Sunday, December 21, 2014

National Homeless Person's Remembrance Day



www.thevirtualpew.com
Today, December 21 is the National Homeless Person's Remembrance Day. With that in mind, with seeing and  knowing homeless persons who have died, I decided to write the following.

I have worked with helping others find solutions to their needs for over 40 years now, starting as a young man, I worked with my uncle who was severely injured while in the Army. As a result of my uncle's injury, (BTW I lived most of the time with my grandparents who cared for him) which consisted of blindness, traumatic brain injury and later on the development of schizo-affective disorder, I was able to work with him to  learn simple basic things which made it easier on others and him that few at the time thought possible. I also worked professionally with the homeless, including those with mental illness in areas of rehabilitation as an Executive Director and Consultant for over 15 years and a total now of over 30 years in all capacities. It is a subject I know something about. The bottom line, I want to communicate to you that in my experiences, I have not just worked with the homeless but especially the homeless many think there is little hope for. I think there is hope, a solution to the issue of homelessness and poverty in America and ultimately around the world but I can only speak of my experiences and observations in America which include all sectors of America, from the South to the North East, the Southwest to the Plains and from the West Coast to the Northwest. I believe the universal solution to help all  people is the same. What will say is going to shock some, make some angry and maybe, just maybe open the eyes of others.

www.thevirtualpew.comHere is an unfortunate truth, dollars upon dollars have been thrown at the issue of homelessness. This
has not resolved the problem. Unfortunately, more private and public dollars than ever are being thrown at the issue of poverty and homelessness and little if anything is improving to in my opinion justify the cost. There has to be a better answer. I unfortunately not only speak from a professional perspective, I am also speaking from a position of experience. I was for over 2 years, by the definition of homelessness, homeless. I lived in a YMCA transient shelter when I married my wife and completed High School while living there prior to that. I write about these experiences in my book The Keystone Kid and those experiences are not exaggerated, they are as real and accurate as I can possibly record. While the book deals with various issues I dealt with, the answer to the problem is the same for all situations I had to endure in my own life. I believe now, as I have believed for some time, the answer is the same for most on the streets. I know because where I have seen real change come about over the many years of my work is the same in the overwhelming majority of people.

Are you ready for the number one way that we as a society, caregivers, and helpers in particular can make a change? Here you go, to know (for to know gives the ability to show change and model what needs to be changed best) and follow, (in all ways,) the person of Jesus, and then from that point, introduce Jesus to those we work with.

The Bible is very clear on this subject, and I have seen it from experience to be true in life. "What will you gain, if you own the whole world but destroy yourself? What would you give to get back your soul?" Things are not the solution to helping someone want to change. There is a spiritual component within each of us, that unless filled with the Spirit of God will not have an understanding or desire to change or find a place of peace within ones own spiritual needs.  I am honored and pleased to say, it is one of the things that makes the ministry I do and the work Mosaic is involved in different than many others. I am thankful that I am aware of other ministries doing the same thing and they have been things that have helped direct me in the work I believe is the work of God. This has been the thing I have seen be the most effective in bringing about change to the poor and the homelessness issues in American.

www.thevirtualpew.com
One of the things I have seen and believe to be the number one problem amongst the homeless is the lack of hope. Many don't believe things can and will get better. Providers believe they know what is best and at best offer solutions that are temporary and do not last. It is so bad in some circles that some call themselves ministry and either the Jesus that is introduced is diluted at best and in many instances are 'Ministries' that never introduces people to Jesus. I see this done by some who are flat out lying and deceive. They say and do things that are clearly not true, while promoting themselves. They supposedly place hundreds of homeless people in housing when I doubt they could show 5 actual people, if that where they have done that. Or supposedly feeding tens of thousands of the homeless when there are less than 2,000 homeless people in their community. Of course with groups like this, it is easy to get a large numbers of people to support you but that support is based off of lies. It is imperative that one does the research to verify the facts. When it is done one can clearly see indiscretions in things like finance and more with numerous businesses in the community but it is sometimes so much easier to believe the lies. Then there are so called ministries that have personal indiscretions ranging from marital infidelity, leadership issues, untrue accusations and much more. I agree it is imperative to get the log out of ones own eye before worrying about the speck in another's, but I am not speaking about specs here, I am speaking about logs and making sure that those who say they do ministry follow the Biblical expectations of what the Bible calls ministry, otherwise it is not ministry it is a facade masquerading as ministry. There are clearly higher expectations for Biblical leadership and it is imperative that we follow that leadership and direction. If doing that, it becomes clear, it is about Jesus.

What is it Jesus does that some never take into consideration? It is quite simple, the very nature of God we see from the Old Testament through the New Testament is the concept of hope that comes from knowing and being in relationship with God, that only comes through Jesus. The Bible speaks hundreds of times on this subject. There are verses like the following:

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. - Jeremiah 29:11

www.thevirtualpew.comNow faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. - Hebrews 11:1

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. - 1 Peter 3:15

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. - Romans 15:4

I could go on and on, like I said, there are literally hundreds of verses that deal with the subject of hope. I beg the question: how is hope instilled amongst the poor, the homeless or anyone when the need for Jesus is left out of the solution all together? The answer is simple, the evidence shows, it isn't. This is one of the primary reasons we see the homeless saying things like, "I have no desire to get off the streets, people are giving me everything I need," or, "I don't want help, I have no obligations or responsibilities on the street," to most recently, "Everything I need is given to me, I prefer to use my money for my drugs and whores." I beg another question, is it possible, that in the do-gooders intent that we have failed doing good and arrived at the place were we enable people more than help them? This is both a spiritual and a political problem, spiritual because Jesus and God has a purpose for each of us beyond just surviving and a political agenda that seems to be pressed at times that sees it as the governments responsibility to take care of those who are incapable of taking care of themselves. This is a Communist or Socialist perspective. The danger here is that while it is true there will be a segment of society who will always need help, it is clear to me from my observations and experiences, that we are leading others into that place that are capable to find that hope but have either given up on life by surrendering to alcohol and drugs, (of which many of the things that are given are sold to buy more drugs and alcohol.) or are some really incapable of helping themselves, at which point some others have less resources being provided to help those such as those with severe mental illnesses. The bottom line is this is quite possible and I believe likely. Many of the providers or those seeking to do good may be doing more harm than good because they leave out the one instrument of change that I know gives hope, God.

www.thevirtualpew.comUnderstand, I am not trying to make  blanket generalizations.  There are always  exceptions but they are exceptions, not solutions. In this whole dilemma, not only should the mistakes of what I call the do gooders be addressed but the failure of the Church in large, and Christian community must also be addressed. Many churches have gotten caught up in political dogmas to the point that they have forgotten about the missional expectations of Jesus. Many do good once a year, say at Christmas, but what do we do all of the year to carry out this mission? I am asking the church to consider something, something I would love to do and be a part of but there are people in your communities who could do this as well. Look at ways you can serve the homeless and the poor, while at the same time, having crusades (not revivals but crusades where the Gospel of Jesus is clearly preached) to this population. Then take on the responsibility of the Church to those who have converted. Take them under our wings, disciple them and implement the whole of the following passages of scripture:
 Acts 2: 42-47: (42) They spent their time learning from the apostles, and they were like family to each other. They also broke bread and prayed together.

(43) Everyone was amazed by the many miracles and wonders that the apostles worked. (44) All the Lord’s followers often met together, and they shared everything they had. (45) They would sell their property and possessions and give the money to whoever needed it. (46) Day after day they met together in the temple. They broke bread together in different homes and shared their food happily and freely, (47) while praising God. Everyone liked them, and each day the Lord added to their group others who were being saved

And,

Acts 4: 32- 37: (32) The group of followers all felt the same way about everything. None of them claimed that their possessions were their own, and they shared everything they had with each other. (33) In a powerful way the apostles told everyone that the Lord Jesus was now alive. God greatly blessed his followers, (34) and no one went in need of anything. Everyone who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money (35) to the apostles. Then they would give the money to anyone who needed it.

