“I Stand In The Presence Of God”

I don’t know why, but…

When I read the passage from either Daniel or from Luke where the Angel Gabriel appears, I always think of the other one.  Especially Luke, but they both always come to mind for me, and I think Luke meant for it that way (or better yet, The Holy Spirit who inspired Luke meant for it).

Gabe appears twice in Luke, both times in chapter 1, and the first time, he introduces himself to the muttering old man Zechariah saying, “I am Gabriel.  I stand in the presence of God and bring Good News…”

His statement, “I stand in the presence of God….” always strikes me.  It echoes in my soul sometimes unexpectedly.  I might not read from Luke 1 for many months, and maybe I am just walking along the sidewalk looking at a flower on a random Tuesday afternoon when I am struck by that statement again from out of the blue.

What does it mean?

I think we could exhaust ourselves chasing that question.  Zechariah is in the Holy Place when he sees Gabriel.  They are both in the presence of God already, and so saying it is like overstating the obvious.  But somehow it needs stated, and somehow it explains who Gabriel is.  And somehow it gives even more reverence to the Holy Place than we were giving it before he says it.  And that is just the tip of the iceberg of things we might say.  Just the tip!

But I am suddenly struck by his words again today.  Out of the blue.  And like Zechariah, I am a bit stunned to suddenly appreciate just where I am standing and in whose presence I find myself.  I am in a Holy Place alright.  I was respecting it when I came in.  Really I was.  But suddenly there’s Gabriel, and…

Here’s the thing:

Over the course of many weeks recently, I have offered posts detailing my friends and partners in ministry Agent Mamma DJ and Agent V.  I told about blessings and hardships – and even the blending together of them.  I told about how these ladies ministered to the homeless woman with the dogs in the park, also about my blessing and ministry to them, and about the hope for the future they are working for so hard, and about walking two hours to get to work at a minimum wage job.  And then last week, Agent V went to jail when her past caught up with her.

As I recall, one of the sentences I penned, a sentence that haunted me after I penned it: Desperation hunts her around every corner (or something like that).  Well, desperation caught her and sank its teeth into her soul.

And then I shared that story and put out the call for help – including prayers.  And I had hoped that the comment page there would fill up with prayers for the ladies, and that they would read them and sense the LOVE of Jesus hunting them down behind every corner!  But the comment page only got a trickle.

And yes, I wrote about sharing the financial burden with them.  I even floated out the number $800, since that is the amount that would pay off their little rent-to-own camper/fixer-upper.  And I generally resist talking about money in any positive light.  I don’t like the stuff.  It is not of God’s creation; it’s of this fallen world!  And though it can bless, I really think there is a net loss in the big scheme of things, not a gain.  But I did float the notion out there, and I was being respectful when I did it.

But now the money is rolling in.

 

And I stand in the presence of God!

The sacrifice is deep, and I feel it.  I am in awe of it.  Two people, so far, answered the call, and between them, the story I have shared about Agents DJ and V is generating $500!

Now…

Please think about this with me a minute.

People drive past Agent V walking to work every day and don’t stop to care.  Far more people don’t know these ladies than do, and far more of them still wouldn’t care if they did know them.

I can say much the same for this blog and this ministry.  We are no big deal here.  We are a small fry operation that does not even afford an actual budget (nor do we want one).

But stick with the ladies especially at this moment.  Agents DJ and V found something worthwhile in this ministry as humble as it is, and they joined.  And they themselves are just about as humble as you can get in Lubbock, Texas and still have a roof over your head!

But because we prayed (and we did) and shared this story (as I am doing even now), we entered the Holy Place and Gabriel meets us here, startles us in our desperation and humility and says, “I stand in the presence of God.  I bring good news!”

If Jesus wanted to get the attention of Agent DJ and Agent V, he has now!  And he had it already!  There is a feeling of utter unworthiness, and I share it with them.  $500!  People aren’t just driving up to us on the street corner and handing that out!!!  And it represents something deeply holy.  We sense the blood, the sweat, the tears of labor and sacrifice that has gone into this gift!  This money was EARNED by another and given freely so that we would have HOPE for SHALOM in our lives!

