Some Christian charitable organizations seem to think feeding hungry people is important.  Most likely they come to such a view because of passages like Matthew 25:31-46.  It is, after all, a passage about judgment.  This passage isn’t just a suggestion, a friendly reminder, or some feel-good encouragement.  It outlines ultimate judgment in the Age to Come.

So, yeah.  It’s important.

These days it is fashionable for Christian charitable organizations to peddle “effective charity” and “best practices” with an eye toward turning the poor into financially independent people no longer in need of assistance.  There is an agenda to stop feeding the hungry.

“Teach a man to fish” is not in the Bible, but it is worldly wisdom which has crept in to a blended, syncretized view that we will still offer charity, but only on a limited basis and aimed at coming to an end – as if there will come a day when you want Jesus to leave your table!  It fits more with a health-n-wealth gospel than with the Bible, but it is popular among Christians today.

I was hungry, and you fed me,” says Jesus.  “I was hungry, and you did not feed me,” he also says. “When?  When did we see you hungry and either feed you or not?” ask those under judgment.  “When you looked upon the least of these brothers of mine and either fed them or not,” Jesus explains.

You know the passage.  My repetition of it is redundant for you.  But somehow you read/hear that passage and think it means, “I taught you to fish so You would feed Yourself, so I am good to go at the coming judgment.”

That is if you bother to think it through clearly at all.  My guess is that you know the passage and manage to ignore the part about judgment, that somehow it doesn’t apply to you.  But I will encourage you to look again carefully at it.  If you want to enjoy life in the Age to Come with the sheep of the Good Shepherd’s flock, you will want to get this straight.  It’s that important.

Basically, your read of this passage amounts to a very arrogant notion that you will teach Jesus to fish.  I don’t want to stand too close to such arrogance, personally.  I tremble for you.  Who are you to teach Jesus?  And to fish???  Wow!

Either that, or you look at “the least of these brothers” and you just don’t see Jesus at all.  (I think this is a very common mistake, actually.)  You get a bum asking you for a dollar or a sandwich, and you see a nuisance, not Jesus.  That too is exceptionally arrogant AND you make Jesus a liar.  So, again, I don’t want to stand too close to you.  I tremble for you again.

I once got into an argument with a fellow minister on the blogs who outlined for me that the key word in that passage is “brothers.”  Jesus is talking about feeding his brothers, not just any old bum.  His brothers were, of course, not limited strictly to the children born of Joseph and Mary, not limited strictly to fellow Jews either.  His brothers include all Christians.

Wow!  That sounds pretty broad to me, really.  This fellow minister was excusing himself for not in fact feeding beggars and bums who are not his Christian brother.  I wonder if he is checking membership cards.  How exactly does he JUDGE who is his brother and who is not?

I mean, if a beggar flat out says, “I am not a Christian, and I do not love or honor Jesus as my brother,” that would be a fairly sure indicator.  But what if he claims to be a Christian.  Does he need to say shibboleth with the right twang?  Does he need to know the secret handshake too?

Wouldn’t you rather feed a rotten enemy before whom God has prepared a table in the presence of the sheep (Ps. 23) than to fail to feed a brother you didn’t recognize as Jesus?  Do you want to gamble your judgment splitting hairs about whether you love brothers, neighbors, and not enemies (or someone in between)?

You arrogant fool.  I don’t want to stand too close to you.  I tremble for you.

Here’s something else you should know about this judgment passage: taken altogether (not isolating merely the part about feeding), we find a rather extravagant picture of hospitality.  Oh sure, hospitality is something you do back at YOUR HOUSE for the most part.  But giving water, food, and shelter are right at the heart of it.  Extending the kindness to those in jail or sick (in the hospital?) is an extension of hospitality in other venues.



There’s more at work in this than just the giving of calories.

Yeah.  Some do-gooder, Christian types make a wise effort to give a sandwich to a beggar rather than a dollar since the dollar will possibly (likely?) be “wasted” on booze or drugs.  I don’t mean to argue against this wisdom per se, but I surely don’t want to encourage it as if it really matters much either.  Such a notion is majoring in the minors at best, I think.

