Wasted Breath



That is the message from the “shepherd” at the church where I am a member to me regarding my argument that the church needs to open the door to the poor (Rev. 3:20 + Matt. 25:31-46) and compel the homeless to come in and party with us (Luke 14:12-14).

This “shepherd” told me this almost two years ago.

I got shunned at one church almost a decade ago, kicked out of Lubbock’s Premier Homeless Pseudo Church (not it’s real name), and shunned at yet another during the time since then.

I started this blog 5 years ago, and for a couple of years prior to that, I was publishing an underground, “revolutionary rag” which was distributed among the homeless on the streets of Lubbock AND strategically placed in all manner of covert places where church leaders and average Lubbock citizens would find it at random.

I have prayed on street corners in this town for the last eighteen years with regard to the poor, the needy, the homeless and incarcerated, preached on street corners, in empty lots, and alleys and parks.  I camped with the homeless in Tent City, in the park, in the alley, behind the church, in front of the church, and anywhere I could find poor people wanting to be loved and to talk about Jesus.  I have shared communion and Bible study in flea-bag motel rooms, in parks, in alleys, and in front of locked up church house doors under the watchful eye(s) of security cameras.

I have addressed city council, preachers, elders meetings, charitable organization leaders, board members, and even a TV news reporter (who did not publish our conversation).  I have been reprimanded, shunned, stood up at appointments, occasionally listened to only later to be disregarded.

Due to the influence exerted by Fat Beggars School of Prophets (in part, not exclusively by any stretch) the St. John Neumann Catholic Church opened the door of the church and hosted an all-night Jesus-party (Luke-14 style) for the poor ONE NIGHT in October 2015.  Other than that ONE exception, the church of Lubbock has consistently closed the door in our face and turned a deaf ear to the Fat Beggars School of Prophets.

It is almost a complete waste of breath.

We have consistently given voice to God’s Word every single step of the way.  And while there have been numerous accusations made against Fat Beggars (and/or me specifically) over the course of the last decade, no one has ever accused us/me of not speaking God’s Word or of not appealing to God’s Word.  Lots of OTHER accusations, but never that.

(Let me be clear on this point: the very founding and inauguration of the Fat Beggars School of Prophets grew out of a study of II Kings 6-7.  Our premier proph-O-drama which we started with was to hold communion services with homeless Christians in front of locked up church-house doors (usually under the watchful eye of the security camera) and during the prayer service to knock on that door and quote Revelation 3:20 while looking into the camera!  We constantly referred to Matthew 25:31-46 and Luke 14 as we addressed each other, church leaders, and the public.  And in more recent years (especially the last two) we have incorporated Hebrews 13:2, Genesis 18:1-20, and Deuteronomy 14-15 among others as we consider biblical hospitality in relation to the church, the poor, and Jesus.  And we have looked at several other passages too, but these have been very central to nearly everything we say and/or do.)


The question of the hour:

Is all this devotion to God’s Word – especially addressed to God’s people of Lubbock – a waste of breath?

What do you think?

If you think it IS a waste of breath, please respond to this post.  I think I have given lots of evidence for this conclusion to work with in this post, but perhaps you have more thoughts or can straighten out mine.  Please explain your response.

If you think it is NOT a waste of breath, please respond to the post.  Show me how, despite the evidence to the contrary, this ministry is in fact NOT a waste of breath.  I want to hear from you.

(Of course, no response will speak volumes too.  Silence = indifference.  And many-a-night I have camped with homeless people in front of church buildings that left us locked out and showed no knowledge we were even there and no interest in finding out when approached about it.)

Let’s see where this goes.

The Fat Beggars’ Blog Post of the Year Award (already in January, no less) Goes to “The Baby and the Bag Lady” on Peter’s Outer Cape Portico

I did this kind of thing once before (like 3 or 4 years ago) when I bumped into a blog post on a homeless subject that absolutely blew my sox off!  The post I “reblogged” yesterday, does that for me again!  If you have not read it yet, PLEASE DO.

Here is a link, in case you need it:


The Baby and the Bag Lady


By way of celebrating this offering in the blog-O-sphere just a little bit more, let me lift a quote out of it.  The paragraph midway through that ultimately packs the biggest punch in the English language as far as I have experienced it for much of the last 3 years is pasted below.  But, really, please, go pay this blogger a visit and read the whole post.  It contains important ideas I have only yearned to express, but have not been (up to this point) capable of expressing in words – or even seeing clearly myself.  This post changes EVERYTHING!

(Here is the quote)

The poor, as St. Lawrence rightly observed, are the “treasure of the church.” This is so not because they afford us the opportunity to exercise charity and feel good about it. It is because the God we worship was born incarnate of a homeless family in a barn, was first recognized by landless shepherds, an old man with a dying wish, a crazy homeless woman living in the temple precincts, lepers, harlots and foreigners. The people at the margins are not just unfortunates that have “fallen through the cracks” and who need our help to become self-reliant and productive like us. They are the favorites of a God would have us become more like them-weak, humble and wholly dependent upon God. It is in the poor that we encounter the one we call Lord. If we cannot recognize God at the margins, we do not know God, period.

There.  I have gushed about it now.  I know.  I just want to do everything I can to promote it.  So, please take it seriously.  And may it bless you as it blesses me.

The Baby and the Bag Lady

I bet this is a perspective you haven’t read recently. But I hope you will now. Seriously, do yourself a favor and read this post. It is a treat for your soul, and will give you a new vantage point from which to view the world and your place in it.

Peter's Outer Cape Portico


Malachi 3:1-4
Psalm 84
Hebrews 2:14-18
Luke 2:22-40

Prayer of the Day:Almighty and ever-living God, your only-begotten Son was presented this day in the temple. May we be presented to you with clean and pure hearts by the same Jesus Christ, our great high priest, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

“There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband for seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshipped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.” Luke 2:36-38.

