SURVIVAL MODE (4 Weeks In My 2-Week Quarantine)

Uh.. huh huh huh huh huh … uh Beavis.  The movie is already over.  How long will this Apocalypse last?

Huh huh huh huh, yeah yeah… uh.. You said pop her lips fast!

Well… so… now that I am 4 weeks into my two-week quarantine and watching the food lines grow at food banks across the nation, people fleeing NYC, Florida, and NOLA (Texas Troopers meeting them at the state line checking papers), and taking stock of my hoarded supplies, it dawns on me that there isn’t going to be a “bounce back” at all.  We might dig ourselves out of this thing over the course of a couple of years, but go ahead and cancel plans to attend next year’s Super Bowl.

Yeah, we gotta inoculate everybody before we can gather for a ball game, and not only do we not have the inoculation invented yet, but we don’t have the logistics worked out to test it and then administer it to every living person either.  I mean, I think we can do this thing, but it’s gonna take some T…I…M…E.

Meanwhile, people are starting to get HUNGRY.  Not just itching to get out and socialize, but getting HUNGRY.  Not just worried about how to pay the rent and the electric bill, but HUNGRY.  Not just shooting each other in the park over a pair of sneakers, but HUNGRY.  Few people are as dangerous to each other as Americans and hungry people.  Heaven help us if the world is flooded with hungry Americans!

When I was young, I used to spend part of my fantasy life pondering survival in case of catastrophe, whether personal or societal.  Not a lot, okay… but yeah.  I thought about it.

But here’s the thing:  In NONE of my survivalist fantasies (and I am no survivalist nut!*) did I ever dream about keeping three little babies alive with me!

Wow!

So, as I watch society take the big plunge (as George Carlin said it: Circling The Drain), I go raid the stash of beans and cornbread I got thinking we better get used to eating this stuff.  We may run out of reasonable options soon, and all the pizza, cheesecake, and grilled steaks are going to turn into bologna sandwiches, spam, and beans and rice before we know it.  And my kids are going to reject it!  Until they have a good hard cry or two – or a dozen.

So… in a stroke of genius, I made a plate with beans and cornbread for myself and sat down in front of them to eat it.

And guess what?

Oh boy!  That looks good Pops!  I want some!!!

Yeah… As long as they think they are getting MINE, they like it.

Wonder how long this will last…

Did I call myself genius?

*I’m not saying I ain’t a nut, just not a survivalist nut..

BSing WITH AGENT X

I was trained in exegesis in the academy.  Not exhaustively, but professionally trained nonetheless.  For the record, I did not finish my graduate degree in Bible, and managed to NOT learn to read Hebrew.  So there is one major limitation, and there are others.  Yet, I learned various methods of Bible Study; I learned to respect some and to withhold respect for others.  And I was trained in classically conservative, Christian schools.

I don’t know it all, nor do I think I know it all.  On the contrary, I am all too aware of my limitations.  Nevertheless, I have begun developing some ways of approaching the Bible in search of better understandings which I want to share, keeping in mind that in some ways I may well be reinventing the wheel.  Nevertheless in all my readings and searching, I have yet to find some of these methods being proposed elsewhere, or to the extent I do find them suggested, I have expanded upon those suggestions in ways I don’t find others discussing.

As a foundational matter, I encourage anyone opening a Bible to study it to ask God’s blessing on the endeavor at the very start.  Ask God to speak to you, to open the eyes of your heart so that you can see Jesus.  This is not some magic trick; it does not dictate that you will come away with perfect understanding and be ready to lead others, but at the very least, it puts you in a humble position to receive God’s grace, and God is eager to get his people there.

The next thing I suggest is take care to actually attend to THE BIBLE.  This should go without saying, but anymore it just does not.  I also suggest you keep on hand a quality, conservative translation in a language you can read.  You might be excited about The Message or some very liberal translations, and I won’t bag on those, but I will encourage you to compare and contrast passages you study in those with the NIV, NASB, NRSV, ESV, or NKJV (among others).  There is a LOT lost in translation, actually.  Not that it necessarily puts your soul in danger of damnation, but if you want to listen to God, then strain to listen to HIM and not some pop theology.  There is a difference, even though they overlap.

Let me extend that thought yet further still.  Take care to actually attend to the Bible and not just the sermon, not just the lecture, not just the teacher’s distillation.  Go and actually READ the text or at least LISTEN to the real text read aloud.  (Listening is better in some ways.)  I don’t care how lousy the sermon is, I don’t care how bad the messenger, if and when that preacher/teacher is actually READING biblical text to you, THAT PART IS GOOD!  And sometimes even amid a terrible sermon, I learn from the textual reading!  So can you.

At this point, there are so many hermeneutical, exegetical, and meditative aspects of Bible study to consider that a simple blog post like this cannot exhaust them all.  Everything from textual criticism, literary criticism, redaction criticism, to form criticism, reader-response criticism, and systematic theology (all the approaches to Bible Jesus teaches to The Twelve – I’m being facetious), like tools in a carpenter’s toolbox, sit ready at hand.  But perhaps all that is a little intimidating to consider too.  So… not to negate any of those tools, but rather to set aside all of that, let me offer a handful of simple tools which expand our understanding, in powerful and highly productive – even unique – ways.

As you read my blog and the “perspective” I bring, IF you find that interesting, then let me share with you some of the simple approaches I use.  You may consider these a moment and see better ways forward than mine.  But I want to suggest TWO overall, let us call them “umbrella,” features of Bible study, and then offer a few tools that serve each of those umbrella features which I find particularly beneficial.  The first umbrella feature is the HISTORICAL SETTING and the second is LET THE BIBLE INTERPRET THE BIBLE.  My thought is that between getting the history right and keeping close to the actual Word of God, you are likely to avoid major pitfalls and are likely to discover fresh insight in your Bible study.

When establishing in depth understanding of the historical setting for a passage of Scripture, there are primary and secondary sources to consider.  For those who have the time and patience to read the ancient documents that date back to ancient times, the payoff is tremendous.  (You can find them translated in English.)  There are many ancient poets, philosophers, historians, and authors who open windows into the past for us to look through.  I could list many, yet even I have not exhausted the list.  But a handful of some of the easier reads which have some of the biggest, fastest payoff, I suggest I Maccabees, Josephus (there is an abridged version), and really all of the apocryphal books you find in a Catholic Bible.  These ancient writings are quite interesting in their own rite – real page turners!  I am sure you will enjoy your time spent discovering them.

There are secondary sources too, which are basically studies of various people and events in ancient history produced by modern scholars.  Many of these are easier to read (not all of them, to be sure) because the modern scholar acts like a tour guide.  For my money, Between the Testaments by D.S. Russell and Bandits, Prophets, and Messiahs by Richard Horsley are two good suggestions which will help you think historically about Jesus and the times in which he ministers to Israel.

