Slowly Kicking Jesus (and me) Out of Church: The Beginning of the End (from the archives)

Archived 2013

In recent posts I have begun (temporarily) breaking with tradition on this blog and using actual names. So, let’s talk about that a moment.

Since I find the content of a few old journals so compelling and important to share, and since the narratives offered in them are so saturated with names, I will use first names of real people in the telling of these stories as an exception to the overall practice of this blog. It will keep things less confusing (something I have been criticized for in the past when several characters are portrayed as Agent This and Agent That over and over within a single account).

However, I will restrain myself from using any real names of any real people with whom I am in conflict or controversy (including my own name or those closest to me). I also will continue to use pseudonyms for institutions, organizations, and churches. If I attract local readers, especially those familiar with the streets of Lubbock, there is a strong chance they will know who I am referring to, but not necessarily, and people not local will almost certainly not know or figure it out.

Okay, enough with the disclaimers. From this point on, I will copy from the journal(s) with minimal editing and let the entries speak for themselves. I will be happy to entertain questions and fill out more context if needed in the comments section below.

Here is the entry:

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

 

The first thing to say is that TECHNICALLY it did NOT freeze last night. However, there is a powerful wind chill this morning that the weatherman claims feels like 29 degrees F.  (I do not believe wind chill can be objectively measured, but I do believe it is a real phenomenon.)

Anyway, I had offered to chaperone the street-homeless in the [Premier Homeless Pseudo Church]’s building last night if only they would open it up.  [I have been deployed as a volunteer for this service many times before.]  I was informed (later – via text msg) that [Pastor Bates] had decided against it.  But my offer had been made publicly in front of a handful of people who would have benefited.  [Btw, I prefer we do this kind of decision making out in the open rather than behind closed doors.  Leadership should be held accountable, I think.  I also happen to think that text msg communications are one of the weaker ways to handle official business. (Necessary, sometimes, of course, but so full of pitfalls that opportunities to avoid it should be taken – unless of course you want to keep you decisions and decision-making process on the DL.)]

This morning I stopped in at [Premier Homeless Pseudo Church] again and spoke to (and/or in front of) [Tiny], [Agent J], [Other Agent J], [R-man], [Agent D], Patty and others.  [Other Agent J] spoke of how cold it was and lamented that my offer to help had not been accepted.

[Tiny] made some off-hand remark about how that only people “on the team” can open the doors to chaperone the others.  No one made a distinction of whether I was part of that team or not, but I wondered about it.  [Having been a valued volunteer in the past, I didn’t really know.  Of course, since I was getting most of my information from “underlings” excluded from the power-broker meetings, I suspected I was not.]  I began asking nosy questions of [Tiny] to try and fish out more information without directly asking him if I had been excluded from “the team”.  We thus hashed out some issues, but settled nothing.

I asked, “Is there a temperature threshold we must reach [as a matter of policy] in order to decide it is time to open the building?”  [Tiny] seemed confused by the idea, but [Other Agent J] was not.  We explained to [Tiny] that [the other (here nameless) major homeless ministry in town] has a publicized policy that when the temp’s fall below freezing by 5pm, they open their doors – no questions asked.  [R-man] actually corrected this observation saying it triggers at 6pm instead of 5pm.

Still, [Tiny] did not know.

It all seems suspicious to me.  I am intrigued that [Tiny] is not better informed, and besides, his off-hand comment that started me fishing suggests (though does not prove) that he may know more than he is letting on.  I also have seen evidence over the past year that [Tiny] bends a lot of rules from time to time because he does not really find them to be right or good sometimes.  However, he is a junior partner [a none-decision making team member].  And I have sensed on some occasions (though this is not proof either) that he subtly has reached out to me for encouragement as he feels caught between rules he doesn’t like and pleasing his boss.

That is all speculation, I know, but my guts tell me there is truth being shrouded in that confusion – and I have long ago learned that these gut feelings are very rarely wrong.  And if I am right, about these suspicions, I expect [Tiny] will roll with me until the pinch is on, then he will back out on me.  He is a “bruised reed” – in my book.

But I do love and pray for him by name frequently.  I will continue to do that – even if he sells me out.  Jesus would.  So will I.  But I will not lean on this “bruised reed” either.

I do not envy [Tiny’s] position.  He does lack understanding.  But he has taken the role of a shepherd nonetheless.  I figure Satan will sift his soul.

*On the apocalyptic side of things, I believe we are a ministry driven by Republican/conservative politics who/which reach(es) out to the poor (typically Democrat/liberal domain).  This means we are trying to baptize Democrat ministry in conservative waters.

Conservatives hold that each person should be responsible for themselves.  The poor and needy have lost their way in the realm of personal (esp. fiscal) responsibility.  Yet conservatives also give lip service to the Bible and the God of the Bible.  This dictates clearly that Jesus shows concern for the poor and needy.  But, in the end, I said “lip service”, and not actually commitment to the very real, very deep, personal sacrifice Jesus clearly displays in a big waste on sinners!

…  [More of this upon request, but I doubt it proves useful from here on.  The rest of this entry is a lot of reflection on these matters, most of which (if you are a regular reader on this blog) you already expect from me.  If you are not, then it likely will not interest you.  However, I will share it IF someone really wants it.]

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A Tuesday Morning Inside Lubbock’s Premier Homeless Pseudo Church (not its real name) – Oh… (from the archives)

Archived 2013

In recent posts I have begun (temporarily) breaking with tradition on this blog and using actual names. So, let’s talk about that a moment.

Since I find the content of a few old journals so compelling and important to share, and since the narratives offered in them are so saturated with names, I will use first names of real people in the telling of these stories as an exception to the overall practice of this blog. It will keep things less confusing (something I have been criticized for in the past when several characters are portrayed as Agent This and Agent That over and over within a single account).

However, I will restrain myself from using any real names of any real people with whom I am in conflict or controversy (including my own name or those closest to me). I also will continue to use pseudonyms for institutions, organizations, and churches. If I attract local readers, especially those familiar with the streets of Lubbock, there is a strong chance they will know who I am referring to, but not necessarily, and people not local will almost certainly not know or figure it out.

