SUPER POPS

“Why do you call me ‘Super’?  No one is Super Pops but God!”

Yeah.

You have heard it said….

As I sit here typing this post, I wear a tee-shirt (Christmas gift) that I did not choose for myself, but with a label on it made to look like a Superman S across the chest and the word “Pops” superimposed over it.  Sort of a superhero thingy.

(I have long thought about writing a post on superheroes.  I don’t like them, and I think about that too, but a token mention of it will suffice for this post.)

I certainly am not superhero, nor am I a particularly great parent.  I have my moments, but I am not consistently a great parent.  Not at all.  Yet I have taken this role in the live-action movie dramatizing my life – my life where I dramatize Jesus in me for the world to see.  But of course, there’s a reason Hollywood doesn’t come calling; I’m not that great of a hypocrite either!)  Still, I wear the shirt.  Little people answer to me.  But, what if….?

Here at the Fat Beggars Home for Widows, Orphans, and Sojourners, our work, for the last six years, has focused entirely on the Orphans.  We take the kids “nobody wants” – so to speak.  (That statement is far more complicated than it sounds.)

We sure gott’m too.

The house is full of babies.  Mrs. Agent X is a baby nurse, and so she manages to get us the young’uns.  We had a couple of bigger kids pass through here, but by far, getting them young gives us a head start on the healing.  We set the trajectory for hope, healing, and happiness practically from birth.  It’s definitely an advantage, and I am grateful for that.

We aim at hope and healing… but…

But it’s no guarantee.

No child, not even born of your own loins, comes with guarantees.  I often think of Steve Martin, in the 1989 movie, Parenthood, day-maring (is that a word?) with worry that his child will grow up to climb a belltower and start shooting innocent people.   It was funny and identifiable because of how common such a worry is.

But when God chooses a broken person like me wear a “Super Pops” shirt and care for such broken people as my kids, it feels almost certain that he isn’t aiming at the kind of “success” they put in the brochures down at the graduation banquet, the real estate office, or on the “life coach” website.

Oh, no.  The state of Texas promises to pay for my kids’ college, but it remains to be seen if we will advance from first grade to second.  (Now, between sounding pessimistic and cynical, I notice that it feels like the State of Texas (with their think tanks, graduate students, and social worker surveys) are banking that I will pay the tab on diapers, food, and toys for 18 years, and then my kids won’t bother signing up for college!)

I’m torn between being worried about “success” or “failure” and trusting God and his people to lay down our lives for these kids and love them come-what-may.  You know… ordering our lives and our world in such a way to accommodate the damage done in utero.  Yeah, they were born addicted.

I’m not gonna lie.

I’m a mess.  They are a mess.  WE… ARE … A … MESS!

Just this morning, I greeted a crying baby whose diaper told me we had reached the credit limit on what it could take.  Just yesterday, my four-year-old, who should have been potty trained in two days, two years ago, blew through the credit in a pair of pants, shirt, and chair in our living room, and shows no sign of understanding how to get square with the house next time.  And while I hear plenty of tape recordings of my own words played back to me, I am shocked at some of the cruel things I hear coming out of little mouths which I never heard uttered in this house from any other.

Did I mention that I’m a mess?

Yeah, and outnumbered too.

Am I not reading enough parenting books?  Should I be in more support groups?  Do my kids need more medications?  Was I supposed to get a Ph.D in foster adoption before I made the commitment?

Or is faith and living for God a whole other category?

Suddenly, I sound like those people peddling their “effective charity” while declaring we give a “hand up, not a handout” while seeking the “best practices” of “practitioners in the field.”  Otherwise, the homeless children we have just homed will become homeless after we feed them a fish for 18 years.

And you know what just kicks me in the jimmy?

The fact that posting this will sooner cause a reader to start applying those principles to foster care than the love of God.  (I know!  I just made all that BS sound so smart.  Some of the best writing I ever produced right there in the paragraph above!)

Did I mention cynical?

Yeah.  This much I know from experience: When you give your life to Jesus, it’s no longer yours.

This much I know by faith: That other approach with all its grand worldly wisdom brought you government gridlock in Washington, failed schools, and mass shootings despite all the best professionals in the world working on it with their think tanks, graduate studies, and preachers kissing imperial booty and never achieved love.

No one ever mentions it (seriously, if you find where someone did, please point it out to me), but when Jesus addresses those boys sitting outside Herod’s temple and pointing out all the grand stonework with a patriotic tear in the eye and a puffed-out chest with pride, and Jesus responds saying “not one stone will be left atop another,” he looks and sounds, for all the world, like sour grapes.  And when you add to that the crucifixion scene where the leaders among the people mock him for not saving himself, he looks like that much more of a loser with a bad attitude.

Yeah.  If you really think about it, Jesus is everything you hate in a loser.  That’s pretty much why you crucified him.

So… I know my redeemer lives!  It’s the only choice I have left to me that makes any sense of the data.  The results do not appear to be in yet, but it is the only outcome left possible, despite the appearance of impossibility.  Even Sherlock would have to agree.

So, I am gonna love my kids for all I am worth as if they were Jesus in disguise.

(Now… if that can be the case, perhaps I need to give the rest of God’s people another chance too.)

RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES

Man, the older I get, the more I sound like my conservative parents and grandparents! (But the less and less I sound like contemporary conservatives.) My grandparent’s generation was the one that Made America Great Originally (MAGO). And I find so much disconnect today between my life as a youth and my world as a mature person, between “Christianity” as I have experienced it and what I read about in the Bible, and between rights and responsibilities (which used to be coupled together).

