It’s A GIRL!

Today is ADOPTION DAY, and Mrs. Agent X and I are at it again.  This time we welcome a little girl to this “forever home”.

Like before, this child has lived with us all her little life – since the day she left the hospital.  Ours is the only family and home she has ever known.  She is a beautiful girl, full of energy and spunk, which is good because she has all big brothers (so far – except one sister from among the “big kids”).  She is the littlest person in the house, but she keeps the rest of us lined out!  And she is my little buddy.

This little girl lights up my life.  She makes me sing and play like no other human being ever.  I am so grateful to God that he would put her in our life.  Now I pray that God continue to bless her and bring up a strong woman of God for his glory.  This home we keep here at THE HOUSE OF GOD is full of so much possibility.  He makes family to be where there was no family, and we celebrate this everyday!

But now I want to introduce to you, Special Agent Sassafras (SAS).

Advertisements

A New Project / A Different Direction

Agent X is now (I think) embarking on a new project of a very different nature.  One that I welcome readers here to join upon request.

I am starting a serious Bible study via the web on an invitation basis (CONSIDER THIS YOUR INVITATION).  The study begins with the Gospel of Luke with a projected end with Acts of the Apostles, and I expect it to take several months, if not all of 2019.  However, it is all fairly tentative and not set in stone.  It will be a secondary project not directly related to this blog at all.

At this point I expect to offer it via email rather than the blog.  This blog is not dedicated to Bible study in the manner I am offering, so I will not offer it here.  The structure and format may change with time, but a group email is how I plan to start it off.

A Bible Study with Agent X promises to be more CHALLENGING than most BS you have experienced before.  I intend to offer innovative approach that CHALLENGES you to see Jesus like you never saw him before – at least different from most of the slick marketed studies found for sale in major publications.  I also aim to give you a robust EXPERIENCE with the study rather than some simple devotional or complex/sterile academic exercise.  Nevertheless, the offerings will be rather conservative in nature.

I am open to being CHALLENGED by Jesus myself, and by him through those who accept this invitation as well.  Thus I hope to learn from you as well as you learn from me.  But if you haven’t caught on to the idea yet, let me mention the word “CHALLENGE” one more time.  I think the complacent church of America that purchases its “Jesus” at the mall has had enough dulling effect for one generation, and some challenge is in order.

If that interests you, let me add that THE STUDY IS ABSOLUTELY FREE OF CHARGE, you are welcome to copy it and share with others (one would hope with inmates), and you are free to participate AT-WILL to the extent you desire.  Anytime you want to bow out, just send me a request to unsubscribe.  However, if you join, you will be required to share your email address with all the other participants from all over the nation (many of whom I never met face-to-face), and you will be required to engage the strange ideas from me (and fellow explorers) with respect – even, and especially, where we disagree.

If you are still interested in the CHALLENGE of studying Luke with Agent X, or if you have questions concerning it, leave me a comment below with the email address where you want to receive messages (I WILL NOT PUBLISH THOSE COMMENTS HERE), and thus subscribe.

Thanx

Agent X

Fat Beggars School of Prophets

Lubbock, Texas (USA)

Wonderment

It’s not a word I ever use.  In fact, I never have before.  But it came to mind watching my kids eat a couple nights ago, so I looked it up.  It seems like a good fit.  Let me tell you about it:

So I got all the kids sitting up in their highchairs ready for dinner.  The ALMOST Two Year Old spouts off saying, “Wow!  Okay…  Oh Wow!”

Yeah.  We are about to give thanx for these chicken nuggets, and the child says, “Wow!… Oh Wow!”

The BEEN Two Year Old strikes a prayer posture.  Once we begin to eat he says, “Mmmmmm…..”

I like to watch him eat.  He seems so purposeful trying this and tasting that – like a thoughtful tourist sampling the culture, he is new to life in God’s creation.  He makes a mess, but somehow he seems dignified doing it.

