Crash

Do you remember that movie CRASH?  It won, I think, the Academy Award for Best Movie in 2004 (or whatever year it was nominated).  Anyway, I haven’t seen it in a long time, but I think now would be a good time for my fellow Americans to watch it and talk about it.  My memory of it comes to mind a lot in recent days since all the news about Charlottesville, Nazis, KKK, White Supremacists, our controversial president and all that.

I sense I am not the most timely to post my thoughts this late, but then this blog is not dedicated to every issue nor every news item.  In fact, this topic, though it bears some relation to homelessness, is not really the focus of this blog hardly at all.  But the emergence of racism as a deadly force finding legitimacy in presidential politics (at least David Duke and friends think so), I wonder if I might persuade any new thinking.  (Not likely since I hardly get a hearing on the stuff I am already passionate about.)  But I will give it a whirl.

I am reflecting on the movie Crash, and how complex racial prejudice can be.  It is so easy to paint it with simple brush strokes as evil and hold forth that it’s someone else’s problem.  Especially for white people in my kind of shoes.  And I am inclined NOT to hastily confess my own racism, biases, or sins of exclusion and so forth.  My family is multicolored, actually.  I love black, brown, red and white people as a matter of family ties!  I want my black son to get into college even if affirmative action helps him.  I don’t want my white kid to be displaced from his chance because of affirmative action either.  So, I can be a little in both camps.  I used to work in law enforcement, and I strongly believe blue lives matter, but I have black friends and family who should be able to shop in Dillard’s, eat in Denny’s, and drive home from a party without being shot in the head by a cop!  So, yeah, there are complexities!  It’s not all just a simple matter of someone else’s evil.

And besides, LOVE is complex too.  I am always growing in LOVE, learning to love, helping others to love.  I have not mastered it completely!  So, yes, there is room for me to grow even though I do not use racial epithets against my black and brown family and friends.  Even though I welcome all colors to my table to eat.  Even though I want to pray for them when they travel that they won’t face the kind of ugliness I almost never have to imagine because I am privileged to be born white and male.

And so Crash has me remembering the artful, powerful, meaningful way this kind of stuff is explored in cinematic narrative.  Numerous races and ethnicities are represented all through the tale – in fact many.  White, brown, black, yellow, Arab, and so forth.  And it turns out that every single person from each of these backgrounds is presented as racially prejudiced at some point.  The mutual suspicion between people based on race and ethnicity drives so much fear, hatred, and murder.  And the amazing thing is how that the narrative takes us into the hearts and minds of these people as they come to bigoted terms with how they will treat one another.  But even more, the narrative makes this phenom sympathetic in each case WHILE condemning it at the same time.  That is a remarkable feature.

Crash makes me understand a racist.  Not all racists from among all people at all times, but a doorway into hearts driven by forces seemingly beyond their control.  Wow!  I think that is a useful insight for my fellow Americans just now.  We need better understanding of one another.  With careful insight, we might find better ways of addressing one another’s fears and needs that are masked in anger and hate.

I watch this movie and think: Ha!  The most innocent character in the whole flick, Ryan Phillippe’s Officer Hanson, is the one who actually commits a murder based on race!  He is the one character in the whole drama that fights so hard for racial justice and yet gets sucked into the worst of all crimes and sins – and sucked in to it on the basis of racial prejudice.

Meanwhile, Matt Dillon’s Officer Ryan is the most overtly racist character – a cop with a chip on his shoulder.  But that narrative creates just a fraction of sympathy for the man when we discover that he has been on the phone with Shaniqua, Loretta Divine, a very black sounding lady working for the health insurance company that denies benefits to Dillon’s father who suffers terribly from his affliction.  Now, of course Dillon’s character makes a rather obvious mistake assuming that Divine’s blackness has anything to do with his insurance problems which compound his father’s suffering, but he isn’t thinking clearly and lets himself make judgments based on raw feelings rather than clear thought.  (AND WHO AMONG US IS NEVER GUILTY OF THAT???)

