Divine Appointment III

(Other things came up and I did not finish my little “series” of divine appointment tales… So here is the final installment.)

Last Monday, when I arrived at North Overton Park, Agent Z gave me the initial assignment of searching for poor, crippled, lame, and blind people to invite to the Luke-14 Party he was throwing.  I arrived first and parked my car.  Then I began a 25 block circuit on foot carrying a cardboard placard announcing that Jesus was sleeping on the streets of Lubbock.  I cut a long wide swath walking along Ave Q mostly, all the way up to Walmart, and then back down through alleys and back lots.  I met several individuals along the way, but one group in particular touched me.

I rolled up on the little apartment complex two blocks back from Walmart.  This humble, flea-bag joint sticks out like a sore thumb amid all the urban renovation and construction taking place in that area.  The homeless are still concentrated there, but  they are evermore squeezed between band-new, monumental Tech housing and brand-new, monumental high-rise parking lots on all sides.  And that little apartment complex is just about the last vestige of poverty left in this clash-of-cash-n-trash.

As I came along the sidewalk, the bushes opened up to reveal a group of men sitting around in the parking area next to a broke-down car drinking beer and talking.  I did not get a clear nose count, but I estimate at least 8 and maybe 10 men drinking there in the early noontime.  In fact, I am pretty certain none of them were sober.

Here’s the thing about drunks: When people get too much to drink, they tend to either get mean or nice.  Sometimes it takes a few minutes to tell which, but heaven help you if you have even one mean drunk in the group!  You cannot reason with him, if you do.  The moment the mean drunk takes offense, you have a real problem.  And… well… I did not know yet what I had on my hands.

(As an aside, I tell a story on a previous post about encountering a group like this one before and uncovering a mean drunk.  On that occasion, I spoke in tongues!  The only time I ever did that… And it moved the mean drunk to calm down and join us in worship.  For those interested, find that post here:  https://fatbeggars.wordpress.com/2016/06/21/prophets-and-dangerous-missions/comment-page-1/ .)

So here I am encountering all these drunk guys not knowing what kind of reception my little invitation will get, but not being one to shrink away, I waved as I approached and asked, “Who here wants to party with Jesus?”.  At that, all of the men wanted to talk to me.  There were smiles and inquisitive looks on all faces.  I quickly handed out my card to each as we greeted one another and told these men about our little party up the road a few blocks.

I could see these men were already quite inebriated.  I didn’t really think they would come (which they did not), but as long as I was there, I wondered if we might pray.  One older gentleman sitting in the shade seemed to speak with a bit of authority in the group.  I cued in on that and addressed him mostly.  He agreed to prayer, and in a flash, I dropped to my knees and removed my hat as I knelt next to him and held out my hand.

As I took that prayer posture, some of the others moved close to us and began placing their hands on the two of us.  One guy was in a wheel chair, and he asked to join too, so we had to pause and accommodate him wheeling into our huddle.  By this time I felt like I was in a game of TWISTER.  Our little huddle was tangled up and my arm was reaching between two guys where my hand rested on the shoulder of a man who was in the outer shell of the huddle.  And then after a pregnant pause, the authoritative man asked if I was going to lead the prayer.

I said, “I thought you should do it.  I will receive your blessing.”  I was surprised at the dignity this seemed to garner for him.  He began to pray then and plea for God’s mercy.  As he prayed holding my left hand, I could feel the man’s shoulder in my right hand as he began to break down in tears and sob.  Once he was finished, the authoritative man closed his prayer and thanked me.  He said, “We would not have prayed if you had not stopped.”

And just then one of the other guys in the group popped off saying, “Can I pray too?”

Can he pray???  YES he can pray!  And I could see where this was going already!  I spent almost 15 minutes there on my knees while these men took turns praying.  And I was amazed at how confessional the prayers were.  They all expressed how unworthy they felt in the presence of God.  Some lamented that they were starting the day drinking and wondered if God would still love them.

And just when it seemed the praying was done, and everyone wishing to voice a prayer had taken a turn, this other, somewhat authoritative, man stepped forward to talk about the woman caught in the act.  As he began telling the story, I realized he was preaching, and so I quickly removed my hat again and knelt on the ground again.  The others followed my lead and we listened to this man preach telling us other Bible stories as well.