If you open up the Gospel of Mark and read it through from start to finish after spending a week reading I Maccabees, Josephus, Russell, and Horsley, I assure you, the historical stage upon which you watch Mark’s Jesus act and speak will have you seeing him with such a tremendously fresh perspective that you will wonder if you ever knew him before.  (Not that you didn’t, but you will feel so overpowered that you will ponder that as a possibility.)

Then as for the other umbrella feature of LETTING THE BIBLE INTERPRET THE BIBLE, I have a couple of main strategies (and a few lesser ones too) which open up so many opaque passages  and mystery turns to meaning.  Not always, but often, and if not complete understanding, there are footholds illuminated where expectation of understanding gives hope for the future of Bible study.

Let me share two of these tools as I use them, and perhaps you can try them in your study and see if they do for you what they do for me.

The first one I will call BOOKENDS.  Consider the first eleven chapters of Genesis as a bookend for the Bible and consider Jesus as the other bookend.  It’s not terribly hard to see Jesus foreshadowed in the Bible, especially in other characters who exhibit very Christ-like features in parts of their lives.  If you ever read the story of Joseph sold into slavery by his brothers, winding up in prison, and then finally being raised up out of prison to become Pharaoh’s right hand man, second in command of the whole known world and thought, this seems to parallel the life of Jesus, then you are exactly right.  You might look at Joshua leading Israel into the promised land AND note that “Joshua” is the English version of the Hebrew name where “Jesus” is English version of the same name from the Greek instead.  Basically, they have the same name!  Or you might find Jesus in David, the shepherd boy/King.  (I could go on and on and on with this.)

Well, it works similarly go trace the stories from the first eleven chapters of Genesis through the Bible too.  Sometimes these chapters are called the Primordial History.  And some portions of this section of Scripture are more readily apparent than others, but if you look carefully, you will find bits and pieces of the whole Bible corresponding to bits and pieces of this Primordial History too, and when you do, it’s no mistake.  That is how God’s Word is meant to be heard, and when you can hear it at that level, you begin to make sense of some parts which stubbornly did not make sense before at other levels.

By way of some easy examples: Consider the confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel and the way everyone at Pentecost miraculously hears the gospel preached in their own language.  These two stories are meant to bounce sparks off one another.  Or consider the way that Adam and Eve’s eyes are opened when they eat the forbidden fruit, and then consider the way the eyes of the disciples are opened when Jesus breaks the bread at the meal at Emmaus.  Again, these stories are doing business with each other.

When you look at any text of Scripture, any story from either the Old or New Testaments, any characters, any events, if you take in a surface reading, then look up the historical setting (to the extent you are able) and then search for any connections between that text at the Primordial History and then for any connections to Jesus, you are surely going to find some doors opening to you which were not even noticed before.  The Bible, then, is starting to interpret the Bible – it seems.

One other tool I use along this line, which is very similar to the BOOKENDS, but does not limit itself to the Primordial History and to Jesus for connections, is to look for stories of the same SHAPE.  They will practically never have the exact same shape, and in fact sometimes have very important differences which are meant to be considered rather than the similarities.  But there are lessons to be discovered in letting stories of the same SHAPE do business together even if they seem otherwise irrelevant to one another.

I first noticed this when reading the closing chapters of Judges where the obscure story about the Levite and his concubine seek refuge in the town square only to be taken in by a host who protects them from a mob of locals who want to ravage and violate the guests.  This story sounds so very much LIKE that of the angels visiting Lot at Sodom and Gomorrah at this level that it can hardly be a mere coincidence.  But there are important differences too.

For one thing, Sodom and Gomorrah were not God’s chosen people.  For another, the angels strike the men at Lot’s door with blindness and they wind up rescuing Lot and his family from the coming destruction.  Also, there is that merciless fire from the sky which destroys the whole valley that Lot and his family flee from.  All of these are important differences from the story in Judges where the woman is given up to the locals, is ravaged and killed, and then the man of God cuts up her body in twelve piece and sends her parts in separate directions to all the twelve tribes of Israel as a message about the sin in that city.  Also there is a judgment against God’s people, but nothing like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and yet we know from that earlier story the wrath God reserves for behavior like this, and yet now this behavior is found in God’s own people who receive a far more gracious judgment.

There is so much insight to be considered in the similarities and differences here.  Sin has invaded God’s people with all the depravity it ever did Sodom and Gomorrah, yet God is gracious with his own kids.  Hmmm… And there is more too, but I merely use this as an example and not as a study of those passages.  So I will quit with that.  However neither of these stories are about Jesus per se nor do they have overt connection with the Primordial History.  Perhaps we might meditate and find such connections to the BOOKENDS, alright, but we already have the SHAPE putting us here.  And the more I read my Bible, the more I learn to look for these SHAPEs recurring in stories and then to start looking for new depths revealed by pairing them up like this.

After using these tools, then go look up the commentaries and Bible dictionaries and see what the scholars are saying.  No doubt the experts will illuminate more for you than you would have on your own, but by this time, if you have worked with the tools I have offered here, you will find yourself in a much deeper conversation with these experts AND with God too, actually.  Certainly, I hope you do.

Give these tools a try.  I think you will be blessed.

And then come back here and share what you learn with me.  Odds are… you will open my mind to more that I was missing.

 

 

GOD’S WORLD AND THE WORLD I LIVE IN

I was too young to get into the theater when The World According To Garp came out, but I was a fan of Robin Williams, and soon enough there was HBO.  I don’t know anyone who speaks of that old movie anymore.  Nobody quotes the zingers and one-liners these days.  Also, I never was familiar with the novel, and it seems almost entirely lost in time.  But I never forgot Garp.  The movie made a big impression on my impressionable young mind, even if there were themes and elements I did not  fully appreciate.

I have not seen the movie in decades, and so I work with failing memory as I recall it now.  But I don’t actually want to dwell on The World According To Garp; I merely want to consider the lens it constructs, through which I look at the world.  No doubt that means I need to talk about it – a little anyway.

The title of the book/film harkens, in my way of thinking (and I bet yours too), the mind’s ear to the headings many of our English translated Bibles place on the Gospels (as if they were the titles): The Gospel According to Matthew or The Gospel According to Mark….*  But honestly, that is just coincidental to the deeper aspect corresponding with my life.

T.S. Garp experiences his world in a particular way.  It is very tragic and yet darkly comical.  It is entirely the invention of John Irving, the author of the book, but Irving borrows from reality – even if he exaggerates certain features.  Thus, Garp is born into a modernistic world which itself is being reinvented by the social engineers of Modernity (in his case, specifically, radical feminists).  In fact, his feminist mother seizes a chance to become pregnant during WWII by a dying soldier she nurses specifically so that she can avoid the entanglements of starting a traditional family involving a husband/father.  This is the world Garp is born into, and he seems to have been tailor made to fit into it.

