Other Voices


The time was 1968.  I was listening to Bob Dylan and yes, the Times were indeed Changing.

On one occasion, it was out of Omaha and later that night, hitchhiking via Iowa with a harsh, driving rain and thunder.

And this is what I saw:

I saw the death of the poets in the gutter:  the drunks and the poor around burning barrels:  I saw a man, a black man, named Fitts who was dying from kidney failure and whom I wrapped my arms around this man as his body exploded.

I was left with salvia and snot and a love for a man who felt so all alone.

I heard the voices of all of those who were miserable, who were hurting, who were vulnerable and who were all so much better off than I, and when I was schizophrenic and feeling so sorry for myself.

When on trains, that black ladies that were teachers took so good of me. I saw people who gave me food:  people who offered comfort.

I met people who were of all colors and who were so good to me.

And even when once, I crawled out of an Air Force Hospital and told I had three days to live, a host of people who received me.

All of those voices kept me alive.  No, I never actually heard those voices, not for real.  But I could hear and see the faces in my mind.

Perhaps I was crazy but I believed in them.  And the one factor so overwhelming with them, is that they believed in my friend, Jesus.

Thus, to this day, I believe in all those voices, those that helped me so much.  And as much as how they were so very real and other voices, they are still here with me today.

The Corporate Beast


To our shock, several years ago, The United States Supreme Court stated that corporations could donate unlimited amount of money to politicians while ordinary citizens could not.  In a sense, this gave more power to corporations than to people.

Also, in legal terms, there are ‘people’ such as Mickey Mouse, Chucky Cheese, Pizza Hut, etc.  These entities possess legal rights much the same as people.  To that effect, it means that at least legally, there is such a ‘person’ as Mickey Mouse.

Our monetary world also sees corporations, all for the benefit of our free enterprise system.  However, our church world and other non-profit systems also enjoy the benefits of corporation and fall under the impersonal notation of what I call:  a beast.

I called them a beast for unlike individuals, corporations all entail the privilege of limited liability.

Without trying to pick on someone, legally, there would be the entity, a real organism such as “The First Baptist Church”.  Of course, this could be followed with a cast of thousands, but the point here is that this is all impersonal insomuch that no people exist within this legal structure, only inanimate objects.

Perhaps the greatest damage comes about within the corporate structure is that everything, all energies concentrate on preserving the corporation and corporate structure.

In reference to the church, the original purpose of the corporation would certainly be for the best interests of people and for the glory of God, but the very nature of the corporate beast is to grow, to self-preserve, and to protect itself. Soon, the original purpose of the corporate structure becomes secondary and maybe even eventually in the long run forgotten altogether.

We begin to see successes measured in terms of numbers, in terms of dollars raised and Lo and Behold, the proverbial Building Fund which never goes away. Yes, I think there is always a Building Fund no matter how many buildings for the church that exist.

Sometimes, eventually, the congregation dies out over the years and often we see the entire corporation come tumbling down. This also occurs at times when the founder and principal leader dies, especially when there was no thought of succession or when the concentration was only on the original founder.

Yet, all in the BEAST usually grows and grows much like a spreading cancer.  Too, increasing expensing mount and the pleas for assistance come pounding on our doors.  Never mind the fact that his CANCER eats away at the congregant and the fact it is administrators who such away most of the revenue, the pleas continue to blast away at our pockets.

Perhaps this is something that Jesus experience when he examined the prevailing church of His times:  the established order.  No, corporations as we know them failed to exist but the creature that was there was appalling enough.

And after 2,000 years, we have seen the BEAST grow bigger into a CORPORATE BEAST: one that is all consuming and one that has failed its people and its God.

My plea is for all Christians to step outside of the BEAST and back into the humanity, the family and kingdom of God as requested by Christ:  And all of this is on personal levels: one that goes beyond the established order and one that defies the elements of the world and far beyond the domain or realm of the CORPORATE BEAST.

