A reader on a recent post recalled a night of worship with James and May, and now I want to commemorate their love too. What follows is a reprint from the Fat Beggars Spot – a bulletin for the street homeless of Lubbock published more than three years ago.
Year 1 April 27, 2014 Vol. 8
The Fat Beggar’s Spot
A Revolutionary Rag
Dreams, Visions, and Prophecy
It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind;
And your sons and daughters will prophecy,
Your old men will dream dreams,
Your young men will see visions.
-Joel 2:28 (see also Acts 2:17-19)
Dreaming of Home
I recently spent the night out on an empty lot behind Carpenter’s Kitchen near a homeless couple (James and May). Late in the night I stirred briefly to eavesdrop on their conversation. The man told the woman (the love of his life) how he dreams of one day building her a log cabin. He described the kind of pine and pitch he intends to use, the view he hopes to frame in the window, and the spiral staircase he wants to add to it. I could hear his lady respond in fascination and join him in his dream for their future as she coughed and their blankets were buffeted by the winds.
I was stunned. From my vantage point, they seem so very far from that goal. You would have thought their every ambition was consumed with the pursuit of alcohol, cigarettes, and spare change. They sleep on the streets every night – even in harsh conditions. Seasoned street people, they have been doing this for years. It is remarkable that they maintain such a deep love for each other; but to dream of building a mountain cabin really blows my mind! Yet there it is, and they have the moxie to dream it.
Visions for Ministry
Recently, my family shared time with another street-couple (nameless in his publication) in prayer, a meal, and relaxation. They described their dream (or was it a vision?) to start a ministry for abused and/or pregnant women on the streets. This second couple hopes to establish a large house in which to keep women from danger and give rest, shelter, and safety as they rebuild their lives. It is their long-range goal. They have tremendous hearts for this ministry, but no assets with which to begin offering it.
Again, I am blown away by the shear ambition of such a dream yet having so little with which to start. But they live on those streets seeing the need first-hand daily. They surely have more faith than me.
But then I met a third (nameless) couple at the library recently where we shared communion. As we broke bread together, they lamented their struggles to maintain a simple patch of ground upon which to sleep. According to them, the church is instrumental in running them off the spot they share with several other homeless people, and amid all the discouragement they got a vision. They were very clear to distinguish it as a vision rather than a dream.
They dare to envision a community of homeless people coming together and pooling resources with which to purchase an empty lot. This alone would be an amazing achievement, but they dare to visualize this community setting up a fence/wall around the perimeter to keep the eyesore contained. They even visualize the construction of a shed or shelter in the middle of it and the maintenance of port-O-potties at which point they would be self-sufficient with no need for the church or outside help.
It troubles me that they seek to cut the church out of the vision (but it seems understandable given their relationship there), but yet again, this vision strikes me as far, far bigger than the resources would allow.
But then this makes me think of my dreams too, and I wonder if mine would not address all of these listed above as well – all the while proving to reach even higher and going farther with even less.
My I-Have-a-Dream Speech
I dream of the church receiving a vision of itself as the very Body of Messiah who moves, talks, and acts like that Joshua of Nazareth who traverses those dusty Galilean trails in the gospels – touching lepers, partying with the poor, healing people’s vision and stirring dreams while standing up to religious and political leaders who get in the way of the Kingdom of YHWH. I visualize a church, a body of people made up mostly of middle-class Americans (the wealthiest group of people on earth) sharing everything in common (Acts 2:44-45 anyone?) taking in strangers (Matt. 25:35, 38 anyone?) and filling those guest bedrooms that go empty night after night with Jesus who knocks on their doors (Rev. 3:20 anyone?). I dream of church buildings with all that empty space and empty pews each night being filled with “the least of these” (Matt. 25:40) and throwing banquets in honor of the poor (Luke 14:13) and YHWH finally coming home to live in the hearts (temple) of his people (Ezek. 43:1-5). Can I get an Amen …Anyone?
We don’t even have to raise a single dollar (not $40,000; not $10 million) to start fulfilling this vision and making this dream come true. And yet, I expect my dream is the most ambitious of all these I have listed here. And why? Selfishness? Politics? Fear? What other reasons stop us doing it? But none of these characterize Jesus, nor should they characterize those entities that pass themselves off as “The Body of Christ.” Surely the church can repent and find the way to mitigate its fears! (I John 4:18).
I challenge you to join us in dreaming dreams, seeing visions, and experiencing the Spirit of prophecy (Acts 2:17-19). May Messiah be formed in you (Gal. 4:19), and in all of us together.
News You Can Use
I am still seeking feedback on a name for this publication. Please continue thinking on it and make new suggestions or support one already made. Also, I am approached all the time by people asking about those Fat Beggars tee shirts. At this time, I do not have funding for more of them. I have heard that the God Can II at Tent City is no longer getting donations. I have not heard about the first God Can in a month now. I figure this means donations are way down. That is understandable, but I encourage you to find one and give as you are able. I am giving as I am able too. However, like many of you, I am just too broke to offer much this month. Hopefully by mid-summer, I will have more money to work with. And I hope to get neon green, hot pink, and other eye-popping colors to go with them. Keep in touch with me on this. I know you want them!