Perhaps most of the…

View original post 1,500 more words

“More Harm Than Good”? … Or Something Else???

Three days ago (the same amount of time Jonah digested in the belly of a big fish/ the same amount of time Jesus spent dead in a tomb) I offered a blog post featuring “Project Empathy” – a two-person outreach effort in Utah that caught the attention of CBS Evening News.  In that post, I imagined if the church of Lubbock took that outreach method and actually fulfilled her biblical mandate, surpassing just a simple meal with homeless people one-on-one and put into effect the Messianic Banquet of the Age to Come like we find in Luke 14.  I asked my readers to imagine this GOOD NEWS of Jesus surpassing that of the CBS News and whether CBS News would then feature the GOOD NEWS of Jesus too – IF THE CHURCH DID THIS MINISTRY.

That was 3 DAYS ago.

When I published that post, I emailed a link with an invitation to visit and discuss it to numerous “religious leaders” of our time all over Lubbock – especially those shepherds where I am a member.  In a matter of minutes and hours, I watched the view counter on this blog jump – suggesting to me that many, if not all, of those church leaders did in fact pay it a visit.  However, in three days, the post has generated 8 “likes” and two comments – none of them from Lubbock’s church leaders (people who by-n-large actually know me personally).

No response from the church in 3 Days.




Except for the tell-tale evidence the little view counter reveals (especially with the timing of the emailed invitations).


Now… I can imagine that if you are a local leader whose “opinion(s)” this blog generally opposes, you might be shy about responding here.  What do you have to gain?  What do you have to lose?  A simple cost/benefit analysis off the cuff is enough to persuade such a person to just not respond.  I get that.  But even that is telling.

This blog has gone to the trouble of muting the identities of most of the people featured here.  Of course, you would have to TRUST me to keep your identity hidden if you wanted to respond, because this blog IS A BRIGHT LIGHT.  One that is easy to ignore, but it shines light on these matters, light that almost no other source/resource even cares to shine.  So… IF … if you don’t have that TRUST, then that would be a big reason not to respond.

Of course another reason to not respond would be that you didn’t know about the blog and/or the post OR that you don’t care about it.  Responding, therefore legitimates the discussion, and does so publicly.  But one of these “shepherds” is on record (via email) telling me that I “can scream” at the top of my voice all I want, the church will not hear me!  Most of the rest of the “shepherds” I emailed 3 Days ago, are on the same team of “shepherds” with that one.

So… the little view counter and the timing with which it jumped in conjunction with the emailed invitation to respond betray the façade that they did not know or care.  Thus we are back to lack of TRUST.


Where there is NO TRUST there IS FEAR in it’s place.

I’m gonna take this opportunity to claim that.  These “shepherds” of God’s sheep fear this blog and fear me.


When you open your Bible to a text like Luke 14, Matthew 25, or Revelation 3:20 where opening the door and sharing the meal are so plainly and overtly commanded and depicted as honoring God and loving others and then refuse – REFUSE – refuse to either follow the command or to even attempt to explain yourself for not following it, then you are turning away from the LIGHT!  And this blog is a GREAT PLACE to bring that conversation into the LIGHT!  IF my critique is really so far off base, come here and present your defense!  Make your case!!  Show me where I am wrong!!!

But no.

That is too much risk (fear), and these untrusting people prefer the darkness.

Now… (too be fair) I have heard some of the case made in support of the wayward ministry the church of Lubbock offers to the poor – the closing of the door in the face of the poor and homeless.  I have responded to much of it over and over and over again on this blog.  I am aware that the kind of “ministry” espoused by these “shepherds” takes it’s cues from books like When Helping Hurts and Toxic Charity.  I have refuted those books.  I have refuted other statements and ideas I have heard as well.  Yet no one comes here to rebut my refutations (or to repent).  And that has been going on a lot longer than just 3 Days!

Instead, I get ignored to the extent possible, or otherwise I get marginalized with accusations in the form of pithy statements like “your ministry does more harm than good.”  That is a phraseology which gets traction in our current, local, political climate.

Yes.  My “shepherds” at the “church” where I am a member have used those words – in private conversation.  But they have not come here in the public LIGHT of day to explain themselves or that accusation.

This accusation (“more harm than good”) is the closest these “shepherds” have come to having it both ways.  This accusation, in generic terms, embraces the spirit of the When-Helping-Hurts thesis which points out a real phenom alright (that gifts given freely are often squandered) a phenom I in no way deny, but then without further analysis or defense, this accusation rhetorically suggests that I am either naïve about this phenom or in favor of it.

But if you read your Bible, you find very little concern about this phenom – and never, to my knowledge (you would think these “shepherds” would be eager to enlighten me on this) is this phenom allowed IN THE BIBLE to excuse failure or refusal to open the door and share the meal.  But if there is one thing that has become clear to me in a decade of confronting the “church” of Lubbock about this, it is this:

The “church” of Lubbock SURE AS HELL ain’t gonna do that!


This is getting a bit complex, I know, but I want to be as fair as I can with this post and with the question with which I have entitled it.  With all this input into the post so far, the views without acknowledgement, the persistence in closing the door on the poor, and the FEAR these “shepherds” have of the LIGHT, which is it… REALLY?  “Doing more harm than good”?? or is it something else???

Well, what if it is the SOMETHING ELSE driving this?  What would it be?  I mean if the claim that opening the door to the poor and sharing a meal with them (LIKE JESUS PLAINLY and CLEARLY instructs REPEATEDLY in THE BIBLE) does more harm than good (as “shepherds” have accused me of doing) turns out to NOT REALLY BE the issue at root, THEN WHAT IS?  For it must be SOMETHING ELSE.