Man’s Approach


Man’s universal approach for gaining assistance is to first fill out a form to see if you qualify.  Coming into the office, you are seen as a client, not as a person.  There is a WE THEY attitude with the one seeking assistance being seen as in servitude.
While this is most persistent in government offices, it is sad that many of the church utilize the same methods.

The good news is that Jesus referred to us as friends for he said: “The servant knows not what the master does.”

Proverbs also tells us that a friend in need is a friend indeed, yet more often than not, not only if we are in need are we not considered a friend, but neither referred to as a friend.  Again, we are a client in the best of terms.

Home visits mean the interviewer caseworker is to sit on the edge of the sofa so as not to get dirty.  The caseworker is careful to describe the situation as either a person who is broke from chronic poverty. Naturally, this makes some sense as being broke is only a temporal situation and is usually resolved as opposed to being poor.

However, the worse of the worse is that not only are you poor, but also one of those people:  those who are beneath the dignity of those who are not poor.

Now then, we have blame time:

We must blame people who are poor for clearly anyone can work if they simply wish to.

Another supposition is that we are to ‘empower’ the poor person to ‘rise’ out of their calamity.  Good people are always empowering others, or at least they say they do or will.

The end result is still another form.  At the end of whatever assistance (which usually involves being referred to still another caseworker) there is yet another form.  Remember, number matter to the institution.

After a while, we begin to realize that the institution is actually more important than the people. In matters of the church we come to terms with the idea that the pretty white church that looks so pristine is not to be dirtied or look used or old. No, not at all.  The clean church is to remain clean:  no the pews cannot be used to house the homeless or the poor. These are chores to be performed ‘outside’ of the church.  And here we learn that the church is NOT the people, but the crummy building that says it’s the church.  In the end, still another form.

Thank God, when approaching Jesus we have no need for a form.  I would hope that in approaching my fellow Christians that I would not need one either, but would be seen not as a client, but as a person:  one who also loves the Lord.

In the end, I would also hope that I would receive the Godly approach, not man’s and in the ned have no use of a form.

I hear voices


When you saw me walking down the street

And judged me so harshly, when you called me a bum and left me there on the streets

When I was a schizophrenia and you were afraid of me

The voices told me how good you were.

I was there with you.

Why did you judge me so bad?

Because I believe you had?

I heard voices then and now

I couldn’t tell you how

For God told me the goodness of you.

I am there with you

And still those who speak of you

I am crazy.  And what do I say,

I hear voices that say.

I hear voices

They speak of you.

 

Eye Contact


Anyone who knows the rules of the street knows that by establishing eye contact one opens himself up to a host of problems.  If the eyes meet you can expect:

“Hey man, ya got a smoke?”

“How about a beer?”

“Have ya got spare change?”

“Hey, man.  You straight?”  and the list of requests goes on..

What happens here is that once people establish eye contact, then the two people become human to each other.

Proverbs says that the pupils are the windows to a man’s soul.  In this way we enter into a world that is open, raw and vulnerable.

The strict rules of the streets are that you are not, absolutely not to look into another’s eyes.

If we don’t meet them head-on, then we can label our fellow man as a bum, any of racial slurs, a dead beat, good for nothing….actually any limiting term is good as long as we debase the other person we see as a nuisance or even possible opponent.

In this sense, we actually do NOT want to come face to face.  We wish to avoid and elude as we justify, rationalize that our time and money is worth more elsewhere, usually on our own desires.

This identical street rule applies also to God.  As long as God was put away someplace in Heaven on His throne, man did not establish eye contact.

The rule breaker of this street law was Jesus.  Jesus not only dwelled on this earth but also engaged with common, ordinary people.

The truth of the matter is that Jesus acknowledged all of the people, the crowds, the groups and lost individuals that you and I avoid.

Jesus met his tender, forgiving eyes with all that he encountered, instructing us to do the same.