But I will say this about that: if you can, SHARE the sandwich.  If you can, HOST the meal at your house in hospitality!  Do not reduce your charity to the calories.  Hospitality includes the giving of calories, but it also suggests far more spiritual exchange than merely the transition of calories into a hungry stomach.  The abundant life Jesus brings opens all the blessings of heaven to those who want to share it now and in the Age to Come.

“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers,” says the writer of Hebrews, “for some have entertained angels unaware doing that” (13:2).  (Hmmm… he says “strangers” there; not the key word “brothers,” but “strangers.”)

Talk to me now about “effective charity” and “best practices.”

“Blah…. ha blah bah bah hoo ha blooo bah blah blah”

As anyone who ever actually read the first assigned reading in a Speech 101 class can tell you, the simple communication model is deceptively complex.  In fact, it’s a paradox how simple, yet complex it is.  In practice, it seems to work enough of the time that you don’t think about it.  But then you are surprised and frustrated when it fails.

If I say (or write) a simple sentence for you to hear (or read), that should convey the message and does so much of the time that we treat it as simple.  But when you break down all the component parts of the process and think about the potential for failure, communication is practically miraculous.

My wife and I both speak in tongues we do not know to each other about 40% of the time, I think.  I didn’t know I spoke Chinese until I got married!  I found out that my wife does too, but I have no way to understand it.  And sometimes that is because I fail to listen carefully.  (Did I say “sometimes”?)  Other times… well… with three babies and toddlers running around your knees….

But those toddlers and I have a clear understanding.

Not all the time, but again, when I take care to listen carefully and speak carefully too, we have an amazing level of very clear communication!  Scary, really.

I’m not making this up.

If I say, “Blah…. ha blah bah bah hoo ha blooo bah blah blah” with a big smile on my face, looking right into the one-year-old’s face, and especially if I begin with a sucking gasp sound like as if I am surprised, then he will repeat it back to me with a laugh and a smile.  (I think the gasp makes it funny, because it’s still entertaining without it, but with it, the laugh is elicited nearly every time.)

Yeah, perfect communication.

Oh… you don’t speak “Blah…. ha blah bah bah hoo ha blooo bah blah blah”?

Okay.  Sure.  I get it.  I didn’t used to speak it either.  Allow me to translate.  The English translation of “Blah…. ha blah bah bah hoo ha blooo bah blah blah” is “I LOVE YOU.”

It’s in the language of BABY TALK.  Some of my best communication takes place in that language.  But, I’m not gonna lie.  It’s a very inefficient language.  You have to repeat the same words over and over and over again.  But something about the time you put into it and all the repetition really gets the point across and makes a lasting impact.

Here at the Fat Beggars Home for Widows, Orphans, and Sojourners, I have had to learn to speak it, and I have become fluent!  I recommend you learn it too.  (If need be, just sign up for my BABY TALK as a second language course!)

These foreign words alone are quite powerful, but honestly the words alone are not the whole story either.  The fact is that my babies speak mostly in Whambulance.  “Whah waaaahhhh waaahh” is a sentence usually meaning either, “I am hungry” or “I am dirty” or “I am tired.”  It’s up to me to translate by checking bottles and diapers and the like.  I am a pretty good interpreter, but with only three main options (plus spending so much T-I-M-E with these people), I can generally understand quickly enough.

Then there are the acts of kindness that answer those cries in Whambulance too.  You can’t just say “There, there… ” and walk away.  That might suffice once in a while, in a jam, but not as a regular sustained response.


Little people will die on a long enough timeline of that (hours or days?).

My oldest urchin is going on six now, but due to the addictions of his birth parents and the resultant delays in his development, he could not speak until he was four.  He picked up a couple words and lost them.  But with therapy and early intervention educators, he has moved through that delay now.  (Praise God!)  But I recall how he and I communicated in grunts.  He would point and grunt, and we often had to manage quite a bit of trial and error to get the message across.  But I was amazed at how I was able to decipher his messages better than others.

I think it had a lot to do with all the “Blah…. ha blah bah bah hoo ha blooo bah blah blah” of foundational interaction we had previously established.

