Agent X’s Advice for New Dad’s and “Mr. Moms” Out There

Here at the Fat Beggars Home for Widows, Orphans, and Sojourners, our recent foray into baby diaper territory has me on a new learning curve.  And as a man, changing diapers, feeding babies, and all the routine clean up , I clearly see differences in my wife’s approach and mine.  I remember years ago listening to Dr. Laura on the radio when she summed up men in a single word: Conquest.  She summed up women too, but I forget the word she used for them – which is fitting!  I think.

Anyway, I am clear that for me, these jobs represent a daily problem to be conquered, unlike my wife who wants to enjoy the experience.  Problem is… she needs my help, AND she is not always here when I give it.

(Caution is in order here:  I am in no way suggesting you thwart MOM’s agenda.  But when and where you can modify it, conquer those messes!  Also, I am learning this stuff too.  I am no authority on these things, but I am learning and so here are a few tips I have to pass on.)

I feed 3 babies every day.  They are old enough to chew, but still supplement with a bottle/sippy cup.  But being this is foster care, I really must limit my description of the children.  But you can imagine me feeding three babies from start to finish.  The dining area needs a hazmat crew when we are done!

Tip #1  Booty Checks

Change diapers before sitting babies down to eat.  They can play and won’t realize you are preparing them for lunch, but if you seat them all and then have to return one for a diaper, the others will holler while waiting for you to come back.  The cacophony of crying babies will drive you nuts, so prepare ahead of time.  Then about half an hour after meals, check those diapers again.  You gotta stay on top of those diaper rashes!

Tip #2  Food Ready

This goes for food prep too.  Have everything ready once you seat the kids.  The less waiting they do in those highchairs the better!

Tip #3  Never Trust a Bib

Mess control!  At breakfast time, feed the kids in their pajamas and change them into clothes after.  This way their clothes look good afterward, otherwise you will have to change them twice.  But do not discard the pj’s.  Use the “onesies” for sleeping at night, and save the messy pj’s after breakfast for use again at lunch.  Unless they become overly soiled in breakfast, you can slip the child back into the pj’s over the day clothes like mechanic coveralls for lunchtime too.  This will mean you should only need to wash face and hands, strip the child of the outer garment (the pj’s), and you are good to go on with life!  At suppertime, just plan on moving to bath time afterward, and let them soil the day clothes.  They are almost finished with them anyway, and you can go back to a fresh set of pj’s.

Tip #4  Get the Right Chair

Way before you get to the mealtime, you will need to obtain highchairs.  When shopping for highchairs, notice they all come with fabric covers and seatbelts.  Definitely choose one with a vinyl seatbelt that can easily wipe down with a wet cloth.  If possible, get one with buckles that do NOT have lots of grooves, nicks, and crannies where food can stick!  This is very difficult to clean.  (In fact, I have not seen one with buckles in the back, but if you can find one, that would be best! – perhaps someone can design it and make a mint!)  But the other main thing to watch for is a seat that has smooth plastic shell under the fabric cover.  Go ahead and remove the cover in the store.  Toss it, and never use it again.  If the seat is a seamless bucket, you can swish it out with water or wipe it down easily with a wet cloth.  Cleaning the fabric part every time is a nightmare!

Tip #5  Trade Your Six Gun for a Dirt Devil

Get a small canister vacuum cleaner that you can wash out easily.  Suck up those bits of food as they fall to the floor.  Then wash out the canister every day or two so the food bits don’t rot inside it.  DO NOT VACUUM THE CHILD!  But everything else is fair game.  The child’s skin is too delicate for it, and their hair might become stuck and either way could cause injury.  I know the temptation, but it’s not worth it.  You gotta keep Mom as an ally and not an enemy.  If you harm your child, your wife will get rid of you, and your kid will wind up in foster care.  Don’t let that happen.  Don’t be the idiot.

