And just as a matter of complexity, that can be a challenge.

And then there is the matter of how well I know the other person or not.  If we have been long time friends and have done this kind of thing before, it should go well.  But if I hardly know you or you me, what are the odds that your feelings might get hurt?  What if I come off as a jerk?  Does that even really matter?

And once we are talking about feelings, there is a possibility that arguing an issue on the merits can get a little confused with insults for those with a thin skin.  And this is still a matter of complexity at this point, not whether I might really intend to belittle you.

There is so much risk.

And then there is the matter of how much disagreement is okay before we cant be friends?  What issues are more important than our friendship?  I mean if you are pretty sure you want to be an idolater and want to blend your love for Jesus with a bit of pagan worship, I really might oughta draw a line between us, but if we both love Jesus devoutly, and if one of us worships Catholic (I am Catholic btw) and the other devoutly Protestant, should this line exist?  Surely one of us has some mistaken views about Jesus (and actually almost assuredly both of us do), but do we have to have those mistaken bits worked out before we can extend true and deep fellowship to one another?  (I trust I have offered two scenarios where the choice is easy to see, but with an eye toward all the harder choices in between!)

And if one or both of us persist in some mistaken views, and if some of those views are buried in complexity – thus making them hard to sort out just on that level alone, not counting real spiritual commitments – how do we move forward together and honor Jesus and one another?  Is sorting this stuff out important at all?

I have a blogger acquaintance who loves to explicate scripture.  He often does a wonderful job of it.  Very imaginative, powerful, and engaging.  Lots of people follow his blog and respond with comments that are very supportive.  This blogger has demonstrated, to my satisfaction, that he loves Jesus deeply with his heart and his mind.  And I praise his work because it is well deserving of it.

One of the points he frequently makes, one I agree with completely, is his view that so much traditional Christianity has mistakenly told us adherents that the goal of our lives is to Go-to-heaven-when-we-die.  He calls this a mistake, and I agree with him.  And in doing that, he is engaging a larger conversation in a manner much like I describe in this post.  But then the same brother also holds a traditional view of “legalism” and paints the New Testament’s Pharisees with that paint brush, and I disagree with him on that.  I have taken him to task with it a few times to no avail.  And I have come to expect these things from his offerings.  He does not see a need to change his views.  I don’t have some incessant desire to continually hound him about it.  I like the one bit, not the other.  He knows this about me.  I know his view too.

I admire the guy and his blog.  But there is not much more to say really.  Not that I can see.  I sense that he and I are actually a lot alike.  I sense that he admires me too.  But there is this stubborn thing.  And I don’t know what to do with it.  Sit back and be patient, I suppose.  I have no reason to believe he will ever change his mind.  I have no reason to believe I will ever go back to his view (I once held a view very similar, if not the same).

And of course that is just one example.  There are others.

What about my church?  Same thing there too.  Some fine point of theology becomes a sticking point for me in the sermon or the Bible class.  I raise my objection.  I don’t have some innate need to heckle the teacher to death.  I really would like to have my questions answered, but I am not the only one in the class, AND after all, I really could be looking at it wrong and not know it.  After all, if I knew which bits I was mistaken about, I would change them!  And I have no need to change the teacher’s mind, necessarily, but I really would like to have my concerns heard, understood, and acknowledged AT LEAST.  Because as the lecture moves on from here… building on the bit I object to, there is a sense, to me at least, that I am now left out of the discussion from way back there at point C or D.

But then there is the matter of the church vis-à-vis the homeless.  The way the church practically ignores the homeless while sending boat loads of money to the nonprofit homeless ministry across town.  And I blog on this stuff all the time hoping someone will take notice and make changes.  And I really must be stubborn on this point, because those are HUMAN beings sleeping out in the gutter and in the cold while we tell ourselves we are the Body of Christ in here!  And that actually is a Matthew-25 JUDGMENT ISSUE!  With very, very, very little hope that the church will wise up to it.

And there are other issues too.  But these will suffice for my ever growing post here.  One I make no actual conclusions in, just ponder them and offer them for referral when every now and again this kind of thing comes up.

Severe Weather Alert, The Homeless, & God’s Shepherds

We face our first (of likely many for the season) severe storm alerts tonight in our city.  The wind has become ugly all afternoon with blowing dust to match.  No, it’s not a Haboob, but I didn’t notice anyone taking a picnic to the park today.  It’s ugly.  And thunderstorms are forming in the area now.

The gutter is likely to flood tonight, so…

Where do the homeless go when the weather gets bad?  There are some options for them in our city, but none involve the church (unless something has changed since I last heard of it).  Tent City (“Grace Campus”, these days) has a barn that will hold street drifters as an emergency shelter, but that is the only option I have heard of in recent times, and I am unclear if they will take people in for spring thunderstorms.  But I am out of the loop – what with keeping foster kids and all.

So… where does a street-homeless person go if the thunder and rain and hail come down in the night?  That is a good question.

