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The Roadside Prophet (Cash-part 3)

We talked more that day under the darkening sky. Thankfully, we moved on to another topic besides the End. Cash was a very insightful man and he made me feel like I was on the right path. When he asked me how long I had been witnessing to people on the street, it surprised me, but I was grateful, too. It made me consider what I was doing. In a good way. It was difficult to stand in front of this man and listen to all the theories about the end of the world and not argue, but I did. That was humbling.

Before I left, he asked me what church I belonged to.

“Well, I sometimes go down the road here, but not very consistently. I have to be honest; I have a real problem with church, in general. Not that church, necessarily, it’s a good church. There’s more to it, I guess, for years it’s been this way… I’ve been burned before,” I felt like I needed to explain why I didn’t go to church consistently. I wanted to say more, but I had to stop. I don’t even completely understand it, so how could I explain in a few words why I stopped going completely for so many years. A lot of people would say that it was simply because I was running from God.

Of course that’s true, but I was also running from His people. So much of what goes on in church is un-relatable to me. There’s a glossy, pretty haze to it that’s far removed from most people’s day-to-day reality. I get the impression that the church is more concerned with how people act than about their souls. Christ is not the president of some exclusive country club where everyone needs to mind their P’s and Q’s. He did not come to heal those who are well. He came to heal the sick. Who is the church trying to protect anyway? God? Are we trying to convince Him that we don’t have any real problems? Are we trying to protect His sensitive ears?

No.

The church is protecting itself. God has heard it already. He knows us. He’s God, remember? We don’t need to pretend that everything is just okay. Why should we?

Anyway, that’s the tip of the iceberg, and again I got sidetracked. Cash stirred up a lot of stuff and I know I’ve talked more about my deep-seated issues than about Cash. Well, so be it.

Let’s move on.

I know Cash is a good man. I should have let him pray for me. That’s the one regret that I have from our time together. I think that may have really been what God wanted from that encounter, but it didn’t happen. Which doesn’t mean I came away empty-handed. It just means that there could have been more. Like I said in the first post about Cash, we have to be ready for anything.

It was getting cold. I had to be somewhere, and I needed to make my exit. I shook Cash’s hand and told him good luck. Not sure why I said it, because I don’t think there is such a thing as luck. Then I think I covered it and quickly added a God Bless You.

As I was driving back out to Rodeo Road, I had to pass Cash again. A few cars were between us. It was Christmas time at the mall, so I had to wait for a few minutes to pull out. From my car, I watched him reach into his jacket and raise one of those chocolate chip cookies to his mouth. He took a bite and slowly slipped it back into his pocket. The line began to move and I waved as I passed. He watched me go by, and his lips were moving as his head followed me. Cash didn’t return the wave.

He was concentrating, and I believe he might have been praying.

Praying for me.

……

So pray for this roadside prophet. He’s out there somewhere challenging someone else, I’m sure, getting them to think differently about their lives. That’s noble work, and if it doesn’t deserve prayer of support, I don’t know what does.

So pray for this modern day Jeremiah.

His name is Cash.

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Posted by on March 8, 2011 in Cash

 

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America Goes Down the Drain (Cash-part 2)

“We’re living in the last days,” Cash said.

Uh-oh.

“America is the Whore of Babylon and she’s headed for destruction. This great nation is in the toilet, and has been for a long time,” he continued. “The only way that America can save herself is to repent of her evil ways and get on her knees before God! This was once a great country, blessed by God, Ordained by God! But it has fallen away,” Cash looked like Jeremiah out there on Rodeo road: a prophet of Doom calling the people to repentance.

The clouds began to darken as he declared the coming Day of Destruction.

“I try to share the Gospel with as many people as I can,” he said. Cars passed by, I wondered if anyone heard him talking. Part of me was a little embarrassed. I know that’s kind of a jerky thing to say, but it’s true. I’ve heard this kind of stuff for a long time. Everyone has. Whether it’s someone on the far Left or the far Right, both sides have their end of the world scenarios. The end is ushered in through the carelessness of the other. The Left blames the Right’s greed and rampant pollution, and the Right blames the Left’s moral bankruptcy. What Cash was talking about was biblical prophecy, though, and that’s a whole other matter.

