Kiss It and Make It Better

I got all these homeless people living with me in the House of God (aka Fat Beggars Home for Widows, Orphans, and Sojourners), but they are all Two Year Olds and younger.  You might think that is just a waaaaaaay different category of homelessness, and you’d be right, but it’s not as different as it seems.  The overlap of commonality is far bigger than it appears until you look closely.

I have played host to both homeless children and homeless adults, and I can say with confidence that the level of responsibility required for keeping kids is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay higher.  All the other differences are small by comparison.  The only guests who have never stolen from us are the smallest ones, but then they are the ones who require the most minute-by-minute attention too, so even there, the honest perspective tempers the differences.

So with the commonality being so much more than it would seem from the outside looking in, I start thinking just how far this dynamic goes.  I mean, are there things I can say about adults based on the experience with children that might prove important?  And sure enough, as I think about it, some things begin to surface that I want to share.

These toddlers run and jump and fall down A LOT.  They are both fragile and rugged at the same time.  When they fall, and I hear the thud, I immediately think to myself, “Oh no!  That had to hurt!”  And sure enough, sometimes it does.  But I have learned not to charge in to quickly, but rather to wait for the cry.  The cry is a better indicator of how bad the booboo actually hurts than the sound of the thud.

I say this because sometimes the thud resonates in my bones and even scares me.  When I react in that moment, the sound of fear and care in my voice communicates to the child that they should cry, and I should make a big production of fixing the booboo for them.  And the little ones oblige!  They don’t disappoint.  The crying gets underway, and the fixing turns into a big production, and we all share this big rollercoaster ride of pain and fear and salvation.  It is rather dramatic.

But IF you wait for the cry before voicing your fear and care, it turns out that the homeostasis of the social atmosphere tempers the pain the child may (or may not) be experiencing.  It’s actually alarming how often the terrifying thud does NOT produce the cry, but the child shakes it off and goes right back to playing.

This, of course, is a judgment call – one the shepherd of the sheep learns to make.  And like all judgment calls, it is more an art than a science, you can judge wrong quite easily.  No one makes perfect judgment calls every time.  And I would say it is important to err on the side of caution where safety is concerned.  A legitimate injury met with indifference is the worst possible outcome (and could land me in jail!).  But at this level of judging, the cry is almost always an accurate indicator.

But then there is the response.  In all the booboos I have ever faced (and there have been a few high risk situations), none of them ever required EMS activation.  I did take a child to the ER a couple of times in the past for complications with an on-going medical issue, but out of all the run/jump/falls that ever occurred here at FBHWOS, not one has required so much as a Band-Aid (yet).

Quite literally, 100% of the booboos we have had to fix in this ministry have amounted to a Kiss-It-And-Make-It-Better emergency.

Seriously, it’s practically miraculous!

Kiss It And Make It Better – Wow!

Who knew?

What power is there in a kiss, a hug, a gentle touch?

Miraculous power!

It’s amazing how much ATTENTION people need from each other.  If my kids sense they are not getting my attention, after a while they begin to cry.  Somebody hit somebody; somebody got bit.  Someone took someone’s toy.  The social order breaks down, and the children get mean.

If, on the other hand, I walk in the room where the children are gathered, I am a rock star!  They come running.  If I get down on the floor on all fours, the giggling and smiles takeover every face!

And a lot of the time, that scary sounding thud that sent a chill through my bones, the one that lets out the cry, well, a lot of the time, that kiss and hug make all the difference.

And it occurs to me that what I am describing here is WORSHIP!

Yeah, the word “worship” in English comes from the old language which contracted and dropped the “th” from the middle some generations back.  But it used to be “worthship”  It means to express value – worth.  How much is this worth?  We know by watching you shell out your sacrifice of worthship.  (Frequently, this means money.)

In the Bible, the word “worship” means to bow down (like bowing before royalty), but it also means “kiss”.  There are levels and dynamics to biblical worship that go beyond the scope of this post, but they are all related, nonetheless.  But it helps us to think about kissing and about the image of God to see into the mysteries of what is happening when we Kiss It And Make It Better.

