Saturday, May 20, 2006

Issues to resolve

When to go:
I am going around November 2006. I am doing it in the summer so I don't have to worry about surviving freezing cold winter nights, at least not for a while, if I last with it that long. I also applied for a new short term position at work this week that only runs till 20th October, it would be good timing if I get it.

I got the 3 month Job and after I left work, things took a lot longer to tie up than I expected. Also I was wanting warmer weather and October had been the coldest on record, so I was quite happy to delay things for another month. What it came down to was that just as I tied everything up and good friends was about to get married. So I went to his Bux party on the Sat night and fitted in my two week time away in the desert before his wedding on October 9th. I then went to Church the next night and walked in straight after that.

What to wear:
At first I couldn't decided whether to wear a medieval type monk robe or ordinary casual clothes. The robe would be good as it would visually symbolize who I was and what I was about. I think it would be easy to maintain and I would be comfortable with the identity. It would also draw immediate negative ridicule from a lot of people in Melbourne ( a shame as in places like Jerusalem it is a common sight the people accept and respect). It might cause the police to consider me to be a bit of a loony and get me locked up, though I am willing to follow this road where ever it goes. The casual clothes option would be a lot more under the radar, but people would not at first understand why I wanted to talk to them and some sort of 'ice breaker' would be good. I am now thinking of mixing both ideas and wearing some brown pants with a brown top, sandal type footwear and putting a big white cross on the front and back of the top, as the identifier. The back cross may have the words father, son, spirit, and us, one at each end of the cross. I can print this up on my computer and iron them on with t-shirt transfers.

I haven't decided whether to get a top with a hood. I think I might as it feels more monkish and could be a bit warmer on a cold night.

I don't think I will take my rings and cross necklace, I want nothing of value and I don't want to be concerned about being robbed or loosing anything. I also don't think I will take my glasses. Again they would only get lost or broken pretty soon and I can see ok without them as long as I don't do any driving.

May 23rd 06 - I saw someone, from behind, with the perfect brown hooded top that I had been thinking about. I thought about how hard it might be to find one and that I could ask the person if I could buy it off them on the spot. But he turned around and it had heaps of colored logo stuff all over the front.

June 1st 06 - I have decided that I shouldn't wear jocks or socks, as they would need daily washing, which I don't think I will be able to do, although I am considering boxer shorts.

June 15th 06 - Last week on a very cold day I wore my sandal footwear around all day. At first it was quite discomforting with the coldness on my feet when I went outside, but later I forgot about it, so that concern does not bother me anymore.

December 27th 06 - Well after a lot of hunting, I was unable to find a plain brown hooded top. So I found one I liked, which had a big Puma logo on the front, and then bought two of the tops. I took them to a tailor and had him cut the back out of one of the tops and sow it over the front of the other hoody, thus making it a plain top, and an extra layer warmer. Then I got an A4 iron transfer paper (which was plain white) and cut it into the shape of a cross and stuck it on the front of the top. The pictured result is in the top right corner of this blog. On the back I had been thinking about a few motto messages and ended up going with '24hr Church'. It was the 2ndry vision I had at the start of the year. I had been thinking about a Church that was open to the public for 24hrs a day, that I would staff, and people could drop in to talk or pray whenever I liked. I had spoken to my church and a few people about it but there was little interest, and so untill some future time, I consider myself on the street as a living mobile 24hr Church. I am there to talk and pray with anyone at any time. So that is what I put on the back of the top.

For the rest I had just my brown pants (and boxer shorts), sandles and a t-shirt under the hoody. No rings, or cross necklace, or glasses, or any spare change of anything, just what I was wearing.

When to tell my friends and family my plan:
This is really hard, right now I am thinking about July, giving about 3 months notice. I expect to cop a lot of resistance when I tell and am worried about that, and how my resolve is effected.

July 10th 06 - Well, I have opened the gate a bit and told a few people. July 1st came along and was a day of change on a number of levels. I told my best friend my plans. I was nervous, so it probably came out really badly, but he sat and listened quite calmly, which was good. We didn't discuss it much further than my explanation, I gave him this blog address for further understanding and then he left, which was cool, as he will take some time to think about it. A week later he messaged me that he is going to give me some 'resistance' (noted from above); we have yet to chat. I will try and have a good discussion with him, and not close my mind to what he has to say, just because I may not want to hear it.