(36-37) Joseph was one of the followers who had sold a piece of property and brought the money to the apostles. He was a Levite from Cyprus, and the apostles called him Barnabas, which means “one who encourages others.”

www.thevirtualpew.comHere is the reality as I see it, until the do gooders start introducing Jesus with integrity or are at the
least working with those who are faithful to this need and the Church and Christians do their part, then as much as I hate to say it, while some good may be done, in the overall scheme of things, we are may be wasting our time. It is my desire that we do what we should be doing. Some say the Bible addresses over 2,000 times the needs of the poor and needy, the orphan and the widow. While I am not sure if it is that many times, it is clear it is an awful lot and the Church needs to be doing the work God. It has always dumbfounded me, the church spends so much time on subjects like abortion, which should be addressed but seems to ignore the expectations of caring for the poor and needy which are so strongly emphasized in scripture. The bottom line for many problems including both of these, the answer is Jesus but how can people hear if the followers of Christ don't take Biblical teachings seriously and recognize that Jesus is exactly who he said he was, (...no one goes to the Father in Heaven except through me.) and emphasizes those points and takes and illustrates that message of hope to them?

Today I implore three groups: 1) There are those who deceive, they are in my view, evil and God will judge them harshly for their actions. I believe they should be exposed for their deceit. 2) There are others who just don't know. They have taken seriously their work but never seriously taken the message of hope that comes through Christ seriously. They wonder why they see little or no results, stay discouraged or know in their hearts they want so much more for those they legitimately love and care for. To those individuals, surrender to Jesus, I would love to be one of those who introduces you to him, simply contact me through mosaicwichita.com or thevirtualpew.com and I will gladly walk you through the process. 3) There is another challenge, that challenge to Christians and The Church who are not doing their part. I realize many are doing their part. There are great churches doing great work, seeing wonderful results and many Christians individually doing their part. But, for churches and Christians who aren't, get busy. Ask for forgiveness and do your part in reaching one of the great mission fields on the earth. Don't just stop at a conversion, we are not called from a Biblical perspective to just make converts, we are called to make disciples. Don't settle for anything else. We are to be a part of the process where people are sold out Jesus Freaks and fully life long committed to Jesus, even until the point of death, to do the work of Jesus on this earth, including an area strongly emphasized in scripture, serving, reaching and seeing the salvation of the poor and needy. Anything less is not what God has called us to do.

I know this will strike many the wrong way, others will hate it, some agree with a point or two and some will know I am sharing truth. A truth that may not be easy to hear but none the less, truth. I challenge everyone to do more than just give money but if giving money, give to those that are doing good, that is the good that helps the whole person, including the spiritual component of people, not just the physical. Remember that the Gospel and message of Jesus is also called Good News! In closing  I close with the following verses.

What does it profit anyone to gain the whole world and lose their soul? - Matthew 16:26

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. - Romans 15:13

You can experience the plan of salvation and the eternal hope that comes with Jesus. Watch the following video for more information, just click on it, if the video doesn't appear, click on the following link. I also encourage you, if rededicating your life to Jesus or making a commitment to follow Christ, let me know, I will do all I can to help you in the situation you are in.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLDrNCVW9Vc



The Virtual Pew and our other work is supported solely by the kind contributions of others. You can click on the donate button below to give any amount to this work that does so much more than just post articles on the net; I draw no ongoing salary from the church I pastor, Mosaic Wichita which is predominantly a homeless church; I am grateful for any small amount you can contribute to help with this ministry.  Believe me there is much more going on than most realize. I will also provide information to verify the ministry and income that comes into this ministry and work.  Thanks and feel free to share any material from The Virtual Pew, I only ask that appropriate credit is given and a link to the original site with the materials provided.


Click here to read about, and order the book, The Keystone Kid 

http://www.mosaicwichita.com/#!store
Click here to visit the web page The Virtual Pew

Click here to follow The Virtual Pew on Twitter

Mike Furches on Faceboook.

Click here to visit Mosaic Church where Mike is Pastor

The Keystone Kid/Virtual Pew Message Boards

Click to subscribe to my blog

There are hundreds of postings so make sure to check out the archives. You can also contact me for a free audio book link of The Keystone Kid at mike@furches.org You can visit http://www.thevirtualpew.com/.

Hopefully you will consider a gift to The Virtual Pew.

Now I get asked this quite often, Can we repost your blogs or articles? The short answer to that is, what an honor that you would ask, and by all means, spread the word. Here is our contact information

The Virtual Pew
1249 N. St. Francis
Wichita Kansas, 67214
Email: mike@furches.org