By following this witness, this was to be the gospel, the mechanism by which others would be introduced to God on this earth.

Insomuch we have all the intellect, the words:  we fail in action.

There are a myriad of reasons why we fail to face our fellow man, but on the whole it is because of fear.  As a people we are afraid of other people who are different from us, and feel we lack the ability to have anything in common.  Too, we loathe the dirt, the filth or smell of those who might be downtrodden, and consider ourselves above them.

The consequence is that ‘God’ walks by them-when you are the messenger. You then are that messenger sent by God to focus on their eyes into their hearts.  And when we fail this simple task, God gets relegated back as he was before the advent of Christ and to most will not exist at all.

 

People Approach vs Program Approach


Can you imagine going to God and asking for a job so you could feed your family and in turn, God directs you to His Employment, Career and Guidance Program.  Another take would be if you were hungry and God enrolled you in His World Food Bank entitlement program.

In human terms, paperwork is involved, success/failure rated by numbers enrolled and then there is the pitch for people to contribute.

In general terms, most direct, street ministers utilize the people approach.  A people approach is not based on a program, yet involves personal, one-on-one contact.

It could be said that a people approach is a more caring avenue to address those in need and that a people approach involves personal risk for those reaching out to people who are at times, in desperate perils.

Our government is laced with many, many over-lapping programs that are designed to assist people.  This is also true with the churches and other nonprofit entities. With so many (thousands) of programs, why then are people falling through the cracks?

In approaching God, we as humans desire the warmth and comfort of a personal God.  Programs are NOT personal.  They are various cogs that remove people from the equation and concern themselves with numbers.

I know that when I approach God, I’m glad he doesn’t steer me to a program.  Too, I desire the same from my brothers in Christ.  I would hope that God’s children would fulfill the commandments of our Lord with the People, personal approach and not rely on the inadequacies of an inhuman program.

Cracking the egg in the Middle


I remember some legend where two countries fought over how to crack open an egg.  One country insisted you had to crack it on the large side of the egg near the end, and the other—that the egg must be cracked near the small portion of the shell near the end.  Finally, after years of war, the matter was settled by the suggestion of cracking the egg in the middle.

In examining Jesus and his mode:  we see Him preach for hours and THEN feed the masses.  This scene forces to my mind hunting with Bird Dogs.  Who in their right mind would first feed the dog and then expect the animal to hunt?  Not in your life.

Yet, I believe we are back facing the dilemma of What Came Frist the Chicken or the Egg?  Come on, now.  It doesn’t matter.

In downtown Jacksonville, a Homeless Shelter always forces the crowd to endure the sermon prior to feeding.  The idea, of course, is to induce people to listen.  Yet, our own belief as Christians insist that we don’t really convert the lost:  It is the conviction powers of the Holy Spirit.  Naturally, we are always trying to out think God and intervene for we want success by our own efforts.  However, this should not be the case.  Our job as Christians is simply to preach the Gospel and let God take care of the organization of His Kingdom.

Nonetheless, none of this is worth arguing over, much less a spiritual fight.  I suggest we simply obey God’s word and do what he asks us to do and that is to serve.  If we desire replication of Christ’s modality, then we should attempt the spittle routine and heal a blind man’s eyes. Most of us, however, aren’t confident enough to attempt that miracle nor the other act of walking on water.

In the meanwhile we have service to others and His Word by declaration and not necessarily in that order. Why waste time with silly riddles that are tantamount to the Chicken or the Egg question?  Simply crack the egg in the middle and give both the rooster and the hen credit for producing the egg.

And Where Do we Find God?


This should be an easy answer as the Bible is clear that the introduction of God is held in the hands of the Christian.  More often than not, however, we throw our hands up into the air and declare that we simply can’t find God.

The words of Jesus are clear:
“And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

It is the responsibility of the church, His disciples to introduce people to Him and to make these new creatures into even more disciples.  More evidence is indicated by Jesus:

“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?”