Well, to be as fair as I can, I must restrain myself from stating that I know the answer unequivocally.  My attempt at providing the answer to that question will be a GUESS at the end of the day, BUT we can make an educated guess.  And of course these “shepherds” are completely free to come here and straighten it out ANYTIME they so desire!

My guess is that these “shepherds” don’t actually LOVE the poor at all, but rather dread the poor.  If it weren’t for the fact that this is a “church” which claims to adhere to God’s Word, then there would be no need for all the smokescreens.  We could just shun he poor outright with no reprisals.  But since the Bible stubbornly stands in the way of that, there must be smokescreens in order for “shepherds” of the “church” to do this shunning.

Enter the 501c3 organizations with their programs across town!  Enter When Helping Hurts and other such publications with which to legitimate these arms-length/10-foot-pole measures which then “justify” keeping the church house doors closed to the poor and homeless and keep us from sharing the Apocalyptic/Jesus meal with them personally!

Just a guess…

But after 3 Days of having looked at my previous post with no feedback of any kind whether on line or off, whether on topic or off (I have received greetings and salutations, after a fashion, in the past which ignored the invitation to come here and discuss matters, but which followed the invitation in a timely matter), I am ready to start guessing.

This is my guess.

This is my guess at the REAL reason “shepherds” of a Trump-supporting flock that drives Lexus, Cadillac, Lincoln, and Corvette to the worship meetings in a multi-million dollar “church” building in modern America have for keeping the door shut on the poor and homeless.

I would love to get a rebuttal to this.

Think it will hold water?

Why don’t we try it and find out.

Project Empathy

Another homeless outreach making the news!  Have you seen this one?  A father and his young son hitting the streets of Salt Lake City in search of homeless people to share a meal with – one person at a time.  See the link for a CBS News video clip:



Sharing a meal???

Is that it???

That sounds just too simple.  Naïve.  Even stupid, doesn’t it?

Is it “effective“?


What do you think the impact of that is on each single homeless person who experiences it?  I bet it’s different for different people, but I also bet it really stands out as SPECIAL.  A day that homeless person will not forget!  A day they were invited to come to an important, little party where they were looked at, listened to, and treated as HUMAN.

I mean if THAT WAS ALL it achieved, I bet it would find traction right in that Hebrews-4:12 place where the soul connects to spirit, right where the joint meets marrow, and finds conviction in that homeless person’s thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  And that is a GOOD PLACE for any outreach effort to touch off life-changing CHANGE.  And I am betting that no matter how effective other outreach methods are, without this traction and impact at this heart level, their effectiveness just looks good on paper, but not for eternity.

But somehow this Project Empathy effort by two people – JUST TWO PEOPLE – simply seeking homeless people to share a meal, face-to-face, attracted the attention of CBS News!


Heaven help us if our church caught on to this idea.  Just imagine the Body of Christ sharing the Messianic Banquet (Luke 14, anyone?) with the lost sheep of the streets of Lubbock!

Wonder if that GOOD NEWS would surpass the efforts of two people in Utah.  Wonder if the GOOD NEWS of Jesus reaching out to the homeless of Lubbock, sharing a meal, face-to-face between needy people and the Body of Christ – all of them mobbing him every where he goes to see him, to hear him speak, to touch just the tail of his shirt, or maybe just so that his shadow would fall on them as he walks by… Yeah… I wonder if THAT GOOD NEWS would make it on CBS News!

I wonder.

Of course, we won’t know as long as the church of Lubbock refuses to even try.

Haunted … By The Holy Ghost?

Edgar Allan Poe wrote of the conviction of a tell-tale heart: a sense of right -n- wrong violated and haunting the sinner and reader.  Charles Dickens turned Christmas into a haunted ghost story, truly an amazing paradox.  But neither Poe nor Dickens, as good as they were, were good enough get their haunting tales into the Bible.  Yet in the book of I Samuel, in the twenty-eighth chapter, there is a witch and ghost story, but this is exceedingly rare for the Bible.  Yet, it might be fair to say this haunting came with conviction for that sinner and us readers too.

But does the Holy Ghost haunt us?  Does the Holy Spirit convict us?  Can you be driven into a life of ministry by being haunted and convicted?  Is that biblical even?  (Sounds practically prophetic.)

Certainly the writer of Hebrews 4:12 paints a picture of the word of God like a sword, so sharp and precise it cuts in between the soul and spirit, the joints and marrow, and brings penetrating conviction with regard to our thoughts and attitudes of our heart.  No doubt that would include a haunting of past sins, and surely the Holy Spirit is involved at least.

Let me shoot straight with you here.  I know of no direct quotes or allusions in the Bible to the haunting of the Holy Ghost or of the conviction the Holy Spirit brings to bear on ministry.  These are not biblical ideas, as far as I can see – at least not in these terms.  If this stuff is there, I have not found it, and so it just doesn’t compute.  Still, somehow it seems to be my experience anyway.  Thus I lean on Charles Dickens for this post.

Jacob Marley a.k.a. Crazy Mary:

Let me talk a bit about conviction, ghosts, God’s Spirit, and ministry.  Let me borrow a template from Dickens, and consider a life in ministry haunted by spirits that bring conviction.  I don’t know if this will make much sense to you, but all of these come together for me in a song made famous in the early 1990s by Pearl Jam,.  The song was written, though, by Victoria Ann Williams, a young musician suffering from multiple sclerosis.  If Williams and Pearl Jam could stand in for Jacob Marley, perhaps they could prepare the way for the conviction to come.  Between them, I meet Mary, the first ghost whose story haunts my ministry.

