History, Repeated

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My dad, back in the middle of the last century, and at the request of this nation, fought to end fascism. To end a people being herded around and rounded up, to be put in prison camps, then exterminated. They were doing it right, a “just” war, if you will; to stop one particular type of person being singled out as a “problem” and facing a “final solution”. Thousands of Americans died trying to end this kind of tyranny. We won that war, then.b migmoth

History is repeating itself before your very eyes. Instead of a “Jewish Problem”, now it’s called a “Homeless Problem”. The results are much the same. Homeless folks being herded from place to place; Police conducting “sweeps”, chasing them to abandoned places, actually worse than ghettos. Imprisoned for merely being homeless. It will not be too very long before they are being burned to provide electricity to heat your homes. A new “final solution”. You don’t believe it can happen here? The Germans said the same thing, indeed, refused to believe it happened, even when shown the proof.c homeless

We are on the verge, if not over it, of this becoming a fact, in this country. And people that call themselves Christians, just like Hitler did, are at the very heart of it. City governments all across this land have enacted anti-homeless laws that not only discriminate against them, but make it illegal to even *be* homeless. Other, less evilly-intentioned Christians are trying to help the homeless in their communities. By not protesting against the laws that their employees (the city governments) enact, they are complicit in their crimes against humanity.d 361_n

For a couple of examples, in Pensacola,Florida, they have enacted a law that forbids wearing a blanket outdoors. Regardless of the temperature, you can be arrested for doing this. Hawaii has made it illegal to wear a knapsack in certain parts of the islands. Because it might scare away tourists. Right now, homeless folks are being murdered by police, for whatever the reason; “they’re just homeless people, and that’s a problem”. Do not say that it can’t happen here, because it already is happening…here.e 0820_n

Jesus, Himself, claimed homelessness as His own cause. The time that He spent proclaiming the good news to the poor was spent on the run from a government that wanted Him dead, for protesting against their behavior. Every time that you drive past a guy standing on the corner with a sign, you are spitting in Jesus’ face. Every time you do not go make a friend of somebody in need, you are driving the nails in deeper to His wrists and ankles. And when you do not fight against laws that discriminate against the poor, you are driving His cross more firmly into the earth.f IMG00003 B

I have to think that my dad, and countless of those other deceased veterans that died for you, would be ashamed of all of us. I am.


Three Little Things

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1. If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
Luke 14:22 KJV

2. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
Luke 14:23 KJV

3. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all he hath, he cannot be my disciple.
Luke 14:33 KJV
These are the three requirements for being a disciple (or follower) of Jesus. It’s there in black and white. If you want to tell other people how to love God, these three things must be accomplished before you can do that. That goes for pastors, deacons, bishops, and anyone else who sets themselves up between you and God. Period. He said so. Anything else is just “seeking” God. Trying to find a way to get closer to Him, without quite arriving there; sidling up alongside of Him, so to speak. Because, once you believe that Jesus meant those words He said, here, you must either act upon that, or not. Either you think that Jesus was insane (I couldn’t give away everything I own!), or you do what He said, in words, to do (forsake all you own). It means turning away from the World (corruption, greed, and hate), and turning toward the Light (caring, sharing, and love). You cannot very well do that in any church that does the one thing that Jesus went berserk over. The one time He totally lost it. Bookstores, that’s what I mean here. It makes me want to go off and flip over cash registers and chase people out of there, when I see sales going on in what is supposed to be God’s home. You gotta consider, though, that all the people in church are broken, that’s why they’re there. They want God, but just don’t necessarily want to do the things He said to do to show that they love Him. It’s more fun to sing about doing good than it is to actually go do that.

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Hating yourself and everyone you’re related to has got to be the hardest to understand. Most churches teach that this doesn’t mean actually “hating” your family, it means how you feel about them compared to how you should feel about God. The text doesn’t say that. It says to hate them. Okay…if you don’t dislike how your life is going, how can you ever hope to change it for the better? Or…if you don’t dislike how your loved ones are, how can you possibly want them to be better? There’s just one small step, from dislike to hate. One step more of caring, and you get to loving them. Now, if you follow that just one further step, you get to loving others. That’s where you hate the bad part, but love the good part, of everyone you meet. Wanting them to be better, so all of us can be better. Helping others, so they can help yet others.

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The bad things you have done in your life are the only key you get, to open a path into others‘ hearts. Yes…the things you wish you hadn’t done. When your conscience (God’s own voice!) told you not to do something, and you went ahead and did it anyway. Those things can help you to relate to others, to share your knowledge with others, and to learn from others who have already walked on the wrong path. They are the cross that you bear, all your life. They are scars written painfully large upon your heart, the wisdom you have eventually learned in your life.

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The freedom you get from throwing away greed is indescribable. You begin to realize that people are living in pure terror of losing all those things they have. Instead of that fear, you have time for loving everybody else on the planet. That terror, spiritually, comes from not doing what God wants done. Turning from the god of mammon that is greed, and turning toward the true God that is Love. When we are all poor, we will all be rich. Have a King, not a president.

As for me, I say to come, look, and see what I do. I dare you. Failing that, look at my Facebook pages, see the fruit of my work for God. I’m not boasting, here, I’m trying to prod your spiritual imagination. To find a way to carve out a niche where you can make a difference in other people’s lives. Not by giving to Goodwill, or writing a check to The United Way, but touching, feeling, and immersing yourself in other people’s very lives. I want to make your empathy grow and bear the fruits of the Spirit. I want you to hate how everybody is so much that you grow to love them all their lives. I want you to care about others, at least as much as I try to, and work at, every day. I must thank God for helping me write out this rant, it would be impossible, without Him. The name on the narrow gate to heaven is love.

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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.
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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.