When Moses found himself standing in the presence of God, he took off his shoes.

For me, and I think I speak for Agents DJ and V as well, there is a thunder in my heart that makes me tremble to be included in this kindness.  And my heart shouts for JOY and I say THANX!  Thank YOU!  Thank YOU, Jesus, and thank you brothers and sisters who give sacrificially of the treasures in your hearts.

You are like Gabriel.  A messenger from God with Good News!

I Think She Loves Me

Among the children to make their way into (or through) The Fat Beggars Home for Widows, Orphans, and Sojourners, our most recent addition is a five month old little girl I will call Special Agent Sassafras.

Since she is a foster child (not to mention a secret agent in the secret-agent-for-Jesus network) I cannot reveal her identity, in fact I can barely even describe her.  However, I will say that she has lived in this home for all her short life, and she doesn’t know any other parents besides us.

She really can’t DO anything for me.  She cannot sit herself up, feed herself, take herself to the bathroom.  She depends on me (us) for every little thing.  EVERY LITTLE THING.  After all, she is only five months old.  You can’t expect a five month old to do anything for themselves or others.  She needs help with everything, and she cannot even ask for it.

But that’s not to say she can’t communicate.

I spend hours with her every day.  I feed her, hold her, bathe her, play with her, sing to her, change her, and all the little things that make up her day.

And she tells me that she loves me, I think.

I mean… when I walk in the room and she hears my voice, she squawks or giggles and wiggles.  She cranes her neck to see me.  She smiles, and her eyes follow all my moves.

Yeah.  I think she loves me.

I feel valued and celebrated every time I encounter her.

She does nothing for me.  Nothing.  Except, I think, she loves me.  And for her, I will do anything.

This humble, little, homeless person comes into my life, and she is like Jesus to me – showing me love and calling out the best in me from depths I didn’t know was even there.  I am loved with the purest, most innocent love I ever knew, and I return it to her for all I am worth.

Yeah.

I think she loves me.

Let’s Write a Book Together (You can help with your suggestions)

Let’s write a book and get it on the Christian Service Best-Seller list.

The working title:  How To Minister Among The Poor With Jesus.

Chapter Headings (topics the book will explore)

  • Bearing The Image of God
  • Worship
  • Getting Past Our Contempt
  • The Role of the Holy Spirit
  • Jesus As A Model
  • Jesus’s Words As Directives
  • Unlearning Broken Ideas

 

Okay.  There’s a start… the seeds.

Now I invite you, the blog readers, to criticize it.

What to change?  What to keep as it is?  What to get rid of?  What to add to it?  What order should we rearrange?

It’s all fair game.

Please, be my consultants.

 

The Parable of the Man Who Yelled “FIRE!” In a Crowded Bible Class

So there was this church next to an apartment complex that held Bible classes on Wednesday nights.  One Wednesday night while the class was in session, a fire broke out in the apartment complex and a lady in an upper room could be seen dangling her baby out the window in hopes someone below would catch it and save it from the flames.  One of the students in the class sitting by the window facing the apartments, a guy in a wheelchair, saw the fire and yelled out to his classmates, “There is a baby hanging out the window of that burning building!  Someone save it!”

But just then, rather than heeding the alarm, the teacher facilitated a discussion of appropriate and effective EMS and Fire Department responses.  A dozen able-bodied classmates and a teacher analyzed options such as activating 911 and letting the professionals deal with it.  Then for 15 minutes, the class discussed how foolish it would be to run into the burning building to search for survivors.  One person noted that if the mother dropped the baby and the person waiting to catch it missed, then the child might suffer broken bones, possible paralysis, and maybe even death – and then the one attempting to catch the child might be sued.  Then another student analyzed the “savior complex” such a person has, which really is a self-serving personality defect.

The classmate in the wheelchair looking out the window kept urging the students and the teacher to shut up with all the pointless talk and go do something.  However his efforts went unheeded, and he became frustrated.  He repeated his alarm numerous times, each time more shrill than the last, and still no response.

