A Prophet Rattles the Cage at ACC, Keeps His Job, & He Is a Hero 50 Years Later

I got the bulk of my Bible education at ACU twenty years ago.  It was old news then, but I recall that the topic of Dr. Carl Spain and his cage-rattling speech there in February 1960 (back when it was still ACC) came up for discussion numerous times in numerous classes.  Yes, even 38 years later, we were still talking about it.

Then in 2010, a number of bloggers associated with ACU commemorated the speech on their blogs.  That was fifty years after.  Fifty years after Spain rattled the cage, he is remembered as a hero of the faith and of the institution he so severely shamed.

In 1960, ACC still refused to admit black students to the school.  Three years before Dr. King delivered his “I Have A Dream” speech on TV before the whole nation, this white college professor got up in front of his white brothers and sisters at the premier lecture of a lecture series that still draws Christians from all over the world and shamed both the church and the school for not letting blacks attend.

Spain was ahead of his time!

I learned from some of these (almost decade old) blogs that Dr. Spain received death threats after that speech.  (Church people threatening to kill???)  His remarks were so jarring for the church and the school that people became deeply upset and complained bitterly about Spain and his sucker-punch speech withdrawing support for the school and a number of other sanctions.

To their credit, ACC did not fire Spain but kept him on until he retired.  But decades later, they call him a prophet and note that usually prophets don’t get to keep their jobs.

You can download the speech here:

https://digitalcommons.acu.edu/sumlec_audio/5199/

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Frank, Ed, Junior, & Frisco (One Last Gasp of Winter)

If you recall our friends Frank, Ed, Junior, and Frisco from the Easter Sunday post, well, they slept in the little grove of trees behind the No-Tell Motel again last night.  They had thought they would sleep by the exhaust tube at the back of the motel where the dryers from the laundry room blow warm air into the alley.  It seemed necessary because after four weeks of warming temperatures, each of them had ditched his ratty, cast-off coat that they had received from the charity drive in the Fall thinking Winter was done with them.  But by seven o’clock last night, it was clear Winter had one more punch.

Actually, Junior still had his coat.  In fact, he had two.  Junior, you see, suffers Schizophrenia and tremendous social anxiety.  And part of his coping mechanism is to wear his coat everyday year round.  In fact, he hasn’t had a shower in months, not since he checked out of the psych hospital last November.  He has not changed his shirt, underwear, or his coat in all that time.

But the coat Junior wears is getting threadbare all the same.  It has a sizeable hole in the left elbow and the zipper does not work anymore at all.  Never mind his smell, the coat’s functionality is severely limited against the cold (however, it has kept him plenty hot and sweaty these last four weeks).

Anyway, as these bums found a bit of K2 and a couple of quart bottles of Colt 45, they came to the back of the No-Tell flea bag and found the exhaust vent was not running.  They did not know that the revitalization committee of the city council had arranged with some developers to make an offer the No-Tell owners couldn’t refuse, and that the place was closed down, boarded up, and slated for demolition sometime this summer.

I guess they didn’t send a memo to the boys in the alley.

And so our friends hunkered down in the tree grove again, just a few yards away.

That is when one of our secret agent operatives found them, gave them two blankets, and sat down to share prayer and communion with them.  Agent Q opened the service with a prayer while Frank and Ed smoked and sipped the bottle.  But as he read the passage from Luke 14 about throwing a party with the poor, suddenly Frisco had some stories to share.  He told about partying with Agent Z in the park on Agent Z’s birthday last October, and how dozens of homeless people found hope and dignity in those hot dogs and the time Z spent sacrificing his own birthday to love on them.

Agent Q asked the others to share too, and soon the boys were preaching sermons, dreaming dreams and seeing visions of God together.  (I know some of you think that is just the K2, but please try not to blaspheme the Holy Spirit just now!)  Frank said he wrote a song for Jesus while he was in prison, but he never had a church to share it with, and Q suggested he teach it to this group.  So they all sang a new song together there in the driving cold wind behind the boarded up No-Tell Motel.