Click on the following links to learn more about The Virtual Pew

Donations to The Virtual Pew

The Virtual Pew Blog

Personal Furches Web Site

Hollywood Jesus

Reviews With Mike

The Virtual Pew Sermons

The Virtual Pew News


Friday, December 19, 2014

A Christmas Story, Chapter 10, Thanksgiving Conflict

www,thevirtualpew.com




CHAPTER 10
THANKSGIVING CONFLICT
By: Mike Furches

www,thevirtualpew.com

It was a week before Thanksgiving and things were already far more hectic than the Hamm's could handle. Things over the last weeks had been rough with James and the family. The family had decided to invite Detective Bob Hay and Sergeant Mike Jackson along with their families and James' younger brothers Charlie and Buddy along with his sister Barb to spend Thanksgiving together. They were convinced that getting together with everyone would be a good opportunity to mend some of the fences that had been broken with all of stress they had been enduring and short tempers towards one another. What Tayra didn't realize or take into consideration was all of the details that went with this adventure, from making room in the dining room, the kitchen, how to cook all of the food, keeping it warm until the time of serving, plus the hectic nature that came with the Christmas rush. The Christmas rush started earlier and earlier each year. It used to be that the rush didn't start until after Thanksgiving, now it was prior to Halloween and the crowds and traffic were getting worse. All of this wore on the nerves of anyone out trying to get the regular mundane concepts of life taken care of.
While it was normally easy to get around Owasso, that was not the case during this time of year. The stores and strip malls were packed. The area had grown so fast that the roads were not adequate to handle the traffic and number of customers. It wasn't unusual to be backed off of the highway at the exit ramp during rush hour or prime shopping times when going shopping.
Pastor Steve from Discovery Bible Fellowship knew what was going on with the Hamms and had seen the pressures mounting with the family so he offered them the use of the church to cook the food. This was a big help, especially with the extra ham, turkey and pies that needed to be prepared.
While a help it didn't take care of the frustration that came from having to deal with all of the traffic in the area and the storage of the items. Thankfully Pastor Steve also allowed the use of extra storage at the church. Tayra or Charlie still had to drive the things to the church even though the back roads were packed at certain times it was still a big help. Charlie had learned a measure of faith and patience but all of the Hamm's still had a ways to go in the area of patience. All of the stress had had an impact. It wasn't that the relationships had fallen apart by intent, but tempers were running short and everyone in the Hamm home, including now, Brenda and Sammy along with James were letting the stress get to them. The only exception was the baby Kari. She was to young to know better and could pre occupy herself with the most simple of toys and activities, just like most 1-year-olds.
******
Detective Bob Hay and his wife were the first to arrive at the Hamm home. They also had his daughter and son who had given up his motorcycle to Sammy when the family had been robbed. The Hay's were already dressed in their Christmas sweaters, with the exception of Chris, the son, he was wearing jeans and Newsboys t-shirt. They came in with a couple of bottles of wine, a Muscat which was a sweet white wine and a bottle of Chocolate Wine which Linda Hay, Bob's wife, had found and thought she might enjoy. While none of the families were regular drinkers they had seen no issues with an occasional glass of wine, or even a beer after a hard days work or while watching a game. Tanya took the wine from Linda and put it on ice for after dinner so it would be nicely chilled.
It wasn't more than 15 minutes after the Hay's arrived that Sergeant Jackson and his wife Mary arrived. They had James brothers Charlie and Buddy and their sister Barb. Mary was a beautiful woman, who was in very good shape from working out and taking care of herself. It was evident to those who met her that she must have been a cheerleader or something of the sort that Mike had met while in college when he played football for the Oklahoma State University Cowboys. Mike and Mary Jackson never had children due to Mary's inability to birth children due to medical complications. It was one of the reasons the family enjoyed keeping all of the children on the weekends when James visited to spend time with his brothers and sister. It was a reminder of what a could be for the family and it helped open their eyes to the possibility of some day adopting children. They also looked forward to the extended weekends during vacation time from school and holidays because it meant they were able to have the children for even longer periods of time.
For the hour or so prior to dinner James was outside throwing a football around with Officer Jackson and Sammy. With everything going on in the house it was an opportunity to get out of the hectic atmosphere and chaos going on in the house. Charlie was inside trying to get the tables set up, dealing with Tayra whose temper was somewhat short from being nervous about everything that needed to be done. The more nervous and agitated she got, the more it reflected on Charlie, thus the reasoning for Mike, Sammy and James going outside. Detective Hay was in the family room doing his best to ignore the ranting as he sat back in his chair watching the NFL football game.
Officer Jackson could tell that James was going through some stress, "So how are things going James, are you ready for the big meal?"
James gave subtle hints to his difficulties with everything that was going on, not just the stress from all of the recent events but also being around a family during the holidays. It was something he was having difficulty adjusting to. He wasn't used to being around anyone and had no idea of how to behave, knowing what to do was foreign to him in this large family, holiday environment. "I'm doing okay I guess, I just don't know how to deal with this holiday stuff and why it is such a big deal." He responded to Mike.
"Heck, it seems like the stress always lends itself to problems to me." Sammy responded, "I just hope it doesn't lead to the typical Thanksgiving meal argument or disagreement that seems to happen all of the time."
"Tell me about it," Officer Jackson jumped in, "It is one of those things I like about having a small family get together. But you know how it is? You have to spend the holidays with the family and if there is no family, there are always friends like the Hamm's that invite you over. Bottom line is, and I don't mind to much, but you can't get away from it all."
"I just don't understand all of the food and stuff," James replied, "I mean if it causes the stress and arguments to come about I think it would be hard to find something to be thankful for." The football just thrown by Sammy sailed over James head. He went running after it before Mike Jackson could respond.
After James got the football, he went to throw it to Sammy and Mike responded, "I guess that is a part of being in a family. You don't just love each other in the good times but you learn to love in the bad times as well. I think Jesus said as much when he said it is easy to love your friends or neighbor. It is when you can love your enemies and endure and go through tough times that you really understand the concept of love. Believe me, it isn't always easy but it does seem to make life and the stress easier."
"Well I just don't know how much more of that kind of love I can endure," James responded, "I would just like folks to know me better. It is like I am a token or something.  Mike, you know what I am talking about don't you, I mean there are good intentions and all but don't people at some point understand that my world and experiences are different than theirs?"
"Yeah, I can agree with you James but part of them knowing you better is you getting to know them better. It's a two way street, there has to be give and take and I know that being Black and having the experiences you have is something they likely haven't been around before. That doesn't take away from their good intentions, of course we all know that the path to Hell is paved with good intentions but I would say again, take the time to get to know the family, heck you get along with Sammy and all, he is having to learn as well." Mike responded as he zipped the ball into Sammy.
"Ouch!" Sammy yelled out, "That burned, take it easy man!" Sammy went to respond further as his hands burned from the ball that Sergeant Jackson had thrown at him and his stomach also hurt from it slipping through his hands into his stomach. The cold day didn't help matters much. "I think it is easier for me in some ways because I am at least around some Blacks at school but James you have taught me so much more, I think Mom and Dad are willing to learn, they just don't know what to learn."
"That's what I am talking about." Sergeant Jackson responded, "Someone has to be willing to teach them and you are likely the best teacher they will have James."
"That could be a problem," Sammy responded, "If James is the best teacher they have they better be willing to listen. Them listening to someone our age is like asking God to part the Red Sea again so the Hebrews can escape Egypt."
James knew that there was a sense of seriousness in the discussion, but responded anyway as Sammy was still rubbing his hands and belly, "Well I never expected myself to be a Moses. I guess I will go kicking and screaming to carry out that responsibility just like he did."
They all laughed as Mike's wife Mary stuck out her head from the front door of the house and yelled out, "Come on boys, dinner is served."
All three came into the house and took their seats around the table. Charlie had connected a couple of large fold up tables so everyone could sit together in the large dining room. Tayra had covered the tables with a nice red table cloth and no one would have known they were fold up tables. The tables were immaculately set with food scattered around the table.  There was a large turkey which Charlie was doing his best to slice with the cordless electric knife and spiral ham which had already been pre-sliced. Charlie had sliced enough turkey when he interrupted the chatter going on around the table. "Alright, everyone ready to eat?" He asked.
Various supportive responses erupted from all around the table to affirm they were ready to eat. He then stated, "Okay, but you do know it's Thanksgiving so I ask that we all hold hands and pray together to give thanks."
After saying this everyone grabbed the hand of the ones setting next to them and bowed their head as Charlie prayed, "Father you have given us all so much, I come to thank you on behalf of everyone here. Lord we have so much to be thankful for but this year I really thank you that we are all able to come together and have had a roll in making James life better as well as for his brothers and sister. Lord use us to continue to have an impact on this family and be with them. Thank you for bringing us all together and using us in the way you have, continue to remind us of our need to serve those in need the way you have commanded us to.  It is in Jesus name I pray and give thanks, amen."
As Charlie finished his prayer he looked up and saw James sitting there staring at him. Charlie didn't realize it at the moment but the prayer, while prayed in sincerity, offended James. James was offended because he didn't like being seen as a charity case. He had made a mistake but he had done what he did in order to provide for his brothers and sister. He had only tried to find a way to keep the family together during a tough time when his mother had deserted them. The more James thought about the prayer the angrier he got. As the food was passed around the table, it became obvious to Tayra that he was angry and wasn't getting much food.
"What's the matter James, fill your plate up, there is a lot of food here, it is a time to chow down." Tayra said.
"I'm not very hungry and I don't know why we have to chow down." James responded in a rather confrontational tone that clearly made everyone around the table uncomfortable.
Charlie spoke up to confront James, "Come on boy," at which point Sergeant Jackson cringed. Charlie continued, "Tayra is just trying to be nice, you need to apologize to her for your response and tone."
James was clearly even more upset as the stress, the episodes of the recent past and the holiday confusion was building to a crescendo. "First man, I am not a boy and I don't know what is so bad that I have to apologize for not wanting to 'chow down,' so you can forget any apology."
Sergeant Jackson trying to prevent a serious confrontation jumped in, "James I don't think he meant anything by his comment and Tayra really is trying to be nice."
James responded in an angry tone, "Come on man you know we don't like being called boy. I'm not someone's house slave and neither are you."
Everyone around the table was getting more uncomfortable including Charlie who was also starting to get angry. "James! I never intended to call you anything like a house slave, you know that! After all we have done to help you I can't believe you would stoop to such a low level!"
James responded, even more angry now, "I never asked you to do anything for me. I've tried to be respectful, decent and contribute to the needs around here. I've done everything you have asked of me, I don't know what the big deal is. I just wish you'd understand what I am going through, what I am seeing on the news and hearing on the radio. If you only understand how it seems that I have to respond a certain way while going through the things I am feeling and then watching how your conservative Christians clearly don't understand or care about my community, then you stoop so low as to call me 'boy.'"
Tayra was now crying, the rest of the table had gone beyond the point of being uncomfortable when Charlie responded further in anger, "Well we can't understand what you're going through if you don't share with us your feelings now can we? You have a responsibility as well to be a part of this scenario and help us learn what we need to learn, but then again, it seems as if we are always catering around the needs of others and no one ever takes what we feel into consideration."  Now while Charlie had no desire for this to come across as a racial comment, it did and this didn't help matters at all with James.
Charlie, was upset as he saw Tayra crying and James own brothers and sister starting to get uncomfortable. His comments didn't calm James down any as James responded, "It is always about having to submit to what you want for me but truth is you don't know anything about my community, you know nothing about being Black and trying to survive in this world. One of the problems you Christians have is you talk so much about how important it is to love others, but you have never bothered to take the time to get to know me or anyone like me." James then took his napkin, threw it down on his plate and stated as he got up to leave, "Please excuse me, I don't have any appetite now." 
James got up to leave the table when Charlie started to speak. As he started to say something Detective Hay spoke up, "Let it go Charlie, let him go, he needs some time."
Mike Jackson affirmed Detective Hay's comments, "Yeah, let it go Charlie, let him calm down. There are a lot of things on the table that we need to talk about and now isn't the time to do it. Let's enjoy what we can of dinner and move on." For a moment there was a deafening silence as no one knew what to say.
Sammy breaking the awkward silence finally spoke up, "Well it is still Thanksgiving and I need some mashed potatoes and gravy, can someone pass them down this way along with the sweet potato casserole."
Brenda his sister spoke up, "Don't pass him those potatoes, Sammy, don't forget you still have to make weight this weekend for the Thanksgiving wrestling tournament up in Kansas."
"Yeah," Sergeant Jackson said, I am planning on driving up to see you wrestle this weekend and was going to bring Charlie, Buddy and Barb along with James to see you. You miss out because you fail to make weight I am going to be a little ticked after driving all that way and getting a couple of motel rooms to stay for the entire tournament."
Everyone giggled as Sammy said, "Okay, okay, just give me a small taste of them. Dad put the food on my plate, I know mom will give me way too much but you know what I can eat to still be able to work it off and make weight tomorrow night at weigh-in."
Charlie responded in a more relaxed tone as Tayra looked at him in displeasure as she never liked the idea that her boy couldn't eat what he wanted during the Thanksgiving meal due to having to make weight for the annual Thanksgiving Wrestling Tournament Owasso attended in Derby Kansas. "Okay son, but you know it means having to get a run in tonight and tomorrow morning before you go up for weigh-in?"
"Sure dad, but remember, I wrestle weight and don't cut that much, so don't put me through the starving stage." Sammy responded, knowing he never cut excessive weight like a lot of wrestlers did. He also knew that while James was now wresting for the Rams, that he was new to the sport and wouldn't have to worry about making weight as he was a JV wrestler who would not be wrestling at this tournament. Sammy only hoped James would cool off enough to at least go with them to the tournament. Sammy was thankful that Mike Jackson was driving up and taking James brothers and sister. Sammy knew that would increase the likelihood that James would be going.
The mood at the table was much lighter now. While it wasn't at the joyful place the family and guests would have liked it to be it was better than it was before the blow up. While Charlie and Tayra especially were struggling with what had transpired, they tried to be a good host to their guests. Detective Hay had mentioned that there were things to discuss regarding some issue with James with all of the involved parties. Charlie and Tayra also knew there was  little more than a month to go before James time with the court system was up. They had learned to love James though and didn't want to do anything to spoil his chances of being done with his parole, neither did they want to jeopardize the love that had developed between them, at least what they felt was love. After the events of the last few days and especially this evening, they weren't sure if James felt the same way.
James had picked up enough hours from working a part-time-job and working at the church to have already paid off his debt and fines but Charlie and Tayra had a family and children of their own they had to raise and they realized their need to make sure the house maintained a measure of respect. They honestly didn't know what was going on and needed time to discuss the issues that were now on display for all to see with Detective Hay and Sergeant Jackson. They knew it wouldn't be easy, didn't guarantee that the relationships would be healed, but for all involved, it had to be done.
While the Hamm's didn't know it, James had had a brief conversation with Sergeant Jackson which added additional pressure into his life. It was something the others had not spoken openly about, nor did they know what was going on or of the conversation or news that Sergeant Jackson and Detective Hay had been given earlier the day before. Mike Jackson also understood some of the confusion and burdensome issues James was going through because he was himself after all, a Black America.
There were clearly things the Hamm's needed to be aware of. While there were things for them to learn, at least they had a heart where they were willing to learn, whether James understood or not. Mike was convinced, from the time he had spent alone with James now for almost a year on weekends, James was a good young man who could also learn a thing or two. It wasn't that the Hamm's and James couldn't come to respect each other, it was just that they didn't know the specifics of what they needed to do to make sure this respect happened.
Incarnation was something Sergeant Mike Jackson and Detective Bob Hay had learned to do in order to be successful police officers. They had seen first hand what happened when a bad police officer was unwilling to learn about the people and communities they served. The Christian faith of these two men was taken seriously enough by the two of them that they had insight. If willing to listen to and learn from, The Hamm's and James would be able to be helped and possibly make improvements on their lives and the lives of the opposite race they each respectively came into contact with. While Sergeant Jackson and Detective hay knew this needed to be done, they also knew there needed to be a cooling off period, hopefully there wasn't so much harm already done that there couldn't be the healing that needed to occur. 