At some point, the shrill alarm and frustration of the man’s voice began to upset some of the students who asked the teacher to make him stop so they could quietly and peacefully discuss proper EMS and Fire Department procedures.  The man looking out the window refused to shut up though.  He shouted at his classmates in their complacency while they continued their discussion.

After twenty minutes, the class time came to an end, and all the students and the teacher packed up to leave.  On the way out, they saw the fire department cleaning up the mess, and a white sheet covering a small lifeless body on the ground near the burned out building.

You, dear reader, please judge now.

Who is the idiot here?  The classmates and teacher who refuse to deal with reality?  Or the man in the wheelchair witnessing the fire for belonging to a group like this in the first place?

(Mark 12:12 and Luke 20:19)

 

Complications Not Covered In A Simple 27-Point Plan To Party With The Poor

I am quite aware that reaching out to the poor as a matter of outreach ministry is not simply a simple matter.  There are legitimate complexities and concerns that cannot just be overlooked and left unattended.  However, in pointing them out, I in no way suggest they are daunting complexities.  No.  As the old saying goes: Where there’s a will, there’s a way.  How much more The Way when the Spirit of God empowers it?  Churches engage in far bigger complexities all the time!  So, let’s not blow this out of proportion.

And anyway, the single biggest hurdle to caring for the poor is our own contempt.  Let’s not be in denial about this.  Acknowledge and accept that we must get past our contempt and stop blowing complexities out of proportion as a way of hiding it behind a smokescreen of excuses.

That said, let us address a few complexities, at least in the broad strokes.

Right off, I am mindful that street homeless people in need of a warm, dry, safe place to crash for the night bring complications with them.  The first thing I note is that this will be an overnight ministry, which is unusual for most churches.  We will need to deploy night shift ministers!

I expect that at least one or two ministers will need to be trusted, responsible people in charge.  And getting someone like that to take on a night shift may be a challenge, however, I am sure that shepherds in The Lord’s Church are familiar with sacrifice, and hopefully will be willing to rotate a schedule.  But Lubbock hosts two Christian universities that educate hundreds of young people who stay up late regularly and who would love to join adventuresome ministry such as this.  I have not mentioned the major state university which also has hundreds of young Christian people who might well volunteer, and there is a local junior college too.  I expect that finding help chaperoning the homeless will be fairly simple.

I am certain that some churches are closer to homeless areas than others, and it may be difficult to attract them.  However, those youth group vans that haul our kids to all those ski trips can be used to round up homeless people just as well as take kids to ski trips.

People living on the streets and taking refuge in shelters (whether a church building or somewhere else) are apt to bring drugs, alcohol, and/or conflicts with them.  There will need to be a list of rules, though hopefully it is short, and someone with clout to inform and enforce.  Some real forethought is important along these lines.  But honestly, those lock-ins with the youth groups may or may not be more wild or less tame.

I think the bulk of the remainder of complexities have more to do with UNLEARNING actually.  Most people think that in order to offer ministry to the poor and homeless, it is important to give some sort of job training assistance, drug rehab, and a concern for showers.  And I don’t mean to suggest there is no value in such ministry, but neither is it all necessary.  Let us not smuggle this mentality into the Matthew 25 or Luke 14 directives.  We really can throw a party and take in a stranger AND THAT BE THE MINISTRY!  So, let us just focus on those matters for this proposal, and shed all the cumbersome concerns that go beyond that focus.

Basically, we will help these folx love Jesus and sense the love of Jesus for themselves rather than try to FIX them.  This is a goal we actually will achieve, and it will surprise you how often their lives will show signs of healing when we stop trying to FIX them and just love them “where they are at”, as we like to say.

Honestly, offering a warm, safe place to stay the night, where a celebration of Jesus (worship) involving a meal (cheap pizza), space on the floor to sleep, and a couple overseers, to make sure neither the sleepers nor their few belongings are molested, is actually not only adequate, but once experienced begins to open up hearts and minds to the love of God in surprising ways.  Grace at the Table of the Lord is not actually a new idea, but actually full of dynamite power that usually goes unnoticed.  Let me point out that in the famous story in Luke 24 about the encounter with Jesus on the road to Emmaus, it comes to a climax when Jesus is revealed in the breaking of the bread!  Communion is powerful like that; try it sometime.