Okay, enough with the disclaimers. From this point on, I will copy from the journal(s) with minimal editing and let the entries speak for themselves. I will be happy to entertain questions and fill out more context if needed in the comments section below.

Here is the entry:

Tuesday, November 5, 2013, Lub/TX 

(Inside [Premier Homeless Pseudo Church] at 9:00am)

I arrived at [Premier] Church this morning at about ten ’til eight.  As I drove up, I noticed immediately that the impromptu (unofficial) tent city at the corner lot (next to [Premier’s] parking lot) was cleared off of tents.  I have not been here in about a week, but it was obvious that changes were afoot in my absence.

I spoke to [C-man] as I approached the church-house door.  He told me the city had run everyone off that lot.  I found out, shortly after that, that they ran them off last Wednesday.  No one seemed to know where everyone went.

I have not written about the impromptu tent city in these books, but I did take pictures of it as it grew from one tent to about seven in the course of about a month.  These tents were merely a stone’s throw away from [Premier Homeless Pseudo Church]’s building.  But [Premier]’s policy [as it was explained to me as a volunteer] is to run off people from the property after 9pm.

I visited with a neighbor lady [from the homes across the street] who was upset about the noise level of the impromptu community and the eyesore they presented.  She had hoped that I would have authority to make changes, but I suggested 3 things for her to do:  I said she needed to pray for the people, then confront them, and if neither of those things improved the problem, then she should call the police.

I was surprised when she told me that she had fed some of them, opened her home for people to use her shower, and that she prayed.  I found out, then, her name is [Charity (not her real name)].  She seemed to accept my suggestions charitably.

Since then, I have gone.  Today I come back and find that [the tents and occupants] have been dispersed.  Sadly, no one tells me how they may or may not have prayed for the impromptu community.  No one seems to know where they dispersed to.  [Woe to the shepherds, says Ezek. 34.]

Then I entered the church house on the heals of [C-man] who immediately was told that he is not welcome to stay.  [Tiny (not his real name)], the day-staffer, explained to [C-man], right in front of me, that the doors are closed until 9:00am.

Now I looked around the room and plainly saw at least five homeless people sitting around in relative warmth and comfort with access to the phone, the fridge, and the computer.  But [Tiny] went on to explain that he had opened the door at 7:30am “FOR PRAYER TIME,” and that anyone who had not attended that prayer time was not welcome inside until 9:00.

I asked [Tiny] how long the prayers lasted.  He told me, “Five or six minutes.”  Then [C-man] expressed his anger and disapproval which made [Tiny] defensive.  [Tiny] then began telling [C-man] that “these are the rules” and that he was “not playing favoritism” and so on.  I immediately thought about how [Tiny] was making the same excuses for his actions as the Nazi war criminals at Nuremburg after the war.

[C-man] went away in a huff!  But [Tiny] turned to me, as I was turning away, and said, “It’s okay for YOU to stay.”  I openly said that I must decline him making an exception for me.

As I was walking out, [Other Agent J] came walking in and [Tiny] began turning him out too.  After [Other Agent J] got expelled, he came to me outside and suggested that we sit in my car where we could be warm.  Once we were in the car, I shared my 5-page typed up journal entry about inaugurating the Fat Beggars School of Prophets with him.  Then [Other Agent J] said, “How much would it cost for us to break the bread?”

He offered to make the purchase, and so we went down to Walmart where [Other Agent J] bought tortillas and grape juice.  Then we took the meal back to [Premier]’s church door.

On the way there, I specifically instructed [Other Agent J] NOT to criticize [Tiny], or those inside the church, but to simply offer an invitation.  But by the time we got back, the door was locked, and so we could not make an invitation to those inside.  On the other hand, we were joined by five people outside right in front of the locked church-house door where [Other Agent J] led us in song, prayer, and communion.

I dragged out two of my colorful graduation robes/gowns that are modified with our new logo: Fat Beggars School of Prophets.  We were quite a spectacle, but we drew a small worship assembly to the locked door.  And with [Burk] and May, along with two others I do not yet know, we worshiped.  [Burk] even took some to another friend around the corner!

Sadly, [Other Agent J] did criticize [Tiny] for not letting us come inside.  When he did this, I corrected him and reminded him that we would not do that.  And it wasn’t long before the door burst open and [Tiny] stepped out to confront [Other Agent J] for criticizing him.  [Other Agent J] immediately became defensive and denied doing that.

I stepped toward [Other Agent J] as he was denying his offense and said, “[Other Agent J], you owe [Tiny] an apology.”  Then I was amazed at how utterly and how quickly [Other Agent J] caved in.  He immediately said, “[Tiny], I’m sorry,” at that simple prompting.

 

[Notes made sometime after 11:00am, same day]

 

Well, it was 9:00am then, and [Tiny] invited everyone to come inside.  We did.  Soon [Pastor Bates] showed up and announced that he was holding a class at 10:00am.  I was writing this very journal entry during the intervening time.  [Other Agent J], pranced around in his prophet robe for about 20 minutes.

Several people either questioned him or commented on his [brightly painted and loudly colorful] robe.  He explained that we are prophets.  I heard [R-man] call him a “wizard.”  I sensed a twinge of jealousy in that criticism, but also a sense of disgust.  Wearing that robe is – well – pretty dorky.  You should be a bit humiliated at humiliating yourself, but neither [Other Agent J] nor I were feeling humiliated by our own self-imposed humiliation.  Instead, we were rather bold about it.

Later, [R-man] called me a “wizard” too, but I corrected him.  I said our robes were like a church choir.  He seemed to accept that.

However, in the meantime, [Pastor Bates] led us in a Bible study/prayer class at 10:00am.  I opted to stay for this one, and our text was Psalm 27.  We read it and reflected on what “waiting for God” is all about.  [Now, I want to bookmark this observation for later posts.  We were talking together at Pastor Bate’s own directive about WAITING FOR GOD.  I really don’t know WHY I noted that in the journal entry at the time, but it seems that some months later, this will have proved important, and so it’s good to hold out for that thought now and reference this later.]  I did not make any contentious remarks, but I did participate supportively as I could.

