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Writers' Club of Whittier

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MAL Report – Night At The Museum


The other night I had the opportunity to attend a poetry open mic night here in uptown Whittier.

I was excited to attend the gala event as a newly coined member at large (MAL) of the Writer’s Club of Whittier. (Thanks for the acronym, Bill Gray.)

I should preface the following remarks here by stating up front I’m not entirely clear what all this fuss about poetry is about. I suspect that’s to be expected when you send out an unschooled provincial to an upscale cosmopolitan cultural event.

I’ve heard there’s a cosmological theory suggesting alternate universes. I’m not entirely certain however they’re all parallel.

These budding poets looked like and resembled earthlings but I suspect some good number may have been interlopers.

One word best described the experience: painful.

At several points I thought we were being treated to a thesaurus recitation.

That’s not to say there weren’t some bright shining luminaries, however. Our own Bill Gray, for one, reading a poem about his grandfather. Another by a young comedian. And even one brilliant monologue by the night’s featured performance poet entitled, Where Are My Keys?

His Keys monologue was essentially a man bemoaning his fate. The fact his whole life, his very existence, was ready for lift off. Prepared. Primed. Pumped. And polished. He was ready to go.

If only he could find the keys to his car.

I digress here to say I awoke early this morning with his Keys recital playing like a metaphor in my mind. (Or would that be like a simile?)

Why me? And why four a.m.?

Well it is Sunday morning, after all. And many will be tramping off to temples, synagogues, and diverse houses of worship.

Thinking about the Keys monologue, reminded me about the institutional organized Church. An institution I happily parted with about four years ago, after careful introspection and comparing it with the Body of Christ left us by Jesus when he ascended into heaven. A Spirit-filled body of believers that changed the world in one generation.

The institutional church, like the poet’s imaginary vehicle, has been tuning its engine, checking it tires, waxing and polishing its paint, and yes, at times even vacuuming its interior. For 2,000 years. One might expect to see it moving by now.

I suspect it simply cannot find its keys.

It’s the wrong paradigm. It’s not the model the Lord intended. Not the model of the first century church. A church without priests and temples.

So yes, the open mic night at the museum was not a complete bust. It had shining moments. Thanks in large part to Bill and a few others.

And it gave me a new metaphor for what’s wrong with the organized church.

And yes, Bill, to answer your sotto voce question, the performance poet did help me make up my mind. (That’s a private joke. But you can ask Bill if you’re interested.)

My apologies to Claire Koehler and any other poetry aficionados for my unwashed comments. I suspect I’ll not be asked to cover further open mic events.

Sad, that.

I was just beginning to enjoy my MAL moment on the stage.


Two Days Living With Sex Trafficking – Part 3, Pictures on the Wall. Churches that Aren’t.


This is the third post in a series.
Part 1. Two Days Living with Sex Trafficking
Part 2. Meeting the Girls

Albert Einstein said nothing happens until something moves.

Apparently that’s true in physics as well as human trafficking.

The thing that’s killing Steven Cass, and I agree, is everyone seems to be talking about awareness now. Trafficking awareness is really a hot topic, not just in churches, but the news media in general. Everyone’s having meetings and seminars. Awareness is important, certainly. But almost NO one is actually DOING anything.

Thing is, in Mexico at least, and Latin America, things ARE moving. There is no end to the number of girls that could be saved and rescued. Right now. This minute. If we were willing.

There are no secrets, no methods, that have to be discovered. There’s no learning curve to climb.

After four years Steven has learned how to do it, where to do it, and what to do afterward—after the girls are rescued.

After rescue, you simply introduce them to Jesus. It’s the most important thing, and the ONLY thing that makes it all come together, and allows the rehabilitation phase to work.

The Son of God promised to give life, and give life more abundantly. I can’t think of anything these Twilight Treasures want or need more.

I’m sure Steven would be the first to tell you the Holy Spirit is the only person that makes the rescue phases work as well. (Even though he’s survived multiple stabbings, beatings with a baseball bat, and has a bullet fragment still imbedded in his body!)

There’s only one problem here.

