(Warning! This is a long post. Copied from the old journal James Led A Prayer Today. All the disclaimers in purple text from recent previous posts apply here too, but I will skip reproducing them to aid in shortening this long winded entry.)
Here it is:
Sunday, December 22, 2013, Broadway [Cathedral] Church
I hate that this book [James Led A Prayer Today] seems to be turning into a book of complaints. Perhaps that is no bad thing. The worship book of Psalms certainly is full of them. In that sense, I am in good company.
We are having another cold weekend. It is not as bad as the previous two cold snaps, but it rained over an inch (as I hear it through the grapevine) back on Friday night. I also sent a message to the “executive minister” early that morning to see if he was looking for volunteers.
Friday night, when I got off work, I found a response telling me that the church was open [Yay!!!] but no need for me to volunteer to chaperone. I was pleased that it was open.
The “executive minister” and his wife had taken a small group of homeless people with them to Ruidoso, NM to the ski lodge for a few nights and were not in town on Friday night. [I happen to think taking the homeless to go skiing is pretty cool of them to do. No one ever asked, but I have that opinion of it, all the same. If you are going on a fancy vacation, why not take a less fortunate person too?] They also were not on hand to receive the [local bank] award of $10,000, and so [Mr. Big], the president of the board of directors over [Premier Homeless Pseudo Church] accepted it in their place.
All went well enough until Saturday afternoon (yesterday). [Agent MyDad] and I went to the “National Homeless Person’s Memorial Day” prayer vigil at Dave Frericks Park by the [other, here nameless, major homeless outreach organization]. The date for the vigil is chosen because Dec. 21st is the longest night of the year. The purpose is to commemorate people who die homeless. The event was sponsored by [a city health agency] and the [other, here nameless, major homeless outreach organization]. It also was covered by TV news cameras.
The sun did break out around 3:30pm on the vigil briefly, but mostly it was cloudy and cold with light/moderate winds. I believe the temperature was in the high 30’s F. There was a hotdog vender, prayers, a song, an address by Karen Garza, Mayor pro tem and a nice poem. We also used electronic candles as we remembered the homeless who died this past year.
It was about 10-15 minutes after the vigil started before the “executive minister”, his wife, and the handful of homeless people they took to the ski trip arrived. They drove “straight in” to the vigil, and reported that snows back in New Mexico had slowed their return. Some of the homeless came up and greeted me, but the ministers did not.
I approached the minister(s) and congratulated them. They seemed surprised that I knew about the $10,000 award. [Perhaps, since they had been out of town, they were unaware of the publicity of it. But that seems unlikely, actually.] But they accepted my congratulations with smiles. We didn’t seem to have anymore to talk about, so I drifted away.
The vigil closed with a poem that certainly was fiction, but resonated with the passage from Matthew 25:31-46. It was called “The Christmas Guest” and told about an old man who received a message from God that God would come eat at his place as a special Christmas guest. The old man made preparations and eagerly anticipated God to come. However, he was visited by 3 needy people with various troubles who he did not have the heart to turn away. The needy people used up his time and resources, but then no “special” guest ever arrived.
At the end of the poem, the old man laments that God had not come as promised, but then God speaks to him and declares that actually he had come 3 times and was welcomed 3 times. The poem is simple, and even lacks true artistic beauty, and still it is powerful as it resonates so powerfully with Jesus’ words in Matthew 25. And these were the closing remarks at the prayer vigil.
Then as [the gathering of small crowds] were breaking up to go our separate ways, the minister’s wife came up and greeted [Agent MyDad]. The odd thing is that she was pointing out that he was wearing shorts on such a cold day. It was like she was ribbing an old friend, but really she is not that close to him, and so it seemed like a social faux pas. I tried to diffuse it and said, “Well… he is from Seattle!” Then we walked away.
As we were withdrawing, some of the homeless group approached me to say that the [ministers] had decided to close the church building. Of course this was upsetting.
