Up Close and Personal: Embracing the Poor

I found an old book on the shelf today called Up Close and Personal: Embracing the Poor written by Harold Shank, Anthony Wood, and Ron Bergeron.  Publishing date 2000 and put out by College Press Publishing Company, it is a small and not-so-famous little book that you probably never heard of.  I picked it up and started thumbing through it, and I think it is noteworthy.

 

I am not sure why I have not put it on a recommended reading list before.  I think Beyond Homelessness by Bouma-Prediger and Walsh and The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne both over shadow this one.  Up Close, in my estimation, is the weakest of the three.  But this little book is not insignificant despite that, and I expect it will prove evermore important for Churches of Christ types.

I will save my critique for the comments below – assuming anyone is interested, but I think I will share excerpts from the opening pages that seem meaningful to me.

From Page 9:

INTRODUCTION

_______

Up Close and Personal:

Embracing the Poor

An Essay

It felt as though God had led us to a precipice, to the very edge of the world as we knew it, and asked us to gaze across a dark chasm.  With our feet only inches from the jagged gash in the earth that seemed to descend into nothingness, we lifted our eyes to what rose out of the mist on the opposite shore.  From the haze rose a city skyline in silhouette, magnificent and ominous, blanketed in a shroud of foreboding as thick as the mist.  Awestruck and dumbfounded, we almost didn’t hear the voice.  But we did hear it.  Faint and weak.  Distant and tired.  We listened again.  There it was… no, there.  From all around, from within, we heard echoing through the city’s maze a muted cry for help, almost a whisper, that said, “Come over and help us!”  Gazing across the gulf from the comforts of a middle-class world, the other side seemed alien and forbidding.  And if the abyss that yawned between the two worlds seemed uncrossable, it was not because of its breadth, but because of our own shallowness.  Because the world that called to us for help was not some distant land.  It wasn’t the steamy jungle of South America or the alien desert terrain of the Middle East.  It was our own inner city.

-Ron Bergeron

 

From Page 10 & 11:

We never held mass prayer meetings in a stadium.  We didn’t organize grand marches to the state capitol.  There were no radio or television broadcasts to reach the masses.  We didn’t have a fifteen-million-dollar grant or even a million-dollar budget.  We didn’t have a grand office building.  There was no fleet of cars or service trucks.  We didn’t have a warehouse or a computerized database.

We just didn’t have any of those things.  None of those elements used in working with the poor are bad or inappropriate; that’s just not what we did.  We found that working among the poor was not a matter of programs or bureaucracies.  The problem with helping the poor was not the lack of money or the shortage of food.  It wasn’t merely the difficulty of finding good medical care or adequate housing; of course all of those are critical pieces to helping the poor.  We can’t go on without them.  But we found that one other thing was more crucial: becoming up close and personal.  We found that helping the poor was just

–     One person at a time

–               Face to face.

–                         Hand in hand.

–                                  Side by side.

The road from the suburbs to the inner city was one of the longest we had ever traveled.  Overcoming the isolation was the beginning of cooperation.  Putting aside the insulation was the start of collaboration.  Leaving our partisanship opened the way to fellowship.

We so often felt distant, like we were standing across the chasm Ron described.  Initially, as we pondered the gap before us, it seemed that God brought us to this gaping canyon and gave us the will to cross but not the means.  Or so we thought.  But we soon learned something quite different.  We learned that being up close and personal enabled us to embrace the poor.  And that’s what this book is about.  It’s about how God led us across the gulf and taught us to build bridges to the other side.  It is the story of three apprentice builders learning step by step.  It’s about the questions of bridge building: How should we build it?  To whom are we building it?  Why are we building?  Where should we build it?

On the other side, we encountered a culture that we admire, respect, and love.  What we discovered was a simple truth: God changes people through other people, up close and personal.  It wasn’t the “project in the projects” that promised lasting spiritual change but the quiet, persistent presence of God’s family plodding along, step by step, side by side, with the people of the city.  to build successfully, we had to embrace them.

Not just a physical embrace easily given and easily forgotten, but the interlacing of lives.  It takes time in the inner city to develop a trusting embrace.  Respect and sympathy can’t be doled out like soup and sandwiches.  You can’t embrace the poor like some good-hearted grandmother welcoming her prodigal son home from the casinos.  It’s not convincing to either the grandmother or the son.  The inner-city resident can tell the difference between head-counters and heart-comforters.  They know how to separate the deeds done out of middle-class guilt from those done in genuine Christian love.  They have an uncanny ability to see through the facades and hidden agendas that may work well elsewhere.  We learned that, to embrace the poor, we had to be real with them.  We had to respect them.  We had to love them.