Way back at the beginning, God created the humans IN HIS IMAGE, IN THE IMAGE OF GOD HE CREATED THEM MALE AND FEMALE.

Now, of course the “male and female” part implies a bit more than just kissing, but we will dial back our analysis just a bit and stick with the kissing, which almost certainly plays a role in that more robust sense of bearing God’s image.  And the thing is this: we kiss those whom we value most.

Oh sure, there are social cues we live by in America today that limit our kissing in various social situations in ways other cultures do not observe, but kissing someone in our culture still expresses value, even if there are other ways to express it for various people in various situations.

My point is this: Whether or not we do a good job of representing God’s image in the world, when we sense we are being  valued by others, we are lifted out of our pain.  When we express the value and demonstrate our worthship of others, whether or not they do a  good job of representing God’s image in the world, we lift them up out of their pain (at least in part).  And kissing plays a part in this worthship process.

In fact, the converse is also remarkably powerful.  When these image bearers are ignored, and other objects replace them as more worthy of value (worship), then the whole world suffers for it (especially those we ignore).

It is no mistake that Jesus identifies himself with the poor, the stranger, the needy.  Want to make the world a better place?  Show these people you value them like as if they were Jesus himself!  The whole world will benefit from this Worship in Spirit and Truth!

Now… sometimes the appropriate response is to activate EMS.  Sometimes you need to hold job training seminar and the AA meetings.  Sometimes the elaborate response is called for and needed.  It’s not like mere decoration is going to fix it.  BUT… it is amazing the extent kissing it makes it better!

I really think this is why Jesus tells us, in Luke 14, to party with the poor!  

Seriously, when you go out on the streets and alleys and beat the hedgerows and compel the poor to come in to the party, WORSHIP happens!  Correct worship.  Good worship.  Godly worship.  Jesus, in the least of these, gets valued.  And that is right at the nub of what is wrong with the world in the first place.

Think about it.

And then kiss it and make it better.

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Giving Thanx for Drug Addiction

When I was a teenager, I was an Ozzy fan.  One of his not-so-big hit songs was called Thank God For The Bomb.  In those days, during the Cold War, there was a feeling that assured, mutual nuclear annihilation kept the East and the West from blowing each other off the map – from blowing away the map itself.  So the self-professed Prince of Darkness sang a song of Thanxgiving to God, no less, for “The Bomb”.

I think it was meant to be ironic AND to poke a hole in the disingenuous rhetoric of the powers-that-be.

Nevertheless, it characterizes a whole category of thankfulness that, if taken seriously, is bitter/sweet.  It’s a category we do take seriously when life has handed us a bushel of lemons from which we have made lemonade.  In recent weeks my dad has begun speaking of “gift” when referring to the divorce that once devastated his life.

I don’t know about all that, actually.  In both cases, whether The Bomb or The Big D (and I don’t mean Denver), calling either one “good” in some sense seems to stretch it to the breaking point.

Nevertheless, I can confidently say I am deeply thankful for the children who come to live in The House of God here at the Fat Beggars Home for Widows, Orphans, and Sojourners.  The ones who have made this their permanent placement all came to us within days of their birth.  They don’t know the homelessness from which they come, but they were born addicted to drugs.  That is what prompts them to live here with me (with us).

The fact is… I am now surrounded by beautiful people God made for his glory.  Each one priceless and precious beyond compare!  I am so deeply blessed!  And while I am deeply sorry for our world, broken as it is with drug addiction (among other things), this home and this gathering of people forming a family on this Thanxgiving Day would not have happened if not for drug addiction.

So, in that deeply ironic sense, I am thankful, so it seems, for drug addiction!

Should make for an interesting offering at the Thanxgiving table when we all list off the things we are thankful for this year.

Perhaps this is just one small way we are called to be a light in a dark world, to join the small light that overcomes the darkness (should come as a surprise to the Prince of Darkness!).

So What Is Stopping Us?

In my previous post I asked if you heard of the rich church that sacrificially gave up their best hospitality for the lowliest of homeless people and worshiped together.  Of course, you haven’t.

Backing up just a bit, you DID hear about the rich church… CHECK!

