Taking It To The Next Level (Mission Assignment (Day 2 Evening))

The day is almost done now.  I wake in the morning with anticipation for an empty tomb that needs celebrated.  And my stink is getting gnarly.

Agent Z and I hit the streets today for a few hours looking for trouble.  The ulterior motive, for me at least, was, of course, to add the smell of the actual streets to my scent.  We bought cigarettes and broke the ice with a few street people by giving them away, which, of course, led to the next layer of stench.  I now smell of smoke.

The only problem was that I kept finding myself upwind of the smoke.  That, and the fact that I had asked the girl who sold them to me to recommend the kind she likes off the cheap rack.  It turns out she likes Mint Flavor, and so when the street guys were smoking them, they thought it tasted like brushing your teeth!  On the one hand, that sounded waaaaay more fresh than I wanted.  On the other hand, if a street homeless person thinks any cigarette tastes like brushing your teeth, then that has got to be a level of nasty mouth I don’t think I can achieve.

So, when I came home, I went outside with one of my cigarettes and lit it up blowing the smoke down my own shirt!  I also took a beer and dumped part of it on my shirt.  Between the body odor, the smoke, and the beer, I should be getting close to a deep level stench.  I am almost to day three now, I haven’t gone any longer than that even camping, though my kids have.

I have been thinking about it a lot, and I remember how Bob from Denver smelled so bad of urine at my wedding a few years ago.  (Yeah, we held our wedding with the homeless.)  And I have seriously considered taking my stench to that level before going to worship tomorrow.  But I seriously have not wet my own pants like that since I was in preschool, and I find it very hard to bring myself to it now.

But I had a stroke of genius as I considered this.  Perhaps the Spirit led me to it.  Perhaps I just have my mind in the toilet.  Not sure which, honestly.  But I have all these spent baby diapers around here, and I really could take an extra juicy one and shove it in my pocket on my way to church.  The beauty of this, of course, is that I can unload that smell whenever I want to, AND I will not stain either myself or the furniture with it!  I can do all that and still have the smell – the full effect.

I wonder if I might get some reader response on that.  What are your thoughts?  Pee smell?  Or no?

I really would like to feel some reader support right about now.  This feels very lonely.  And as I consider that, I think about what it feels like being a street homeless person facing the prospect of going to church on Sunday.  As I empathize, I am aware that there is no one single universal perspective on that.  But I have mine, and it finds the prospect very shameful.  I think it would be much easier not to darken the door at all.  I would stand out like a very shameful sore thumb.  But since I believe I will represent the Matthew-25 Jesus, “the least of these brothers”, then I feel both prophetic and justified.  And that gives me strength.

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That Not-So-Fresh-Feeling (Mission Assignment: Day 2 (morning))

Remember that old ad on TV many years ago?

Let me rerun it in your mind a little differently.  The young lady asks her mom in a park one day if she ever has “that not so fresh feeling”, and just then a bum pops up from his sleep in the nearby bushes and says, “Yeah!  I know that feeling!”

Okay… let’s get serious.  In reality, the crass humor helps me talk about my mission which is deeply humiliating.  Perhaps humor is a good thing, but it is not the point, and I do not want to allow it to become a distraction.

First the physical report:

I stink.  I smell myself getting really raw.  It is not constant, but almost.  It is a dreadful smell that shocks my system every time I catch a whiff.

Also there is the matter of that embarrassing itch.  Okay… to be honest, it’s really an all over body itch, not just the unmentionables.  For that matter, what itch isn’t embarrassing?  Anyway, as I settled in my bedroll last night, I became uncomfortably itchy all over, from my scalp and shoulders to my knees and feet.  I could not help but yearn for five minutes in a nice steamy shower.

My clothes are not atrocious, but I am, upon close inspection, finding remains of the day accumulating.  And I am certain that if anyone were to see me today after seeing me at the men’s Bible Study yesterday, they likely would notice that I am wearing the same Fat Beggars School of Prophets tee shirt (it is a loud eye-catching color).

The physical suffering is actually minimal.  Real, but not that bad.

If, and I mean IF, if I had spent last night outdoors, I almost certainly would have lay down on hard cold concrete.  The temperature is seasonably falling these days, especially since it has been a very wet week here in Lubbock.  And I think with all the headaches of rain, mud, cold, and having to find a bathroom to make business, I would be in a lot worse physical shape on other grounds.  My lack of hygiene might still be a factor, but it would be a small one.

Emotional/psychological report:

I am suffering with an inferiority complex.  I find myself trying to keep an unusual distance between myself and loved ones.  This is a self-imposed barrier as I try to limit the suffering my presence causes others on the one hand, and the scorn for me I expect to find on the other.