Last Tuesday I wondered if it was too early to tell my Small Group; I checked with God and he indicated to do it. I set the agenda for us all to talk about how we were going with God. It was a long overdue discussion that I had put off as I hadn't wanted to ask the others about how they wetre going with God because I wasn't read for them to ask me. Because of what I was going to say I really wanted to go last so as not to distract from the importance of what other people were saying. So I checked with God again and he said it would be ok. I arranged the order of discussion to be random, by people reaching in and selecting the next person to talk from a pile of paper on the table. I was picked up last, so that was good! Again my head was a bit jumbled as I talked but we all prayed well for each other at the end, so I was happy.
At the end of the week I told my house mate (who missed the Small Group night) and he was really positive and interested, which picked me up a lot. Then we chatted more that Friday night with his brother and his girlfriend at the pub, and I felt much more comfortable about it all.

Today I flew home from interstate and was reading my bible on the plane, which caught the interest of some business men next to me, and I talked to them about it too! When I mentioned I was nervous about telling my family, they were like 'In life you have got to make your own decisions, and that's it.' Great, but I still dred telling my mum, she's currently all 'you need to buy a place to live', though I think Dad could be ok...

December 27th 06 - Well my parents provided the most resistance, which with the 'concern for a child' is somewhat understandable. What my actions were doing, on one level, was confronting and revealing people's position's on how they see the Bible and Christianity. For my mum she is all a bit unsure of how much of it is reliable; "no one really knows" and thus was concerned from a psychological perspective as to whether I had thrown out rational thinking for an irrational fanaticalism. My dad though believed in my Christianity and relationship with God, but thought I was misunderstanding the Bible. His whole ministry is that your employment position is your mission field, and you should focus your Christian efforts there. For me to leave my job and go into an unpaid and unsupported (Church structor wise) mission field, was the old way, not the new way God was calling people to be missionarys. Both though have slowly been more accepting, changing from 'this is ridiculous' to 'we see your logic but disagree with it' to 'it's generally positive but we have 'this' specific concern about it'. Overall I feel it has been beneficial to our relationships as we have had many open discussions about our Christianity that we never used to talk about. Thus we are getting to know and respect each other better.

With my friends, again it is initially polarizing. Some say great and others are shocked and shake their head. The good thing is that people are thinking about the issues. Again I have been surprised by the number of people that tell me that they are amazed by my FW plans and thing it is a really good thing to do. I am learning and surprised as much by some people as they are of me!

When and How to resign from my job:
If I get the role that ends on Oct20th then great, whether to say what I am doing or just that I am leaving is something to think about. I will have been there exactly 2 years at that point and while they are one of the most Christian companys in the world, I'm still not sure what to say.

December 27th 06 - Well I got the short term position, but things were not that simple. It turned out to be the best job, with the most fun and loving people, I had ever had. On top of that the boss offered to extend the position for another six months! This put me in a delimma and I was not sure what to do. I prayed and talked about it with a couple of people, and a week later I decided that I felt the timing to leave the Job at Oct 20 was still right. I went into a meeting and basically gave my boss my testimony, and explained what I was planning to do. I was sure he was going to think 'this guy is a looney, it's good he is going...' but he said what I was doing was great! What? and that I should tell the other staff about it so they can be encouraged in their spiritual journeys! What? What? And that I was welcome to call him about future job positions, should I be interested! Wow. I was blown away, not what I expected at all. Later I gave a short talk to the staff in my department about my plans, and they were all interested and supportive. My supervisor even came in the next day with photo's of a Faith Walk she and her husband did around Italy as her husband used to be a Franciscan Monk. I later had a couple of good chats with him too. This was a big psychological turning point for me as I had not expected to get any positive support from anyone, and now I had friends interested and supporting me, it was a position I didn't expect to find my self in and it really helped me go forward with a much more positive attitude towards the future and God.