www,thevirtualpew.com
  


The Virtual Pew and our other work is supported solely by the kind contributions of others. You can click on the donate button below to give any amount to this work that does so much more than just post articles on the net; I draw no ongoing salary from the church I pastor, Mosaic Wichita which is predominantly a homeless church; I am grateful for any small amount you can contribute to help with this ministry.  Believe me there is much more going on than most realize. I will also provide information to verify the ministry and income that comes into this ministry and work.  Thanks and feel free to share any material from The Virtual Pew, I only ask that appropriate credit is given and a link to the original site with the materials provided.


Click here to read about, and order the book, The Keystone Kid 

http://www.mosaicwichita.com/#!store
Click here to visit the web page The Virtual Pew

Click here to follow The Virtual Pew on Twitter

Mike Furches on Faceboook.

Click here to visit Mosaic Church where Mike is Pastor

The Keystone Kid/Virtual Pew Message Boards

Click to subscribe to my blog

There are hundreds of postings so make sure to check out the archives. You can also contact me for a free audio book link of The Keystone Kid at mike@furches.org You can visit http://www.thevirtualpew.com/.

Hopefully you will consider a gift to The Virtual Pew.

Now I get asked this quite often, Can we repost your blogs or articles? The short answer to that is, what an honor that you would ask, and by all means, spread the word. Here is our contact information

The Virtual Pew
1249 N. St. Francis
Wichita Kansas, 67214
Email: mike@furches.org

Click on the following links to learn more about The Virtual Pew

Donations to The Virtual Pew

The Virtual Pew Blog

Personal Furches Web Site

Hollywood Jesus

Reviews With Mike

The Virtual Pew Sermons

The Virtual Pew News


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Christmas Story, Chapter 9, Incarnation