I’d like to blame Baby Boomers. And I figure there’s a lot of blame that would stick! But I doubt very much that blame will help, and demonizing others is a big part of the problem. I think in today’s socio/political atmosphere, it’s more important to demonize than it is to be right or even Right.

If there is a label or a world order for which I hope to sacrifice my life, let it be “Christian.” Let it be “King Jesus.” I will be sad to sacrifice the “way of life” I grew up with – the one I take comfort in, but apparently the rot was in it too. And while it is so easy, as a modern, American, conservative “Christian” to champion “family values” (and though I see “family values” as important), I think that misses the mark too.

I used to hear my folx talk about rights in conjunction with responsibility. It’s not enough to simply have rights and freedom. Without some sort of focus and restraint, that just means entitlement and chaos. But the Americans invented “the rule of law” by which to sort it out.

Ahhh… the Constitution of the United States.

Yes. It was all so logical, so liberating. It provided for self-rule (after a fashion), though in practice it never came close, really, to what that sounds like. But there was a pull-together mentality that came with it (based largely, I think, on “family values”), that tempered any illogic or overly selfish ambition. So, somehow, it sorta worked.

We appealed to the Constitution to settle differences. It’s a document made up by men. Rules made up by and voted into place by men. White men who owned property, but who said that all men were created equal. (Already, there was illogic being covered over, but there was chaos being contained too.)

I think now about how as a child in the 1970s, I could watch married people depicted on TV as sleeping in separate beds. The language was clean, the humor was clean, but they often (if not usually) smoked cigarettes too. We drove around with seatbelts in the car, but never (I mean NEVER) buckled them. All of this seemed so natural to me! I was like five or ten.

One exception though.

Even though my grandpa smoked, my dad hated the smell of it.

The smell of it.

He would complain bitterly about it, especially when we went out to eat.

Those of you younger than me will not remember, but in those times, some restaurants split their dining rooms into separate but unequal sections: Smoking and Non-smoking. (Ha! I came along after racial segregation, but I expect smoking sections were an easy transition for restaurants to make after that.)

Some restaurants didn’t provide a non-smoking section at all, but of those that did, they invariably put the non-smokers between the checkout register and the smoking section, meaning non-smokers were guaranteed to catch the smoke on the draft, even if it wasn’t blown in your face. And, boy! Dad would not that all the time. It would give him a headache, he would say.

For years, I thought my family was the only one that cared or noticed. My mom’s mother felt similarly to my dad. But this did not appear to be a national gripe. I’m sure there were others, but we were definitely a minority until the 1990s.

What changed?

Hmmm…

I recall a discussion of this in some of my sociology courses in college. It seems that once it was determined that people could become sick from the “second-hand smoke,” the anti-smoking movement finally got traction in the legislatures, councils, and courts. As far as I could tell, no one really cared if you smoked in your own car, your own home, or even outdoors, but pretty soon, ashtrays were moved the entrance/exit of nearly every establishment open to the public (except bars).

Surely smokers had rights! In fact, if you listen closely even today, there are smokers around in the minority (things have flipped completely the other way round now) who complain that their rights as smokers are all but stripped away. These days, employers are apt not to hire you, renters won’t rent to you, and insurance companies won’t ensure you if you smoke.

The smoking thing got traction over “second-hand smoke” which could make non-smokers sick, but it became a financial savings to the system to crack down on smoking from more angles than just “second-hand smoke.” In fact, I don’t hear anyone talk about “second-hand smoke” these days and haven’t for a very long time. Even more, I must say that for the vast majority of non-smokers, it takes prolonged and sustained exposure to second-hand smoke before you are likely to get sick.

Hmmm…

You still breathe the air on the freeway! You still run a gas-powered lawn mower. You cook your s’mores on a campfire! And just yesterday, I heard a report on TV about the air pollution in my home that comes from my gas-powered stove! So, just because I haven’t been exposed to a lit cigarette in almost two years doesn’t save me from second-hand smoke by other means at all!

But, by God! Those smokers are all but extinguished!

They still technically have their rights, but they are forced to face their responsibilities to the rest of us for exhaling their fumes across a crowded restaurant.

And, I am thankful for it.

Hmmm…

We got here adhering to the Constitution of the United States too. Ain’t that somethin?

Yeah, and my freedom to drive a car without wearing a seatbelt has been taken away too.

And I remember as a teenager when that one came down the pike how much my family, friends, and I grumbled about it.

In fact, I lived in Colorado when it came to our state (one of the later states to adopt seatbelt laws), and I lived near the state line with New Mexico which adopted the laws at least a year (it seems) before we did. Whenever we made a trip into New Mexico, there was the sign on the roadside warning us to buckle up or get a ticket. So, we grumbled and dutifully buckled up. But upon reentering Colorado on the return trip, we exercised our rights and freedoms to unbuckle!

Supposedly, that law came about from the insurance lobby. Americans were largely forced into giving up that freedom due to the financial cost associated with it – despite the lifesaving/preserving measure it entailed.

We are stupid like that.

The Declaration of Independence is not the same document as the Constitution, but the two go together in spirit. They support one another rather than cancel each other culturally or otherwise. Right?

Yeah. Except that the Declaration declares we have an unalienable right to life. Yet somehow, we look into the Constitution and find it acceptable to kill enemies in war, prisoners condemned by the courts, and … and … and … the most innocent of all… the unborn babies.

Nothing illogical in that.

There is logic in it too – to a point. Lives are saved by the taking of lives. It happens. And anyway, you have a second amendment right to keep a gun, and that is for taking lives.

Pardon me, but if that makes all perfect logical sense to you, keep in mind it doesn’t for someone else.

Rights and responsibilities.