How completely do I rid myself of all my wealth and possessions:
Well I dont have much to start with, as I hate wealth anyway. But considering I could change my mind in less than a week I would like to keep my car or at least my bike in reserve, but then the point should be to let go of the things I am holding on to the most. I should have the mind set that there will be no going back and so get rid of everything. Jesus didn't tell the rich man to sell everything, except...

May 25th 06 - I just bought some winter cycling clothing. They were expensive, which annoys me that an un-necessary amount of money went to someones pocket that could have better helped someone in need. It also seems a shame to get new clothes for just a few months worth of wear, but I bought them more as a tool, so I can ride to work in the cold and the rain. It seems my possessions have increased, for now.

December 27th 06 - I have described this process de-wealthing myself elsewhere on the blog.

Do I take ID (drivers liscence) with me:
Again, a hard choice. My identity will change as I sacrifice myself to Gods will, in effect the person I am now will cease to exist. I even plan to use my spiritual name to identify myself, which will feel in conflict with the ID if it is in my pocket. But the ID could help with convincing police that I am just a normal person out to help people, without it I'm not sure. I wonder whether normal homeless people carry ID around?

December 27th 06 - I took no ID, although I scanned it onto the internet should I need it there. So far I have had no interactions with the police.

How long will I do it:
Right now I feel it could be anywhere from three days to three years. The important thing is to go expecting not to return to my regular life at any specific time and have faith that what ever happens is a part of God's plan/journey for me.

Can I still lead my small group:
It would be cool for my Church home group to continue and be led by a homeless person. I still plan to go to my church every Sunday. It would be hard to keep in contact as I won't have a mobile phone, and how will I organize studys?

July 10th 06 - I am thinking leading will probably not be possible.

December 27th 06 - My small group closed due to low numbers and attendance. I joined another small group which has been very helpful supportive over the last couple of months.

What body weight to be:
I used to be a bit overweight, which was good as it gave me plenty of reserve in case I did something like this at short notice. The more weight I have the longer I can survive on little or no food. I have fasted for 43 days before and last year dropped 25kg as I practiced living on little food, only three meals a week, over a period of about four months. I am a little above normal weight now and I always wanted to be 'thin' for a while but that would not be helpful as I start being homeless. It would be easier not to worry about being hungry so much at the start, so some weight would be good, but I also don't like feeling overweight. So I think the standard average weight about 70 to 75 kg would be about right. Then I can feel in good form as I walk off and have a month or two of reserve fat if I have trouble getting food to eat. I might drop some weight over the next couple of months as fasting four days a week makes me feel really good, and then I can pack a bit back on in the last two months before I go, if I need to.

December 27th 06 - I did put on some weight weight (to 85Kg) in the last couple of months, as I was really unsure of the food situation on the street, and with no money. And so to my surprise with the amount of available food on the street, I haven't really lost any weight.

Things yet to do

Sell everything:
Right, do I use Ebay, have a garage sale, or give stuff away. Do I need to convert it all to cash then donate the money somewhere. Is giving some stuff to my friends avoiding the giving to the poor bit? Probably. How long will it take me to get rid of it all? Should I start now or wait till a month or so before I go...

Jun 27th 06 - I have just agreed to move house. I am moving from the fanciful, costly, penthouse apartment I share with my brother to a more 'down to earth' share house with a few blokes from church. I have told them I will probably only be there a few months until November, and they are ok with that. I think it will be good to step down my living standards before I step out, as well as experiencing a further 'community' relationship building opportunity/experience.

Jun 27th 06 - Also my mum rang to offer to buy me a new double bed as the old single one is quite shabby, as I have had it for over 25 years now. I don't feel I need a new one as the old one still does its job and there is no need (for anyone) to spend money on a new bed for only 4 months use. But I am not quite ready to explain about that to my parents yet, so I have thanked them for the offer and delayed them by saying I will 'let them know about the bed, soon...'

July 10th 06 - Well I moved house on July 1st. It came about quite quickly, a friend from church said a room had become available in his share house, and I said 'I'll move in next week!' This is a good step for down sizing. This is a rickety old shack of a house, which I feel completely at home with. My new room is packed with stuff. I didn't realize how much I had and need to begin sorting and clearing it out. I will probably start with my clothes as I noticed a clothing charity up the road where I could drop some stuff off at soon.