 

 

 

Was Jesus A Jerk?

(I would have preferred to entitle this post Was Jesus An A-Hole?, but I figured even leaving out the two s’s would strain too many readers out.  I hope you will take my question seriously and meditatively before you have your reflex….)

This seems like an unlikely question coming from a disciple today.  I don’t think I ever met a follower of Jesus who suggested he was a jerk – or even questioned it, for that matter.  Jesus is just sooooooo holy, right, and good, and none of us could even come close to measuring up.  We are the jerks; not him!

Yeah, yeah, yeah…

Have you ever read the Gospels?  I mean sit down and read them through sometime.  Perhaps one a day for four days.  Or all four in one week, if that makes the project more manageable.  And really locate yourself vis-à-vis Jesus.  I don’t mean locate yourself where you think you should be in the story, but where you really live.  Say, as a shopper at the mall vis-à-vis Jesus, as a driver in the HOV lane vis-à-vis Jesus, as a pre-boarding passenger on an airplane vis-à-vis Jesus, or as a stock broker taking a client to lunch at a restaurant with valet parking vis-à-vis Jesus.

Oh… And Jesus in each of these possible scenarios is the Matthew-25 Jesus (the hungry, sick, naked, inmate or vagrant – “least of these”).

Is Jesus a jerk now?

But even if your imagination is so limited you can’t carry through with this exercise, still, read the Gospels and watch what happens.  This peasant Jew (who in Mark seems to blow in off the desert, in Matthew and Luke seems to be born to a peasant family from the other side of the tracks telling bizarre tales of how this teen pregnancy came to be, or who in John seems to burst into the world in some hifalutin poetic/theological mystic language like NO ONE talks anywhere else), any way, this peasant Jew shows up, picks a handful of smelly friends from the docks and the tax office to follow him around while he goes to church, to parties, to his hideout in the mountains, and then picks a fight with church leaders when he flips tables there, gets arrested, and finally executed.

Honestly, do you hang around ANYBODY like that?

Really???

So sitting there in the airport waiting for the plane to board, you are following THIS guy?

N.T. Wright published a comment once saying, “Where ever St. Paul went, they had a riot; where ever I go, they serve tea”.  (I think he was quoting someone else, but he made the quote famous.)  And Jonathan Storment was so moved by the quote, he wrote a great little book, I highly recommend, called How To Start A Riot.  Both Wright and Storment suggest that following this Jesus leads to trouble, not smooth sailing.

So why are we Christians so agreeable to every wind of consumerism that blows along?

Look, I am not advocating recklessness here.  Jesus is not an anarchist; he is the King!  But his exchange with “religious leaders” (as we like to call them) does not go smoothly in hardly any story the Gospels portray.  His interaction with political leaders ain’t much better.  In Luke 14 we see a Jesus who gets invited to a party, but once he arrives he starts picking on the other guests for how/where they choose to sit!

Did you catch that?  This uppity peasant manages to swing an invitation to your power lunch between stock broker and client, and the homeless guy you brought into this deal picks on the guests for the seating arrangement!

Are you sure Jesus is not a JERK?

And just when he gets the guests picked on, he starts picking on the host!  Why do you invite all your important friends?  Next time you throw a party, invite the poor, the lame, the blind….!

This Jesus, after picking on the guests, totally hijacks the party and picks on the host now too.  And I really gotta say, that if 99.9 percent of my readers had been guests there that day, they would be thinking that Frank, here, should NOT have invited this guy to come!  We were partying just fine without him!  Who let this jerk in???

Now…

You aren’t going to read that last question there in the text.  But IF YOU HAD BEEN THERE, I guarantee it would have run through your mind.  NONE of these guests at that party are sitting there thinking to themselves, “Wow!  This guy makes sense.  I should not take the proud seat, and Frank should not have invited me anyway; he should have invited some homeless bums instead!”  If they had, they would not have crucified Jesus just 9 chapters later!

You don’t get crucified by “knowing your place”!  You get crucified when you are a jerk.

So… Was Jesus a JERK?