Except that Garp is a man.

Garp is a man in a woman’s world, a radically feminist, woman’s world.  He never really fits in the world in and for which he was designed, and he ultimately is rejected by it.  His own mother treats him almost like a science project, a case study in the bogus masculinity she rejects with it’s outdated, out-of-touch expressions of/desires for sexuality.  Many of the radical feminist characters surrounding Garp, and making up important segments of his social life, go way beyond radical; they are self mutilating fanatics on the fringe of a socio/political agenda.  And so Garp is not in any way “normal” and neither is his world.

I did call some of these featurs “exaggerated.”  Yet in some ways it’s not that far off from reality either.  I was born during the Vietnam War, a time when the evening news programs (think Walter Cronkite in specific) brought live-action film footage from the conflict, not exactly in real time, but within hours and days of the events which they depicted.  Suddenly a steady visual diet of conflict and carnage, much of which our soldiers and diplomats were losing to the enemy, was shown to Americans in their living rooms on a daily basis like never before.  And I certainly want to point out the Buddhist monks protesting their plight by setting themselves on fire in the street made for interesting graphics at dinner time.  (Not the radical feminism of Garp’s world, but ever bit a self-mutilating part of a fringe movement and socio/political agenda!)

I could go on and on and on describing the various kinds and levels of conflict and the events thus produced shortly before I was born and all through my early childhood.  I don’t think I need to educate my readers on such matters, though, and I hope I have alluded to them thoroughly enough to move forward now with such upheaval as a backdrop for my experience of the world.

While my world was experiencing war and all manner of socio/political upheaval, I was also born smackdab in the middle of Modernity, an age of world history constructed out of logic and scientific reason, which itself found more than a little conflict with religion and specifically Christian faith.  Either one of these world-shaping forces by itself has great power to order the world, and each seeks its own brand of utopia, but pit them against each other in a struggle for the same turf, and eventually even deistic and live-and-let-live philosophies are going to clash.  And sadly the fault line runs right through ME (and you too).

Yeah.  Right through the middle of me.

I was raised in church, in a family of faith. From as early as I can remember, I was singing Jesus Loves Me and learning about Moses and the Ten Plagues, David and Goliath, and Jesus.  I was taught that God made the world and all that is in it, and that he put Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to tend it, and I was mystified from the start by the fact that they were NAKED.  (Some stuff really stayed with me!)

But then from almost as early, I was also taught my ABC’s, simple arithmetic, and group discipline away from home by people in a system which politely said next to nothing about Moses, David, or Jesus, but which also teaches (and eventually taught me too) that the world was begun by a “big bang” and that life is governed by the struggle of “the survival of the fittest.”

So I learned, without ever specifically being taught this, to hold my private beliefs private, and my public beliefs public.

Want a job?  Yes.

Teaching school?  Maybe.

Then get in there at teach your students that the world was begun with a “big bang” and that life evolved from the goo, through the zoo, to you!  Suck it up and TEACH it!  This is your public beliefs, and they rule the public turf.  You can privately believe otherwise if you want, but don’t bother the public with that nonsense.

Yeah.  The fault line, right through me.

This is only one kind and one level of conflict running through me, though it is a conflict about foundational matters.  There are OTHERS, many others at all levels, and it is surprising just how important some of THEM came to feel in the shaping of me as a kid.

I think about going to the mall.  The mall was the marketplace where all the merchants got together and created a whole other world full of mysteries, desires, needs even, and wonders.  And at first blush, it seemed like utopia itself.  Not a utopia beholding particularly to either that of the Bible or that of the science books.  In fact, I could purchase either, or both, a Bible and science books in the same shop, boutique, or major bookstore within that mall!  No conflict there!  Just peace!

Ahhh… I didn’t know it as a kid, when I was first seduced in this New Creation we called “the mall,” but soon enough I learned that you gotta pay if you wanna play!  Oh, yeah.  This was the world created by Mammon!  And if you ain’t got the bread, then you can’t get it buttered – not here!  Move along….

Peace according to Mammon.  This is not shalom, but a rented fantasy.

Let me describe the way it filtered into the world according to Agent X.  As a very young child, I was just dazzled by the place.  All the impulse-purchase opportunities just jumping out at me as I strolled along beside my parents was just sheer magic.  But soon I was in about the seventh grade when a kid showed up to school wearing “Roos.”  Do you remember “Roos”?  Kangaroo tennis shoes, they were.  They had the little pouch with the zipper on the side.  Good for nothing, really, but all of a sudden, they were the style I just had to have.

I found out that they were sold at the mall!  I wanted some.  Next chance I got to go to the mall with my parents, I was gonna find some and get’m.  I was so excited, until when we found them, my parents saw the price tag.  I probably had three pairs of shoes already, (church shoes, cowboy boots, and tennis shoes), and my dad was probably aching about that with every growth spurt I went through.  And, of course, my mom was adept at finding the bargains which made three pairs of shoes possible for this grandson of a man who went some summers with no shoes when he was a kid.  (Of course, he walked to school and home again when he was young and it was up hill both ways!)

Well… I went home from the mall that day with no new “Roos.”  I was heartsick.  I could raise the money myself, but those shoes were nearly $40, and it might take me three weeks to raise that much money, if I was very industrious.  To be honest, I don’t remember now just how long it took, but I do know that in the meantime, four or five other kids at my school got theirs, and I was feeling Left Behind.  When I finally did get my pair, I remember feeling like the fashion bubble had already burst, and I was just late to the party.

I did not see this angst for what it was in the seventh grade, not in the eighth, ninth, tenth, not even after college.  I figure I was in my thirties looking back on this before I had my first a-ha moment regarding this angst which was, as I now see it, almost entirely generated by the peace of Mammon I found at the mall.

Somehow the party was inside, all my friends were there having their good time, and I either had to rely on the good graces of fellow slaves to the grind to get my piece of the action, or I had to slave away over time to get it for myself, AND by that time I the shine was tarnished on it.

I am no longer an enthusiast for all bright and shiny new things.  My kids are, but I am not.  And by now, this has translated into other areas of my life like church.  I am not enthused by the televangelists or by the fancy new sanctuary our church built a few years ago on the bright and shiny side of town out near the new subdivision where the white-flight crowd goes.  I see all of that as just a thinly disguised version of the mall and the peace of Mammon.