We had a fine impromptu worship service there on the last remaining vestige of dirt and humanity squaring off with the towering greed of all the high-rise construction.  We did not need some hifalutin preacher with vestments in a sanctuary to lead us, though that would have been nice!  In fact, where is that hifalutin preacher?  Come to think of it, Where is he?  He missed out.

I am sorry to say, none of the boys ever arrived at Agent Z’s Luke-14 Party.  I truly wish they had.  Perhaps I did not COMPEL them in strongly enough.  (The text says that, btw.)  But we had a small version of it there in that parking area at the flea-bag apartments.  And I can’t help but think about the broken contrite hearts there (Psalm 51:17), shattered on the alcohol like the beer bottles smashed everywhere around those men.  I think God is pleased with their worship, and his opinion is the one that matters.

As I left the group, the authoritative men thanked me for coming, and they actually used the words: This was a Divine Appointment.

Diarrhea Cha Cha Cha!

I go to bed as usual, but wake up feeling sick in the middle of the night.  By 2 a.m., I’ve got diarrhea and vomiting.  A hardcore experience for anyone – we have all been there done that.  We all dread it when it comes.  It can strike so unexpectedly.

I really wouldn’t tell you about it, except that as things began to calm down a couple hours later, I suddenly realized how blessed I am to have the master bathroom just a few feet from my bed.  Running water, toilet, bucket, damp cloth and a thermometer all at hand.  If I had messed my clothes, the laundry room is just in the next room.  And well, I couldn’t help but think about sleeping out back of our church (Agent Z and I) a couple months ago.

If I had been hit with the Cha Chaz that night, what would I have done???

Well, the church, shamefully, was not open to help, and I had visited the can at Walmart about 400 or 500 yards away for two bathroom trips in the night.  (I don’t think I would have made it that far being sick.)

What if I was homeless and had no conventional options???

I think I would want to go to the hospital in that case.  But being all the way across town, that would require activating emergency response.  Talk about expensive!  What a waste?  But if I had Cha Cha seeping out my pants, I would be desperate, and I don’t think Walmart would want me or be of much use.

Look, I wish this unmentionable stuff could remain unmentionable, but I began to recognize last night in the throes of emesis, that tending to it discretely is a luxury.  And if nothing else, my readers here (those living indoors for sure) can make themselves thankful next time they suffer the runs.

With that… I am back to bed.  I am still mending this evening.  Thank God I have that bed!

Blowing Off Your Divine Appointment

All week long, my heart is full as I reflect on Agent Z’s Luke-14 Party which he facilitated Monday (3 days ago) in the park.  I am so thrilled that Agent Z chose to be biblical about it.  He chose Luke 14 as a template – even an assignment.  He asked for my help and guidance, but I kept that very minimal so he would stretch and grow.  And he stepped up in every way.  He raised the funding.  He made the plans.  He prepared invitations.

Being the younger partner, you can easily imagine that Agent Z is the tech-savvy guy in our group.  I had nothing to do with his electronic invitations, but he prepared a fancy video and posted it on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.  He broadcast this video invitation to everyone he knows AND to the world-wide-web.  Many responded with comments on how well done his video invitation was.  But when the event was on, only two brothers showed up.

Its as if “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 17 And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant[c] to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ 20 And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’

And so the servant goes to the Master and reports it to him.  “Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23 And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.”

(I think I read this stuff somewhere before….  Oh yeah, Luke 14!)

I am so deeply disappointed in our family, our friends, and our church.  Where were the grandparents?  I asked Agent Z this.  He shrugged.  I said, “[Z], if you had been tasked with putting on the party for President Trump when he came to Lubbock, do you think your grandparents would drop whatever they are doing and come?”  He said, Yeah.  And I think so too.  I think every friend, family, and church member of even the slightest acquaintance would trip over themselves to get to his party.  But when Agent Z invites the poor AS HE IS DIRECTED TO DO IN LUKE 14, and thereby inviting the Matthew-25:40 Jesus himself, they don’t come.

Throw a party for Jesus and watch who excuses themselves from coming!