These are just a few tips I have developed over the last year of caring for babies here at the Fat Beggars Home for Widows, Orphans, and Sojourners.  I am no expert, and would love for readers here to leave their advice for me and fellow readers.  Valuable information can be hard to come by sometimes, yet so desperately needed.

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From the Exodus to the Underground Railroad, Religion’s Legacy of Sanctuary | Sojourners

If we can credit Trump with doubling the number of churches extending hospitality to the homeless (immigrant homeless in this case), then perhaps my prayers for Trump are still being answered! I never prayed this much for a president before. So this is good news to me.

life being what it is

“…Since Trump was elected in November, the number of churches in the United States expressing willingness to offer sanctuary has doubled to 800. …The faith community in general, after the election, was looking for what can we do to support the immigrant community.”

It’s encouraging to see that there are at least a few churches following Jesus and the scriptural mandate of hospitality, to welcome the stranger, but we still remain a nation committed to the old human tribalism embedded from tens of thousands of years of human evolution — it ain’t easy to shake it. We still remain suspicion of the other, regardless of our highfalutin religious ideals or of our status as a “Christian nation.”

Evangelicals had a large part in electing Trump. (Better to have a billionaire playboy in the White House than someone who might let too many Mexicans and Muslims through the gates.) And of…

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Headlines In Heaven’s Newspaper This Morning

Just got this not from a regular reader here in Lubbock:

 

Just found homeless “N***” on the ground sleeping outside behind my pharmacy.
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I offered and bought him a McD breakfast & coffee. And a ride. Turns out he’s married and has a job nearby. I dropped him at Barnes & Noble. He said: Internet.  And his wife nearby.  We prayed.
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Now I thinking of those who look for these folks.
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Please pray for N*** and his wife….and the needy.
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Finding Hope In A World of I Don’t Care

When I found Pamela’s Poem, I figured I would give it a boost and share it on my blog too. Please visit the Devotional Guy and leave Pamela a word of encouragement. And remember her family in your prayers tonight!

The Devotional Guy

The other day while Sweet T and I were sharing the love of Jesus down at the Center of Hope women’s shelter, we both had the opportunity to visit with a homeless family that we’d met there on a previous trip Downtown.

Pamela, the 71 year old family matriarch, her adult daughter Heather, and Pamela’s grandson Nathanael have been homeless several months now since they lost their apartment. After a number of life events happened causing them to get behind on the rent, they found themselves drowning from the sheer financial weight of trying to keep a roof over their head.

You’d never know from his big grin or joyful laugh that Nathanael suffers from cerebral palsy and spends most of his time confined to a wheelchair. Nathanael is filled with tremendous joy; a gift he undoubtedly gets from his mother and grandmother.

Yes, their faces reflect the troubles they…

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“If There Is A God, Why Do We Suffer?”

I find this question posed on YET ANOTHER blog again today.

As usual, the answer on offer is that there is no easy answer.  This followed by exploration of a doctrine of sin and Free Will … yada, yada, yada….

In philosophy class, they call this THE PROBLEM OF EVIL.  How can a truly good God, who is all-knowing, all-powerful, and ever-present allow evil to exist?  The best selling book rack calls it: Why Do Good People Suffer?  Why Does God Let Good People Suffer?  One of my more favorite answers to that question is: Maybe God would ask you the same!

But what I never find in this nagging question that seems to never be settled (and maybe I just have not read enough blogs or deep enough into the books) is the idea of bearing God’s image.  We are created to bear the image of God in the world (See Gen. 1:26-27).  And of course we Christians believe that Jesus expresses God’s image supremely (Col. 1:15).  But he bears God’s image supremely on his cross! (Mark 15:39).

So, if we turn the question around, just a bit, we might come quickly to the conclusion that when good people – especially godly people – suffer, it is a sign that God suffers!  And when you think about it carefully, suffering is the main yardstick for measuring LOVE.

Think about it.