At the time of my visit, there was only room for two more girls at the Rosarito safe house. Steven could go into town and “grab” FIVE more girls, or a hundred, but there’s no place to put them.

Sadly, it always comes down to money. In the end. We talked a lot about this. There are no solutions on the horizon. Other than God providing day to day.

But I have to say I was shocked to learn how much we’re supporting Breaking Chains. Financially. Did you know the ENTIRE Body of Christ has pledged to support Breaking Chains to the vast sum of 750 dollars a month?

Shame on us!

And shame on me!

An innocent little 7-year-old girl is being repeatedly raped right now on a dirty bed while you’re reading this—and she will be raped repeatedly, day in and all night long, 24/7, until we, you and me, care enough to stop it.

You! Me!

The church.

All of us.


Anyone, for God’s sake!!!

And we CAN do it.

After our talk up in his room, Steven went back over to the girl’s house. I stayed in his room, musing over our conversation.

I couldn’t get over the seeming hopelessness of what he’d been sharing. At that time he’d rescued around 400 girls, but there were thousands more who were waiting. And helpless—until we did something.

So how can we get involved here?

I began walking around his small room reading all the news clippings and thank you notes from Steven’s girls that are plastered all over the walls.

Tons of photos. Some were smiling, happy faces. But TOO many little faces were filled with pain and anguish.

There were some bloody bodies.

I thought I’d heard everything, but when I read about the little 7-year-old, and about a tiny torn and bloody infant who died in one journalist’s arms after being anally sodomized, I lost it.

I fell on my knees, sobbing, crying out to God. Show us what to do!

My sobbing, wracking pleas slowly evolved into hot anger at the Body of Christ. Because we, of all people, should be the ones who care enough to end the problem—or at least rescue the children.

Then, because our great God is all powerful, and all knowing, I got mad at Him next: WHY don’t you DO something!!!

Or at least change us enough to care more.

These extreme emotional responses to child trafficking had been going on for some time. Long before I went to Rosarito. But the two days at the safe house, and what I observed there, and was blessed to be able to participate in, exponentially exacerbated these emotions.

On the drive back north from San Diego to Los Angeles, I had to pull off the freeway at Dana Point.

I had a serious need to grab a cup of java and sit out on the marina’s breakwater, look out over the supposedly peaceful Pacific, and try to decompress and process everything I’d seen and experienced in Rosarito.

It wasn’t meant to be.

There was a huge Pacific tide rolling in, slamming and crashing against some large rock outcroppings out in the surf line. The rocks were holding their own against the breakers, but the birds perched on them were looking a tad nervous.

I kept wondering if there was supposed to be some spiritual meaning for me in all the majestic wet violence. Perhaps one of those cool, Ah ha! moments. But after twenty minutes I realized I was just forcing it and gave up.

God’s creation is magnificently beautiful but it’s also cruelly violent.

For now at least.

I took the rest of my coffee and drove on home.

Even before my visit to Rosarito, I realized I could no longer in clear conscious give ANY money to the established organized church.

Not mine (a really good one), not yours, not anyone’s. No more. No longer.

According to an article in Reject Apathy magazine by Nathan George, entitled “Fair Trade Churches”, there are about 138 million church attendees in the USA. They have a collective income of $2.5 trillion. If they were a nation, they’d be the 7th richest. They give just under 3% of their income in church offerings. Of that, only 4% ends up outside the church walls. (0.12%)

It’ll be a great day for the Kingdom of God when every last one of these mausoleums shutters their doors and goes out of business. And their professional staffs have to find real jobs.

Maybe then, the Body of Christ will discover the excitement and joy of being led by the Holy Spirit who resides in all believers. And not some man, creed, tradition or institution. Maybe then we’ll change the world in one generation like the first century church.

End world hunger. End human trafficking.

My gifts and offerings to God now go directly to Him. (Actually to little brown hands in this case.) Not to professional intermediaries, no matter how good and useful they may be.

The trip to Rosarito only confirmed and ratified that decision.

