June 16, 2009 NAIVEITY, FUZZY BELIEVING
He was also telling me how he had a major drinking problem… and asked You to take it away – completely – and how now the taste and even the smell is revolting to him.
I said that when I taste booze I crave more (especially wine, for some reason…) and tried to explain it (as I’ve tried to explain it before) as a “pride issue” where You want to keep me humble and keep me understanding where other people are at. But Papa, even as I said that, it rang so hollow. I have to say, I think I like it, the idea of still craving booze. I like to be “cool,” to be able to say in good 12-step fashion (although I’ve never gone the 12-step route), “My name is Norma and I’m an alcoholic.” Father, I see that my motivations even for “street ministry” are not pure (I did not sit down to write this! You are talking to me, Papa… I’m sorry… really I am… thank You for showing me this!) because I’ve always, since I was maybe 13 or so, wanted to be “cool” – even “street cool.” I always admired the summer hippies in our beach town back when I was a teen, and I wanted to be cool like them (as I saw it… pretty naively…. But that’s another story…).
Papa, I’ve been asking You to use me on the street… and last night ___ said, “Be careful what you ask for…” and this morning I began to see what he meant. I got some stuff together to take to Tuesday morning coffee time… Well, I got as far as Nanaimo Square, and ___ was there with some of the crew, smiling and waving and calling me over. So I went and sat down with them for a little visit, and then I realized I was standing (in my open sandals) in piles of spit this old guy kept spitting up. Yep, it kind of grossed me out. Anyway, I had this big bag of food, so I gave ___ a bunch of it, and she turned around and shared with the others… and everyone happily ate some of the coffee-time cookies and orange slices…
and then Pastor P, who was sitting nearby talking to ___, came over and told everyone that the Tuesday and Thursday coffee times are going to be closed for the summer. He’d dropped by the coffee place and found a lot of out-of-towners (“professional street people” complete with carts and all, coming here from bigger towns and from the big city), who’ve suddenly moved into town, and he says they are not respectful of the people trying to minister on the street, and that the church people who are doing this coffee outreach are not safe, not prepared to handle the level of drug use, the fights, the other behaviors that are really quickly changing the face of our streets. (I’ve lived here 6 years, and I’ve noticed, myself, that there really is a different crowd coming in this summer, perhaps a “harder” group of people… a very urban-streets outlook rather than the more small town/ resort town street people atmosphere that has been here in the past). (But Papa, can’t You take care of things, provide safety, etc? ___ says You have taken away his fear… and yet he also feels that some of these new people, including women, could at any time jump him or even try to take him out… and that he is willing for that, if that is Your will, and he longs to do anything You ask, no matter how dangerous it may be….)
I wonder, are there some people who have just totally turned against You and even speaking to them is foolhardy or whatever? That’s what ___ said, that some of these people seem to be just totally 100% turned away from You, and have no respect (maybe even want to destroy) those who are reaching out in Your name. Father, it seems to me that perhaps we “Christians” (here in our pleasant little city, of course, but even in much of North America generally) have been living in this very naively-protected-apparently-innocent environment… kind of patting each other on the back and smugly proclaiming, “God bless America (including Canada!)… the land of the free and the home of the brave… the land of the Pilgrim Fathers… our Christian nation… in God we trust.”
(Yes, we Canadians smirk at Americans who talk this way… but I’m thinking our humanistic-becoming-post-modern-small-l-liberal-lifestyle is perhaps even more foolish and dangerous because we see each ourselves as the “nice guys” who everyone likes, and so we feel – naively – that we are perpetually safe in our comfortable pew (or easy-chair, for the non-or-fuzzily-believing majority)… and our blindness to the reality and power and determination of evil forces has allowed it to creep in unnoticed – but that it is now reaching a critical mass where it can no longer hide in the back alleys and shadows, but is leaping out, right into our faces – and we, especially those who count themselves as believers, are going to have to make some very hard decisions, and have to expect to actually live the Christ-life that scripture (that Jesus Himself) promises: suffering, pain, persecution, rejection, hate, poverty, and yes, even death: nasty, painful, torturous suffering and death!
I think what is happening these days on the streets of “our fair town” is a very real harbinger of what is coming… and while we say things like “maybe we should pull back, this isn’t safe,” the reality may well be that this is only a small taste of a daily reality that is just around the corner, a reality that we will not be able to pull people back from, hide from, escape from… especially if we intend to firmly and permanently identify ourselves as followers of Jesus, as the church, the body of Christ, the family of God.
Last night, ___ said he feels that the end cannot be far away, that the tribulation is already in motion… and I’ll be honest, my first thought was, “Oh boy, here we go again. I’ve heard this kind of talk all my life. There have always been hard times. Sure, it could be coming, but it could just as easily be another 2000 years or whatever. Of course we don’t know the day or the hour, but as long as we’re ready, it doesn’t really matter….” But the thing is, as I see this little microcosm thing happening on these streets of this pleasant little city, I’m beginning to realize that we really are not ready. We are not aware of how things really are – just like in the days of Noah, as the scripture says, when everyone was eating and drinking and marrying – and scoffing at, ignoring the warnings sent by God through Moses!
We need to carefully re-read Jesus’ instructions to His disciples – and realize that those are for us, too (Mt 10; also Lk 10, and II Thess 2, and Eph 6, and so on and so forth).
… So I went on to the coffee time (on the way a local guy went by on his bike… and seemed awfully angry about the coffee time???)… And then I was heading back home and stopped at Nanaimo Square again to see if anyone wanted the few remaining cookies etc… and chatted with the people there a bit – and ___ asked me if I’d push him around a bit in his wheelchair, and as I did (stopping in the shade to rest every little while), he talked and talked about his life… and I got in a few words about Jesus when he was talking about people who’ve died, but it seemed like I was just squeezing those words in; he just wanted someone to listen, maybe… he kept saying “hi” to everyone who passed by; a few said hi back to him, others nodded and quickly hurried on, and some just totally ignored him, which obviously upset him. We stopped at one point (in a back alley – he feels better there than out on the sidewalks of Main Street…) and ___ and another guy came by and chatted a bit. I ended up pushing him to the Plaza and left him there as he wanted to hang out there, and I needed to go home… on the way we had passed a couple sitting in their yard, and the guy was talking to him, and was concerned that his wheelchair didn’t have foot stands, so when I passed there on the way back, the guy called to me and said he is a going to get some for him…