My Homeless Beach Weekend

Taking twelve homeless men to a beach house on the Texas coast? What could possibly go wrong?

Nothing. Actually.

A lifelong friend helps run a Houston Homeless Chess Club Ministry and back in March asked if I would go along with them on a retreat to the Texas coast. I didn’t quite know what to expect, who does when it comes to the homeless. But those guys were so welcoming and hospitable. I learned from them what it looks like to be accepting of a stranger and about gratitude. Gratitude for the simplest of things.

“I couldn’t tell you the last time I slept in a bed,” said one man as he thought about the bed that was all his for two nights. This same man also told us that a full night’s sleep was a luxury because the Houston police will come around at 4:30 a.m. and kick him out of his sleeping spot.

As we set up and tried to account for things at the beach house, I couldn’t help running many of the accommodations and particulars through my middle class, spoiled mindset just to quickly be reminded that these are homeless people who have very little and even smaller expectations. Over and over they would tell my friend and I thank you for the food, thank you for the trip, thank you for coming, thank you for taking the time to be with them.

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Additionally, I learned the lesson of just making myself available without turning a charitable thing into a project.

Being present with people, making them feel valued, listening to them, serving them, getting to know them is a worthy effort that is not lessened because you lack a set of steps to take to get them out of their trouble.

I have worked with the homeless before and I am not trying to sugar coat their plight or look past the realities that have caused them to be homeless but what these guys have, that I often lack, is perspective.

When I gave a short devotional for them on Sunday morning and we talked about understanding the fullness of who God is, they went on an on about all that they had to thank God for. Yes, even in their homelessness, gratitude and thankfulness towards a loving heavenly Father was on the tip of their tongues. I don’t have that kind of thankfulness and lack that kind of divine perspective. These homeless guys taught me that I can look towards God with eyes that don’t constantly have to be filtered by my circumstances, good or bad.

As we were about to leave, one guy said, “You coming from Dallas to be with us, that is epic, man.” No, Eugene. Being reminded of what matters most and the true value of loving, accepting community, that is “epic.”

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We Are All Imitators of Something

My daughters like to watch the TV show, “America’s Next Top Model.” This is a reality show where aspiring models compete to be the top pick and get a modeling contract. Throughout the show they are coached and guided by experts, other models, and people who are experienced in the industry. My daughters have started to pick up on tricks and tips that the models try to implement to create great photographs. We joke around the house about the way to walk, hold your lips, “smile with your eyes,” etc. My daughters are imitating what they are seeing, even playfully, on the screen and letting it inhabit what they do.

I can’t stress enough how much we imitate what we see around us. There are many ministry majors that I have seen at colleges I have worked whose only aspiration was to be a youth minister like the one they had in high school or to be a worship leader like their favorite traveling worship band. The gist of what they are doing is simple imitation. We are hardly capable of our next move without turning it into a form of imitation.

America's Next Top Model Is Already Coming Back—Without ...

Who are we imitating to Grow Up in our spiritual life? Do we have models of Christlikeness around us? Or, do we have models but not very good ones. I have been in church my entire life and many of the models of Growing Up I have seen around me are rather weak and less than inspiring.

So, if you are a veteran follower of Christ, how are you modeling that reality? Does it reflect the Christ of scripture or the watered-down, culturized Christ American church people have settled on? What Growing Up do you still need to do before you can be a model for others?

And if you are a new Christian, who are you trying to imitate? I would warn you to understand everything you can about Christ from scripture. Then, when you start to see that version of Christ reflected in individuals, then they are worthy of imitation but if not, keep looking.

Our goal is to echo the words of Paul and say, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”

Why I Am Starting Something New?

I relaunched this blog back in May. There was a lot of prep to get it started again but I have never felt burdened by it. I started the Apprentice Experience in August and have been doing weekly readings and assignments. This has taken a little bit of time away from the blog but I have never felt overwhelmed by the time commitments.

This is the pattern that I am noticing on this journey. God directs me toward something and I go do it. There hasn’t been a lot of fuss, or hand wringing, or feelings of desperation. I simply move forward in obedience and things progress forward. There has been a flow forward that has been rewarding, refreshing, and uplifting.

I never thought that anything more than some words in a blog or some additional advice to friends and mentees would spring from these ways forward but I was wrong. God has made it apparent, just as he did with the blog and the entry into the Apprentice Experience, to take up a new task; one that is bigger and more out there than anything I have done previously. But, now that I know the pattern, I can just start to move forward in obedience and see where this takes me.

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Here is the new task: Grow Up Ministries. To take the content of the blog and the lessons and skills I am learning from the Apprentice Experience to create retreats, workshops, or individual session so that Christians can learn to Grow Up and live the life that Christ intends for them to live. I would make myself available to churches, parachurch organizations, and other ministries, and show their people that maturing in the Christian life is not only for spiritual superheroes or preacher types but for everyone who has a desire to grow.

Wise, mature, transformed Christians are desperately needed in our world and I want to do my part to help people make the spiritual changes they desire and that God has planned for them.

Friday night’s event is a kind of kick-off event for this new ministry venture. In the midst of all of the great music, I will briefly explain the plans and goals of this ministry.

What does that mean for you, faithful reader of the blog? Not much except for maybe a new web design and additional opportunities to see/hear me speak in person.

This is all kind of scary for me. I am not always the most optimistic person in the world but now that I know the pattern I can be confident that I just have to move forward and God will provide a way and a result.