I gave a couple of them a ride up to the church after that. I saw the “executive minister” there again and waved him over as he was about to drive away.
I asked, “Are you really closing up the building again tonight?”
He said, “Yes.”
I asked, “Is there a lack of volunteers again, or are we teaching these people a lesson?”
He looked at me in the eye and said, “It’s warm….”
I was stunned.
That was the man’s word for the temp we were experiencing at 4 in the afternoon.
I have not written here about how that my wife has taken the last two days off work because she was sick with vomiting. But she did. And with that, among other pressures, I am not equipped presently to take people for the night. I could volunteer at the building, but that is not an option because “leadership has made a decision” and it is “warm.”
I managed to get away without anyone of the homeless confronting me or making request. I went home. And our family had a nice, memorable drive out to Ransom Canyon to see Christmas lights and then watch a movie together. Somewhere around 7:30 – 8pm, we began getting calls and messages from [Menace] and [H] (from Agent D’s phone) requesting a place to stay because they were getting “cold!”
My wife, [Agent MyDad], and I discussed this at length as we drove around looking at lights with the kids. My wife never gave an indication that she would take in guests. However, [Agent MyDad] did. And ultimately, he left our family get-together and went to McDonalds and got [H] and [Menace] and took them to his apartment.
In the middle of the night, around 1-1:30am, our oldest boy, [Special Agent C], who is now in the USMC, came knocking on our door to wake us up. It was a surprise – he came home for Christmas early! Suddenly we had yet another reason not to have a house full of guests. (Not that any of our reasons are worthy or excusable, but reasons all the same!)
By morning, it was snowing. The snow was short-lived and did not accumulate, but let us recall that the reason given for not opening the church building up was because it was “WARM.” I was starting to feel a lot of angst and anger.
I really want to belong to a church that seeks honestly and sacrificially to live like and be Jesus to the poor and needy. Calling it “WARM” [when it snowed later that night] was a [contemptuous] LIE by anyone’s measure – including the minister’s wife who puzzled at [Agent MyDad] for wearing shorts back at 4 in the afternoon. And really, I get that one, two, three, or four volunteers will not be enough to manage the problem every night of the winter. But there is NO EXCUSE for turning away fresh volunteers just when God sends them in the nick of time! And really, when $10,000 is freely given to your ministry, surely that is a resource that likewise calls forth action at just such a point!
I mean do you really think Lubbock voted [Premier Homeless Pseudo Church] to have all that money to be part of a ministry for the homeless when that ministry arbitrarily closes it’s doors AFTER the TV news cameras are gone? (Actually, I think that a huge number of “Christians” in Lubbock would approve of this nonsense, but maybe not enough of them to win that vote! And I am quite sure [Premier Homeless Pseudo Church]’s leadership would rather [not face the risk to] find out!)
And besides, as long as I am on the topic of $10,000, I am mindful that Shane Claiborne, supposedly a hero of these ministers, tells of a time (in his book The Irresistible Revolution) when he too obtained $10,000. He and his crew cashed it all into nickels, dimes, quarters, and small bills, stuffed it all into bookbags, went up to Wall Street (The Temple of Mammon if ever there was one), and declared a Jubilee as they cast all that money on the ground and street!
That may look like a waste of $10,000 if you are greedy, but it looked like Jubilee to those ministers – and I would agree! I bet I am the only one in my church that would agree with Claiborne on that point.
And so back to my lament, that I wish so much that I could belong to a church that really strived to live like Jesus. I mean at least an attempt to be biblical. It’s not really that complicated.
So, like I said, I get that 1, 2, 3, or four volunteers will not be enough. But opening that door serves far more homeless people with fewer volunteers than keeping it closed does. Still, if I keep 2 or 3 people tonight, you keep them tomorrow night, they stay with the Wilsons on Tuesday, and the Johnsons on Thursday, and back to me on Friday, we can do this all together.