So Dillon takes his hostilities out on a black/interracial couple he pulls over for a traffic violation.  He sexually harasses/assaults Thandie Newton’s Christine Thayer on the side of the street during the traffic stop.  Newton, understandably, becomes outraged about the incident.  But later in the narrative when she is involved in a traffic accident and trapped in her car as it is about to explode and burn her alive, it is Dillon’s Officer Ryan that comes to her rescue.  She recognizes him and fights him off as he tries to save her from burning to death.  Thus, Dillon’s racial prejudice, though hostile and damaging in one scene, drives gears only so deep in his character.

And there are many such scenes bearing the racial prejudices of various races and ethnicities before the lens and demonstrating how so often they are driven by feelings rather than clear level headed thought.

Am I saying the movie will answer questions and guide our society out of the mess we are in?  No.  Am I saying it is a depiction of what is going on in our world today?  Yes – in part.  Not the whole, but in part.  And I think it gives us a foot hold which will help us gain more access in understanding one another while never once giving any ground to hate.

I hope my readers will watch the movie.  If you have seen it before, watch it again.  If not, get in the know.  And then let’s see if we can find some sensible ground we just might share with people who express racial prejudice.

Shouting at “them” is not working.  Belittling and poking fun at “them” is not working.  And by “them“, I mean the racists.  And besides, we might find ourselves in those shoes all too easily given circumstances that drive our feelings to make stupid choices too.

THEN, maybe, THEN if we can say something to those sensitive vulnerabilities that they (and we) are protecting with our prejudicial actions, we might – JUST MIGHT – give oxygen to alternative ways of addressing those feelings that don’t involve fear and hate.

It’s worth trying.

Voices In My Head

The following is a guest post from Loiter Larry, one of my behind-the-scenes ministry partners on the streets of Lubbock:

I met Agent X when he worked in the mental hospital.  I was not one of his patients.  I lived three doors down from him.  When I found out about his work, I told him about my condition.  He has been a good friend to me.

He asked me to be a part of his ministry.  I was homeless for a while several years ago, so I was interested.  I spent a few nights camping with him and worshipping with those we met on the streets.  I saw the way this ministry impacted people and made them open up to God’s love.  I saw the way other ministries shunned Agent X.  That part made me want to crawl in a cave and hide.

I don’t like to speak in public.  I don’t usually trust strangers.  I prefer to keep to myself.  But X is my friend, and I try to support him.  I don’t like all the controversy.  I don’t like the arguing and bickering.  But I have seen this ministry love the poor and downtrodden, stand up for them when church leaders wanted to abandon them, and it is clear to me that I want to be a friend to X.

He wants me to start a blog of my own.  He talked me into starting a Facebook account a few years ago.  But it didn’t last long.  I am not good around strangers.  Even sometimes when people mean well.  They make me nervous because they don’t understand that I hear voices.

But X hatched a new idea.  A way for me to contribute to his ministry through a blog.  I will speak for the voices.  I will be a voice for the voices.  I will speak for those voices you cant hear but I do.  And I will post them on my own site – Loiter Larry.

I really don’t know if I can keep up a blog or not.  But I will try.  X says he will help me write and think about things.  I am not alone in this project.  I have a partner who cares about me.

This is your invitation to see what that is like.

This Little Book Might Have Saved My Life

I got divorced over a decade ago.  I have so thoroughly moved on from that tragedy now that it is easy to forget it (almost).  But I got into a discussion on another’s blog recently that brought up memories of that devastating time in my life.  I think it nearly killed me.

Even now, it is easier not to remember, really.  The raw despair was so overwhelming that I actually am afraid to open up some of those memories.  I was so deeply depressed, I went to a doctor for help and got a prescription – but I think I just had the side effects instead of the help.  Yeah.  In the years since, I have learned more about those mood altering drugs.  If you can be under the watchful care of a psychiatrist, that would be better than a GP you don’t even return to for follow up.  Suicidal thoughts are some of the side effects of some of these drugs meant to prevent that.

Upon recognizing that the drug was not helping, I suddenly stopped taking it.  This also is ill advised, and can compound the suicidal thoughts.  And like demons terrorizing my lonely nights, such thoughts attacked without mercy.  I was stuck like Chuck.