I live with these kinds of conflicts.  This is God’s world AND the world I live in.  Both worlds (is it really just two?) are at war inside me.  The conflict kills people sometimes, but more often than not, at least in my sphere, the conflict says to live and let die, and so we drive past the very beggars and bums Jesus would stop and heal as we enslave ourselves to debt for a chance to worship in the snazzy new sanctuary on the bright and shiny side of town.  It is a conflict I see plainly, but which my friends and neighbors anxiously ignore as much as possible.

Now maybe, just maybe, there is yet another level of conflict here that is going unnoticed.  Am I crazy?  Do I suffer undiagnosed mental illness?

To be honest, I think that is more possible than it would seem, but I am nonetheless not convinced of it.  I actually think I am almost completely sane, but the rest of you, I am pretty sure, are not.

Buddhist monks set fire to themselves in the streets and got their stories splashed across television screens all over America back when I was born.  I was stunning.  I wonder what the dinner conversation was like after that between Ward, June and the kids.  I wasn’t old enough to remember, so I can’t report on that.  But that is the world I was born into, of which I tried to make sense.

The world God made was different.  No Buddhist monks setting fire to anyone.  No Americans watching it on their TVs.  No awkward conversations.  Just naked people living in harmonious Shalom with God, each other, and the crops.  Walking with God in the cool of the day, talking about how GOOD stuff was, I reckon.  That was God’s world.

But I live now in a world where I fall asleep at night yearning for tennis shoes with the little zipper on the side, a world where we shop at the mall and I am dazzled by all manner of novelties and here-today-gone-tomorrow fashions which command my attention on Saturday, and where on Sunday as my family drives to church and passes a beggar on the corner, Mama reaches over to roll up the window and lock the door.

I have been slow coming around to see these things.

And now I am a jerk for pointing it out.

But I decided to just try, really try, to believe what I learned in my Bible, and I find a lot of conflict between God’s world and the world I live in.

 

 

*Allow me to footnote this minor digression as I say it might harken to your mind the 1989 country music song by Skip Ewing: The Gospel According To Luke.  That song, to dwell on it, leads off in another direction from this post, but the title itself surely comes to mind for anyone privy to the things I write about here.

 

THANK YOU, NO THANK YOU, & I’M SORRY

THANK YOU

First to the unsung heroes…

To the housekeeping staff at the hospital.  (Oh yeah!  You people who work under, around, and behind the doctors and nurses who save lives, meanwhile you provide a clean environment for them to do their life-saving work, all while putting your lives in jeopardy too.) You underpaid, overworked, usually ignored, nameless, almost faceless individuals who for bottom dollar show up to clean up after the doctors and nurses have treated gunshot victims, heart attack victims, and now especially victims of coronavirus – the condition that finally scares America (and the whole world) so bad that almost all cultural and economic activity has ground to a sudden stop like only an act of God can do.

To the garbage haulers who pick up all my trash, trash laden with all manner of refuse (suspicious or not), and continue to do so whether we appropriately bag it up, tie a knot in the bag, or not.

To the grocery stockers, baggers, and checkers who risk their lives in what used to be simple customer service, but now is a life line.  To the pizza delivery, UPS, and USPS drivers that deliver needed (and sometimes wanted) items right to my door so I don’t have to leave the house and risk my health.

To the long haul truck drivers and warehouse workers and everyone else, who behind the scenes, leave their families daily, weekly, and monthly to play their roles in the larger logistics of moving the food and other essentials so that my family suffers no want during quarantine.

To foodbank workers, the volunteers, the homeless ministers, and paper delivery drivers who serve those who cannot help themselves as the rest of us quarantine.

To all those people who, despite intense cabin fever … despite frustration with their spouse and kids and live-in in-laws… manage to adhere to STAY AT HOME orders.

To any I have not mentioned!  (Yeah.  You too.)

Then to the TRUE heroes…

To those “front line” workers who rightly do get truck loads of appreciation from applauding balconies, front doors, back doors, and high-rise windows, I add my voice of thanx!  The doctors and nurses and respiratory therapists, the EMTs, the fire fighters, police, and other first responders.  To the jailers!  Some of these professionals always knew they were putting their lives at risk to do their jobs, but none ever expected THIS.  God bless you!  And may we all support you in every way possible as you sacrifice so deeply to take care of the rest of us.

To the scientists working around the clock to study and beat this virus!  Thanx!

To the teachers at school who help my kids transition their education to the internet, and who reach deep into their creative reserves to love my kids and teach them.

To the small business owners who adapt and improvise and especially to those who actually SHUT DOWN in utter sacrifice for the greater good!  Your sacrifice may not be as apparent NOW as it will be in the next few months and years, but for YOU, right now, it is extremely emotional to work so hard at your goals only to throw in the towel.  To let workers go… to watch your own income grind to a sudden stop with no back up plan!

Thank YOU to all of my neighbors who STAY AT HOME as much as possible, who wash their hands and take all manner of care and precautions.  THANK YOU for making wise decisions about YOUR personal life which have a huge impact on mine even if we never meet.

NO THANX!

To the self-interested.

To the politicians who put party and ideology above care for neighbors.  Now is not the time to advance yourself or your party.  JUST LEAD!  BE A LEADER, and no matter your politics, you will be remembered well.  Be a jerk, and you will be remembered.  Mistakes and regrets will happen to all leaders, but those made for political gain are unacceptable.  No Thanx!

To the hospital administrators who spent the last four years NOT learning the lessons of Ebola, who failed to stock up supplies and prepare for epidemic and pandemic WHICH WAS PREDICTED, but instead “saved money” that earned nice year-end bonuses, AND WHO NOW all of a sudden work from home while sending doctors and nurses into the fray utilizing previously used, disposable PPE, or improvised PPE, due to your selfish preparations.  No Thanx!

To all my neighbors suffering the itch to “get out” or to go to a beach to enjoy spring break, to the idiots “hooking up” with on-line acquaintances, who flout the world-wide emergency for your own childish and selfish interests, and thus put the rest of us at great risk.  No Thanx!

To you people, I plead, repent!  Put others above your own interests.  We are more connected and interdependent than we ever knew.  If you will start to practice care for others now, it will have an impact on your own well being too.

I’m Sorry

I am sorry I did not listen to those who predicted this pandemic AND the economic repercussions.  We were warned!  We really were.  And I failed to listen to some of them, I didn’t even know about some of them, and despite the fact that some prophets of disaster are wrong, are idiots, are opportunists, I nonetheless am sorry I did not listen to those who actually had real insight and credibility (not the least Bill Gates).

(Now to my readers:  Who did I miss?  Please add to the list in the comments.  And thanx to you for reading and caring.)

The Heavy Lifting of Christian Imagination

Happy Easter, and blessings from Fat Beggars School of Prophets. This morning, as the sun and the Son come up and a New Creation dawns as the Age to Come invades the age that is passing away, I notice that SO MUCH has happened in the few weeks since I published this post. No one would have imagined our world as it is today. Our churches who used to split over music styles are now yearning to gather again in those huge sanctuaries sitting empty as the tomb they have become. Hallelujah! And we are at a good moment to IMAGING God in our world afresh this morning like has not been in many, many generations. I pray your imagination find new freedom today.