On the other hand, it is deeply discouraging when I get NO help, [when] I see great money given to those who do not help (but claim they do on TV news Thanksgiving week) [and who in the meantime teach others NOT to help too (thanks Lupton, Corbett, and Fikkert!)], and when I (along with the homeless) endure the lie of calling this weather “WARM.” I mean… Why even have that prayer vigil? [Conscience salve???] Think of it: Even as that poem was read about taking God into our homes, church leadership was already deciding to kick people off the property for the night! Is this a CHURCH or not?
What would it have cost leadership to allow me to volunteer and chaperone the building last night? How is it any different from the night before when they did use volunteers?
So I went to [Agent MyDad]’s this [fine Sunday] morning and got [H] and [Menace] and took them back up to [Premier Homeless Pseudo Church]. We arrived around 8:30 am (I think) and the door was still locked. I could have driven away and come back later, but it was cold and that just is not right! So I decided to invite them out to coffee to kill some time.
But first I went up to the front door of the “church” under the watchful eyes of at least two of the new sophisticated surveillance cameras. I ascertained that the cameras have microphones on them too. So I invited the others to join me in a prophecy. I pounded the locked door, but looked into the camera and quoted Rev. 3:20 “Behold! I stand at the door and knock. If you open up to me, I will come in and eat with you….”
Then we went back to McDonalds where [Agent MyDad] had picked up [his guests] last night. Upon entering, they ([H] and [Menace]) noticed [Agent D]’s belongings sitting there. They both thought it was a sign that [Agent D] had spent the night in there. I was angry then.
However, it turned out, after asking [Agent D] about it, that he went to his “spot” last night and one of his friends came out to check on him and then took him in for the night. That made me feel better, but I was still in a lot of angst.
Then I saw Brent, a homeless man I met last time I volunteered at [Premier Homeless Pseudo Church] – a man who appears very fragile and sick. We found out that he slept in a tent up at “the Methodist Church” (St. John’s, I think). We gave him a ride back up there. [H] then told me that she has seen well-meaning people drop him off at [Premier Homeless Pseudo Church] where they mistakenly presumed he would be sheltered for the night. [Talk to me about When Helping Hurts NOW!] She said his pitiful little blanket with a big hole in it (which he was carrying this morning) is all the shelter he’s got. This got me steamed again.
By the time I returned to [Premier Homeless Pseudo Church] with [H] and [Menace] again, the door was open and numerous people had begun to gather inside. The ministers were there too. I stepped inside, but I had also just got a call from my wife, and so I intended to return to her again too. But first I spoke to some of those gathering and ultimately spoke to the “executive minister” as well.
I asked how long before he would close down the church again today. He said, “The usual time.”
I said, “When is that?”
He said, “Noon.”
I said, “You’re gonna run everybody out of here at noon today?”
He looked at me rather sheepishly. One of the other ministers out in the sanctuary was just then calling everyone to sit down “for class.” I said, “Have a good class,” and I left.
Sadly, I had not planned very well for any of these things. I returned home in time to see my wife and family off to Vandelia Church. [Mrs. Agent X] planned to join the kids back at that bunch. I was on my own and full of angst. I did not want to go to [Premier Homeless Pseudo Church]; I did not want to go to Vandelia. I really wanted only to worship with some people who would love Jesus – even if he were a homeless man. I was really worried that I might not be in control of my mouth if I went back to [Premier].
As I rolled up Broadway, I was thinking about heading out to Tent City and look for [Agent T] – one of the original prophets. But that would effectively be avoiding church.
Suddenly, I saw an empty parking spot out front of Broadway [Cathedral] Church. It occurred to me that Broadway [Cathedral] Church is the real [power] behind the leadership at [Premier Homeless Pseudo Church]. [Mr. Big] is one of the shepherds there. Perhaps I should “REPRESENT” there.