Now, when you drive past that beggar, bum, or prophet on the street corner or in the back alley, the stranger you could invite in, think of him as Jesus himself (Matt. 25:40).  And when he knocks at your church house door, think of him as Jesus himself (Rev. 3:20).  And if you want to do something about the suffering in the world today, celebrate the suffering God whose image you find in these lowly people.

 

A Simple Idea For Christian Ministry To The Poor In Lubbock

In 2010, the Lubbock County Detention Center moved from its central downtown location to its current location near the air port on North Holly.  For those unfamiliar, that location is north of the city about two miles from outside the loop and well off the Citibus route.

Couple this bit of information with the rather obvious reality that by far most of the people locked up in jail are poor, and you know without even verifying it that people getting out of jail, and their family and friends going to visit them, need rides.

Yes, I have been to the jail many times over the years, and I don’t think there has been even once that I did not encounter needy people needing a ride to or from there every day.

In fact, I could imagine that if a church wanted to make a difference in the lives of the poor and needy of Lubbock, they could run a church van from the jail to the Citibus depot downtown at regularly scheduled intervals probably four times a day, and would facilitate visits between family and loved ones that find themselves priced out of that option more often than not.

And I would easily imagine that as the ministers driving this van do so regularly over time that relationships will be birthed and grown.  And since these needy people are obviously paying the price for their own sins and the sins of loved ones, I would imagine that a graceful touch of Jesus in their lives, facilitated in this way, could prove healing over time for those individuals involved, and collectively that might make a spiritual impact on the legal system in our community over all.

But I am just spit-ballin’ and probably wrong about that.  Just ask my critics.

Jesus and “Fund Raisers”

Don’t worship Mammon.  Jesus tells us this (Matt. 6:24).  So, if you work for money, beg for money, play for money, dance naked for money – which of these counts as worship?

Well, since you cannot serve two masters, it seems that “work” for money probably counts as an answer to that question at some level… and anyway, both statements are part of the same teaching on Jesus’s lips at the same time!

Do I think I am going to settle that question in this blog post?

No.

In fact, I am quite sure that the resistance to my suggestion above is so high that by far most of the readers I had for the top three lines are gone now.  Therefore, if you are still reading here, I will assume that even if you remain unconvinced, at least raising the question is worthwhile.

The LOVE of money is the root of all kinds of evil (I Tim. 6:10).  Greed is listed among sins like sexual immorality, idolatry, drunkenness (I Cor. 5:11).  Luke would have us envision the poor filled up while the rich are sent away empty (1:53).  And when asked how to obtain life in the Age to Come, Jesus tells at least one rich guy to sell everything, give it all to the poor, come follow…. (Mark 10:21).

As you can see, Jesus’s attitude is pretty tough of money.  The Bible in general is tough on money.  It’s never ruled out completely as sinful in and of itself, but then neither is slavery (but we in the modern west have all but eliminated that!).

So, how does Jesus get his money?  Does he hold a job down at the Sea of Galilee beachside Long John Silvers?  Or does he have Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Levi all quit their jobs to follow?  Are they working for the money?

Sure enough, there is an occasion when Peter and Jesus, it seems, need to pay a temple tax with some cash they do not have on hand (Matt. 17:24-27).  But it makes its miraculous appearance in the mouth of a fish Peter catches.  So, it is obvious that Jesus CAN fund needs by out-of-this-world means, in case anyone was wondering.

We probably should give the nod to St. Paul’s insistence that a minister earns his wage (I Tim. 5:18).  But we must also give the nod to the fact that St. Paul himself abstains from drawing personal financial support from the church, and opts to make tents (Acts 18:3).

Back to Jesus, though, we know he employs a money-keeper among his disciples, alright.  But that person is Judas – the betrayer.  And so, once again, money keeps falling short of the glory of God in one way or another all through.