So, today as I write this, I’m swinging helplessly back and forth from uncontrollable sobbing on one extreme to near-violent rage and anger at the Body of Christ for allowing trafficking to continue. To continue while we spend God’s money and our offerings to Him on building programs, staff salaries, and all the attendant “Christian” ministries and programs that are so urgently necessary and essential to our faith. Yeah, right!!!

I know most people will not agree with me about this. You too, perhaps.

Personally however, after the last abortion, and the last hungry child in the world goes to bed with a full stomach, and the last little innocent girl is anally, vaginally, and orally raped and sodomized you can do whatever the hell you want to do with your money and I won’t give a damn. You can pay your professional priests and spiritual guidance directors, sports and music pastors as much as you want, but first, PLEASE, let’s join together and get that precious, innocent little 7-year-old girl out from under that rutting bastard.

Let’s give (at least some, and preferably a lot) of our money-to-God offerings to Steven and Breaking Chains.org and rescue the rest of his “daughters” from the streets and brothels of Latin America.

Oh my, my, my… Will they ever rejoice and be glad. Like the Twilight Treasures in that house in Rosarito. I wish you could see their faces and listen to their joy! Especially the four-year-old. There’s a father that loves them! Well, two, counting Steven.

Remember two things if you’re fortunate to go down there. One, listen CAREFULLY to Steven. (Ha.) And, two, hang on to your heart. If that four-year-old gets it you’ll never see it again.

God bless you!

Remember to the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.

So be it!


Coming next: Breaking Chains.org Updates. New paradigms in the fight against sex trafficking.


Two Days Living With Sex Trafficking – Part 2, Meeting the Girls

This is the second post in a series that begins HERE.

It’s possible you could stumble across ‘My Daughter’s House’ in Rosarito and never realize what it was, or who these young ladies and children are who live there, where they’ve come from, what they’ve survived.

Because they’ve been redeemed! They’re filled with hope. Their new life in Christ has replaced the scars of abuse.

In spite of what man did to them, they’re now innocent and pure again.

Someone poetically referred to them as Twilight Treasures. It’s sooo apropos.

This installment is the story of my two day visit with them. How they changed my life.

The girls love volleyball. They have a dirt court in their back yard. We played for hours one day.

I don’t speak Spanish, but it wasn’t necessary in order to get caught up in the competition, the laughing, jesting and ribbing we enjoyed together.

When I thought about whom these carefree laughing girls were that surrounded me, shrieking with glee, I teared up a couple of times. It was impossible not to. Not when you envisioned them scant months ago, their bodies for sale, 24/7; some coerced by family or relatives, others as slaves in brothels.

I don’t think anyone noticed the tears.

A few years ago I made several covenants with God. Some things to help keep me reminded about poverty, the poor, and injustice in the world.

One of these (perhaps the dumbest) covenants was to no longer swipe away my tears. Any kind of tears. Whether they be joy, sadness, whatever. I thought it’d be helpful.

I also thought (and this is perhaps really dumb) it might be nice if folks could see not everyone who called themselves a Christian was an uncaring, unloving, cold-hearted, right-wing neo-con. Forget religion. I just wanted to try and follow Jesus. That’s hard enough. I’ve since discovered, not swiping away tears is nearly impossible also. Swiping seems completely unconscious, reflexive.

So, yes, I believe I escaped the volleyball game without anyone noticing or wondering why their old bald-headed, bearded visitor was emotionally overwhelmed.

But it got progressively harder throughout the two day visit.

I stayed with Steven while I was down there. He had a small room on the second floor of a vacant unused building across the street from the girl’s house. It had just enough room for a desk and a small murphy bed, one of those cool old-fashioned things that fold out from the wall. It was barely large enough for Steven, let alone his Irish Setter bunkmate, Cabo.

I slept on the floor nearby. It was either there or curl up under the sink in the ensuite.

When you stay with Steven you rise at 4 a.m. That’s only shortly after Cabo wakes you at 2 a.m. for his mid rat feeding. His bowl was right next to my sleeping bag.

Guy eats like a starving dinosaur.

Then he chases his midnight snack down with a quart or two of water, drinking like a horse.