2 Thoughts on No one Special – Hard Times Ministries blog

  1. Thanx for this, Tom.

    I have a number of reactions. Perhaps they are really just one reaction with different “levels” or something like that. But I want to engage your post… so here goes…

    First off… I know the song you are talking about. You got the lyric right, but the name of the song is CREEP. I certainly understand why you call it whining. It is a celebration of whining – but that is the nature of the blues, actually. However, the irony in it is that the song claims I AM NOT ACTUALLY SPECIAL…. I AM A CREEP/WEIRDO etc…

    I kinda identify with that.

    I also want to say that even though the reasoning behind using a pseudonym (Agent X) comes from Matthew 6 and is an idea borrowed from a former blogger who went by Agent B, there is this by product to it all. I am not promoting myself. I have created this façade that I keep separate from me in an attempt to NOT steal the glory from God. I am not special, I represent the one who is. Call me Agent X, but deal with Jesus, my Master, whom I represent – not me personally… not the guy using the name Agent X.

    I am sure I do a less than perfect job of that, but there is the general idea of it.

    But our culture promotes a special class of people we call “celebrities”. They tend to be entertainers, but they are all famous. They all make a name for themselves. Some we celebrate for their looks. Some for their talent. Some, I suppose are athletes. Some might even be politicians. Sometimes war heroes. But by far, most are from the vanity class of rock stars and movie gods.

    I love that line in Fight Club: “We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”

    I absolutely love Tom Hanks. Never met the man. Maybe he has bad breath or some other thing I would not like, but I know his work. He is a hypocrite by trade – and a good one at that! I think he SHOULD have won the Academy Award for his part as Capt. Miller in Saving Private Ryan. And while I am at it, Tom Sizemore’s Sgt Horvath makes me think I could follow that guy into any Hell on earth battle – his performance makes me want to be brave!

    But in this world, the weird thing is that I know both of those guys’s real names. They bring these fictional characters to life in such a tremendous and impactful way. It is hard to believe the actor is still alive after the movie! But, come award season, and its not Capt Miller and Sgt Horvath sitting there in the audience; it’s Tom Hanks and Tom Sizemore.

    But the vanity really comes out when we talk about Axl Rose. This guy, it seems, is just a jerk. I was a big fan of his music, but he destroyed his own legendary rock band for his own vanity. A rock star buried under beautiful women, drugs, and money and spoiled to the core by his own success. His whole career is just a LOOK-AT-ME dumb ass vanity. And when I was a kid, I wanted to be just like him.

    So glad God had other plans for me. But I want to look a bit closer at this phenom, because I think, ironically, it ALMOST is what God wants by design! It misses the mark, yes, but not in the way we might want to think. It’s like 666 is sooooooo evil, but yet so close to being 777 – yet not.

    I think God designed humanity to bear his image. In fact I am sure I read that in Genesis 1 and find variations on this theme all through Scripture. I think there is a sense in which like Tom Hanks and Tom Sizemore, I have an acting job to do. I am supposed to act the part of God on the world stage. But like a good actor, I need to immerse myself in the role, not take it lightly. But then there is another aspect of it too, and that is that I could let it go to my head the fact that I have a lead role to play in this drama! And when that happens, instead of seeing Capt. Miller or Sgt Horvath, the audience will see Tom Hanks and Tom Sizemore. And I gotta say, that though Tom Hanks, great actor that he is, seems to be one of those celebrities who keeps his feet on the ground and a level head about his own life, Tom Sizemore also is an incredible actor, but in real life he is a junkie! But as far as Axl Rose is concerned, he has taken the role of God and made it into a celebration of Axl Rose.

    If I immerse myself in the role of God on the world stage, then I will disappear in the role, but God will shine through. If I immerse myself in the role of God, I will have to take on the bits where he suffers deeply for those he loves. If I take the role of God, I, ironically, must humble myself (St Paul describes Jesus doing this in Phil. 2:5-11). In fact, to take on the role of God, on the stage in this drama, is all consuming! I cannot advance the notion that I, the actor, am special. No. I must advance the notion that the character I play, God, is the special one.

    Less of me, more of God. None of me… All of God. I am working my way along this spectrum AS AN ACTOR – as an image bearer!

    But there is another side to all this.