Growing up in church (mostly Baptist, but also Non-denominational, Methodist and a smattering of Assembly of God with a dash of Nazarene) I heard a good deal about the End Times. It always came in waves, and would be a hot topic for a while and then most people would just forget about it.

Of course, every church has someone who reads extensively about the Last Days. Book after book outlining the rapture, the identity of the Whore of Babylon, the final battle of Armageddon, and Christ’s triumphant return as the conquering king. After college, I worked in a refinery in southeast Texas. For several months, I worked with a guy who was at least fifteen years older than me. We were part of a small paint crew. At one point there were five of us in total, and our job was to paint the pipes and valves that were above and below the spheres. If you’ve driven past enough refineries, you’ll recognize these tanks. They sit on large concrete spheres and hover above the ground. As the paint crew, we fanaticized about one day painting the spheres like pool balls. Stripes and solids. But, what we did was strictly utilitarian. Our job had nothing to do with cosmetics. We were trying to prevent rust. It was a never-ending battle, but necessary. You certainly didn’t want any of those pipes to rust through, and the more layers of protection, the better.

Anyway, I worked with this guy, Ernie. Half the time, we were at each other’s throats. The smallest thing that the other did was usually the beginning of an argument. We worked together, just me and him, while the other guys would tackle different projects. It was like a bad relationship that neither party could get out of. One of the main things we argued about was religion. Not just religion, or God, though. Prophecy. We fought bitterly about prophecy.

It seemed like every other day Ernie would come in and present some new piece of evidence to me, proving that the world would end in the next few years. I’m sure he had just read somewhere and he could see the pattern that only a privileged few could see. One of the most consistent topics was Ernie’s paranoid vision of a corrupt police state. He was always talking about the Government and the surveillance of its citizens.

“They’re watching you. They know what your doing every minute of the day. They know what everyone’s doing. You can’t hide,” Ernie would say as he leaned over to me confidentially as we ate lunch in the shack.

“Seriously? Are there that many people working for the government?” I replied.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that it would take as many employees as there are citizens to watch you. Who’s gonna process all that information?” My voice rose a little.

“They can do it, Chuck, I’m telling you. You better be careful. They can track your movements. Just like they do with your credit card. My wife and I use cash as much as possible,” he said. Ernie was now talking to me like I was a petulant child who refused to believe that the sky was blue.

“My point is, who cares? Why would they bug you, why assign someone to watch you. Or anyone?! I mean, most people have boring lives! They go to their jobs and do whatever, and nobody cares! Why would the government spend all that time and money following regular people? The government is just a big, unwieldy bureaucracy. I know they watch people, but they watch people whose lives matter or are some kind of perceived threat. Most of our lives don’t matter, so why bother watching us?!” Now I was pissed off.

“He who doesn’t stand for anything, will fall for everything,” he responded. This little chestnut was his big closer. It’s not biblical; it’s the title of a country song. By this point, Ernie was talking at me and not to me anymore. I was a petulant, unbelieving child who needed discipline, and he was the disappointed parent. Years later in Santa Fe, I would have the same type of conversations with my friends on the far left. The Government was a police state. America was watching you, and recorded your every move, Bush is the Anti-Christ, etc., etc., etc.

You just refuse to see, man. You refuse to see the truth, they would tell me.

Now, I was having another conversation like this on Rodeo road with a guy I just met, and it was bothering me. Every generation has thought this, by the way, and none of them have been right. I just finished reading a book about Martin Luther, and he was convinced that he was living in the last days, absolutely certain. No one is immune I suppose. Not even Cash.

Cash seemed sincere. I mean, he spoke like he had actually considered these things and wasn’t merely echoing someone else’s thoughts. I don’t know, hearing this stuff still made me uncomfortable and I wished we could move on to another topic, but I needed to listen. I couldn’t judge this man. That was a tough one, especially since what he was saying annoyed the hell out of me.

But, I was supposed to be there listening to Cash and all of his crazy talk about the coming Apocalypse. I know that. I was supposed to have my boundaries tested. It wasn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last.

The people I meet are flesh and blood. They have stories to tell. No one said I had to like, or even sympathize, with what they’re saying.