And then one day, I wandered into a local used bookstore that I had not visited in several years.  I drifted over to the theology section.  I had never heard of the little book that caught my eye, nor had I heard of the author.  The publishing date was quite old for my taste really – 1962.  But the publisher was one I knew put out some interesting books from time to time, and well… the book was small and cheap.  So I gave it a whirl.  It was like a precious jewel buried in the sand.

Sure enough, it is a bit dated alright.  Foreign too – but at least it’s in the English language.  But it had the right words for me at the right time in my life.

I was able to read it in about an hour and a half.  And I read it at least a couple times a week for two or three months.  And still I reread it many more times beyond that.

What was this book, you say?

Routley saved my life with this little book.  In it he examines the Psalms of Ascent (Psalms 120-134).  These are the psalms the children of Israel sing as they make the final leg of their pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the temple festivals – especially Passover.  But Routley doesn’t simply examine the psalms in some theological vacuum.  No.  He first off eases us modern types into a formal worship mindset describing how a modern person might devote themselves to God in prayer, meditation, study, and song.  He informs us that Diaspora Jews of ancient times usually meet from all over the world in Jericho and make the climb into Jerusalem together – meeting family and old friends they haven’t seen in a very long time after being spread out all over the known world, and then singing these 15 songs as they climb the mountain road together in an atmosphere of joy and anticipation.

But then…

Then Routely asks us to follow one Passover pilgrimage in particular.  The last one Jesus joined as he went to Passover to die.  We sing these songs with Jesus, knowing what he knows and the others don’t.  And the songs become so desperate and faithful as we climb to his glory.  “I lift my eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help.  My help comes from the Lord…” (Ps. 121:1-2).  And Routley informs us that walking this path, singing this song, a pilgrim does not actually see the city until the last moment passing over the lip at the top.  The city, our destiny, remains out of sight until the last moment.  An exercise in faith.  But every dreadful step to this celebration, Jesus sings the songs and we sing them with him.  “Those who sow in tears will reap in joy…” Ps. 126;  “Out of the depths I have cried unto You O Lord…” Ps. 130.  Yeah… you get to walk with Jesus as he joins the party that will kill him.

In my time of despair, as I went through the death throes of my marriage, I ascended with Jesus to his cross singing with him, and it healed me.  Routley’s little book became my pain medication.  He helped me walk with Jesus as I stumbled every step and could hardly keep up.

I carried that little book (it is so small) in my bag everywhere I went for probably 7 years or more.  I even had a pair of pants with pockets big enough to slide it into.  And the book became something of a touch stone, almost a lucky charm (bad reference, I know, but even just feeling it in my pocket gave me comfort).

I realized recently that I no longer carry it.  I no longer read it for help.  It is a precious possession still, but not one I NEED in that sense anymore.  And it occurred to me that since this little book had such an important impact on my life, it might be the wise thing to pass it on to someone else in that kind of need.

Perhaps you are dealing with divorce.  Maybe you hold the hand of a mate during “the long goodbye”.  Maybe you are struggling to beat an addiction.  Maybe you just buried a child.  I am betting these kinds of events destroy you.  I am betting the average coffee table devotional isn’t touching it.  I am betting the medication’s side effects are more powerful than the intended effects.  And so, if you want to give my little book a try… send me a request.  If you need it, I will share.

Ever Feel Like Elijah?

I wake up this morning with sick babies and do not expect to join the assembly for worship. And then I find this post… Validating. Hmm…

The Way Online

I started out my day reading a critique of an article in Teen Vogue about making sure you pack your lubricants, condoms, and vibrators for back to school. Their target audience is 11-17 year old children. I saw Hillary Clinton has left Spirit Cooking and now wants to be a Pastor. I read that a University will now be teaching on eliminating “whiteness” and I saw a video of a woman who claims she is transpecies – she is a cat.