December 27th 06 - It was very difficult to sell everything, but I got down to one small box of personal stuff. I first gave away my white board to a friend at Church and asked her to make a donation to a homeless person in response. Then I sorted out some clothes that I never really used and put them in a charity clothes bin, behind a Coles supermarket.

Later, after I had left work, I had a garage sale, which went quite well. I moved nearly all my stuff out on to the street and put a few signs up. I was there from 8am to 9pm on the Sat and I was surprised by the number of people who dropped by, considering there was no other advertising. I did put up a sign saying that the proceeds were going to the homeless, and so it gave me a good opportunity to talk to the neighbors and bargain hunters about what I was doing. All were very positive and some even told me their own stories of homelessness! I was also surprised by what items sold and what didn't sell. I thought there were some real bargains there that no one even looked at. As I needed to get rid of as much as possible I was very easy on the pricing, later I thought I may have sold some stuff too cheaply but it would have been a problem for me to be holding onto things after the sale, I didn't want to be throwing items of value into the bin.

After the sale I still had about half my stuff left. I put my four most valuable items on eBay, with the help of a friend, and took the rest to the Salvo's shop, as a donation. Although the Salvo's didn't want any electrical goods, and so it was a bit frustrating that I couldn't sell or give away some items, I didn't want to throw a good hairdryer into the bin. so I gave away a couple of small items as well. The eBay items sold for prices I was happy with, and were picked up promptly, except for my bathroom scales which a guy from Perth bought, and says he didn't read the 'pickup only' message in the item description. He has paid but still not arranged the pickup from my friend's house. Very frustrating.

Lastly I put the rest of my clothes into another clothing bin, it was hard to let go of some of those clothes. Overall I wasn't to fussed about getting rid of everything. I still was the same person and had somewhere to sleep, and food to eat. I think a lot of the things in our lives are unnecessary trinkets. We hold on to them so tight, but what value are they really to us? They are wants not needs. In a way it is nice to clear it all out and start again. A renewal can be a refreshing change.

Finish updating my blogs with all the info I want there:
This Blog just started yesterday so has a fair bit of work to go. I have two other blogs under different names, one about my general life as it develops, and another is a sort of an autobiography of my Christian life experiences, and it still has a lot of writing to do. I am thinking I might list the three blogs in the blog side links, just when I go, so people can get a complete picture about me. But I'm not sure as there is some personal stuff in them about others, not just me, that could upset some people that I have mentioned. We'll see...

December 27th 06 - I decided to keep my blogs separate. This Faith Walk is providing enough for me and others to think about and I have put my other blogs on the back burner while this Faith Walk is consuming all my attention. Updating this blog was a low priority during the preparation period. I would have liked to had it updated in the months leading up to the walk, but it was such a difficult period I didn't feel like analyzing and reflection on it then. Sine I started the Walk the daily updates have taken a lot of my time. As you can see from today's date I am now finally filling in some info about what I ended up doing in the preparation time.

Thoughts along the way

How have I reached this point:
Specifically I have been thinking about doing this for about two years. Generally I have had it on my mind as a possibility all my life. If you read the Bible, it's how most of the OT prophets and heroes lived, and how Jesus and the apostles lived. The problem is most people want God to add to their idea of life, and are not willing to re-arrange their lives to what God wants it to be. Although throughout history thousands and thousands of people have done this, so I don't really know why it seems so scary. I have recently read a bit about St.Francis and St.Dominic, a following that still has thousands of people registered to today.

A couple of years ago I just started thinking about my own city and the possibility reaching out to the people and problems here. I almost did it then. I reached a position of unemployment and only had my car and $20 in the bank and had one job interview. I put it in God's hands that I would get the job or do the faith walk. I got the Job.

I had no idea of the issues of the poor in the city, and was not really prepared for facing it, but that's how I like it, jumping into the deep end blind and just trusting God to lead me on. As I worked I was helping people through my Job, but at a distance. It has become a bit empty. What excites me the most is seeing people change from a direct influence of miraculous power of God in their lives. So the idea for this has remained in my mind, as while God has done amazing stuff in my life, the times he worked through me in other peoples lives has been the most exhilarating. An energy I want to experience again.