www.thevirtualpew.com



CHAPTER 9
INCARNATION 
By: Mike Furches

www.thevirtualpew.com

James didn't normally mind mowing the church property on the riding tractor mower the church had. It was an opportunity to catch up on his community service hours requirements and pick up a few extra dollars the church paid him for the work above and beyond the community service. Today was different though. James was frustrated to the point of getting angry at the smallest things and it wasn't even noon yet. It was hot at 102 degrees despite James mowing early in the day to escape the even hotter temperatures expected during the afternoon. It wasn't the temperature that was causing him to have a tough morning thought, it was the news reports he was listening to through his headphones as he mowed.
"A New York City Grand Jury has refused to place formal charges against the city police department in the death of New York City resident James McKnight, an African American male in his late 50's. McKnight was choked to death while being subdued by 5 NYPD police officers after a dispute where he, McKnight, was accused of selling unlicensed and untaxed cigarettes. Witnesses on the scene recorded the tragic event with cell phones. The videos show McKnight pleading his case, stating that he had done nothing wrong. It also shows one officers taking McKnight down, placing him in a choke hold to the point he was claiming he couldn't breathe. At least 2 other officers initially held McKnight down, additional officers arriving moments later also lay over McKnight. The officers on the scene also tased McKnight after he was apparently unconscious. The hold in question is disallowed in many police departments around the country and was under dispute within the NYPD which claimed the hold was not a choke hold. Others on scene and investigating the video disputed that claim."
"Witnesses on the scene claimed that over the last months McKnight had been harassed by the police department and that he had done nothing to bring about the actions of the police during this particular situation. This incident has brought about national concern as numerous civil rights leaders were still fresh on the heals of protesting the failure to indict a police officer in Memphis Tennessee who had shot and killed an unarmed man who he claimed attacked him. Unlike the case in New York there was no police footage of the incident in Memphis, thus having police forces across the country being urged to provide body cameras for police officers which would record the police actions. While cost has been a factor as to why many forces have not provided cameras, other forces say the savings from various litigated cases justify the cost not to mention the insurance that the public is served and placed in no danger."
The more James listened, the angrier he got. It seemed as if society didn't understand the plight of blacks. Many blacks were becoming more and more convinced that it was open season on blacks in America. While Sergeant Mike Jackson was right in previous conversations with James, a lot of people had sacrificed a great deal to bring about changes for Blacks, it seemed to James as if at times, there would be 2 or 3 steps forward only to be jerked back 2 or 3 more steps. While there was progress, there were always those ignorant people who kept that progress from proceeding at any appropriate pace, at least that is how many Blacks saw it. There was a belief from many Blacks that yes indeed, many Whites were offended, afraid, and prejudiced towards them. It didn't take much of an effort in most of the communities surrounding Tulsa to see that while there was some progress in better jobs, careers and so forth, Tulsa like many other communities still had a dividing line that separated the races, certainly the financial classes of people. While economics played a part in it, James couldn't help but wonder if there wasn't  more to the problem.
It was approaching the lunch hour and Charlie and Tayra would be arriving soon to take James out to one of his favorite barbeque joints in North Tulsa, Stuts. After the morning James was having he was praying the radio in the car wouldn't be tuned onto one of those conservative talk shows that Charlie liked to listen to. James never listened to the programs much due to his work schedule but what he had heard infuriated him. It seemed as if many of the right wingers had little concern and compassion for the poor, especially poor blacks. Despite what many said, based on what he had heard from others, there were some who were racists.
Charlie and Tayra arrived a little early to pick James up from the church. He was putting the lawnmower into the churches garage and was wiping it down when Charlie walked in, "Hey there youngster you ready for lunch?"
"Sure!" James responded, not showing much, if any, emotion.
Charlie knew something was eating at James by his demeanor and brief response. Charlie chose not to push it though and simply asked, "Well how does some Barbeque sound? I was thinking of going to Trails End in Owasso. I know it is the stuff made by White folks and won't be as good as Stuts but it is still pretty good, how does that sound?"
James gave a look as he thought to himself, 'There you go, making everything about race like Blacks are supposed to be all about real Barbeque comes from Blacks or something like that.' While James didn't say it, he certainly thought it. He did respond in a somewhat confrontational tone, "Well if that's what you want, I guess it will be fine with me."
Charlie, not sure of what was going on, but knowing something was bothering James simply said, 'Well," after a brief pause, "I guess it's Trails End then."
As the two got in the car Tayra was sitting there listening to the radio, shaking her head.
"What's up honey?" Charlie asked.
"It's all those darned protests going on regarding the recent shooting and choking deaths of those Black guys. I don't know how it is that people can't sometimes give the police a break. Rush Limbaugh was just talking about it and one of the callers really got me ticked off blasting the police." Tayra responded with some agitation.
"Yeah, it's crazy isn't it." Charlie responded, "I wonder what Sergeant Jackson would say about all of this with him being Black and all."
Meanwhile in the back seat James sat there thinking to himself while listening to the sounds of Limbaugh go on all around him through the car speakers, 'give me a break, like you know what it is like just to be suspected of something because of the color of your skin. If you only knew.' While he was thinking this, he knew he wasn't at the place where he could say it without causing all kinds of problems.
James blocked out the conversation going on between Charlie and Tayra. It was something he knew better than to engage in. Charlie and Tayra were certainly aware of James in the back seat but assumed he saw and thought about the recent news events the way they did, after all, James had become friends with both a White police officer, Detective Hay and a Black policeman, Sergeant Jackson. Becoming to some extent friends with these two didn't change reality for James though. He had seen and heard the police numerous times in his part of town. The sirens blaring and the use of the N word by so many White policemen was something that disturbed him. It seemed like fewer and fewer Whites understood the conditions that put Blacks into so many of the situations they were in.
Poor paying jobs, the influx of gangs and the lack of development in black communities among many other social economic reasons were things that many people didn't take seriously when looking at the plight of Blacks and poor Whites in many communities. People seemed to look at the end results but didn't take seriously how to change the situations that put them into the places to often make poor or bad decisions. It was easy for example to speak out against abortion but was done with an attitude that seemed to refuse to address issues that ignored children raising children, raising children in poverty situations and on top of that making it almost impossible for single parents to provide and get the appropriate care needed for a child in its early developmental stages. Many in the Black community knew that even the roads in their neighborhoods were among the last to get treated in the ice and snow storms.
It was clear that what development that had come into the Black community came at the expense of saving money and making sacrifices. When it came to the economic development so easily seen in the South Tulsa and Broken Arrow communities, the Black communities North of the railroad tracks and Turley had not been seen by those living in those communities. James was convinced this was because of the racial prejudice that still existed. Much of America didn't like a Black president, and they didn't care about helping the Black community. While this wasn't the case for all Whites, it was the view many in the predominantly Black communities, including many poor Whites had seen.
Unfortunately, the opinion of The Hamm's had been influenced by the discussions on Talk Radio. It seemed as if the overwhelming majority of times in the car to James and others that they were listening to political talk, often times addressed and targeting anyone who wanted to see some change come about for those in poorer situations. James had heard the discussion on talk radio talk so much about God, even at times having the hosts trying to promote what they stated was Christian concepts. James as a young Black man had noticeably experienced this even from the Hamm's. It was like they were talking to him and presenting ideas like the radio talk show hosts had done to their audiences. James could see the influences though that had mixed a faith which on the surface looked good to intertwining politics which seemed to not be consistent with the faith being stated. James wasn't a Biblical scholar though, all he knew was what he had seen. What he had seen was something he didn't like. It didn't take him or his friends, family, or community seriously.
James knew though, if it wasn't talk radio for The Hamm's and others he had heard, it was watching Fox News and the Right leaning aspect of some of the programs there or politically slanted newspapers, magazines or other sources of information. It was one of the reasons James chose to spend more time, what little time he had, playing games with Sammy instead of sitting in front of the television with the family where it seemed Charlie and Tayra watched political programming more than any other form of programming. While he was appreciative of what The Hamm's were doing for him, there were still more times than not that he felt like a fish out of water. It seemed as if it was his responsibility to fit in and he thought, that if anything, those who were trying to help him, should at least try to be like Jesus and try to find ways they could fit in with him, his culture, and his surroundings. There were too many token references made by Whites, like Blacks liking and preferring Barbeque made by other Blacks. They also likely thought he wanted watermelon with every meal. He wasn't an old southern slave, wasn't a boy, didn't have a Mammy and didn't eat finger licking fried chicken all of the time. He was his own unique individual whose opinions were based more on his experiences than they were the color of his skin.
The three of them finally arrived at the barbeque joint. Truth is while it wasn't as good as Stuts, it was still pretty good barbeque, especially the potato salad and chopped beef sandwich and a side of ribs. There was one difference though, here, James was the only Black person in the restaurant, it would have likely been that Charlie and Tayra were the only white people in the place if they had gone to Stuts. Both places had good barbeque but there was no denying, even in the case of good food, segregation and lack of understanding existed.
******
Sammy, Charlie and James were going out for a guys night out. They were going to take a drive out in the country, take some photos, which is something they had come to enjoy doing together and spend time talking. As was normally the case, Charlie went to turn on the radio, it wasn't long before he turned it off of the talk radio station to another radio station playing music. Some of the late night talk radio hosts were too much for Charlie. While he leaned to the right of center, some of those late night hosts were extreme whackos as far as Charlie was concerned. At first James was pleased that Charlie was changing the station but it wasn't long before Charlie, trying to understand Blacks more and showing his empathy turned the station to a Hip Hop station. Charlie thought it was a station James would like mainly because he was Black.
After a song or two James asked, "Could you please change the station? I hate this stuff."
"You hate it? I thought this was your kind of music." Charlie responded as Sammy rolled his eyes, knowing that James actually preferred Country Music.
James became a little confrontational and replied, "Yeah I hate it, not all Blacks are alike just as not all White's are alike. I have a ton of friends who hate this stuff."
Trying to be nice and break the attitude Charlie responded, "Well excuuuusssseeeeee me!  What would you prefer to listen to Mr. Briscoe?"
While Charlie may have been surprised, Sammy wasn't, when James responded somewhat sarcastically "Well Sir, I would prefer Big Country Radio 99.5! After all I know all of you White folks around here seem to love Country."
Sammy sitting back trying to prevent a possible argument that he could sense was happening responded, "Hey, I have an idea, I've been listening to this program on a streaming station that plays a little bit of everything and is pretty good, can we listen to that?" Sammy in his wisdom, not saying anything prior to this was received well by Charlie and James at his request.
"Sure," Charlie responded. 
"I don't have a problem with it." James replied.
"Hook it up and go to your station." Charlie said to Sammy.
Sammy quickly set the cars radio settings to auxiliary and hooked up his phone to the sound system. After pushing a few buttons the program started playing on the cars stereo system.
"You're listening to Mike Furches and the Lightshine program here at Bacon Rock. That last song was Faces in Cabs by the late, great, Mark Heard. I had the honor of getting to know Mark a little back in college and it was tragic that he died so young. It was right after performing at the Cornerstone Festival in Chicago some years ago now that he passed. I especially enjoyed the fact that Mark understood the importance of getting to know people, knowing where they came from. Mark understood incarnation of Christ we read about in scripture. It is a concept Mark understood quite well. We have to be around others, share in life with them to get to know them and them us. People are more than just faces in cabs, they have issues and experiences that we may not be aware of when we make the judgments we often make." The radio host Mike Furches continued.
"Up next is a song from one of my favorite Canadians that kind of follows up on the themes of the Mark Heard song Faces in Cabs. The artist is Bruce Cockburn and the song is 'The Trouble with Normal.' Listen to the lyrics as Bruce sings about how the trouble with normal is it always seems right. The reality is, our expectations and views are often not reality. Certainly not on a world wide political front. Certainly not on an even more complicated individual and personal point. Think about all of that as the song starts up and remember, it really is hard to understand another's life unless we have walked in their shoes. Until you have done that, stop, listen, respect, and above all, love. Again, thanks for listening to Mike Furches and Lightshine here on the Bacon Rock Network and now let's let the music do the preaching." The song in a rhythmic rock and roll form started its haunting tune, reflecting in large on much of what the host had just stated but in a way that had the listener thinking about its meaning consciously and for some, even subconsciously but all the time, none the less, listening to a specific point of thought that had to do with listening and understanding another, despite what differences there may be
Charlie, Sammy and James continued on their night listening to the radio and the message being presented on the program much more than normal. The program had a way of addressing themes, preaching if you will in a format they enjoyed, using all kinds of music, from all kinds of artists, some Christian some not to address various points that were clearly designed to get one to think. Charlie could see why Sammy knew of the program and liked it. Charlie and James thought about the content of the dialog and as fascinating as it was, the subtle hints as to the meanings of the songs in a teaching, seed, thought provoking kind of way from the dialog of the shows host.
As the radio program came to an end, the host said something that resonated with everyone in the car, especially, James.  "In closing tonight's program I want you to think about something. It is something we try to get you to think about through the show but I wrap on at the end of it. You know, it really is all about Jesus. It is sad that some who say they are his followers and others who are openly not his followers get so caught up in judging the actions of those who say they are followers of Jesus. They making the judgments like to often point to how many Christians don't live up to the expectations they expect. Each of us making those judgments needs to make sure that if judging Christianity, that we look to the person of Jesus, nothing else. We need to see the Son of God who loved the world so much that He gave up His life so that we may find our lives and a place of peace, purpose and meaning. Thankfully Jesus rose from the dead and those who have committed to Him as Forgiver and Leader or Lord and Savior can rediscover life not from just a Heavenly perspective but a life that begins to experience aspects of Heaven now. Jesus chose to incarnate to get to know us so that we could better get to know Him. Remember that as you get to know those around you and the people you come into contact with, whether they be, Red or Yellow, Black or White or any combination thereof, we are all precious in God's sight. This is your humble host saying good night and God bless."
James and Charles were reminded of a conversation they had earlier with Detective Hay and Sergeant Jackson. A conversation where the four of them spoke about the importance of spending time together, getting to know each others culture, not just each other. Detective Hay and Sergeant Jackson, especially Sergeant Jackson made it clear that ones environment played a huge part in who each person was. Who had raised them, friends and the community all played a part of each persons identity. If you grew up in an environment where your family had money for video games, you would be different in many ways than a family with no money. The one with no money was often molded by the community; so if basketball was all there was to do, it would be a part of who a person was. Then again, if your friends did drugs, that would be a part of who you were. The programs one watched on television, listened to on the radio had more of an impact on ones identity than most realized.
This was an issue Sergeant Jackson and Detective Hay understood all too well because their work helped them to understand it as they dealt with cultures from various places and had learned to be cautious of the judgments of the individuals they worked with. There was often far more to the story than one realized and they had seen this far too often. They also understood that with the differences between The Hamm's and James there would ultimately be some issues. It was clear in the minds of both James and Charles, that some of those issues were not only now occurring, they had been happening for some time. It was inevitable there would be conflict, the seriousness of the conflict was yet to be determined.
Even with the discussions and advice from Detective Hay and Sergeant Jackson in the minds of Charlie, Tayra and James, things would get worse before they got better. James continued meeting his obligations to the church, living with the Hamm's through the week, going to church, spending time with his brothers and sisters on weekends with Sergeant Jackson and being as nice as possible but the relationship and understanding needed between a Black young man and a White family required more than a desire to get along and understand each other, James just didn't know exactly how to get there and unfortunately, neither did the Hamm's.
Several months had passed since the victim restitution plan had gone into effect. While there was only 2 months left for James in the program, there were still questions. What would happen with his brothers and sisters when the whole process was over? What would happen to him? He knew he was still a minor and the state of Oklahoma would not let him remain in charge of his family in any way. He also knew a state hearing would be taking place the week after his time was up for serving out the punishment he was serving. These thoughts, on top of everything else only caused James to be under more duress. While Thanksgiving was soon approaching, James seemed to have more questions than reasons to be thankful. That attitude would come to full head later on. James would soon discover, just like in many so called good families, that the Holidays could create stress just as easily as joy. It was a reality that was never fun and James would quickly learn that all too well.
 