The song is called Crazy Mary.  Here are the lyrics copied and pasted from the web:

She lived on a curve in the road, in an old tar-paper shack
On the south side of the town, on the wrong side of the tracks
Sometimes on the way into town we’d say:
“Mama, can we stop and give her a ride?”
Sometimes we did but her hands flew from her side
Wild eyed, crazy Mary

Down along the road, past the Parson’s place
The old blue car we used to race
Little country store with a sign tacked to the side
Said “No L-O-I-T-E-are-I-N-G allowed”
Underneath that sign always congregated quite a crowd

Take a bottle, drink it down, pass it around
Take a bottle, drink it down, pass it around
Take a bottle, drink it down, pass it around

One night thunder cracked mercy backed outside her windowsill
Dreamed I was flying high above the trees, over the hills
Looked down into the house of Mary
Bare bulb on, newspaper-covered walls, and Mary rising up above it all

Next morning on the way into town
Saw some skid marks, and followed them around
Over the curve, through the fields, into the house of Mary

That what you fear the most, could meet you halfway
That what you fear the most, could meet you halfway
Take a bottle, drink it down, pass it around
Take a bottle, drink it down, pass it around
Take a bottle, drink it down, pass it around

© Universal Music Publishing Group
For non-commercial use only.
Data From: LyricFind


Williams, the writer of this song, reports that as a child growing up near Shreveport, Louisiana, she was haunted by the figure of a woman, a “crazy” woman she calls “Mary,” who lived in the woods and would walk along the road leading into town, but who was afraid to accept a ride in a car.  She was a destitute woman who most people were only too happy to drive past without offering her a lift, but Williams claims her mother would make the offer which was turned down out of fear, yet Mary eventually was killed by a car that crashed into her humble tar-paper shack where she slept.


“That what you fear the most could meet you halfway.”


From the first time I heard the song, it haunted me.

I did not know Williams’ back story until recently when considering writing this post.  But the story of the song has many points in common with another story from my youth, and I often contemplated “Crazy Mary” and those like her – marginalized, neglected, needful, wonderful people who could be so much more if real human love were invested in their lives, but who instead vanish in the mist and haunt God’s creation at the margins of life.

The song is in no way a “Christian” song, but as a Christian, over the years, I have contemplated writing a final verse for it – a verse Williams failed to include.  I am not  musician, but as a Jesus-follower haunted by Mary, I have a sense of conviction that I might play a role in changing the world so that she finds a place to thrive.  How might we tell this story if Jesus came along and found Mary with “her hands flew from her side”?  The aimlessness of crowds congregated under “No Loitering” signs might find new direction.  And they may not be only the bums who benefit from this Apocalyptic final verse, but maybe those crowds congregated under signs that say “church” discover the purpose for which they are driven.

I want to live in THAT world.  How might I play my part in bringing it to birth in this one?  I am haunted by the notion.  It seems like a haunting of the Holy Ghost.

In my feeble attempt to bring a unifying theme to this post, I now borrow from Charles Dickens (himself a ghost with concern for the poor and needy, if not Christian ministry).  I think you will catch on to the drift easy enough, if you know A Christmas Carol and the story of Scrooge and Tiny Tim.

Ghost of Ministry Past:

My long dead grandmother’s life and love for Jesus leaves a haunting legacy for me.

I never knew my paternal grandmother, not the one whose genes I inherited.  (I knew and loved my dad’s stepmother, and called her “Grandma,” but there was that other one whose influence is mysterious.  I want to talk about her.)  She died before I was born… died singing church hymns.  The hospital staff in the cancer ward reported later that they knew she was gone when the singing stopped.  Is that not the haunting of the Holy Ghost?  It’s not a story like any found in the Bible, but it sure has the feel of a Holy Ghost story.  If Dickens can turn Christmas into a ghost story, one that benefits the poor, then surely you can afford me this slack.

Special Agent Grandmother  loved Jesus, and she felt moved with deep conviction and compassion to care for the poor and less fortunate – even when that put her at odds with church leadership (which was quite remarkable in the 1950s – especially for a woman!).  A voice for the voiceless who was herself voiceless, Grandmother sounds hauntingly familiar to me now since my own shepherds have told me that I can scream at the top of my voice, but they will not listen to me either.

There are many stories about her ministry, and I have already posted about her and the legacy she leaves to me on this blog before.  But one story I have not told is about the care she gave to the family living in the “old tar-paper shack.”  And suddenly there seems to be more than mere coincidence at work between Grandmother (and my dad) and Victoria Williams (and her mom) and these two stories about the “old tar-paper shacks.”

Like nearly everything I know about Special Agent Grandmother, I learned about her from my dad.  For years, my dad recited his own story about his mama driving her kids down to Theta Rogers “old tar-paper shack” and picking up Theta and her daughters to “give them a ride” to church.  I consider how humble the home of my dad’s youth was, and yet he was shocked by the humility in which this family lived.  One of the things that stands out in his story is the smell of the kids loading in the car.  The family living in the old tar-paper shack burned tires to keep warm – a desperate ploy to fight the Colorado winter cold – and the smell of burned tires went with them to worship services.

On some occasions, Special Agent Grandmother took cleaning supplies into that tarpaper shack and cleaned it.  She and some of the ladies from church taught hygiene habits to Theta’s kids.  It didnt sit well with Grandmother to let Theta and her kids just exist in that shack unnoticed at the margins and the hands and feet of Jesus not care for them.  No.  And she wasn’t gonna just go on down to the worship service, sing the songs, say the prayers, and partake of the Eucharist pretending all was well with her soul or with God’s good world while at the same time not inviting this needy family to come join in the celebration of Jesus with her.  That just would not make sense.  And so when I hear the Crazy Mary song made famous by Pearl Jam, I can see my grandmother, with my dad and my aunt (as children) stoping to give Mary/Theta a ride.