We used to talk about these ideas when I was young. Perhaps we talked about it while exhaling our fumes over a table in a restaurant designated such that we shouldn’t. But we did. And we thought we were making sense.

Somehow, we used to pull together one way or the other more so than we do now.

But I have come to see that appealing to the Constitution and trying to claim a “rule of law” is always, always, always subject to bias, selfishness, and was always at least a little dishonest at best. So, I point you to Jesus, the Jesus of the Bible – specifically.

I am fully aware that the Bible is subject to interpretation too (at least in the meantime before The Age to Come). Some methods of interpretation are better than others, and I strongly believe that too, but these days just a simple appeal to Scripture in any way, shape, or form seems a bridge too far for most. I lament that.

I come from a faith heritage that, though born in Scotland, came to America immediately, largely because of the influence the Americans had on the world. Thomas and Alexander Campbell found the “rule of law” all so “logical” and appealing and sought to apply Constitutional appeal to the New Testament itself, believing that would put the world to rights.

It was sort of a blending of Con law with a Field of Dreams mentality and stirred into a religious faith context. They thought, much like “if you build it, they will come,” that if you treat the New Testament like a US Constitution, you will reestablish the true church and God will come. They worked out the approach, which seemed so logical at the time, and brought it to America where it quickly became one of the fastest growing revival movements briefly. (In fact, one of those early evangelists broke with our movement and joined Joseph Smith in that other uniquely American expression of “Christain” faith, the Mormons, who bear many of the same striking features as the churches of my youth.)

So, it looks like we are back where we started. Following the Constitution is fraught with illogic and dishonesty when you really think about it. Appealing to the Bible seems hardly any better, and in fact, if you study the thinking of people like Thomas Jefferson who specifically set out to separate church from state, you learn that they too were trying to remedy problems that arose from all the “Christians” trying to order the world.

But there is one more part to that which, even if tried, has not been exhausted.

Love.

Christian love.

It is a responsibility of Christians to share their Christian love. A love that puts rights aside, takes up a cross and follows Jesus.

We really need to talk about THAT.

WRITING ABOUT WRITING

Like a lot of people who publish blogs, I count myself as one of those compelled to write.  I’ve been at it a long ol’ time too.  Writing is one of my preferred ways of communicating and of developing my thoughts.  I became serious about it as a teenager, though I am not a published (except for my own blogs and underground (guerrilla) publications).  I don’t claim to be a GOOD writer; I claim only to be a writer.

My first college degree was writing intensive, and that is where I learned (to the degree I did learn) to write meaningfully and with excellence.  I spent a lot of time with the tutor on most assignments, and it paid off.

However, since then, my writing has either been largely FOR myself or for readers who couldn’t care less about excellence as long as the point was something they were interested in, which was always Jesus and the homeless mostly.  At that level, as long as the idea is generally conveyed, who cares about spelling, syntax, correct punctuation?

But I have spent the last year and a half to two years writing a book in my quiet moments.  I spent a solid year before that researching it, so… so I want to step up my game on the excellence.  I am rusty.

So, I have sought help.  Free help.  Help from readers here familiar with my writing on the blog.  And wow!  I got some.  I am very grateful for it.

My favorite prof in school was an old guy known for being a stickler about everything.  He was a Bible prof, but he would tell us, “Don’t be afraid to kill your babies.”  That was particularly jarring to hear from the Bible professor.  But, of course, he was speaking metaphorically about the ideas and words we get attached to sometimes that, in the final analysis, don’t help a paper.  You gotta learn to let go of those things.

He also regularly refrained, “Nothing written isn’t better rewritten.”  (Kinda a double negative thingy, but it makes the point.  Just because you think you are done doesn’t mean you should quit yet.)

When, though, did writing get to be so important to me?

That’s a good question.  (More for me than anyone else, but hey… if you are still reading….)

I remember once hearing my mother in conversation with another lady describing how she thought my sister was a writer.

That’s funny since all these years later, as far as I know, my sister doesn’t write her own name hardly.  I write every day practically.  I write stream of consciousness style, even meanderingly.  I write every word in effort to capture it all on paper, though in the editing it quickly becomes clear how much overkill that usually proves.

I will let that whole paragraph demonstrate the point as I get back to the real point.

So, Mom thought my sister was the writer, and that tickled me into writing, it seems.  But not right away.  It was a notion that simmered a long time, and I never spoke of it until just now.

In high school, I took an aptitude test for the guidance counselor.  It turns out I am a terrible test taker of many kinds of tests, and this one came with bunch of survey questions about my interests as well as my abilities.  When I stipulated that I wanted to make a crapton of money without working at it much, the one, single, solitary option it computed for me was … drumroll please… writing.

That was sorta a stupid exercise in stupidity, really – except for the fact that professionals having the responsibility of educating me put me through it.

But there was this one anomaly experience to everything I have said so far – well almost everything.

I became a writer for my high school paper my senior year.

You wouldn’t know it now, based on the intense, severe lack of interest and readership on this blog, but I was extremely popular as a writer for my school paper.  I don’t overstate it when I say I pretty much single-handedly “saved” the whole paper.

(Okay, technically the paper was not in danger of extinction, but it was treated with overt contempt for years before I started writing there, and once I did, both the paper and I became popular.)

Yeah.  We started getting letters to the editor requesting more of my stories!

I really SHOULD have gone to New York City and sought a job on SNL, because the stuff I wrote was just not the news.  Not even close.  There is a whole story behind that which I am itching to write about now, but it goes so far astray even for me that I will just let it go this time.  However, there is one more bit to it that I will indulge.  I indulge it just to hammer home the point that I was popular and somehow “saved” that paper.