Steven was laughing the next morning; said he wondered if I was getting splashed!

During the night, Cabo, the consummate host, padded over several times to check up on me. It was a little disconcerting, waking in the dead of night with these huge brown eyes looming over your face. Probably just making sure I was okay. Or more likely, wondering if I was supposed to be there.

The room was too small for a suggestive fire hydrant. Nevertheless, I was a little worried he might be disposed to nocturnal leaking; but my bag was dry the next morning.

He’s like the official mascot for the safe house. The kids love on him, and vice versa. He’s a huge huggable hunk of dog.

As mentioned, Steven’s day starts early. Coffee, Bible, pipe and prayer.

The four traditionally essential ingredients for a truly spiritual morning evangelical quiet time.

As an honored guest, I was offered one of his vintage pipes. I declined sucking on one of his vintage stems, opting instead to suck on one of his fine Cuban cigars.

He chides me, rolling his eyes, when I try and convince him Swisher Sweets (my favorite) are the greatest. They’re certainly cheaper. He admits, living in Cuba got him addicted to the finer sticks in life. I mean, we’re talking fine sticks, here. Supremo sticks. 2013 06 10 -- 999375_863228781127_1950421983_n

On subsequent visits, he always tried to corrupt me, offering me one of his private Cuban selections. One day he handed me this gnarly looking thing in a plastic food baggy. It looked like one end had come unwrapped or someone had seriously stomped on it. He assured me that’s the way it was rolled. Hand rolled. Told me it was a $500 cigar!



Lying, for sure.

He wasn’t. I checked it out on the Internet. Like everything else I was learning about Steven Cass, it checked out.

So that morning, with Cabo snoring at our feet and breaking wind, we sat outside in the pre-dawn darkness on a narrow balcony overlooking the street. Enjoying our tobacco, and coffee. Talking about and praying for the Twilight Treasures that would soon awaken in the house across the street.

Concerned, he informed me several of the girls still have some real trauma issues to work through. He dotes and worries, protectively, about his little flock over there like an old mother hen.

He’s also confused, I think.

He’s not sure if he’s their big brother or their father. (Whichever it is, I’m sure it doesn’t matter to them in the least.)

Then he surprised me. The girls informed him they felt comfortable around me. Told him they wouldn’t mind if I hung out at the house. Crashed, or just relaxed; whether he was there or not. He said they usually don’t feel comfortable with men around the house. Not too surprising, that.

I felt kind of blown away.

This was a good life.

He could see I was captivated by the girls and beginning to feel comfortable with the house activities. For me, it was heart-warming to know I was accepted by the girls.

The little four-year-old girl, though, was proving to be a hard nut to crack.

When she was rescued, she and her twelve-year-old sister were being pimped by their grandmother. She stole my heart the first time she looked at me, before I even knew her story. Her story was appalling. Totally outrageous. And there were similar stories among some of the other girls.

I spent hours lying on the living room floor the first day, trying to woo God’s little angel.

She merely watched with suspicion—from several feet away.

At first.

But she was coming closer. Inch by inch.

Smiling shyly now.

Breaking my heart.

She was beautiful.

Her eyes were bigger than those proverbial saucers. I knew for certain her little heart was gigantic as well. Most likely Galaxy-sized. It had to be to have survived, and still be able to smile like that.

She joined the other ladies one day, all gathered around me, watching and tittering while I changed a diaper on one of the babies. It was a very professional job–I thought. They looked doubtful.

I was slowly coming to realize the male gender in Latin America are normally invisible during domestic activity.

Stupid, those guys. They have no idea what they’re missing.

You’ve gotta listen carefully when Steven talks. While we were sitting on the balcony that morning, he asked me if I wanted to go do the morning bible study at seven with him and the girls. I agreed eagerly.

But I was still half asleep! Shaking off sleep and looking at Steven, I realized he meant exactly what he said: did I want to go over and DO the study! Too late to back out.

No doubt he was sleepy also. Forgot I didn’t speak Spanish. No, he said. No worries. One of the older gals was bi-lingual. She’d interpret for me.