www.thevirtualpew.com
The Virtual Pew and our other work is supported solely by the kind contributions of others. You can click on the donate button below to give any amount to this work that does so much more than just post articles on the net; I draw no ongoing salary from the church I pastor, Mosaic Wichita which is predominantly a homeless church; I am grateful for any small amount you can contribute to help with this ministry.  Believe me there is much more going on than most realize. I will also provide information to verify the ministry and income that comes into this ministry and work.  Thanks and feel free to share any material from The Virtual Pew, I only ask that appropriate credit is given and a link to the original site with the materials provided.


Click here to read about, and order the book, The Keystone Kid 

http://www.mosaicwichita.com/#!store
Click here to visit the web page The Virtual Pew

Click here to follow The Virtual Pew on Twitter

Mike Furches on Faceboook.

Click here to visit Mosaic Church where Mike is Pastor

The Keystone Kid/Virtual Pew Message Boards

Click to subscribe to my blog

There are hundreds of postings so make sure to check out the archives. You can also contact me for a free audio book link of The Keystone Kid at mike@furches.org You can visit http://www.thevirtualpew.com/.

Hopefully you will consider a gift to The Virtual Pew.

Now I get asked this quite often, Can we repost your blogs or articles? The short answer to that is, what an honor that you would ask, and by all means, spread the word. Here is our contact information

The Virtual Pew
1249 N. St. Francis
Wichita Kansas, 67214
Email: mike@furches.org

Click on the following links to learn more about The Virtual Pew

Donations to The Virtual Pew

The Virtual Pew Blog

Personal Furches Web Site

Hollywood Jesus

Reviews With Mike

The Virtual Pew Sermons

The Virtual Pew News

Thursday, December 4, 2014

A Christmas Story, Chapter 8, Going To Church


www.thevirtualpew.com

The following is Chapter 8 of A Christmas Story by Mike Furches. You can see the preceding prologue and Chapters in the archives or links section of this page. This story is copyrighted by Mike Furches and intent to publish in book form in 2015. This is the variation prior to final edit prior to publication.