Is this the Holy Ghost haunting me?  My own grandmother who I never met?  Whose genes I share, whose legacy I find myself the champion of in my generation?  And sure enough, despite the fact that the Jesus we read about in Scripture is surrounded by needy people to the point of being crushed, so much so that even the house is over crowded to the point that they can’t even eat a meal, but this in no way characterizes our churches with their ski trips, with parking lots full of Lexus, Cadillac, and Lincoln – none of which smell of burned tires or any other smells of the needy – and with million dollar sanctuaries, architecture, landscaping, and prayer gardens all devoted to the Jesus who was devoted to the needy and the poor.

Haunting.  Convicting.  Ministry.

The Ghost of Ministry Present:

My unlikely friend, advocate, and fellow servant at church!  An encourager in the midst of despair!

I am haunted by my fellow minister “agent dc,” (he does not use capital letters in his own pseudonym) who some of my readers will recognize leaving likes and comments here on the blog.  Obviously, agent dc has joined the secret agent, clandestine effort in ministry, and thus I will respect his desire to remain anonymous.  But I must say that his involvement with this ministry gives me great encouragement.

I met agent dc at church two years ago.  Right when I was confronting the powers-that-be in church leadership with their devotion to the Lupton Center’s “Seeking Shalom” class, and the subsequent shunning I faced from my church over that confrontation, agent dc introduced himself to me and asked if he could donate a pile of coats to be distributed to homeless people on the streets of Lubbock.  A stark contrast to my experience with the rest of the brotherhood!

In the two years since that time, agent dc, his wife and I together, have teamed up a few times for ministry to our (now) mutual friend Agent Mama DJ and her family.  Yes, agent dc, just for the asking, drove out to pick me up and then drove out to find DJ and drive her all over Lubbock one day to get medical care, groceries, and dog food, and agent dc funded the mission too!

This is the kind of ministry I am used to providing, the kind that inspires me from Scripture and from contemporary ministers like Tony Campolo or Shane Claiborne.  The kind where we actually give out our phone number and answer the call when it comes.  The kind that sacrifices to show God’s love to those in need, that risks it all to be all to all.  And when it was done, agent dc THANKED ME for asking him to be a part of it!  A world of difference between that and anything I experienced in “Seeking Shalom” or Premier Homeless Pseudo Church (not it’s real name) 101 Class!

Just when my church experience looks, sounds, and feels so utterly bleak, the shepherds become so petty as to say I can scream but they won’t listen, the small group that meets at my house ghosts me without a single word or comment, and  the concerns I bring to church leadership is met with indifference – just then – I find this stubborn blessing AT CHURCH!  It’s almost like decency haunts me!  Just when it seemed dead, there it is alive.  The hope of love, just when I was sure it was dead, is back from the grave!

If I wanted to wallow in self pity, I would not be able to shake the Holy Ghost of Ministry Present that insists on thanking me for the opportunity to spend hours and days, tens and hundreds of dollars, and other imaginative resources giving love and hope to the needy!

The Ghost of Ministry Future:

I don’t know in any comprehensive sense what the future holds.  I am not actually optimistic about it.  I am heavily burdened with shame, pain, and despair and a church that functionally does not care.  But I am also buoyed by the small, but stubborn hope that haunts all my pessimism with grace and conviction and dares to be joyous and thankful for the chance to love the needy.

I really don’t know what the church will look like in another decade or twenty years, but I have a feeling the Body of Christ will not be represented by all that stained glass and ski trips.  I hope I have the wisdom to be a part of THAT Body in what ever form it is found.

All of this has me thinking again about Crazy Mary and writing the last verse for her song.  What jalopy that doesn’t boast a “Lexus” logo and isn’t afraid to host the smell of burning tires will Jesus roll up in that Mary will not fear, that Mary will relent and climb into?  What jalopy will not drive past her unnoticed, not crash into her shack killing her, but will invite Theta and her kids to climb in and find the aimless crowds congregating under the sign that says “W-E-L-C-O-M-E” at the Luke-14 Party of the Apocalypse?  What is so scary about this experience with the Holy Ghost?  Are you feeling haunted yet?  Is this too much of a stretch for the Bible?

Look.  They made a movie about Charles Dickens as well as making several movies about his book.  The movie they made about him they called The Man Who Invented Christmas.  The irony is astounding.  First off Dickens did not invent Christmas.  Yet, watch the movie and then argue that he didn’t before you accept that statement.  Secondly, he did it by turning his celebration of Christmas into a ghost story!  How counterintuitive is that?  Yet look at the impact Dickens’ ghost story has had on Christmas in the cultures of the English speaking world!

Anyway, I point this out because as long as I am relying so heavily on Dickens for this post, I may as well also rely on the established fact that his success in that endeavor is just so unlikely, yet so devastatingly powerful.

Imagine that!

Imagine people giving their phone numbers to the needy and answering the calls.  Imagine those people sacrificing time, money, and resources – even exhausting themselves – only to turn and thank the needy for the opportunity to serve!  Imagine the Holy Ghost/Apocalyptic Party you are worthy to join when you have that kind of heart for Jesus!  (Read Matthew 25:31-46 through the lens of hospitality before you answer that.  Read Luke 14:13-14 before you answer that.)

May the Holy Ghost haunt you with conviction to go into ministry like that!

(And if I attract a musician/song writer to read here, maybe help us write a final verse for Crazy Mary.  One where Jesus stops and gives her a ride to the congregation crowded underneath the sight that says “W-E-L-C-O-M-E” to church.)


Misguided Homeless Protest?