All the rich professionals, the elaborate church building, the orchestral choir and all that lavish stuff.  Yeah, you heard of all that.

Going forward a bit, you MIGHT hear about the church where the pastor teaches exceptionally well about the love, the humility, and the sacrifice of Jesus, and his powerful persuasion to be like Jesus…  CHECK!

All those rich Christians affording a fantastic sermon from a skilled orator.  Yeah, you heard of all that, probably.

A church that puts this stuff together AND actually acts LIKE Jesus as a result?  …NO CHECK!

At the end of the post, I ask WHY NOT?

What stops us doing it?

What stops a church full of blessed resources, just bursting at the seams with God’s blessings … a church devoted to the teachings and example of Jesus, from opening the door to the poor?

I am sure there are more than one reason for this.  But I am asking.  So let’s list them off.  Let’s name these demons!

Did You Hear About That Church Where They Tried Real Hard To Be Like Jesus?

Did you hear about the rich church where nearly the whole membership was white, middle, and upper middle class?  And most of the more influential members and leaders were made up of professionals: lawyers, doctors, engineers and politicians with high office?  And they meet in a beautiful, ornate, and rather large, chapel with stained glass windows reaching high up to the vaulted ceiling?  And the orchestral choir is made up of professional musicians enjoying world-class acoustics in their million dollar sanctuary?

I mean, so far, yeah, you heard about this place.  Right?

But I am talking about the one where since early summer the pastor has been leading the flock to consider more seriously how they can be like Jesus, to imitate him in love and sacrifice.  So they spent three months studying how Jesus touched lepers, fed hungry people, forgave sins, healed the sick, championed the cause of the poor, and then spent three more months analyzing how Jesus purposely praised the humility of others, practiced humility, and then actually sacrificed himself in utter suffering and humiliation as an act of love for completely undeserving people who turned on him, spit on him, killed him, and when it was all done were just utterly bewildered by his kindness.  Did you hear about that one?

I mean, so far, yeah… maybe.  Maybe you heard about it.  But come to think of it, maybe not.

But I am talking about that church made up of all those professionals, spending so much time in study and meditation on the sacrificial love of Jesus that come the Sunday before Thanxgiving when the temperatures outside were plummeting, they decided to actually be like Jesus.  ‘

So they opened up the chapel, put on a dozen pots of coffee, started making breakfast burritos in the kitchen like an assembly line at Ford Motor Co. while deacons began driving church vans and oversized SUV’s around town looking for homeless people to bring to church.  And then in shifts, the vans and SUV’s began dropping off the needy who were welcomed inside where they were met with coffee and food, with warmth and hospitality!  And the house got so packed full with the poor that the church members could no longer physically fit in the building with the guests, and the crowd reminded them of that fisherman’s hut in Capernaum where the four friends ripped the roof open so they could get their paralyzed friend lowered down to Jesus.  So the church members dragged out blankets and took seats on the frozen lawn while the deacons ushered the homeless into the sanctuary where as honored guests they could enjoy the music in warmth.  And the sound system deacon wired speakers out on the lawn so the whole assembly, both inside and out, could join in the song.

And the church thus tried real hard to be like Jesus!  The church sacrificed deeply to love the poor, the stranger, the hungry, the thirsty, and in showing hospitality may well have entertained angels unaware!

Yeah.  Did you hear about THAT CHURCH?

No???

Why not?

A church like that would make the papers, wouldn’t it?

I mean wouldn’t the papers be printing GOOD NEWS if a church really tried to be like Jesus?

“Happy Holidays!”

It’s been more than sixteen years since I moved to Lubbock.  A nice “Christian town” in the middle of a “Christian nation”.  And one of the earliest controversies I remember getting sucked into was the debate over whether it was okay to say “Happy Holidays” when greeting people out and about.

Well, it’s almost Thanxgiving again, a sure sign we are getting close to Christmas, but, of course, Christmas is still more than a month off.  Also, Christmas is followed closely by New Year’s Day.  And let’s not ignore the fact that New Year’s Eve is as much a part of the holiday, if not more, than New Year’s Day.  Additionally, some families celebrate Christmas Eve as well as Christmas Day, not to mention all the seasonal parties at the office or the parties with “the other side of the family” which may find themselves scheduled anywhere throughout the month.  (Of course you know ALL of this already.)