Then Agent Q asked why the boys don’t seek refuge at a church somewhere in the downtown district.  And unanimously, they all said none were open to receive them.  So Q then suggested that they find shelter in the crook of one of the church buildings at least, but this startled the boys.  They all said it with determination; they would not seek shelter from a church like that because they did not want to go to jail.

Agent Q was stunned.  This is the reputation of the church in Lubbock among “the least of these brothers”!

Agent Q spent another hour with the boys, and they prayed for the church of Lubbock to open the door to Jesus.  They prayed asking God to forgive them since they know not what they do.  And before Agent Q headed home, he ran up to Walmart nearby and found four pocket warmers left in the out-of-season bin, purchased them, and took them back to the very grateful bums camped behind the No-Tell.

This morning, Agent Q awoke to find the local temperatures had dropped to 27 degrees!  And he is very worried whether Frank, Ed, Junior, or Frisco might have succumbed to hypothermia.  But he is confident that even if any or all of them did, that they spent their last night bearing the image of God in Lubbock, Texas.

Think about it.

Play The Game… Or Else

“They are playing a game. They are playing at not playing a game. If I show them I see they are, I shall break the rules and they will punish me. I must play their game, of not seeing I see the game”

R. D. Laing

Fact of the Matter Is… I Been Kicked Out of Church All My Life

I was getting kicked out of church before I was old enough to remember.

Sound odd?

Yeah.  I guess it does.

And if you are still reading, I would like you to imagine for a moment just how many people in this old world couldn’t give a rip.  I mean, just as a category of issues to write about – church, Jesus, life in the Spirit (or not).  Who cares?

Yeah.  If you are still reading this, and if you care about these things in the slightest, then you are already in a minority.  If you are still reading here and care that I was kicked out of church since before I can even remember, you are in a truly small minority.  Glad to have you still with me.  Let’s get into it…

My dad wasn’t a preacher when I was born, and he is not one today either, but for a long stretch of my formative years, he was.  And he was a preacher among the ranks of the “churches of Christ” – a graduate of the esteemed Sunset School of Preaching.  And for those unfamiliar with the “churches of Christ” (or those who only see us as the group that does not use instrumental music), one of the key factors you may have missed is that preachers in this denomination* are not (necessarily) pastors.  In fact, they rarely are.

This difference is subtle, at first glance, but deep.  And in a very real sense, the preacher is a hired hand – his primary role an employee of the church (a “brother” only secondarily (if that)), and he is not the boss at all.  In most churches of other denominations, the pastor may well answer to a governing body of various types, but he also acts somewhat like an entrepreneur – a man who starts a business and runs it himself.  However, in the “churches of Christ”, there is what we call “a plurality of pastors”, but they normally go by the title “elder” instead of pastor.  (To be fair, congregational autonomy dictates that there may be subtle differences even between “churches of Christ”, but the uniformity is quite remarkable, actually).

Anyway, my reason for laying all that out is to show that the preacher in this denomination answers to the pastors/elders (or committees if no elders are currently appointed).  Typically the congregation enters into a contract with a preacher which may or may not be renewed in one, two, or three years (typically).  And this gives a church an employer’s leverage over a preacher who must then perform to their liking in order to keep his job.

Ironic, don’t you think?  The preacher, like a politician, is faced with whether to serve his altruist ideals or the voters whims.  But in this case, the model is more business oriented, and as so it’s more like a board of directors’ whims.  And if you don’t perform to the expectations the boss wants, then you are out on your ear soon enough.  And somehow that surely is not “biblical” – the very thing “churches of Christ” historically pride themselves on being.

What can I say?  Apparently my old man chose to honor his altruist ideals (serve God at all costs) rather than bend the knee to lesser forces.  I am not arguing that he was always in the right, though to my way of thinking he was and I will claim it.  But the dynamic that I am talking about here does not require me to argue his virtue.  It is the system I am putting on trial here, not the individual decisions.  Point being, when my dad, the preacher, chose to stand up for a woman effectively caught in the act and defend her expression of repentance, some of the men in charge (who likely had conflicted feelings of lust themselves) felt she should be shunned instead in order to discipline her thoroughly, and in the end Dad was canned.  (That’s just one example among many – MANY!)