I am thinking of the phenom Psych and Soc researchers call The Looking Glass Self.  I don’t want to see myself in the expression of people who smell me at my worst.  This is my personal stink.  I normally wash it away and don’t acknowledge it myself.  But now I am confronted with the stink God gave me, and my very proximity with others who might shun or sanction me, even with disapproving facial expressions, has me shrinking inside.

I feel a sense of shame growing and overtaking me.  And at this point, I must acknowledge that I sense a bit of fear too.  I will not recover from this moment.  Anyone who smells me, even if only for one moment in time, will always remember the stench of me.  Even if I shower every day for the rest of my life, the people I sit next to in church will always remember, whether they speak of it or not, the day I stunk to high heaven.  And so I fear the shame overtaking me will stick, that I might never recover from it.

My Spiritual report:

I sit here scratching at itches as I type and sense the absolute futility of this.  Nevertheless, I believe I am called by God to accept this mission challenge.  To save the world?  That seems ironic.  I went to school and studied Bible for six years from Ph.D professors at schools with hundreds of millions of dollars and best-selling Christian author alumni to be trained in serving God.  But in NONE of that, did anyone ever suggest skipping a shower would be my calling.  So, it feels counterintuitive on many levels.

Yeah.  Pointless.  Stupid.  Unprepared.  Yet, called by God to do it.

I think I need to accept this mission.  It resonates with Philippians 2:5-11: “Have this attitude … like Jesus…. who humbled himself….”  But God exalts him!  And honestly, who among us would have envisioned that another dead Jew hanging from a Roman cross could be so important to the world???

Of course we might ask (and certainly I ask myself hour-by-hour), but why skip a shower?  Aren’t there plenty of other ways to embrace humility?

Well, perhaps there are.  But who is suggesting them?  What are they?

This mission is getting very personal and public both.  I am thinking Christ’s thoughts in new ways.  If Jesus humbled himself to the point of taking the form of a slave and even to death – death on a cross (the most humiliating way for a king to die), and if I am humbling myself to the point of taking the form of a homeless bum, even the smell of 3 days in the grave – I mean on the streets – (and this without even taking on the physical suffering, but only the assault on my own pride), then yeah… I am in a better position to think his kind of thoughts.  And here is what some of them are:

That Looking Glass Self… It’s a social science concept, but appears to be a very real phenom and seems to be closely associated with Image Bearing Theology.  My children – the younger the more this is true – look eagerly into my face for my attention constantly.  The two year olds and teenagers go through phases which temper this, but the general rule still stands.  They want my attention no matter what.  If they need to misbehave to get it, they do.  But they really get jazzed when I celebrate them, laugh, smile, talk gently, and so on.  They eat it up!  And then they IMITATE me – the good, the bad, and the ugly!  They are little tape recorders repeating my words and actions.  They scold their baby dolls the way I scold them.  And all of this is directly related to The Looking Glass Self and/or Image Bearing Theology.

As I look at Jesus Christ yearning for his attention, I am apt to cry out to him when I get into trouble!  But when I think he is celebrating me, I really eat it up.  And I must say, I was able to contribute some important ideas to the men’s Bible Study yesterday that seemed to be very well celebrated – received with thoughtful endorsement from leaders in that group and from the fellow followers.  That felt GOOD – validating, as we say.  But then I come away and want to IMITATE Jesus.  And I gotta say, taking the form of a homeless bum pales in comparison/contrast to taking the form of a slave or a crucified king, but even as I take “baby steps” (“baby steps, Bob, baby steps”), I find my perspective on the world is deeply enriched as a spiritual matter.

I imagine Jesus coming to Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey.  Pompey and Titus both showed up in warrior’s chariots – the ancient equivalents of an armored tank division.  But the King of the Jews – the Lord of lords – came in humility instead of pride and turned a Roman cross into a throne.  And he wants us to seek his attention and affection, his attention and discipline.  He wants us to imitate him, and therein rule the world the way humanity was designed (Gen. 1).  And I am seeing and feeling that from this vantage point with new vigor that is not actually available to proud vantage points.

Suddenly this pointless and stupid mission feels like the foolishness of God that is wiser than the wisdom of men!  I have sight of the Promised Land from this peak!  It is beautiful beyond description.  If I used human words for it, I think it would come off depicting creatures of various kinds with wings to fly, wings to cover, and with wheels within wheels and eyes all about.  I think in your human language, it sounds rather confusing, but when you come to this vantage point and look at God, and see his order for the world he made, it starts to make sense.

I hope my reports here make you feel welcome.  And I hope, I really, really hope, that when Jesus appears in Church tomorrow with the throngs of devotees who come to worship him, that he finds celebration in those facial expressions.  I hope that when they smell the Aroma of Christ, they smell life and not death.

 

Mission Assignment Play-by-Play (Day 1)

After posting the mission assignment again yesterday, I accepted it too.