www.thevirtualpew.com




CHAPTER 8
GOING TO CHURCH?
by: Mike Furches
James knew there were adjustments he had to make, getting ready for church this Sunday morning was one of them but he didn't know if it would compare to the changes of the last week or not. He had enrolled at Owasso High School, one of the largest in the state of Oklahoma and adjusting to his new classes. Due to the aircraft industry in the area, predominantly American Airlines there was a new influx of Blacks into the Owasso community. There were few outside of some of his teachers that knew of James' situation. He was fitting in although Owasso High School was different than his previous school Booker T. Washington in North Tulsa.
James was sharing a room in the Hamm home with his new roommate, Sammy. While he hadn't been around a White kid as much as Sammy before, the two of them were getting along fine outside of the "faith stuff." Sammy focused what seemed to be a lot of attention on things like  prayer, reading his bible and church activities. The two of them were able to find enough common ground to develop a friendship in a short period of time. Sammy was even looking at involving James in some of the Summer wrestling already going on. With his strength Sammy thought James would be a natural for Greco Roman wrestling.
James was getting used to having the other kids around, it reminded him of his younger siblings. It helped that the Hamm's showed James their interest in his brothers and sisters and they seemed like they really were looking forward to meeting them. 
Church that morning was an all together different thing for James. It had been some time since going to church with his grandparents and he had had issues with the churches he had visited since then. James came to the conclusion that he didn't care for church but he also knew it was a part of his parole requirements and conditions of staying with the Hamm's. He also knew he had an obligation to the church he was going to and working for regarding his community service requirements. It was something he had to get used to, whether he liked it or not.
As the Hamm's approached German Corner just to the north of Owasso about halfway between Owasso and Collinsville there was Discovery Bible Fellowship. It was a church that seemed a far fetch from the types of churches James attended in the past. It was a large complex, complete with a full sized basketball gym, a large sanctuary and several hundred people from all walks of life in attendance, although most of them seemed to be well to do. They drove nice cars, mostly new, and even had a parking section for motorcycles. While not everyone dressed up in suits, ties, dresses and the like, there was a fair share of those people. Most were dressed in nice casual clothes with a few in blue jeans, t-shirts and the like. James was getting used to the Hamm's wanting everyone in the family to dress nicely, not with suits and ties but with the exception of a Sunday night or Wednesday evening when blue jeans, or even shorts were allowed, the family dressed in dress casual clothing for Sunday mornings.
The Hamm's arrived early so they would go to the Sunday School and youth activities during the 9:30 hour. They would then attend the later more contemporary worship teaching church service at 10:30. Brenda, Sammy and James all attended class together on the 2nd floor to the adjourning building to the gymnasium. James was shocked as he entered the upstairs Youth Room. While he had taken a tour of the church earlier in the week, this room had been locked and he hadn't seen it.
The first thing James noticed was two pool tables, several video games including not just some stand up arcade games but also several Play Station set ups along with a Wii system. There was also a staging area complete with a band setup. There were a lot of youth his age, having fun, talking and goofing off. He recognized a few from his classes at Owasso High School so it was going to be easier than he had initially thought regarding meeting new people at church. He also noticed a snack bar complete with all kinds of refreshments. James thought he could fit in until some of the interactions started taking place.
Vince was 16 years old and had never been around Blacks. He learned all he knew from conversations with others and what he had seen on television. Vince, trying to be nice, introduced himself.  "Hey Brotha, my name is Vince. Welcome to The Hangout."  Vince tried to do some modified type of handshake he had seen on television, wrapping thumbs, pounding fists and snapping his fingers. It was disturbingly bothersome for James, it had to be as uncomfortable and embarrassing as it all looked.  
James had seen this type of thing before, he was put off by it, the Black community wasn't all about this Hip-Hop finger wrapping, street greeting, certainly not by someone trying to fit into a situation and life they knew little about. James being under the restrictions he was though, wanting to keep his family together tried to respond accordingly, with a smile, "Hey Vince, my name is James, most people just call me Briscoe, thanks and good to meet you."
"Yeah bro, good to meet you to." Vince responded in a way that was clearly not comfortable for him but while he was inwardly wanting James to feel comfortable, not knowing the things he thought he might know just made for a very awkward moment for James. It was clear to James in fact, that Vince didn't seem like much more than a Marshall Mathers wannabe.
Later that morning after church James had a responsibility to start cleaning the church which was a part of his probation requirements. He had to volunteer for so many community service hours at church. He was only scheduled for up to 4 hours on Sunday. He could do his other hours on other days through the week but tried to get those 4 hours in each Sunday afternoon. It was normally a weekend day he got to spend time with his brothers and sister who stayed at the home of Sergeant Jackson on weekends. On this particular Sunday he was given a walk through the church by Charlie and Sammy. 
The walk through and instruction to the things around the church needing to be done and pointed out were things Charlie and Sammy didn't mind. It was a chance to spend 1 on 1 time with James and talk about various things. The Sunday afternoon walk through later turned to a time alone with James for either Charlie or Sammy, it also became a time where James asked questions and sought wisdom regarding spiritual things. Normally those conversations were centered around either the teachings during the youth times that morning or the sermon by Pastor Steve.
As Charlie, Sammy and James were doing the walk through at church Charlie could tell that James was reserved. He asked James, "So James what are your thoughts after your first church service here at Discovery?"
James didn't trust others at this point, it was doubtful if he would ever get to the point of trusting others so he responded in a cautionary way, "It was okay I guess, it was certainly different."
"How was it different?" Charlie asked, as Sammy was walking along with them but holding back from the conversation.
"I don't know, I guess that maybe out of all of the people here, I was one of only a few Blacks. It was also different than the others churches I have been to."  James responded.
"Yeah I can understand that but we really are all the same, I mean God loves us the same despite the color of our skin and all, right?" Charlie asked.
James was kind of put off by the response, he thought to himself, 'Did he really just ignore what I said about being one of the only Blacks here?  I mean seriously he doesn't even get a clue does he?' While James thought that, after a brief pause and remaining silent, he knew the importance of being careful in these situations. He had been hurt before by those who said their intentions were good, "Yeah I guess so," was all he said as he answered Charlie. 
James had seen churches at work in the past. He knew of the hypocrisy of those in the churches he had been to or those who had tried to help who said they were Christians. James had no reason to think Discover Bible Fellowship would be any different, after all it was mostly all rich White people. He hadn't seen any efforts at this point from the people in the church other than the Hamm's and Detective Hay but he wasn't even sure as to their intentions. James was still cautious of opening up to them and they had helped him, he sure wasn't going to open up that much to people at a church he had just met and his opinions would be based off of his past experiences. James knew that at this point, one of the only ones he could relate to was Sergeant Jackson. He was a Black guy who understood most of the issues Black teens were going through, at least that was the assumption James made based on the single point that Sergeant Jackson was Black.  
Sammy spoke up trying to ease James by changing the subject, "Hey this next week the youth group is going to go play laser tag. Do you want to go?"
"I doubt it, I don't have the money and it is the only time I have with my brothers and sisters. After working through the week to pay everything back and then doing my school work I just won't have that much time to do anything else." James responded while biting his lip and holding back his thoughts of, 'come on many don't you know it is the only time with my family, I don't have the time to do all of this play stuff.' He was shocked at Sammy's response.
"Hey I wasn't thinking of you not spending time with your brothers and sister. The laser tag place also has an arcade. I think your older brothers would for sure enjoy it and my mom and Brenda along with some of the other girls in the group could spend some time with your sister playing games and all if she didn't want to play laser tag. I also think Sergeant Jackson and his wife would love to come hang out, he is pretty good at laser tag." Sammy responded.
Before James could respond, Charlie jumped in, "Yeah, and as to the money, you are living with us through all of this, it is a part of our responsibility in caring for you and we would want you to also have some fun, so we will pay for it, any other cost will fall on Sergeant Jackson who would love to take out your brothers and sister. Let's do it, besides it will be easier to do this and take care of the cost, plus allow you to hang out with some of the youth group while at the same time, providing a fun opportunity for your brothers and sister. Plus, look at it this way, time on a church activity can count towards your community service obligations and requirements, can't find a much easier way to knock of a few hours from that if you ask me."
James had mixed feelings, while he wasn't excited about spending time around all of the White kids, doing White kid things, he also knew his brothers and sister would love the opportunity to go out and have some fun. He also knew Charlie was right, it would be a good way to knock off some of those community service hours. After a few seconds he responded, "Okay, let's do it, sounds like fun and if I can still work, knock off some of those community service hours plus get to spend time with my brothers and sister all at the same time, then I guess I can do it."
"Sounds great!" Sammy responded.
"Yeah, sounds like you and your brothers and sister will have a great time, it will also be a chance to see how good of a shot Sergeant Jackson is." Charlie responded.
"Come on dad, he'll take you out in a heartbeat, you have a hard enough time with me playing against you, there is no way a good Mennonite like you can outshoot a trained police officer." Sammy responded
Everyone laughed, including James. After completing the four hours cleaning up the church Detective Hay came to pick James up and take him to Sergeant Jackson's home to spend the rest of the evening with his brothers and sister. This became a regular routine; spend the weekends with Sergeant Jackson with Detective Hay picking him up for church on Sunday morning, taking him back to Sergeant Jackson's after the work shift to spend another 3 or 4 hours with his brothers and sister prior to them going back to their temporary foster homes. James could see people going out of their way to help him but that didn't make it comfortable for him. He was still a proud, young Black man as far as he was concerned. He had questions about some things he heard in church that morning, things better discussed with another Black man who understood the ways of the Black community better than the ways of rich White people.
*******
Sergeant Jackson took James brothers, Charlie and Buddy, along with his sister Barb to the foster homes they were staying at. He was now sitting on the couch watching television with James. "So tell me about today and church." Mike asked.
"I don't know." James responded, "I mean I wonder, is everyone doing all the things they are doing because it is a way for them to get saved or something? I mean seriously, do they get it? Do they even understand what poor people and people like us have to go through?"
"I'm not so sure I understand your question when you say people like us?  I don't think I am poor or anything but are you talking about Blacks when you talk about 'people like us'" Sergeant Jackson asked.
"Yeah, I guess that is what I am talking about, I mean they have their White Jesus they worship, they talk about doing the things they do, at least it sure seemed like it this morning.  Pastor Steve spoke about acts of service, helping the poor, things like that, it just makes me wonder if the way they think you get salvation is by doing good stuff or something." James responded with some reservation but opening up more than usual because he thought he could relate to Sergeant Jackson based solely on the color of his skin.
"I am sure it was a little uncomfortable in a church like that for you this morning, even after attending churches in the past with your grandparents, I would assume they were mainly Black churches, is that right?" Mike asked.
"Well you know what they say about assuming?" James joked, "But yeah you are right, what little I went to church they were always Black churches and they were a lot different than the one I went to this morning. I mean it seems like there was more good times in the Black churches and I liked the music a lot better, I love the mixture of Gospel and Blues. I know  people talk a good game at church but do very little to practice their faith away from the church. I would assume, yeah I know what I said about that, but I would assume this church probably isn't any different in that regard from any other church I have gone to in the past." James said, now expressing more of his true feelings than he anticipated doing for himself.
"That's interesting," Mike said showing some interest, "I think the concept of focusing on salvation and respect from God coming from the doing and not understanding the importance of serving and loving is something most churches do. I agree with you on that point. I don't think that is what we should be looking at though and I think a good pastor will focus on something else entirely, it all depends I guess on how one presents it and what the focus is on  by the person doing the talking and sharing."
James, interested in what Sergeant Jackson was saying asked, "What do you mean?  What should the focus be on, the stuff people are doing or what? I mean if it is, it sure seems like a lot of folks are missing it."
Mike responded, "Yeah you got that part about a lot of people missing it right. They are! I think a lot of people focus just on what you are talking about, they think we can get salvation by the things we do and they put an emphasis on the things and not the person. Because of that, those around us see their screw ups and mistakes all of the time. You see salvation isn't about anything we do really because we as people are so imperfect and God knows that. It is really about accepting and understanding, looking at if you will, who Jesus was and what He did and then receiving Him into our lives where we can have a personal relationship with Him."
"You mean the White dude we see the pictures of hanging on the cross?" James asked with a touch of sarcasm.
"Now there you go making assumptions again!" Mike said while laughing, "But think about it, yeah a lot of people get it wrong, even Blacks, because of our pain from the past and our hatred of the many things that hurt us over the years we also assume that Jesus was that White dude in the pictures. The truth is, Jesus was more olive skinned, kind of a cross between White and Black if you will, but definitely not White or Black. The thing is we shouldn't let our own prejudices stop us from seeing who Jesus really was and loving Him. After all, He did all He did for everyone not just a few. He left Heaven to be born in a manger, it is what we celebrate at Christmas."
"Come on now Sergeant Jackson, we just had Easter, let's not jump to Christmas so quickly." James responded with a bit of attitude.
Mike was laughing, "Hey now while we are at home, you call me Mike. When I am at work then I am Sergeant Jackson, but get this, you can't have Easter without Christmas, and yes, we did just celebrate Easter which is about the resurrection of Jesus from the dead prior to going back to Heaven. That said, also understand, the story of Christmas may start with the manger, which is really a nice word for a feeding troth that is used on farms and so forth but Christmas really ends with the cross where Jesus showed us that He loved us so much that He was willing to die on the cross for us. I believe, Jesus is the Son of God and He loved us so much that it just like the Bible says, 'For God loved the world so much that He sent His one and only son to die for us, so that whoever, Red, Yellow, Black, White or any mixture between, believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. In other words, the salvation that has been provided for all of us comes from Jesus, not Christians or the church. It is why we have to be careful when judging Christianity based on what we see Christians and/or the church doing. It is certain that the church and Christians are going to fail, therefore, instead of looking at them, look to Jesus, no other, but  Jesus. If making an evaluation on what is and isn't real when it comes to issues around faith and Christianity He is our example, far more so than people or institutions. Now there is obviously more to it than this, but I believe this is the jest of it."
"Sergeant Jackson, do you really believe all of that?" James asked.
Mike responded, "You bet I do, remember I grew up Black, living as hard a life as anyone in North Tulsa. I have never really tried to be anyone other than who I am. Heck James, I grew up not far from where you lived when you got into all of that trouble, I am a graduate of Booker T. Washington, played ball for them and love my alma mater. I know times are changing though for the Black community, while not nearly fast enough, they are still a changing and we can't forget about that progress. There are a lot of Whites and Blacks that are working together now but also remember it was a Reverend that helped facilitate this working together thing. You may have heard of him, his name was the Reverend Martin Luther King Junior. Let's not forget all kinds of people have been and are working together to overcome the injustices of the world. Let's also remember, it was a Pastor who helped get this started in recent history, before that, it was the Quakers and yes, even Mennonites like the church the Hamm's go to that worked to overcome racial prejudice, sexual inequality and even things like Slavery way back in the day. Almost all of those were White people, not all, but they certainly were critical in motivating the Blacks to stand up for themselves and many of them, just like back during the Civil Rights of teh 50's and 60's died for our cause. While there are still a lot of people who don't understand, there are more and more who do and they are trying to learn how to improve the conditions hurting the lives of many. While there may be a lot of things they don't know, have forgotten about or have forgotten, there is progress being made by many. Of course there are those that dangerously assume they do know when in reality they don't. It is one of the reasons it is so important that we all work together. We all need to be careful of the types of prejudice we may have or exhibit at times, and that includes Black people just as much as it does those White people. Does that all make sense?"
"I don't know," James responded, "I mean I agree with you and all but you are asking for a lot of stuff for me to grasp and take in all at once, I just don't know for sure right now."
"I am just asking you to think about it. I know it is a lot to take in but remember the example of Jesus in all of this. Of course you won't know the truth or reality if you only base your opinions on what you hear, at some point you need to read the Bible to understand and see, that yes in fact, Jesus really does love you. I pray you will discover and see the Bible as I have. I don't really see it as a book of rules, although many do, but I see it as The Ultimate Love Letter and Instruction Manuel on How To Live. When you look at the things Jesus did and the lives of those who dedicated their lives to following Him, I think you will understand, you have an option to where you can be one who will either build bridges of understanding between all people to make this world a better place, or, you will be one who continues to bring about division where things continue to get worse instead of better."
Mike, then jokingly said to James,  "Oh yeah, once again, don't forget, when I am out of uniform, and here in the house, I am just Mike." Mike was wearing a large smile as he finished this serious point that showed compassion to James.
"I guess it is something I will have to think about but I don't have a Bible so it will be kind of hard to read it." James stated.
"Well tell you what, I'll pick one up after work for you tomorrow. I'll get one you can understand when you read it and bring it up to you at the Hamm's if that is okay." Mike responded, smiling even more at the willingness and expression of James to read the Bible.
"That would be great Mike." James said with a smile on his face realizing that he hadn't said Sergeant Jackson.
That next day, just as promised Sergeant Jackson delivered a Bible to James at the Hamm's house. James was pleased when he opened it up after being encouraged to do so to see if he could understand it.  He was also encouraged to read the passage out loud when going to it by Sergeant Jackson. As James opened it, it fell open to the passage, Acts 4:12 which read, 'Only Jesus has the power to save! His name is the only one in all the world that can save anyone.'
While they didn't say anything, Sergeant Jackson and James was wondering, 'Did God just cause that passage to fall into place like that for a reason?' They didn't say anything out loud, but inwardly, they both thought, they very may well be seeing God working in a mysterious way.
 