That said, we should not ignore the fact that Jesus apparently needed someone to carry the money bag, after all, the group had one!  But where does this money come from?  Are the boys robbing banks like Robin Hood?  No, not exactly.  However, I think it is important to recall that Jesus is crucified among thieves as a thief (Matt. 27/Luke 23).  Not that he is one, but the distinction seems hard to make out – for various reasons.

Actually, to my mind’s eye, Jesus travels a circuit in Galilee keeping one or two steps ahead of the authorities for the most part ALMOST like a bandit.  I think of Billy the Kid having hideouts all over New Mexico and locals and villagers supporting him with food and supplies – always eager for him to return, yet quick to warn him when the heat was on so he could leave.  And while Billy or Robin had a way of taking from the rich to give to the poor, Jesus had a way of healing the sick and preaching to the poor that put him in a category ALMOST like the bandits he was crucified with.

In Luke 8, we find at least one source for the cash Jesus keeps on hand.  It is the women.  The women who follow him and his group of freshly unemployed fishermen, tax collectors, and the like.  (A group that for all appearances LOOKS like a band of bad boys and bandits!)  These women follow him after he heals them of various ailments and demon possessions.  And they then chase after him, throwing their money at his feet, it seems.

And you know what?

That sounds typical to me.  How many dead beat losers are being supported by their women?  It seems almost too obvious when you stop and think about it.  Who is paying rent at the trailer park?  How many men do you know down in the hood that fancy themselves weekend DJ’s but can’t rub two nickels together, but they got one, two, or three women keeping them afloat?

I bet it rubs you a bit raw to put Jesus in that company.  But I am not the first, as I said, he gets crucified with thieves as if he were one.

Shameful huh?

Yeah.

But it ain’t no LOVE of money!  And it ain’t no fund raiser either….

So when I watch ministers raise tons of cash by holding sales and fund raisers, I think, WWJD?  And I don’t see the connection.  When I watch missionaries share a vision for their work and churches make contributions, this sounds a lot closer to me.  I am aware that St. Paul also gathered contributions to take to the poor in Jerusalem.  There is no indication that he had a bake sale, but that out of the gratitude of the hearts of those he served for the Spiritual blessings they gained from Jerusalem, they then sent physical wealth back there to bless that poor church in return.

I am not trying to draw some stark conclusion with this.  I merely hope to broaden our perspective.

I can easily imagine a host of issues arising that we would approach differently if our perspective was enhanced.

Should I give money to a beggar?

Should I insist a bum “get a job”?  (Remember the Nazis told the Jews that work would make them free!)

Should Fat Beggars raise money for ministry?

Do we even NEED money to do ministry?

Will there be money at all in the Age to Come?

What exactly constitutes LOVE of money and/or WORSHIP of Mammon?

What exactly is greed?

Homeless People Need …(Surprise!) A HOME!!!

A few years ago, Jon Stewart’s Daily Show featured this:

http://www.cc.com/video-clips/lntv3q/the-daily-show-with-jon-stewart-the-homeless-homed

This quirky, funny, yet informative video educates us on the “Housing First” program.  It aired on Comedy Central over 2 years ago.  And as Hasan Minhaj demonstrates so eloquently, this extremely successful technique for changing the homeless culture cuts against the conventional wisdom of the ages – certainly against good conservative thinking.

For a more serious look at this you might check out these links:

http://www.npr.org/2015/12/10/459100751/utah-reduced-chronic-homelessness-by-91-percent-heres-how

and

I need to react to this unconventional wisdom in two ways.

1. I first learned of Housing First shortly after the 60 Minutes program about 100,000 Homes was aired on CBS in 2014.  Soon after, I learned about Utah’s efforts to eliminate chronic homelessness statewide, and it seems they have come very near that goal!  And they did it by using this most unconventional wisdom.  This is important to me because in 2010, I was introduced to the book When Helping Hurts by Corbett and Fikkert, a book that went to pains to reinforce the conventional wisdom AND try to pass it off as though it was something new, something biblical, and something that works.  I purposely challenged that thinking and the book that popularized it in several Lubbock churches where I had connections back at that time, but I was shunned and/or kicked out for my efforts.