I feel like Elijah. I feel like all the world is turning into a human cesspool of wickedness and downright demonic behaviors. I feel alone, often. I feel like even the church is failing God. Children are being robbed of their innocence and parents applaud their demise. I just don’t understand anything anymore. How did we get here and why does it seem like in the past 5 years…

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I Love Broken Hearted Drunks (And Jesus Does Too)

Here’s my story:

Chapter 1 – The Kick In The Teeth

I rarely get the chance to run off from home and serve Jesus on the streets.  But today Mrs. Agent X told me I needed time away and sent me packing.  At first, I did not know where to go or what to do.  The opening was sudden, and I had no plans or anyone to go see.  But I had all this free time and a need to get away for a bit.

Hmmm… What to do?

Some of my readers here are aware that I am working on a book for possible publication.  A study in St. Mark, to be exact.  I have a few friends helping me review and revise, so I grabbed my copy and took it with me.  Since I had this reading to do, I decided to head down to Mahon Library.  I could study on the revisions while seeking out street-friends at one of their hubs.

As I entered the building, I made a circuit around the whole area – especially near the internet computers.  I did not see anyone I knew.  (Actually, there was one cat I know there, but he generally plays the role of sycophant with the leadership at the Premier Homeless Church, so I opted not to interrupt him with my greetings.)  I looked in my pocket, and I was carrying only six of my “business” cards.  (I hate to call them “business” cards, but that is how you order them.  That is what they are called, but this is certainly not a business; it’s ministry.  I don’t use them for any kind of commerce at all.)  I sometimes leave these in areas I know homeless people will find them in hopes that they will reach out to me through email or on this blog.

With only six, I did not want to give them away indiscriminately, but I discretely slipped one on a desk near the computer area and another in the men’s room.  I kept four of them in my pocket in case I met someone I could give it to as part of my greeting.

Then I found a seat at a table near the newspaper area.  At first, I was alone there, and I began reading on my latest draft.  In fact I was looking at the powerful insights of Mark chapter 8 where Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do the people say I am?” and “Who do you say I am?”  These questions on Jesus’ lips were rumbling though my heart and mind when a strange man I did not recognize came and took a seat across the table to read his newspaper.

I looked up at him, but did not recognize him.  He made no acknowledgment of me whatsoever.  But he triggered a memory of a conversation I had near that same spot a couple of years ago.  In fact, I offered a post that featured that conversation once which you can read here if you desire:

https://fatbeggars.wordpress.com/2015/10/31/jesus-was-homeless-still-is-homeless-and-why-it-matters/

Well, the man triggered the memory, alright, but he did not look particularly familiar nor did he appear the slightest bit interested in me.  So, I went on with my work as he read silently there across from me.  I think we might have been sitting there in silence for about half an hour when the library security guard walked up to the man across from me and engaged him in conversation, at which point he dropped my “business” card on the table for the man to view.

At first my mind echoed the words of Jesus: “Who do the people say I am?”.  Neither man showed the slightest interest in me, and I presumed neither one knew the card was mine.  If they were going to speak frankly about it in front of me, there was every reason to believe they would not know they were discussing my ministry.  I might just find out who some people say that I am!

As you can see from this front/back scanned picture of my card, there is a photo of a tee shirt which says, “Jesus Was Homeless” on the face of the card.  The security guard wanted the other man’s opinion on it, but he made comment even before the other man responded.  He said, “If Jesus worked a job, then how can someone say he was homeless? … I work three jobs, I am not homeless.”  And then the man at the table said, “He probably is looking to get your money. … These people are always out to get your money.”  Then the security guard said, “I knew a Baptist preacher in Levelland that said if you don’t put $100 in the offering, you need not bother coming back….”

It was clear to me in a matter of seconds that these two geniuses disapproved of the “business” card and all it stands for, that they were willing to mischaracterize it in their contempt, and that the phrase “Jesus Was Homeless” had triggered it.  I am not sure at all why they thought I would seek money with it.  Perhaps they know that the Premier Homeless Church operates on a million dollar budget these days, and they dont see any end to the homelessness in sight despite all that money.  But I really don’t know.  Meanwhile, as I sat there watching this little discussion unfold, I thought to myself, this must be that guy who made his ugly little comment to me that day more than two years ago and then wouldn’t talk to me after.  Without realizing it, I must have recognized him after all!