Fat Beggars School of Prophets

In 1971,  John Lennon invited his listeners to Imagine a world at peace.  He presented a beautiful picture of a world living in harmony, and did so with a stunningly beguiling melody.  But of course, he insists we imagine there is no heaven (it’s easy if you try), no hell, no religion too – all with the implication that Jesus is not LORD and has no claim on creation.  Without actually saying it, he is implying Jesus is part of the problem and not the solution.  Still, to listen to the song is to be stirred as the melody takes hold, and you are extremely likely to catch yourself humming it later, but as you listen closely to the message, you are also extremely likely to think (really think) about its message too.  It’s a lot of freight for a pop song.

Rare is the artist who can achieve…

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BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK FOR…

The fact of the matter is, whether WE asked for it or not, I did.  Now… now… now, before you go blaming ME, hear me out.  It’s not like I necessarily knew exactly what I was asking for, but if God answers prayers, this is his answer to mine.  If you don’t like it, take it up with him, not me.  I do not have the power to do what has happened.  But I did ask.  And now I, and possibly WE, have lessons to learn from this.  Let’s talk about it…

My Prayer

I have prayed all my life, but there have been times of personal crisis which always seemed to send me to my knees before God with renewed vigor too.  Then I went to school and studied Bible, answering a call on my life, which also led me to more careful prayer.  But the last decade, actually the last 15 years of street ministry, have emphasized prayer in my life like I would not have guessed.

As far back as 2013, when the Fat Beggars School of Prophets were inaugurated, I adopted a daily practice of asking God to help our members bear the image of God seeking the effects described by the prophets of old.  Thus my daily prayer addressing God developed like this: “Express Yourself through the beggars, bums, and prophets so that at the sight of You in them may the mountains bow down, the valleys stand at attention, and the crooked places straighten out, like Isaiah told us in the days of old… so that at the sight of You in them may the whole economy turn upside down, shake it out on the ground, and start it all over again, just like You did with those beggars of old at the gates of Samaria… and at the sight of You in them, may Your Kingdom come and Your will be done in Lubbock like it is in heaven….”

Did you catch that part emphasized in italics?

Yeah.

I have been pleading that part with God on almost a daily basis since 2013.

Who would have ever dreamed that God answers prayers?  I will say that I wondered many times if I was being heard in the heavenly court by top management or not.  Somewhere there in 2013, the economy was doing fine, recovering actually from the 2008 recession, and I confronted the homeless church where I was a member about locking the homeless outside at night in the cold, and not only did leadership kick me out of the flock over this, but at the same time that church was voted by the wider community to receive a huge donation from the bank so that they could expand their ministry (which still did not open the doors to the poor).

FEELINGS

I sure didn’t FEEL like God was hearing me THEN.

OTHER things (other feelings and Bible considerations)

Hold that thought.  I have OTHER things I want to bring into this, but I will come back to that FEELING and to the influence it had on further prayer developments.  So change gears with me for the moment.

For the better part of SEVEN YEARS, I have been asking God to turn our economy upside down, shake it out on the ground, and start it all over again like he did so long ago with those beggars at the gates of Samaria.  (I recently posted on THAT story which is found in II Kings 6 & 7, and it quickly became my  most viewed post all year long so far!).  Well, he seems to have turned it up upside down, alright.  It remains to be seen whether he will now express himself through the bums and start it all over again.  But I am impacted by these events in relation to my prayer.

I suddenly FEEL like God was listening!  I suddenly FEEL like I was heard!!  I suddenly FEEL scared by it!!!

Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it!  (I can hear James Hetfield’s thundering lyric pounding that thought in my mind.)

SEVEN YEARS of this prayer?  SEVEN, that is a holy number.  Joseph, son of Jacob, sold by his own brothers into slavery in Egypt, the same boy with big dreams about the hay bales of his brothers bowing to his hay bale and the dreams of their stars bowing to him, went into slavery and prison UTTERLY FORGOTTEN and alone (as far as he could tell) with just his broken dreams until the king of Egypt needed his dreams interpreted.

You already know that story.  Surely I don’t need to recite it.  I am thinking that somewhere along the way his anticipation of greatness died.  This dreamer, this dream interpreter, with such a stellar record in his wake, who up until this point had no indication beyond his blind faith that his own dreams of grandeur would come true, has quite the opposite actually.  All his dreams are ground down to the nub – nothing but a memory.  Yet upon satisfying Egypt’s king, he becomes the second person in command of the whole known world (mirroring the Second Person in the Divine Trinity).  And for SEVEN YEARS, he manages the food production and storage, and then for SEVEN YEARS he manages the banquet in hard times!

Now… back to an ongoing conversation I have been developing on this blog in recent days: WAS THIS A JUDGMENT of God?  Or was this a Party-Planners Apocalypse???  For certainly Egypt’s economy tanked, AND the economy of the whole known world with it too, except for God’s intervention through Joseph on behalf of Egypt and even more so the whole world!  Was this JUDGMENT?  Or NOT???

Was God behind this or not?  Was it a form of discipline or not?  What words do you use for it?

We can get into some deeper questions quite fast and easily here.  Was this for Egypt’s benefit?  What was the purpose of these events?  Or was this for Israel’s punishment?  Was it for our benefit or punishment?

The people of Genesis start beholding Joseph’s favor with Jacob which leads to the envy of his brothers, which quickly gives way to Joseph’s dreams of grandeur and then leads to his brothers’ hatred and dread and terrible actions.  But the end of this story bookends all of those things.  Joseph’s dreams come true.  The brothers actually do bow down to him!

BUT…

But by the time they come true, I am not convinced Joseph is doing a happy dance and singing “I told you so…”  No.  On the contrary, Joseph is reduced to tears!

BUT… AGAIN…

Just because these things happen to Joseph and his brothers AND just because we find this bookend to the story in Genesis IN NO WAY means that is the end of it.

NO…

All of this is pointing forward – FAR FORWARD – to Jesus – to Jesus who was handed over to Pilate because of envy (Mark 15:10; Matt. 27:18).

But in the meantime, all this cataclysmic worldwide economic crash and food shortage otherwise has all the earmarks of a JUDGMENT.  Definitely we CAN and SHOULD credit ALL OF IT to God!  It is discipline to the ancient ones and to us today.

