Christmas Day

I saw when they stopped trying,
Stood up and stepped away,
His soul no longer with us,
And today is Christmas Day.

His little body lying there,
From whom it’s life had fled,
No injury that I could see,
But now he lies there, dead.

I couldn’t see the car, then,
Behind patrol cars hid,
The driver led away now,
For the mistake he did.

There was nothing I could do, then,
Nor is there anything, now,
The only thing I ask myself,
Is why this happened, how.

How can a life be taken,
A soul just snatched away,
His family left without him,
And today is Christmas Day.
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Humble Christmas

Something that really struck me hard, tonight, was the humility of the folks that I have met that were in Nazi death camps. They were the sweetest, nicest people that you may ever hope to meet. But they were, all of them, first and foremost, humble. Quiet, unassuming folks that never raised their voices in celebration, even. I have always thought that Joseph and Mary must have been a lot like that, even before I met these people in this time. They did what the government required, in registering for the census, even though Mary was in her ninth month of pregnancy. Just like the Jews walked into the prison camps. Just trying to get by, in the face of oppression.
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Think about that for a bit, this Christmas season. A sixty or more mile hike, probably on foot, most likely taking a week, to get to a town where you find yourself completely unwelcome. It must have been daunting, to say the least, if not dangerous. And for dirt poor people, as they were, is must have been tragically expensive, too. You might be able to carry enough food and water for the trip going there, but you’d have to buy things for the journey home.
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And there was no delivery room or doctor to help with the birth. Just a carpenter, who would know nothing at all about the care of women and babies, trying to keep his wife-to-be from death, an all too common result back then. And for Mary, it must have been terrifying. Not even another lady there to help her have the baby, and in a barn, no less. Nowhere to put Him, but on top of the animal food, in a feed bin. That’s pretty humble, but there was nothing else they could do.
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This child, born out of wedlock, would have been shunned, in the society of those days. He would not be worth wasting spit on, for most folks, and His parents had to know that. Like the Jews from all over Europe during World War Two, they were so looked down upon that they were considered a problem. And the census they participated in was conducted only to find out how much money the government could wring out of those people.
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You have to wonder why they didn’t just leave Him there to die. Except for the signs beforehand and the witnesses that arrived, they probably would have. Any other couple in their situation definitely would have, so that had to be on their minds. All the people that showed up for the birth must have made it worse for them. They would have been trying to hush all this up, not being married yet, and here come shepherd boys and kings bearing gifts, not to mention angels proclaiming it to the world.
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I wrote all this stuff down, just as God put it in my mind. It has given me a bit of insight into the struggles of this poor couple, as well as the Jews in their Nazi dominated world, just to stay alive. I hope it does that for you, too, this year. Have a humble Christmas.

Monroe Park is:

Monroe Park is:
A.- A place (most Richmond folks’ answer)
B.- A person (the dreaded FB answer)
C.- a state of mind (the hippie’s answer)
D.- Where you can’t play Loud Music (the punk’s answer)
E.- the People’s Park (the liberal’s answer)
F.- 9.7 acres of Valuable Property (the conservative’s answer)
G.- Dangerous (V.C.U.’s answer)
H.- Cooly Dangerous (the V.C.U. student’s answer)
I.- Where the Poor are (the church’s answer)
J.- Where the Poor are (the temple’s answer)
K.- Where the poor are (the police’s answer)
L.- Near James Monroe’s remains (the historian’s answer)
M.- Near Washington, D.C. (the foreigner’s answer)
N.- Waaaay downtown (the suburbanite’s answer)
O.- Outside downtown (the urbanite’s answer)
P.- What? Where? (the city’s answer)
Q.- A Retirement Plan (o.k.- this is an inside joke)
R.- 6 blocks from the river (the Homeless’ answer)
S.- A food place, on the weekend (the Poor’s answer)
T.- Beautiful, for a little while longer (my answer)Image

An Explanation of Psalm 23 for Richmond’s Homeless

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing

(because church groups bring us yummy grub)

He makes me lay down in green pastures

(at Monroe Park)

He leads me beside quiet waters

(along the Kanawha Canal)

He refreshes my soul

(with a nice river breeze)

He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake

(away from the police)

Even though I walk through the darkest valley

(down by the jail, to the Conrad Center)

I will fear no evil, because You are with me

(once more…the police)

Your rod and Your staff; they comfort me

(more goodness from the church groups)

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies

(eating in the midst of VCU)

You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows

(oil=sap from the trees, overflows with cold water)

Surely Your goodness and love will follow me

(down to the 7-eleven and back)

all the days of my life

(even if it’s freezing)

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

(at Mount Moriah’s overflow shelter)


A Cornet for Tatenda

Back in the middle of March, this year, Tatenda, a Facebook friend of mine who lives in Zimbabwe asked me an odd question. He asked if I could possibly get him a trumpet. I told him that I am poor, but if it was possible, I would do it. He said that he wanted it so he could play in his local Salvation Army band, and I found out later that they share one trumpet between five people. I knew I was on a mission.
At the Temple
God sends me out to do these funny little things, sometimes. I don’t ask why, I just get it done as best as I can. I started by asking another dear friend, Wendy, if she knew of anyone who might have one that wasn’t being used, because her son, Landon, is in band at school, and I thought that they might just maybe know of one. Wendy said she would have Landon ask his music teacher if she knew of any,  so I let that rest.