2. Though I see the incredible and undeniable power of the Housing First philosophy, I think it still falls short of the glory of God, and I hope the church can use it to shake off this unfounded commitment to the old conventional wisdom (which I strongly suspect finds its force in conservative politics) and really think critically about how Jesus would surpass even the new practice.

In the first instance, I am giving the church my “I-told-you-so”.  Not that I am better than you, but I did try to tell you to think this through better way before the Housing First phenom came along and totally discredited your conventional wisdom.  I knew what I was talking about then, and you wouldn’t listen; I know what I am talking about now.  So the question is:  Will you listen now?

This does not automatically make me right and you wrong.  But it should be enough to earn me a hearing.  And since that seems so hard to come by, I lay out my case this way bit by bit.  The foolishness of God is wiser than your worldly wisdom.  I am sure I have read that somewhere….  (I Cor. 1:25 – anyone?).

The fact is that the whole When Helping Hurts philosophy – especially that we might harm the poor when we GIVE them things or money – is now left in shreds on the workshop floor.  That book peppered a handful of Bible passages stitched out of context to suit an agenda that eases your conscience when the poor don’t seem to respond in the favorable way we had hoped.  It winds up letting you off the hook and allowing you to set them up for actual failure while you don’t actually care.  That book was not as biblical as it sounded.  Let us move on from it now.

The second part of my reactions is that Housing First was born out of a desire to SAVE MONEY – not souls.  Housing First, it turns out, turns the conventional wisdom on its head alright, but does so in service to Mammon, not Jesus!  As powerful as it is, and it is, we can learn from it, alright, but as Christians, we need to serve Jesus instead of money!  (Matt. 6:24).  This should be a NO BRAINER!

Go look at the video links above.  You will plainly see.  The Housing First advocates did the math.  Housing chronic homeless people, despite their alcoholism and other addictions (even laziness for that matter) actually SAVES MONEY!  Loads of it!!!  It just so happens that success at this level revealed some marginal success at the next level too – changed lives.

But those lives were not brought to Jesus or to the service of the Kingdom of God.  Yes, they are changed in very positive ways, but not to that degree or in that direction – AND THAT MATTERS.

This is where I can point into the mist, but I do not have the whole enchilada worked out necessarily.  However, to the degree I know Jesus and the Bible, I sense strongly that I am not out of line to suggest that Christian church buildings and Christian homes (especially those with spare/guest rooms) can and should take in the stranger, and thus take in Jesus himself (Matt. 25:40).  I am sure there are logistical concerns that vary from home to home and town to town and homeless person to homeless person.  I do not suggest ignoring those concerns, but I am certain that any church or home that follows a crucified Messiah (who in turn directs his followers to take up their crosses as they follow) will be willing to work those logistics out sacrificially.

I even think we should call the program “Home First” instead of “Housing First” because I am clear that four walls and a roof, though necessary, are not sufficient to make a HOME.  And homeless people need (insert drumroll please….) a HOME!  And the Kingdom of God directs us to GIVE it to them.

 

What DIFFERENCE Does This Blog Make?

I have an ongoing conversation with 2 (sometimes more) blog readers and a fellow minister in the field.  The conversation varies a bit in depth and content with each, but I am talking specifically about a conversation in which Jesus vis-à-vis the homeless and the church is the topic.  In these few individuals, I get a fair bit of regular feedback (making it a conversation).  Of all the others who stop by here to look (whether regularly, once in a while, or just one time), I get very little feedback – beyond a “like”.  Sometimes… but usually not much.