It was three years after high school, upon returning home one day and finding myself in a checkout line at the local grocery store that a young lady behind me stepped out of line to ask if I was [Agent X], which I affirmed.  She then introduced herself and thanked me saying she had been a freshman the year I was a senior and wrote for the school paper, that I had inspired her to write, and that currently she was a senior and the editor!

Wow!

Lemme tell ya.  I mention that now because I NEVER experienced anything like that again.  Not with my writing, at least.

But even after that, I didn’t really write for another year.  It was a year after high school, after all my friends had gone separate ways, that I began keeping personal journals, books where I could work out my thoughts on things.  None of it ever published, of course, but I wrote excessively like that for years.

So, yeah.  I am a writer.

I should be more of a reader.  Reading makes writers, as I understand it.  But funny thing is, I just don’t read that much.  Well, I did read a LOT of theology books in school and for years after.  I mean a crapton!  But funny thing is that especially fiction just bogs me down.  And the fancier the prose, the harder it is for me to read.

I really wanted to read Sophie’s Choice.  One of my favorite psalms is 88, and Styron features 88 in his terrible story, as I understand it, most poignantly.  I have read a few novels, okay, but this one is written in a way you gotta work to read.  And the bit about psalm 88 is not captured in the movie version!  You really gotta read the book!  And I tried a few times.  But I just can’t keep up the reading steam to do it.

But I notice that Walter Brueggemann describes Styron’s handling of 88 in his scholarly theological books, making me want to read it.  Still, I just bog down in fiction most of the time, and this one was harder than most.

Then I recently saw on Netflix a documentary about Joan Didion.  I never read her work, and it took me a few minutes to appreciate what I was watching.  That documentary is really all I know about her, and so between getting my information from a single source and my lack of academic interest, I may have some of her story completely botched, but I felt both liberated and intimidated as a writer by her story.

To mention her name along with my own is, of course, shameless.  I may as well lump myself in there with Shakespeare while I am at it!  But she described herself as a young writer going to work for a magazine with a tough editor (I don’t recall the name), and the experience forced her to write fast and write well.  She rose to the challenge.

She married another writer, and they edited each other’s work.  I gotta say, I envy that!

But she was eccentric too, and the documentary claimed that when she was working on a piece that seemed to get stuck, she would literally put it in the freezer and leave it on ice until she was ready to attend to it again.

They claimed she had, not only the skill to write, but an eye for the story.  She could look at a subject and find the story in it no one else was finding.

I don’t mind saying, I felt something akin to THAT PART.  And I felt free to get eccentric (though I don’t feel compelled to freeze anything).

So, there’s that.

At any rate, I said all of that so I could say that I am working on my own book.  Slowly, but surely.  A few readers here on the blog have looked at it now in it’s current draft, and a couple have given me some very valuable feedback, and almost all of them have given me even more valuable encouragement.

Some readers here surely have an understanding that I write here regularly distracted by children at my knees.  We have five adopted/foster kids in this house, the oldest one being five years old.  If you think I get quiet time to write… ha!  Only late at night when I am dog tired.  So, there’s that in the mix too.

I am at a point now where I will likely step back from the blog for a bit again as I devote myself to that other work, which I am very excited about and which I want to share with the world soon.  I especially hope that I can get readership among the homeless and church leaders.  I expect that if I can get a hearing, I will open new kinds of thoughts and attitudes which surely will change a lot of behaviors too – for the better.  And I really, really want to do that.

If you are still reading this far, I invite your prayers on it.

Also, thanx for reading.

RECALCULATING “WIND CHILL” – THE “FEELS LIKE…” TEMP

You have heard it said, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas,” but I tell you, that is a highly subjective statement.  If you ask me, it’s finally beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Lubbock, Texas almost a month late, but no one says that.

Feel me?

Yeah.  It’s cold by nearly everyone’s standard – everyone around here anyway.  If I find a lost Alaskan, I might get a different opinion, but most of the locals around here are really complaining today.  The news girl and the weather girl engage in endless chit-chat about it, and the weather report is filled with banter about “wind chill” and what it “feels like out there.”

Last evening, in advance of the deep freeze, the weatherman told us to be sure and bring in potted plants, pets, and turn off automatic sprinkler systems.  He didn’t mention bringing in the homeless.

Hmmm…

Lubbock is a “Christian” town too.  We are about as “Christian” as it gets.  But human beings didn’t make the to do list ahead of the cold.

I am blown away by all the expense and chit-chat and pointless energy devoted to calculating “wind chill” where some clown with airtime dares to tell me what it “feels like” when the wind blows.  And she picks a single number to settle on, broadcasts it to the whole community, and I think to myself it’s got to “feel” different to everyone!

Ever reset the thermostat at the office, church, or even home?

Every time, one person is too cold while someone else is too hot.  You can always put more on, but around the office we reach a point where there’s only so much you can take off!  (Does this debate sound familiar to any of you “Christians” reading here?)

And the broadcaster tells this to people who mostly spend only ten minutes total all day long in the wind chill!  Seriously, just how much do you suffer between the door of the house and the car, between the car and the office door?  Especially if you have a coat on???

I suggest we recalculate wind chill.

I don’t deny there is a phenom there; I get it.  When the ambient temp drops, a breeze makes it feel cooler, a gust of strong wind compounds it.  But you can’t calculate the temp it “feels like” to me alone, and if you did, it wouldn’t be the correct calculation of the rest of the people in my office!

But the fact it’s cold, the fact that you know it’s cold, the fact that you know it’s colder than usual and causes extra suffering all coupled to the theory that you are “Christian” suggests that we calculate (based on these data points) that it’s time to bring in the homeless too.

Love warms cold people.