I will be careful not to make a blanket accusation here, but with this small caveat:  Some excuses are worthy.  Agent Baby Sister was in school and could not miss class.   Some people might genuinely not have seen the invitation, and thus really did not know.  I will leave that for each individual to work out between themselves and God.  But when your son/grandson/brother/friend puts on a community-inclusive class project for school… Why and how do you blow that off?  When your boy throws a party in the park to celebrate Jesus… How do you blow that off?

I mean, this boy is doing an internship with his old youth minister as his mentor, but we saw neither hide nor hair of him!  Why???

This has only just come to my attention in the last 24 hours, but I am deeply disappointed and really struggling with this.  And I have a warning for those of you who say you value Agent Z and Jesus but who so casually blew them both off:  Luke 14:24.

Neither Jesus, Agent Z, nor me, though we conduct our ministry beneath your contempt are playing around out there.  We are serving The King!  We invited you to his feast, but you did not come.  Beware.

Divine Appointment II

Way back in 2014, a year before I started this blog, The Fat Beggars School of Prophets held an all night worship celebration on the streets.  It went like this: About a dozen (probably more) homeless people met at the Mahon Library where we prayed and then moved out to Broadway and Ave Q in the little park which was the site of the original Tent City.  There we made placards that said things like, “Honk if you love Jesus” and so forth.  I passed out a bunch of neon Tee shirts that said, “Jesus was Homeless” on them, and we proceeded to throw a party we called Lubbock’s Parade of Homeless.

After a couple of hours of enticing the driving public on that busy intersection to honk at us, we held a communion service that attracted several passersby – including a group from Aldersgate United Methodist Church who were looking for homeless people to feed.  After the communion service, we moved to Ribble Park, which was about 3 miles south of the Broadway and Ave Q intersection.  Once there, we roasted hot dogs and marshmallows on the grill and then settled in for the night (until it began to rain).  Then we took shelter under the awning at the Vandelia Church.  But we had already planned to attend church there the next morning for Sunday worship.

Among the people I met that night was a lady we will call “Agent DJ”.  I had never met her before, and afterward, I never saw her again.

I never forgot her enthusiastic participation that night.  She was one of a very few willing to don the prophet robes (graduation robes of various colors I had acquired over the years and then painted up to look like flashy church choir robes).  The robes were very flamboyant and tacky, but eye-catching, and announced to those passing by that we were serving Jesus.  Only those willing to make fools of themselves for Jesus dared to wear them, but Agent DJ was willing.  Yet, sadly, we completely lost contact with her after that event.

Fast forward from 2014 with me to last Monday morning.  I had a few errands to attend to before I could meet Agent Z at North Overton Park for his Luke-14 Party, and so I was busy.  But Mrs. Agent X (Z’s Mom) also had an errand to run down at the local hospital, where she witnessed a man appearing to be homeless walking away from the Emergency Room.  She stopped to inquire, and sure enough the man could use a ride alright.  But she was not available to give it.  So she called me and arranged with the man for him to wait until I could pick him up about half an hour later.

When I arrived at the appointed place and time, the man Mrs. Agent X tried to help was nowhere to be found.  I circled around the area a couple of times.  No sign of him.  However, I did notice a woman who looked like she might be waiting for a ride, and I wondered if she might have seen the guy.  So I asked.  And too my surprise, that woman was Agent DJ!

Divine Appointment II

Yay!!!  A reunion of sorts.  I wound up giving her a lift to the social security office so she could take care of her business and along the way we played catch up.  She remembered the Lubbock’s Parade of Homeless event with great clarity and fondness.  She reported to me that she and her son had gone to Colorado shortly after that and had taken the Fat Beggars robes and wore them on the side of the road up there too (taking the Fat Beggars national, I guess).  She said she still has her Fat Beggars Tee Shirt, which impresses me!  And now I hope she will stop by this blog and reconnect again.

I know where she goes to church now too.  And I am hopeful I might take her with us where we go for a visit once or twice as well.  Agent DJ is surely a great source of encouragement to me and a wonderful partner in spreading the Gospel on the streets of Lubbock.