However, during that hour, there were a number of times that someone jiggled the  LOCKED CHURCH-HOUSE DOOR to try and open it.  [Pastor Bates] had begun the class by locking it shut and muting the phone.  Each time it jiggled, I felt a twinge of pain that we were keeping someone out.

I watched as [Agent J] went to the door and let in two different people two different times.  One of them was [L-man], and later there other was Patty.  I do not know how [Agent J] knew who to let [and who to ignore], but he did discriminate.  [I am guessing that Agent J was in contact via text msg with people outside the LOCKED church-house door during our Bible study time, and by that means he would know which people jiggling the door would be welcomed in despite the rule laid out by Tiny and Pastor Bates.]  As far as [L-man] is concerned, I recognize him as one who is favored (a volunteer, like me).

Anyway, these are the facts pretty much.  Now for the observations…. (I know, I already crossed that line a little and told what I was feeling about some of that….)

I noted that when [Pastor Bates] arrived, he was one of those who quizzed [Other Agent J] about his robe.  [Other Agent J] was excited to tell him everything, but I sensed that [Pastor Bates] got all he wanted in the first sentence or two of reply.

But [Other Agent J] did not stop there.  He also told about and showed [Pastor Bates] my Splash of Insight essay.  I figure that if [Pastor Bates] were to really read that document, he probably would not appreciate it and might recognize himself and his efforts there under scrutiny even though [Other Agent J] did not.  After [Pastor Bates] left [Other Agent J] there, I suggested that he put the essay up and hide it.  I said it is a dangerous document.  He was stunned, but I think he complied.

 

Another Treasured Story (from the archives)

Archived 2013

In recent posts I have begun (temporarily) breaking with tradition on this blog and using actual names. So, let’s talk about that a moment.

Since I find the content of a few old journals so compelling and important to share, and since the narratives offered in them are so saturated with names, I will use first names of real people in the telling of these stories as an exception to the overall practice of this blog. It will keep things less confusing (something I have been criticized for in the past when several characters are portrayed as Agent This and Agent That over and over within a single account).

However, I will restrain myself from using any real names of any real people with whom I am in conflict or controversy (including my own name or those closest to me). I also will continue to use pseudonyms for institutions, organizations, and churches. If I attract local readers, especially those familiar with the streets of Lubbock, there is a strong chance they will know who I am referring to, but not necessarily, and people not local will almost certainly not know or figure it out.

Okay, enough with the disclaimers. From this point on, I will copy from the journal(s) with minimal editing and let the entries speak for themselves. I will be happy to entertain questions and fill out more context if needed in the comments section below.

Here is the entry:

Sunday, October 27, 2013, Lubbock, TX

 

I went to church this morning at [Premier Homeless Pseudo Church (not its real name)] with [Mrs. Agent X].  I was hoping to hit the streets and take communion to the street people, but it was a hectic morning with a birthday to celebrate and kids to run hither and yon.

But last night, I painted several “Fat Beggars School of Prophets” tee-shirts and gave some of them to the kids.  I had wished that they might join me down on the streets [(these kids were teens at the time)] to share communion.  But… birthday plans and other things seemed to put my desires on the back burner.

I do not begrudge anyone for that, but I did feel neglected and/or deflated as I finally broke away to take worship to the streets.  I headed out late and alone.  [Feeling low, I had expectations to match.]

I [first] went to Tent City (the real one – that is the official one) and found [Agent T] who was eager to go with me.  I was glad for that.  I gave him one of my home-made shirts.  He was eager to wear it too.

We went back up to [Premier Homeless Pseudo Church (not its real name)] to look for [Other Agent J] but he had cut loose to go sell newspapers for the day.  I was really bummed about that.  …  But we found a new Hispanic man named Michael who is recently released from prison.  Michael did not know us, but, as he later said, “I didn’t have anything better to do.”  Boy!  That’s  an understatement.

By the time I dropped him off [at the end of our mission], Michael was “on fire for Jesus”!

[The Holy Spirit, it seems, sent us to find] James and May behind the Rodeway Inn on some old crappy mattresses and busted sofas.  And there were a congregation of almost ten others with them.  I did not [do a head count, nor did I] know most of them.  But as I approached, I asked if we could “bust out a worship service with them”.  They WELCOMED us completely.  I even attempted to set up a few paces away from them to give space to any who might object, but they vocally [and in one accord] insisted that [Agent T], Michael, and I join them in their huddle.

I set up a make-shift table and cracked out the bread and “wine.”  As I did this, I explained that we are a group of prophets who reveal Jesus in his meal at the place of shame, pain, and despair.  This opened a rich theological dialog with three or four of them.

I led us in a prayer and in a round of Amazing Grace.  I was blown away by the level of interest in every person there (except Lee who was asleep in his chair).  All of them participated in the prayer and eating the [Lord’s Supper].

Two people stood out in the crowd (along with May).  One was a man I had seen in church earlier who introduced himself as Charles.  The other was a woman named Kristen.  Charles shared a lot of insightful Scripture right from his heart.  Though he could not quote it precisely [or offer proper citation], he could quote enough to recognize what he was saying.  And he spoke of Jesus, “the physician”, who came for the sick and not for the well.

Kristin shared the citation from Matthew 25 about visiting those in prison.  She said she read that in prison and lived there three years, yet no one came to visit her.  She also sang original songs that she had composed for Jesus while in prison.  Her contribution was deeply touching.

I kept looking at [Agent T], whose eyes seemed to encourage me to settle in with THIS group.  We were not taxing their time; they (unlike all the rest of Lubbock – or so it seemed) had “nothing better to do”.  We were WELCOME – Jesus was WELCOMED – among the lowly!

I made comment on this.  I was amazed at how WELCOMED I felt there.  Kristin poured out her heart, so did May.  There was a generous charity among them toward one another and to us [missionaries].