    I must learn to see God in the other image bearers! And they are not very good actors, usually. In fact, this is where things really get turned upside down. After all, why am I celebrating a guy like Axl Rose??? He makes himself into a black hole! Why would I celebrate that? Even my celebration of Tom Hanks needs to be divinely tempered. But my celebration of the humble should be elevated. And so when I see a person going hungry, naked, and unsheltered, I should see Jesus in that person! (Matt. 25:40). And I should celebrate that person like as if I just met Jesus! It is the part God gives me to play in the drama he is casting for the Age to Come!

    I hope that makes sense.

    This is why I talk sooooooooo much on my blog about bearing the image of God. The role-playing is one very serious aspect of that.

    And that is my reaction to your very provocative post!

    Thanx for this.

    X

    Agent X You did a much better job on this than I did. If fact, I believe you should repost both of these blogs for your sight as you don’t do yourself justice in merely having this as a comment. Thank you for such thoughtful, good hard work. Yes, you can tell that I don’t listen to music as I don’t even know the names of the songs. LOL Thank you again.

Please, if you are reading this far… Do me a favor and go pay Tom Thompson a visit on his blog.  Read the post that started this conversation.  Read it here:

https://hardtimesministries.wordpress.com/2017/06/02/no-one-special/

So… Does This Mean The Luke-14 Party Is Cancelled?

Homelessness in Lubbock is, as of last year, officially a million dollar business.  Just a decade ago, the numbers of homeless people living on our streets were so small, the average citizen didn’t know we even had a problem.  But today, our city hosts about 500, and that number keeps growing.

Lubbock, with a church on every corner, now hosts three or four major organizations that house, feed, clothe, and provide numerous other vital services to the needy.  Those organizations are not the church, but they do this work on behalf of the church.  And they now do it with a million dollar budget and media hype.

This is a good thing.  Right?

I will definitely say yes to that every time a hungry person is fed.  I will say yes, it is a good thing, every time the naked is clothed.  Yes, it is a very good thing every time the sick are nursed back to health.  These are undeniably good things, and I thank God for these services every day.

But I am asking still: Does this mean the Luke-14 Party is cancelled now?

I suppose this makes me sound like a crank.  If you had asked me 10 years ago if we had a homeless problem in Lubbock, well, I would have said yes, but I was only figuring that out myself at the time.  But if you had told me that in just 10 years, we would have a handful of organizations equipped with professionals and money to the tune of a million dollars all devoted to working on the problem, I would have thought that is great!  Problem solved!

Never mind the other problems with just how well these programs actually work.  Never mind issues with dishonesty in leadership.  Never mind the concerns whether a million dollar budget might actually serve someone’s greed on the one hand while appearing charitable on the other.  All those things, though legitimate concerns for nearly any large organization, also seem a little nit-picky.

But there is still this other thing:  The Master sent his servant to prepare for the party.  God sent his church to prepare the party.  And, well, if the million dollar organization is taking care of the poor so that the church does not have to, then does that mean the party is off?

It kinda seems like a big deal… …if you read your Bible.  But of course, if you don’t actually read your Bible, and if the goal really is to make a buck while providing conscience salve to rich people who don’t want to care, then it won’t be such a big deal in that case.

Agent Z answered the call last week and prepared the Lord’s Luke-14 Party, but hardly anyone came – the absence of family, friends, and church was pretty tough to take.  Very sad.  Predictable, it turns out (just read Luke 14), but sad.  I posted on it, even emailed the link to a few people I thought should have known.  I got a couple of apologies – pleading ignorance of course – but still.  The general vibe is not: Oh goodness, gracious!  We missed the party???  Is it too late?  Will there be another?  No.  None of that.  Just excuses… Sorry, I didn’t know….  (The one full-proof excuse.)

I wonder why I care.

The Big Reveal

If you have been waiting for The Big Reveal, here it is.  The Fat Beggars School of Prophets unveils the APOCALYPSE!

 

“Behold!”, says Jesus, “I stand at the door and knock.  If you open up, I will come in and party with you!”

(Big Reveal 3:20).

 

“When I was a stranger… “, Jesus says, “you took ME in… when you did it for the least of my brothers and sisters….”

(Matt. 25:40ish)

“When I was a stranger…”, Jesus says, “you kicked ME out… when you did not take in the least of my brothers and sisters….”

(Matt. 25:45ish).