 

CANNOT REPAY

This old world is a hard place.  In this old world it seems everyone has some angle, some scheme, some leverage.  At least the wise do anyway, because you gotta have an edge to keep yourself alive. 

“Nothing’s free,” we say.  “No free rides.”  Even “freedom isn’t free.”  You gotta “pay your dues.”  You gotta “pay the piper.”  

Hey!  I’ve got a shocker for ya.

That’s not the way this old world works; in fact, it’s the way this old world doesn’t work.  

We would sure do well if the people of God, at least, would figure this out.  We need to get off the “teach a man to fish” bandwagon or the “give a hand up, not a handout” bandwagon.  

The world works, or at least it did work before selfish people got ahold of it, quite differently. 

We are our brother’s keepers.  We give to all who ask.  Jesus pays the price we cannot pay to have life in the Age to Come!  It’s what Jubilee is all about.  And if we want to represent Jesus in any meaningful way, we had better get this straight.

God made this world to be his free gift of love for you and all his creatures.  A FREE GIFT!

Let me say that again just as clearly as I can so you don’t miss it.

A FREE GIFT!!!

Did I say that loudly and clearly enough to cut through your nonsense yet?  You have too much perverted love (a twist on love really, since it surely soils that good word) for darkness – not light, for your own pride – your strategies, your manipulations, your achievements.  You want to remake the poor in your image rather than be remade in God’s.  You would rather trust in your own righteousness – your financial righteousness which holds you in your fine house on the nice side of town, your fancy car, that designer suit and bag and shoes…. and on and on it goes.

You throw a few dollars at the 501c3 that employs professionals who assure you that they won’t spend your money on booze for the poor.  You buy that latte at the coffee shop that shoots fifty cents each time to the same charitable organization, but you can’t be bothered to listen – really listen – to Jesus who created this world to be a FREE GIFT in which you and all God’s creatures celebrate God’s love, his real love, that pays the price of your admittance.

Yes.

Go look at Luke 14:12-14 carefully.

Jesus wants you to do your celebrating by inviting those who CANNOT REPAY you the favor.

You can’t show off that fancy new bag you got last week at this party.  No one there cares!  Not if you invite the people who cannot repay you the favor.

No.  

The people who cannot repay the favor are stunned they got invited to your party at all.  

Do you know how long it’s been since the poor, the broken, the lost and needy have been invited to your party?  It’s been forever!  But God says those are the ones he wants you to invite.  He says for you to exclude all your rich family and friends and invite those who cannot repay you the favor.  

That means it’s just you and the poor.

(And Jesus – as per Matt. 25:31-46)

Wow!  

Did you ever study on this in Bible class before?  Did you ever meditate on it?  Even for a moment?

What do you think it’s like to be in that scenario?

If you are the poor, you suddenly got a really good gig!  This is a real shock to your poor system.  This party does not (ostensibly) make you into a sober, job-trained, anger-managed, respectable applicant or financially independent taxpayer.  It merely makes you valued in that deeply interpersonal sense that says more spiritually about God and the world he makes than it does in making you a good brickmaker in Pharaoh’s brickyard.

If you are the rich, you suddenly got all these needy friends who change your values about everything.  Rather than trying to make everything “just right” so you can impress important people and leverage them for your own gain, you find such burdens automatically eliminated.  You get in touch with a whole other kind of value system, and you discover great strength and power in yourself originating in another world.

Hmmm…

This simple passage of Scripture appears to prepare both you and the poor for a Rule of God in the Age to Come, in the New Creation – things this old world cannot cope with or even imagine.

And THAT sounds like being on the right track.

ABBA AS PAPA BEAR

It was only a few months after his birth when I published about my baby boy crying Abba.  Our boy is adopted, and I knew when we took him from birth that he would grow up not knowing his “real” parents – not really.  I also knew we would not keep them from him or him from them (though I will do my best to manage their interaction while he is young!).  And this means I have a story to tell him.

You can see the earlier post from years ago here:

Homeless Boy Crying Abba

If you are doing the math, he is going on six now.  That means we have already begun telling him of his adoption.

It’s easy to tell an infant he is adopted; he doesn’t ask questions or seem phased in the slightest then.  As he has aged, four years and five, I could use that word adoption on a few occasions and tell him he is adopted, but he didn’t have much appreciation for the meaning of the word.

Oh… I asked if he knew what I was saying, and he answered, “Yes.”  But there were no questions.  No signs that he did in fact understand.

Then Christmas came a month ago, and for the first time in four years, I think, his biological mother reached out to inquire about him.  Mrs. Agent X, of course, told me she had called.  It didn’t develop into a visit (something that could happen at her request given proper notice).  But this conversation between Mrs. Agent X and I unfolded in front of the boy.  I could see a quizzical look on his face.

I took a moment to refresh our understanding of the word “adoption” and told him he has a “biological mama” who was asking about him.

I could see it immediately. 

In those brief words, I had created a very important shadowy figure in his mind.  It was the figure that I knew years ago would come haunting.  Suddenly, I remembered the old blog post and the unsettling feelings and ideas that prompted me to pray and to write.  Today, I am glad I prayed and wrote.  I need to fall back on that.

So, yeah.  It’s a change of gears between mother and father here, but except for the feminization of this concept, the rest stays close enough to the same.  His biological mother called.  He was curious, and suddenly I filled up that word “adoption” with a new idea: He has another Mama out there somewhere.

You can bet the selfish part of me is jealous. 

This shadowy figure who has spent less than six whole hours out of his almost six-year life with him gets a very special place in his heart and soul just for the mere mention of her existence.  I, on the other hand, have been there for every meal, every birthday, every prayer, every skinned knee, every diaper change, every… every… every….  And when he is frustrated with me, he insults me, but her?  Her??  Her???