Hmmm … Darn!

He said he was heading on over to the house, but to take my time.


He was giving me time to prepare. Ha, it was already six forty five.

Advice: If you ever get to visit, be prepared. Listen carefully to what Steven says. Don’t rely on ‘English only’ for excuses. Won’t work.

So, half an hour later, I fumble my way through some inane hastily prepared remarks. Trying to encourage Steven’s Twilight Treasures, and getting blank-eyed stares in return. When I came to the strong salient finish, the girls leaped to their feet, eager to escape.

Steven closed his Bible, smirked, shook his head at me slowly, and gifted me with a major league-sized you-gotta-be-kidding-me eye roll. (The guy’s really come a long way from an unwashed, heathen, money launderer.)

So endeth my short, scintillating, international speaking tour.

But I made up for it.

Big time, baby. Big time.

There’s a half-hour period each day when the girls gather in the living room for a quiet reflective time of prayer with God.

I asked if I should leave. But my new best friends informed me it’s okay if I wanted to stay. Participate.

(Ah ha! Forgiveness and second chances, came to mind.)

Steven informed me sometimes the girls just prayed in silence, but there might be a few audible prayers expressed as well. Just go with the flow. Then he left to run an errand.

Alone in the house, now, with the girls, I watched as they got pillows from the bedrooms and began kneeling down around furniture in the living room. I knelt down in front of a couch and was soon joined by three girls who plopped down on my right.

Someone turned on a quiet worshipful CD.

I’d been informed nearly all of the girls were battling colds, but I really don’t think it explained all the subtle sniffling during the next thirty minutes.

I was suddenly overwhelmed how precious this private activity was they were allowing me to share.

Kneeling there, surrounded by these treasures of God, I began to weep.

Okay, okay, sobbing. It was blatant outright sobbing.

It took all I could do, not to groan out loud, but my sobbing was shaking the sofa a few times.

It was impossible not to. You would have too. If you were surrounded by these redeemed treasures of God, pouring out their hearts to an all-loving heavenly Father. (In many cases the only ‘father’ that had never used or abused them.)

It was a beautiful time. A powerful time.

Some of the girls surely experienced it also.It may have been the first time the girls on my right ever felt the power of God shaking their couch.

And for once, I wasn’t the only one with a wet face at the end of an activity.

God is moving and alive in these girls.

It’s wonderful!

Wednesday night the girls go to a church service in town. It was so special to see them come out of their room all spiffed up. They were lookin’ good, baby. They were beautiful! You could have plopped any one of them down in the front row of the Washington National Cathedral in D.C. on Easter morning and all they would have gotten would have been appreciative stares. They were absolutely gorgeous. More importantly, the beauty was on the inside too.

The service started at seven, but we had to be there by six. There was going to be a wedding that night.

Because of the way they were dressed, I thought maybe they were involved in the service, but when we arrived, all Steven’s girls started helping set up for the reception. After the wedding.

But you know what? They surprised me.

Before everyone got busy working, they marched into the sanctuary, right down to front row center and plunked down purses and bibles to reserve their seats.

It was, I realized happily, just one more example of their freedom and new identity in Christ. There was no intimidation or trepidation about their acceptance.

Knowing they were headed in to reserve seats, I would have bet money they were going to stake out seats in the back rows. Hiding places. (Probably like many of us do.)

Not these girls. They were free. Free and beautiful!

Not sure how it worked out, but I ended up right in the middle of them. Front row center. My new best friends, and me. (Not the place I would have picked, for sure.) But what a joy, worshipping the King that night surrounded on both sides by His handmaidens!

I kinda thought I was prepared for this trip.

I wasn’t expecting too many—if any—surprises.

I just had some questions for Steven. And I wanted to see his daughters for the first time.

He and I got to spend a lot of time discussing the ministry. Trafficking in general and his organization, Breaking Chains.org, in particular. We got into some nice theological discourses (okay, okay, arguments.) And we talked about finances.

I learned a lot.

But I wasn’t prepared for the fall out.

This is the second in a series.
Part 3. Pictures on the Wall. Churches that Aren’t.


