During the day on Tuesday, January 28, I was still fascinated by the fact that the guy at the prayer service on Saturday had mentioned that people’s organs would be miraculously growing back. And that he had mentioned it right after I stepped out in major faith and told someone God might grow back their removed organ. I tracked down the man’s contact info via a common friend of ours. We played phone tag a couple of times, and I finally got on the phone with him a little before 6pm. I asked him the details of his revelation regarding creative miracles. He said that he had gotten that word sometime Friday PM. So, he got a prophetic word that specifically mentioned organs growing back, within eight hours of me telling my friend at work what I did. I told the man the chronology of me and creative miracles, up to and including his message on Saturday morning. He said, “It’s confirmation.” That makes sense, as much as anything makes sense anymore. My requirements for something “making sense” are being massaged daily.
He and I talked for a while longer. He gave what amounted to an outstanding and encouraging sermon, from the heart of one who has spent a lot of time on his knees before God. He told me that God had shown him that, at some point in the United States, there will be violence on the streets, beyond what uniformed men can control. He said God has also shown him that people will drive past the church and say of them in the church, “They have no sickness and no lack.” He related all of this to the prophecy in the book of Joel, which describes God raising up an army. I know that this prophecy is one of those that causes friction, to say the least, among those today who have differing interpretations. I also know that eleven years ago, when I fully surrendered myself to God through Jesus Christ, there was a pressing sense that God was in a hurry. Not in a panicked way, of course; just really on the move and trying to herd his stubborn sheep in a direction which would benefit them and the world. Nothing since the summer of 2003 has changed my opinion on that. There are manipulative forces, both mortal and spiritual, intentionally moving us towards something that will surely involve violence beyond what authorities can manage. What those forces intend for evil is exactly the kind of thing God can use to radically reveal his glory and power. I personally think 2014 is going to be a pivotal year for widespread revelation of all that.
At the end of our conversation the man said he’d like to pray for me. He prayed a powerful blessing over me regarding God’s revelations through me and around me. Then Tuesday got interesting. He began praying for me with regard to the way I would minister to the homeless, that I would be blessing them with God’s love, regardless of anything they had or hadn’t done beforehand. Naturally, he had me at “homeless”. No way, way, etc. He continued praying about me and the homeless. I never mentioned the glove episode to him. As he prayed I considered the fact that I do not consistently see homeless people in my day-to-day life. I see them occasionally around my office building.
There actually was one woman that we used to see for years, wandering around with her large bags, looking pretty dapper, like she was going somewhere important. It wasn’t until I overheard coworkers discussing her mental problems that I got serious about her. Her name was Jackie. This is going off the beaten path of the purpose of this post. Long story short, one day in the past year, I asked God to bring people into my life who needed prayer. Within two days there were three instances where people showed up in interesting circumstances similar to that of the man who is now wearing a left-hand Proverbs glove. One of those three people was Jackie. I began seeking Jackie out, approaching her, and asking if I could pray for her. She always allowed it. She also always looked at my hands and/or asked for money. So I never got the sense she was 100% crazy. I last saw Jackie back in the summer time, maybe early fall. I don’t know if she’s squared away now or what.
The man finished his prayer. I thanked him for being such an encourager and told him his words carry a great deal of authority. I ate dinner and headed out on a walk. I picked up some stuff at the store for making (extremely) late Christmas presents. Then I stopped off at the gym and worked out for a few minutes. Onward, either to one more store, where I needed to get some food for the upcoming weekend and some very special visitors; or back to my place, to work on late Christmas presents for those visitors.
(I’m going to switch now into a perspective that I prefer writing from and haven’t at all used in this blog.)
It’s a dark and windy night. I’m paying attention to my mismatched gloves, marveling at God and homeless people. Trying to decide whether to go home or walk the substantial distance to one more store. I notice a twinge in my groin, in a spot where I’ve never felt a twinge before. I’ve evidently injured it working out. It seems like I can injure myself just looking through the gym windows anymore. I wonder how long it will take for this injury to clear up. I start mentally spiraling in to ME ME ME. I ask God to help me take an eternal perspective on things like sports injuries. I pull out of the spiral and aggressively begin praying for whomever it seems God leads me to pray. I decide to go on to the store.
The prayers get me through to the huge parking lot of the shopping center. I cut out across the open expanse of striped parking places. It’s longer and wider than a football field. I have my jacket hood up to break the wind. In that state it’s impossible to see peripherally, without turning your entire torso one way or another. I’m not the only one cutting across the parking places, but I am the only one doing so on foot. I pay close attention to car head lights, and I surely look ridiculous with all the twisting and turning necessary to see to my sides (<- NOTICE HOW THIS PERSON IS STILL ACUTELY AWARE OF APPEARANCES).
