This is another one of those special blog posts I found while searching the blog-O-sphere today. Like my previous reblog post, I hope my few readers will give this blog a look. So, I make this effort to promote it. I think you will be blessed for your time spent reading here.
When I find jewels like this in the blog-O-sphere, I like to do what I can to promote readership at their sites. I just found this blogger today, and I think the few readers I have will be blessed to check out this Radical Love post.
For those seeking a look at the original post, Erika asks that you please visit it on a different site from the one linked below. Please find it HERE.
I am a greeter. I stand in the narthex and watch the street. Far down the block I see one of our parishioners. I burst into rain and call out, “Good morning, friend! Welcome!” It’s a radical greeting, but radical is my style.
On Wednesdays, I am also a greeter. Under a canopy in the parking lot of the county building, Juice and I wait with our friends. Often its raining. Sometimes chilly winds steal napkins from the table as we rush to weigh them down with oranges or a ladle. On my vision’s horizon I see someone moving towards us. As he gets closer I recognize his shape, his walk, the color of his hair. “Joshua!” I call out, “I’m so glad to see you!” Just like on Sunday morning, I step out of my shelter and into the rain. In a few steps, Joshua is in my arms.
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I have mentioned Agent Z here a few times on this blog before. He even contributed a post of his own here once which you can read here. Still, for any readers that do not know, Agent Z is one of my kids who grew up observing and helping this ministry. (I recall how that one winter night a few years ago, Mrs. Agent X and I found a group of homeless people sleeping in the cold (when the church had kicked them out) and brought them home with us. Agent Z rounded up some candy bars and left them out with a “Welcome” note attached!
Agent Z is grown up now and attending Bible school at Lubbock Christian University. He designed a ministry project around Luke 14 to satisfy his academic curriculum. He threw a party for the poor in North Overton Park yesterday complete with love, music, prayer, song, and communion along with soda pop, cupcakes and other refreshments.
We met so many new people we never knew before. I had the pleasure of reconnecting with several I knew in years gone by. And we now have a dozen new stories to tell about what God is doing on the streets of Lubbock that we could not tell the day before.
I expect to share many of those stories on this blog over the course of several posts in the near future. At the moment, I am just so very pleased with Agent Z. His eyes are opened and he sees Jesus – he sees Jesus right where our culture does not want him to see Jesus. Agent Z transformed that park into a Jesus-Party Zone. The gazebo had streamers flowing in the wind. We made street art of placards on cardboard. There was dancing! Yes, Agent Z lifted the veil separating the grit and grime of street-homelessness and Heaven, and a few of us stepped behind it, and meanwhile hundreds, if not thousands, of Lubbock’s citizens drove (or walked) by and witnessed Jesus throwing a party.
Agent Z proved himself a leader among his peers. He asked for my help and guidance, which I gave (sparingly), but he facilitated all of it. He purchased supplies with money donated to his ministry. He promoted the event (Agent Z handles the Fat Beggars Twitter and Instagram promos.) He employed his brothers (Agent PJ and Agent JJ) to help.
I saw lives touched as well. “Special Agent TT” (SATT) is the person calling that gazebo “home” these days, and Agent Z asked his permission to host his Jesus Party in it. SATT was gracious to let us in his home to party with his friends for about six hours. (Thanx for your hospitality SATT!) During conversation with Agent Z and PJ, SATT learned that my boys are into body building, and this homeless man reached into his bag of meager possessions and GAVE Z and PJ a nutrition and workout book for Navy SEALs! This was a fine gift from a man with practically nothing. Touches me, I know that!
And so, today, my heart is full as I reflect on my kids – especially Agent Z – taking up the baton and running the next generational leg of this race (to use a St. Paul metaphor). I would like to think street-homelessness will be eliminated in my life-time (perhaps even by my ministry), but I highly doubt that. Yet my heart is warmed at the thought that the HOME God gives Mrs. Agent X and I is a beach head taken in the heaven’s battle against forces of earth that put people out in the streets. And I think that is worthy of a post on the Fat Beggars blog.