If the mission is to begin the process of smelling homeless, while living at home, then building up an odor takes a while.  I did not offend myself last night in bed.  Still not this morning when I got up.  But I went to the men’s group Bible Study early this morning and chose to put on my Fat Beggars School of Prophets tee shirt.  I made up my mind that it was gonna be with me a while.

I showed up with my bed-head hair unshaved and ready to study.  It was a good study too.  But I still did not smell (and I imagine it takes a fairly strong scent to offend a group of men).

However, I did notice that someone made a remark about some of us looking shabby.  I also noticed one guy I thought looked a bit more rough than me and one more in almost as rough a shape.  But that still is not saying much at that point.

However, tonight, after a day of working and cleaning and working and not getting a shower, I now have the better part of two day’s stench started.  It’s not overwhelming anyone yet.  None of my family as said anything to me, but I expect they will by morning.  I feel grody especially in the unmentionable parts, that I will not mention.  This is more than a matter of smell; there is some real discomfort too.

I got a grease stain on my shirt while working in the kitchen this evening.  Not a bad one, but it got me to thinking.  And later when my nose was running after a sneeze, I thought that if I were on the street rather than in my home, I would not reach for a tissue, but use my sleeve.  So, I did that.

I have spent much of the day barefoot, and I notice my feet are very filthy.  I think I will wash my feet before going to bed, and I expect to sleep in a sleeping bag to mitigate the mess.

I feel crazy for doing this.  It seems stupid and pointless.  I cannot imagine explaining myself to anyone with a straight face.

I expect, this kind of emotional state to intensify as I get closer to worship time Sunday.  Not sure I can face it.  I am talking to God all day today, but I feel like I am just being stupid.  This is humbling.  Already, I am considering what it would feel like to be a guy living on the streets going to my church on Sunday.  I know people there.  I am imagining myself as that man in their eyes just now.  I don’t like what I see.  I think if I were the man on the street, I might well skip church.  As it is, I might just skip stinking and grab a shower.  That is a choice the street guy may or may not have.

 

 

Operation: Apocalypse (application form) … again

Still not dropping it, ya’ll.

Yes… Fat Beggars School of Prophets is like the US Marines. We are looking for A Few Good Men. …and women. Please print off and fill out the application form and mail it in to the church address listed on it. There is still time to ring in the Apocalypse, and you can be part of it.

Okay readers.

It’s time to take this blog to the next level.  Rather than seeking “followers” as per WordPress, the goal here always was to affect ministry on the streets and in the churches of Lubbock.  However, this blog has proven that it reaches a Christian audience far beyond this locale (95% or more, of which, live in homes).  It’s nice to write ABOUT these things and it’s nice to read ABOUT them too, but it never was the goal.

Someone made a blog post just today (a different Christian blog) about the difference in knowing ABOUT God and actually knowing God.  If there is any truth to that, then it makes sense that it is better to actually SERVE God than it is to simply read ABOUT it.  If you are in a relationship with someone who wants to get serious, they are likely to say: Let’s take this to the next level.  That is what God is doing through The Fat Beggars School of Prophets; He is telling you, dear readers, Let’s take this to the next level.

If I have any readers here wishing to join the Fat Beggars School of Prophets on our mission from God, please review the blog over all and print off a copy of the Operation: Apocalypse application form below, and mail it to the address listed on the form.  (Emails to “Loiter Larry” in the Fat Beggar’s Office at clashofcashntrash@gmail.com are also acceptable as a means of response.)  Also as part of this mission, should you choose to accept it, print off extra copies of the application form and (discreetly) leave them (without being seen) in the men’s room where you attend church OR hand them out to the homeless you encounter in your city.

Should God choose not to empower this mission with the Holy Spirit, it will self destruct as soon as you forget it.

This is the REAL mission impossible: Bear the image of God in relation to the street homeless in your town and the church you attend.

Mission assignments will be posted weekly.

Pray for the mission.  Keep watch, and pray.

Thanx.

 

Agent X

You STUPID Galatians!!!

I am feeling a lot of pressure in recent weeks.  A lot of pressure to BE NICE.  And the more confrontational I become, the more pushback I encounter from many fronts.  Subtle cues, usually, that I have stepped out of bounds somewhere.

I have allowed myself to live in fear of being confused with the kind of hate-gospel preached by Westboro Baptists who hound military funerals or homosexuals with messages like, “God hates fags” and so forth.  I have lived with that fear and allowed it to guide me into quietness and other forms of BEING NICE rather than risk offense.  Meanwhile, my culture has become a greasy, splattered, gas station toilet that you try to hover over rather than get involved with too intimately.

I don’t believe God hates fags for one minute.  On the contrary, I believe quite firmly that God loves fags.  (Yeah, I used the word.  So what?  Even the fags say it.)  Yeah.  Fags are people too, with feelings.  And God loves them and sent his son to die for them.  I believe that completely.