I will admit that Christmas is the KING KONG of holidays, but it is not the only one!  Also, the older I get, the more Halloween seems to inch closer to the “holiday season”, unlike when I was a kid and it seemed sooooooo far away.

Oh, and while I am on the subject of “when I was a kid”, the phrase “Happy Holidays” was but one well-established holiday greeting.  In fact, “Season’s Greetings” were just as acceptable, though I will admit that the phrase “Merry Christmas” was the gold standard.

But hear me out now, this will all matter by the end, trust me.

When I was a teenager working as a bag boy at the supermarket, I recall a time when I carried out the sacks of groceries to the car for a couple one evening about three or four days after Christmas, and I reflexively said, “Merry Christmas” as I finished with them.  It suddenly hit me that Christmas was over, technically, and I could see it went sideways as the expression on the man’s face mirrored the notion I was having.  “Christmas is a year away!” I thought, and so I turned again to correct myself and said, “Happy Holidays!”

At that exact moment, I made “Happy Holidays” my standard go-to greeting for the season.  Technically, it even covers Halloween.  I can even pull it out on Valentine’s Day, except Valentine’s Day seems to stand alone, making the plural of “Happy Holidays” sit a little funny.

But then I moved to Lubbock, the “Christian town” in this “Christian nation”, and the first time I greeted an old guy I knew from church with the phrase “Happy Holidays”, I suddenly found out what a bastard greeting it was!  I mean, you would think I stayed up all night devising an insult for this man.  He went ballistic.  And it so happened that we were in a public space, not many people around, but a few, and he set out to enlist others to set me straight.

Suddenly I was learned and durned about all the Jews and Pagans and their holidays and how liberals were infiltrating Christmas with their trash religion and holidays, smuggling in this dark evil with the phrase, “Happy Holidays” and how my use of it was treasonously giving aid to the enemy!

Welcome to Lubbock, Texas where the Christians have their ISSUES well sorted out!

I don’t hear much about the “Happy Holidays” controversy any more.  It seems to have fallen to the wayside.  It seems to have gone the way of “Forty Days of Purpose”.  It seems to have been “Left Behind”.  Apparently it was a mad fad for Christians.  (Do Christians need to have mad fads???)

But you know what hasn’t gone away?

Winter cold that accompanies the Happy Holidays.

You know, back before I was kicked out of church for knocking on the church house door to bring in the poor, I used to volunteer and celebrate with the homeless in this town at the officially sanctioned celebrations.  There are a number of ministries that reach out, especially during the Happy Holidays, and it creates a news item that splashes across our TV’s all through the Season’s Greetings.

The Methodists hosted a lavish turkey dinner and invite the community in for it just a few days prior to Thanxgiving Day.  And it was a fantastic meal.  If you don’t mind a bunch of smelly homeless people eating at the table with you, you are welcome too.  Or you can volunteer to cook/clean.  But on the actual holiday, all that would be over – history.

The Premier Homeless Pseudo Church (not its real name) and the Sally historically have provided a big meal on the actual holiday, AND provide space to watch the football game.  But unless the weather is particularly icy, that operation gets shut down (sometimes before the game ends), and all the homeless people get the boot!  (I know; I’ve seen it.)  But this part never makes it on the TV news.

Hmmm…

The homeless are loved lavishly when cameras are rolling.  But by the time that game comes on, no one is watching anymore.

How about this year, we change it up?

Are you listening to me church???  (Or does my voice have no volume?)

What if this year we work for peace on earth and good will for homeless people and God’s people?  What if we say, “This year, there IS room at the inn… in the House of God!”  And what if we turn Turkey Day into a fancy potluck down at the church house?  What if we get all the grannies cooking, and the shepherds seeking lost sheep?  What if we deploy the young, able-body men as overseers of the flock to stand guard and eject troublemakers, but focus more on hosting Jesus in the inn?  What if that “fire side room” was filled with bedrolls, and the whole church showed up to eat and party and camp in for the night singing Christmas songs, telling Christmas stories, eating turkey and roasted marshmallows, and everyone acting AS ONE – rich-n-poor, proud-n-humble, head-n-body?