I kept my remarks short, as you can imagine.  I don’t recall the exact words now, but I think it was about three sentences total, and then I stopped to ask, “Do you understand?”

He nodded.

I said, “If you have questions, you can always ask.  I will do my best to explain.”

Yeah.  I will.  But I will work even harder at not insulting or even criticizing his “biological” mother at all.  She “needed help” due to some “difficult life circumstance.”  (Which is true.)  This followed by, “Does that make sense?”  To which he again nodded, and I was happy to quit.

And then three days later, THREE DAYS, like Jesus dead in the grave, three days later, he asks about his “other mama” again.

Hmmm…

A shadowy figure resurrected.

And I did say I would do my best to answer his questions.

Yes.  I did.

It’s been a little over two weeks now that I ponder and wonder.  Are there some Bible story lessons I could teach which would paint a parallel picture or shed light on what we have going on here?  Stories appropriate for kids of four, five, and six years?  Is there a children’s book?

It’s easy to shift into denial.  I don’t struggle with these thoughts every day.  Some days I just forget altogether, but then when I remember, I feel a kick in the gut.  I know that shadowy figure grows in meaning, and her name is “Mama” and there is a “Pops” out there too.

But then this weekend, a sudden blessing I hadn’t thought about.  Just a small thing, but potent still.

It’s been more than two years since I found on the streaming service an old movie from 1988 called simply The Bear.  I saw it when I was young, and my kids watched it two years ago, but none of us thought about it again until this weekend when I saw it as I scrolled the options.

The bear is a cub, orphaned in the opening scene, and left to the wild to flounder.  My kids complained not wanting to watch until the mother dies, then the room got quiet.  The cub wanders away aimlessly and getting into danger when soon he happens upon a full-grown Kodiak bear he wants to befriend.  The Kodiak at first wants nothing to do with him, but my kids are catching on fast!  This baby cub needs a new papa since his mama is gone!

Oh Wow!

I will take that!

Thank You, Jesus!!!

The boy has another Abba.  Not me.  I am jealous of this shadowy figure whose responsibility I now shoulder, whose kid I know love as if he were MINE.  And I FEEL that word “MINE.”

But, really, the boy is given to Abba, not me.  And I don’t want to make him jealous of me.  But I am glad to serve him, and to lean on him for his providence.  “I see the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for sacrifice?”

Funny how the Abbas all see it too.

Here at the Fat Beggars Home for Widows, Orphans, and Sojourners, we wage war for souls.  God has not forgot us.

Thanx for reading.

Thanx for caring.

Thanx for your prayers.

BETWEEN ROX AND HARD PLACES

Wedging myself between Republican’ts and Demoncrats (where angels fear to tread), I just want to throw in the towel now on Democracy and cast my vote for Jesus as King.

Yeah.

I know this is going to make me dumber than those people who anti-vax/mandate people (take a deep breath and try to say it all at once), you know… those people who believe in getting vaccinated, but who think mandating it is a problem.

Yeah.  That exasperatingly stupid position.

Yeah.  Try and have that opinion without being ripped apart with schizophrenia.

Oh.  Did I just needlessly offend a whole other bunch?

Well, you gotta read here before you can be offended, so…

Is anyone still there?

Didn’t think so.

So, anyway, you people… yeah you… quit trying to hold together tectonic plates and things which don’t belong.  Quit trying to join together what God would not.

Yeah.  I don’t think having it both ways is working.  Not at any level.  Democracy isn’t working.  And that just sounds HUGE!

But honestly, if the Republican’ts really get away with stealing future elections by claiming the one they lost fairly was stolen, then I suddenly can’t trust the next one.  If the Demoncrats really are able to establish fair rules to ensure future elections are fair, how can anyone look at their work with a straight face and honestly call it unbiased?  And if it has any bias at all, how can it be fair?

Besides, roughly half the nation would vote against ANYTHING up for a vote anyway.  Seriously, even if we do it peacefully, nearly half the nation is automatically LOSERS for your trouble whether rational and fair or not.

Who the F… put this together and called it good?

Democracy is “an experiment.”  When I was a kid, we actually called it that proudly.  But we have reached a point where it has proven to fail.

Democracy was an invention of humans too.  (So was money, by the way.)  God created the world in six days, and neither Democracy nor a solitary dollar, dime, or penny was ever created in any of that time.  But within these latter “creations” seethes a Legion of demons.

And it occurs to me that you can’t really have Democracy and Monarchy at the same time either.

Well, DUH!

That is exactly why Thomas Jefferson set out to designate a “separation of church and state” from that latter beginning.  Turns out if you kick God out, the place fills up with demons who just take over everything you hold dear as fast as they can, and you just stand there bewildered and dumbstruck between rox and hard places.

If you can find a voting booth with Jesus on the ballot, vote for Jesus!  Otherwise, the election is rigged!

O BLOG THAT WILL NOT LET ME GO

A Model of Abundance

My post today is not about George Matheson or his hauntingly beautiful song, but somehow his song harmonizes and echoes off my experience of reading the blog linked below.

https://www.plough.com/en/topics/faith/discipleship/what-did-the-early-church-say-about-economic-justice?utm_source=Plough+-+English&utm_campaign=519e8386b9-Dig_Image_Test_2021-12-14&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_4cbb94afa4-519e8386b9-296385953

My education focused on biblical text.  I still have only marginal interest in church history.  Not that I mean to belittle church history at all, but I am always leery of answers (and their questions) which church history provides which might better have been found in the Bible itself.  Knowing the difference can be tricky, I think, and I err on the side of God’s Word.