One of my blog readers and I speak frequently about whether we are making a difference in the world with our blogs.  It FEELS like we have joined a vanity club where we basically “like” each other’s stuff, and where that is about the extent of our “difference” in the world.  This is ironic for a blog that purposefully stinks (see this post for more on that https://fatbeggars.wordpress.com/2017/01/17/if-my-blog-stinks/comment-page-1/).

“Like”…. What does it mean?

Probably it means someone likes your post.  But that is a bit broad.  It almost certainly (though possibly not) means that person actually read your post.  There was something favorable about it, but that really could be as little as stroking your ego in hopes that you will come stroke mine.  It could mean the post deeply inspired a reader or brought profound conviction.  That, however, would suppose a bit more response in the comments or by email, so… it is not all that likely.

So, I wonder…

If you read here, have you found something challenging?  Convicting?  Inspirational?  Encouraging?

I would love to find a homeless person responding saying, “Your blog gives me hope, and makes me feel valued.  I bear the image of God, and there is no greater vocation.”  – Yeah.  I would love that!  I would love it if a reader responded saying, “I have read here a bit, and I see where our church could be doing so much more to serve Jesus among the homeless….”  – Yeah.  I would really love that!!!

But I think if those things were happening, I would get that feedback unsolicited.  And after two years without getting such feedback, I am wondering what difference this blog actually makes.  It is time, it seems, for such assessment.  I don’t write here just to write or collect “likes”.  I write here because I was encouraged to get on the grid with my message after years of refusing to get on the grid with it.  Those encouraging me to do that seemed very insightful and sure it would make a difference.  As far as getting on the grid is concerned, this is as far as I want to go seeking limelight.  I do not seek personal notoriety.  I seek that proverbial “difference”, and I am wondering if this is the way to go about it.

There are other avenues of service I am actively involved in and pursuing.  This is not the only one.  And for that matter, I could go back to printing my “Revolutionary Rag” for the streets.  I really think I was reaching Lubbock’s homeless by that method with far greater frequency and depth.  (Stories on that by request.)

So, I am open to the opinion(s) of others.  Does anyone care?  I am open to opinions that I might normally resist, but I want to hear them… if they are out there.

Any thoughts?

The Running Father And the Party For His Wayward Son

Happy Father’s Day to all you readers and street dwellers!

 

This morning we received a dramatic message from our preacher about the Father of the Prodigal Son and the Party he throws to welcome back his lost boy.  Dramatic and powerful!  The boy, the younger of two, demands his inheritance, wishes his Father were dead, and runs off to live the party life of the pagan world.  And then he hits the skids.  Winds up at the bottom of society.  Languishing there, he decides he would be better off if he humbles himself and asks his loving Father for a job – perhaps the lowest servant job in the house.

Meanwhile, the Father, though, scans the horizon each day in (perhaps) a misguided hope that maybe, just maybe, His boy will come home.  And sure enough, one day the boy is spotted on the horizon, so the Father throws shame to the wind, gathers up his robes, and RUNS to meet the lost son.  And when he embraces the boy, He turns and insists that the servants go kill the fatted calf and put on a PARTY!

It so happens, of course, that the older brother who never left home, who never squandered the blessings of his Father, learns of the Party but refuses to join!

Sound familiar???

Yes, this is the final party scene in a string of parties Jesus tells us about in Luke 14 and 15.

If you are homeless today, the thing you need more than any other thing, is to be embraced by your loving Father.  Yes, you need to humble yourself to join the Party He throws, but if you will do that simple thing, you are welcome.  In fact, you are welcome either way; it is you who abstains.  The refusal is yours, not Gods.

My prayer is that our church take this message to heart and share the fruit of it with those living on the streets of Lubbock.  We are the servants told to kill the fatted calf and start up the BBQ!  And the lowly and lost make up the Father’s guest list.  It is the PARTY He is throwing; these are the people He RUNS to, and we are the hands and feet of the servant operation.

Just imagine.  If we ALL get it together on this task… we will have stormed the Gates of Hell, and they will fall before us!

Can I get an AMEN?