And besides, there is NO DEFENSE for the societal behaviors pervading our culture(s) at the local, national, and global levels of the past 6000 years, much less the last 50.  We are a sinful lot!  Go look at the sins of the world in the days of Noah, of the people on the Plains of Shinar, of Sodom and Gomorrah, of Israel and Judah, of even the Second Temple, and come back and tell me how we are not just as thoroughly guilty as those people who suffered JUDGMENT according to the Bible – largely due to those very sins.

Please, make that defense, if you can.  I am all ears.

Look.  I never dreamed that FOOTBALL would get shut down!  FOOTBALL is the third person of the unholy trinity of West Texas (Money, Sex, and Football)  And honestly, that religion draws all the Methodists, all the Baptists, all the Pentecostals, AND half the pagans too, not to mention atheists, and college students together every week like even Jesus can’t.  I mean, do you remember that quote from the Will Smith movie Concussion?

Let me refresh you.

“The NFL owns a day of the week, the same day the church used to own. Now it’s theirs.”

The problem with this movie is that it’s not actually fiction.  And the arrogance of that statement reflects the true state of things.

But whether you make a defense or not, all your efforts to do so will ultimately be beside the point anyway.  So DON’T BOTHER.  (Most of you are too committed to your preconceived notions to give this a hearing anyway.)  But just wait.  Just wait and see if you are starving in about six weeks from now, because there is a psychological effect that sets in for people who suffer terribly.  They often FEEL like they are suffering a cosmic JUDGMENT, and you can’t hardly talk them out of it when they reach that point.  And you sure might get your chance to see for yourself.

Still, all of that may really just be BESIDE the point.

However we slice it, whatever words/terminology we use for it, I am convinced that God is behind this.  He answered my prayers – SEVEN YEARS worth.

Application phase

NOW…I gotta confess: Answered prayers like this scares me.  Be careful what you ask for…

I never saw THIS coming.  The economy has tanked now over a little cootie we call coronavirus.  Coronavirus never came across my radar until it made headlines in the national news media back in January.  However, I am finding that a number of our culture’s prophets did predict it years ago – not least Bill Gates!  Even Conan O’Brien is on record saying his father, a microbiologist, warned him years ago that a pandemic would hit and change everything.

Are these God’s prophets?  Well, maybe.  God can use false prophets or even Balaam’s ass to spread his Word.  No.  These guys did not, to my knowledge, give God the glory or the credit (or “blame” God as some might call it), but their predictions did come true, and THAT is a mark of a true prophet.

But I didn’t see this coming.  (What does that say about me?)

No.  To me these microbes are scary, foreign, and surprising.  On their best day, I think: This is how Tom Cruise won the War of the Worlds.  Right?  This is how Brad Pitt beat won World War Z!  Right?  (I like movies.  What can I say?)

Neither one of those stories are really helpful, are they?  They are not biblical, that is sure.  And if we were, to apply some principles from these fantastical movies to our situation, then it would be us sinners who are the aliens and zombies whose demise finds resolution for this drama.

Hmmm…

Probably, in the end, all of that is beside the point too.  Let’s, as they used to say, “get back to the Bible.”

Egypt, and all the whole known world, gets plunged into economic ruin and starvation, just as God is raising Joseph, the both favored and dreaded son, to realize his dreams of grandeur.  People literally starve to death all over the world and then come running to God’s man, bowing down to him, finding God’s grace in his care, and by far most of them NEVER know why.

But we do.

And why is it?

Is it because of sin?

Well, yes… but there is no indication this JUDGMENT/DISCIPLINE is linked to a particular rebellion against God like we find in other JUDGMENTS.  On the contrary, it LOOKS like the whole thing is designed to bring Joseph glory and honor and power, except that with CHRISTIAN EYES OPEN we see that it actually always really pointed to Jesus.  Jesus is the cosmic Party Planner wants everyone to come to HIM for the living food!  And Jesus came to save us from our sins, alright, so we surely must factor that in to the scenario even if we are mystified by how that works.  I know for sure that had Adam and Eve not sinned at the other end of Genesis, Joseph’s story would not have unfolded in the divine drama.  So, yes, sin is involved in this whether we can map out how or not.

Maybe I am wrong about all that.  But it sure seems reasonable and biblical to me.  But if I am failing to make sense, please point out to me how and where.

The real jump always comes at the “application” part of the Bible study.  Does any of this apply to the coronavirus and the economic crash?

Well, I feel sure that as the one who prayed for this, if I look into the eye of this storm and say, “No, This ain’t God’s doing; this ain’t no answer from God,” then I must be a faithless fool.  Maybe you can look at it and say that, but I can’t.

So it isn’t popular, not even among Christians, to say this is a JUDGMENT of God.

Should peer pressure be my “standard” and dictate the lesson I take from this?

I don’t think so.

However, if you can show me IN THE BIBLE where all this kind of stuff happens and God doesn’t have anything to do with it, then I am all ears.  Can you go THERE and demonstrate to me how such things are not his JUDGMENT?  I am all ears.

But I prayed for it too.  Be careful what you ask for!  I prayed this for SEVEN YEARS.

IF – and I mean if – IF I am right (or at least on the scent), then what is the application?

Well, no doubt we are full of sin as a city, a nation, and the world.  And there are far more sins involved than the ones I harp on, but at the very least we have been very proud and arrogant, very rich and stingy, self righteous and self justifying – all at the expense of LOVE.  And God has worked in and through the small, the poor, the weak, the insignificant – the poor bums we specifically LOCK OUTSIDE OUR CHURCH HOUSE DOORS.

How about we take this time to go ask forgiveness from a bum we dismissed?  Because if this ain’t the end of time and the ultimate JUDGMENT hot on the heels of this virus, then perhaps God is knocking us to our knees for one more real chance to confess, to open our eyes, to receive conviction, and have our hearts broken for him.  Perhaps once we FEEL the suffering, that most terrible sense of JUDGMENT will kick in again whether it makes sense to us or not, and we will come with broken and contrite hearts to God before the REAL JUDGMENT does come and claim sheep and reject goats.

Hmmm…

Back to talking about FEELINGS

I got into a rut with my prayer.  I kept bringing it before the LORD, alright, but I lost the FEELING for it.  Then it came back.  Then I lost it again.  Then again.  And again.  For SEVEN YEARS, I did this.  Somewhere about two years ago, all the anticipation just vanished.  It began to FEEL like just some empty ritual.

Then one day we face a “pandemic” and the stock market crashes.  Then it crashes the next day and the next.  Soon the talking heads are making mention of “recession” and then soon after that “depression.”  And somewhere, right about there, it hit me.  I asked for this.

Be careful what you ask for…

I don’t think Joseph had the SAME investment in those dreams of grandeur when they were realized as he did when he first shared them with his brothers and made them so jealous.  I don’t think he was even remotely interested in the I-told-you-so song and dance.  No.  I think he was so overwhelmed with emotions, and by the depths at which God’s healing touch COULD reach, that he was reduced to tears.  He probably was as sorry for his own pride as he was happy to see his family again.  Maybe that’s just me, but I think all those hopeless years in slavery and prison with NO CHANCE his personal dreams would ever see the light of day again, did THAT to him.  That’s what I think.