Think of it!

Sure there will be a mess.  I know that.  I know there are logistics to deal with, but can you see the PARTY?  Can you see Jesus???  Can you see the IMPACT a welcome like this makes on the poor and on YOU?  Can you see what Jesus MIGHT do miraculously in this that all your best planning and all your avoidance of hurting when helping cannot account for?

I can.

Open your eyes!

And Happy Holidays!!!

 

It’s A GIRL!

Today is ADOPTION DAY, and Mrs. Agent X and I are at it again.  This time we welcome a little girl to this “forever home”.

Like before, this child has lived with us all her little life – since the day she left the hospital.  Ours is the only family and home she has ever known.  She is a beautiful girl, full of energy and spunk, which is good because she has all big brothers (so far – except one sister from among the “big kids”).  She is the littlest person in the house, but she keeps the rest of us lined out!  And she is my little buddy.

This little girl lights up my life.  She makes me sing and play like no other human being ever.  I am so grateful to God that he would put her in our life.  Now I pray that God continue to bless her and bring up a strong woman of God for his glory.  This home we keep here at THE HOUSE OF GOD is full of so much possibility.  He makes family to be where there was no family, and we celebrate this everyday!

But now I want to introduce to you, Special Agent Sassafras (SAS).

A New Project / A Different Direction

Agent X is now (I think) embarking on a new project of a very different nature.  One that I welcome readers here to join upon request.

I am starting a serious Bible study via the web on an invitation basis (CONSIDER THIS YOUR INVITATION).  The study begins with the Gospel of Luke with a projected end with Acts of the Apostles, and I expect it to take several months, if not all of 2019.  However, it is all fairly tentative and not set in stone.  It will be a secondary project not directly related to this blog at all.

At this point I expect to offer it via email rather than the blog.  This blog is not dedicated to Bible study in the manner I am offering, so I will not offer it here.  The structure and format may change with time, but a group email is how I plan to start it off.

A Bible Study with Agent X promises to be more CHALLENGING than most BS you have experienced before.  I intend to offer innovative approach that CHALLENGES you to see Jesus like you never saw him before – at least different from most of the slick marketed studies found for sale in major publications.  I also aim to give you a robust EXPERIENCE with the study rather than some simple devotional or complex/sterile academic exercise.  Nevertheless, the offerings will be rather conservative in nature.

I am open to being CHALLENGED by Jesus myself, and by him through those who accept this invitation as well.  Thus I hope to learn from you as well as you learn from me.  But if you haven’t caught on to the idea yet, let me mention the word “CHALLENGE” one more time.  I think the complacent church of America that purchases its “Jesus” at the mall has had enough dulling effect for one generation, and some challenge is in order.

If that interests you, let me add that THE STUDY IS ABSOLUTELY FREE OF CHARGE, you are welcome to copy it and share with others (one would hope with inmates), and you are free to participate AT-WILL to the extent you desire.  Anytime you want to bow out, just send me a request to unsubscribe.  However, if you join, you will be required to share your email address with all the other participants from all over the nation (many of whom I never met face-to-face), and you will be required to engage the strange ideas from me (and fellow explorers) with respect – even, and especially, where we disagree.

If you are still interested in the CHALLENGE of studying Luke with Agent X, or if you have questions concerning it, leave me a comment below with the email address where you want to receive messages (I WILL NOT PUBLISH THOSE COMMENTS HERE), and thus subscribe.

Thanx

Agent X

Fat Beggars School of Prophets

Lubbock, Texas (USA)

Wonderment

It’s not a word I ever use.  In fact, I never have before.  But it came to mind watching my kids eat a couple nights ago, so I looked it up.  It seems like a good fit.  Let me tell you about it:

So I got all the kids sitting up in their highchairs ready for dinner.  The ALMOST Two Year Old spouts off saying, “Wow!  Okay…  Oh Wow!”