The Christian faith is dead set against child sacrifice! Right???
Good. I am so glad we have that settled. One of the reasons we call the valley at the edge of Jerusalem by the name “Hell” (and Jesus describes this trash heap as a place where the fire never extinguishes) is because the wayward Israelites of old offered their children to Molech there (II Kings 21). We American Christians do NOTHING like that, of course (unless our children serve in Vietnam or so forth). And in fact our hearts and minds are so sanitized against child sacrifice that we hardly take notice of Abraham and Isaac and only see God, the Father, answer that NEAR child sacrifice with his own complete child sacrifice.
But even though Isaac did not wind up dead on that altar, his daddy laid him on it all the same. The sacrifice was complete in his heart – thus he passed the test (Gen. 22). Soon Moses’s mother would place her baby in a basket on the Nile river (Exod. 2); tell me she did not give her child to God! And of course this has me thinking of Hanna’s prayers and subsequent handing back to God the child of her barren womb! (I Sam. 1&2).
It seems there is a lot of child sacrifice going on here, if you ask me. And that answer… God the Father makes to Abe’s NEAR sacrifice sooooooo many eons later when his own Son, Jesus, hangs on a cross??? Well, that is Mother Mary’s sacrifice too. And though she would live to see things differently, for her Holy Week was anything but a pleasant holiday with pretty flowers and Easter dresses. She gave her promised child back to God and watched Injustice Roll Like a River!
I look for the meaning in this stuff every Sunday when I partake the Eucharist. But as a foster parent watching a child I love be sent back into Hell with no apparent relief in sight, I am looking for that meaning from Mary’s shoes now.
At this point, the only PEACE I find is in the eye of the storm. God, the Father, in each of these cases is there WITH these parents doing his divine mysterious thing that cannot be explained. He is utterly breaking the hearts of the parents, and I do not know why. All I know is, dear child, you belong to God. And my tears roll like a river.
I think I posted on this women several weeks ago, but I could not find the post to establish a link. (Sorry.) Actually, I might have seen it on Tommy Thompson’s blog (cant remember for sure.) Whatever the case, Ginger and Victor have now made the National News feed on CBS. This story warms my heart. I hope it affects a lot of hearts and sparks a lot of change in our society. This is what that will look like when that happens.
Some stories I wish I could tell and am bound to not. This largely is why even though Fat Beggars is more active in foster care than street ministry these days, I share very little of it. Foster care is so deeply personal, and the rules prohibit the sharing of personal information.
That said, we have a little drama here in the foster care side that has grown very dark and hopeless. My heart is so very broke over it. I am beside myself.
If you are a frequent reader, enthusiast, or supporter of this ministry in any way, I am asking you to remember us in your prayers today. God, the Father (the ultimate Father) of us all, presumably, knows the details I cannot share with you. So perhaps if you will join the Holy Spirit in groaning the prayers too deep for words on this one, he might just relent and answer this prayer with his saving grace.
(——– a bunch of censored stuff here that I really wish I could tell so as to expose the authorities to the light of justice and force a change ——–)
But I have said too much already. That will suffice for a prayer request.
Please, just pray for God to move on behalf of this lost little lamb.
So glad you asked!
No really, one of our readers asked, and I promised to tell more about it.
If you have read here much in the past, you surely have a feel, by now, for the prophetic shaping of this ministry over the course of several years. For those interested, I provide below a handful of links to previous posts which I think paint the over arching picture of that.