I only mention that to explain my limitations, for if I sensed that I had the time and energy to study both, I would.  That surely would put me in a better position to know which questions and answers are appropriate and which are not.

The Bible, of course, tells us that God is love (I John 4).  Sit with that.  God IS love.

I don’t mean to take us down the exegetical road of Bible study here, for there are all manner of doors to open, stones to turn over, and scenic overlooks to stop and ponder which I cannot exhaust, and this post is too short for exploring.  But from this passage, we can quickly and exhaustively begin to imagine all the possibilities that LOVE can be, and to know we fall short of estimating it fully!  And THEN we can add to that evaluation the notion that this mysterious and marvelous insight opens us to God himself most personally.

Suddenly, we are on Holy Ground.

Take off your shoes here!

(Now, at the risk of soiling the moment with the profane, I echo another song, but this one is no church hymn, and not a praise and worship song of any sort, but rather a pop song, a song which doesn’t entirely make sense, a song that lays out a troubled worldview, but a song which somehow embraces mystery, humility, and love.  I am thinking of Tremble For My Beloved by Collective Soul.)

Let us tremble with our shoes off!

I hope, if you are still reading here, you get a sense of reverence.  Please understand that I do.  Right here, I have reverence that passes understanding, and I invite you here to consider with me the LOVE of God.

Back to the Bible:

I have long noted that Jesus answers the rich man’s inquiry about eternal life by instructing him that he lacks something, and that he needs to sell all he owns, give it to the poor, count his blessings in heaven, and come follow.  I have long coupled that teaching for that particular man (a teaching American Christians find easy to marginalize) with the church praxis we find exhibited in Jerusalem in Acts 2 and 4.

Couple all of that with the biblical vocation (a calling) to bear God’s image (to bear the image of inexhaustible love) in the world for lowly, lost, sinners and needy people.  All of this I find IN THE BIBLE.  Not so much in Bible class, but in the Bible.  And yet, my own Christian imagination has remained stunted, needlessly constrained.  Probably because of too much Bible class!

It turns out the initials for Bible study echo all too poetically with that other profanity we sometimes reduce to BS!

And then I find HAT, a fellow blogger, linking me to a bit of church history in the link above, where I read the things my ancestral brothers in Christ have to say about their wealth.

I confess I am frustrated too.  I find I am neither a part of the church depicted in Jerusalem or that of church history, but something new.  The American Church that gets together for BS where we quietly presume Jesus’s instruction to the rich man (Mark 10, by the way) is all well and good for him, but not for me.  Where the example of the church in Jerusalem is all well and good for them, but not us.  A class where the words of our church history forefathers go completely ignored, and where we frequently note that Abraham was rich, yet God did not fault him for it.

I am frustrated by that.  I see that the “health -n- wealth gospel” stretches out on a long spectrum well past the gaudy hair and makeup of those freaks on TV and engulfs us “main line” Christians too.

But I don’t want to be stuck here in frustration.  I want to tremble for my Beloved (a play on Collective Soul, but more than that too).  I am gripped by a LOVE that will not let me go, a love demonstrated on a blog I recently found.  I invite you to take off your shoes, step on this ground with me, and tremble yourself.

SHE WAS (STILL)* BREATHING WHEN I LEFT: SERIAL KILLERS TALK CHOP SHOP

I confessed my crime on this very blog years ago, yet it still goes unpunished.

Remarkable.  Don’t you think?

Get away with murder even after confessing?  It’s the perfect crime.

I must be a sociopath too, because I don’t feel bad about it.  In fact, I come nearer feeling bad for not feeling bad.  (Fact check: The older I get, the more I feel bad about it.)

I watch enough movies and true crime programs with my wife to know the rule.  “Sereal killers keep ‘trophies’ of their crimes.”

Yeah.  It’s apparently in the Murderer’s Handbook.  They know this because of all the serial killers they caught.  So, if you ask me, they should change the name to Handbook for Killers Who Eventually Get Caught, because the ones they don’t catch are the truly evil ones.  (Wouldn’t you agree, Agent Starling?)  “Trophies” are how they caught Dahmer.  He was keeping bodies and body parts as “trophies” and… and… and as dinner.

(As I heard it, when law enforcement raided his home, they found a stew pot of penises boiling on the stove – some trophy!)

He should have done more like other famous serial killers and just kept IDs, jewelry, and shoes.  A lot less baggage, a lot less disturbing smell.  I mean, eating the evidence is a good way of covering your trax, but keeping rotting corpses next to the bed will eventually give you away every time – especially in an apartment building.

As for my story, it was my first kill, which (according to the handbook) means I was “learning” and probably made the most mistakes.  It means, if they can pin this one on me, others will likely come to light.

Right?

Yeah.  They never caught Zodiac either, and that crazy braggart tempted fate with letters to the editor!  Still, they couldn’t catch him.  Desperate theorists are looking at an unsolved murder down in Riverside in ’66.  If they can pin that one on him, they think the others will fit the puzzle too, finally revealing the Zodiac apocalypse.

That’s some cold-hearted killing going on out there, and in this business, fame will bring you down.

Dig?

(Of course, you do.  You dig shallow graves all the time, you sick reader!)

But what do you know?

My first time out, I commit the ultimate crime flawlessly, confess it decades later on a blog, and still, I can’t get anyone’s interest.  (Some days the stats count zero all day long!)  You would think confessing murder would go viral and make headlines on world news programs.

(Why am I writing this on a blog so devoted to Jesus and the homeless?)

(Shhhhh!  –whisper this part– Good question, but I will have to let you figure that out for yourself.  We will see if you have a conscience before this is done.)