In and of itself, that is pretty much an untold story, as are all the others that make up the “many” I describe.  But there is another story beneath them that also goes untold (until now).  And that story is of the son (and the rest of the family) of the employee (brother) pushed out.

I was raised in church.  Being the son of a preacher means I was there at every event, every week, of every year.  Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday night.  Weddings, funerals, VBS’s, Gospel Meetings (known in other quarters as “revivals”), summer camp and every other little function great or small.  I might not personally have been at the center of it all, but I certainly inhabited the inner circle of church life.

I learned early how important church is, how important Jesus is, and how it all plays into eternal purposes.  Even more, I witnessed groups of people numbering 200 – 500 gathering around to listen to my dad on a regular basis.  This stuff makes a certain kind of impression on young formative minds.  Jesus/church was the center of the universe and the meaning of life.  And it was all about LOVE – a community loving God and each other with uncommon, self-sacrificial LOVE.

And it made perfect sense to me too, except when my dad came home and announced that we would have to move – that he had been fired.

This meant we would pack up all our belongings, load them on a truck, and leave town.  All our family and friends from church, from school, from town would be left behind as we set out on the road looking for another town, another school, another church with other family and friends with whom we would do this all over again in a few years.

I have memory of living in eleven different houses in nine different municipalities involving seven different churches before I graduated high school, and most of that moving due to dad being fired.  Most, not all, but most of it due to being kicked out of church in one place or another – AND NOT because I drank, cussed, stole, lied, fornicated, or gossiped.  No.  Because of “religious differences” – which is the best term I can call it, but which in no way really describes the reasons at all.

Point being, I got kicked out of the center of the universe – the Jesus community of uncommon, self-sacrificial LOVE time and time again through no fault of my own from as far back as I can remember – all in service to Jesus.  All in service to the church. And like they say in The Godfather, “It’s not personal; it’s business”.  (A great way to describe “church” when you endure it this way.)

Don’t get me wrong.  The New Testament definitely authorizes a church to kick people out.  That is biblical.  I make no claim to the contrary at all.  But treating church like a business – a mafia business at that – and kicking out children as a matter of routine business makes for a strong indicator that this LOVE organization needs to do some sober reassessments about the carnage it is leaving in its wake.

It also gives me cause to reassess it.

The very organization that instilled in me from my youth the importance of Jesus, love, and church did not share any of that with me.  Who wants to be in that club?

Well, look around at all the church buildings boarded up, at all the empty seats in those still active.  And you tell me.

At any rate, I am an old hand at getting kicked out of church.  I have been there, done that.  You might say I was born and bred for it.

 

 

* (Churches of Christ historically eschew the term “denomination” and claim to be “non-denominational”.  There are so many problems with that kind of terminology that I will not attempt to sort it out, but merely acknowledge I am using it in a more mainstream sense.)

 

Milestones

Anniversary time has rolled around again. Here is a nice stroll down amnesia lane for today….

Fat Beggars School of Prophets

April Fool’s Day

It’s not an exact anniversary, but it’s close enough.  I will claim it.  And I have become more than an April Fool for God.

IMG_0585

We formed the Fat Beggars School of Prophets around my family’s kitchen table following Sunday worship at Carpenter’s Church three years ago this week.    In addition to my wife and kids, four street-homeless men joined this foundational worship service.  In attendance were Agent T, Agent M, Agent J and the other Agent J.  These men answered a call from God to come to my house after church, grill steaks, sing songs, pray, and examine the text of II Kings 6 & 7.  In fact, one of the leadership members at Carpenter’s inadvertently directed one of the four men to join us that day.  (He still has no idea what role he played in placing God’s call on that man’s life!)  Therein God inaugurated the…

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Giving Up Your Baby

Who gives up their baby?  What kind of person walks away from their child?  How dark does your heart, your life, have to be to give up a child?

It is easy, as long as we keep this all sterile, philosophical, and academic, to look for the nobility in it when a young mother finds herself unprepared to raise a child.  Giving the baby up for adoption rather than aborting the pregnancy is so noble.  But if you actually do it, you aren’t likely to feel very noble.