I next asked several other friends for it, but got no results. I checked back with Wendy, only to find that the music teacher had given all her extra instruments to others, just before I asked. Around this time, I got to speak to a youth group at a Church in Ashland 15 miles away. They graciously gave me 25 dollars for speaking, but I just knew that this money wasn’t for me. It had to go toward sending the trumpet. God was just starting to teach me patience, at this point, so I waited. I didn’t know what else to do, but I knew that if God wanted this done, nothing would stand in the way. It would come on His timing, not mine. March ended, then April went by. And then it happened.
Wendy sent me this picture showing the cornet that the music teacher had forgotten about, tucked away in a corner (a cornet is a slightly different kind of trumpet). I was blown away. It looked so beautiful I could hardly believe it. When I actually held it in my hands, I knew that God was behind this whole thing, and I could not fail to see it through. The next part was hard, though. Money for postage. I tried asking several friends that I knew were rich, and got crickets. Dead silence. Nothing. Two more weeks of patience lessons.
And then, again, it happened. Mark, a friend that lives in a van and comes to the park where we get food to survive on gave me 5 dollars. He told me a friend of his had given him money when he needed it, and he was just paying it back by giving it to me. He had no idea whatsoever that I was trying to do this project at all. It positively had God’s fingerprints all over it. After that, the money came in pretty quickly. Within two more weeks, we had it. I had checked with Zimbabwe Customs, and because it was a gift, it was duty-free. This was a big concern, at first, because it could possibly have doubled the money we needed to get it done.  Monday, May 14, we shipped it.
On the scaleYou can see that I put crosses all the way around the box, for extra insurance. Then, yet more patience lessons. A week went by, then day after day we waited for word from Africa. Two weeks. More days. Then God Taught me another lesson. The Doubting Thomas lesson. It seemed to me that somewhere in the 8,000 miles between us, it just got swallowed up. Gone. I told Wendy that she might as well go to the Post Office to try to get her insurance money back, because it was lost. This woman had more faith in God than I did. She told me to let her send the package number to Tatenda, so that they could track it from there. The next morning, first thing that showed up on my Facebook page was this:
You could have knocked me over with a feather. I cried my heart out, and then I cried some more. I was speechless with joy for over an hour. I had a very hard time trying to type up the schedule of those good people who come to the park, for the tears. And there it sat, in the sun, in Zimbabwe.
The very next Sunday Tatenda had the cornet dedicated to God. It will be used to praise Him, until it is more worn out than I am. May it bring more people to praise His name. It has taken until now to write this because I still had one more lesson to learn. Miracles still happen.

VCU’s Spree

April 14 and the Inter-Cultural Festival marked the continuation of VCU’s wanton spree of destruction of Monroe Park. By driving heavy trucks on roadways designed solely for foot traffic, they assure the disintegration of this historically sensitive area.

Every huge event that the University has perpetrated here over the years further degrades the fragile nature of one of the last places that Abraham Lincoln visited in Virginia shortly before his death. By bringing enormous hordes of visitors to the Park, they are, in fact, helping to erase any traces that might remain of his visit. The surprisingly tall canopy trees are but a reminder of a slower, more relaxed time in our history that VCU wants to erase and replace with modern brick-piles.

Be assured that they will not rest until they have acquired what they consider their campus quad, regardless of what anyone else might think. In the same manner that they acquired, house by house, in the surrounding neighborhoods, every property that stood in the way of their massive construction projects, so they intend to do to the only formal Park that this city owns.

It remains the only location that is perfect for planting ceremonial trees, having outdoor speeches by our local, state, and federal government officials, as well as protests by those who disagree with them and lots more.

It is a cool and restful place in the heat of summer, and a mild and sheltered location in the dead of winter. In the spring it has beautiful blossoms on it’s huge magnolia trees, and in fall, amazingly colorful leaves on the rest of it’s variety of older trees.

Please do not let this paragon of a Park be destroyed by the unscrupulous manipulations of an agency of the State grown over-large by preying upon the fears of an uneducated public. Indeed, do not do as Benedict Arnold did, when he retreated through this immediate vicinity, when the British chased him down Grove Avenue, the first time Richmond was burned. Stand and fight the faceless minions of mediocrity. Tell VCU that they can’t have this magnificent property and turn it into a grassy field which would be hot in the summer and frozen in winter.

Let them know that Richmond places some value upon the good things of a bygone era, because, as not everything new is good, neither is everything big good, and the University is nothing if not too big already.

Fog (for Erin)

The fog fits, tonight,

Hiding the rough edges,

Smoothing the pain,

Wrapping it in silence.

A solid wet mass, drenching,

Washing sorrow clean away,

It feels like the whole world

Needed a good solid fog, tonight.