The one large store facing me is closing down for the night. It’s almost 9pm. There’s a man just inside the door who looks to be changing out trash bags. He glances out at me. We’re just a couple of dudes doing our 9pm thing on a cold night. The nails/hair spa is closed, but the sign still flashes its neon letters O P E N. One at a time. I’m always annoyed that they keep the ‘open’ sign going even when they are closed. And I can’t help but be depressed that we are now a nation of hair/nails spas, instead of industry and manufacturing or anything that might generate wealth. More prayers for an eternal perspective. Walking on the strip center side walk, I see the spot where roosting pigeons constantly poop all over the walk.
I go in the Target store and head over to the grocery section. I don’t buy groceries here often, so I’m not sure what kind of cold meat selection they have. I’m looking for some ham to cut up into the beans I’m cooking for the weekend. I find they actually have hams. Quartered and sliced. I pick one up and notice the price is three dollars and some change. I grab a container of grape tomatoes. To the register. The check-out guy, who looks to be about eighteen years old, or possibly twelve, scans my items while talking to himself under his breath.
Transaction complete, I stuff the receipt and some change into my pocket; reassemble my hat, scarf, jacket, and gloves; and head back out. Outside on the sidewalk, heading back to the enormo-parking lot. Past the pigeon poop again. There is a man shuffling along alone, farther up the walk. He’s instantly recognizable. He’s a local homeless guy (NATURALLY). He lives down in a couple of tree groves where a highway crosses under a major thoroughfare; just on the other side of the ocean-sized parking lot.
A little back story here. This guy is ‘ The Homeless Man’, straight out of central casting. Tall, skinny, wild long hair and beard. Usually found wandering around shouting about one thing or another. He’s always dressed appropriately for the weather. He’s been down in those trees for years, so I assume he has a quite the wardrobe stashed by now. Just in the past couple of weeks, I noticed that there was an impressive collection of stuff hanging from the tree limbs in one of his hangouts. I don’t know if he hung the stuff himself or if other people come along and decorate for him. Or whatever. I passed all the stuff while driving down the clover-leaf ramp to the highway on the way to church last week; but I couldn’t tell if it was the hanging equivalent of his endless verbal ranting, or if was something functionally valuable, left in the limbs by others. Or him. Who knows.
I have seen him occasionally for what must have been ten years. He often goes over to the shopping center, I guess to use the bathroom. Though I don’t know why a huge walk to get to a john is necessary when you live outside. Maybe it’s his way of breaking up the monotony. I saw him once last year at the corner gas station when I was walking over to do some shopping. He was turning the corner off the main sidewalk to go back behind the building. I heard him yelling about some “goddamned” thing. I hustled up to see if I could get closer. After watching him yell for years from my car, I wanted to hear the real deal. I got back behind the building no more than ten seconds after he did. He was gone. Vanished into homeless person thin air. So I didn’t get to hear any more of the rant.
I have walked over to this shopping center periodically for four years now. I have never before this week, this two-day stretch which is now famous for interesting homeless person dynamics, seen this guy when I’ve been on foot, except that one fruitless time at the gas station. At the very least, I’ve certainly never been in such close proximity to him, much less when we’re the only humans around.
He’s walking slowly, more slowly than I. So I’m gaining on him. I easily assume at this point that I’m supposed to be seeing him tonight, a couple of hours after the guy who confirmed organs growing back on Saturday “coincidentally” prayed for me and homeless people. Which makes that guy a pivot point, of sorts. I need to tell him on Saturday that he is a pivot point.
I take an inventory of my clothes. Should I give him something? He’s about a head taller than me. So nothing would fit him. He’s decked out with a warm coat, anyway. I think he’s not lacking for clothes. I remember the ham. (Maybe I “remembered” the ham.) Maybe I should give him some ham. I brush that idea off, since I’m not carrying a knife. It would be pretty hard to get through that thick plastic wrap without one. Also, I didn’t 100% want to give him the ham that I just walked all over creation to buy. (It never occurred to me that I could offer him some fine grape tomatoes.)
He’s about ten feet in front of me. Slouchy, plodding, shuffling. Silent. No ranting tonight. I move to the far side of the walk from him as I pull up even with him. I look over at him, and he looks at me. His face is purple-ish, obviously weathered. His eyes and mouth all seem pinched shut. His beard is a mess of whatever he’s been eating since whenever. “Evenin’,” I offer. If he replied, I can’t recall. “What’s your name?” I inquire of the homeless man with whom I had an unexpected divine appointment. “Harry Coleman!” he boldly returns. His facial features are suddenly not pinched, and he appears a little less slouchy, more animated. His voice is not terribly insane sounding, either. “I’m Joe. Good to meet you,” I offer. “Good to meet you, too!” His delivery is gregarious.