Then the One Year Old….  She picks through the thin slices I cut in easy-to-chew bites for her, and after a minute I offer her a pouch of baby food: banana, blueberry, and beets all mooshed together like pudding in a tube/pouch.  As I hold it out for her to get some, her mouth opens wide – all the way wide – and her eyes squint.  She is new at this, but she is going to figure it out.

I watch these kids experience new tastes, textures, and smells in the food.  The squeals and giggles fill the room.  The happiness is perfect bliss.  They eat love.  They are new to life, and absorb it full-flavor.

I suddenly think of Adam and Eve eating from the Tree of Life.

It’s not a meal of sheer calories and vitamins; its more – a celebration of life!  Sharing the time and space, the smiles and giggles, the food filling the tummies all go together to create HOME in which God grants us innocence, peace, hope, faith, and LOVE.  Life happens there.  The kids trust me completely.

I suddenly think of communion – the bread/wine, the body/blood, the fruit of the Tree of Life.

It’s not just a somber ritual reduced to introspective worthiness and a pinch of cracker and a thimble-full of juice; it’s a prophetic act daring to trust that Jesus is the Bread from Heaven.    Even more, it’s sharing commitment to God and one another, the breaking down of social barriers, the confrontation with principalities and powers, the table prepared for us in the presence of our enemies.  At this table, we rule the world with God!

I suddenly think of the party in Luke 14 – a cosmic party between God and the poor.

I hope I get invited.  I hope I don’t blow off my invitation.  When you invite the poor to eat at the King’s table, you expect they will make a mess, but you can sit back and watch them take to the party like a duck takes to water.  It’s almost like Jesus knew what he was talking about or something.  The poor savor every morsel.  They are Wow’d by the food, by the love, by the celebration.

How did they get so important?

They don’t know, but they are determined to enjoy the party!

That wonderment is right at the nub of what the meal is all about.  It’s not sheer theological vitamins or spiritual calories!  It’s LOVE in the flesh!!!

My babies eat WONDERMENT.

I want to eat it too.

If you ever receive an invitation to share this meal, drop whatever else you thought you had going for you, and go.  Show up.  You will have to humble yourself, but this is LIFE and you don’t want to miss it.

Hell On Earth Openned Up

I have been watching the headlines in recent days, and I have seen incredible videos of people racing from their homes and hometowns as Hellfire takes over.  The prayers gushing out of mouths as they flee, not from devastation, but in the midst of it!  You don’t ever see that on the news, but it’s happening right now in America.

And these people, the ones who are still alive, are now homeless and jobless.  Whole towns wiped off the map!  Plenty of people died right in their cars or running for their lives!  And Hell on earth opened up and swallowed them whole.

It’s not fair!

These people were, by-n-large, doing all the right things.  They got jobs, built homes and communities, served in public service, in military service, in church service and voted, saved, spent shrewdly – all of that!  But some are just gone now and many more are totally devastated.  All that goodness tested by fire, and they escape only with their lives.

The hellfire does not discriminate.  It doesn’t attack just the addicts and losers.  It doesn’t attack only those with a bad attitude.  Instead, it burns Paradise to the ground!

Hell on earth opened up.  And you can see it on your TV and computer screens in real time.

I sure hope we don’t just sit around and in response hold classes about how our help might hurt these folks.  And I hope we don’t cut them a break just because they were rich and white either.  But I hope the church will now go storm the gates of Hell with Heaven’s LOVE.

So, Let Me See If I Got This Straight…

You’re up there in the assembly this morning telling anyone who will drop some coin in the plate how much God loves them, how God sent his Son to die a cruel death in our place, but you can’t find it in your heart to open a door to the cold, hungry, lost people on the streets?

And somehow I don’t make sense???

Losing The Crusade To Love The Homeless

I often think about how many young people from the USA, there for a while, were recruited to join ISIS.  It was alarming!  The media talked about it for a couple of years, but I don’t hear it anymore.

What kind of draw do Muslims have on our “Christian Nation” that so many young people would join the religion and then fight against their own homeland?

The ideas floated at the time suggested they were disaffected youths who had someone paying them attention.

Hmmm…

Is it really that easy???

