Monday, September 29, 2008

Sacrilege Safari

"Sacrilege safari
Into jungles of tradition.
Will we make it back to life
Or die of malnutrition?
Sceptics sneer with icy eyes
In the bushes they lay hidden
We want to reach the heathen tribes
But our methods are forbidden."
-"Jungle Music" by Servant (classic song, check it out on iTunes)

This is how we at Anawim sometimes feel when a church kicks us out because of the people we work with. Some churches assume that all their problems stem from allowing the homeless in one day a week. Some churches think that we are being "taken advantage of" and that the homeless are lazy or worse and so unworthy to be in their church. Some think that the homeless are just interested in food or showers and aren't interested in worship.

None of this is true.

If anyone provides an opportunity for the homeless to worship God, they will see that many of the homeless are sincere believers. While most of these are weak believers, they are no less of a percentage of weak believers among the middle class.

I firmly believe, however, that if we challenge the homeless to be strong believers, that they will rise up to that challenge. Yes, it will take time, faithfulness and patience, but God will do the work in their hearts, if we would but provide the opportunity.

God is not weak-- neither in his compassion, nor in his Spirit. If he can do a work amongst the wealthy, then He will even more so do the work among the poor, whom He says are His people.

Never fail to pray for the homeless. Never fail those who seek to serve them.

Pray for Pic


To the left is Howie, who died of liver failure earlier this year. Pic, to the right, was his best friend and "roaddog". Pic almost died himself of the same ailment just after Howie. But Pic survives, even though he tells me, "I don't have long to go." Please pray that he gets out of his rut and truly seeks the help of Jesus, whom he loves.
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Dead Iraqi Child


Last Tuesday, I put this picture up above the Anawim motto: "The poor seeking the Lord for deliverance". I got some pretty upset people there. My point was just that Jesus is found among the most marginalized in the world, but it was taken as a flaming-liberal anti-war statement. Well.... okay. I can take that.

So I stood up before the 40 plus people and said, "I understand that some of you were offended by this picture. I just want to let you know that if you were offended by this, that you should probably leave now because you haven't seen anything yet."

Then I launched into my sermon about how the church has been compromised by the world.

We'll see if anyone shows up next week.
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Good Reminder

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Sol Robbins-- She Died

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Sol Robbins-- Barrak-Style Shelter

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sol Robbins

Sol Robbins is an artist in New York City, who has captured the soul of urbania. If you look at his website:
you might see images that might disturb you, but they are the heart of the city. Follow the series through to the end and read the descriptions, if you can.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Slavery does have its benefits. Sure, you’re forced to spend your life working for what you don’t believe in, and you could be beaten for no real reason, but it’s not ALL bad. After all, you don’t have to worry about where your next meal is coming from. And you’ve got a fixed income. And regular work. And if they don’t give you any work, then, heck, you can take the day off and not have to feel a pang of guilt. And you don’t have to worry about your retirement, either. After all, it’s all taken care of.

And if there’s any problem, you can always blame the owner and his lackeys. They run the place, so if the food isn’t to one’s liking or there’s a problem with the farm tools or it’s too hot, you can always blame them. You don’t have to take responsibility for anything.

The problem is, if you ever get released from slavery, then you are cut loose from all these benefits. And, as much as you hated being enslaved, you weren’t prepared to live on your own. You aren’t prepared to be responsible for yourself. So the one freed from slavery has to go through a larger attitude adjustment than people who have been free most of their lives.

This could be called “slavery mentality”, but today it is more often called “prison mentality”. As bad as prison is, there is a security there that, over time, becomes a dependence. And some of those who finally get out of prison don’t know what to do with themselves. No one to give them a schedule. There’s a need to figure out what to eat and how one would eat. No one to blame for one’s situation except for oneself.

Too many choices. Too much responsibility. Too much freedom.

For most of us, this is hard to imagine. After all, we appreciate our freedoms, and most of us, like a teenager stuck in their parent’s house, we long for greater freedoms. But there are many people, when faced with freedom, it’s hard to know what to do with it.

This is the way it is with many marginalized peoples. If, as a society, a group has been under the thumb of another group, perhaps for generations, then marginalization becomes a way of life, a preferred way of living. Oh, sure, we still complain about “the man” and we make plans for freedom and dream about how it would be if we really were free. But honestly, do we really want the freedom if it were thrust upon us?