Doesn’t mean I think homosexuality is God’s ideal.  Doesn’t mean I think it’s not a sin.  It is.  The Bible clearly teaches this.  The only time that has ever been unclear is recent times after the political winds of change have effected mainstream theology.  Now you can hire a false prophet who will do some Greek and Hebrew exegetical voodoo, and build quite a NICE ministry and reputation endorsing sin this way.  But 2000 years of Christian history never dealt with this kind of confused NICENESS.

And well… I have BEEN NICE and quiet about this for a very long time in hopes that it would either go away or not affect me and my world too much.  But now even the suggestion that God doesn’t approve of this sin puts me in a category with Westboro and their nonsense.

What’s next?  Do I have to sleep with a group of men to prove I am not “homophobic”?  Isn’t that the word you NICE folx out there use for people like me?  Suggesting I am scared of homosexuals?  When was I scared?  That’s a category mistake too.  I neither hate homosexuals nor fear them.  I have many homosexual friends.  Some of them I love dearly.  Some are my kin.  I value their opinions.  I value their company.  I value their care for me!  I never claimed I was any better than them.  Where is the fear or hate in that?

But I keep quiet so I can BE NICE.

And I feel the pushback to BE NICE from some of my closest friends and family.  Perhaps they are worried the cost of taking a stand will hold for me.  Perhaps they are afraid – truth-O-phobic!  It will be upsetting to challenge the new norms and all the accompanying consumerist attitudes and complacency.  Church has become a matter of goods and services to be bought and sold in seeker-friendly books and seminars.  And the rule of the marketplace is that the customer is always right, and you should BE NICE to them.

But you and I are not actually customers.  Nor are customers, in fact, always right.

I really love our preacher where I go to church.  The guy is really a talented speaker.  I took one of his grad courses in preaching even.  And I like his way with the craft.  He reaches me.  He moves me.

But I have noticed that he never offends people. I mean, I bet someone is offended – in this day and age, if you speak to a group of people, odds are some jackass is going to be offended.  So, yeah.  He probably has.  But his sermons are extremely non-offensive.  Only someone itching for a fight takes offense at this guy.

And this came home to roost for me when I heard him recently handle the Matthew 25:31-46 passage I frequently cite on this blog.  In the course of his sermon, he read the entire passage all the way through at least once, and I think twice.  And the passage itself IS A SERMON preached by Jesus.

So here we have an irony already.  We have a preacher who is going to now preach a sermon already preached by Jesus himself.  On the surface, you might think just reading it and sitting down would be appropriate… after all, how can you add to perfection?  But that is not how us modern types do it.  And neither did he.

Now, hear me carefully.  The guy preached a fantastic sermon from this sermon.  He really brought it home.  There was passion, conviction, inspiration just exploding out of this sermon!

But something was missing.

Go read that passage and look closely at it.  It is really two sermons jammed together.  In fact, actually it is one sermon with two mirrored halves.  Only they are mirror opposites, not mirror sames.  The first sermon speaks of tending to “the least of these” and being rewarded with life in the Age to Come and going into the Kingdom with the sheep.  The second sermon speaks of failing to tend to “the least of these” and thus facing eternal destruction along with the goats.

I did say our preacher actually read the whole text all the way through.  It did get coverage in the textual reading.  However, he only preached (gave his homiletic comments) on the first part and avoided any in depth talk about judgment.

THIS IS A JUDGMENT PASSAGE!

But what can I say?  Our preacher was BEING NICE.

In the weeks since, I have heard him reference those who fancy themselves prophets (wonder who does that?) and how even if they prophesy, if they don’t have love they are nothing!  (1st Corinthians 13, anyone?)  He is exactly right.  That is in the Bible.  Prophecy without love is nothing.  So, I feel the pushback.

I don’t have any reason to believe this preacher is singling me out, but I am sure he ain’t stupid.  And IF he has any wind or idea that my prophetic vocation might be considered a bit shrill, then a shot across the proverbial bow with a citation from 1st Corinthians 13 would make a powerful case for BEING NICE.

But is LOVE always about BEING NICE?

Well, just keep reading what St. Paul says about love a few verses later in the same chapter.  Love is patient, love is kind… love is not arrogant or rude… does not insist on its own way… is not resentful.  Love bears all things … and endures all things….

Wow!  If love were anymore NICE, it would be milquetoast, I think.

So when Jesus drove out money changers with a whip from the temple, was he being patient?  Was he not being rude?  Was he not insisting on his own way???

Was Jesus not LOVE incarnate?