I link these four, but could have linked many more – yet I sense just these four links will overkill the point. In fact, there are a host of incidents and influences that shaped this ministry evermore prophetically. And so… with many stories such as these forming a backdrop, I began attending Lubbock’s Premier Homeless church a few years ago, and I even got married in that church in a very prophetic ceremony, which you can read about here:
In fact, it was after that wedding ceremony that the executive minister of that church asked me to talk to him about Proph-O-Drama, because, I presume, the prophetic impact on those who witnessed it was powerful. His inquiry prompted me to write a short book by the title Proph-O-Drama, however, that is not as yet a published book.
I had thought he might write it with me, but despite drafting several chapters and giving them to him, he never responded. Yet meanwhile, I kept thinking that a homeless church in a “Christian” town like Lubbock should be engaging the community with a prophetic message from God. After all, it just makes no sense for people to live on the streets of such a town populated, as we claim, by the people of God.
As I searched the Scriptures with these things on my mind and with the events and influences linked above as a backdrop, I found myself dealing heavily with the passage in II Kings 6:24 – 7:20 especially. Among the various important things going on in that story, we find the beggars at the gates of Samaria eating the feast God prepares for them, and then they take the Good News of God’s victory over the enemies of God’s people to the besieged city and thus free the city and transform the national economy all in one prophetic moment.
I couldn’t help but notice that God was already in the business of employing beggars and bums as prophets when he feeds them the victory feast and convicts them to invite the people of God to join them at the King’s Table. I could see no reason why our church was not doing pretty much exactly that! I invited a group of homeless men to my home then where we ate a fine steak dinner and worshipped together (singing, praying, reading this passage, and sharing communion) and then asked them if they wanted to join God in this kind of service. They all became very enthused at the notion and signed on immediately without hesitation. At that point, we only loosely referred to our work as a “school of prophets” – much like we find among some of the Old Testament prophets.
I suppose, as far as I was concerned at least, it did not hurt (was not arrogant) to call ourselves a “school” since it lends itself to the idea that we are learning this ministry rather than masters of it. We do not lord it over anyone that we seek a prophetic way. We simply dare to believe that the meal we share and invite others to join is from God and that when we speak of it and act in it, such service is prophetic.
Sadly, within just a few weeks of that inaugural meal and celebration, church leadership kicked me out of the Premier Homeless church. One of the things they listed against me was that they wanted no part of a “‘prophets’ faction”. Apparently, despite desires to embrace this ministry in humility, we still managed to be perceived as a threat to the very church we hoped would embrace the work we saw God doing among us. We wanted to involve the rest of the church, not threaten it – and especially not fracture it into factions. And the fact that leadership put the term “prophets” in quotes struck me as contempt for us, and thus the God who launched us.
During the same time frame, I had also made some cardboard placards and mounted them on my bicycle, which I often rode around town and up to the Premier Homeless church throughout the week. One of the placards announced, “The Least of These Sleeps on the Streets Tonight”. I figured anyone who knew their Bible – and especially the famous passage in Matthew 25 about the stranger/Jesus, would recognize the meaning of that phraseology right off. AND I figured, Lubbock would have a lot of people in the know.
I was amazed at how many homeless people chaffed at the phrase “Least of These”. At least half a dozen times, I met homeless men who asked who that was supposed to be, and when I clarified, they all said they were not “the least” of anybody. I got the notion that there was a lot of stubborn pride even in the lowly people of the streets! This bothered me. And so after several weeks of prayer and meditation, I gathered the original, inaugural men and floated the idea of calling ourselves “Fat Beggars”.
The beauty of this is how it gels with the text of II Kings 6 & 7. The beggars are the ones eating the food and stuffing themselves until they find conviction that they should go tell the others too. This is theologically perfect, in my view. But of course the notion of a fat beggar is the most contemptuous kind of beggar – a NON-DESERVING BEGGAR! I thought that if we were going to be prophets of God, we should embrace this humility – it is part of the prophet’s wage. I was pleased to find the other men in the original group all agreed.
And that is how our name came about. We chose the most contempt-embracing name we could and did it at just about the same time the church kicked us out.