I am sad to say that she was not available to attend the Luke-14 Party, but I really hope we can serve together again soon as part of other events.  In the meantime, re-establishing contact puts her on my regular prayer list (a list growing at an alarming rate, btw).

DJ, if you are reading here, please reach out.

Do You Want to Fight Housing Injustice?

Fat Beggars is pleading with you to read BrookeM’s post today. The Christian witness in modern America may well be on the line. Let us read the article she points us to. Let us pray on it. Let us talk about it. BUT THEN, even more importantly, let us, in the power of Jesus’s Spirit, address it.

Compassion is a Journey

A  friend forwarded a New York Times article to me yesterday that disturbed her greatly. I only finished reading it this morning (it is quite long), and I, too, am greatly disturbed. Affordable housing/accessible housing/livable housing has been heavy in my thoughts for several years now, and this article seems to illustrate so clearly how the American drive for wealth (especially in the realm of corporations) creates a tsunami of injustice that ends up swallowing so many of those unfortunate enough to exist at the lower end of the economic hierarchy.

As Christians, I believe we are responsible to fight injustice–ALL injustice–as we encounter it. The problem comes when we live inside such comfortable bubbles that we rarely directly encounter injustice, especially at a personal level. Or when we do, we have enough power at our disposal (whether that be our financial resources, our white privilege, our personal connections, our education level and/or job status, or even our…

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Divine Appointment I

“Divine appointment”.  That’s what they called it.

God, it seems – and as Morpheus might put it “is not without a sense of irony”, had penciled me in for Thursday while I was out penciling in people for Monday.  I didn’t know it, though, until the appointment had been kept.  A serendipity, some might have called it.  “Divine appointment” has the right ring to it.  I will accept that.

First of three tales: I was preparing for Monday’s divine appointment by taking a few spare minutes last Thursday, since I was in the area on other business, to introduce myself to a few strangers I saw roaming the streets of the central part of town.  I met a nice man down by the bus stop out front of the Ave Q Walmart, and we took the opportunity to pray.  Anyone passing by could plainly see us – what we were doing.  We were not seeking attention for out prayers, but when you “meet people where they are at” … well … the street corner is where Other Agent J lives.

It was an amazing time of prayer.  Other Agent J seemed thrilled by it.  I felt thrilled by it.  And then I got back in my car and started to drive away, but as I got another a block down the street I met William and Lucio walking along the sidewalk and rolled down my window to hand them a business card.

I did not know these men before, or so I thought.  But actually, in a moment of talking Lucio and I recognized each other from previous back alley worship services in years gone by!  As we were reconnecting, William, who just introduced himself for the first time, asked for a ride to a job interview up by the Flying J.  I said, “hop in!”

We talked along the way, William and Lucio asked if I was praying for their friend Other Agent J; they had seen us praying there as they walked by.  Of course I had, and so when we arrived at the destination, this gave way to prayer for William’s job interview.  We did that, and then, of course, the obligatory observation that this was a “divine appointment”.

Now, how can you argue with that???  Stop to share a word with a homeless man on the side of the road, and wind up giving him a lift TO HIS JOB INTERVIEW!!! 

Can I get an AMEN?  Anyone???

I did not stick around to find out if he got the job, but I trust God with it all the same.

 

Gimme shelter — PT, Post 5

This is another one of those special blog posts I found while searching the blog-O-sphere today. Like my previous reblog post, I hope my few readers will give this blog a look. So, I make this effort to promote it. I think you will be blessed for your time spent reading here.

The Orphans and The Widows

Last night, after introductions and a tour of the 3-story L.I.V.I.N.G. Ministry office, we made a shopping list for a few meals we needed to buy for and piled in the ministry’s van (which most of the staff refuses to drive) and went to the nearest Kuhn’s.

Barely fitting back into the minivan, we returned to the ministry and sorted and unloaded the food meant to serve over 100 people, cumulatively, across 4 meals.

Kaylee and Sam, our trip leaders, gave us a breakdown of the week.

We’re going to be asking three questions throughout our activities, devotions, and debriefs this week:

  • Who are the homeless?
  • How am I homeless? And,
  • Who are my homeless?

Jumping right into discovering the first answer, we were told we’d be sleeping in the “freshly” condemned house L.I.V.I.N.G. Ministry owns next door.