We spent about twenty minutes communing, praying, and singing with these people in the tall weeds and stickers on the empty lot behind the Rodeway Inn.  Then [Agent T], Michael, and I packed it back up, collected the cups so as not to leave our mess behind.  (However, we left a bit of bread and a cup of “wine” with Lee, who slept through the whole thing.)

[Agent T] and I dropped off Michael at [Premier Homeless Pseudo Church (not its real name)] again.  I thanked him for coming and told him his presence was a blessing.  Thinking about how he had “nothing better to do,” I told him that I could have stayed home and watched the Cowboys game, but this was more important than that.  He said he didn’t care much for the game, so I said, “I could have been out making a million dollars, but this was more important than that.”  I could see his eyes light up as the notion impacted his mind like a two ton heavy thing!

As we left Michael, and I drove [Agent T] back to Tent City, I told him that I had heard a modern parable a few years ago that put a new perspective on life for me.  The story goes that a rich man who headed at least one major, multi-billion dollar corporation went to Alaska for his yearly, week-long, fishing trip.  It was the only time he took off from working day and night all year.

The rich man found a secluded place to fish where he could be alone but suddenly a local Eskimo man wandered up nearby and began catching fish at an astonishing rate.  The rich man was stunned and asked the Eskimo man his secret.  The Eskimo man had an amazing, home-made, fish bait that no one in the world ever used before.

The rich guy began counseling the Eskimo man on how he might capitalize on the fantastic fish bait and sell it for a lot of money.  But the Eskimo man said, “Then what would I do?”  So the rich guy told him he could develop a product line in a manufacturing firm and make even more money.  And again, the Eskimo man asked, “Then what would I do?”  The rich guy told him he would need to develop advertising and marketing strategies to keep up with all the business so he could make even more money.  And yet again, the Eskimo man asked, “Then what would I do?”  To which the rich guy explained how he would need to work out logistics and distribution so that he could keep customers happy and then make even more money.

One more time, the Eskimo man asked, “…and then what would I do?”  And finally the rich guy said, “I don’t know.  Go fishing?”

The Eskimo man looks at his fishing pole and all the fish in his bucket and said, “I’m doing that already.”

After I recited the parable about the futility of pursuing all that wealth, I told [Agent T] that what happened in that lot behind the Rodeway Inn was some of the most important business that was conducted in all of Lubbock that day.  I went on to say that the city council will meet tomorrow to conduct business which will effect millions, if not billions, of dollars and the future for thousands of people.  [It might be worthy to note just about here, that the property developer who was currently ‘revitalizing’ the district of Lubbock where we held that worship service, was mayor of Lubbock too, in recent years.]  But none of that is ANYWHERE NEAR as important as the council meeting we had just held in that empty lot.

There will be a great day of Judgment one day when the King comes and sits and opens the books.  When he asks, “Who conducted MY business in MY world for MY name’s sake?”, the city council will not be in a position to answer.  We, on the other hand, will be in exactly that position.  We were blessed to see the beautiful presence of Jesus in that shame, pain, and despair.

Our imaginations were opened.  Those people in that lot will remember that worship service – perhaps for the rest of their lives.  Did it make sweeping change in everybody’s hearts?

Maybe not.

But in the hands of God?  Maybe so.

Probably, though, we planted seeds that will find growth in the mysterious will of God.  Any (or all) of us may play some role in that.  Some of them may not grow at all.  Nevertheless, planting seed of the Age to Come in the imagination of these people is thrilling and beautiful and will be meaningful forever.  [Prophetic, really.]

I had left the house feeling low.  I did not have the mojo.  I felt a little defeated, even.  But once [Agent T] and Michael joined me, then we had two or three gathered in the Name.  I really think both of these guys felt similar to me – and they found it amazingly easy to drop what they were doing (which was “nothing better to do”) and found Jesus in the streets.

I could likewise say the same for those who WELCOMED us.  They appeared to be existing in a lost place when Jesus came calling.  They WELCOMED him into their midst – into  their hearts, and we ate and partied with Jesus in the sticker patch behind the Rodeway Inn.  [And just then Agent T noted there had been twelve of us there with him.  And that really felt PROPHETIC.]

Plunged In Jesus and the Streets of Lubbock (from the archives)

Archived 2013

Ripped from the journal pages of Agent X again:  Several first names appear in this post again.  Again, this is a break with common practice on this blog.  See recent posts from earlier in this week for discussion of making exceptions.

[Btw, sleeping in the park in Lubbock is illegal.  You gotta watch for the cops with that one-eye-open, but it’s worth it to be with Jesus.]

Thursday, October 3, 2013, Lubbock, TX

 

I spent the night in Memorial Park on Broadway and Ave Q last night.  I met Steve-O, Patty, [Agent J] and Ricardo there for communion.  [Agent D] and a couple of others were there too, but they did not “partake.”  Then I made out a bed next to the others on a very uncomfortable camping cot.  (It beat sleeping on the bricks!)

Patty is sick with a sore throat, and Steve and I went to Walmart to purchase Nyquil for her.  [Agent J] participated eagerly in communion by dedicating it to his mom, who he visited with by phone yesterday – which he claimed was rare and remarkable.  Steve opened the service with some meditative thoughts, and Ricardo closed it with meditative thoughts.

As we drifted to sleep, the group asked if I would drive them to a free breakfast at the Episcopal church on 16th and X at 6:30 in the morning.  I agreed to it, and we had a fantastic meal together this morning.

While there I greeted Catman, Andy, Ishmael, James, May, and Lee (among several others).  I had prayed specifically for each person at my table yesterday morning on the way to work, and now here they were eating breakfast with me!  I told them that I had, and Ishmael seemed most impressed.

After breakfast, I raced home to get kids off to school, but then returned to take Patty to the doctor’s office.  Then I met Randy and Ricardo up at [the Premier Homeless Pseudo Church (not its real name)] where Randy wanted to discuss a passage from I Cor. 3.  The two of them chewed on that Scripture for 45 minutes – at least.