Encountering the Blind
This morning I was out about town briefly with my dad, and I pointed out the small grove of trees and bushes amid which is located a homeless crash-spot on the corner of the South Loop and Slide Road (one of the busiest intersections in town). We did not see any evidence of homeless squatting as we drove by, and Dad expressed doubt that anyone could hide there without being easily seen. I would have concurred with his assessment, I am sure, except that I have experienced the shock of finding two people and a shopping buggy ensconced in just that exact spot on a previous occasion. It was like pulling a rabbit out of a magician’s hat! The fact of the matter is… we don’t want to see them there.
Can we really just be blind like that – culturally speaking? Can you have cultural blinders that actually affect physical vision – or at least disrupt brain activity to the point of rendering your eyes blind?
Yes, I believe it happens.
I recall my first two years in street ministry, which focused almost entirely on 65th Drive and all the drugs, prostitution, burglary, and occasional gunfire of that troubled street. (Yes, we stopped a murder with a worship service there one night which you can read about here: https://fatbeggars.wordpress.com/2016/02/20/the-vandelia-i-love-vignette-4/). In those days, I had not reached out to the homeless of Lubbock at all. Like so many, I was unaware we even had a problem then. (To be sure, the problem has grown exponentially in the decade since, and was comparatively small at that time.) But I became allied with a street minister, the late Reverend Rodney, who specialized in homeless ministry, and I remember saying to him, “You have a gift for even seeing these people, for I might be looking right at them and not realize it.” He said that was correct, but offered that with God’s help, that would change.
This post should most likely resonate with my Sociology friends. The phenom I write of here might be termed “Studied Non-observance” or something of that nature. (The Psych term for it would probably be “denial”.) I failed to obtain a Minor in Soc when I was in school, but I came close and took a lot of Soc courses. I recall running my own unofficial social experiment on the campus of our small Christian university (a little more that 4,000 student body). I dressed up in black and khaki with work gloves and stood outside the doors of the Bible building and the Admin building fidgeting with the outdoor trash barrels – as if I were custodial staff. I observed that many of my close friends, classmates and professors, walked right past me (within arm’s length) and did not recognize or greet me in that condition. However, when dressed normally, I could stand there looking like I was throwing away trash and the same people would greet me naturally.
This actually became of interest to me even before I went to college. I worked for General Motors in their R&D as a test driver on the Desert Proving Grounds in Mesa, Arizona in those days. I met and made friends with a custodian there who opened my eyes to this kind of ministry, and you can read about that here: https://fatbeggars.wordpress.com/2015/12/11/bud-the-invisible-man-and-a-prophets-call-from-god-part-i/
So, to be honest and forthright, I went into college with this stuff on my mind already. But all of this to say, we are the blind. I have seen the blind man, and he is us.
Healing the Blind
Jesus heals the blind, and that aspect is one foundational feature of his ministry (Matt. 11:5; Luke 7:22). So, what happens when his church is blind?
Well, I am certain that if we are talking about a physical ailment, that will require a miraculous touch from the master, but if we are blind because our culture dictates it, then perhaps our preachers have dropped the ball (to mix a metaphor).
So often the church follows the culture rather than critiquing, subverting, and leading it. This is to our shame. Nearly all of the little religio/political cartoons I have offered on this blog deal with exactly this issue.
In fact, one of the main things I hope this blog will do is open the eyes of the church to view the world as it actually is, and then to view Jesus for who he really is, and then to imagine our role in being his hands and feet in it!
I just heard through a family member today, that Amazon is opening a warehouse for the homeless (though as of yet, I have not seen the story (perhaps a reader here will find it and shoot me the link)). And I am deeply concerned that Amazon’s wonderful work (at least I hope it is) will get all the credit that the Body of Christ should be getting. But of course that will only happen if we are actually doing that work ourselves, and doing it with/in the love of God. And that won’t happen if we don’t see the poor.
May God open the eyes of our heart! We want to see Jesus.