FEELINGS.  The Bible doesn’t actually tell us too much about that part, but depicts Joe’s tears, and that is how I read it.

For my part, I FELT neglected, unheard, insignificant for a very long time.  Then God answered my prayers, and we have a coronavirus tanking the economy worldwide, and I am scared even to claim it.  I’m scared to post this.  I am scared it will do as much harm to me as anyone else.  I am scared that I even toyed with such prayers to begin with… be careful what you ask for…!

I was FEELING cut out by my church too.  They ran me off just when I was asking that the poor be included.  They found a windfall just when I was asking God to take our economy and shake it out on the ground.  And then for SEVEN YEARS, that did not happen.  Instead my brothers back at the church that kicked me out put together a million dollar budget and found funding for it.

What do you think I was FEELING?

I can tell you this: I didn’t think the FEELING was particularly from God.

So I set out praying for my brothers.  I continued to confront them, but I also prayed for them, and I still do.  It is my daily practice to recite the prayer of Jesus when he said, “Forgive them.”

Yes, for most of the last SEVEN YEARS, I have asked God to forgive my brothers for the ugly way they have treated me and the poor.  I have asked God to bless them.  I have thanked God for the crumbs that do fall from their table.  I have thanked God for those who answer the call to come and serve despite it being a difficult calling, serving difficult people, under the watchful eye of a world that largely scorned the work.  AND I have asked God to give me a heart to forgive them too.

This has been a prayer developed over SEVEN YEARS.  And now it seems God has answered (be careful what you ask for), and I am scared.  Is God’s answer to this prayer going to kill my wife?  Will it kill my kids??  Will it kill me???  Did I truly find forgiveness in my heart for the brothers who locked the door in the face of the poor???  We will all answer for ourselves, and this moment in history brings the questions to bear!  Will the poor finally bear the image of God?  And will the mountains finally bow down, the valleys finally stand up, and the crooked places finally straighten out?  For surely God has turned the economy upside down, just like he did using those beggars of old at the gates of Samaria.

I can only testify to what I have seen, what I have heard, and what I have done.  I am not lying about any of this.  That leaves only mistakes, misunderstandings, or the truth to be dealt with, and I have laid it all out there now to be picked over and examined.

I was being faithful when I answered the call.  Now I am being faithful with my accounting of it.

God have mercy on us all!

 

 

 

SPECIAL REQUEST FROM MRS. AGENT X

Here at the Fat Beggars Home for Widows, Orphans, and Sojourners, Mrs. Agent X is a PICU nurse working in the local hot zone of Lubbock, Texas.  At this point, Lubbock is not a hot spot like NYC, NOLA, or Detroit, but the expectation is ugly all the same, and we are getting coronavirus  cases here in Lubbock already.

Mrs. Agent X is taking extra precautions every time she leaves to and returns from work to avoid spreading infection here at home with the foster kid and/or the kid with the underlying respiratory issues.  However, as yet, she does not have an alternative place to stay.  She is exploring options, ranging from getting a motel room, sleeping in the car, or (as the local hospital just recently secured the Hope Lodge), but that, should the virus take us by storm, will not have enough rooms for all the medical staff.

Here is the request:

Does anyone in our vicinity have an RV we can set up at either our house or at one of her fellow nurse’s house where she might share it with a co-worker?

We don’t want to miss an opportunity for not asking.

We saw where a local doctor was donated the use of an RV by one of his neighbors featured on the local news yesterday, and that seems like a really great option IF one were available to us.

Please get with me if you can help or know someone who might.  Leave a comment here, and I will NOT publish it, but will contact you privately (unless you already know my number, in which you can call me).

THANX for your consideration and your prayers whether you can help with donations or not.

God bless…

 

X

CAVEMEN & ZOMBIES (THE NEW HUNTERS & GATHERERS)

We are becoming cavemen and zombies in my community.  Those who “do their part” and “are in it together” and are smart about it, STAY HOME as much as possible.  But even a caveman gotta eat.  So sooner or later, we all get zombified.  But right now, the zombies are made up mostly of stupid college kids on Spring Break or the homeless with no where to be.  Yet, we are in a melting pot now – like never before.

Is there a lesson for us in this?

(Seems like we are always learning some “lesson”…)

I recently read a blog post by a person who shared a “lesson” learned when giving to a bum on the street.  What was the lesson?

(Glad you asked.)

Some people who beg have standards.

That was the lesson.  (My wording, not the author’s.)  People who beg have standards.

Hey.  make of that what you want.  I verified this with the author to make sure I was getting this right.  Check your standards with the Bible, was the take away, as I understand it.

That was the lesson.

Okay…

Well, I certainly do my best to seek guidance for life from the Bible.  Anyone reading here long, surely knows that.  You may think I have a terrible misunderstanding of the Bible and the lessons it teaches, but you really can’t fault me for not going there.

What lessons are there in the Bible for us today, as our standards of living come crumbling down around us on all sides?

Well, I don’t know.  I struggle to see the lessons.  Maybe you can help me.

I have standards of good health, and I am learning to be a caveman just as fast as I can.  Civilization in reverse at hyper speed as a way of moving forward.  Ironic, to say the least.  But is that biblical?  Hear me out…

I have a high-fence backyard, and I take my kids out there to play most days for at least a couple of hours, but I have a child with “underlying” respiratory issues which are affected by pollen and dust blowing on the West Texas wind, whether a virus threatens the public or not.  So we don’t get out everyday.  In fact, I notice I might go as much as three days in a row without setting foot outside my door at all!

I am a caveman of the new millennium.

Woulda never guessed it.

I went to the grocery store a couple of days ago.  First time in more than two weeks.  The culture outside my house is changing too.  I saw people with gloves, with masks, signs promoting social distancing on doors and floors, plexiglass shields at cash registers, AND I saw many people NOT observing precautions too.

Biblical standards

God made humans to bear his image.  He made us male and female, naked, and vulnerable in order to do this, AND HELD JUDGMENT on it offering the verdict “It WAS VERY GOOD.”  How can we bear God’s image full of fear and wearing masks so that we can’t even see the friendly smile of our fellow humans?

Jesus goes to Golgotha where they strip him completely naked (you wouldn’t know this from looking at a Catholic crucifix), and where he lays down his life in love and forgiveness AND takes a bride (the church) in this coronation which has all the right elements, yet looks completely different to the dominion and rule bestowed on the first Adam and his wife (look at John 19:31-37 and consider the deep sleep and rib surgery as you LOOK at Jesus on the cross).  But then Jesus makes all things new, and he rules over New Creation in the Age of Resurrection, which we will celebrate as cavemen (rather than sheep flocked together) next Sunday while the zombies roam the streets.