Street Report “Clash of Cash-n-Trash” (from the archives)

Archived 2013

What follows below is copied from the personal street journals of Agent X, as mentioned in recent posts.

 

 

Sunday, September 29, 2013, Lubbock

 

7:35 am  Memorial Park at the corner of Broadway & Ave Q

The temperature outside just now is 47 degrees Fahrenheit.  The sun has not yet arose on Lubbock, but the daylight has dawned.  There is one last person wrapped up in blankets on the park bench sleeping, but the others have packed up and gone now.  Still several walk by the intersection here where Tent City originated.  I recognize some; others, I don’t.

I am thinking of worship this morning, and how [the Premier Homeless Pseudo Church (not it’s real name)]  sits empty at this hour.  I saw one figure asleep in blankets on the back stoop there – out of range of the security cameras.  There are needs and opportunities to serve at this hour, but the church and the world around its building are all ordered in such a way as not to fill those needs or opportunities.  Somehow that seems wise?

This neighborhood, sometimes referred to as “The Tech Ghetto,” is currently undergoing a massive 10 or 15 year revitalization project thanks mostly to the [here nameless] property developers.  I cannot [accurately] estimate the amount of money invested here, though it surely exceeds hundreds of millions of dollars.  Yet it also is the home of [Premier Homeless Pseudo Church] and maybe three quarters of Lubbock’s street-homeless population.  I call it “Cash meets Trash.”

I see no expense spared in the development project, but I do see most expense spared in the care for the poor.  Shops and boutiques in the area place signs at their doors that say “No Public Restroom” and church buildings with steeples reaching 4 or 6 stories high have locked doors, security cameras, and no loitering policies.  At night, the homeless are left to their own devices, and to my knowledge they have no legally sanctioned places in this area to lay their heads.  To lay down in this area at night is to break the law (it appears to me).

To be fair, I am not saying that the churches offer no help.  They do.  There is clothing and food and showers and phone, mail, and other social services including life skills classes and recovery groups.  These are not insignificant ministries at all.  I want to be clear that I am in favor of all of that.  I in no way wish to discourage it.

These ministries are important.  They touch a lot of lives in very useful and helpful ways.  A lot of street people benefit greatly from the aid and care they receive from these ministries.  Most of these ministries center on [Premier Homeless Pseudo Church].

The staff at [Premier Homeless Pseudo Church] centers on two key individuals – but they are married to each other.  They are full-time staffers and are paid by two different churches.  Both are college educated and dedicated to careers serving the needy – one is Bible educated and the other trained as a social worker.  Together they make a potent team.

As I reflect on all these observations, I see a couple of people at the center of an organization that ventures into the crushing mix of Cash-n-Trash.  There is no doubt that the tasks they take on in that Clash of Cash-n-Trash are daunting.

The Cash side of the equation appears to hold the power and wisdom – appears to enjoy the party, appears to have mastered the domain.  The Cash side enjoys the BLESSINGS we all want to enjoy (in general terms).

The Trash side of the equation appears to be weak and foolish – appears to be left out of the party, and appears to be rejected by the Master.  The Trash side seems CURSED.

However, there is the matter of human dignity.  It stubbornly refuses to just let people die and not care.  And the staff at [Premier Homeless Pseudo Church] has now reached out to the Trash side having remembered the human dignity from the Cash side.  the [Premier Homeless Pseudo Church], then, stands in the middle of the Clash.

The thing is: as they stand there, they reveal some other dynamics at work.  These caring individuals from the Cash side, bought by the Cash side, sent by the Cash side to do the work the Cash side otherwise does not want to deal with, finds that there are significant elements within the Trash side that resists the [efforts] of the Cash side.  These ministers in the middle (having come from the Cash side and being paid to be there by the Cash side) are quick to point out that the Trash side not only sabotages the Cash side’s efforts, but sabotages its own Trash side.

It is commonly called “Addiction.”

These ministers in the middle of the Clash (but from the Cash and supported by the Cash) note and preach that when you empower Trash, it creates more sabotage for the Cash side and the Trash side.  You just can’t throw Cash at Trash and expect it to become Cash.  Therefore, these ministers seek to find ways to manage the addiction(s) that sabotage the efforts to turn Trash into Cash.

Now that is the part the ministers in the middle (from the Cash and paid by the Cash) openly reveal about the Clash.  However, there are other elements revealed here too, but neither the Cash side nor the ministers in the middle (who are from the Cash side and paid by the Cash side) will openly reveal – and it is likely they cannot see them.  And perhaps the biggest glaring oversight is all the dedication to the Cash.

Let’s face it: the Cash side of this neighborhood affords overwhelming party and BLESSING to those who master the domain (that is to the Cash).  Between the fine homes, fine cars, sky box seats at the ball games, fine dining, fancy clothes, and beautiful women, it’s hard to imagine why anyone who enjoys such BLESSING would want to order the world any other way.  For that matter, even the Trash side does not want the world ordered differently; they just want some of that BLESSING too.

Thus at root the Clash reveals, despite what the ministers in the middle (who come from the Cash side and are afforded by the Cash side) will tell you that there is a deep devotion to the Cash of which the Cash side is champion.

But here is where it begins to get treacherous.  When the ministers in the middle (who come from the Cash and are paid in Cash by the Cash) speak from the Clash and report to the Cash that the problem with Trash is the Trash, then they are telling the Cash what it WANTS to hear.  The Cash side is having a party with the music turned up loud enough that the cries of human dignity from the Trash side can barely be heard.  But [still the Trash] stubbornly haunts the Cash side anyway.  [So] when the Cash side sends an investment [of conscience salve] into the Clash and gets a report that the problem is in the care shown for the Trash, then the Cash gets legitimated in its own eyes.

There is an irony at work here.  The ministers in the middle (who are from the Cash side and supported by the Cash) point the finger at the Cash and say the problem is there (with the Cash) [thus] letting the Cash off the hook at the same time!  [All the while asking the Cash side for MORE of the Cash so they can continue “HELPING” the Trash in THIS way, and finding the conscience-burdened Cash side all too eager to send more Cash for THIS kind of “HELP”!]