So maybe my church should join the fight!  Not by sending our young people armed with the latest military hardware halfway around the world to be killed, but join the fight with LOVE for the poor right here on the streets of Lubbock, Texas!  Love the poor before someone else gives them a little attention.

Sounds dangerous!

 

Being Homeless Is Not A Crime

Being homeless is not a crime.  But it is criminalized all the time, and our culture makes it evermore a matter of suspicion.

Someday, take a bus from your home and ride it anywhere in the city that’s at least three miles away.  Get off and start walking around.  And look.  Look all around for a place to be.

Even the places that provide services, everything from hospitals, soup kitchens, clothing closets, and churches (churches often host these services) have set hours when you can be there AND WHEN YOU CAN’T.  Thus even there, the sign says, “No Trespassing” or “No Loitering”.

Panhandling in and of itself is not illegal (not in this town), but even the slightest wrong move when doing it is and can get you in trouble.  Some towns pass ordinances against lying down or sitting – and then take away the park bench or the bus stop bench – and thus they target the homeless.  I have seen gazebos disappearing from parks in Lubbock where homeless are known to gather.  I recall visiting Malibu California many years ago and my friends explained to me they had an ordinance against laundr-o-mat services because they attract the poor; so instead they had only dry cleaning services available to the public.

So in a hundred insidious ways, the legal squeeze is on.

So walk around town.  Look for a place to sit, a place to eat, a place to pee.

Oh yeah… pee!

You already don’t want to do this in someone’s yard or in the park.  But what if you really got to go?  And isn’t it funny that the moment I mentioned it, you start feeling the need?

Well there are 7/11’s hither and yon, but if you keep using their facility without making a purchase (depending on the clerk), you can get run off.  There are Walmarts around, but you might have to walk 30 blocks to get there.  It sure would be simple just to get behind that lilac bush.  Just imagine sleeping out here tonight.

Some nights, not always, but some nights I get up to pee three times or more, and I complain about it.  Thank God my bathroom door is only five feet from my bed!  A bathroom with privacy, indoor plumbing, climate control!!!  But if I was sleeping outside, why would I walk 30 blocks to the Walmart?  Would you???

And speaking of privacy…  How many security cameras do you see trained on you as you take this little stroll?  That 7/11’s got’m.  Walmart has 20 of them just on the lot!  And you see them more and more all over the residential district!  Not that someone is always monitoring them (its information overload!), but you very likely leave a visual recording of everything you do which once noticed will draw attention on you.

Be sure to behave yourself while taking this walk.  Crime is crime, but being homeless is not.  So take care not to be caught J-walking or loitering.  (And just how long does it take before lingering in this shady area becomes “loitering”?)  After a couple of solid hours walking and looking and thinking, stop and pray about what you see.

Do any of the homes you see look particularly welcoming?

You are a human being!  You have behaved yourself for the last two hours of walking around, but if you, a stranger, knocked on any of these doors and asked if you can use their restroom, which one do you think would be most likely to receive you?

And notice, THEY ALL HAVE WELCOME MATS!

But you are not in your part of town.  You don’t know people who live in this neighborhood.  And I don’t know if you got off the bus in a well-to-do neighborhood or one that is slipping and getting overrun with renters or if you are in one that has tanked and is overrun with crack houses.  But you do the calculations and then tell me:  Which one of these homes do you think is most likely to let you in?

Do you think the rich house will welcome you?  Do you think the house with the Welcome mat AND an ADT sign in the bushes will welcome you?  Do you think the house with the security camera will welcome you?  Do you think the poor house will welcome you?

(I would bet on that young, vulnerable, single-parent Mamma of those three little rug rats!  She is the one most likely!  I would bet on it.)

Do you think your church will welcome you?

But of course, you have committed no crime!  And for that matter, being homeless is not a crime!

(And btw: Why would showing LOVE to the poor be second guessed?  Who does that serve???)

Today’s High is Yesterday’s Low

Yeah, the temps are dropping in that strange way where today’s high is yesterday’s low.  Moisture is in the forecast, but we should hover just above freezing until maybe 6am tomorrow when it will bounce back up above freezing for another day only to dip again the next morning.