Some would do well, thriving in the new society. But many would find the new freedom impossible to live with. Because they find that they have to live with themselves, their own choices, their own problems. And the one freedom that is most difficult to deal with is the freedom to be responsible only to oneself.

The life in God is a sorted kind of freedom. It is a life of freedom from oppression, but it is also a voluntary limitation that is difficult to live out. Sure, we can claim that God is responsible for the situation in our lives, but God at times places that responsibility squarely upon on own shoulders again. Because although God is our Master, He gives us more freedom than we can handle sometimes. He gives us the ability to make our own choices—we can’t just blame a sin nature or society for our sins and failures. He will provide everything for us, but we need to willingly put ourselves under His provision and not turn to the world for what He freely offers.

Sometimes this combination of freedom and dependence is difficult to live in.

And if we were a part of a marginalized society, offered freedom under God, sometimes this is harder to live with than if we were one already used to freedom.

Why would we choose to give up a freedom given to us from the world, simply because God is offering us a better option? Why would we choose to work hard for God when we’ve never had to work that hard before? Why would we turn away from prosperity and power in the world, what we wanted for so long, just offered to us freely, just because we could have a better life in God?

This is the trickery of much of the church. They offer to the marginalized—the poor, the street people, the imprisoned, the racially outcast, the immigrant—an opportunity to live a “normal middle class” life, although this lifestyle in the perspective of the human race as a whole is neither middle class nor normal in any way. The marginalized, through the church, is finally offered the freedom they wanted and needed.

Yet it is exactly this freedom that God wants us NOT to have. He wants us to work for Him. He wants us to give up our luxuries and our powers. He wants us to have freedom in the Spirit, which will lead, eventually, to freedom in the world, but probably not in our lifetimes. He wants us to give all our excess to the poor, to care for the needy. This is true freedom.

But those who grew up poor want to be taken care of. They want it handed to them, because they’ve suffered so much already. Why should they give it away?

So those who work with the marginalized have to make hard choices, led by God’s Spirit. How can we teach the new people of God from the poor to surrender their newly-obtained freedom for the sake of God instead of for their own health or life? Is there a problem in our evangelism or discipleship which focuses on “health” and “success” and “empowerment”?

But most of all, we need to realize that, no matter what the goals of God are, we must be patient with those who we are pointing toward those goals. We can’t expect them to release the attitudes of slavery overnight, even as the children of Israel, recently freed from Egypt, didn’t. Attitudes change over time, through a variety of experience.

One of the things we need to be freed of is an instant-discipleship mentality. Discipleship is a long process—longer than anyone thinks. Are we going to remain with the disciples as long as they are striving toward God, even if they take some horrible detours on the way? Or do we expect the poor and the marginalized to be just like us when we were discipled?

The real question is, who is in charge of the process, us or God? And are we going to wait for God’s called as long as He waited for us? Or will we give up in the middle of the road, and leave them feeling abandoned and empty?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

News: Church Taken To Court For Helping Homeless

Pittsburgh-Area Pastor Fights to Let Homeless Live in Church

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Rev. Jack L. Wisor wants to "help those in need" by housing the homeless within his Brookville, Pa., church. Local officials, however, say he's violating zoning requirements. Brookville borough solicitor Stephen French said First Apostles Doctrine Church might have good intentions, but may not use the church as a homeless shelter because it is located in a commercial district. A district judge has upheld the borough's position, but at least one more court hearing is scheduled. "We should be permitted to have missionaries, guests or anyone to stay in the parsonage under our rights of religious belief" said the Rev. Wisor, a minister for nine years. "Our concern is, what gives them the right to come in and tell you who you can and cannot keep in your home?"

Monday, September 22, 2008

Anawim Quotes of the Day

"We don't care if it's true as long as it's funny."

Barry: "Have you ever watched Democracy Now?"
Steve: "Nah. It's not funny."

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Crossing Borders

Everyone in the West should live in a third world country for at least six months on the hospitality of a third world family.

Everyone who is rich should learn to live and give like the poor.

Every judge and politician should live on the street or in a shack for a month before taking their position.

Every pastor should live on food stamps for three months, without the opporunity to make any large purchase-- including books!

If leaders live as the poor, then we can better understand how our decisions effect the poor.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Relationships With The Poor

This article is adapted by Amigos MCUSA from a book review by IsaacV
on the Young Anabaptist Radicals blog, available at:

Relationships that open us to God

Christopher L. Heuertz doesn't claim to offer any secrets to spiritual
success. Instead, he shares what God is teaching him through his
friends, who happen to be the poorest of the poor.

