PRAY FOR ME TODAY | FRIDAY | 03rd NOVEMBER AS I GO TO | COVENTRY THIS WAS BIRMINGHAM | (See my Full 66 City Tour List by Clicking HERE)
I slept like a log last night and was awake around 6:00am. Journaled a spot, showered and breakfasted around 800am. Good local sourced bacon and sausage. Excellent. It was a single large dining table with a great deal of uncomfortable small talk. Not good for the indigestion. I got back to my room, rather perplexed at what to do today. St Jonathan of Wolverhampton had hooked me up with a corporate Chaplain and my mate John the Scot in Aberdeen had hooked me up with Claudio whose daughter worked at Birmingham Christian Centre who also had gotten a room for me for the night if I needed it and said that the Pastor knew me? Really? So anyway, I checked BCC out on line and sure enough, the face of Mark peered out at me! Excellent So, as it happens in Stories, Claudio was at BCC doing some work, and so I could pop in and see him at 10:30 for an interview, interview Mark at around 11:00 and then fly the around the corner to interview the Corporate chaplain for 11:30. And I did
INSERT CLAUDIO VIDEO
Mark was a diamond, inviting me to use the City Centre church as a base for operations, for taking a lie down, for mediation, for mucho coffee, which by the way has become the latest place for communal activity. Eating and a drinking, coffee and cake is the new way to communicate. Of course coffee shops are now for churches of every kind not just a source of connection, but of income. If the church has leased out part of its building to a commercial shop, then I would suggest that the lease has the proviso of ‘Sup Interruptus’ etched into the contract. Which clearly states that ‘Within the agreed bounds (see subsection 4 paragraph 2 a) the Café space may be adorned with proclamation sung or otherwise at any time.” If its not elased out its building, then I would suggest you dare to break your own rules and despite the business consequences, which might be quite substantial either way, you practice Sup Interruptus.
So anyway, I drove up to yet another Coffee shop to meet the chaplain, put in £2.50 in the meter for an hour’s grace and got myself indoors. The parking attendants were already prowling like sharks, ready to slap on a sticker if you were a minute over time. I had to watch myself here. A former lawyer,Deborah had only been in the job for about ten months. She had some good things to say. After all, it is quite true that we Pastors see the need for men to serve the church rather than we serve the men. C’mon guys let’s be honest, most us want what church men we have left, to be ‘around.’ We want them on the doors, with the youth, at the breakfast, in the prayer meeting, at the midweek meeting, and twice on Sundays if possible. And we all know, that all of this is virtually impossible. So, I think Church Pastors in the 21st Century do really need to see themselves in the job of stores and supply, taking resources to the men of the church community as they work on the front line. Maybe then, these folks will truly see themselves to be indeed, ‘on the front line’ and rise to the task of becoming true Christian soldiers. So Pastors, get your guys to invite you to work. Go meet them where they are. Be their servant. Supply them to do a task you are not in the position of doing.
‘Specific Calling’ was another issue we discussed. To me, it’s a bit like the old red herring of marrying ‘the one!’ My view is, that after a first night of honeymoon romping, when you wake up and look over at your lover in the clear light of morning, guess what and no matter what…..they are THE ONE! Let me unpack this a moment in terms of employment. I do believe that people have a vocational calling. Some folks are called to the caring professions, the teaching profession, mechanical professions, etc etc…I believe that. However, there is more than one arm and more than one company and more than one job within the caring profession et al, that you might like to work in. So, if your called to be a lawyer, (and frankly I’m not sure it’s righteous profession to be in mind you) then don’t think God has rejected you if you can’t get a job as a Barrister. Maybe you need to be a Barrista for a while whilst you are volunteering in getting some charities sorted out with the charities commission. God has called you to work and to work and fish in a particular sea, however, the tidal jobs available in that sea may wax and wane depending on the economic climate and you know, you may even have to go to the seas of a different countries to fulfil your heart’s desire. Be flexible! We need to get real about this stuff, if God has called you be a Coal Miner in Derbyshire in 2012, then I suspect you are going to be sorely disappointed. Not that God would ever call people to such a menial task mind you! Yes indeed, most real people are not after the luxury of callings, they are after roof and table provision. Look, my point is this, what you are doing right now, is where you can glorify God and enjoy Him forever (unless you are a lawyer) so just get on with it. Anyways, now I have lost myself in my own rant, I shall move on, suffice to say, the church leadership are there to support and supply its members labouring on the rock face. We have our church supply structures al, the wrong way round. You know, if we could take some of the inginouity we have applied to food banks and the like and apply it to feeding the flock in their place of work, then you know, we just might see people growing.