I’ve been thinking about that BABY TALK a lot lately.

I was born into a family that afforded me BABY TALK when I came into this world.  But my work in law enforcement and street ministry has illuminated a great deficit in BABY TALK out there in “the world.”  It may be that meeting a fellow adult and talking BABY TALK to them would get me in the psych unit for the night and/or just be meaningless babble to the other adult.  But the time, energy, and special care and attention put into BABY TALK might still translate I LOVE YOU to a fellow sojourner made in God’s image who otherwise hasn’t gotten that message.

Think about that a minute.

A person made in God’s image needs to hear “I LOVE YOU” in some language or other – any language except empty words.  This message must get through somehow!  God’s image warrants it.  If you want God’s favor, you need to figure a way of getting it to the image bearer.

Wanna make a difference in the world?

Try more BABY TALK.  I know some people who quite literally never learned it.  I have met children on the streets of Lubbock, Texas (a town about as conservative and “Christian” as it gets) at 1 a.m. in diapers, completely unattended by adult supervision while the parents got high, fornicated and left the porn on for the kids to find, or were rotting in jail for their crimes.  And I must say, those children might be getting calories from SNAP benefits, but they are not getting the love of Christ if you, my Christian brothers and sisters, don’t reach out and give it to them.

I know some Democrats who need to get the message!

Think about it.

Think and start communicating.


Some of you don’t remember 1985, but I do.  I remember 1980!  And though there wasn’t exactly a well-formed statement or complaint, I sensed early on there was a cultural disappointment that we hadn’t got our jet packs yet.  I’m not sure about 1980, but by 1985, jet packs were behind schedule!

Think about that a minute.

Sure, this is not a well-defined phenom I describe, but if I sensed it, I bet others did too.  There was definitely a sense of progress in the air as the stock market roared to life and everyone’s standard of living seemed to rise with the tide.  But there were these nagging disappointments about how utopia was so close yet remained just out of reach.  (AIDS?)  At least we had futuristic hair and clothing styles!  (Parachute pants?)

And if there’s one thing about living a life of faith, it’s that the temptation subtle (not overt) to move God out of the driver’s seat when things are good, and, baby, God was very much moved out of the driver’s seat (subtly, of course) in the 1980s.  We complained about it too, but that was just lip service, really.  A political talking point for vanity’s sake, and not much more.

These are my subjective memories and experience, sure, and as such should be modified before accepted willy-nilly.  But I bet others recognize the picture I paint.  There is something to it.  I will freely admit, between my age (as an impressionable youth), the time, and the place(s), personal influences impact my presentation.  But, as I see it, “God” has evolved quite a lot over the course of my life.

My faith heritage was a particularly hardcore sect of American Protestantism.  It would be easy, for outsiders, to say we were evangelicals, but not for an insider, and even as an outsider, you would see us as an outlier on that graph.  We were “people of the book” on steroids.  Passages like Hebrews 13:8 would create a very rigid image of God for us.  But the world around us was becoming so fluid that we didn’t see the changes even within ourselves.

Like the elephant in an alcoholic’s room, Darwin’s evolution owned Monday through Friday, the dirty devil owned Saturday, leaving only Sunday for Jesus.  Sunday and (well, okay) an hour every Wednesday night.

Think I exaggerate?

The science teacher at our school was a member of our church.  He was the one teaching Darwin and evolution M-F, but piously sitting through stale worship with the rest of us on Sunday.  Oh sure, in our small, conservative town in that day and age, he would spend a moment or two qualifying the lesson plan with his double-minded devotion, since practically all 30 kids in his class were “Christian” of one brand or another, and he would tell us we needed to learn this stuff to get along in the world, to pass the test, to get a diploma, so that you can go to college and get a job.  We had to pay the devil these dues.

Really?  As a man of God, a member of the “people of the book,” did he find God authorize that?

No.  He didn’t.

Yet no one challenged this.

Sitting there in a classroom (or church building) lit by electric lightbulbs, invented by scientists and engineers who did not learn this power from Jesus, but from science, the evolution was subtle, but powerful.  No one had to pray for light; you just flicked a switch, and like magic, the power was at your fingertips.  Absentminded power of unbelievable proportions, no need to pray for it.