 

 

Anniversary Post

Not sure this really matters, but the Fat Beggars blog is 2 years old today.  This is in no way the first blog I ever kept, but it is the only one I am keeping these days.  That first post two years ago didn’t have any readers.  Like a mustard seed, this blog starts off small.  Still waiting and hoping for big things.  Some day, I hope, the church in Lubbock opens the doors to the poor on a grand scale instead of keeping them locked out.

For those interested, here is the link to that first post:

https://fatbeggars.wordpress.com/2015/05/28/dumpsters-n-steeples/

 

Divine Appointment III

(Other things came up and I did not finish my little “series” of divine appointment tales… So here is the final installment.)

Last Monday, when I arrived at North Overton Park, Agent Z gave me the initial assignment of searching for poor, crippled, lame, and blind people to invite to the Luke-14 Party he was throwing.  I arrived first and parked my car.  Then I began a 25 block circuit on foot carrying a cardboard placard announcing that Jesus was sleeping on the streets of Lubbock.  I cut a long wide swath walking along Ave Q mostly, all the way up to Walmart, and then back down through alleys and back lots.  I met several individuals along the way, but one group in particular touched me.

I rolled up on the little apartment complex two blocks back from Walmart.  This humble, flea-bag joint sticks out like a sore thumb amid all the urban renovation and construction taking place in that area.  The homeless are still concentrated there, but  they are evermore squeezed between band-new, monumental Tech housing and brand-new, monumental high-rise parking lots on all sides.  And that little apartment complex is just about the last vestige of poverty left in this clash-of-cash-n-trash.

As I came along the sidewalk, the bushes opened up to reveal a group of men sitting around in the parking area next to a broke-down car drinking beer and talking.  I did not get a clear nose count, but I estimate at least 8 and maybe 10 men drinking there in the early noontime.  In fact, I am pretty certain none of them were sober.

Here’s the thing about drunks: When people get too much to drink, they tend to either get mean or nice.  Sometimes it takes a few minutes to tell which, but heaven help you if you have even one mean drunk in the group!  You cannot reason with him, if you do.  The moment the mean drunk takes offense, you have a real problem.  And… well… I did not know yet what I had on my hands.

(As an aside, I tell a story on a previous post about encountering a group like this one before and uncovering a mean drunk.  On that occasion, I spoke in tongues!  The only time I ever did that… And it moved the mean drunk to calm down and join us in worship.  For those interested, find that post here:  https://fatbeggars.wordpress.com/2016/06/21/prophets-and-dangerous-missions/comment-page-1/ .)

So here I am encountering all these drunk guys not knowing what kind of reception my little invitation will get, but not being one to shrink away, I waved as I approached and asked, “Who here wants to party with Jesus?”.  At that, all of the men wanted to talk to me.  There were smiles and inquisitive looks on all faces.  I quickly handed out my card to each as we greeted one another and told these men about our little party up the road a few blocks.

I could see these men were already quite inebriated.  I didn’t really think they would come (which they did not), but as long as I was there, I wondered if we might pray.  One older gentleman sitting in the shade seemed to speak with a bit of authority in the group.  I cued in on that and addressed him mostly.  He agreed to prayer, and in a flash, I dropped to my knees and removed my hat as I knelt next to him and held out my hand.

As I took that prayer posture, some of the others moved close to us and began placing their hands on the two of us.  One guy was in a wheel chair, and he asked to join too, so we had to pause and accommodate him wheeling into our huddle.  By this time I felt like I was in a game of TWISTER.  Our little huddle was tangled up and my arm was reaching between two guys where my hand rested on the shoulder of a man who was in the outer shell of the huddle.  And then after a pregnant pause, the authoritative man asked if I was going to lead the prayer.

I said, “I thought you should do it.  I will receive your blessing.”  I was surprised at the dignity this seemed to garner for him.  He began to pray then and plea for God’s mercy.  As he prayed holding my left hand, I could feel the man’s shoulder in my right hand as he began to break down in tears and sob.  Once he was finished, the authoritative man closed his prayer and thanked me.  He said, “We would not have prayed if you had not stopped.”

And just then one of the other guys in the group popped off saying, “Can I pray too?”

Can he pray???  YES he can pray!  And I could see where this was going already!  I spent almost 15 minutes there on my knees while these men took turns praying.  And I was amazed at how confessional the prayers were.  They all expressed how unworthy they felt in the presence of God.  Some lamented that they were starting the day drinking and wondered if God would still love them.