Yeah, I killed her in an empty lot behind the Kokopelli Inn late summer 1986.  But technically, she was breathing when I left her.*  I didn’t know her; I didn’t get her name.  I never met her before, and there is nothing in either of our histories which would connect us.  Being perfect strangers, this plot is better than Throw Mama From The Train, or Owen’s three-page murder mystery.

I didn’t see anything about it in the papers later either.  I was nobody; she was nobody.  Not to you, anyway.  Not to the authorities.  And I kept no “trophies” or memorabilia of any kind.   Even I struggle to remember details.  She wouldn’t be missed.  And as long as I didn’t slay her in some sensational method, nobody would care.  It wasn’t some bloody dismemberment.  Such crime scenes are treasure troves of evidence.

I attacked quick and split immediately.  A crime of opportunity, she never saw me coming, and no one saw me leave.

And THAT’s how you do it!

It was murder by drive-by.  But not with a gun.  A gun would draw attention.  It would be a classic “gang hit” which potentially puts innocent bystanders at risk, and so the authorities move swiftly to stop that kind.  In my case, I used words to kill.  Let me explain.

I was young that day, very young – still in high school.  I was feeling extreme insecurity, vulnerable, a complete lack of self-confidence.

My best friend and I had come into conflict and let it fester for months.  We had not talked in all that time, when I reached out to him to seek reconciliation.  He seemed interested.  He drove over to pick me up and go out socializing with other teen friends.  And there was another one, a third friend along for this ride.

I was riding in the back seat.

The back seat.

My attempt at reconciliation was not important enough to warrant the front seat, and it was interfered with by a third person, a brash young man who fancied himself a lead guitar, rock star.  My efforts at mattering in the back seat were floundering when I saw her.

She appeared to be in her thirties.  She was walking the little footpath shortcut through the empty lot only one block from the grocery store, midafternoon.  She looked homely and overweight.  Very overweight and burdened with too many bags of groceries for one person to carry.

It was too easy an opportunity to miss.

I leaned out the window and in a voice loud enough to be heard by her as we slowly passed by the lot, I told her in no uncertain terms how ugly and fat she was.

Sadly, I cannot recall now the words I used, but I suspect I intimated how the burden of her groceries might be the cause of more burden than simply the load she carried.  That kind of heavy lifting just makes you fatter, fatter and uglier.  Who would ever want to touch such a pathetic creature?

Whatever it was I said, I am certain that I tried to increase the humor proportionate to the cruelty of the message, all of which I exploded with on the fly.

Who knew so much evil could burst out of me?  Even I was shocked.  But I was more shocked at that moment by how little a chuckle my barrage elicited from my front-seat friends.  The ROI was notably pitiful immediately, which led quickly to conviction.  I slumped in the seat and marveled at my own evil.

She was breathing when I left her, but later that night, I wondered about that.  Reckon she was still breathing at midnight?  I wondered how or why.  I never spoke of it again, and my friends didn’t either, but I wondered if I hadn’t taken her breath away even by delayed effect.

What I did was inexcusable, horrible, and cruel.  I am sure I didn’t interrupt the best day in her life when I found her burdened with baggage on the empty lot.  On the contrary, I am sure I kicked her when she was down and not looking or feeling her best – possibly her worst, but not her best.

What did she think of the experience?  What did she think of me??  What did she think of herself???

It is entirely possible that she proceeded home, and with her own hand completed the murder I started.  And if she did, there would be no way for me to know or anyone to ever investigate, convict me, and punish me for my crime.

In my case, I was proactively evil.

What about you?

What about you, you sick… sick… (well, I won’t say what you are).

I doubt many, though probably a few, readers here did what I did.  But you know what?  When you pull up at a stop light and see a homeless beggar on the corner and roll up the window and look away, you don’t stab with words.  That is true, and I agree.

But you dismember with indifference, and you leave a trail of carnage and crime scenes only God can see.

God… and you.

Maybe you just feel insecure about things.  Maybe you feel vulnerable.  Maybe you excuse yourself that it’s not your problem or the problem is too big for you to fix.

Yeah.  You just sit there and fidget with the radio and tell yourself that.

No one is going to investigate your crime.  Your conviction won’t be in this life.  But…  maybe you should think again about all of that.

If you want to talk chop shop with me, I am here.  I got a handbook of forgiveness and hope here, and I can help you with that conviction you are feeling.

Let’s talk…

*A word of advice here: When interrogated later, leave out the word “still” from that sentence, since it implies you have knowledge her breathing ceased at some point.  

HATE YOUR NEIGHBOR*

This just in:

False Prophecy Central reporting this morning as of midnight God now says it is okay to go ahead and hate your neighbor.

(Good news for Americans who have been yearning to hate their neighbors for the last five presidential elections!)

Some have broken ranks with Bible, Doctrine, and Christian tradition and began hating neighbors for years already, but now God is not only “allowing” it but endorsing hate.  Expert false prophets tell us this is because Democrats have proven intolerable pushing the boundaries of love beyond common sense and good taste.  Basically, Democrats just need to be hated.  They have become objects of hate so egregious that hate and scorn is all they are good for.

Also, this just in too:

If you are into the health-n-wealth Gospel (which, let’s face it – who’s not? – Am I right???), locking your door, rolling up your window, and looking away from homeless and beggars at street corners is now an acceptable expression of Agape as long as you also own a gun and stand for Second Amendment Rights.

Happy World, y’all!

You’ve remade God in your image, and at least it’s no longer that stupid buy-the-world-a-Coke, feel-good, triumphant, liberal pseudo-theology running amok!  It’s us!  Us and our rights, Damn it!

Thank You, Jesus!  Pass the ammunition.

*This message brought to you by the not-so-good folx at False Prophecy Central.