IMAG0735

We took deconstructed cardboard boxes, our pillows and sleeping bags and –looking…

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Radical Love

When I find jewels like this in the blog-O-sphere, I like to do what I can to promote readership at their sites. I just found this blogger today, and I think the few readers I have will be blessed to check out this Radical Love post.

For those seeking a look at the original post, Erika asks that you please visit it on a different site from the one linked below.  Please find it HERE.

http://throughthereddoors.com/radical-love/

erikaquiroz

I am a greeter. I stand in the narthex and watch the street. Far down the block I see one of our parishioners. I burst into rain and call out, “Good morning, friend! Welcome!” It’s a radical greeting, but radical is my style.

On Wednesdays, I am also a greeter. Under a canopy in the parking lot of the county building, Juice and I wait with our friends. Often its raining. Sometimes chilly winds steal napkins from the table as we rush to weigh them down with oranges or a ladle. On my vision’s horizon I see someone moving towards us. As he gets closer I recognize his shape, his walk, the color of his hair. “Joshua!” I call out, “I’m so glad to see you!” Just like on Sunday morning, I step out of my shelter and into the rain. In a few steps, Joshua is in my arms.

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Agent Z & The Luke-14 Party

I have mentioned Agent Z here a few times on this blog before.  He even contributed a post of his own here once which you can read here.  Still, for any readers that do not know, Agent Z is one of my kids who grew up observing and helping this ministry.  (I recall how that one winter night a few years ago, Mrs. Agent X and I found a group of homeless people sleeping in the cold (when the church had kicked them out) and brought them home with us.  Agent Z rounded up some candy bars and left them out with a “Welcome” note attached!

Agent Z is grown up now and attending Bible school at Lubbock Christian University.  He designed a ministry project around Luke 14 to satisfy his academic curriculum.  He threw a party for the poor in North Overton Park yesterday complete with love, music, prayer, song, and communion along with soda pop, cupcakes and other refreshments.

We met so many new people we never knew before.  I had the pleasure of reconnecting with several I knew in years gone by.  And we now have a dozen new stories to tell about what God is doing on the streets of Lubbock that we could not tell the day before.

I expect to share many of those stories on this blog over the course of several posts in the near future.  At the moment, I am just so very pleased with Agent Z.  His eyes are opened and he sees Jesus – he sees Jesus right where our culture does not want him to see Jesus.  Agent Z transformed that park into a Jesus-Party Zone.  The gazebo had streamers flowing in the wind.  We made street art of placards on cardboard.  There was dancing!  Yes, Agent Z lifted the veil separating the grit and grime of street-homelessness and Heaven, and a few of us stepped behind it, and meanwhile hundreds, if not thousands, of Lubbock’s citizens drove (or walked) by and witnessed Jesus throwing a party.

Agent Z proved himself a leader among his peers.  He asked for my help and guidance, which I gave (sparingly), but he facilitated all of it.  He purchased supplies with money donated to his ministry.  He promoted the event (Agent Z handles the Fat Beggars Twitter and Instagram promos.)  He employed his brothers (Agent PJ and Agent JJ) to help.

I saw lives touched as well.  “Special Agent TT” (SATT) is the person calling that gazebo “home” these days, and Agent Z asked his permission to host his Jesus Party in it.  SATT was gracious to let us in his home to party with his friends for about six hours.  (Thanx for your hospitality SATT!)  During conversation with Agent Z and PJ, SATT learned that my boys are into body building, and this homeless man reached into his bag of meager possessions and GAVE Z and PJ a nutrition and workout book for Navy SEALs!  This was a fine gift from a man with practically nothing.  Touches me, I know that!

And so, today, my heart is full as I reflect on my kids – especially Agent Z – taking up the baton and running the next generational leg of this race (to use a St. Paul metaphor).  I would like to think street-homelessness will be eliminated in my life-time (perhaps even by my ministry), but I highly doubt that.  Yet my heart is warmed at the thought that the HOME God gives Mrs. Agent X and I is a beach head taken in the heaven’s battle against forces of earth that put people out in the streets.  And I think that is worthy of a post on the Fat Beggars blog.