And here we play a game of “Is it FREEZING or not?”.

Yeah, the homeless charitable organizations of Lubbock have now networked with each other and with government agencies and with funding organizations AND WITH “CHURCHES” to open up emergency shelter for the homeless when it freezes.  Freezing, technically, doesn’t happen until the temperature drops to 32 degrees, and that doesn’t happen until 5 or 6am, and then only lasts for an hour or two.

What is the difference between 33 and 31 degrees?

Well, on the one hand the difference is TWO degrees!  On the other, the difference is open or shut.  Welcome or not.

I hate to sound all “legalistic” about this, but what if it’s only 32 degrees for only half an hour out of the whole day and that doesn’t happen until 5am?  Is someone in charge going to get up at 4:30, round up homeless people and provide them emergency shelter from 5 to 5:30?

To be fair, I have not read the actual policy on this, but I am gonna go out on a limb and suggest that they won’t.

So when does this policy trigger into action?

Well, in the past (I don’t know about the present, and these things tend to change from year to year), the technical line of demarcation that triggers emergency shelter is 32 degrees at, or by, 5pm.

And you can see how so many logistical concerns find themselves settled with such a policy.  It makes sense – to those implementing it.

But for a church?  Is this LOVE?

Love from Jesus in Lubbock shown to the homeless either entirely sidesteps the church OR it is very “legalistic” in nature.  It kicks in, not at 33 degrees, but at 32, it kicks in not at 7pm, but at 5pm.  It never involves a church opening their doors to the poor, but an emergency facility on the other side of the tracks.

There is sacrifice, alright, but then even “legalists” are into that sort of thing.  Someone funds it all, and that is a sacrifice, but its a really small sacrifice of mint, dill, and cumin, I think.

But one thing is sure, if you want to really help… go buy a latte at your favorite coffee shop and then don’t worry your pretty little head another minute.

And remember – JESUS SAVES!

I See Beauty Hidden In Plain Sight

Maybe you drive by and don’t see a person there at all.  But you instinctively roll up the window and lock the door as you near the stop light.

Perhaps as you turn on the road that leads into your neighborhood, you spot one or two sitting on the curb behind the 7/11 and think, “Oh boy!  There goes the neighborhood…”.

When you drive down Broadway and see a bent figure in a heavy coat midday pushing a Walmart shopping buggy, you think, “What a bum?  Does he think he can just run off with Walmart’s property like that???  Probably will litter the corner with it before nightfall”.

Probably the moment you step out of a favored restaurant and find a beggar greeting you and asking if you can spare a couple of dollars or some loose change, your first reaction is fear, followed by disgust, but quickly tempered by your Christian concern that Jesus would expect you to care.  But then you look around to see who is watching as you fish out a dollar to give, and yet you feel troubled that your gift may very well fund a drinking binge.

Maybe you identify with one, any or all of these scenarios.  I go to Sunday school classes where my Christian brothers and sisters talk about these experiences.  I read them on blogs.  People even write books about this stuff.  So, let’s face it; this stuff is rather common.

But you know what?  I see beauty hidden there in plain sight.

I want to show it to you.

Have you ever gone in search of a person in need?  Ever drive down in the part of town where you know you will find one and get out of your car, walk up to the person and strike up a conversation?

Even once in your life?

Ever tell a person in such a circumstance that you are from such-n-such church and your group was praying for needy people the other night, and now you want to ask what need Jesus might fill in their life?

Ever do that?  Even once in your life?

No?

Then you are missing the beauty hidden in plain sight.

I see this beauty because I see Jesus there, not just a bum, but Jesus – the Jesus of the Bible who says that he is “the least of these… the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, the stranger…”.  Yeah, that’s him!  He says so.  And Jesus, well, Jesus is a beautiful person hidden right there in plain sight.  And you can seriously introduce yourself to him in that way that truly offers humility.  That way that recognizes loving him is going to change your life.  That way that recognizes this isn’t going to be comfortable, but actually a bit scary.  That way that recognizes this is gonna cost you, make you look and feel foolish, and may end in utter failure.