Please, let us discuss these complexities and discuss them along these lines.  I think you will find the Shalom you are seeking!

A Pertinent Phenom I Noticed Today

(Bear with me a bit in this short post.  Regular readers, I hope, will see the relevance soon enough as it pertains to this blog, but it came out of left field for me, and it might for you too.)

 

Here at the Fat Beggars Home for Widows, Orphans, and Sojourners, we keep four foster children under 2 years of age.  However, our “expertise” (if it can be said that way) comes from the four big kids we already raised (one in college, but still living at home, and one in high school, also living at home).  And once in a while, hopefully not too much, I ask one of the big kids for a little help tending to the little ones.

To be fair, the big kids frequently offer their help when it is needed, but still, fostering is not their responsibility, and so we work to limit just how much we tax them for help.

So anyway, this morning, I needed to run a quick errand and asked the high school kid if they would watch the babies for about 15 – 20 minutes for me.  I could see that the request was not met with enthusiasm, though the agreement was cordial enough.  As you can imagine, I tried to downplay the burden of it, and assure the big kid that I would be quick to return and resume my responsibilities.  Still, I felt the burden I was leveraging, and I could tell it was not wanted.

But with the agreement established I raced off to my errand working as quick as I could to come back to the relief of the big kid.  And when I was almost finished, there was a phone call from the big kid.  I immediately announced that I was almost done and almost back, but this is when the phenom came to light.

The big kid was calling to inform me that they would all be loaded up in the wagon going for a walk together when I got back.

Hmmm…

The burden had turned into a party.  A small celebration of fun together!  This big kid even hitched the wagon to the dog who pulled it and made a funny video of it all!  Go figure.

This big kid babysitting for me suddenly found the joy of the task, and did not want to give it up yet after all.

Hmmm…

I wonder if I might get this idea across to the church so desperately seeking Shalom when it comes to charity…

 

Hmmm…

A Fat Beggar’s Proposal

In the interest of simplicity, let me offer a quick, simple, 27-point outline of the ministry Fat Beggars School of Prophets is advocating the church perform on behalf of the poor and homeless of Lubbock.  Then after offering this quick, simple, 27-point outline, and only after, I will discuss the complexities inherent in it, and attempt to alleviate anxieties and other concerns churches, pastors, and students of the Seeking Shalom class may have regarding it.

But first, the quick, simple 27-point outline:

1- Open the door of your church (literally take the key in hand, unlock it, and swing it open)

2- Invite the homeless to come inside where it is warm and dry (literally speak words of welcome to the outcast of this city)

3- Throw a party for the guests (a full blown meal (pizza is a good suggestion for the menu))

4- As a centerpiece of the meal/party, facilitate worship of Jesus – particularly with a communion service AS PART OF THE MEAL

5- Keep the door open all night long, and make space for people to sleep when they get tired.

6- Repeat points 1-5

7- Repeat points 1-5

8- Repeat points 1-5

9- Repeat points 1-5

10- Repeat points 1-5

11- Repeat points 1-5

12- Repeat points 1-5

13- Repeat points 1-5

14- Repeat points 1-5

15- Repeat points 1-5

16- Repeat points 1-5

17- Repeat points 1-5

18- Repeat points 1-5

19- Repeat points 1-5

20- Repeat points 1-5

21- Repeat points 1-5

22- Repeat points 1-5

23- Repeat points 1-5

24- Repeat points 1-5

25- Repeat points 1-5

26- Repeat points 1-5

27- Repeat points 1-5, and keep repeating it until you have done it 70 times 7 times (or until you lose count and just keep doing it eternally (which ever comes first))

I stop at 27 points just to keep this as simple and quick as I can.

(Note to my regular readers: You have Special Agent TT from Jacksonville, Florida to thank for prompting me to articulate this proposal.  I hope this post helps.  I expect to iron out the complexities in the comment section and/or in a subsequent post.  But for quick simplicity’s sake… this is the post for now.)