I went to Birmingham Cathedral and the Dean was out. Why am I not surprised . However, one of the Vergers kindly laiased with a Canon and boom, (little pun there) if I came around 5:30 that night I might be able to speak from 1st Timothy at evening prayers. Nice. Mark had also told me that he might be able to get me into to speak to a young Christians group tonight. As I sat there I was tapped on the shoulder by a very upset 25 year old Polish guy looking for a priest. He was thin enough to be doing drugs. He smelt of pungent tobacco and was sweating. Whatever he was about to say was going to be very difficult for him. Now, I have been duped before and will no doubt be duped again, but this man’s story seemed genuine. Lost his mother to cancer, came for a job in Birmingham, it fell through, he starts work at another job on Saturday and needs £25 to give the guy he is staying with so he is not homeless. If he was conning me, then he was doing a stunning job. The verger gave me some contact details and I started to ring round. He had no phone. Some numbers just never picked up. It was 12:15 and I could smell the circling sharks. It’s hard to minister when you are thinking about wheel clamps and fines.
He was just 25, the top end of homeless and vulnerable. I tried to call Pastor Jeff in Litchfield who had been misisonaries to Poland but he was unavailable. This 25 year old guy needed a referral and somehow I managed to find the place need to go get one . It was on the backside of the bus station. So I took him outside and we flagged down a passing pedestrian and asked her for directions. Yes, she was walking half way down there and she would be pleased to walk with us and then we could get directions from someone else. He seemed happy as the three of us made our way to the backside of the bus station. Now at this point, even the best of dupe merchants would have made some excuse and done a runner, he was staying the course. As for me however, I could see the shark fins break the surface of my waters. I was now past the hour. I took a tenner out of my wallet and pushed it in his hand “I’ve gotta go mate, look here’s the money I owe you and I’ll catch you again sometime.” This young man wanted a job and not a hand out and the last thing I wanted to do was to embarrass him in front of the lady.
I beat the sharks back to my ‘dead meat’ car and in short time was back at BCC to make full use of their coffee shop, leather chairs and free Wi Fi. I really needed to get ready for 1st Timothy and if at all possible do a little work on the book of Psalms.
I got back to the church around 12:45 and sat down to do some catch up. I was glad that tonight was sorted out. The excitement of Birmingham city centre was calling me outside. I knew that the possibility of adventures with God out there were high, but you know, my publishing deadline commitments were calling me to heel. Today, I had to get on with them and God had already seemed to have lined up two opportunities to speak. We shall see.
Meanwhile, Radio Derby had been in contact over the last few days and had invited me on to the Radio Program at 08:45 on Sunday morning. They also wanted to do a web page on my visit. So I rang an old church I used to be member of called Trinity Baptist Church in Derby and YES, I could speak at their church on Sunday morning. How about that!
About 3:30am I needed to go to the bank, so I slipped out and into town passed the all the plastic smiled chuggers. Apparently, now there is a three step rule to stop them pursuing you with smiling guilt dripping from their lips. I must admit I do not like charity muggers. I have watched them at work in many cities I have been in, from save the tiger to green peace and a whole lot more besides. Same people, all on commission. If you ever get the chance to listen to private on street chugger team leader talk to his crew, I can tell you it’s one of the best RaRa sales pump ups you will ever come across. Still, Birmingham was buzzing
Coming back from town I was accosted by a beggar.
“Can you spare any change mate, only I can’t get my benefits cause I haven’t got an address..” “I can give you a quid for a two minute interview mate. Are you interested?” “Nah not really, I could miss collecting more money if I give you an interview” And in an instant he was gone. Plunging into the crowd and doing his own personal chugging. A different to the 25 year old as you can imagine.
I got back in time to do some final prep and as I slipped out of the door to go back to the Cathedral I popped my head around the door and asked Mark about the time for tonights talk. Anyways, long story short, he thought I was going for a curry and didnlt think the Portugeese speaking church or the DNA group would be suitable for 2 Timothy. Ah. So thank goodness for the Cathedral! I asked one the church office staff if they could direct me to St Martin’s and they did. I would need a good twenty minutes to walk there and I had given myself 35 minutes to do so. Easy peasey. St Martin’s was in the centre of Birmingham’s Bull Ring shopping centre. Twenty minutes later, around 5:20 pm I arrived with ten minutes to spare. I was meeting with the minister 15 minutes before the wee service. Unfortunately, this was not the church. The directions were correct but I had gotten the name wrong! I now had ten minutes to find the name of the Cathedral (it was in fact St Pauls) and get there. I got my 35 iPad out and went for it. I mapped out my root. If I ran, I would get there 5 minutes before the service started. I ran. I ran against a city changing its face. Workers going home, hidden Police Vans packed full of coppers waiting for any trouble from Birmingham City football fans already drunk and chanting on the streets waiting to face the Brugge fans. (it was a 2 all draw). I got there with 5 minutes to spare. The minister was waiting for me. I was out of breath and sweating like a pig.
Unfortunately, communication had failed again. The verger had told him I wanted to read the lesson. I explained no, I wanted to bring a mediation from 2nd Timothy. It was going to happen. He did not believe I would stick to my allotted time and he needed to be off straight after the wee service. Ah.
So anyway, I stayed, prayed and read from Matthew. I texted Mark to see if he had got any other contacts for tonight and he didn’t. I had wasted my day.