I just have to listen.

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2011 in Cash

 

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Ya Know, Like Johnny Cash…(Cash-part 1)

Not long after I met Keith, I came across a man named Cash at the entrance to the Santa Fe Place Mall off of Rodeo road. It was still Christmas, which meant that I still had plenty of cookies left. My plan had been to wrap them up in small packages and hand them out along with the money. This was the same batch that I had made about a week before I met Keith. I thought they’d be gone by now, but like I said with Keith, things don’t always work out like we plan. That day the temperature had dropped in Santa Fe, the wind had picked up and the sky had clouded over. I remember thinking that it might snow but I don’t think it did. Maybe it did in the mountains, but not in town.

When I saw this man across the street, I was heading in a different direction and I had to double back and pull into the mall parking lot. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anywhere nearby to park, so I pulled into a spot on the side of the Harley dealership at the edge of the parking lot. I grabbed the clear, plastic bag decorated with the flat, green trees and headed up the slight hill back to the intersection. There wasn’t any sidewalk here, so I followed the dirt path cutting through the side of the hill, which meant that I would have to climb a little rock wall once I reached this guy. As I was trying to maintain my footing on the rocks while I climbed, he asked if I was a Harley man.

“What’s that?” I responded, a little confused.

“What kind of bike you got?” He asked as he leaned forward slightly.

“Oh, I don’t have one…I’ve never even ridden one,” I said, as I thought, how could I have never been on a motorcycle?

“Well you came out of the dealership, I just thought maybe you had a bike…” He looked disappointed.

“Oh yeah…no, I just parked down there. I’m here to talk to you,” I said as I stuck out my hand, “I’m Chuck.”

“My name’s Cash.”

“What’s that?” He wasn’t mumbling, but I couldn’t hear him for some reason.

“Cash…ya know, like Johnny Cash,” he said as he grinned slyly.

Cash was as tall as me. Taller, maybe, but memory’s a funny thing; because as I think about it, now, I’m looking at Cash’s chest as we’re talking. His cardboard sign said something about being a vet, and his ragged, olive green flak jacket was dotted with military pins and buttons. He wore a navy blue cap with gold lettering giving the name of some aircraft carrier. His medium length, salt and pepper beard was straggly but not unkempt. The rest of his face was pitted and scarred, but gleaming. Despite the obvious abuses of the road and life, Cash still had a sparkle to him. Something was glittering beneath all that grime.

I had shifted the cookies and the five-dollar bill to my left hand. Handing them over, I said, “Merry Christmas.” Then I pointed at the bag that I had just handed him, “Those are chocolate chip cookies and they’re homemade; they’ve got pecans in ‘em.”

“Thanks,” he said as he slipped the five and the cookies into his jacket pocket.

Cars were creeping by, heading out of the mall and waiting to turn onto Rodeo road. I didn’t turn my head to look, but I knew they were there. I tried to stay focused on the man in front of me.

“Cash, do you mind if I pray for you?” I hadn’t really been nervous until now.

He jerked his head back and smiled, “Can I pray for you, brother? Is there anything that I can pray for…for you?”

What?

I was taken aback, and I fumbled for some way to decline, so I blurted, “No, thanks, I appreciate it. But, I think I’m good…thanks, though.”

Cash seemed a little disappointed.

I’m just here to give you five bucks, a couple of cookies, and pray. That’s all, I thought. I’m supposed to do something for you, man. I’m the one that’s supposed to be giving. Right?

I should have let Cash pray for me. Being prayed for is humbling, and it’s sometimes uncomfortable. It’s easy to get caught up in this act of giving and praying. It’s easy to get single minded and forget that God wants you to experience all of life, not just be obedient. God wants that, but He wants you to keep your eyes open. Be sensitive to the moment. My tendency is to follow a script and that’s exactly when God begins to stretch you. He’s not interested in a merely scripted interchange or a prescribed amount of caring. He wants us to be malleable, adaptable, and ready for the moment.

Ready for anything.

After I prayed for Cash, he asked me how long I had been witnessing to people on the streets.

Witnessing? I thought. I’m not witnessing, I’m just out here praying.