And just when it seemed the praying was done, and everyone wishing to voice a prayer had taken a turn, this other, somewhat authoritative, man stepped forward to talk about the woman caught in the act.  As he began telling the story, I realized he was preaching, and so I quickly removed my hat again and knelt on the ground again.  The others followed my lead and we listened to this man preach telling us other Bible stories as well.

We had a fine impromptu worship service there on the last remaining vestige of dirt and humanity squaring off with the towering greed of all the high-rise construction.  We did not need some hifalutin preacher with vestments in a sanctuary to lead us, though that would have been nice!  In fact, where is that hifalutin preacher?  Come to think of it, Where is he?  He missed out.

I am sorry to say, none of the boys ever arrived at Agent Z’s Luke-14 Party.  I truly wish they had.  Perhaps I did not COMPEL them in strongly enough.  (The text says that, btw.)  But we had a small version of it there in that parking area at the flea-bag apartments.  And I can’t help but think about the broken contrite hearts there (Psalm 51:17), shattered on the alcohol like the beer bottles smashed everywhere around those men.  I think God is pleased with their worship, and his opinion is the one that matters.

As I left the group, the authoritative men thanked me for coming, and they actually used the words: This was a Divine Appointment.

Diarrhea Cha Cha Cha!

I go to bed as usual, but wake up feeling sick in the middle of the night.  By 2 a.m., I’ve got diarrhea and vomiting.  A hardcore experience for anyone – we have all been there done that.  We all dread it when it comes.  It can strike so unexpectedly.

I really wouldn’t tell you about it, except that as things began to calm down a couple hours later, I suddenly realized how blessed I am to have the master bathroom just a few feet from my bed.  Running water, toilet, bucket, damp cloth and a thermometer all at hand.  If I had messed my clothes, the laundry room is just in the next room.  And well, I couldn’t help but think about sleeping out back of our church (Agent Z and I) a couple months ago.

If I had been hit with the Cha Chaz that night, what would I have done???

Well, the church, shamefully, was not open to help, and I had visited the can at Walmart about 400 or 500 yards away for two bathroom trips in the night.  (I don’t think I would have made it that far being sick.)

What if I was homeless and had no conventional options???

I think I would want to go to the hospital in that case.  But being all the way across town, that would require activating emergency response.  Talk about expensive!  What a waste?  But if I had Cha Cha seeping out my pants, I would be desperate, and I don’t think Walmart would want me or be of much use.

Look, I wish this unmentionable stuff could remain unmentionable, but I began to recognize last night in the throes of emesis, that tending to it discretely is a luxury.  And if nothing else, my readers here (those living indoors for sure) can make themselves thankful next time they suffer the runs.

With that… I am back to bed.  I am still mending this evening.  Thank God I have that bed!

Blowing Off Your Divine Appointment

All week long, my heart is full as I reflect on Agent Z’s Luke-14 Party which he facilitated Monday (3 days ago) in the park.  I am so thrilled that Agent Z chose to be biblical about it.  He chose Luke 14 as a template – even an assignment.  He asked for my help and guidance, but I kept that very minimal so he would stretch and grow.  And he stepped up in every way.  He raised the funding.  He made the plans.  He prepared invitations.

Being the younger partner, you can easily imagine that Agent Z is the tech-savvy guy in our group.  I had nothing to do with his electronic invitations, but he prepared a fancy video and posted it on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.  He broadcast this video invitation to everyone he knows AND to the world-wide-web.  Many responded with comments on how well done his video invitation was.  But when the event was on, only two brothers showed up.

Its as if “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 17 And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant[c] to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ 20 And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’

And so the servant goes to the Master and reports it to him.  “Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23 And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.”

(I think I read this stuff somewhere before….  Oh yeah, Luke 14!)

I am so deeply disappointed in our family, our friends, and our church.  Where were the grandparents?  I asked Agent Z this.  He shrugged.  I said, “[Z], if you had been tasked with putting on the party for President Trump when he came to Lubbock, do you think your grandparents would drop whatever they are doing and come?”  He said, Yeah.  And I think so too.  I think every friend, family, and church member of even the slightest acquaintance would trip over themselves to get to his party.  But when Agent Z invites the poor AS HE IS DIRECTED TO DO IN LUKE 14, and thereby inviting the Matthew-25:40 Jesus himself, they don’t come.

Throw a party for Jesus and watch who excuses themselves from coming!

