Things that make you go, “Hmmmm.”

There are many things that make me go, “Hmmmm.”   People who stand on street corners are one of them.

I’m not talking about people waiting for the bus or people trying to cross a street.   I’m talking about people who stand there with no clear mission or purpose.

I understand why street preachers preach.   I understand why the anti-abortion guy walks around our city pushing a stroller with a doll in it.   I understand why “ladies of the evening” strut down the road.   I understand why politicians stand on street corners and wave to cars on the eve of an election.  I understand why employees walk around with a picketing sign.  I even understand why sign spinners are dancing in front of their store.   I don’t necessarily agree with any of their reasons or methods, but I do understand why they do it.

What I do not understand is this:

The sign reads, “It’s all about how we treat one another on earth.”

What would prompt a grown woman to wear orange gloves and stand on a busy street corner with a sign that reads, “It’s all about how we treat one another on earth.” 

She couldn’t be happier.  She couldn’t wave more enthusiastically.   She couldn’t smile any bigger.  She couldn’t look any sillier.

What is she doing there?   Did she lose a bet?   Is she on a new reality TV show I have not heard about yet?   Is this her calling in life?  Is this some sort of cruel & unusual punishment some unorthodox judge gave her?  Is she getting paid to do this?  If so, who would pay for such a thing?  Barney??  If she is not getting paid for this, what motivates her to do it?   What is her end goal?  How does she know if she is successful?   I truly want to know.

Of course, I don’t want to get out of my car to find out.   She may try to recruit me to join her and I hate saying no to happy people.  Why can’t these people ever post their email address??

Come to think of it, she was out there on the day before our National election.  Perhaps there is a connection there?   We tend to be pretty ugly to each other when it comes to politics.  And religion.  And sports.   Maybe her message is more important than we think – particularly in this divisive climate we find ourselves in.

Last night as I was driving home, I came upon a woman who drove her car into a ditch.  I couldn’t help but laugh (on the inside) as that was my mother’s worst fear for me as a teenage driver.  Here she was, a mother herself, with her car in a literal ditch.  Naturally, I stopped to help.  Within minutes, two other men also offered their services.

A picture of me directing traffic.

I directed traffic, the man with the truck attached a chain to her car and the third gentlemen guided the car out of the ditch.  It was a good Samaritan moment – a true team effort.  Because of where her car was stuck, it caused traffic to back up on three different intersecting roads.  Because of this, directing traffic was essential to not only get her car out but for everyone’s safety.   While the three of us worked feverishly to get her car unstuck, someone in line decided to lay on their horn.  Repeatedly.  I couldn’t help but wonder why.   Because of where the car was stuck, everyone in all three lines of traffic could see what we were doing.  They could see that we were working as hard and fast as we could to get everyone on their way.   And yet this person honked like an angry goose.  It made me go, “Hmmmm.”

What is it with some people?  One impatiently honks at you for helping a stranded stranger while another stands on a street corner smiling with an overly friendly sign for no apparent reason.

This holiday season, I’m going to smile more.  I’m going to continue to help parents who end up in the ditches they warn us about.  I’m going to open more doors, pull out lady chairs, say “please” and “thank you” and “sir” and “ma’am” to everyone in my path and honk less.  And I’m going to do it without a sign telling me to.

That should make people go, “Hmmmm.”

“Crazy” street preachers

As I was driving through town yesterday, I noticed a man preaching at the thousands of cars that passed him. Actually, I think he is preaching to the drivers but since it is summertime in the South everyone has their windows up and are enjoying their air conditioning.  Maybe that is why the street preacher is screaming his message – to get through the glass?

What is his message?  Well, the “sermon” seemed to have a judgment theme to it. At least, the 90 seconds I actually heard before the light turned green. A couple of thoughts entered my head has he preached to his moving congregation:

  • He has got to be hot.
  • I wonder what church he goes to?
  • Is he homeless and bored or independently wealthy and called to preach?
  • Is he expecting a response from us? If so, what kind?  Do we honk to agree or disagree?
  • When he gives the altar call, do our cars “come forward” in response or do we leave our vehicles to follow him?
  • How long does he stay at that corner?
  • Does he work other corners in our city? If so, where, what time?  (Why do I even care what his preaching schedule is???)
  • What’s his story?  Was he doing this at recess in grade school or is this a relative new gig for him?
  • Is he a whack-job?  I mean – he is preaching down the street from the mental assylum.
  • Why is there not a reality TV show about street preachers?  God knows we have a reality show about everything else!
  • Why do street preachers intrigue me?
  • Why aren’t street preachers ever shouting about the importance of tithing or keeping the Sabbath or fasting?  Why is it always about wrath?
  • Does God really call people to do this… on the street…in the South… in the summertime?
  • Does he eat locusts like John the Baptist?

All these thoughts run through my head in 90 seconds, while I am trying to listen to what he is saying.  He has either lost his mind or he has the mind of Christ.  Maybe he is my brother in Christ?   I mean – he does have a Bible and he reads it more than most Christians I know – even if he is shouting to passerbys who aren’t listening.

I do know he makes me uncomfortable – kind of like the homeless man.  You are drawn to look and yet you do not want to be caught looking. He caught me looking today. So, I waved.  I didn’t know what to do so I waved.  Now that I mention it, that seems like an awkward response.   He must of thought so too with the look that he gave me.  I don’t think many people wave at him with all their fingers in the upright position.

He made me think about the prophet Jonah who was a street preacher sent to the town of Ninevah.  God told him to preach a sermon of hellfire and brimstone to everyone he could.  I wonder what Ninevah thought of Jonah.  Fresh out of the belly of a whale, I’m sure he looked a lot like the homeless-looking street preachers we often see in our cities.

I wonder if some Ninevite man in a chariot ever waved at him?  If they ignored Jonah’s message, Ninevah would have been destroyed in 40 days.  God takes His warnings very seriously.  Fortunately for Ninevah, the people took heed of Jonah’s message and the entire city repented, all 120,000 of them.   To this day, it is still the largest recorded revival ever to occur.

Maybe I should listen to this street preacher’s message – all of it, not just the convenient 90 seconds because the light is red?  What if God sent him to that specific street corner with that specific message for those specific people?   Maybe I should stop and encourage another brother in the ministry?  I have a feeling he doesn’t get much encouragement.  Or maybe he is truly a whack-job and he escaped from the local hospital?   Most people probably think this man is crazy.  Then again, doing what God tells you to do can feel crazy for all of us (loving an enemy, praying for those who persecute you, turning the other cheek, walking by faith, etc)

I think I will say a prayer for him and for all the “crazy” street preachers I come in contact with.  I wonder what crazy thing God will tell me to do today.   I wonder if I will have the guts and faith to actually do it?

Moral of the story: Pray for the street preachers and roll down your windows. You might hear something that will challenge you… or worse yet – change you.   If nothing else, you just prayed for a guy who could use a prayer.

For each time I speak, I cry aloud; I proclaim violence and destruction, because for me the word of the Lord has resulted in reproach and derision all day long. But if I say, ‘I will not remember Him or speak anymore in His name,” then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire shut up in my bones; and I am weary of holding it in, and I cannot endure it.” – Jeremiah 20:8-9