I was completely caught off guard for the second time by this man.

I’ve never thought of what I’m doing as witnessing. Frankly, the idea of someone coming up to me and trying to force something down my throat is offensive. I watch Kirk Cameron and that Australian guy proselytizing and I think, if I wasn’t saved, that would not reach me. Nobody’s gonna reach me like that. It might completely sour me on the whole concept of Christ.

Maybe it wouldn’t, I don’t know. I mean no offense to Kirk Cameron and all the multitudes spreading the Gospel this way. They’re probably called to do that, and I don’t want to get between anyone and God’s call. But, I also know that, sometimes, shoving a person into salvation is the wrong approach. Maybe there’s a better way to show God’s love. By no means do I have all the answers; I’m just saying how I feel about pushiness. That’s all.

Then again, if Cash feels like I’m a witness to him, then that’s very humbling and I am not going to run from it. I have never asked anyone if they are saved or if they have found the Lord. I just pray. For the most part, people have been forthcoming about their faith even though I don’t expect them to be. Maybe they’re just telling me what they think I want to hear.

I hope not.

I stood there on the side of Rodeo road talking to this man for at least twenty minutes. Cash had a lot to say about America, the state of the world, humanity and God’s place in our lives, and it was a surprising, challenging conversation, and, by far, the longest that I’d had to date with anyone that I met on the street.

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2011 in Cash

 

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Hobbled (Keith-part 2)

Keith slipped the cookies into his jacket pocket, then I asked if it would be alright if I prayed for him.

“Yeah…I’m a Christian, too,” he said.

A lot of people tell me that. I think some of them feel obligated to say it, but they’re not. I’m there to pray, not preach. So I reached out and touched Keith’s left arm with my right hand, then Keith did something that really reminded me of Texas: he took off his hat. And he bowed his head while holding the Stetson against his leg. It’s a sign of respect that I saw all around me while growing up in Texas, and I’ve seen all manner of men do it, from the most God-fearing to the worst kind of drug-addled monster. Every knee shall bow, I guess, or at least remove their hat.

I prayed for Keith. The old standby, again: Lord, let Keith know You love him, except I added a little something this time. Lord, let him get back to where You want him to be. I don’t know his story, but let him get back on that path.

Even as I said this, I felt presumptuous. What if Keith’s on the right path? What if I’m wrong? Do people on the streets have to automatically be screwed up and off the path? What they lack is money and shelter, maybe that’s all. I don’t know exactly where I’m going with this, but I believe I need to continually rethink my idea of what it means to be a Christian. If I limit that, I could limit God, too.

Anyway…

After praying, Keith told me about his leg. Well, not really his leg, but his back. Keith has a slipped disc, which causes him to walk the way he does. It is difficult to watch him swing his leg out jarring his hip and contorting his body. He told me that the surgery would cost $50,000 dollars.

Good grief, that’s impossible, I thought, where the hell is he gonna get that kind of money?

It’s amazing how fast my mind defaults to unbelief. I just nodded slightly and grunted in sympathy as he told me that. What am I supposed to say?

I shook Keith’s hand and started towards the car. His blue eyes looked back toward the intersection, and he swung his leg out and shambled towards the traffic light.

I got back in the car and drove away.

A few weeks later I would see Keith again, and he would open up, telling me a lot more about himself. That day, God would begin to teach me something about prayer that I am still wrapping my head around.

But that’s another story.

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2011 in Keith

 
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Running the Race to Win (Even If You Finish Somewhere In the Middle)

I’m going to sidetrack a little from Keith’s story, but I want to share something with everyone.

Today, I ran my first 5K. My time was 27:51. I started at the back of the pack and finished somewhere in the middle.

I have always been overweight, and it had seemed like running would never be a part of my life, not even when I played football in junior high and high school. I was in a little bit better shape then, I mean, I was still obese, but I could move a lot quicker. After high school, I just continued to get bigger and bigger. Then in 1997, I had to go to the doctor for the flu, but I had never been to this doctor before, so they had to weigh me for their records.

I weighed 334 lbs.

Oh my God.