The Fat Beggars Home for Widows, Orphans, and Sojourners is focused heavily on foster children, and most of them have been very young.  By far, most of the cases that come to our attention involve child abuse – and most of that accompanied with drug abuse too.  Parental behaviors involving child and drug abuse lead to consequences of giving up a child.  In fact that is what happens, though sometimes only temporarily and with a program designed to return the child home eventually.

The pain of giving up the child has a way of getting derelict parents attention, of wising them up to the realities of life.  Not always, but often.  And wising up happens because of how painful giving up a child is.

But then there is the role of the foster parent who reaches the end of this process.  And that too is a matter of giving up a child.  It also is painful, sometimes beyond measure.

A small child (sometimes a baby) comes into this home utterly innocent and full of fear and bewilderment.  The younger, the more innocent; the older the more bewildered and fearful – unless they are old enough to have become jaded from the process (a whole other pain yet again).

So the child comes into this home, the Fat Beggars Home for Widows, Orphans, and Sojourners, fearful and bewildered, and I set out to win his trust.  We establish routines; we give lots of affection; we feed every bite of food, we get up in the night to tend to cries, we change diapers, give baths, and meet every little tender need; we never leave a child unattended; they are constantly at our knees 24/7 for months or years on end.

Attachment?

You better believe it.

So, when word comes down that a child will be leaving us, it might even be great news of a family restored, but it is heartbreaking all the same.

We give them back to God.

It doesn’t make it any easier.  But he gives and takes away.  They belong to him, and always did.

I think about some of these little ones who I likely will never see again.  They were too young to remember me, to even say my name.  Where will they go?  Do their parents smoke?  Will they be loved for a day or two and then relegated to neglect?  Will their diaper get changed?  They almost certainly will not sing the numa numa song again.  She won’t ever enjoy Agent Momma X’s home style chicken and dumplings again, a dish that since has become a favorite.  Some of these little slices of heaven are now forever lost to us.  And we can only hope that heaven’s joy finds this reunited family beyond the limits of where we can see.

At any rate, the pain is real.  So much uncertainty.  It is hard on a soul to give up a baby – even to God.

It all has me thinking of Hannah (read her story in I Samuel 1), and has me praying her prayer (see I Samuel 2), a lot of which does not seem to have anything to do with her and the child she gives up – except that it surely understands that God is working on a far bigger picture than she is.

Here is what Hannah said to God when she gave up her baby:

Hannah’s Prayer
2 And Hannah prayed and said,
“My heart exults in the Lord;
my horn is exalted in the Lord.
My mouth derides my enemies,
because I rejoice in your salvation.
2
“There is none holy like the Lord:
for there is none besides you;
there is no rock like our God.
3
Talk no more so very proudly,
let not arrogance come from your mouth;
for the Lord is a God of knowledge,
and by him actions are weighed.
4
The bows of the mighty are broken,
but the feeble bind on strength.
5
Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger.
The barren has borne seven,
but she who has many children is forlorn.
6
The Lord kills and brings to life;
he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
7
The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
he brings low and he exalts.
8
He raises up the poor from the dust;
he lifts the needy from the ash heap
to make them sit with princes
and inherit a seat of honor.
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s,
and on them he has set the world.
9
“He will guard the feet of his faithful ones,
but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness,
for not by might shall a man prevail.
10
The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces;
against them he will thunder in heaven.
The Lord will judge the ends of the earth;
he will give strength to his king
and exalt the horn of his anointed.”

So… It’s Easter Sunday Morning! Wooo hooo!!!

Last year’s Easter Sunday post… worth another look again this year…

Fat Beggars School of Prophets

So… It’s Easter Sunday Morning!  Wooo hooo!!!

But I don’t feel any different.  What happened?  Did something change?  You mean some women can’t find a dead guy?  You mean to tell me that a couple of sluts (a-hem, okay, FORMER sluts) and the mother of a death row inmate that got executed last Friday are running around in a dither because his grave is empty?

It’s still six months til Halloween, ya’ll.  What has changed?

Here’s the thing: Frank and Ed met up with Junior and Frisco yesterday and found a really sweet spot for a group of homeless men to crash for the night behind some tall weeds and a small grove of trees behind the No-Tell Motel.  It’s just two blocks from church, and it being Easter Sunday, these guys planned to go to Sunday Worship.