Perhaps you are aware of the “homeless moms” (I do not use quotation marks here to question whether these women are homeless or if they are mothers, but to highlight that this is the terminology used for them specifically) in Oakland, California who squatted an empty house until they were arrested and forcibly removed.  If not, here is a link to a video which will help catch you up on the story:


Got it now?

Yeah, these women have hit a moral nerve with their “fight” to provide for their children.  I am not a “mom,” and so I cannot have their voice.  No one would give me the hearing they get.  But there is just something truly sacred about moms and babies – something even the secular world takes note of, even if the powers-that-be eventually turn a deaf ear to their cry (which they do to the extent they can).

The owners of the property in question (Wedgewood Properties) felt the pressure these “moms” bring to bear on them and offered a compromise.  But the “moms” sense they need to make their stand here and not compromise quietly.  The issue is bigger than themselves, and so they face arrest, eviction, and all the shame that goes with it in order to attract the white-hot, spotlight of the news media.  Wages are not keeping pace with rental expenses in Coastal California.  This problem affects families – “moms” with dependent babies.

I am sympathetic with Oakland’s mayor’s assessment that the “moms” are “courageous” and engaged in “civil disobedience” which serve a cause higher than merely their selfish desires.  I feel for the Wedgewood property manager’s concern for the abuse of private property, but I find that to be a minor concern when contrasted with the major concern for housing “moms” with babies (and really ANY humans in need).  I think Wedgewood and the sheriff’s department have their priorities misplaced.

But if I could speak to these homeless “moms” – and really ANY homeless people anywhere, I would say the protest is misguided.  Not so much in the actions taken or in the sacrifice they are willing to endure, but rather in taking on private property managed by secular authorities.  The weight of your moral stand and the appeal you have for the sacred needs of “moms” and their babies does make a splash in the secular world, but it is all the more important for the church, for the people of God, to grapple with you.

Even Jesus got arrested for his actions, not in an empty house on Magnolia Street, but in “My Father’s House.”  I am aware that there are, in fact, many houses of worship in Oakland.  It will not do harm to God’s people to grapple with your moral and sacred issue in the “light” of news media.  On the contrary, it will be good discipline for God’s people to give an account for their own actions and inactions, and provide a chance for God’s people to show the world the way God loves us.

Of course, it’s only appropriate then that I call you to faith in Jesus as you appeal to Jesus among his people.  Thus I urge you to repent and then call all the rest of us to repent too.

Naked & Vulnerable

(I offer this post after reading another’s blog recently where that blogger argued, rather persuasively, that churches aren’t loving the poor enough with the charity we offer.  That notion, as put, gels with me fairly solidly.  However, this blogger wound up going back the When-Helping-Hurts way, in the long run, seeking to make poor people self-sufficient as a goal… shunning their dependence upon others… just doing it with feeling. The feeling in this case being  “love.”  It was then, I realized this blogger and I were not actually “gelling” so much.  Then upon further reflection, it seemed I should distinguish myself more articulately.  Thus, this post….)


God is love (I John 4:8, 16).

This is standard stuff.  But how do we unpack it?

As a wise one once said, “All good [biblical] theology begins with Genesis.”  I will begin there.

When God lovingly creates the whole cosmos, on the sixth day, he presents his crowning achievement – humanity.

This human creature (Gen. 1:27) is made in the image of God (male and female).  Since, as I John tells us, God is love, humanity is made in the image of love and then given dominion and rule over all the rest of creation (Gen. 1:26) to rule in love.

This is the target at which we aim.  To aim anywhere else is to miss the mark, sin.


Love rules God’s world.  The image bearer, reflecting God for all of creation to see and obey, is male and female … is naked, doing male and female naked stuff (the subject of a different post) and thereby ruling the world.  This is God “full frontal” – a sight which is deadly to mortals (Exod. 33:20).

Catch all that?

Something seem a bit off???

Look again.  This is all “biblical.”  I have neither added nor taken away anything from God’s word at this point.  But I am betting it is NOT your experience.

Not mine either.

I mean, I been naked before, and I done that male/female “stuff” a few times, but I never “ruled over creation” doing that.  On the contrary, I was naked and vulnerable doing that.  At the mercy of anyone who might see!  Thus I took precaution to keep it private!!  I hung out the “do not disturb” sign!!!  For if I had been discovered by burglars (or anyone, really) at that point, I would be so vulnerable on so many levels, that I would certainly have been completely subdued by a foe in a heartbeat, if not morbidly embarrassed in front of friends.

On the other hand, the few times it ever seemed like I might have ruled over some particle of creation (and let me stress “SEEMED LIKE” here), those moments were brief, fleeting, mythical in nature AND occurred when I was at my least naked and vulnerable.  (Basically, I managed to bluff a few people a few times at best, and I always had my clothes on and appeared to be anything but vulnerable when I did it!)

That sound more familiar?

Yeah.  But not biblical.  At least not biblical like Genesis 1 and 2 when at the end of each day, God holds Judgment on creation and declares it “GOOD.”


Hold that thought just one moment.  Notice in the third chapter of Genesis, God lovingly lays down a ground rule.  One rule.  This rule gets laid down just before Shalom is broken.  It should be easy to follow, but it’s not.  There is one tree in the garden, the fruit from which humanity may not  eat.

What tree is that?

The tree of the knowledge of good and evil.


So God creates this humanity to bear his image in naked vulnerability, trusting him completely, and thus to rule the world – BUT HE DOESN’T WANT THEM TO KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL (right and wrong)???


Now that is counterintuitive.

It’s just layer upon layer of vulnerability.  That cannot work!  The only way that would even compute is in the mind of someone who knows good and evil – OR someone with incredible trust in God.

So here we are in the midst of some deep and esoteric theological point, but it ain’t making much sense.