That scared me, so in 1998, I lost over 60 pounds. I didn’t have an exercise regimen, I just changed the way I ate. I kept that off for several years, and then I slowly began to put it back on, about 25 lbs. of it. During those years, I felt horrible and the depression, that I had always struggled with, was defeating me. This wasn’t really about weight, though. Deep down, I knew that, really, I was just running from God, and, in the process, negating my life.

There are always deeper issues with any kind of vice. Everybody knows this. Food is an addiction like any other. The problem with addictions is that they derail you. It’s not just about what you are doing to yourself, it’s about what you’re not doing. It is the life that you are not living that is the tragedy.

I had been trying, in my way, to be closer with God. I started reading the Bible everyday. I read through it twice. This started in 2005. God wanted more for me and from me, though. He kept trying to show me during these years, that I was so wrapped up in self-loathing and self-destruction that I had no time for anything else. The fog had to be lifted. I had to take control of this life that I was flushing down the toilet. Again, this is not about food. This is about the things that we allow to become giants in our lives. Soon enough they are bigger than God, and they will diminish His light much like a mountain in front of the setting sun.

So, in January of 2009, I started eating better. Then, over the next several months, I began walking, playing tennis, going to the gym, etc. Just being more active, in general. In 2010, I quit smoking and began running. I had never run a mile before.

Never.

The first day that I did, I thought my heart would explode, but I felt alive. Later that year, a sciatic nerve in my hip rolled over some muscle tissue, putting me out of commission for about a month and a half. I had been running fairly consistently up until then and I didn’t think that I would recover from the layoff. But, I finally did. Of course, there was a lot of grunting and obscenity involved.

So, after two years of losing weight (85 lbs.), a year of sporadic running and a year of not smoking, I did it.

My first 5K.

The race was in Dallas and was sponsored by an organization that helps the disabled lead normal lives. The event was called Cupid’s Chase, and it took place, simultaneously, in 24 other cities. It was incredible and the weather was perfect. My mom and step dad were there, cheering me on and Ginger was yelling loudly for me from Santa Fe. It was pretty sweet.

Today was the result of a lot of answered prayers. Thanks everybody.

Thank You God for kicking me in the ass when I needed it.

Thank You for whispering you can do this in my ear when I needed that, too.

Thank You for giving me the opportunity to live this life.

Thank You for loving me.

Thank You.

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2011 in Running the Race

 

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What Am I Supposed To Do With All These Cookies? (Keith-part 1)

Last year, a couple of weeks before Christmas, I decided to bake some chocolate chip cookies and hand them out to the people that I met on the street. I even bought some clear, plastic bags decorated with solid green trees, as well as some thin red ribbon to wrap around the bags. I’m no Sandra Lee, but I thought that was pretty festive of me. For the past few years I’ve made cookies at Christmas and handed them out to clients or co-workers. I even gave some to a young couple on the streets once (this was before I was getting out of my car to pray for people). Really, the cookies were just a variation on the tried and true Toll House recipe, but I would add Pecans and use better chocolate chips. Something like Ghiradelli, maybe. So I made close to thirty good-sized cookies, wrapped up a few and put them in the front of my car.

Then, a funny thing happened: I didn’t see anybody to hand them out to. I mean, for days. I normally don’t drive around searching for people. This time I did, however, but to no avail. How can I see nobody? This is ridiculous, I kept thinking, I did this out of a good place, I mean, I was just trying to be nice.

We were about to leave for Texas to be with family soon, and there were still cookies at the house and cookies in the seat of my car. I finally told my wife and brother-in-law (who was living with us at the time) that it was okay to start eating as many of the cookies as they wanted. I was a little frustrated and pissed off, frankly. In my head I had these visions of being some kind of Santa Clause for the homeless. Word would get out and I would be known as The Cookie Guy, or something. Maybe I would even be featured on the local news, or the front page of the paper. Man Spreads Christmas Cheer Through Chocolate! Homeless Rejoice!

Obviously, that didn’t happen.

No one is immune to vanity, least of all me.