I also decided there would be no constructive discussion of the matter at that point, so I just sat in anonymity and let them banter on like this trash-talking my ministry and those of others.  I think it is safe to say that the cavalier way they drew their conclusion about me based on my card calls into suspicion the color with which they painted the other ministers they criticized too.

Their conversation ended quickly.  The security guy moved on to other duties – I presume.  But I figure that both men have discussed homeless people at length before, and I am sure that library with it’s large homeless clientele, provides them plenty of fodder for those kinds of discussions.

Still, I wondered if there was any chance the security guard saw me leave that card where he found it … I wonder.  It is possible he hoped to stir up a controversy with me by playing this charade.  I think it is more likely that he did not see that it was mine, but either way is possible.

I continued reading on my draft, and after another ten minutes or so, the man across the table got up and left.  After a few more minutes I did too.  But I was armed with some interesting information now.  Who do the people say that I am?  They say I am out to get their money.  I am a crook.  You can plainly see it on my “business” card.

Hmmm…

It was a kick in the teeth.  I bet they even meant well.

As I walked to my car and packed up my bag to leave, I noticed the security guy had walked out the front door behind me.  He was many yards away by that time, but he seemed to linger there, almost as if watching me leave.  Gave me cause to reconsider whether he had seen me plant the card in the first place.  I was clear that these geniuses have not read my blog before.  If they had, they would know I don’t raise money.  In fact, on the contrary, I spend it on the poor.

What they can’t know (unless one, or both, of them takes the time to look up the web address for this blog) is that I purposefully packed my pockets with give-away money before I left the house.  Not a lot, but a bit.  Some I figured I could afford to part with when I found someone asking.

So, I was clear they misrepresented me in their little discussion about me right in front of me, but it still felt like a kick in the teeth.

Chapter 2 – I LOVE Broken Hearted Drunks

I almost drove home with my tail between my legs feeling a little defeated.  Almost.  It even crossed my mind to write here about the experience, and the title Kick In The Teeth just came home to roost.  But as I prayed on it, I decided to swing by the Walmart area nearby and give a quick looksee for anyone I might know.

I found a congregation of mostly homeless people gathered near the bus stop.  I got out of my car and approached.  Almost immediately, I encountered a man on a phone.  I asked if he got Wi-Fi, which he affirmed.  I gave him my card.  Then I was approached by a woman I did not recognize at first, but who called out my name in hopes it was me.  Once we got to talking, I recognized her from my time at the Premier Homeless Church (before they kicked me out (another kick in the teeth)).  It was Etta!  We barely reconnected before the bus arrived, and she had to go.

But then I crossed the street and was met by Jim!  Jim who I spent a night out front of the old St. Benedicts some years ago getting to know.  He was drunk of course, but friendly with the alcohol!  He was so excited to see me.  His cheer and gladness at seeing me really helped my mood.  Soon he was introducing me to the other guys on the curb and telling them what a great guy I am. (Who do the people say I am?)

This was one of those moments when I was able to say to Jim that I have prayed for him by name every day since the last time we met!  This stunned him.  He was speechless for a few moments.  But then he wanted to pray with me.  So we got on our knees there on the sidewalk, removed our hats, and prayed.

Jim made me feel loved.  Jim ministered to me!  And before we were done, Jim gathered all his friends around in a circle there on the sidewalk out front of Walmart, we all removed our hats, and we prayed to God with all our broken, contrite hearts.

Jim told me about his troubles.  His woman is back in jail AGAIN.  This makes him very nervous.  He does better when she is by his side.  She helps hold him together, he says.  I understand that.  I have a woman who does that for me too.  But it gave him great comfort to know that I had been praying for him.  It gave me great comfort to know I had given him great comfort.  I think Jesus was pleased to share this moment with us.