Those worshipers at the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas a few weeks ago may not have been naked, but they sure were vulnerable!  Yet, not as vulnerable as it first appeared.  After all, several shepherds and parishioners brandished weapons in response to the shooter, and one fella even dominated him with a well-aimed shot – putting an abrupt end to the vulnerability!

But when God makes the world – when he lovingly makes it all good – he creates it just so that the naked, vulnerable image bearer rules it all in faith by simply bearing his image.


That is a truly delicate situation!

All this vulnerability implies faith.  It implies trust.  Fidelity.  (Again, this is starting to sound biblical.)

So if you keep looking in Genesis, you find (chapter 3) that when sin comes into the good creation, judgment and curse follow in short order.  And something else happens, something that would be exceedingly odd if not for the fact that today we view it as so utterly normal: humanity starts wearing clothes.  The naked vulnerability gets covered up, and this is considered good and wise.

So… Let’s sum it up like this:  Ruling God’s creation as he intends it, requires bearing his image in naked  vulnerability.  And the world responds to his image with Shalom.  A complete and utter interdependence!  Not independence.  Look at that again very carefully.  It’s Shalom when all creation finds interdependence by the perfect reflection of God in the image bearer.  A group of naked people cannot rule the world independently!

Got it?


That’s good theology starting in Genesis.

But truly good, well-rounded and fully robust theology doesn’t end with Genesis.  It takes Genesis theology and fills it up with Jesus.  And if you go to Golgotha and find Jesus there, you will see, in the paradox of a dead/dying, naked, utterly vulnerable Jew boy’s Roman execution the image of God taking his rightful place as king – with dominion and rule over the rest of creation.  Yes, Jesus is the naked, vulnerable man from Genesis given dominion and rule over all the beasts, and the church is his bride who rules with him in faith, in naked, vulnerability where “the two become one.”

Now talk to me about “seeking Shalom.”

Do you know how the church in Jerusalem sought Shalom (vis-à-vis the poor no less)?

Read Acts 2:42-47 and 4:32-37 and see for yourself.

Ever heard of the Proverbs-31 Woman?

Go read Proverbs 31, and find out what I am talking about.  The woman described there is not just any woman, not just any wise woman, and not just any wise and charitable woman, but she is the church as foreseen in Old Testament times.

The church is the bride of Christ!  The church and that crucified Jew boy together bear the image of God in naked vulnerability, in a trust  that surpasses the knowledge of good and evil.  This image bearer is the answer to the sin Adam and Eve bring into God’s otherwise good creation.  The interdependence of naked, vulnerable people bearing God’s image is the means of redeeming Shalom.

So why on earth would a church think you might “help” the poor and homeless by teaching them to be “self-sufficient” or independent?

That is NOT biblical.  NOT Shalom.  NOT Jubilee.  It is NOT Gospel.  And it is NOT the business of the church.

Having begun by the Spirit do you think you can perfect the When-Helping-Hurts agenda with a warmer feeling of love? (Gal. 3:3, anyone???)

I hope you will think about it.  Look carefully at the distinction.  If you are a disciple of Jesus, one who believes in LOVE and that God actually created the world to be ordered in LOVE and that THIS LOVE will not abandon the One who bears the image of God to the grave, but rather raises this image bearer to new life, then how you treat the poor is a good indicator of what you really believe.

Naked & Vulnerable.

The image of God – the image of LOVE.

Naked & Vulnerable.

Flesh crucified.

Not something to be shunned, but a goal for which to aspire, because then we are what God made us to be: Bearers of his image, ruling the creation in Shalom.

You Have Heard It Said, “The END TIMES ARE NEAR,” But…



(Sure, call this a prophetic” prediction” – if you must.)


Today’s generation of Americans, unlike those before us, speculate that our children (the next generation) will not be more prosperous than their parents (https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/05/12/what-will-become-of-americas-kids/).  Life expectancy in the greatest nation on earth is dropping (https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2019/us-life-expectancy-drops.html).  Practically everyone is unhappy with our prized modern, make-it-up-as-you-go, democratic, freedom-loving, representative form of government which we hold forth to the rest of the world to emulate.  Surveys claim one third of Americans think Civil War is coming! (https://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/general_politics/june_2018/31_think_u_s_civil_war_likely_soon).

This is a very bleak picture, yet I am only pointing out the framework upon which so much of the bad news I hear every day (and I mean really bad stuff like church shootings, school shootings, concert shootings, disease epidemics, plane crashes, crooked politicians, homelessness, traffic jams, sex scandals, political scandals, and global warming – to name just a FEW).  Some of this stuff is DEEPLY systemic.  Not only did the pharmaceutical companies ALLOW our nation to fall into an opioid epidemic, but they seem to have promoted it!  They seem to have enlisted doctors to get American’s addicted in mass numbers!!  Even the FDA, the agency that is supposed to prevent this, somehow has colluded and deepened the problem!!!  We see much the same thing with airline safety inspectors.  The contractors providing housing on military bases are cheating military families, and getting away with it.  TV preachers are caught up in sex scandals right along with the politicians.

And still, we have immigrants trying to get in!!!  (How ironic is that?)

Everyone has the freedom to do their own thing their own way, and the center does not hold.  The instant gratification of sexual indulgence of any whim or taboo, the quick buck at the expense of honesty and integrity, the power plays of bullies have moved from parasite status at the edges of our shared life and have become idols known in ancient times as Aphrodite, Mammon, and Mars.  And these gods must be obeyed, it seems, come-what-may!

Yet somehow this all feels just a little too newspaper-ish.  I don’t worship these false gods.  I did not cheat on my wife last night.  I did not cheat on my tax return last year, or intimidate my way into the good parking spot at the grocery store this morning.  I’m not like that, (I tell myself).  No.  I am the victim here!  Me and my kind suffer from all the others doing that garbage!!!  (So I tell myself.)