I feared hell, of course, but that was all mythical in nature.  I feared Jason in Friday the 13th like that.  My real fear, the one that had my parents’ generation running drills and taking cover under their school desks, was nuclear war.

I went to the mall each weekend not realizing I was hypnotized by “the Gruen effect”* or that merchants, even from ancient times, create artificial worlds that entrap the human imagination – sometimes inventing problems so they can sell you the new and improved solutions!  And anyway, some of those boutiques offered tantalizing pictures and gadgets a twelve-year-old has no business looking at.  But I found them with no parents around to intervene.

And who took me to the mall in the first place?

My parents.

It was de facto permission.  Shoot, almost an invitation!  They could hardly have engineered this exposure more if they rolled out a red carpet!

With God’s turf whittled down to Sundays and a brief moment on Wednesdays, everything quietly and subtly became clear to my impressionable, young mind.  When my family sat down to eat homecooked meals together, we offered prayer before we ate, but when we sat down to a meal at Taco Bell or Luby’s, we did not.  Someone still offered a prayer along with a ceremonial raising of the flag and the national anthem at the ball game, but this was not real worship; this was a token of a bygone era, as much for the benefit of beer drinkers as Christians.

God was getting small while the rest of us got high.

We made mention of our freedom of religion in political discourse, but of course the “Christians” were already divided and conquered in Baptist, Methodist, and Pentecostal enclaves by that point, and the discussion remained generic mostly except that it addressed abortion, prayer in school, or homosexuals and AIDS.  In fact, I was a little embarrassed by “the moral majority,” not for flexing power, but for being such fuddy-duddy, goody-two-shoes and daring to address the larger world, the turf already surrendered to Darwin by God.  These impotent do-gooders didn’t know their place!

I never would have said these things in those days, but I was feeling them.  That’s how it works being subtle and double-minded.

In the faith heritage-sect I grew up in (and others too, I presume), we held “the health-n-wealth gospel” in ridicule.  This was the one place where God seemed to be growing.  Maybe we were secretly envious.  Not so much of the hair and makeup of the wives on their televangelist shows, but for how that in a world of Reagan and “greed is good” investments (and movies), the health-n-wealth gospel found a way to be relevant.  Either way, this was the evolution of God.

I look back now and see how sexist, racist, and “homophobic” (I have trouble with that term) it all was.  We have evolved since those days!  Our evolved God is now tolerant.  Women preach and lead worship now, we either endorse (or quietly turn a blind eye to) homosexuality, and we fashionably feel bad about our continued racial segregation(s) and inequities.  All these things we thought led us to hell when I was a kid, but of course that was our mythical fear even then.

I mention all of this now on this blog because since it is my lived experience, this is the kind of thing I find behind our ecclesial neglect and mistreatment of the poor.  We don’t even see it; our God has evolved so much!  That utopian dream Reagen brought us so close to before dovetails nicely with a “God bless America” bumper sticker and we take it and live with our Diet Coke version of health-n-wealth gospel.

Oh yes.  We ALL preach health-n-wealth gospel now.  It’s just that some of us aren’t as flamboyant about it as others.  But there ain’t nobody at my old school preaching or embracing downward mobility.  No.  We want retirement plans that match those of the people to whom we preach, and that’s the kind of preachers they want preaching to them.

If Jesus is really the same yesterday, today, and forever, then someone should be selling off all their wealth and giving it to the poor (whether a rich man like in Mark 10 or a poor church like in Acts 2 and 4).  Rich visitors with gold rings should be sitting at our feet while the poor enjoy equity in our assemblies.  But instead, we write and gobble up books about “when helping hurts,” send the poor to our soup kitchens in a galaxy far, far away across the tracks, and join annual service projects while deploying social workers to help poor folx become financially independent – hopefully remaking them in our image.


And we fretted the loss of “prayer in school” and the teaching of “evolution” when I was a kid.  No one seemed to notice that “God” was evolving.  No one seems to notice that his transformation is nearly complete now.  Maybe if we make America great again, we will finally have him remade in our image!