This is Easter Sunday, but they have the hope of COFFEE and…

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Easter Sunday and the Weatherman

(Side note: I know it is sexist to call the forecaster the weatherman.  But in this case it really is the man I hear repeatedly alerting us.)

Good Friday Morning, this Good Friday.

As is common, the forecast for Easter Sunday calls for a dip in temperatures, and the weatherman on the local channel keeps noting over and over that it will be surprisingly cool at sunrise on Easter.  I am sure he is alerting those devotees who plan to get up early for Easter Sunrise Services.  After all, you might show up in your best Sunday frock with only a little lace to keep you warm.

I keep thinking of all my street friends out there who will be spending the Long Night of the Soul in that cold.  Who cares about them?

You know… When Mary (and the other Mary, and the other women) came to the empty tomb that first Sunday of New Creation, they were surprised to find Jesus not there!  It was a surprise!  Oh sure, in at least John’s account, Mary Magdalene finds Jesus in the garden and does not recognize him at first (meaning he is there, and he is found), but still it is a surprise!

But the weatherman here in Lubbock does not want the worshipers of Lubbock to be surprised by the cold Easter morning.

I hope that some homeless people are camping at the worship spot Saturday night.  I hope the worshipers are surprised to find “the least of these” there in the cold at sun up.  I think that would be a nice surprise.

And at the very least, it would be nice to worship with these folx who surely have more invested in that sunrise than a new dress, new shoes, and a matching Bible cover.

Think about it.

Party With The King

Did you ever eat at The King’s Table?

I lived down in the Valley of the Son, Phoenix suburbia, when I was young, in the mid 1990’s.  I remember this one restaurant at one of the malls called The King’s Table.  I didn’t really care for the food there, but that is not really what I am talking about anyway.

The King’s Table.  Think about it.  We Americans have to get our heads into that game.  It takes a bit of work to do it.  It is not our nature, nor our second nature, to really consider it.  Royalty, especially in days gone by, was a far bigger matter than just celebrity.  The monarch had absolute authority.  Everyone obeyed his every word.  He was the most special person AND had the most power and glory of any in the land.

So if he invited you to eat with him at his table, you would dress up.  This would be a black tie party kind of thing.  And if you were a mere commoner, it would be a stunning event to be invited to eat at his table with him – a once in a lifetime kind of thing.  In fact, it would be almost certain that you would never be invited – a freakish thing that would call into question everything you know about how the world works!

Perhaps a quick look at II Samuel 9 is in order at this point.  There you find the story of King David, whose rule presided over the one time in all of history when it was truly good to be an Israelite, inviting the very unlikely guest Mephibosheth to eat at his table each day.  And I don’t mean King David was pulling through the drive-thru… No!  I don’t mean King David nuked a Hot Pocket in the microwave for two minutes on high… No!  I mean the meals at the King’s Table, even on an average Thursday, were far more festive and feasting than what we get at my house for Sunday dinner and invited guests!  For Mephibosheth, this was like joining a perpetual party in first class!

Well, this is Thursday of Holy Week – the time we traditionally believe Jesus hosted his Last Supper.  It is somewhat a vogue in the last generation for Christians to embrace the Passover celebration of the Jews as we meditate on Jesus’s Last Supper.  And there is no doubt that the Passover meal provides the setting in which this meal does it’s drama.  But it is also equally, if not more so, fashionable to meditate on the fact that Jesus shares this meal just before he dies for the sins of the world.  And again, there is no doubt that is completely appropriate, accurate, and right.

However, there are more layers to this meal.  Layers still touching on Passover and crucifixion, but with dynamics normally not talked about – at least not in my experience (which is extensive).  Think of the Exodus story again for a moment.  Consider this: The itinerary that Moses presents to Pharaoh when he says “Let my people go!” is that he wants to take them a 3-day journey into the desert to party with God.

No.  Really.  Look it up (Exod. 5:1).