I rang Bridget to get some consolation only to find that the cat was vomiting blood and we had flees. A trip to the vet for an examination and antibiotics and some flee spray for the house did not leave much change out of a £100. Great.
So, still sweaty and now even more crest fallen I made my way back to BCC. Yes, a mate had called me, was paying for my B & B tonight and wanted to take me for a curry. I had called to put back the pick up time until 8:30pm. Maybe I could do some naked Bungee Jumping?
The problem is, 2 Timothy is a Pastoral letter. In other words it’s for the church. It was dark, people were going home after a long day and I had simply missed my chance.
Two are better than one. And this whistle stop tour of the cities can be a bit of a bummer when you are down. I understand how Paul, whilst doing the business, still was maybe a bit beaten down and tired and was in need of some extra rocket fuel to do what he needed to do. You know, tell his fellow Jews who Jesus really was. Interestingly, Paul was only compelled in Corinth to do this, AFTER the arrival of a couple of mates. When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia, Paul was compelled by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ. Acts 18:5
I recorded a brief mediation on front of some of the finest buildings in Birmingham. I hope it doesn’t depress you too much!
As I was going back to the car, yet another Beggar accosted me. A young woman? Its hard to tell. Maybe in her 30’s. I told her I would give her a £1 for a 2 minute interview. “£3” She said. “I will do it for £3, after all your gonna get something out of it, me I’m sleeping on the streets.” “£2” I said “I’ve only got “£2 on me” “No” she said shaking her head “£3. There has to be something in it for me.” Well I did not have £3 on me and so I apologise and begin to leave. That would have been the end of that you know, except she looked cold. “Have you got a sleeping bag?” I asked, knowing that I had one left in the back of the car. “No. Have you got one I can have?” “Tell you what then” says I “A sleeping bag and £2 for an interview.” The deal was done.
When I returned ten minutes later there were three homeless women and a cat, all sat outside the main entrance to the library come indoor shopping centre. Across from them were a number of interesting men. There was a gathering. Bottles of wine being offered for favours returned. It was a very surreal scenario. Unfortunately my battery ran out not long after I started filming, but what I have will give you a flavour.
It’s hard to know how to address street people. They have real names, street names, Nick names, false names….you name it. But the blond haired women who I had negotiated an interview with was a real street person in the sense that she had been on them for so long, (seventeen years) that it was now the only culture she really felt comfortable in. She was badly damaged, but she knew the ropes. She preferred the streets to some of the hostels she had stayed in and tonight, would be sleeping in the car park with fifteen other people.
I think her real name was Tracy and she tells me that a documentary has already been made about her. She says that when she was 17 she had helped another runaway on the streets and had finally persuaded her to go home. This other young woman (Claire) had finally got her life together and then came looking for Tracy to thank her for saving her life and in the process had made a documentary called “Looking for Tat”
Now, I don’t know if this young woman was the same one. If not, she was remarkably well informed. If it was, then imagine that. Seventeen years on the streets had destroyed her. Alcoholism had pickled her brain and hardened her liver, had robbed her of everything. You can call it people’s personal choices. You can call it bondage to the demon drink but the stench which resides in the very breath of alcoholic street people, gets into your clothes and you know, for hours after, you can still taste it on the roof of your own mouth and still smell it rising up from where it has now taken residence in your own clothes. It’s all exceptionally depressing, for quite frankly, these folks seem to be beyond redemption. Most certainly, I sat among them as one who had no power. Just empty words. Sometimes I feel a little like Preacher Jim Casy from Steinbeck’s ‘Grapes of Wrath’, you know, just ‘Tom Cat’in’ around without the Holy Spirit.
I drove back to the Bed and Breakfast calling Bridget on the way and dumping my depression all over her. Sigh……… When I got back I called the man who led me to the Lord. He had just gotten back from the States visiting newly discovered family and it was good to hear a happy voice.
Kyle came and picked me up for a Curry and for a couple of hours we unpacked the day in one of the most crowded and popular Curry houses I have ever been in. The two middle aged ladies sat next to us, got increasingly slightly ‘worst for wear’, as the time went on. Somehow we managed to get talking about life under the sun and Solomon’s sex drive, Ecclesiastes and coming judgement. The lady sat next to me told me all she wanted was to be happy. Her husband of many years had left her. This week.
Life under this present sun is tough and the more I am exposed to the futility of other people’s problems the more I find it hard to cope with even mine. And that’s WITH God, never mind without Him. Everything seems contrary to soundness in this world full of deceiving spirits, old wives tales, widows and unmarried women, muzzled oxes, unwholesome words, piercing sorrows, greediness, gossips and gyms. 1st Timothy may be a Pastoral Epistle, but it has a lot to say to the world as well.
But whose really listening?
I received and email from Pastor Jeff in Litchfield – it said
Hey Robert! Keep going man! Don’t give up! You are doing great! Let the Spirit lead you – make contacts – encourage – love – the Lord is using you man! Many blessings bro
I hope so!
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