Soon after this encounter, I finally headed home for the night.  But I note this: I did not ask anyone for a solitary dime!  And just in case the two geniuses from the library take advantage of that “business” card’s web address and read here, let me just tell you now… I don’t want your money.  But if you want to pray for the homeless, or better yet WITH the homeless, I will be happy to facilitate that for you.

God bless…

Humanizing Homelessness

Yeah… what he said….

coloredchristianity

‘Give to the one that begs from you and do not refuse one who wants to borrow from you”-Matthew 5:42

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”-Matthew 5:44

Homelessness is a critical social problem that has plagued American cities and towns for centuries. According to author Bruce Jansson, homelessness became a increasingly visible issue in the United States in the 1980s after the de-industrialization of manufacturing jobs and the privatization of mental institutions. Since then, homelessness has become a population that nonprofits and churches have been interested in helping and/or serving. Several charities in America raise money to serve people experiencing homelessness, nonprofits have invested resources in advocating to end homelessness on both the state and national level, and homeless ministries remain an integral part of many church’s community outreach efforts.

While many facets of our society have developed and sustained a soft spot for people experiencing…

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Prophets -n- Friends

I don’t have a lot of friends.  Not too many close friendships.  Not too many shallow friendships either.  Tons of acquaintances, of course, but of those relationships rising to the level of “friend”… not so many.

Perhaps this is no real surprise.  Someone keeping a blog like this that stinks so much on the one hand and challenges deeply held views on the other suggests I will stick closer to principles than to people.  And that has me thinking.

I am reflecting on some of the more meaningful friendships I have (or have had).  Not all of them, but a few.  There are many friendships I could call meaningful that I will not review here, mostly because I don’t know how to characterize all of them.  But still, over all, I don’t have all that many to choose from either.

“Best Friend”

First off, I will say something about my “best friend”.  (I am not talking about my wife in this instance, though in reality, she qualifies for that label.  But there is another who I am thinking of here who can only fit in that label and no other.)

I met him in high school.  We endured a bit of conflict waaaaay back when.  In fact we spent most of a year not talking.  But we patched things up eventually, and have never returned to that kind of conflict since.  And now that I am slipping over the hump into the backside of middle age, as you can imagine, it’s memories we share mostly.  Zany memories, mostly from high school – but a few much later too, form the bedrock of our continued relationship even today.

My best friend is not “a believer” as some are apt to put it.  I don’t really know the width or depth of his spiritual life actually.  I have broached the subject a few times, and so has he, but we never really explored that kind of conversation in depth, and I sense strongly that he wants it that way.  I have no innate need to push it.  There is a rather obvious welcome mat laid out there if ever he wants to pursue it.  He came to my graduation from the Bible program at Abilene Christian University.  He is fully aware of my life of faith.  I am fully respectful of his boundary.

Of course, this limits our friendship.  Here I have such longevity with the guy, and we have been through thick and thin, but of the parts of my life that matter most to me, we share next to none of it.  (He does visit this blog sometimes, so he will have a chance to see these remarks.  I do not expect him to acknowledge them.  He has never left a comment or a “like”.)  But despite these limits, the longevity and memories are important to me (and to him, I think).  He is my “best friend”.

I think of my young friend in Phoenix that I recently reconnected with.  He too comes very near being a “best friend” in almost exactly the other direction.  For one thing, he is deeply devout about his faith.  He, like me, challenges others to live it true and not just in some feel-good, triumphalist, commercial sense.  But he is a lot younger than me.  I am almost old enough to be his father.

“SAD”

But I think of two friends I made over the years (recent years) that also impact me (or at least did before).  One of them is referenced on this blog in a handful of previous posts.  I designated him Special Agent D (SAD for short).  This man and I became de facto partners in ministry for about 5 years.  In fact he is the one who led me to the streets in the first place.  We are close in age.  He also was educated for a career in ministry (and actually preached for a couple of churches through the years).  And I think about the profound impact the adventures we shared has had on me ever since.

SAD and I went to the streets at midnight with a worship service and confronted the dark forces at work on people – principalities and powers thrusting them into drug addiction, prostitution, poverty and so forth.  God used us in amazing ways that blow my mind even still.