I often look around for such impromptu shelters when I am out and about.  There are a few abandoned buildings, carports, and businesses that are closed for the night which have a corner or overhang someone could huddle in if they really had to.  There are bridges and overpasses, but those stand to flood underneath when the storm rages, so they are probably not wise.  But then most of the other options I just suggested involve breaking a law or trespassing/loitering where that is not allowed.

A guy might be able to walk the aisles of a Wal-mart or some other all-night retail store.  He might even get a bit of sympathy from management for the duration of the storm, but there is no guarantee.

But what about God’s Shepherds?  Where are they???  What does a shepherd do?  Luke 15:3-7 anyone???

I know full well that not every shepherd of the sheep can or should be out searching for the homeless in the storm.  Some shepherds are too old and brittle for that job.  Some already have their hands full down at the cancer ward.  Some are tending to yet other needs, and that is okay, up to a point.

But how many shepherds serve on teams that hold meetings weekly or monthly?  Can they not coordinate?  And don’t count on the Premier Homeless Church to do this; they started running all their flock off the property at night several years ago and have worked hard to shape public perception of that as okay.  So, a shepherd of most any church in town might be tempted to think this task is covered already by other pastors, but that is not the same as leaving 99 on a hill to go after the lost one, now is it?  It’s your job to look into it.

I hope you will.  Tonight is one of those nights when God’s shepherds go looking.

A Fat Beggars Bible Study (BS) Lesson #2

(I began this BS Series over a year ago and dropped it.  Today’s offering picks up the series again.  For those interested in BS Lesson #1, find it here:  https://fatbeggars.wordpress.com/2015/11/10/a-fat-beggars-bible-study-bs-lesson-i/?frame-nonce=1ec948100d)

Today’s text, brothers and sisters, comes from Mark 10:17-31.  It may not be the most famous Bible passage, but it surely is one rich people hold dear and meditate on as they fall asleep each night!  If you want your wealth validated by God, there is hardly a better passage of Scripture for you to study.

Yes, this is that story of a poor man, homeless in fact, that came running up to Jesus to ask him what he should do to have abundant life.  Most translations depict him as “poor”, which is close enough, but the discrepancy is the part where he comes to Jesus and calls him “good”.  This is a bit problematic in both the Greek and the textual variants.  The really old manuscripts use a Greek term there that could be translated “501c3 charitable organization” instead of Jesus.  This means that the homeless man comes to a non-church organization (some folks call it “para-church”, but even that admits that the organization is not actually Christ or his Body).  But this should set the stage now for the action God obviously wants us to see.

This bum comes to the 501c3 and asks how to get abundant life, which we know Jesus brings because he tells us this in John 10:10.  And the 501c3 rightly tells the guy to follow God’s law just like you find it in the Old Testament.  But the homeless guy said, “Yeah… I know all that.  I actually live by the Ten Commandments and as closely as I can to the Sermon on the Mount too, but it seems like something is missing”.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I hear a homeless person say they sense something is “missing” from their life, the first thing that pops into my mind is … A HOME!  Maybe that’s just me, but if you analyze the word “homeless” it pretty much means “without a home”, and you don’t actually need to know the Greek to get that.

But it is at this point the 501c3 exposes the man’s heart and helps him see the many things he is “lacking”.  He lacks sobriety on the one hand, and if he will just get some job training, join AA and NA, take a course in resume-writing and interviewing (not to mention anger management and an art class), AND if he attends all these classes every day without missing more than three in a month or showing up late, THEN he could get a locker to keep his stuff in, get on the list for a shower, and use the phone!

The homeless man looked at his options and thought to himself, well, it’s not like they are offering a miracle here or nothing, but if I do ALL THESE THINGS, then maybe, JUST MAYBE, I can eventually translate a locker, a shower, and use of a phone into a job at McDonalds or Wal-mart.  Then, IF I can make it through the probationary period without getting fired for showing up late (since I don’t have a car) or for slipping back into my addiction… Who knows?  Maybe I will finally save enough money to put down for first and last month rent on a lease for an apartment!  Yes!  This would be the abundant life Jesus talked about!

And just as he was mulling over the offer of the 501c3 to join their program, some fellow homeless people came in the shelter reading a story in the morning paper about a rich man who sold everything he had, gave his wealth to the poor in the form of $100 bills all around the downtown library, all in an effort to honor Jesus.  When the director of the 501c3 heard of it, he turned to the crowd and said, “Children, How hard it is to enter into the American Dream!  No one can enter it without lots of hard work.  When a rich person gives away their wealth to the poor, they actually hurt the poor and harm this process – even derailing it!  How much better it is to sell all you have and give it to the 501c3 and then truly help folks obtain the abundant life!”

And the homeless people gathered around the shelter that day said, “Behold!  We gave up on all hope for a miracle or for someone to actually LOVE us to follow your programs.  But if there is a guy handing out $100 bills at the library… I just remembered I have an overdue book I need to return there.  Sorry if I miss the NA class.  Please count it as one of my 3 excused absences…”

And life at the shelter went on as usual.