News Flash/Prayer Request 4-8-18

(I am having a hectic day and little time to write or respond to the blog(s).  Thus I am firing off a quick one now anticipating follow up as time permits.)

Those of you following this blog closely (and mostly not local) recall numerous posts I have shared regarding Agent Mamma DJ and Agent V.  You recall that these ladies, in addition to serving the Fat Beggars street ministry, are only a heartbeat off the streets themselves.  I recently described Agent V’s struggle just to get to the job God blessed her with, and then home again each day.  And I recall saying that desperation hunts her around every corner as I praised her uncommon devotion to work her way from the bottom of the pile, out of addiction and all that mess, and into permanent housing and employment.

She has been walking two hours to work and then two hours back each day for a minimum wage job!  And in the meantime, these ladies have secured a rent-to-own, fixer-upper camper that they have been restoring.  I also described how that DJ has access to a car of her own as soon as she can reestablish her ID and a few other bureaucratic hoops to jump through.  However, I don’t think I described how that the land lady has a broke down Pontiac that DJ is skilled in repairing.

Well, they have been fixing the Pontiac over the course of the last two weeks as a temporary measure.  And it turns out that Agent V’s husband came to take the car to get tires and gas this morning as another step in that process, but while he was out with it, he left the keys in it while he went into a store and it was stolen.  Subsequent to that, the cops came to the house to talk to DJ and Agent V, and while there, they ran warrants and got a hit on Agent V.

Agent V is now in custody for a very old charge that she has already distanced herself from unofficially for several months at least.  She has kicked her drug habit, started college, got a job and a place to live, and she walks miles and miles each way to work every day.  (I imagine she was feeling a bit desperate for this car to work out!)  But now it is all – I mean ALL – in jeopardy.  She is missing work right now as she sits in jail trying to figure out how long.

Will her job be waiting for her when she gets back?  How will the bills get paid in the meantime?  Will she still have a place to live?

If I were Agent V and fighting urges to get high and escape reality for a while, I don’t know if I would manage it.  I am certain that without my brothers and sisters “in Christ”, I would feel lost already.

I really don’t know what the answers are for this.  Agent Mamma DJ told me in the course of our discussion that the land lady will sell the camper outright for $800.  It would take me a year to come up with that.  I expect it would take at least 2 or 3 and possibly 4 for before DJ and Agent V would get it paid off.

Am I asking for money?

No.

But I won’t turn it away either.

I will not guarantee that $800 in their hands right now will iron out their problems.  But it might.  It would be a huge blessing!  And I am sure the ROI in heaven would outshine that new big screen TV with the plasma and LED’s and all that which has been calling out to you from the Amazon shopping ap.  So, if it were a matter of getting yourself a fancy TV or helping a couple of God’s children get over a hurdle in their path, I would be happy to point that out to you.

But honestly, I cannot say it would fix things at all.

Yet, I am sure of this: These ladies need some encouragement and some HOPE.  And if you can offer that in any form that is REAL and not just smoke up the skirt, please make the offer.  And that includes prayers!  Please feel free to leave prayers in the comments section.  And if you want to reach out to me privately, I will not publish your comment if you request it.

Thanx

A Prophet Rattles the Cage at ACC, Keeps His Job, & He Is a Hero 50 Years Later

I got the bulk of my Bible education at ACU twenty years ago.  It was old news then, but I recall that the topic of Dr. Carl Spain and his cage-rattling speech there in February 1960 (back when it was still ACC) came up for discussion numerous times in numerous classes.  Yes, even 38 years later, we were still talking about it.

Then in 2010, a number of bloggers associated with ACU commemorated the speech on their blogs.  That was fifty years after.  Fifty years after Spain rattled the cage, he is remembered as a hero of the faith and of the institution he so severely shamed.

In 1960, ACC still refused to admit black students to the school.  Three years before Dr. King delivered his “I Have A Dream” speech on TV before the whole nation, this white college professor got up in front of his white brothers and sisters at the premier lecture of a lecture series that still draws Christians from all over the world and shamed both the church and the school for not letting blacks attend.

Spain was ahead of his time!

