The Next Stop

It was Friday night, and I was on the DART rail headed over to Uptown to meet up with my wife, Sweet T so we could drive over to the women’s shelter where we conduct a small chapel service every 3rd Friday of the month. The train I got on was somewhat crowded, given the hour. A DART officer was making rounds, checking ticket stubs. I looked around for a seat. A young man donning a baseball cap, sunglasses, a shirt with cut-off sleeves and tattered blue jeans fidgeted with his backpack. Without turning to me, he said: “Hey there brother.” Seeing the seat next to him was empty, I waited for him to get situated and decided to sit down next to him. “Where you headed?” he asked.

“Uptown. You?”

“The country.” He chuckled. “Naw, I mean I’m from the country. Ready to get out of this city. It’s not for me. The country is my home. It’s where I’m comfortable.”

“Yeah, I get that. The city can be hard. But so can the country.”

“Yeah, truth is I’m homeless.”

“Oh yeah? When did that happen?”

“Truthfully?”

I shrugged.

“I been homeless about four years, on and off. On mostly.”

“Sorry to hear that brother.”

“Yeah. That’s why I figure I need to get out to the country. I got a friend who knows a guy with some land. He might need some help.”

“That’s good. What do you do? Work-wise, I mean?” His sunglasses shielded his eyes, preventing me from getting a clear read on him.

“Marketing.”

I admit I was surprised by his answer. Marketing was not what I expected him to say. He certainly didn’t look like your typical salesman. But then guys living on the streets know how to hustle. They’re all salesmen in a sense.

“Yeah, I was doing alright ’til I got robbed. Making good money. I let a friend stay on my couch, and he stole me blind. Took my rent money and everything. On top of everything, I lost my job on the count of not showing up. The boss got mad, and I got the ax. I tried to tell him I’d just got robbed. But he don’t care. He only cares about Jimmy. That’s his name. Jimmy the Jackass. Now all I got is my backpack and that bicycle.” He nodded toward the gray bike hanging from the hooks across the aisle. It was an off-brand decorated with ducktape and what looked like chicken wire.

“Nice bike. How long you had it?”

“Since yesterday. I traded a guy for it.”

“Cool. I guess it will help you get around from point A to point B.”

“Exactly. I just need something to help me get from A to B. Hadn’t had much luck with that lately.”

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I smiled. “My name is Rainer.” I extended my hand.

He nodded, not shaking my hand. “Good meeting you. I’m Nick. That cop still walking the train?”

I looked around. “Looks to be gone.”

“Good. He was giving me a hard time. He didn’t like how long it was taking me to show him my ticket. He finally gave up. But I thought he might come back and ask me for the ticket I don’t got.” Nick laughed.

“Where you going to stay at now that you don’t have an apartment anymore?”

“Been over at the Salvation Army. But I need to get out of there. Can’t trust anybody there. They are looking to take your stuff. Not that I got much worth taking. But that don’t matter. Fools will take whatever little you got. They don’t care. I hate the city.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard that.”

“How about you? What do you do?” Nick asked.

“During the day I go to school and help people relocating to the Dallas area.”

“You mean like refugees? That’s cool. Don’t care for them myself. But hey we’re all just trying to get from A to B.”

“No, not like that. I help people who are coming here because their employer is moving them here.”

“That sounds like a cool gig. Didn’t know there was such a thing.” He paused. “I was doing some web design, but that turned out to be a big lie.”

“Sorry to hear that. Sounds like you’ve had a rough time lately.”

“Yeah. It’s the city. People are always lying. Need to get to the country. Know anyone who might want a bike? I need some cash.”

The train was making good time. I had a couple of stops before I had to get on my way.

“Where you headed?” Nick asked.

“Me? Actually meeting my wife. We’re headed over to a shelter where we minister a couple of times a month.”

“Oh, that’s cool. Glad you’re doing that. I respect that kind of work. You know the church and all. I’ve got a strong faith. It keeps me going.”

“That’s good to hear my friend. Sometimes faith is all you got to lean on during rough spots like this. But hopefully, you’ll be able to get on your feet again before too long.” I wanted to be encouraging, not sure of what all was involved in his current situation. I was sure it wasn’t simple. Never is.

“I been thinking about joining the military. But I got some legal stuff to take care of first. I ain’t gonna lie. I done bad stuff. On these streets, you got to if you want to survive. Got to do what you got to do. That’s all. I’m not a bad person. I’m good, mostly. Just made some mistakes. The city is dangerous. You always got to be aware of your surroundings. Like that guy behind you. He thinks I don’t see him. But I see him eyeing my bike. He aint’ careful I may have to take care of him.” Nick paused. “If I can just get out of this city, I’ll be alright.” He mumbled what sounded like a couple of unintelligible expletives under his breath.

The train announced my stop was next. My visit with Nick was drawing to an end.

“Can I pray for you, Nick?”

“Yeah, sure. I believe in God. A prayer would be good.”

Nick and I closed our eyes and bowed our heads, and we prayed. I felt the train stop and heard the doors open and shut. Guess God intended for me to get off at the next stop all along.

 

 

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Easter Offers A New Beginning

Life has been a flurry of different activity here, with things happening faster than I can think to write them down or blog about them. Such are the dynamics of modern 21st-century life in the big city. Work has picked up, with school demands increasing as the semester rolls on. Working on a Master’s degree requires a lot of reading and an immense amount of writing. It’s hard to find a niche of time for non-academic writing, but I continue to try.

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Holy Week 2017 is well underway. I have had the opportunity to reflect on what has been an active ministry year thus far. It seems to be a season heavily focused on healing, particularly praying over people as they experience the hardships so often accompanying our lives. No doubt, there is a lot of hurt in our world. I’m not sure if it is more or less than at other times, but I am certainly more aware of it these days. Holy Week serves as a good reminder that God knows our pain. Jesus knows our hurts. The Holy Spirit prays on our behalf with groans and moans.  We live in a complex world. There are things we see and things we don’t. Things we understand, and things beyond our human comprehension.

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Eph 6:10–13). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Pain hits harder when it arrives close to home. We wish we could make it go away. But it’s there. Our pain draws us closer to God or in some cases, pushes us away.  Before his work on Earth was done, Jesus experienced great suffering. His death was a horrific one, as we imagine death nailed to a cross would be. But his story did not end with his pain, nor his death. Rather, his story continued past the hurt of this world to the glories of Heaven. In Scripture, suffering almost always precedes glory.

Whatever your hurt is today, know that I am praying for you. Maybe you’re suffering from the loss of a loved one or the ache of a broken heart. If the Tin Man knew how much a heart can hurt, perhaps he’d reconsider his desire to get one. I pray your pain, whatever it is, draws you closer to the Lord and that through your pain, you recognize your dependence on Him. For without God, I could not go on. But God has showered me with His abundant love and mercy, extending me the favor of His grace. On this Easter, I am thankful that God so loved the World that He sent His only Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. Through Scripture, we know that Jesus is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Him.

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