I went in and began collecting literature. I was greeted by a couple of elderly people, but mostly I felt out of place. I had never entered that sanctuary before. I decided to go sit down at the front. It was a long walk. The vaulted ceiling and stained glass were impressive.
As I approached the front, I saw [Secret Agent Stench], one of the foulest smelling human beings I ever knew, sitting slumped over on the third row. I greeted him, and he greeted me. Then I joined him.
[Secret Agent Stench] has a demeanor as repugnant as his smell [usually], but I was pleasantly surprised to find him greeting me and accepting my close proximity. I did not want to spoil the vibe with more talk. All I knew was that I have never been so happy to see [Stench] as that very moment. It is so ironic how seeing him there made me feel I was not alone.
Then as people began to pour into the auditorium, a lady came and sat on our row – several seats away, but she did stop by to greet me. She introduced her self as [Last name Big], so I asked if she was kin to [Mr. Big]. She said yes, he is her husband! I told her I know her husband, and she and I quickly began discussing [Premier Homeless Pseudo Church]. She was enthused about the award of all that money.
She pondered the newfound windfall and all the possibilities it holds forth for transitional housing and all. I kept thinking of Claiborne.
I don’t think [Mrs. Big] ever heard of me before, or if she did, then she failed to connect my name. She was friendly and not guarded with me. I bet that changes in the future.
I filled out a guest card with my name and address and phone number. The card also asked for a prayer request. I cannot quote myself exactly, but I basically called attention to the fact that I have friends from [Premier Homeless Pseudo Church] who are sleeping on the streets out in the cold while “Christians” have guest rooms that go empty night after night. I thought the shepherds should be praying about that.
[***Side Note here*** As of the publishing date of this post, I am currently unable to locate my notes about the subsequent contact this guest card elicited between one of Broadway [Cathedral] Church’s shepherds and myself. However, he did reach out to me and we traded a very few emails. He also invited me to visit him in his office there at the church building. However, when I arrived seeking the chance to meet with him, he left me hanging in the [lobby/]secretary’s office for the better part of an hour before finally sending word via the secretary that he was not able to meet with me after all. Thus I was stood up by this shepherd, and stood up in a very unpleasant way. Thanx for the nice wait in the lobby to find out you couldn’t be bothered, Brother! (Anyway, I will restrain from further remarks about that since I am unable to locate those notes currently since with memories over five years old, I would possibly misrepresent the facts if I got into the details of that part of this story.) ***End Side Note***]
[After filling out that guest card] I joined the worship with enthusiasm. I sang my heart out. I “Amen’d” the good sermon up one side and down the other. I have no doubt that my worship got noticed [as I was representin’]. And afterward, the little old lady in front of me was eager to greet me.
Then later this evening, [H] and [Menace] reached out to me again. This time I came for them, and they are staying here with us.
Perhaps the most notable thing is that [H] reports that this morning as leadership at [Premier Homeless Pseudo Church] was asking for verbal prayer requests, [H] made one regarding [Mrs. Agent X] and me. She wanted to thank God for us taking them in when the “church” would not! She said [Menace] noticed that the church became silent as she spoke it.
[Also] as [H] and [Menace] made their way down to McDonalds to meet me this evening, they were met by the “executive minister” passing by. He asked if they were not staying with me tonight. [H] told him they were. He gave them a ride to McDonalds to meet me! Ha!
[H] also reported that [Mr. and Mrs. Big] had hosted [the homeless for] a Christmas party at their house earlier in the evening. [Yay!!! Oh my God! Yay!!! We need MORE of that, not less!] She remarked on how big that house was and on the empty bedrooms. [No one, it seems, was invited to fill them.] I figure [Mr. Big] is in a position (since he was at [Premier Homeless Pseudo Church] this morning [while I was worshiping Jesus and visiting with his wife]), to both hear [H]’s prayer request and read mine.
I pray God is working on that man’s heart in new ways tonight. I pray his wife is helping that process.