Apparently we had some conflict somewhere along the way.  I am uncertain, really.  It never came to a head exactly, at least not that I know of.  I will not exercise ALL of the things I think might be behind it, but I am, and always was, aware we had at least a couple of important differences between us.  However, I was always deeply appreciative of his friendship, despite those areas of discomfort in the relationship.

One I note right off, and I am not bashful about pointing this out, SAD always insisted on carrying a Billy-Bat with him to the streets.  I never saw him wield it.  I never saw him show it off to any perspective converts or bad guys.  But I was aware he carried it for “security” purposes.  I carried a large flashlight that could be used as a club too, initially, but eventually, I decided even this was not Christ-like.  Thus I stopped using it.  SAD never stopped carrying his “security” on these missions, that I know of.  If he had asked, I would have vehemently disapproved.  But we never hashed that out, and so I feel reasonably sure this is not the issue that divides us.

Whatever else, though, I am indebted to SAD for opening me up to those adventures.  And not only that, but I would not have been able (I don’t think) to vocalize the accounts of those missions in any meaningful way to our church.  He was a better speaker than me, and yet it was obvious we had a partnership.  We were a duo.  The duo was bigger than the sum of its parts.  I always felt that he complimented my weaknesses with his strengths, and I felt reasonably hopeful that I returned the favor – at least part of the time.

Still, my thoughts center mostly on the way that for most of 5 years we managed to have a very tight, close, relationship despite this important difference between us.  (There were a few others, but of about this caliber too.)  And I leaned on the guy.  He influenced me deeply.  I felt listened to by him as well.  Even if we didn’t hit on all 8 all the time, 7 were always firing in a good timely fashion.

How did we do that?

And then what happened to destroy it?

I don’t really know.  I am aware that some unusual circumstances arose that interfered with my life, but I really don’t think those are to blame.  I just know that after the smoke cleared with said circumstances, my efforts to reconnect fell flat.  It wasn’t stone cold silence – at least not at first.  But over time, silence has frozen me out.  And at this point, neither one of us attend that church where we met.  So I have next to no reason to even bump into the guy anymore.

Hmmm…

Task Master

And then I think of another relationship I developed with a coworker and fellow believer several years ago in the Psych hospital.  This was a woman from a minority race who probably was not old enough to be my mother, but I figure she had at least a full decade on me.  I knew she was a believer from the day I met her.  But I soon found out she was a very stern woman.  Very unyielding.  And once she took a notion to become critical, there was no stopping her.

It didn’t take long for me to fall under her scrutiny.  She never advanced an issue regarding faith or morality against me, but nit picked dozens (if not hundreds) of issues regarding the job.  She hounded me mercilessly.  I was new to the job and learning it.  I was a slow learner.  She would butcher me verbally over my performance almost every day.  I became the chum in the water for this shark.  And honestly, I could see the shock in other coworkers’ faces over it.  I recall a couple times when other staff intervened with snide remarks against her on my behalf – but this was rare, actually.

I took a posture of endurance.  I was devoted to patiently accepting her relentless criticism and cruel remarks alike with respect.  I would answer, “Yes, Ma’am” to her every grueling time.  There was one brief and impotent exception.  Once I was convinced that she was talking about me behind my back in extremely derogatory manner, and I took it to a supervisor and confronted her with it.  Of course she had plausible deniability, and denied it out right.  So, I learned my place as this woman’s daily whipping boy.

I can only imagine the picture that presented to staff and patients alike.  A black woman daily brow beating a white man.  We may have race problems in this society yet today, but I assure you, I have done my part in rectifying that!  I was under a LOT of stress daily.  I knew this woman was a deeply valued employee while I was a slow-to-learn newbie.  So, I conditioned myself to endure her with a smile and respect every day, while many nights I went home in tears.  She was always right, and no matter how hard I tried, it seemed I was always wrong.