What about St. Paul?  The same guy who penned these powerful words about love also penned the letter to the Galatians.  And in that letter, he has a very BE-NICE agenda, it seems, with regard to the fruit of the Spirit.  He rattles off this fruit as such: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control.  But just a few passages earlier the same Apostle addresses this same church to whom he writes this stuff as “Stupid Galatians”!  And he insists that they not get circumcised (which I would think would go without saying) but then he also tells them that he wishes who ever wants to get circumcised would keep cutting until they mutilate themselves.

So, is St. Paul unloving?  Is Jesus unloving?  Do they not speak the truth in love?

How are we to account for this?  Perhaps the Bible contradicts itself.

Perhaps.  But woe to those who go that direction!

Or, maybe, just maybe, this kind of talk does not necessarily violate love.  How can that be? Is love always the same as BEING NICE?

I am not sure myself.  I will admit, that I find this to be one of those complex parts of biblical faith.  And I aim to tread here cautiously.  But I think faith involves risk.

In the meantime, I take my heart before the Lord every day seeking his shaping, breaking, and molding of it.  I seek to follow after Jesus and behave like him.  And he called a Syrophoenician woman a “dog” once.

So, if you are Syrophoenician, then don’t be surprised if I hurt your feelings.  … in love of course.

Making a Stink in Church

Wow! That’s all I can say. Wow! If you haven’t checked out Larry’s blog before, do so now.

Loiter Larry

After reading Agent X’s blog and the mission assignment, I felt like God was calling me to humble myself before him.  So I did like the assignment said.  I skipped my shower for a couple of days.  Did some labor in the yard and then wore my nasty work clothes to church last Sunday.

I don’t usually talk to many people there.  I mostly say hi to just a couple of people and sometimes I don’t see even them.  Sometimes people want to greet me, but not that often.  But last Sunday, I tried to just hang low.  I came into the service as soon as I heard the singing get started because I thought that way I would not have to talk to people.  It worked, but I felt like that was cheating too.  So I stayed there in the pew until almost everybody left.

I shook one guy’s…

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Stinkun’ Thinkun’ Thursday

Let’s try this again.

For the last two weeks, I have put out the call:

https://fatbeggars.wordpress.com/2017/09/14/please-dont-like-this-post-with-a-click-like-it-with-action/

https://fatbeggars.wordpress.com/2017/09/21/please-dont-like-this-post-with-a-click-like-it-with-action-2/

The mission assignment does not ask you to give money; it does not ask you to put yourself in any danger; it does not ask you to take a homeless person home (although Jesus demands it of those he would save (Matt. 25:35/40)).

No.  The mission assignment is easier than all that.  All you must do is humble yourself by skipping a couple of showers, putting on your grubbiest clothes from the bottom of your laundry heap, and going to your regular worship assembly this weekend prepared to show solidarity with the street homeless and with Jesus.

Pretty simple, don’t you think?

But humbling yourself like this isn’t easy for American Christians.  I have only found one so far willing to accept the mission assignment – our own Loiter Larry.

Why is that?

Look.  Let’s talk straight – like the John McCain Straight Talk Express.

You do wish your politicians would talk straight, right?  How about you and me do that now?

I know that I have spent the last three weeks trying to shed readers here on this blog.  It seems to finally be working.  I watch the counter dwindle a little more every day.  This is good.  I am not looking for more spectators.  If you want a handsome, leather-bound, “Purpose Driven” journal so you can FEEL closer to Jesus, then go to the mall.  I don’t need your readership here.

If, on the other hand, you are still reading here (and a few of you are…), then talk straight with me.

Why have you not accepted the mission assignment?

I expect some of you have “legitimate” reasons for it – reasons to be excused from the mission Jesus is calling you to.  What are they?

Are you doing your nails that day?  Are you expected to have a birthday party Saturday night with your rich friends, so you need to shower for that and can’t be stinky by Sunday morning?  Do you have to deliver a speech to the board of directors of whatever incorporated on Sunday morning before you go to worship, so therefore you need to be showered and cannot stink by worship time?

What reason will you give for not being the Aroma of Christ at your church this weekend?

Okay… am I just a little too in your hostile face now???  Okay… let’s dial the intensity down a notch, but let’s talk straight still.  I mean it.  Let’s keep it real here.  I need to make this one caveat very clear on this point: I am not asking you to risk your job.  If you work on Saturday night or on Sunday morning either immediately before or after worship assembly, then Agent X gives you a pass!  I am only targeting readers who are faced only with their own pride as an obstacle.  I am not asking you to risk anything else.  Yet…There is no point in claiming Jesus as a decoration added on to our life.  It’s either for real or it’s not.  Jesus knows your heart despite all the bumper stickers on your car or the devotional books littering your coffee table.

So… Why not accept the assignment?

Are you scared?  If so, let’s talk about it.  You can bring your fears to Jesus.  He cares.  So do I.  But what about this is scary?  If that is your problem, let’s talk.