It is a smoke screen.  It is a self-deception.  No one ever stands up and says, “Hey!  Greed is a sin, and it is taking over the neighborhood!”  Instead they say, “Don’t give your [Cash] to the poor; they will just waste it on [Trash]!”  And the crazy part is that the ministers “in the middle” then put their own hand out to receive what ever alms might otherwise have been given to the poor.

In all of this, I see people speaking up for the Cash.  No matter where one stands in this neighborhood or in the care for the poor, it seems all the concern is for the Cash.  It seems that we must manage the Cash wisely.  We must attend to the Cash carefully.  We must not waste the precious Cash from whom all BLESSINGS flow!

And so, as I said, I am thinking about WORSHIP this fine Sunday morning as the church house sits empty but the streets and alleys are littered with the [rejects of humanity and the stains of human indignity].  And I am wondering what role WORSHIP plays in the Clash of Cash-n-Trash.

It seems to me that we are WORSHIPING alright, but it is not the WORSHIP of YHWH whose image is stamped on the poor as well as the rich.  Rather it is the WORSHIP, the subtle and seductive WORTH-SHIP, of money, whose image is stamped on the rich and not the poor.  And the ministers in the middle (who come from the Cash and are supported by the Cash and who give report to the Cash side that Cash should not be expended on the poor because it will be wasted) have demonstrated that they place value (and thus WORTH-SHIP) on the Cash itself [- perhaps without even realizing it].

[Yes, I am answering their report to the Cash – that report that says when well-meaning people from the Cash side who are troubled by the stubborn issue of human dignity, no matter how well-meaning, thus give Cash to the Trash, they then waste the precious Cash and in the process harm the Trash – yes, that report… and I am saying that to the degree that report assumes those “misguided” alms-givers are well-meaning, these ministers “in the middle” likewise may well be deluded about their idol worship.  I do not claim they intentionally set out to harm the Kingdom of God with their worldly wisdom at all.  But they are nonetheless doing the very harm they claim they sidestep.]

[Check this out:] The Bible knows nothing of addiction.  A woman caught in the act of fornication is spared and told to “go and sin no more” (John 8:11) with no thought given to how she might be powerless over her sin.  St Paul asks, “If you have died with Christ to the elements of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as ‘Do not handle; do not taste; do not touch’?” (Col. 3:20-21).  Is Paul making a case we should indulge?  No.  But he clearly knows nothing of “addiction.”

The Bible, and Jesus especially, clearly says a lot about money and about the rich and the poor.  And though wealth is never characterized as sinful, per se, time and time again the Scripture tempers regard for wealth (Lev. 19:9-10; 23:22;25:35-55; Deut. 17:17; 24:10-22; Prov. 22:16; 29:20;  Eccl. 2:4-11; Isa. 5:8; Luke 1:53; 6:24 (just to name a few places)).  And the God of the Bible clearly joins himself to the poor in disturbing ways.  It is quite arbitrary, actually, to favor the rich over the poor, and counter to God’s Word both in the number of times his Word addresses the issue(s) and in the potency with which he address it (them).  And we have not even begun to discuss the way the church in Acts 2 and 4 alleviate the poverty among their ranks which hearkens us back to the rich man Jesus encounters in Mark 10.

And above all, YHWH is one God and Lord.  True and almighty where all others are false and/or non-existent.  And YHWH is jealous!  And Mammon is a competitor for his WORSHIP.

Now this is something the Bible clearly repeatedly addresses in the most potent terms.  And it actually goes to the heart of the Clash of Cash-n-Trash.  We need to get our WORSHIP straightened out.  We need to get ourselves knelt at the altar of YHWH and not of Mammon.  I strongly expect that WORSHIP of YHWH in Spirit and Truth will involve prayer, song, Scripture reading and preaching, and will center on the messianic meal (the PARTY of Heaven!) and immersion in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene (Acts 2:38).  But I also think it will involve Jubilee celebration that features the forgiving of debt(s) and other expressions of value and WORTH-SHIP of the image of God stamped like human dignity on the poor – and other ways of wasting Cash!  [Wasting Mammon is not a problem for WORSHIP of YHWH.]

I expect that if we jettison all the psych-O-babel about addiction and take more seriously the matter of WORSHIP of YHWH, not abandoning any of the ministries already in place, but making them secondary to the WORSHIP all the same, that we will find the world will change.  I also expect that we will find Jesus in the poor (Matt. 25:40) and that he may well be empowering all the resistance to the Cash (that pesky sabotage problem may actually be his own hand at work).

The prophets of long ago (especially, but in no way limited to Amos) championed the cause of the poor in the face of the rich.  And where there is a problem between the rich and the poor (the Clash of Cash-n-Trash), the Bible consistently finds the problem in the Cash side’s greed and brings conviction there rather than blaming the poor, addiction, or the manner in which aid is rendered, (Ezek. 34:1-10; Pss. 10; 82; Amos 2:6; 4:1;5:11-12; 6:1-8; 8:4-10; Mic. 6:12; Luke 16:19-31).

The smoke screen has obscured our WORTH-SHIP of YHWH.  He wants to see you part with your love of Cash on his behalf.  It is a deep sacrifice, but it is consistent with his command.  And the Master himself warns that it is actually easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the rule of God! (Mark 10:23).  But if that rich man gets his WORTH-SHIP straightened out, forgives the debts owed him, then he too can be forgiven his debts as well (Matt. 6:14-15).

(We will be praying for our ministers.  Their job is not easy.  It may not be thankless, but not thanked enough.  And it can be very discouraging when so much effort yields so few results.  [Unless of course, they are distracted by all the wealth donated to their conscience salve programs!]  Also, it can be hard to discern what is good, right, and proper [sometimes].  Thus the need to be taken to God in prayer, and that would be a good place to start.)

“I Need My Mommy!”