*”The Gruen Effect.”  Google this for more info, but it is the name given the retailer’s phenom where they attract you to stay in the store and spend more money than you planned on upon arrival.


Is your apocalypse everlasting, enduring, and unyielding?

Is it killing your friends, your relatives, and your democracy?

Are you feeling a little discouraged, exhausted, and numb from the protracted impact of disease, politics, and stupidity?

Do you miss the good old days when the hardest part about school was passing a quiz, getting accepted at a good college or graduate program, or getting shot by active shooters???  (Nothing brings prayer back in school like a good school shooting!)

God bless America!

If you answer YES to any or all of these questions, you are not alone in that desperate feeling of deep-frozen isolation.

Get on your knees and pray.  Repent, ask forgiveness, and humble yourself before the Lord.  Tell your friends when you do this, and maybe even join others in doing this.

Who knows?

Maybe even yet, God will have mercy on you.


All that’s left is but a memory

Dreams and trust just left to die and bleed

Got the rhyme but lost my timing.

Don’t you see?

Oh, I believe democracy


Suffering suffrage isn’t easy

Amid acrid smoke the cameras see

Us & them, you and me

Torn apart, Divided ideology

Claims of fraud cover idolatry

Oh, I believed democracy

Why she had to go, I don’t know; she couldn’t see

the trust I put in God and in the GOP

GOP, I give money so you’ll win and be

the light, the truth so plain to see

for anyone who grabs pussy

Yes, God’s man has made me see

How great our land should be

Go to Hell if you don’t agree


All our troubles now crash in on me

Civil War and price check on aisle three

Oh, someone please, vaccinate me!

I just might learn to pray to Thee

Please save me from Democracy


Democracy seemed here to stay.

But now that she has gone away,

I sing the blues and load my gun.


(Claimer: For those few (one or two) avid readers of this blog, you already know that I spent a good deal of last year reading and meditating on Joseph, the savior of God’s people in Genesis.  For those joining just now, I just told you too.  I have been looking at Joe a lot lately.  Joe is the savior of the world at the end of Genesis, providing bread to the starving people far and wide.  That should be a good backdrop for today’s post.)

All that bread for all those people, and now I am wondering if they “Got Jelly” too.


What does that have to do with anything?

X, are you getting all sacrilege on us?

No.  There are two things you can get, biblically speaking, from a grape: blood and jealousy.

Got jelly?


Scenic Bible Byways

Yeah.  I been thinking about St. Paul’s words to the church at Rome in chapter 11 bankruptcy lately, about how God’s table given to his people becomes a snare and a trap, and that they trip on a stumbling block in their path which leads to their own failures but opens them to jealousy – a jealousy which potentially leads them to Jesus.


It sounds really complicated.  It also sounds like God causes Israel to sin for their benefit which can’t be, but which appears to be anyway.  Even the satan didn’t bring up Job to God, since he figured Job was just protected and untouchable until God pointed him out for special attention!  (Yeah.  Complicated.)

Some nuts I can’t crack.  I am sure some reader here can’t live with that conundrum and will need to set me straight.  Fine.  Set me straight.  But I can surely see that if Israel according to the flesh were to ever see, really see with eyes that can see, what the Gentiles have obtained in Jesus, they will be jealous.  And I can see that jealousy in that instance brings you to a fork in the road: one way leading to pride and denial, the other leading to humility and acceptance.

So, the richest family in the world gathered round the lawyer’s desk for the reading of the will.  Their father had built the family business literally from NOTHING, back when there wasn’t anything to work with, and by the time of inheritance, it had become EVERYTHING.  Yet the oldest brother, expecting to get a double share but finding that the youngest brother, that one “Daddy always loved best” gets nearly everything.  Wow!  Sounds like a page ripped from Genesis 39-41.  Sounds like a page ripped from Genesis 25!  It sounds like a page ripped from Luke 15!!!

But as it turns out, the story is changed yet again.  Even the little brother this time gets nothing as the late-life adopted kid gets everything!

(Oh, there is a clause in the will about how the older brothers can share everything with the youngest adopted brother, but they get nothing in the way they expected.)