Two Days Living With Sex Trafficking

Mister Cass won’t be getting his money.

That’s what my wife and I were thinking.

For several years, we’d been living and working part-time at a large children’s home in Tijuana. Sadly, we learned many of the young girls there that we’d come to love were in the prime target age range for kidnapping and sex slavery.

One precious family actually lived in Zona Norte, the town’s infamous red light district, near the border. The four beautiful children in the family lived and walked past the bars and brothels daily. The possibility of losing one of them was unthinkable.

We began looking for ways to help.

Eventually, we heard about a sex trafficking rescue operation working right there in town. Run by a guy named Steven Cass. What we learned about him, however, raised a lot of red flags. It definitely set off a few alarm bells. Clanging loud, too.

I know we like to believe in super heroes, but if one-half of the things we heard about this guy were true, he was unbelievable. Yet two Mexican friends we trusted said they thought he was credible. But you know what they say about things that sound too good to be true. I mean, would you believe this guy? I was extremely skeptical. So was my wife.

The story going around was this. The guy made his first million while still in college. Then, with a partner, he went on to mega millions. One year he bet and lost a cool million on a Super Bowl game. Then it gets even deeper. Purportedly, he worked ten years laundering money for drug cartels in Latin America.

Over a period of years, he’d made and lost tens of millions. Several times over. At forty, ahead once again by 20 million, he retired to a hacienda in Cuba. He owned a dozen luxury cars, several airplanes and surrounded himself with beautiful young prostitutes.

Eventually, he angered Fidel Castro by refusing to come out of retirement to do another money deal for him. Castro expropriated his bank account, all his possessions, and put him on a plane to Mexico. He arrived in Tijuana with only the clothes on his back.

Weeks later, despondent after living homeless for several days behind a San Diego hotel he took a razor blade to slit his wrists.

So now, four or five years later, we’re supposed to believe this guy turned over a new leaf? And he’s having incredible success rescuing young women and girls from sex trafficking in Mexican brothels?

Hmmm. What would you think?

Right … my thoughts exactly.

So … What to do?

Obviously, I needed to check it out. See for myself.

I got a phone number for the guy. We exchanged some emails. And eventually he pulled one of those classic Mother Teresa moves on me.

(My understanding about the grand lady was you never got a straight answer to a question. In that respect it was sort of like asking Jesus a question. Purportedly, Mother Teresa’s classic answer to most queries about her mission was always simply: “Come and see.”)

Asking Steven Cass about his operation, he said … “Come and see.”

It’s only coincidental he and I share the same name. Lucky spelling for him, though. He was likely never called ‘Step Hen’ by his grandfather.

But back to rescuing trafficking victims.

I was to learn more later about the actual rescuing ops and the vital intelligence planning that proceeds them, but for now I was being invited to visit Steven’s safe house in Rosarito. Where the rescued women and children lived.

They call it My Daughter’s House.

I cannot describe for you verbally what happened in Rosarito. Not because it’s forbidden. I just can’t talk about it. Talking about it always leaves me broken down, sobbing uncontrollably. Even now, typing this, hot tears are streaming down my face.

Thank God for pen and paper.

This is the first post in a series.
Part 2. Meeting the Girls
Part 3. Picture on the Wall. Churches that Aren’t.


Do-gooders and Alligators

Say NO to do-gooders and alligators.


Do-gooders are a dime a dozen.

Like weekend warriors, part-time virgins, lukewarm Christians. They have yet to solve the problem, finish the job.

Now Do-Enders, these critters are an entirely different situation.

They burn bridges, slash their life lines, jump into the alligators, damn the torpedoes, and march into battle with hands raised in praise to God.

And God moves! He stones Goliaths. Slays Philistines. Raises the dead.

Do-gooders slap paint on old barns for a nice look. Do-Enders tear the damn things down and build castles.

If we had a few more Do-Enders maybe we could end world hunger, end child sex trafficking, and end a few other crocodilians.

Choose your life wisely. It’s never too late to be what you could have been.


The Tijuana Crawler

I was feeling good. Just walking down the street.