Are you offended?  I am betting that if you take offense in me or this blog or the mission assignment, you probably don’t read here anymore.  But maybe I am wrong about that.  If you are offended, I want to hear from you…

Maybe you aren’t scared or offended.  Maybe you just can’t see the point.  Maybe you have run a bit of cost/benefit analysis and think it is just not a worthwhile endeavor.  Is that more the hang up?  Let’s talk…

Do you hold me in contempt?  Do you hold the assignment in contempt?  Is it just beneath you?

Let’s talk straight here; if I were a betting man (I am not, btw), this is where I would put my money.  This blog has allowed you to read here in relative anonymity and pretend you care for two years now.  But suddenly, I am calling your bluff.  But honestly, if you really hold me, the blog, or the assignment in contempt, then you most likely are not reading here anymore.  But if you are reading here despite your contempt, then that lets me know you are Wrestling the Angel in a manner like Jacob.  And if that is case, then I want to help you wrestle until the dawn and get your blessing.  Let’s talk about it…

 

“The LORD Is Dealing With Me”

(I really don’t know why I am posting this one.  I don’t have a firm conclusion.  I am not asking for readers to give me theirs.  I guess, this is just me rambling.  But I recall in years gone by as I would meet with recovering addicts and ex-cons for Bible study that they used a phrase from time to time that is percolating with me just now.  Frequently one of these souls would share their spiritual offering by saying, Lately the Lord has been dealing with me….”  I think I will adopt that little phrase as my own on this one.)

My Rich Prayer Life

For those few regular readers here, I don’t have to tell you that I have an ever growing, ever enriching prayer life.  In fact, I have a fairly strict prayer routine.  In fact, my routine prayers (not all my prayers are routine, but mostly they are) have become quite extensive.  The main feature of that routine – the feature I have shared here on the blog the most – is my routine prayer by name for people I have met on the streets.  You can see a post on that here:

https://fatbeggars.wordpress.com/2017/01/23/names-on-the-walls-of-my-heart/

Oh, and by the way, that list has grown a LOT since I posted it there!

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a judgment issue (Matt. 6:15 & 11:26) ever bit as much as taking in the stranger is in Matthew 25.  So I take it just as seriously.  I do my best to stand up for what is right, to speak the truth, and prophetically uncover hidden things that need brought into the light, but I am also mindful that forgiveness is required to complete the healing which I desire.  I do not wish anyone to be damned over this, but called to repentance.

I make only the smallest graceful provision for the church in Lubbock that has effectively ignored the homeless on our streets for years on end while I extend the largest grace to the lost souls wandering those streets.  In fact, the whole reason I started this blog was in hopes of affecting change in the way the church of Lubbock approaches her ministry to those people.  And one of the main features of that is addressing the untruths and half-measures masquerading as care that I find at Lubbock’s Premier Homeless Pseudo “Church” (not it’s real name), and the provision I make is withholding the real name of that group as I make my criticism of them.

This “church” kicked me out when I insisted that we continue our practice of taking the homeless in off the streets on cold winter nights.  They kicked me out for this!  They kicked me out for insisting that we take in the homeless – something this group had been doing previously, but suddenly decided to stop doing.  And meanwhile, this group finds massive media attention, public approval, and thus massive funding for the ministry they offer to the homeless.

This is WRONG!  I stop short of calling it a lie, but really I am using restraint.  There is an image of caring there that rakes in the money on the one hand while kicking the homeless out into the cold of night on the other.  (I am a first-hand witness to this.)  Plus, I got kicked out for insisting we actually care and take them in.  I just refused to take “no” for an answer.  I appealed to the words of Jesus which are also clear on this (Matt. 25:31-46).  All to no avail.

Thus a host of complexities finding this point of origin need to be addressed.  Thus my blog.

NOW, let me be clear on this – and if you look carefully through the archives of this blog you will find that I have made mention of it in the past on more than one occasion:  This group that I call The Premier Homeless Pseudo “Church” of Lubbock actually does many good things.  There are a lot of good services provided by this group.  It’s not all bad.  (If it were, then why would I have joined them to begin with???)  But there is this one huge glaring problem that they refuse to deal with despite Jesus’ own instruction on it.  And I got kicked out over it just so leadership could avoid facing it.  But none of that negates the good things done there.

So, I have prayed for years THANKING God for those good things that they do despite themselves.  But I also have grown in prayer over time to include asking God to FORGIVE this group and its leadership as well for the ugly way they have treated me.  I have asked God to forgive them for years now, but I don’t have any warm fuzzy feeling about it in my heart.  So, in recent times I have asked God additionally to break, shape, and mold my heart so that I join him in his forgiveness agenda toward this group.  And the more I pray like this the harder my heart feels toward them.

