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?

Mr. Mom’s Dirty Jobs

Here at the Fat Beggars Home for Widows, Orphans, and Sojourners, I play the role of Mr. Mom 3 or 4 days a week (at a minimum).  And the dirty jobs I get myself into are endless and mind-blowing.  I mean, there are standard diaper changes, as one would expect (Is there a “standard” diaper change???), but then there are all the messes they don’t print up in the brochures advertising parenthood.  (Okay, there are no brochures, but there should be.)  But, I mean, I just finished feeding breakfast to three young diaper wearers… and well… clean up afterward was a trip!

I found pop tart boldly going where no pop tart has gone before!

Welcome to my world!  Welcome to the Fat Beggars Home for Widows, Orphans, and Sojourners.  (I have come to the aid of a homeless adult who suffered incontinence in the night while sleeping on my couch a few years ago too, so I am not exactly a rookie.  But babies and toddlers have NO SHAME, and they require constant attention.)  But this is the House of God, the House God built (Ps. 127:1).  We exclaim with joy as “Our feet stand within Thy gates, O Jerusalem! (Ps. 122:2).  And each of these people, whether child or adult, bear the image of God in this place!

Can I get an AMEN?

May the servant be prepared for the Master’s return!

That would be me.  Mr. Mom (aka Agent X).

I have not been one of Mike Rowe’s biggest fans, but I have watched more than a few of his Dirty Job’s shows.  Certainly, when I was getting a second degree in windmill/wind-turbine maintenance, I recall our class was enthused to find an episode where Mike Rowe climbed a tower and joined a crew.  His show had a way of bringing dignity to dirty jobs – many of which featured a LOT of “POO“!  They seem to highlight “man’s work” usually, but I don’t think exclusively so.  And anyway, what does a phrase like that even mean these days?  (Thanx so much for your care, Mike!)

I wonder… I wonder if any one from my meager readership knows of any episodes Rowe ever did featuring “Mr. Mom’s” or stay-at-home dads.  Or, I wonder if anyone knows how to contact Mike Rowe to request he feature this dirty job in his shows.

I crave the dignity he might bring it.

In the meantime, we rely on the eyes of faith to see Jesus in these little ones.  It’s not hard; though it’s plenty ironic.  Just follow the trail of “poo” ’til you find the “human” producing it.  There Jesus is sure to be (Matt. 25:40).  And his brand of dignity is the one that REALLY counts.

Seeking Assistance for a Special Request

I think this is a long shot, since the majority of blog readers for this site are from various long distance locations…

BUT… IF

If (long shot though it may be) I have a local reader in, or near, Lubbock who has a wheel chair they are willing to part with, I have a friend in need of it who cannot afford to pay.

If you can do that, please respond to the comment section below.  I will NOT publish your response, but will make private arrangements to acquire the chair.

THANX so much.

 

…. UPDATE…

Wheelchair has now been provided!  Thanx for your concern… you may now go back to your regular blogging…

X

High-G Foster Care

When I was young, I used to test drive cars and trucks for General Motors on their Desert Proving Ground in Mesa, Arizona.  I was a durability driver.  My certification was good up to 100 mph, which we often did on the 5-mile circle track.  That was cool.  But the High-G certification required lots of specialized training.

The High-G training car was a 1969 Pontiac GTO with the strangest hose apparatus you ever saw mounted to the wheels on one side.  It was a very old, classic car even when I was there in the 1990s.  A legendary car that no one had ever wrecked in all those years of training – the techs bored out the engine block in numerous rebuilds and the management kept it in service because no one in training wanted to be the first to wreck it.  But the hard part of the High-G certification test was that at 100 mph on the circle track, the trainer could simulate a blow out in two wheels with a rapid inflate/deflate air tank mounted in the back seat!

Then for those drivers who passed the certification process, they would test cars over 100 mph, riding high in the “glory lane” on the high berm track in test cars outfitted with special safety gear and wigwag head lights so that other drivers would see them in the rear view mirror and drop down a lane to let them pass.  Any tests over 150 mph, and the traffic safety crew would shut down the track to all other traffic, bring out an ambulance on standby and then the track was limitless.

I have been thinking about that in recent days.  When you drive a car in excess of 100 mph, the telephone poles on the side of the road become a blur.  You must focus very intentionally on the road ahead while things in your peripheral vision go unattended.  And well, just last week, the Fat Beggars Home for Widows, Orphans, and Sojourners just took on a third foster child.

Yeah, we have THREE NOW!

OMG!!!

And they are all in diapers!

I posted a year ago about washing dishes with one hand… (I was such a rookie!)  This is getting intense now.  Ms. Agent X and I went to a Bible study last weekend with some new friends and took the kids.  It lasted until nearly 9 pm on a Saturday night.  We were exhausted when our heads finally hit the pillow at about 11:30.  We woke up waaaaaay too late to make it to regular Sunday School the next morning, and found we could not get ready in time for worship at all – not even the late service.  But there was another home Bible study group Sunday night, so we went to that.  And again, we were wasted by bed time that night.

Then Ms. Agent X and I finally had a few minutes to debrief on our experiences a couple days later.  I told her I had managed to go out one day to lunch with family and only after we were all sitting down to eat, I realized I had not brushed my own teeth yet that morning!  She had realized that she wore a pair of pants to the Saturday night Bible study inside out with the tag hanging out and did not know it until we got home!  She caught herself throwing away the laundry and putting the diapers in the washing machine!

We are having a wild time here.  And I am just thinking that if any of my readers spend much time in prayer, I hope you will remember the Fat Beggars Home for Widows, Orphans, and Sojourners next time you pray.  I hope God hears about us and gives us strength, and any friends we have that could help with that would be deeply appreciated.

Yeah, at these speeds, diapers whiz by like a blur!