Yeah.  We are about to give thanx for these chicken nuggets, and the child says, “Wow!… Oh Wow!”

The BEEN Two Year Old strikes a prayer posture.  Once we begin to eat he says, “Mmmmmm…..”

I like to watch him eat.  He seems so purposeful trying this and tasting that – like a thoughtful tourist sampling the culture, he is new to life in God’s creation.  He makes a mess, but somehow he seems dignified doing it.

Then the One Year Old….  She picks through the thin slices I cut in easy-to-chew bites for her, and after a minute I offer her a pouch of baby food: banana, blueberry, and beets all mooshed together like pudding in a tube/pouch.  As I hold it out for her to get some, her mouth opens wide – all the way wide – and her eyes squint.  She is new at this, but she is going to figure it out.

I watch these kids experience new tastes, textures, and smells in the food.  The squeals and giggles fill the room.  The happiness is perfect bliss.  They eat love.  They are new to life, and absorb it full-flavor.

I suddenly think of Adam and Eve eating from the Tree of Life.

It’s not a meal of sheer calories and vitamins; its more – a celebration of life!  Sharing the time and space, the smiles and giggles, the food filling the tummies all go together to create HOME in which God grants us innocence, peace, hope, faith, and LOVE.  Life happens there.  The kids trust me completely.

I suddenly think of communion – the bread/wine, the body/blood, the fruit of the Tree of Life.

It’s not just a somber ritual reduced to introspective worthiness and a pinch of cracker and a thimble-full of juice; it’s a prophetic act daring to trust that Jesus is the Bread from Heaven.    Even more, it’s sharing commitment to God and one another, the breaking down of social barriers, the confrontation with principalities and powers, the table prepared for us in the presence of our enemies.  At this table, we rule the world with God!

I suddenly think of the party in Luke 14 – a cosmic party between God and the poor.

I hope I get invited.  I hope I don’t blow off my invitation.  When you invite the poor to eat at the King’s table, you expect they will make a mess, but you can sit back and watch them take to the party like a duck takes to water.  It’s almost like Jesus knew what he was talking about or something.  The poor savor every morsel.  They are Wow’d by the food, by the love, by the celebration.

How did they get so important?

They don’t know, but they are determined to enjoy the party!

That wonderment is right at the nub of what the meal is all about.  It’s not sheer theological vitamins or spiritual calories!  It’s LOVE in the flesh!!!

My babies eat WONDERMENT.

I want to eat it too.

If you ever receive an invitation to share this meal, drop whatever else you thought you had going for you, and go.  Show up.  You will have to humble yourself, but this is LIFE and you don’t want to miss it.

Hell On Earth Openned Up

I have been watching the headlines in recent days, and I have seen incredible videos of people racing from their homes and hometowns as Hellfire takes over.  The prayers gushing out of mouths as they flee, not from devastation, but in the midst of it!  You don’t ever see that on the news, but it’s happening right now in America.

And these people, the ones who are still alive, are now homeless and jobless.  Whole towns wiped off the map!  Plenty of people died right in their cars or running for their lives!  And Hell on earth opened up and swallowed them whole.

It’s not fair!

These people were, by-n-large, doing all the right things.  They got jobs, built homes and communities, served in public service, in military service, in church service and voted, saved, spent shrewdly – all of that!  But some are just gone now and many more are totally devastated.  All that goodness tested by fire, and they escape only with their lives.

The hellfire does not discriminate.  It doesn’t attack just the addicts and losers.  It doesn’t attack only those with a bad attitude.  Instead, it burns Paradise to the ground!

Hell on earth opened up.  And you can see it on your TV and computer screens in real time.

I sure hope we don’t just sit around and in response hold classes about how our help might hurt these folks.  And I hope we don’t cut them a break just because they were rich and white either.  But I hope the church will now go storm the gates of Hell with Heaven’s LOVE.

So, Let Me See If I Got This Straight…

You’re up there in the assembly this morning telling anyone who will drop some coin in the plate how much God loves them, how God sent his Son to die a cruel death in our place, but you can’t find it in your heart to open a door to the cold, hungry, lost people on the streets?

And somehow I don’t make sense???