Hard Hearted Forgiveness

Now, I am no champion of the Free Will Theodicy that most American Christians are crazy for.  I understand St. Augustine’s theory of Free Will, but I don’t think he really captured God in that box.  I am not quite a Calvinist, but I have some sensitivity in that direction – especially because I believe in the absolute sovereignty of God, and I am mindful of the fact that in more than one case Scripture tells us that God has hardened hearts of some individuals (Exod. 9:12; 1 Sam. 10:9; Rom. 9:18), not to mention the fact that when St. Paul meets St. Lydia down by the river in Philippi, St. Luke tells us that God opens Lydia’s heart! (Acts 16:14).

It seems to me that the Free Will Theodicy cannot really account for the fact that God is ultimately sovereign in the ultimate sense, and that as part of that, he hardens and opens hearts too!

Yes, I pray for forgiveness for the people who grab a lot of cash in the name of helping the homeless in this town while throwing them out in the cold of night.  Yes, I pray for the forgiveness for the people who kicked me out of the “church” I wanted to be involved in when I insisted we do like Jesus says and take them in!  And Yes, I pray that God give me a heart that forgives too.

But this “church” still closes its door on the poor!  Despite all the rhetoric about an “open door” that door closes everyday at 4 pm unless the staff feels like closing even earlier than that!  And winter is coming.  And with all the media attention this group garners, the rest of the church of Lubbock might think this issue is all taken care of, but it is not!  And so, meanwhile people are making due in the cold and wet (under bridges, in tents, and under no trespassing signs) despite the rhetoric of care and of “open door”!

Meanwhile my criticism has not changed.  My prayers have, but where is the answer to them?

What can I say?  The LORD is dealing with me!

What God Does With My Prayer

Okay, I need to say this about my prayer experience.  My routine prayers are extensive and take up quite a lot of time.  Not tons, but it can be tricky to cover all my prayers through the course of an average day.  And I have found odd ways of dealing with this.

Some days I deal with it by breaking up the prayer over the course of the day.  Quiet moments are scattered hither and yon throughout the day.  So, I start in the morning and often do not complete them until the end of the day.  And one of the points in my day where prayer becomes available is when driving.

So, I am out driving today and praying.  And I come to that place in my routine prayers where I am asking God to forgive the “church” for the ugly way they have treated me and to shape my heart to yearn for this forgiveness for them.  I want to join Jesus in his forgiveness program… his forgiveness vocation.  I want to be a part of that!  I don’t want to be a perpetual critic.  But to give up criticizing is the same as endorsing the complacency of the church and the ignoring of the poor left to the wet and cold.  Thus I WAIT on God for his answer to this prayer.

But as I am driving through the rain and praying this part of my routine prayer today, I pull up to a red light where a young lady is standing there in the wet and cold holding a sign claiming she is homeless and suggesting “anything helps”.

Yeah.  You catch that?

Yeah.  RIGHT AT THE SAME MOMENT when I ask God not only to forgive these people who masterfully throw the homeless out while raking in tons of cash for the purpose of caring for them, but ALSO RIGHT AT THE MOMENT when I ask him to break, shape, and mold my heart to join him in that forgiveness, THAT IS THE EXACT SAME MOMENT WHEN he puts me in contact with a lady on the island at the intersection of the freeway and the street there in the cold rain.

Oh how I wish I could just say, “Hop in!” and drive her up to the church where she could immediately get a bathroom and shower, a dry change of clothes, a cup of coffee, use a phone – if needed, and sit a spell and visit with shepherds who want to care for her.  Oh how I wish that I could come back at about 9 pm and volunteer to play chaperone to her and all the other valued guests we might find in the rain and join them for song, prayer, and maybe even a late supper before dimming the lights and offering refuge WITH THE CHURCH for the night!

But no.  She is kicked out, and so am I.  And this little fact, this little insignificant fact, this little fact that goes almost entirely unnoticed by the tens of thousands of “Christians” in this “Christian” town comes home to roost with me at exactly the moment when I ask God to forgive the people who refuse to serve Jesus in just that way and who block me from serving him in just that way too.

Yeah.  The timing of it is just divine.

Yeah.  This is my routine prayer.  Been praying this for months!  Some of it for years!!!  But today as I continue to WAIT upon the Lord, he plays the harden-my-heart card with precision timing.

I have no idea why.

His ways are above my ways.  But I am sure that The LORD is dealing with me.

Where Are The Pick-Up-Your-Cross-n-Follow Disciples???

Imagine with me a moment that Jesus comes to earth from his heavenly place to save you and demands that you pick up your cross and follow him.

I mean, just IMAGINE THAT for a moment.

Okay.  Got it yet?