At the time, I had a painting studio on Rufina Court. I had had it for years, but it had become mostly just a workshop. I don’t really paint anymore, but I was still there a lot, even though the ship was sinking. By now, I had, frankly, just about forgotten about handing out the cookies. The whole thing just annoyed me. The best laid plans of mice and men…

So one day I left the studio, the clear, plastic bags sitting in the passenger seat. The chocolate cookies had been out in the car for days and were beginning to lose their luster. I turned right onto Siler, heading towards Cerrillos Road and I saw Keith at the corner, only a block and a half from my studio. I knew that corner, and I had never seen anybody there before. I’ve driven up and down that road countless times, and, in all that time, I had never seen a soul asking for money on the corner of Siler and Cerrillos.

God’s timing is not our timing. Just because we’re ready to give doesn’t mean we always get an opportunity to serve right at that moment. He wants us to be vigilant and watch and be ready when He wants us to do something. He wants to see if we’re really committed to serving or if we just happen to be in the mood to serve. I’ll be learning that lesson for a while. God knows I’m a slow learner.

On that corner is a gas station with a couple of cheap motels behind it. Luckily, I saw Keith early enough to pull into the parking lot of the motel and stop beside the station. I fished out five bucks, grabbed a bag of cookies and walked toward the corner.

Keith wore a red and blue puffy jacket that was torn in several places with the cotton sticking out. He had to be about my age, mid to late 30’s and he wore a light gray Stetson. It was a big hat. I hadn’t seen too many homeless people with one quite like that. It’s not that the hat was in great shape, but it was definitely nicer than the jacket he had on. Keith had bushy red hair and an ungainly limp, which was far more pronounced than Mike’s (the older Vet that I met in front of Sam’s Club). Much like him, Keith had to swing his leg out in order to move forward. His body contorted, terribly, every time he took a step. It made me think of a tree that, suddenly, has been asked to walk and has no idea what it means to do that or how it should look.

God, how does he do it everyday? I thought, as Keith closed the gap and stopped in front of me. I held out the cookies with the five-dollar bill I had folded up lying on top of the bag.

“Thanks a lot,” he said. Keith had rich, blue eyes. They were still vibrant and alive. The world hadn’t stripped them of their color. Not yet.

I stuck out my hand, “My name’s Chuck.”

“Keith.”

Finally, I got to give out a couple of the chocolate chip cookies. I am well aware of how stupid that sounds. Oh well. It was important to me, but it led to something real, because I was supposed to meet Keith. I believe God was positioning the two of us so that we could cross paths.

You can’t force God to do anything. He will defy your expectations almost every time. That day I met Keith, I couldn’t have known that, of all the people I’ve prayed for on the street, he would be the only one that I would pray for twice.

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2011 in Keith

 

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Mike

Mike was standing in the median in front of Sam’s Club on Rodeo road. I think it was still November, shortly after I met Kenny. Just to set the record straight, I don’t approach people on the street every day. It’s sporadic. Sometimes I just don’t see anybody. I’ve also passed up quite a few people, thinking things like: I’ll catch you later. I really have to be somewhere. I don’t have any cash on me, anyway. Not to say that I have to stop every time I see a homeless person. On occasion our lives take priority. I don’t want to discount that.

But, I’ve become a little more sensitive to God telling me when I absolutely have to do something. I’m certainly not completely sensitive to God’s call. Quite the contrary. Many times I just ignore His voice and pretend like I didn’t hear Him. What’s that, God? Were You talking? Sorry, but that’s the truth. Listening and obeying God is a complex experience. Just because you obey God in a few small things, it doesn’t mean that you are certain about what He’s telling you to do every day. Not in my experience, anyway. I don’t think I’m alone in that. I will say this though: on occasion you are right in line with what God wants you to do and, people, that’s astonishing.

Anyway, Mike was in front of Sam’s. I saw him a little late, so I had to drive a little further down Rodeo and make a U-turn. I turned at the red light into Sam’s and looked for a place to park that was relatively close. Luckily, there’s a crosswalk here.

I had five bucks prominently displayed, so I jogged across the street.

He had a very prominent limp and as I stepped up onto the median, he had to hobble towards me, swinging his leg out slightly and around in order to move forward. For once, I remember what one of the signs said. The man was a vet, and his sign hung in his left hand as he held out his right and shook my hand. I’m almost positive that it said “Vietnam Vet”. He looked to be about that age. Mid-50’s, probably.