In Spirituality: Learning to See God in a Broken World (InterVarsity
Press, 2008), Heuertz's spirituality isn't a call to close your eyes
and think about God; instead, friendships with the poor make
friendship with God possible.

Our parents were right: we are who we hang out with. Our friends shape
who we are. That's not something to run from. Humans are relational
animals. There's no such thing as autonomy; it's a delusion. The
fibers of our being, Heuertz notes, "are made for relationships" (54).
But we can choose with whom we form these friendships. Our hope is
that the church may be a place where those friendships can happen. But
what does it mean when our churches don't welcome the poor?

Are we on the side of the poor?

Or, to put it more strongly, what does it mean when we aren't begging
the beggars to worship with us? Heuertz doesn't mince words: "If our
community makes no room for those who are poor, our community loses
all credibility" (58). While Jim Wallis is trying to fight for justice
on the national scale, Heuertz offers a much more intimate vision, one
that transforms our daily lives: "We work not for justice for everyone
but instead to ensure that we're on the 'right' side of the poverty
line" (58). Are we on the side of the poor?

That's his question. This isn't a political platform for a lobby
group. Rather, it's about what side of town we live on. Who are our
neighbors, who are our friends, who sits next to us when we worship,
who eats at our table? These questions mess with our lives. They haunt
our everyday decisions. But these questions also send us to the poor,
who offer us intimacy with God. And typically God shakes up our lives
so God can offer us an unimaginably better one.

Overflowing abundance gets messy

Jesus: "I have come that you may have life, and have it abundantly."
But overflowing abundance gets really messy. "We want to let God in,"
writes Heuertz, "but usually on our terms. We want to make room for
Christ to reign on the thrones of our hearts, but only a clean Christ
who doesn't make a mess of our lives" (63).

Heuertz writes, "Jesus' ministry was not to the upper class, the
educated, the elite or the most influential social figures. Jesus came
and ministered among those who were poor, with the poor and as a poor
man. His ministry was to the children, those who were begging, victims
of leprosy, the woman at the well, the woman caught in the act of
adultery, the tax collectors, the fishermen communities and those on
the margins.

Following Jesus alongside common people

"Jesus came to the common people and lived alongside them. As a
church, we must learn new ways to celebrate our faith inclusively so
that those on the margins of society will feel welcome – and so that
our love and acceptance of the other will aid in our paths to
holiness. Jesus' ministry was marked with a distinctive compassion for
the oppressed poor" (69).

I am grateful to Heuertz and his friends for showing me that such an
abundant life is possible. I can't begin to do justice to Heuertz's
storytelling; that's what makes the book a must read. Read it for the
stories of real life, of real friendship, of people we can never meet
because they are dead now. And also read it for the joy of abundant
life, the joy of Christ's resurrected life, a life broken open for

How Any One Homeless Person Is Healed

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Saturday, September 6, 2008

A Pointless Plea

Dear Nichole:

I wish that I could send this letter to you. But I know that if I do, that you won’t read it, or only read a sentence of it and put it aside. So, I guess I’ll just keep it to myself until someday, perhaps, when you might be able to read it. Perhaps at that time you would have wished that I did send it to you. Perhaps that future self blames me for not sending it to you. But I can handle your blame easier than you adding to your heap of self-incrimination.

Today is your fifteenth birthday, and you are as of this day a full adult. You get to make your own choices and live your own life. Perhaps you feel lucky, because most fifteen year olds are still under the thumb of their parents, bounded by rules and a lifestyle that you are no longer required to abide by. You have the freedom you wanted because you proved that you would just run away whenever your freedom was hampered. Well, that’s your choice, I guess, and since you made it clear that you won’t listen to your father or I, then so be it.

I want you, for a moment, to remember living in our house. Yes, it was only for a few months, a small speck in your life, but it was an opportunity offered to you. Here in the house we had a lot of drama—not a small part of it from you—but we had a lot of good times. Yes, there was discipline and structure, but you thrived in that structure. You knew your limits and were willing to abide by them, with a couple notable exceptions. You were finally learning at school, and getting A’s on papers. You were writing essays and doing well. You were working at getting along with people in a community. Instead of just feeling and reacting, you were understanding and laboring for what you wanted. You were getting prepared for a mature existence.