And there is a blog or a political pressure group out there willing to have me join the cause in being THAT VICTIM, and generate exactly the things I think I am a victim of to be perpetrated on others in return fire.

But maybe this stuff hits closer to home than I really imagine.

Mrs. Agent X is a baby nurse, as I have said before.  And the last month, she has been lamenting almost daily every little particle of generosity we might show to the birth parents of the foster kids we keep.  This is a reversal of the attitude she came into this career espousing.  It is a reversal of the track record we have already made for ourselves, since we have worked hard on numerous occasions to help reunify the families where we might have some influence through sharing of wisdom, encouragement, and prayer.

What has Mrs. Agent X so calloused?

Dead babies.

Not one of ours, thank God.  But one in the news recently.  The meth-addicted parents managed to work the system and get their kid back in their home!  And that, of course, is the tiny bit of GOOD NEWS in this whole post EXCEPT that apparently the “recovery” from the addiction wasn’t going as well in reality as it appeared on paper, and in a matter of days, the child died in their care.  The system put that child it once saved right back into the HELL from which it was previously saved!  And Mrs. Agent X, the baby nurse, is a warrior on the front lines of baby-saving.  And when children die in her care, she feels beat up by it for weeks.

(I know.  I made it sound like she sorta gets over it eventually!  But that is not really true either.)

Yeah, as we talk about it, really talk, we consider all the people we know personally or professionally who struggle with meth (or other addictions) and yet have kids.  And I don’t mean one child either; I mean MANY.  One parent, but many children.  One mother with three or five daddies creating five, six, or seven kids!  And there are a LOT of these single-parent “homes”!  And there are three or four generations of this mayhem!

YOU PEOPLE (you blog readers – you God-loving conservatives AND you logic-loving liberals, you policy-setting, voting-conscious, word-reading, THOUGHT-HAVING people) all think you are going to promote some agenda that is going to guide us out of the mess we face as a nation, as a world.

But you’re not.

I hear reporters on TV tell us everyday that we are late addressing climate change, that we will face consequences for our actions and lack of actions up until now, but maybe – MAYBE – maybe there is still time to head off total destruction.


What do you think you are going to save?

Others of you want your gay rights and gay marriage so you can be just like a traditional family???  Guess what?  There are no traditional families anymore!  You don’t have that as measure to judge by anymore, and we are all too slow in seeing it.  Just when Ward and Ward Cleaver got their picket fence… and for WHAT?  Enjoy if fast!  Except, Judgment is coming slow, so maybe you can enjoy the fantasy of a traditional marriage briefly, but it is in the shadow of death now – cuz the green grass on the other side of that picket fence is occupied by an impromptu homeless camp of tent cities!  Pardon the smell.


Judgment is moving TOO SLOW.  But unlike so many of my prophetic counterparts, I am not calling for imminent threat of Judgment.  On the contrary, I look at 400+ years of Egyptian captivity, and 600 years of what we moderns call “THE DARK AGES,” and I think: we are headed for a long, hard slog.  Go half way into either of those historic eras and ask the people of God how blessed America is.  They will answer you back with a question of their own: “Ameriwho?”

I am not actually as worried that my family will get shot and killed shopping at the mall or going to worship as I am that they won’t.

Think about it.

God – Almighty has been through the rises and falls of many world empires and kingdoms before.  I have not.  Neither have you.

There is still time.  Not for the hope of empire.  That time is up, but there is still time to repent.  The Kingdom of God is at hand!

These idols are at work in us.  They are at work in each of us.  Darkness wars with light in each human heart.  Mine as well as yours.

We Americans have shown a light to the world, but not the light of Christ.  We have shown the world the light flash of a nuclear weapon and then reaped the benefit of the FEAR that put in everyone else, but now is coming back home to roost.  We have enjoyed cheap gas and cheap milk and eggs for 70 some-odd years in that light.  In FEAR the world bowed to us and lived in poverty as we made America Great according to our crooked scales, our brandished weapons, and our seduction with our free “love.”

But you know what is required of you:  He has told you, O man, what is good.  What does YHWH require of you but to DO JUSTICE, LOVE KINDNESS, and WALK humbly with your God?

Look deep into the heart of America today and show me where you find that!

What does it profit a nation to gain the whole world and forfeit it’s soul?

It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich nation to enter the Kingdom of God.

The tax collecting homeless and the cheapest dirty sluts will enter the Kingdom of God ahead of you.

How is it not possible that we have our worldview all just a tad backward, upside down, and inside out?  I don’t know.  With all our universities, colleges, experts and strategists, the only way I can figure is that maybe pride has gone before the fall.  And we are now in that space between pride and fall.

When the Judgment comes, it will be the broken and the contrite hearts that will find mercy with the Judge.  It will be those who showed hospitality to the widows, the orphans, the sojourners (the least of these) who will join the sheep in glory.  It will not be those who sold kindness in a hospitality industry to those wielding Visa and Mastercards, because those who refused this kindness to the least of Jesus’s brothers will go with the goats into destruction as they discover they turned Jesus away at the door.

I, for one, AM SORRY.  I, for one, hope this home in which I reside is the HOUSE of God in which I am not the Master, but merely the door keeper.  And I pray to God, HELP the DOOR KEEPER to be prepared for this awesome responsibility.  May the door keeper be found ALERT and READY when the MASTER RETURNS.  May the door keeper be found FEEDING THE SHEEP when the MASTER RETURNS.  May the door keeper be found NOT CAUSING ONE OF THESE LITTLE ONES TO STUMBLE but rather helping to form Jesus in the lives around me.

Can I get an AMEN?