“Hi, I’m Chuck.”

“My name’s Mike.”

Mike had long, shaggy hair, and a scraggly beard. He looked a little like Charles Manson. Not the demonic part, though. Just the man. But, Mike didn’t look threatening. He was small. In my mind, I see Mike as being probably a foot shorter than me. Maybe it’ wasn’t quite that much, but it was significant. Like K (Katherine), Mike wore a leather jacket. Military patches were sown into its worn exterior. Faded reds, yellows and greens cluttered the surface, telling of how and with whom he had served. Gray hairs were beginning to show themselves in his beard and unkempt hair. Mike looked to be Hispanic.

I asked if I could pray for him. Standing in front of Mike, I didn’t feel rushed or distracted like I did with Kenny. I didn’t have the first time jitters like I did with Travis. I didn’t have the fear of approaching a woman like I did with K (Katherine). In fact, as I look back, I didn’t feel much of anything. I have to be honest about that. The encounter with Mike was short and I was back in my car before I realized it, driving away. One thing did stick in my mind, though, more than anything else. When I asked Mike if I could pray for him, he made a point of telling me he was Catholic, then he looked at me a little strangely. As if I was going to try to save him from his Catholicism. That’s the impression I got. Like he had to be up front with me about that, so that I had the option of refusing to pray for him. Maybe Mike had lost touch with the religion that he had grown up with. Maybe he mentioned it to me because he needed to affirm that it was still there somewhere. I don’t know, but it was an odd moment.

“That’s okay, I’m a Christian, too,” I responded.

I prayed for Mike. Like the others that I met before him, I didn’t ask if he had any prayer requests.

Let him know you love him, Lord. Bless him in his life.

I think if someone prayed like this for me, I would feel slighted. I would feel like they weren’t really paying attention. Insert name here___________: now pray. I know I’ve talked about this before, but I need to keep saying it. Some days I feel like God can’t possibly hear these bland prayers, but He does. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t bother. God not only hears them, He honors them. That’s not to say that God doesn’t teach you how to pray for others in a more precise way. He does. But, you have to start somewhere, and maybe sometimes it’s just about being in the right place at the right time and not the words we say.

I don’t know that I can say a lot more about Mike, but I do have a thought about the Catholicism that he made a point of mentioning. Growing up in Protestant churches (primarily Baptist and it’s offshoots), there was a barrage of criticism against the Catholic Church. At the non-denominational church, which I sporadically attend now , I overhead a couple of people talking about leaving the Catholic Church. They were both Hispanic men who had grown up in that faith. When they talked about the Church, now, it sounded like they were talking about a cult. I’ve heard a lot worse said about Catholicism, unfortunately.

I’m not getting into a debate about Catholicism. If you want to think ill of it, then I guess that’s your prerogative. But I’ll tell you this one little story. When I was going through a particularly difficult time, I went to a Catholic church here in Santa Fe. It was early afternoon on a weekday. There were no services, but the doors were open to those who wished to pray. I was the only one sitting in the large sanctuary that day, and I remember looking at the Stations of the Cross and the candles, and listening to the silence and beginning to weep, then moving beyond weeping into streaming tears. At that point, a group of children and their instructor came in through the rear doors. The kids were talking loudly and chattering, but when the teacher spied me across the cathedral, he immediately quieted the children down, telling them to be respectful.

“Someone is praying,” he said.

This moved me. I can tell you that I felt a reverence for the stillness of God in that moment that I have rarely felt elsewhere. My wife had a very similar experience. The church is open, urging the flock to come and pray. That day the Gospel was gently laid out, and it was simple and beautiful. Come…abide with Me, Christ said, and lets be still together.

I have no larger message, here. All I’m saying is that my wife and I have been comforted by a faith that we are not a part of. We are not Catholics. We most probably will never be Catholics. But if we had allowed denominational prejudices to steer us away from that faith, we would not have had the experiences that we did.  That’s it.

Pray for Mike. He’s a vet. He’s a Catholic. He’s on the street.

Pray that he will see the Gospel laid out, simply and beautifully.

Pray that we all will.

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2011 in Mike

 

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