But you chose a different life instead. You hung out with a pimp for a while who taught you that life could be a party, it could be about feeling and reaction. That when you were feeling down, there were drugs to help you feel better and when you were feeling up, then there were opportunities to feel even better. Of course, you didn’t know he was intending on just using you in order to make money. He was using his mature mind of planning and laboring for what he wants to abuse you and drain you of all life. He sent you back home simply because you were too young to make your own choice about what life to lead.

But what that pimp saw, you don’t see. You think you are mature enough. I asked you, one time, “If you daughter did this to you, how would you react?” And you responded, “I would want her to learn from her own mistakes.” I laughed, partly because it was so clear that it was what you wanted for yourself—because if you were in charge of another life, you would control it, not set it free. And you would be right, to a certain degree, to put limitations, to restrict your child. Because it is clear that you are not a good reader of other people. You fell in love with a pimp, which is exactly what he wanted you to do. He played you like a violin, and he is the master of teenage girl’s hormones.

So your father and I wonder, “Who is the next man she will hook up with? Who is the next one that will try to abuse her?” We don’t know and though I do not know the future, I suspect that you will hook up with someone else who won’t care so much about your age or your naivety. The next one won’t send you home. And you will have to learn the lessons that God helped you to avoid this time.

Part of it has to do with your continuing use of pot. When anyone uses pot, just like when anyone gets drunk, then they are in a realm of apathy. Everything is okay with the world, nothing really matters. It sounds like and feels like a great place to be. A place beyond all cares, beyond all anxieties, beyond all crises. For a girl like you, who is overwhelmed by waves of uncontrollable emotion, it must feel great.

But while you are in that place of apathy, the world passes you by. Drugs are like a time machine. They transport you to the future, but your personality remains the same. You get to remain the same person for as many hours, months or years you use the drugs. You never mature, you never take responsibility, you never become a different person. You remain a perpetual child.

I know of women just like you—childlike, innocent, full of emotions and flitting about from situation to situation. One of them is Paper Klip, whom you met. She was on the street from eight, with her teens punctuated by running away from foster care homes. She has an attention deficit disorder, like you, and tries to remain perpetually happy, as well as those around her. She goes from relationship to relationship, remaining with her man loyally until he beats her up so bad that she just has to leave. To feel better, she goes to heroin or meth or pot or alcohol—whatever drug her current boyfriend likes. She is always selling drugs to people, because she thinks that will make them feel better, even if they are trying to quit drugs. As long as they’re happy, she thinks, and she believes that drugs are the only thing that makes anyone happy. She has a daughter whom she sees once a month or once every few months when she’s not using. The only thing that occasionally gets her out of drugs is falling in love. If she fell in love with a man who respected her and cares for her and keeps her off of drugs, then she might have a chance to maturing and really living a life. But since she doesn’t seem to fall in love with anyone except abusers, her chances are slim.

Another woman I know is Colleen. Again, like you, she is strongly ADHD and, like you, she’s really pretty and knows how to use that to her advantage. She takes care of herself by making herself attractive to men, who fall all over themselves trying to help her, so she might possibly show them some “appreciation.” Which she does sometimes. She was married once, but she can’t seem to avoid abusive men any more than Klip could. She has a son whom she is extraordinarily proud of, because he is heading toward college and doing well. So many people have tried to help Colleen get off the street, but she can’t stay anyplace for long because she gets into arguments. She’s very much ruled by her feelings, you see. She does, on occasion, hook up with a nice guy, but in her emotive state she so strongly verbally abuses him that when he yells back, she leaves him and blames him for everything wrong in the relationship.

Another young woman I know is Mary Jane. I’ve only known her for a couple years, but I know that she’s hooked up with about a dozen guys in that time. She received her inheritance from her family and has social security, which should have set her up for life. She’s got an apartment and she had a truck. But when she breaks up with boyfriends, they get so mad at her that on occasion they mess up her apartment, tearing up walls. Her truck’s windows were broken in by one ex and burnt to a crisp by another one.

These are all girls like you, except that they’ve grown up in the way that you are just beginning to choose. Their lives are tragedies. Why are they like this? Because they made the choice, very young, that drugs are the right choice for them because they made these girls feel better. This is the same choice that Pam, Bryan Shepherd and your parents made. Or they had it made for them. And their lives just can’t seem to be put in balance anymore.