And at that, he sets off on a diatribe on the first two US presidents and how their names relate to his name and my name. Something like that. It’s like a switch is flipped and now it’s ‘crazy-man rant’ time. I have an impulse to pray for him. I don’t do it. Our paths begin diverging. “You stay warm,” I said, pointing at him. “You, too,” he squeezes into the presidential name speech. His direct addresses to me are very normal sounding. Almost friendly. Warm. We’re out in the giant cement plain of the parking lot. No one else around. I head on a diagonal, out towards the gas station, where I’ll cross the street. He keeps walking straight ahead. A full minute later, as I near the street, I still hear him talking loudly about presidents.
I cross the street to go home and immediately turn back around to find Harry Coleman. Harry Coleman has lived in the woods for years. He can likely open a package of ham using nothing more than a stern look. He’s almost certainly got a knife, in the event that he cannot. I’ll give him the ham. I run back across the street. I see Harry Coleman trudging down an embankment to the access road from which I spied his decorations last Sunday. He’s about 50yds away. “Harry!” I yell. “Harry!” He doesn’t stop. There are cars all over, going both directions on the service road. The cars are five feet away, windy and loud.
I’m thirty yards away from Harry. “Harry!” He crosses the road, looking at the ground in front of him. Always looking at the ground in front of him. In the dim light of the fifty-foot tall street light, it’s hard to even see him move. He looks to be more of a cut-out of a person that someone is dragging across the ground. Spectral. He reaches the grove. “Harry!” I notice that I’ve been shouting at homeless people a lot over the past couple of days, trying to get their attention so I can give them something. Tell me God doesn’t have a sense of humor.
Harry vanishes into the trees. I find a break in the traffic and run across the road to the grove. The grove is actually a ring of trees that surround a bowl-shaped plot of ground inside them. Who knew? There’s a lot of open ground in there. The lighting is dim, but not so dim that I couldn’t see Harry if he was out and about. I notice all the decorations or whatever they were are gone from the grove. And the whole place has a mildly menacing feel to it, here at night in dim lighting. Maybe because I’m not used to seeing it up close at all, much less in these conditions. “Harry! Where are you?” I wonder if there’s a path underneath the thoroughfare to the other side. I head up towards the main road. I don’t see a tunnel. But I don’t see Harry anywhere.
Then I do see Harry. He’s about thirty yards away from me, looking like he froze in his tracks. His feet are planted to walk up the hill across the bowl from me. He is looking back over his right shoulder at me, silent. I start walking back down the perimeter of the grove in order get closer to him. “Harry! God didn’t make you to live like this! This isn’t what you were created for! The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob loves you, Harry.” I move to a point where I can see the spot where Harry had been standing. He’s not there. “Harry, in the name of Jesus, things are going to change around here. In the name of Jesus. The risen Son of God. Harry, I’ve got a ham here. I think God wants me to give it to you.” I think that sound pretty funny. And I’m not totally sure on this particular point, that of giving him the ham. I do think God wanted me to pray for Harry back in the parking lot. I didn’t do it. I’m giving him the ham without feeling a distinct prompt to do so. No harm, no foul.
Harry suddenly and silently raises up about twenty feet in front of me, just above the crest of the slight hill. He is completely in the shadow of a large tree. I see nothing of him but a black crouching figure, contrasted hazily against the dim background light. He has managed to travel about fifteen yards up a hill without making a sound. He settles himself into a depression in the ground, saying nothing. He looks like and moves effortlessly like a big cat. Or Smeagol. I am suddenly and acutely aware that Harry Coleman has successfully lived an entirely non-traditional life down here in this small wood, developing skill sets that are completely alien to the average city-dwelling American. It is chilling just for a second to see him – the blustery, stalking, wild man – display such deliberate animal stealth. I’m cool with just throwing the ham into the grove.
“Harry. I’m going to throw this ham right over here. Watch me throw it.” I throw it. It doesn’t go as far as I want it to. Instead of landing out in the open of the bowl bottom, it lands in some leaves and isn’t completely visible. “Tell me you saw it.” No response. “Tell me you saw it.” No response. I point at the ham. “Look at me. I’m pointing at it.” I imagine that Harry can smell the ham, through plastic wrap, from where he’s observing this interesting scene and that he’ll get to it without fail when I leave. “Harry, I will see you again. My name is Joe. Anything good I do in this life is because of Jesus Christ.”
I leave Harry and his trees and the ham, and I ask God to make sure Harry finds the ham. I walk back to Target to buy another ham, feeling like I am caught in a dimensional wrinkle, where half of me is in Dallas and half of me is in heaven. I know there’s a greater than zero chance that Harry Coleman isn’t Harry Coleman’s name. And there’s a greater than zero chance that the ranting crazy man routine is an act to keep people at a distance. I will pray for Harry Coleman.