It was October. A sunny day. 2009.

I was in a foreign city, on my way home. The pot-holed streets were crowded. Noisy with the din of traffic congestion and car horns.

As always, I was in my feel-good, do-gooder mode. Passing out pennies in the Kingdom.

I had some folded bills stuffed in a pocket for quick access, and some coins in one hand.

Buying gum from street urchins, passing out pennies to beggars.

Doing my thing for the Kingdom. Feeling useful. Feeling good.

The broken narrow sidewalks were jammed with vendors. More often than not, room for only one lane of pedestrians. The air was redolent, wafting with fragrant plumes from outdoor barbeques.

Then it happened. Seems like it always does. On these trips through town, back to the border. Dodging and weaving quickly through congestion surrounding a street vendor, I look up just in time to find myself squeezing past a shriveled old derelict holding out a cup. Too late. To late to react, without causing a traffic tie-up. I ignore his barely heard request and hastily mumble the first completely inane thing that comes to mind: “No gracias … Sorry.” And move on without looking back.

Thinking, you are soooo stupid, you idiot! You can’t be for real! I don’t speak Spanish, but this guy’s begging … and I say, “No thank you?” Jesus, what’s that all about?

And sorry? Sorry for what? Sorry I didn’t see you in time? Or sorry I didn’t care enough to go back? Take the time?

And every time I miss one of these opportunities I’m reminded of Jesus’ words, “I was naked, thirsty, and you gave me nothing to drink….”

Jesus? Wow. Was that another Jesus I just passed by without helping?

I hate it when this happens. But I like something about it too. It always sparks this dialogue. Is it dialogue to talk to yourself? Well I guess God was included in these dialogues, too, so it’s probably okay.

The dialogue usually goes something like this.

A few months ago I read something that made me realize I live everyday in the Kingdom of God. Jesus said when he came 2000 years ago, that he came to usher in the Kingdom of God. Here. Now. (Or then, actually.) But it opened my eyes to a beautiful thing. The awareness that each of us is living right now, this moment, in the Kingdom of God.

Growing up as a child, I’d always been reminded heaven was a beautiful place. And that Jesus was quite busy designing and building my custom home there. Like he promised. It was certainly something to invoke warm feelings.

But this new thought, that his kingdom was already among us. Or more precisely, that we are already living in it. Now that was exciting! And thought provoking.

Having never been accused of not being a romantic, I began envisioning that that being the case, then all of us Christians were actually like princes and princesses. Dressed in regal, royal finery. Deep Purples. Bright sky-blues. Swords encrusted with jewels. Riding about our Father’s kingdom on these giant, glorious steeds. And as princes in the King’s family it was our daily duty to ride about the kingdom greeting his subjects, inspecting his property and setting aright any and all things remiss. Like keeping the sheriff of Nottingham at bay.

Like passing out pennies. Loving on the poor. Okay, maybe $5 or even a rare $10 now and then. Certainly nothing, though, that would break my bank.

What a great job! Stamping out injustice. Righting wrongs. Polishing the kingdom.

So a few blocks later, Prince Enyart is right in the midst of this ongoing dialogue (with himself?) when the unthinkable happens. In retrospect, you sort of imagine this is the kind of thing God loves to do, right? Just to get your attention? Maybe knock you off your high horse? It always hurts, but in the end you (hopefully) learn something from the experiences.

Dodging around another passerby I look up and see the unimaginable coming toward me on the sidewalk. I mean like, Jesus! This is unimaginable! Bear in mind, this is not downtown LA, or anywhere in the USA. It’s a poor third (second?) world country. And not a great city, at that. But still … This?

About ten feet away I see Jesus. Wait. Let me explain.

At the time I didn’t recognize him. Would you? I mean, what does He look like anyway? And He’s certainly not female.

Before this I would have told you I’d seen everything. Walking through this, one of my favorite towns. Beautiful people, poor people, blind people, rich people, crippled people, you name it. I’d seen it all.