Then you will realize that there are no other terms in which to really meet Jesus.

And so when you pray with a needy person who has no roof over their head, no steady income, no food security, and you listen to this person talk to Jesus and express trust in him, you sense quickly that you are in the presence of Holiness.  This person may have a serious drug addiction and serious body odor, but you see hidden right there in plain sight a trust, a desperate trust, in God that you could envy.

And its all hidden right there in plain sight.

I remember when I was a kid listening to one of my favorite preachers, Jim McGuiggan, preaching about the woman who interrupts the meal Jesus is invited to at Simon The Pharisee’s house.  I recall how Simon thinks to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman this is…” – a WHORE.  Yeah, Simon doesn’t really believe Jesus is a prophet, the messiah, or in any meaningfully way God because God wouldn’t have anything to do with a whore!  But Jesus, of course, patiently allows her to weep all over his feet and dry them with her whore-filthy hair.  Jesus endures the shame she pours out her eyes all over him.

Jesus speaks to Simon.  He addresses the private thoughts Simon is having by saying, “Simon.  Do you see this woman?”

McGuiggan tells us that Simon didn’t see a woman; he saw a whore.  He saw a bum, an addict, a beggar, someone beneath his contempt.  Someone he thinks should be beneath God’s contempt.

Not Jesus.  Jesus saw a woman.  A beautiful woman… her beauty hidden in plain sight.

Yeah… you could pray with her.  And your well-meaning, spiritual sounding, heart felt prayers (I don’t mean to knock’m either), as genuine as they are, sound a bit professional compared to hers.  But hers pour out her eyes, come snotting out her nose, slobbing from her kisses, and just streaming down his feet, and she mops them up with her hair.  And there is something deep and true in her expression of love and dependence that you and I can envy.  A beauty worthy of the most famous art galleries.  A beauty you will find in your Bible!

She has laid it all on the line, and he lays it all on the line with her there.

And I am telling you, you can share that prayer with such women (and men) on back lots, on street corners, behind downtown liquor stores, out back of Walmart right now.

I know; I have.

Now maybe you prefer just to spiritualize your viewing of this beauty on Sunday, but its right there waiting for you tonight.  Jesus is right there waiting for you tonight.  Won’t you take his hand?

You can see this beauty too, if you want.  It’s right there in plain sight!  But it will cost ya.

How much would it be worth to you?

When you can answer that question, you have given your real heartfelt worthship to Jesus.

So… God, Jesus, and The Holy Spirit Walk Into A Bar… No… A Coffee Shop

So… God, Jesus, and The Holy Spirit walk into a bar… (no scratch that).  They walk into a When Helping Hurts seminar at the support-your-local-homeless-charity coffee shop.  And they sit and listen to all the dangers involved in giving bums money, in helping too much.  Yeah, Jesus learns to avoid getting a “savior complex”, and how important guarding poor people’s dignity is, in taking care to discipline people to be independent rather than dependent on him, and he struggles with the concern that you not hurt those you help (or hurt yourself).

It all sounds really wise!

So… God, Jesus, and The Holy Spirit get to talking it over, and they realize that if you want to REALLY help poor, lowly, broken, hungry people, you should never, NEVER, NEVER feed five thousand of them a fish for a day!  You should never, NEVER, NEVER forgive a debt or pay off someone else’s debt for them.  You should never, NEVER, NEVER meet a need, but rather start seeking shalom.  You should never, NEVER, NEVER take up a cross and die for others or demand your followers take up their crosses, because that kind of help just hurts yourself and others REAL BAD!  And anyway, Christians who write best-seller books about helping people will not appreciate such a “savior complex”  or how it would ever help anyone.

Wanna know the punchline?

Me.

I am the punchline for telling this joke.

Yeah, I am a jerk for pointing this out to you.  Shunned.  Persona non grata.  Someone whose blog you should avoid, whose voice has no volume, whose care is deeply flawed beyond repair.