June 20th 06 - Last Sunday my church minister gave a really good talk about Moses, the burning bush, and getting started on mission. It tied into my thoughts and especially the bit how he said that when someone in the Bible or in life has a real spiritual experience of meeting God then it always results in an evangelistic mission. I can relate to that!

How do I feel about it right now:
It's a very scary secret. I still wonder if I will do it or not. Going public to my community about it will help lock it in, but I am not ready for that yet. I don't know why I am so scared. Certainly I don't have a worry about the life and death concerns. I believe life and death should be viewed from a spiritual perspective and therefore comes down to a Christian/Non Christian concern. That's why I want to do this. To reach the dead and help them receive life, that can not be lost. And I have faced physical death many times before, so that should not concern me to much. The scariest thing really is walking away from my comfortable life where I have my every need met to excess. It is frightening to think about waking up on the ground each day with nothing and wondering what will happen and where will I end up each night. God give me faith!

May 23rd 06 - What scares me today is the thought that I could go out and nothing miraculous would happen and no one I meet will have their life impacted or changed towards God.

June 20th 06 - Right now I feel really casual about it and wonder what I was worried about. Lots of people go and do missions all the time, and I am not sure why I am even waiting around until November. I guess I am getting a little itchy feet to get started.

June 27th 06 - I have been feeling really ill with a queasy gut over the last two days. This is because of the step I have just made in deciding to move house and also that I plan to tell my best friend about all this in just a few days. As I make these steps the mission becomes more than just an idea, and something I am actually doing. I am surprised by my body's reaction, as I don't recall feeling physically ill from stress before, and mentally I am asking myself 'why am I not happy and confident about what is happening?' I think I have been far too long resting in my comfort zone.

July 10th 06 - I feel ok but hesitant today, after feeling keen and powerful the last couple of days. On the weekend I went to the biggest party/gathering of my relatives in ten years. I saw two groups of people there. There was the older generation: senior Christian people that had power and fire in their day, but who were now damaged empty shells. The women resigned to socialite chit chat and old men that just sit around and talk; too inwardly focused to reach out into the real world. Then there was the younger generation: Innocent and happy, all dressed up with their happy jobs, happy wives and happy babies, strolling along oblivious to the battle that rages outside their walls. Something has been missed. The oldies have failed to instruct and prepare the next generation to stand on the front lines. Still believing they are the ones ready to rally to the call. They only hear the sound of their own jostling for position. They rally call is: the sun rising up each and every day. Some hear it, I hear it. I have the fire. Time to pick up the sword that has been dropped, forgotten in the grass and step into the empty breach. I know how to swing it, I am sure I will find others there to stand beside.

What do I expect to happen:
I am not really ready to think this through yet...

June 3rd 06 - Yesterday I heard that 80% of homeless people are mentally ill. I wonder how hard it will be to communicate and talk with them. Will I be regarded as mentally ill? I also wonder how many of them are possessed by evil spirits. Certainly some of them, it was a part of Jesus's ministry to pray for freedom from that type of trouble. I wonder if I will recognize it when I encounter it and will my prayers have any effect? What would be the impact of such a release. The person will still be homeless, but at least they will have a place in God's house.

How I feel God is involved:
I certainly don't want to just walk off and hope for the best. I would only do it if I felt God was backing me up on the plan. And over recent time I feel he is supporting me to go in this direction. My knowledge and experience with the poverty and justice has gone from zip to quite a bit recently. Eight months ago I joined a church home group for the first time in ten years. The leader turned out to be a worker for a homeless charity in the city, another member works with refugees in and from detention centers. Just through these relationships I have learnt a lot, though I still have not actively gone out to educate myself on the issues. I would like to know what other people feel and experience when they become homeless, with out any expectations, so I can relate to them on their level. Even last week I mentioned I would like to work with the homeless and one of my colleagues mentioned she did a lot of volunteer work with the homeless and gave me a heap of brochures.

I also come from a community of the most wealthy and highly educated professional Christians in the country. They all strive to be the holiest and still have major problems and don't seem to notice their wealth and affluence could be an issue... It highlights that imbalance in my own life and I feel we need to be awakened on a personal level to the themes of wealth and affluence Vs poverty and justice that run throughout the Bible.