I will be careful not to make a blanket accusation here, but with this small caveat:  Some excuses are worthy.  Agent Baby Sister was in school and could not miss class.   Some people might genuinely not have seen the invitation, and thus really did not know.  I will leave that for each individual to work out between themselves and God.  But when your son/grandson/brother/friend puts on a community-inclusive class project for school… Why and how do you blow that off?  When your boy throws a party in the park to celebrate Jesus… How do you blow that off?

I mean, this boy is doing an internship with his old youth minister as his mentor, but we saw neither hide nor hair of him!  Why???

This has only just come to my attention in the last 24 hours, but I am deeply disappointed and really struggling with this.  And I have a warning for those of you who say you value Agent Z and Jesus but who so casually blew them both off:  Luke 14:24.

Neither Jesus, Agent Z, nor me, though we conduct our ministry beneath your contempt are playing around out there.  We are serving The King!  We invited you to his feast, but you did not come.  Beware.

Divine Appointment II

Way back in 2014, a year before I started this blog, The Fat Beggars School of Prophets held an all night worship celebration on the streets.  It went like this: About a dozen (probably more) homeless people met at the Mahon Library where we prayed and then moved out to Broadway and Ave Q in the little park which was the site of the original Tent City.  There we made placards that said things like, “Honk if you love Jesus” and so forth.  I passed out a bunch of neon Tee shirts that said, “Jesus was Homeless” on them, and we proceeded to throw a party we called Lubbock’s Parade of Homeless.

After a couple of hours of enticing the driving public on that busy intersection to honk at us, we held a communion service that attracted several passersby – including a group from Aldersgate United Methodist Church who were looking for homeless people to feed.  After the communion service, we moved to Ribble Park, which was about 3 miles south of the Broadway and Ave Q intersection.  Once there, we roasted hot dogs and marshmallows on the grill and then settled in for the night (until it began to rain).  Then we took shelter under the awning at the Vandelia Church.  But we had already planned to attend church there the next morning for Sunday worship.

Among the people I met that night was a lady we will call “Agent DJ”.  I had never met her before, and afterward, I never saw her again.

I never forgot her enthusiastic participation that night.  She was one of a very few willing to don the prophet robes (graduation robes of various colors I had acquired over the years and then painted up to look like flashy church choir robes).  The robes were very flamboyant and tacky, but eye-catching, and announced to those passing by that we were serving Jesus.  Only those willing to make fools of themselves for Jesus dared to wear them, but Agent DJ was willing.  Yet, sadly, we completely lost contact with her after that event.

Fast forward from 2014 with me to last Monday morning.  I had a few errands to attend to before I could meet Agent Z at North Overton Park for his Luke-14 Party, and so I was busy.  But Mrs. Agent X (Z’s Mom) also had an errand to run down at the local hospital, where she witnessed a man appearing to be homeless walking away from the Emergency Room.  She stopped to inquire, and sure enough the man could use a ride alright.  But she was not available to give it.  So she called me and arranged with the man for him to wait until I could pick him up about half an hour later.

When I arrived at the appointed place and time, the man Mrs. Agent X tried to help was nowhere to be found.  I circled around the area a couple of times.  No sign of him.  However, I did notice a woman who looked like she might be waiting for a ride, and I wondered if she might have seen the guy.  So I asked.  And too my surprise, that woman was Agent DJ!

Divine Appointment II

Yay!!!  A reunion of sorts.  I wound up giving her a lift to the social security office so she could take care of her business and along the way we played catch up.  She remembered the Lubbock’s Parade of Homeless event with great clarity and fondness.  She reported to me that she and her son had gone to Colorado shortly after that and had taken the Fat Beggars robes and wore them on the side of the road up there too (taking the Fat Beggars national, I guess).  She said she still has her Fat Beggars Tee Shirt, which impresses me!  And now I hope she will stop by this blog and reconnect again.

I know where she goes to church now too.  And I am hopeful I might take her with us where we go for a visit once or twice as well.  Agent DJ is surely a great source of encouragement to me and a wonderful partner in spreading the Gospel on the streets of Lubbock.

I am sad to say that she was not available to attend the Luke-14 Party, but I really hope we can serve together again soon as part of other events.  In the meantime, re-establishing contact puts her on my regular prayer list (a list growing at an alarming rate, btw).

DJ, if you are reading here, please reach out.