But I digress.  

Back to the grocery store…

On aisle 9, I, the caveman of the new millennium, had to pass through a small crowd of five or six people clogging up the lane with their congregation.

Why???

Yeah.  I thought that too, as I passed through.

As I moved beyond, I turned back again to consider the zombies I just encountered, and I suddenly soaked it in finally.  This was a mother and her children.  After the last four decades of post-sexual revolution (and all the happiness left in its wake), it dawned on me that she is a single mama.  She can’t leave these kids at home or in the car.  They gotta all go TOGETHER as a group to the store spreading the infection.

Hey, a zombie gotta eat too!

And so does a caveman.  We are FORCED to mix it up, at least a little – or else die of other problems.

Our way of “life” is NOT what God created in the beginning, nor is it what he makes in the New Creation.  Our “way of life” was on artificial life support all along.  The Adam and his wife of Genesis were not made to “hunt and gather” whether in the hunting grounds or the supermarket.

Cavemen and zombies.  We are all busted down a notch – all of us, all over the world.  

“We are in this together” – another lesson the news media is trying to teach us.

We were always vulnerable, just didn’t know it.  Your ADT home security system isn’t equipped for this.  But I find that just as we glove up and mask up, we are more vulnerable with and to each other NOW than we ever realized.

Is there a “lesson” in this?

Let me hear from you.  What do you think?

 

In Pictures: Homeless amid the coronavirus pandemic | | Al Jazeera

There is another front line in this battle we are waging with coronavirus. It’s nurses and doctors, of course! It’s EMT’s, cops, firemen, jailers and all them. It’s pizza delivery drivers, UPS, Amazon workers, and grocery store checkers and baggers too. God bless them all! But there are those other unsung warriors… the homeless on the streets. And I personally want to thank THEM for the sheer TRUST in God they live with today.

Is it just me, or is the world insane?

Here is a link to an article about the homeless and the pandemic we’re all living through. I personally have had no choice but to put my hope and trust in the Lord knowing that the Lord gives and takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord! Yet, I would be a village idiot if I didn’t follow the basic hygiene protocols of everyday living in this place and time! I’ve been wanting to do more research about this topic globally, and shall get more information out for you in the near future. (Only implying that I’m the village idiot sometimes lol.) God bless you all and protect you and your families. ~ Peace

https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/inpictures/pictures-homeless-coronavirus-pandemic-200323081742572.html

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WISDOM OF THE AGED PRESERVED

I was sixteen years old in the 1980s, I am in my fifties now.  Fifty looked so far away when I was sixteen.  But then I was sixteen when it was fashionable to be stupid.  (I was fashionable.)  Fifty, back then, was so old.  But the older I get, ironically, the less old that seems.

There is a lot of factors that go into that.  I am not trying to analyze them here, but time, maturity, crisis, comfort, and other things all make this happen.

It turns out, I just learned last week, the United States suffered a deadly outbreak of the Spanish Flu in 1918, a disease that wiped out thousands in major cities across the country.  It turns out the cities with foresight enough to cancel big public celebrations (to reduce the crowds) managed a lot better than those who ignored such precautions.

Wow!  This is not our first time to learn these life lessons!

No one who survived that and learned those lessons are alive today.  In fact, my grandparents were born just after that, and so they had no personal memory of that epidemic.  But my grandparents all lived through the Great Depression and the second world war.  They spent sixteen enduring hardships of societal proportions and then spent their fifties shaking their heads at me when I was young.

Did I learn any of the wisdom they tried to preserve for me?  Today feels like a pop quiz I did not study for.

Very, precious few of my grandparents’ generation are left alive among us today, and sadly you would do them a disservice to run to their bedside or breakfast nook to ask for a refresher on the kinds of wisdom they have to offer.  Most of us, if you are like me, remember that they did talk; they did tell us, but their words in my brain jumble around like Charlie Brown’s teacher.  But if I could sit with Grandpa, Grandma, with Mammaw and Pappaw for a cup of coffee this morning, surely I would take much comfort in their words.

Well, their kids, to a large degree, are still with us.  They are the old ones now, but they also got the first run of all those lectures and speeches we might take comfort in today.  They spent most of their lives hearing the stories.  (Of course plenty of them resisted listening too, but perhaps some of it got through?)

I remember when I was young – very young – the TV show with John-Boy and The Waltons.  I thought it was the most boring thing on TV, and I saw an episode a few years ago and have yet to change my mind.  But if you are my age or older, you know what it means to say, “Good night, John-Boy.”  I realize now how that program was a comfort to the old ones watching TV when I was a kid.  A celebration of their youth and memories of good times – except they were hard times.

Ironic, I know.

This is that mystical part of actually being in my fifties which makes it seem not as old to me now as it did when I was sixteen.  I can see now that my grandparents were so young then.  They were getting their wisdom from people who had enjoyed the Roaring Twenties only to see it all come crashing down.  Those must have been some deeply sad and disturbed people.  I wonder if they spoke, in my grandparents ears, like Charlie Brown’s teacher does in mine.

Why am I writing this?

Good question.

I saw a picture going viral yesterday.   A photo taken by a local nurse who also is a photographer.  She chose to capture the image in black-n-white, and even though it is so thoroughly contemporary, it calls up the ghosts of yesteryear too.

Here, have a look:

Suddenly the life I live today, and so many of the concerns, anxieties, and fears yapping at my heals just now are captured in this picture which could almost jump off the page of an old newspaper or a history book, and could very well wind up in future history books!  Perhaps in the future, a professor will lecture on our times today and show this picture to a class of young people who only hear Charlie Brown’s teacher droning on and on and on.

For me, though, I can almost hear the teacher’s voice clearing up in my ears.  I see the wisdom of those who brought me into this life, and I can almost feel the comfort they provided when I thought they knew it all, which is ironic because at the time I thought I did.  But I was in community with the old ones, and that was everything!

In this post, I am hoping for your feedback.  Let me be in community with you and with the old ones you remember too.  Let us share what we can of their wisdom, and be a resource to one another.

What stories, what jokes and good humor, what proverbs and tidbits of wisdom, can you remember being passed down to you?  Share a bit of that with us here today.  Maybe I can attract a few readers who can help the teacher’s voice move from mumbles and jumbles (I should have been listening and attending to more carefully) to clear words of wisdom and comfort.  And maybe some of my readers here (your readers too, should you make offerings) can also find wisdom and comfort as we dig into those old experiences of the ones who shaped us.

(Total recall and perfect accuracy not required.)

I will offer some too, in the comments below.