May 25th 06 - I had been thinking recently about how hard talking to people about their personal issues would be. Then a week ago a new friend told me some really personal stuff, much more than they meant to. Now things are very awkward between us as they regret revealing some secrets. I'm thinking God is using this as a learning experience for me, that there is more to relationship and change than just talking and listening, it's not as easy as I thought.

December 27th 06 - There are three things I want to mention about God's involvement along the way...

1/ At one point, over a week, I gave away half my savings of a few thousand dollars to a number of charitys. It felt really good doing it. The surprise was that after I had done it I ended up having one of the most joyous weeks of my life. Not a joy from the giving, but a joy from God in response to the giving. A high that lasted all week. Fantastic!

2/ My plan to spend time in the desert: WOW! I left it to the last moment to arrange. I made a call to the Anglican Church in Alice Springs and told the pastor there that I was looking for a place to stay, out of town, as a spiritual retreat for 2 weeks. He said he was new in town but had heard of one place that was called 'Campfire In The Heart'. I called and spoke with David about my plans and he said he had thought about doing something similar in his youth, and his site would cater for what I was looking for. So we arranged it and a week later I was there. It was far more of a blessing and time of reflection and solicitude and prayer and fasting, than I could have hoped for. They gave me some books to read that introduced me to people and Christian/Catholic teachings of the same ideas I had been thinking about. We had morning prayer at 7:30am influenced by the Taize approach, and I was able to wander in the desert behind the property as well. Many other great things happened during these two weeks that confirmed and built me up for my Faith Walk and if you are ever in Alice Springs or looking for a spiritual retreat away, then I can't recommend you seek out these lovely people and place highly enough.

3/ I had also spent every Sunday morning for a couple of months visiting a different Church in the city, to get to know them. This has been a great experience in itself. On one occasion I met a retired pastor after a service who said I was welcome to visit again, and that's it. Later that night it popped in my head that I should ask him to be a 'mentor', and I got this strange good spiritual feeling at the same time. So I went back next week and asked him to consider being my mentor and I would call in a week. When I called later he said he would do it. On our first meeting he asked how I had come to ask him to be a mentor. I said I knew nothing of him, just that I was testing out a possible leading of the holy spirit. he said that was good and interestingly he was actually a trained mentor and spiritual director! Great. Thanks God!

Random thoughts:
June 1st 06 - I don't think food will be a problem. I reckon people would be happy to give, if they believe it is for food and not some addiction thing. Also I have recently become aware that there are charities that do soup vans and meals to the homeless on a daily basis. Not that I want to rely on their services and add to the burden, rather that there is an option there should I need it. Another aspect to this is that as I plan to still attend my church and be in the same city as my friends and family. I hope they will invite me around for meals, which will give me a chance to talk to them about my experiences and the issues, but I don't want to do that at the start as I want to be careful I am there for the discussion and not the food.

June 4th 06 - Today I got a call at work from a desperate lady that had just become homeless, not a call we would normally receive. She talked very fast with a slurr and was in high distress, I had to ask her to slow down. She wanted to find a welfare institution that could help her, and as it was a Sunday the numbers she had already tried were closed. Her main fear was what happens if it rains. A good question. I didn't have any answers for her. I found some charity phone numbers for her to ring, from off the internet, and then suggested that as it was a Sunday if she still needed further help to try a pastor at a nearby church for assistance. It was difficult to communicate with her and I didn't feel I had been of much value to her. I would be soon in her situation. Rain, my first though is that it wouldn't really bother me and I think you could find some sort of shelter when it starts. But I guess I have never slept in the rain, which could happen if it comes after you fall asleep out in the open, and I have always been able to get dry after. To have to stay wet with no change of clothes could, I imagine, be very discomforting and even a health risk, in some circumstances. Dryness, something I have always taken for granted and never really thought about before.

June 15th 06 - I have been thinking that it might be good to spend a couple of weeks contemplating in the desert, right before I go. It might help relax and settle things down in my mind and just be good spiritual preparation. I am thinking I could fly to Alice Springs, the center of the country, and stay at a remote and dusty place, and fast and pray for a bit. I could even head straight into the city, from the airport, on my way back...