I recall how my prayer life deepened during that time.  I began seeking humility as a matter of purpose.  It was painful.  Every day, I hurt in this bully’s presence.  Even when she was on vacation, I felt the weight of her on me.  I knew she was indispensable while I was expendable.  I kept my nose on the grind stone.  I coulda gave up a couple times.  I could have snapped and put her in her place, but I was sure that would earn me getting fired.  And so this went on for almost 2 years.

Yeah… 2 years… almost.

Then one winter’s evening there was an incident which for confidentiality’s sake, I cannot divulge.  But it involved me going outside the hospital in the freezing cold of night in a rough area of town to watch over a lady stranded in a broke down car while she waited for a wrecker service.  Oh, and did I mention she was the possible subject for a gang retaliation?  No.  I suppose I didn’t.

So I went out on the street corner in the freezing cold and snow and stood watch over this woman in her car.  I broke a number of protocols to do that and put myself in misery and jeopardy in the process.  But I did it as a matter of faith – a calling to be a shepherd of the flock even when the rules prohibited it.

My coworker, of course, found fault with it.  She began belittling me for it in front of the rest of the staff.  But this was a matter of faith, and she just had the wrong perspective on it.  So I confronted her nit picking barrage of criticisms telling her and all listening that I did it for Jesus despite the pain and dangers, and that if given the chance, I would do it again.

She never badgered me again.

In fact, inside of a week, she and I became very good friends.  Inside of a month, I was her right-hand man.  We worked together for the better part of the next 3 years, and over that time, she came to trust me, support me, promote me, and… dare I say… love me.  I found forgiveness to be just the natural progression in our work together.

I don’t see this woman anymore.  We don’t work together now.  But last I saw her, she was a good friend of mine.  And our admiration is mutual.  I see her as a very fine servant of God – flawed to be sure, but very important.  And she is a FRIEND.

These are some to the things I have been considering as I think about friendship.

This prophet business seems to alienate me from people.  I get kicked out of church, not because I sinned.  Not because I drank, smoked, fornicated, cussed, looked at porn… shoot … the pastor himself does that!  He is on record, having confessed it publically.  No.  I got kicked out for standing up to the STUPID idea that the homeless church should kick the homeless out on the streets during the freezing cold of night!  And my name is mud in this town now!

But I am quite clear that I can be friends with people.  I can deal with differences between us.  I can and do love people in their flaws.  I know what patience is.  I can do humility.  I can be your friend.

And I want some.

Need

I will let this post do its own talking…

It Is Well

On one of my completely unpredictable and random days in Athens I set up a meeting to get to know a woman from the UK who started her own nonprofit for refugees. I was randomly connected to this woman by a friend on Facebook so in order to meet her my teammate and I scheduled a time and place where she could tell us a little about what she does and introduce us to some refugee families in need. Here we will refer to the early 30’s, refugee-activist, as Sarah.

So Sarah my teammate and I set it all up via Instant Messenger and on one Friday morning we all set out to meet.

We arrived at the Metro stop we agreed on around 11am anxious to see who this woman was. We stood waiting as 10 minutes passed… then 15…. then 20…. and the British humanitarian was nowhere to be…

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It’s Raining Again (Yay! for those living indoors…)

We got a lot of rain about a week ago.  I did not say anything about it on the blog then.  I did see leadership from the Premier Homeless Church of Lubbock (not it’s real name) on TV after the first powerful storm rolled through proclaiming the hardships this causes for the street-homeless.  One of them even said they suffer terribly from the cold and wet of it all.

I guess I was just stunned.  These are the same people who kicked me out of church for insisting that we bring those same homeless people into our church building when it was freezing in the dead of winter.  They didn’t care about their homeless parishioners freezing in the cold and wet then.  So why now?  And if there is a change of heart, why not pick up a phone, call Agent X, and say, “Yo… We have had a change of heart about kicking the homeless out in the cold and wet.  You can come back and join us now.”

My phone is not ringing.

Well, to be completely honest, I am not there watching to see if they actually have an “Open Door”, but I am betting they don’t.  I bet the news clip just makes a nice sound byte and makes them look concerned.

I mean, I could be wrong about that, but if I am, then why not call me up and make nice?

Hmm…

I am not holding my breath.