And you gotta think about that a minute.  If you were in Egypt in those days, and you set out into the desert for three days, there is a really, really, really good chance you are going to die out there.  In fact, it is almost certain.  It is so certain that if you were Pharaoh, and you wanted to execute a criminal, you could banish him to the desert where he would almost surely die a terrible death in the next three days!  And this is what Moses is saying he wants to do!  (No wonder the Hebrews grumbled!)

And while you are thinking about that for a minute, it surely has already occurred to you that the whole 3-day thingy is surely a little more than coincidental.  In fact, I would suggest that the Passover celebration was more of a dress rehearsal for Jesus’s Last Supper than the Last Supper being a look back.  A little like Miyagi teaching Daniel karate by having him paint the fence and wax the car!

And so as long as we are turning tables on our meditative memories, let us consider that Jesus, like the Moses Party, is going on a 3-day journey through the wilderness of DEATH, alright, but this is not actually just a death sentence.  In fact, this crucifixion will actually be a coronation!

Again, we Americans have to get our heads into this game.  We know the terms well enough, when we stop to really think about them.  Coronation is that ceremony when a prince gets his crown and becomes King!  And if you turn the page in your Gospels just one or two pages, you find that Jesus gets a crown!  AND they bow down to him!  They put royal robes on him!  They even put up a sign over his head for all to read that says he is KING of the Jews!

This is where things get really tricky.  To all the watching world, this coronation sure looks like an execution of an uppity, mouthy, don’t-know-his-place Jew-boy who took his LOVE message just a bit too far.  He got it up in everyone’s hostile face, and they put him in his!  And it is really, really, really hard to watch a man die in this kind of utter shame, humiliation, and degradation and think there is anything good in it.  But we Christians are pretty zany that way.  We think God is doing his most special thing in it.  He is giving Jesus dominion, rule, and reign over all of creation!

So, back up to that upper room two pages back again.  These humble peasants following this uppity prophet around are invited guests eating at…

DRUM ROLL PLEASE

…..

The King’s Table!

Now, for all the watching world this doesn’t look like a king’s table.  But… wait… what?  Oh… the world wasn’t even watching it.  Hmmm…

That is contempt.  The world has only contempt for this table, this party, and this king.  But on this Holy Week Thursday, if you go to communion, I invite you to look again at what the world cannot see.  It’s as plain as the nose on your face, but you can only see it with the eyes of your heart.  And like all true Passover celebrations before it, the party was not just a reenactment, and not just a meditative memory, but a living, breathing, embodiment of God’s mystery.  When those disciples joined Jesus in that upper room for that meal, they believed he would have God’s special favor and that at his command, salvation would come again and free the people – not least from Roman oppression just as God had freed them from Egyptian oppression so many eons before.

But they took a 3-day journey through DEATH with Jesus, starting at that party.  And they lose their hope on Saturday.  We know this because of how bewildered they are at first light on Sunday.  And God chooses these lowly subjects to eat at his table, to see the mighty mysterious LOVE of God overtake DEATH itself.

Humility and trust are the price of admission at this party.  There is a bouncer keeping out the proud.  He is a big guy who goes by the name “CONTEMPT”.  And if you hold this uppity prophet in scorn or ridicule, then CONTEMPT will kick you out of this party.

Jesus goes on trial tonight.  It is a dark night that lies ahead.  Here at Fat Beggars, I suggest you run down to the grocery store and pick up a jug of grape juice and a communion cracker (or bake your own), and then head out to the poor side of town, find some homeless bums, beggars, and prophets, and pray with them, break the bread with them, and share the humility and faith with them.  And see what you have not seen as you find yourself eating with the King.  He will eat it with you anew when he comes in his Glory too.

The Legend of Johnny Schitzo

For those wondering about the whole secret agent network, and the use of pseudonyms like Agent X, I will say that for me it all started when I found a blog post called The Legend of Johnny Schitzo on a little blog called The Agent B Files.  It’s a ghost blog now, but still there to be read.  The post was sad and funny – real. This one post had me hooked.  Eventually, I too joined the secret agent network started by Agent B.  Eventually I began ministering among the homeless.

There is a lot more behind the pseudonyms, but this is where I got involved.

See the post here:

http://theagentbfiles.blogspot.com/2006/02/legend-of-johnny-schitzo.html