But today, there was a young woman crawling toward me on the filthy sidewalk. She wasn’t crawling really, because she was flat on her stomach, inch-worming and dragging herself along slowly, sort of listing on her right side. Her arms and legs looked to be crippled and curled. Amazingly both she and her clothing looked clean. In spite of the fact she’d been painfully dragging herself along on this dirty sidewalk.

No one was paying her any attention. Almost like she didn’t even exist. Thinking back now, I realize she must be a permanent fixture there. Someone they must see daily.

It happened so fast that by the time I’m past her with my folded bills and handful of change, I realize she wasn’t holding a cup or begging. Hard to do when forward motion is a full time job. My eyes are suddenly pooling, my face contorted in anguish. I ask myself what would a true prince in the kingdom of God have done?

I envision him swooping her up in his arms and swinging onto his steed. Pounding off to the castle, taking her to his Father. Certainly he would not have ignored her. Passed her by. Crawling on the sidewalk. In his father’s Kingdom. Like all the others. Like I did.

Soooo … what could I have done? What should I have done? A couple of obvious things popped into mind immediately. Nothing to do with filthy pennies.

One thing though was foremost in my mind. As hot tears streamed down my face. It was this thought: No one should ever have to crawl in the Kingdom of God. No one. Not ever. In fact, I’m certain there’s probably even some ordinance against it.

In my dreams now I’m sitting down in front of her. Pulling her up. Holding her in my arms. Whispering in her ear the good news that crawling is not allowed. You have to get up. Pointing to heaven and telling her because the King commands it.

Oh yeah. Did I ever want to go back. But I didn’t. I never even looked back. I was too afraid.

On that beautiful day of promise. October. 2009.

The day she probably would have loved to meet a prince.

Find out about that rule about crawling in her Father’s Kingdom.

I weep all the way to the border.

Some prince.

Maybe next time.


Yep, there’s actually an epilogue to this. And it’s not a happy ending, either. Not yet.

The next couple of trips down, I scouted around a few blocks in the area where I had seen my Jesus. Not sure what I’d do if I did come across Him. Honestly I think I was hoping, in fact, that I wouldn’t. And could salve my conscience knowing, Well, I tried, didn’t I?

I also made some inquiries, too. One person thought they knew who she was, and maybe even the neighborhood where she lived. Thought she had a daughter that lived with her. Even thought he knew her name.

This guy is a friend of mine. You might call him the Laguna Greeter of Tijuana. He works a pedestrian bridge over the river leading to “Tourist Alley” and the downtown shops. With his tin cup. I buy gum from him and usually bring him a bottle of water. Sit with him and chat. (He speaks passable English.)

There’s a craziness about this too. Because in over the year I’d known him, I’d never once thought about praying for him. My friend. So now I’m asking him about my crippled Jesus — and my friend has no legs. He drags himself around on a rolling dolly.

And what do you pray for a man with no legs, anyway? Strength? New legs?

This dilemma was escalating, not abating.

It’s now been years since the day I almost — but not quite — met Jesus. Crawling on a sidewalk. I’m trying to be more spontaneous. Trying not think so much about what people might think. Maybe there’s some improvement, but it’s probably not noticeable.

But there’s a little big thing in the back of my mind I have to confess I’m kinda worried about. What if there’s a sequel coming soon? What would I do if I ever come across her again. Would I do anything differently?

I know some of you know exactly what I’m talking about. You’ve been there too. And if you’re honest, you’ll admit it’s actually more about us looking foolish, than giving God a chance to get glory. And kick the sheriff of Nottingham out of His kingdom.

There’s a saying by William W. Purkey I love. It’s one we’ve all heard and wish we lived by, but don’t. It goes:

“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching, Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening, And live like it’s heaven on earth.”

I love that last part: ‘Heaven on earth.’ Wow. That’s the goal, right? That’s what you and I want to see. And help make happen.

Sometimes we all need to just play it to God. And no one else. Just forget they’re watching.

Lord, please help me remember that the next time I come across you lying in the street. Help me put my fear aside. And most of all my pride.

And help me play it just for you.

Then get out of the way.

For the glory is all yours.

Now and forever.

So be it!