To pursue drugs as a lifestyle is to choose to be a Peter Pan in a world requiring thoughtfulness, not impulse. Out there, in the world, there aren’t Captain Hooks—idiotic, seemingly powerful but innocuous enemies—rather there are corporations and systems of evil that have groups of brilliant entrepreneurs and lawyers bent on stealing your life and soul. There are gangs that offer community and a certain amount of security, but crush your hopes and independence. There are sellers of evil that know how to give you just what you want in order to steal from you what you need.

But the person who lives in the Happyland that drugs offers can never defend themselves from them. They can never follow God. Because they never learn discipline. They never mature. They never solidify. They never learn who they really are.

You are a smart girl, but you are not who you could be. All you are right now is potential, just like any of us when we were young. I didn’t start out a minister to the homeless, God had to grow me into that difficult position. Diane wasn’t prepared to be a mother of three when she started out in life, she had to mature into that through pain, anguish and heartbreak. If you choose a life of using—even if it’s only pot—then you are taking your potential and throwing it away as one would throw away one’s embryo into the gutter.

Your potential must be nurtured. And your potential has so many ways to falter. You get so distracted. And we were providing a womb in our house for your potential to grow and to give birth to the woman you could be. It saddens me to see you choose a life of randomness, of emotiveness, like a drunk walking down the street.

And that choice of what your life is going to be has to be made in the next year. You are growing, and what you do in the next year or so will determine how your body will make decisions for the rest of your life. Every choice you make now determines your future. If you allow your parents, and yes, even me, to provide guidelines and limitations, then your life could thrive and you could be who you are meant to be in God. If you choose to live by your distractions and your pleasures you will be who you are for the rest of your life—ruled by your emotions instead of your will.

Please don’t choose to be a self-abortion. Please decide to find out who you really are.

Friday, September 5, 2008

What All Leaders Should Do-- Hang Out With The Lowest of Society

From the website "Freakonomics":

September 4, 2008, 3:46 pm
We Need More Sheriffs Like This One
By Steven D. Levitt

From the Lake County Sheriff’s OfficeFrom a Chicago Sun-Times article by Dan Rozek:
Lake County Sheriff Mark C. Curran Jr. sentenced himself today to a week in his own jail, saying he believes spending time behind bars will make him a better cop and a better person.
(Hat tip: Arloa Sutter)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Tip For Churches-- Street Greeters

Interaction Tip: Street Greeters
If you would like to have the homeless feel welcome at your church, then have a special greeter for them. This greeter is to specifically “dress down”, looking comfortable in the sanctuary in jeans and a t-shirt. The street greeter should be on the look out for the homeless and the mentally ill to specifically welcome them and to explain to them about the service. The street greeter could also keep an eye on the guests to make sure that they are alright and to give them a gentle reminder to respect others around them if needed. If a guest is causing too much of a fuss, then the street greeter could gently lead them outside, and recommend that their street guest could perhaps come again when they are more ready to be in that group of people. Most of all, however, the street greeter is to make them feel at home, as if they were coming to the family to which they had never belonged before.

Culture Shock: Why the Homeless Don't Come To Church

Approximately 30 to 50 percent of the homeless are committed, baptized Christians. Yet most of us don’t see them, or even the working class, in our churches. This is not because the homeless or the lower social class don’t go to church. Rather, they have their own churches. Here in Portland, there are churches that specifically target the homeless, and many churches that specifically welcome the working class. There are missions, bible studies, individual worship services and many other venues for the homeless to worship and serve God.
If you don’t see the homeless in your church, it likely due to a cultural difference. Every church is not just a spiritual experience, but a cultural one. We have certain customs and kinds of worship that are specifically for our cultural group which, on the other hand, push away those of different cultural or social experience. For instance, if we speak English in our congregation, we do not offer a welcoming atmosphere to those who only speak Spanish. This is not a bad thing, but we shouldn’t wonder why no Spanish-speaking people come to our services.
Similarly, if everyone in our church is clothed in suits or dresses, smells good and has a small group of like-dressed friends with whom they associate exclusively, it should be no wonder that homeless people, even if they wandered into the church, wouldn’t feel welcome. If the church has a number of unspoken rules, such as not speaking during the sermon or Bible readings, not making statements in the middle of the service, not pacing or making wild movements in the middle of an aisle, then it is no wonder that the mentally ill wouldn’t feel welcome in our church. And most churches aren’t open to having people drunk or high in their service.
The homeless do not refrain from coming to these churches because they are not really Christian. Nor do they avoid them because they are greater sinners than other church-going Christians. It is because they feel uncomfortable, out of place and that everyone is judging them.