I really hope this post gets some readers and finds some conviction in the hearts of Christians in this country. I hope.
So glad I found it. Could’a missed it so easy.
Thanx for writing this.
My husband and I recently made the difficult decision to open our guestroom to a family experiencing homelessness in our community.
Guests are welcome to Nicole’s “Jesus Room” (Photo courtesy of Nicole Steele Wooldridge)
We heard about a mother, father and their infant who were living on the streets and in dire need of help. A member of my husband’s congregation posted on Facebook that the family, whom she had known for quite a while, were looking for a place to stay. Though she herself would have loved to take them in, she had family visiting and no extra space in her house, so could someone please help?
I couldn’t ignore her desperate plea for somebody with a spare room to step up and get the family off the streets.
You see, we have a wonderful guestroom in our house and it just so happened to be unoccupied at the moment…
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When Mom dies, HOME just ain’t the same. Surely, when God created the world he did not intend for mom’s to die. Surely the death of Mom is one of the saddest parts about sin and death coming into the good creation God made.
We just buried my last grandmother (my last grandparent) this past week. She suffered Alzheimer’s for the last 10 years. She has been gone a long, long time already. And when I went to the service, I saw kin folk who are now spread out all over the nation – family I have not laid eyes on in many years. Some were kids when last I saw them, now they have kids. Some were young when last I saw them, they all look much older now.
HOME felt like it forgot me.
When I grew up, my parents were Neil Diamond fans, and I remembered the line from his song: I Am… I Said.
Well, I’m New York City born and raised
But nowadays, I’m lost between two shores
L.A.’s fine, but it ain’t home —New York’s home
but it ain’t mine no more…
Diamond did not link his homelessness to his mother, or lack thereof, but I see a strong coincidence there all the same. And for me, thinking of his music always recalls my mom to my mind, because she loved it so much – may she rest in peace.
My wife is a mother through and through. It is because of her Mother’s Heart that our homeless ministry features foster children. She makes a HOME, and a HOME should be filled with children, so ours is. I tell people that I married the little old lady who lived in a shoe, she had so many children, she didn’t know what to do….
Yeah, when God created the Mother’s Heart, he created the very lynchpin of HOME. We must all honor our Mother’s Hearts. Don’t break it, cherish it. Don’t do like I have done and “leave home”; call, write, visit, and even stay as much as possible. Our society has turned its back on that and all of us kids “left home” for college, for the military, or to become famous. We just assumed, I think, that Mom would always be there, though we killed her.
And when you see homeless people on the streets, consider them motherless. A good Mom in their life would likely go a loooooooooong way toward helping them. (No one ever says that; I don’t know why.) Our streets are filling up more and more with the refuse of humanity, but those are human souls whose compasses naturally point toward Mom. Why would we not take advantage of that as our whole society comes under this threat? Even Jesus displays a Mother’s Heart when he laments over Jerusalem and says, ““O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Matt. 23:37). Hens do that for their chicks while the barnyard burns down around them. When the smoke clears, the farmer finds his hen cooked to a crisp, but the chicks survive under this mother’s love.
But then there are those lost mothers out there too. They need loads of support. Let’s face it; a mother needs a mother. Without one, she does not know her way. When your mother is on drugs, you are lost. (And there is a LOT of that going around these days!) But if ever there was a place for us to focus our thoughts, prayers, and ministry, surely it would be to rehabilitate those hurting mothers. Even that kind, when she thinks of her children, wishes she was true to them and feels deep regret. And no matter how awful a mother might be, it is her that dying soldier on the battlefield cries for in his last moments.
The compass points here.
I recall the first year they opened Tent City in Lubbock. On Mother’s Day I took a basket full of flowers out there with a note on the side directing the Mothers to take one. I was stunned at how fast that basket emptied out.
Yeah, we need to tend to the Mother’s Heart. It is the lynchpin God made to hold HOME together.