www.thevirtualpew.com


The Virtual Pew and our other work is supported solely by the kind contributions of others. You can click on the donate button below to give any amount to this work that does so much more than just post articles on the net; I draw no ongoing salary from the church I pastor, Mosaic Wichita which is predominantly a homeless church; I am grateful for any small amount you can contribute to help with this ministry.  Believe me there is much more going on than most realize. I will also provide information to verify the ministry and income that comes into this ministry and work.  Thanks and feel free to share any material from The Virtual Pew, I only ask that appropriate credit is given and a link to the original site with the materials provided.


Click here to read about, and order the book, The Keystone Kid 

http://www.mosaicwichita.com/#!store
Click here to visit the web page The Virtual Pew

Click here to follow The Virtual Pew on Twitter

Mike Furches on Faceboook.

Click here to visit Mosaic Church where Mike is Pastor

The Keystone Kid/Virtual Pew Message Boards

Click to subscribe to my blog

There are hundreds of postings so make sure to check out the archives. You can also contact me for a free audio book link of The Keystone Kid at mike@furches.org You can visit http://www.thevirtualpew.com/.

Hopefully you will consider a gift to The Virtual Pew.

Now I get asked this quite often, Can we repost your blogs or articles? The short answer to that is, what an honor that you would ask, and by all means, spread the word. Here is our contact information

The Virtual Pew
1249 N. St. Francis
Wichita Kansas, 67214
Email: mike@furches.org

Click on the following links to learn more about The Virtual Pew

Donations to The Virtual Pew

The Virtual Pew Blog

Personal Furches Web Site

Hollywood Jesus

Reviews With Mike

The Virtual Pew Sermons

The Virtual Pew News