Reminds me of that blog post I found a few years ago called, If it cries, hold it.

jesusoncolfax

ROOM 36

It’s early. Really early. Just after 3 a.m. early.

I am up, sitting in my chair, close to the sliding glass door that is the entrance to Room 36. Praying. Most nights find me here, middle of the night, in this chair.

The rap is tentative and quick. Like the rapper knows this is an imposition.

I am tempted to ignore it; after all, it is the middle of the night.

But Room 36 is about showing up and loving people; right now, it seems I should answer.

I slide the curtain back. No one. I peer left and there she is, leaning over the rail. Minnie,* one of our friends and part of our odd flock.

I open the door. She walks over, looks me in the eye and says, “I need my mommy.”

Something in my heart melts and I forget that it is the middle of the…

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“Opening Doors” With Toilets

Two great quotes from this story:

1 – “If you have moral clarity, you aren’t in deep enough.”

2 – “This only happened, says Lloyd, because he had gotten to know this man as a human being — a connection that, in this case and many others, started with a toilet.”

 

This link sent to Fat Beggars by one a reader/contributor.  Get the full skinny here:

https://www.npr.org/2019/08/03/746581586/seattle-mans-toilet-kit-for-the-homeless-brings-privacy-opens-doors

James Led A Prayer (from the archives)

Since my last post was so uplifting, positive, encouraging and thus successful in affecting repentance, inspiration and change (it got all of 9 hits so far), I decided to copy more old journal entries into the public record.  This journal copied today is called James Led A Prayer Today based on the content of the very first entry. (James and May are a feature of the last entry too, which makes it poetically fitting, I think.)   As you can plainly see, by posting such a title, I am breaking with tradition on this blog and using actual names.  So, let’s talk about that a moment.

Since I find the content of this (and a few other old journals) so compelling and important to share, and since the narratives offered in it (them) are so saturated with names, I will use first names of real people in the telling of these stories as an exception to the overall practice of this blog.  It will keep things less confusing (something I have been criticized for in the past when several characters are portrayed as Agent This and Agent That over and over within a single account).  

However, I will restrain myself from using any real names of any real people with whom I am in conflict or controversy (including my own name or those closest to me).  I also will continue to use pseudonyms for institutions, organizations, and churches.  If I attract local readers, especially those familiar with the streets of Lubbock, there is a strong chance you will know who I am referring to, but not necessarily, and people not local will almost certainly not know or figure it out.

Okay, enough with the disclaimers.  From this point on, I will copy from the journal(s) with minimal editing and let the entries speak for themselves.  I will be happy to entertain questions and fill out more context if needed in the comments section below.

Here is the entry:

 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

 

Yesterday I met with James and May and Suzie and their friend (I forget his name – maybe Ron Lee) in the empty lot behind the liquor store and down the street from Walmart.  We sat on the ground in the shade of the lone tree on that lot.  The others sat on old sofa cushions, but I sat in the [debris strewn] dirt.

They drank booze and apologized for cussing in front of me.  Suzie spoke of her desire to get in a rehab program and sober up.  James encouraged her to get serious about it, while she gave him a beer.  The friend [Lee] spoke of his home in New Jersey and his military [service].  Before I left he mentioned his schizophrenia as he tried to ask for help obtaining a prescription for that problem.

I read Proverbs 31:6-7 to them, and we talked about that text.  The conversation seemed to invigorate them.  And though I could not see the relevance, James told me that he is a published poet and writer.

Our conversation was brief.  I think I spent less than fifteen minutes with them.  Our time was interrupted by a call from [Agent L], my wife, who was sick and needed me to return immediately.  The whole group expressed concern, and so I asked James to pray for her.

We all gathered hand-in-hand in a tight circle, avoiding the spill of beverages, and James prayed for my wife.  He led a very warm and heart-felt prayer for her.  When he was done, he apologized for his slurred speech.

May spoke up to recall that I had “saved James’s life” last winter when his alcohol withdrawals sent him into a seizure and coma.  I reminded her that [Agent L] had saved him.  Then they blessed me, and I blessed them and left.

This moment is significant because these people are very near the very least of my brothers and sisters (Matt. 25:40), and we met at the place of pain, shame, and despair in our town and prayed together.  Heaven was watching.  Whatever else may or may not have happened yesterday, whether deemed important by church leaders or civic leaders or doctors and lawyers, heaven is a witness for the Age to Come that James prayed today.  More than a mere two or three gathered together in the name of Jesus on that dusty lot, and he was in our midst (Matt. 18:20).

I was there to see it.  I too am a witness.  This is my testimony.

 

 

-RIP James, my brother and friend

BEHOLD!!! The Heart of Worthship (from the archives)

“They don’t build monuments for critics” as the saying goes, and I understand that.  The visionaries and leaders we normally celebrate actually DO SOMETHING or BUILD SOMETHING – something tangible they bequeath to those who come after them.   The critics may be right to criticize, in some cases, but even when they are, they tend to be a drag on the visionaries.

This blog and the ministry that goes with it engages largely in prophetic critique.  If you read here much, you surely have figured that out.  However, there are a handful of accomplishments produced by this ministry that are quite beautiful creations (God’s own handiwork) that are not about critique at all.  I want to bequeath a beautiful, monumental moment in time.

Today’s post is copied from a personal journal I kept several years ago, one of MANY – actually.  The title of that journal is Splashes of Insight.  Today’s post is copied from that handwritten composition notebook which I carried with me and wrote in as I camped on the streets of Lubbock offering ministry among the homeless I found there.  Splashes of Insight was not written so much to document the things I did or witnessed as much as to reflect on things I was thinking.  However, you will see both are involved, really.