Yeah.  A drive-nails-through-your-flesh, hang-you-up-naked-in-front-of-all-the-watching-public, until-you-are-dead Roman cross where you are left hanging there in shame and agony like a billboard warning all who see you writhing and crying there that “THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU MESS WITH CAESAR”.

Yeah.  Got it now?

Yeah.  Imagine Jesus, your Lord and Savior calling you to pick up one of those crosses and follow him or you are not his disciple (Matt. 16:24-26).

Okay.  Now…  Don’t imagine it anymore.  Go actually read Matthew 16:24-26 and find him actually calling you to exactly that.

Got it now?

Okay…  Right about now, your heart and your mind are racing through every dark recess they possess to find your excuse for not obeying Jesus’ call on your life in that passage.

Am I right?

I know…  prophetic of me to notice, huh?

Yeah.  Don’t deny it.  Do not lie to the Holy Spirit.  You and God and me know exactly what you are thinking in your heart right now.  You resist his call.  No one else need know you are reading and resisting here, but we do.  So… let’s get real.  Let’s talk down here in the place of denial and fear.  Yeah.  Now that I’ve got you here, let’s talk a moment.

Down In the Place of Denial and Fear

Okay.  By now you have come up with some rich reasons that will excuse you from dying on a Roman cross as a matter of discipleship, as a matter of obeying, as a matter of following Jesus.  And I bet one of those reasons is the very obvious fact that there are no Roman crosses for you to carry or upon which to die these days.  At this point you must extrapolate a theological principle and metaphorically take up a cross and follow Jesus.

Fair enough.  I will let you have that.

BUT!

But I must warn you that just two and a half years ago, I watched on CNN a real crucifixion that some ISIS militants put some Christians through in Aleppo or Mosul.  (Check out this article if you have trouble believing me.)  And I gotta say, I didn’t see American Christians loading up on planes and rushing off to Aleppo to take up crosses nearly as fast as I saw disaffected youths across Europe and America rush off to join ISIS.  It seems American Christianity missed a fine opportunity to take up a cross and follow Jesus after all.

Right about now your heart and mind are searching for deeper levels of denial.

“I didn’t see that CNN report, so I didn’t even know…”

Sure.

“What could really be achieved if I had got off the plane in Aleppo and announced my devotion to Jesus?  I mean, even if they had crucified me too, what benefit is that to the Kingdom of God?”

Yeah.  I’m on to you…

“But even Peter, the Apostle who declared he would even die with Jesus if need be, denied Jesus three times and rebuked Jesus at the mere suggestion of purposefully taking up a cross!  If Peter can do that and still find grace with Jesus, then I am in good company!”

Am I close?  Am I reading your mind???

Okay… before you click off in denial of this dose of Christian reality… I will dial back the confrontation just a bit.  (I fear this opens me up to a charge of false prophecy, but I am willing to play Devil’s Advocate if it will help you stay engaged.)

Let’s take picking up a cross and following Jesus off the proverbial table for a moment.  Very few things we might do are as costly as that.

How about skipping a couple of showers before you go to church next Sunday?  Still too costly?  I mean, Jesus himself never offers this kind of perspective that I am aware of, but I do just to keep you engaged.  So, will you skip a couple of showers next weekend, wear some dirty laundry to the worship assembly and thereby show solidarity with your homeless brothers and sisters from the streets?  This isn’t nearly as drastic as dying at the hands of ISIS or Rome.  Just a little stink and humility for Jesus and his friends….

Oh… can’t see the point in it?

Why is it that when a kid in the third grade gets cancer and loses all her hair in the chemo treatments that you understand – that you see the point of it – when all her classmates go down to the barber shop and shave their heads to show solidarity, but when it comes to attending worship assembly, you can’t bring yourself to skip a shower and show solidarity with the beggars, bums, and prophets from the streets?

Which is easier?  To say your sins are forgiven or to say take up your bed and walk?

Which is easier?  To pick up a cross and follow Jesus or skip a couple showers and go to worship?

Decide just what you believe!

And then IMAGINE THAT!!!

 

 

 

Those Annoying, Stinking Filthy Bums

Hard Times Ministries

Anyone with even lightweight amateur experience on our urban streets hears those nasty people coming up to you:

“Hey, man.  Ya gotta smoke?”

“You got a case quarter?”

“Gotta blunt?”

“Can you spare some loose change?”

Then again, there are those who have their hard-luck story.  You’ve heard it before.  They need change to catch a bus.  They are out of money and need gas for their car.  The wife and kid is in the car….

It makes no difference.  Those pain-in-the-butt people want something and at all costs, they are to be avoided.

We see some with dirty, tattered, ragged clothes. Some sport a beard that an owl could hide in.  Some have backpacks while others sleep under tarps in the woods.  Many gather at gas stations so they can pan-handle.  Some even can be seen bending a beer can and lighting up their crack cocaine.  A few might…

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