So you see while yes, God is in heaven, His spirit dwells within the children of God.  His Spirit was freely given while Christ was here with us on earth.
“And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:”

I believe if we are honest, we are always pointing to Heaven because we refuse to obey the Gospel and the commandments given to us by our Lord, Jesus.  In truth, there is no reason in talking about God unless we are willing to serve by example.

This means simply that if the knowledge and experience of the Lord is to be made known, then the Christian will be the mechanism by which this comes about.  Remember, the keys were put into our hands.  The responsibility is ours.  It will be this way  until the end.

America’s Intellectual Quest for God


In a nutshell, the experience of the Christian life is just that: experiential. I’ll be in this country, all attempts are made to experience God on an intellectual level.

True enough, God must be understood on some intellectual level, but mostly the experience is enhanced by doing: this is an action, an activity. Yet aside from the fact that Christian bookstores teem with books that espouse Christian discipleship, and literally hundreds if not thousands of churches lace the streets of any large city in America, the abundance of love does not give way to its fruition. With all the churches on any given street, one would think that the cloud of God would follow the Christians in any community. However, anyone knows this is not the situation.

 

The truth is there is no substitution for one-to-one interactions with our fellow man. A great evidence of God on this earth was the fact that Jesus appeared as a person among normal ordinary people. Most of the people Jesus encountered were people who suffered. At times much of the suffering was due to dismal thoughts or expectations and hopes. At other times, people were lacking: lacking in faith, in patience, and at times, hope.

 

Much of the hope that Christ gave his followers was a result not so much of his words, but by examples of his deeds. He paid for all this by the cost of his life. This free gift was an example in terms of how we are to live our lives as Christians. The question then becomes who is willing to pay the price?

 

Consequently, the evidence of a Christian is an ability to forgive, to give, show mercy, as well as to deny oneself.

 

As generous as Americans are as a whole, more often than not, we lack the ability to deny ourselves. Yet in any given time, we love the idea that we are good people. The more important concept here, is not that we are good people, but that we assist other people as their servants. Also generally speaking, the more we have and most Americans have a lot, the harder it is to serve.

 

Serving means more than giving money, as any good parent knows. For a parent needs to be there with the child providing time, subsistence, love, a physical presence, and proper guidance.

 

This is exactly what we ask God to give us. If God lives in a vacuum with no substance, we have no idea he’s alive all. It is only one God interacts with people, that we are able to sustain ourselves, and our identity as Christians. The interaction is a simple process. The Holy Spirit within the Christian is to interact with God’s children. This is the entire nature of the church. This is a process for all God’s people come together. At this point ,intellectual the  process is over, and a vibrant dynamics of man-to-man responses take over. It does not require a genius to figure this out.

 

 

What is Worse: Homeless or without an Automobile?


This is an easy one for me.  Jacksonville, Florida is 806.4 square miles, an extremely large area.  If you want to get around in this city, you better have a car.  For the most part: if you want a job, you’d better have a car.

The reasoning is this:  If you have a car, you can survive.  You can stay at many Walmart’s for free and have security.  The automobile provides shelter and additional transportation to work.

Consequently, your ‘home’ may be your automobile.  In fact, I did it once with four of us in a van during the winter and it worked out pretty good.

Thus, one might argue that driving is a privilege, but I counter that it is a right as without the car your chances of surviving simply are not that good. Being homeless is bad enough, yet being homeless without a car is horrible.

This county is built around the automobile.  Everything within our county is dependent on wheels.  This is a fact and hard to work around.  An auto ensures that if you are homeless, it should be short-lived as you have a pathway to work.

A walker is so much more exposed on the streets, almost inviting trouble.  To put it simply:  you are a target.  The reason you are a target is that you have little avenues for escape.

Finally, aside from getting homeless people a job.  There is the issue of clean clothes and a good night’s sleep.  You more or less can juggle this problem in an automobile, but nearly impossible on the streets.