I learned from some of these (almost decade old) blogs that Dr. Spain received death threats after that speech.  (Church people threatening to kill???)  His remarks were so jarring for the church and the school that people became deeply upset and complained bitterly about Spain and his sucker-punch speech withdrawing support for the school and a number of other sanctions.

To their credit, ACC did not fire Spain but kept him on until he retired.  But decades later, they call him a prophet and note that usually prophets don’t get to keep their jobs.

You can download the speech here:

https://digitalcommons.acu.edu/sumlec_audio/5199/

Frank, Ed, Junior, & Frisco (One Last Gasp of Winter)

If you recall our friends Frank, Ed, Junior, and Frisco from the Easter Sunday post, well, they slept in the little grove of trees behind the No-Tell Motel again last night.  They had thought they would sleep by the exhaust tube at the back of the motel where the dryers from the laundry room blow warm air into the alley.  It seemed necessary because after four weeks of warming temperatures, each of them had ditched his ratty, cast-off coat that they had received from the charity drive in the Fall thinking Winter was done with them.  But by seven o’clock last night, it was clear Winter had one more punch.

Actually, Junior still had his coat.  In fact, he had two.  Junior, you see, suffers Schizophrenia and tremendous social anxiety.  And part of his coping mechanism is to wear his coat everyday year round.  In fact, he hasn’t had a shower in months, not since he checked out of the psych hospital last November.  He has not changed his shirt, underwear, or his coat in all that time.

But the coat Junior wears is getting threadbare all the same.  It has a sizeable hole in the left elbow and the zipper does not work anymore at all.  Never mind his smell, the coat’s functionality is severely limited against the cold (however, it has kept him plenty hot and sweaty these last four weeks).

Anyway, as these bums found a bit of K2 and a couple of quart bottles of Colt 45, they came to the back of the No-Tell flea bag and found the exhaust vent was not running.  They did not know that the revitalization committee of the city council had arranged with some developers to make an offer the No-Tell owners couldn’t refuse, and that the place was closed down, boarded up, and slated for demolition sometime this summer.

I guess they didn’t send a memo to the boys in the alley.

And so our friends hunkered down in the tree grove again, just a few yards away.

That is when one of our secret agent operatives found them, gave them two blankets, and sat down to share prayer and communion with them.  Agent Q opened the service with a prayer while Frank and Ed smoked and sipped the bottle.  But as he read the passage from Luke 14 about throwing a party with the poor, suddenly Frisco had some stories to share.  He told about partying with Agent Z in the park on Agent Z’s birthday last October, and how dozens of homeless people found hope and dignity in those hot dogs and the time Z spent sacrificing his own birthday to love on them.

Agent Q asked the others to share too, and soon the boys were preaching sermons, dreaming dreams and seeing visions of God together.  (I know some of you think that is just the K2, but please try not to blaspheme the Holy Spirit just now!)  Frank said he wrote a song for Jesus while he was in prison, but he never had a church to share it with, and Q suggested he teach it to this group.  So they all sang a new song together there in the driving cold wind behind the boarded up No-Tell Motel.

Then Agent Q asked why the boys don’t seek refuge at a church somewhere in the downtown district.  And unanimously, they all said none were open to receive them.  So Q then suggested that they find shelter in the crook of one of the church buildings at least, but this startled the boys.  They all said it with determination; they would not seek shelter from a church like that because they did not want to go to jail.

Agent Q was stunned.  This is the reputation of the church in Lubbock among “the least of these brothers”!

Agent Q spent another hour with the boys, and they prayed for the church of Lubbock to open the door to Jesus.  They prayed asking God to forgive them since they know not what they do.  And before Agent Q headed home, he ran up to Walmart nearby and found four pocket warmers left in the out-of-season bin, purchased them, and took them back to the very grateful bums camped behind the No-Tell.

This morning, Agent Q awoke to find the local temperatures had dropped to 27 degrees!  And he is very worried whether Frank, Ed, Junior, or Frisco might have succumbed to hypothermia.  But he is confident that even if any or all of them did, that they spent their last night bearing the image of God in Lubbock, Texas.

Think about it.