I will edit (and drastically shorten) the account, but what follows is basically what I wrote a long time ago.  Here it is:

Thursday, October 31, 2013, Lub/TX

Recent events and reflective writings have me thinking about last April 14, when we inaugurated our school of prophets around the lunch table following worship services [at The Premier Homeless Pseudo Church (not its real name)].  The men from the streets who attended [lunch that day were [Agent T], [Agent M], [Agent J], and [Other Agent J].  They all crammed into the family car, made the journey across town, crowded around the small dining table, (which also fed my wife, three kids, and me) [and we ate together].  [And despite the fact that we had just attended a worship service, we again] sang Amazing Grace, talked about a passage of Scripture ([II Kings 6:24 – 7:20], which we related to our lives and mission), prayed, and ate steaks grilled on the fire, and “partook” of the communion sacraments [a second time that day].

[You might think the redundancy of it all would have bored us to death, but] I recall the look in the eyes of the men … as they thrilled over the experience.  They had come to a Holy Place with astonishment.  [Yes, our kitchen table was utterly transformed and we were transported.]  The men were so eager to pray, sing, discuss Scripture, and eat that I dare say I have never seen people more excited to do those things in all my life.

These men appeared to me as if they were overcome with a newfound passion.  There was a new life expressing from within them.  Dare I say: They were moved by the Spirit of God?

Yes.  I am going with that.

These men could have gone out to sell papers for the Avalanche Journal the rest of the day, or they could have gone to the soup kitchen, or they could have run out looking for booze or a football game or any number of other things.  But they chose to cram into the family car and see where it would lead.  [Who does that where you go to church?]

They humbled themselves as they “rose to their knees” (an expression I heard this past week) and accepted a charitable invitation.  They gave up control over expectation and even personal safety.  I mean, even though they are poor and humble by most neighborhood standards, they risked everything they had and everything they are as they [crammed into our car and accepted THIS] invitation.  [They did not know me.  I was a stranger to them just as they were to me (mostly).]

[Once there, t]hey received simple worship direction – you know – all the things that seemed so boring about church when you were a kid!  And they ate a fine meal, like (and by “like”, I mean in dynamic rather than degree) the meal Abe and Sarah serve to the Strangers (Gen. 18:1-9).  But these men were not bored, nor did they miss the ball game, the video games, or the booze!

No.  The astonishment in their faces, the thrill in their voices, the edge-of-their-seat, eager postures of these men portrayed a contact with God on the order of the twenty-four elders falling down before the throne of God (Rev. 4:10).  Someone greater than the Dallas Cowboys was here!

I am a witness to it.  I saw it.  I participated.  I was there.  I think I know what Nikola Tesla experienced when he produced lightning in his laboratory – only I saw God’s face, rather than his finger!

But I am thinking now about what I saw.  I am re-examining it.  I want to go to that Holy Place again!

 

“Let us go up to the House of the Lord.

Our feet shall stand within thy gates!  Oh Jerusalem!!!”

(Ps. 122:1-2)

 

We stepped up and answered a call that day.  God commissioned us as prophets.  We are now a school of prophets.  And prophets speak for God.  We have a job to share what we have seen, what we have heard, what we have experienced.

But what words are adequate?  Do we need to speak of spinning wheels within wheels with eyes all about and living creatures with faces like lions, oxen, or men and with numerous wings and all that (Ezek. 1)?  No one will understand us if we do.  But did they ever understand those prophets before us?  We, ourselves, do not understand.

Instead, we are commissioned to “REVEAL” (or “APOCALYPSE”) Jesus in (or by means of) sharing the meal (like we find in Luke 24).  Yes.  Words are involved, but not really the point at which the apocalypse happens. …

 

Dear Tom (and the crickets)

Judging by the lack of hits measured on the counter for this blog this year, it appears you are just about the last and only (not quite) person reading here.  And since this is such a lonely place to offer public words, I figure it is a secure place to share private shameful things.  No one will see it.

As long as I am dealing in such matters, I think I will just say that I sense strongly that I am being punished for sticking with Jesus.  I looked up in God’s Word how to behave as his people and saw where the church I belong to is betraying his directives.  So I spoke up about it to them, and in return they claimed I was being “unloving”.

Yes, I confronted church leaders with God’s Word on our misdeeds, and rather than repent OR, alternatively, show me (from God’s Word, or otherwise even) how I was mistaken about these things, they came around to tell me I was “unloving”.  So I showed them again from God’s Word the misdeeds we engage in and promote, and now I am shunned.

It is lonely standing here with Jesus.

I write about it, publish these writings (protecting the identities of the guilty while I am at it), and it’s just you, me, and the crickets out here…. or so it seems.

(You are getting this… right?)

(I mean, if you don’t read this, then…  Wow!)

So, anyway, this may come off as a pity party.  Maybe it is.  I don’t really think so, I am not overly invested in defending against that… so if you want to argue it is, then I will just surrender the point.

But I will say this:

There is a price to be paid following Jesus.  A cost of discipleship.  And I tell you it hurts.  It sucks that my brothers and sisters don’t talk to me anymore.  It hurts that they all just run off and back out on me without a word.  Loneliness hurts.

The American Church isn’t much interested in paying a price – except for the entrance fee… maybe a tithe or purchase of a book, a club membership, and what not…  Oh, and get your prayer shawl, your blessed Holy Water, and your handsome, leather-bound Purpose Driven Journal or your Left Behind family board game.  But wait, there’s more!  Be sure to act now and receive this complimentary latte at our coffee bar!  Yet losing all your friends, or worse actually getting crucified… things like that, hold no interest nor do they show up on the radar.

(That part sounds like a pity party. (Psalm 88 anyone???))

However, Tom, for your eyes only (and for any lonely freak out there still reading (yeah, if you are still reading, you are a freak)), you have the pleasure to witness God move through THIS dead and scorned ministry.  This ministry with barely any followers or readers or contributors…  This ministry with nary a pulse… This ministry with practically no budget or reputation to speak of – unless you count the regard it’s held in by leadership in the American church as represented in Lubbock, Texas.

Yeah… IF you are still reading, and IF you care at all, then you are in a very good place to witness God move in the dead.

And THAT, I think, is right at the core of Matthew’s, Mark’s, Luke’s, and John’s Gospel accounts.  THAT is not a pity party.  (Psalm 88 in light of the Gospel… anyone???)