And so, the older brother(s) suffer jealousy.  They got jelly!  Jelly that can go one of two ways, but it’s jelly alright.

Want in on the family fortune?  Feeling a little jelly?

Yeah.  You are in a good position to make either good choices or poor choices, but the matters of the heart suddenly come clearly in view.

Wow!  That says a lot.  (My thanx to N.T. Wright AGAIN for helping me pull together Israel’s older son/younger son and jealousy story reworked around Cain and Able, around Joe and his brothers, around Jacob and Esau, and around “the prodigal son and his older brother.”)  And for me, at least, it connects the story of Joseph and his brothers with Jesus all the more.  The one story bounces sparks off the other and illuminates matters of the heart with incredible depth.

It tells me that Jesus was handed over to Pilate because of envy.  Matthew tells us Pilate understood this (27:18).  But to be honest, I don’t think that is something I would have seen with my eyes if it weren’t for Matthew’s Pilate.  When did Jews become jealous of the suffering servant who had no form or majesty that we should look at him and no beauty that we should desire him?  A man despised and rejected, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief?  What’s he got that anyone would envy???

Yeah.  That’s how I am apt to see him with my eyes that do not see and my ears that do not hear.  But when I look at Joe’s brothers and their jealousy of him, Daddy’s favorite with his fancy-colored coat and his big dreams of bowing stars and haybales, I can see it.  And I see why they hate him for it.  And (and this is where it gets interesting), I can suddenly see how that if those brothers had chosen to celebrate their younger brother the way their father did – because their father did, they would enjoy more of the father’s favor.

But I can also see how Joe really sorta got what he had coming too.

Yeah.  Joe and bro’s really take me THERE.  And though it is ironic at many levels, I can also see, with Joe’s help, how the Jews that handed Jesus over to Pilate were in fact jelly.  It’s seething behind their poker face.  But it’s there!

And this brings me to the point for which I write today.  There is a lot of irony packed up in this, but the jelly is there.  Jelly that has the potential (should I humble myself and accept God on his terms rather than mine), to draw me deeper into God’s will.

Widow Mite Math

The difference here is my giving.

You see, I give.  In fact, I give a lot.  It’s not my place to brag about that (Thank you Matthew 6), but I do.

But I am rich, and I have a lot to give.  And according to Widow Mite Math, I ain’t giving that much (Mark 12).  The poor widow put only two mites into the treasury, but according to Widow Mite Math, that was more than all the others who put in large sums!

Yeah.  I did a count one night during my evening prayers of all the beds we have in our house, a nice, middle-class house in a middle-to-upper nice, white neighborhood in the white-flight side of town.  (I might be over estimating, but only just barely.)  And the number I came up with was 9.  That’s not counting the couch, the camper trailer, or space on the floor either.  If we add all that in, the number becomes 15, with space on the floor being too fluid to quantify, but we can assume it’s possible to another 9 would sleep in relative comfort.

Add all that up, and we get 33 beds.  (Two of the beds sleep two people too.)  This means I could be bedding down 35 people, if I really needed to do it.  Oh sure, we have 7, counting myself too, in this house right now, and thus we fall into exceptions to various zoning ordinances, but 7 is only 1/5th of the number we could be hosting with relative comfort.

And you just think for a moment about a lady sleeping on the curb tonight in subfreezing wind.  If I offer her a spot on the floor in my garage, it would be an improvement beyond measure for her perspective!


That would not be some simple undertaking.  No.  Between logistical concerns (food, two bathrooms, laundry, gender privacy, finance, security, COVID and other health issues) there is a lot to work out.  I haven’t yet mentioned comfort and sacrifice.  All of that is serious, and the wise will consider it.

But you know what else needs to be considered?

… I will let you guess…

No, really.  Think about this a minute.  What is the other consideration we need to put into this mix?

Did you give any thought to…


…to love?


Yeah.  What if love is our first concern?

If you are missing out on love and someone else is having it, guess what your natural response is!

Can you say “Jelly”?

Yeah.  If you ever had love or even knew what it was, and you then realized you were missing out on it when someone else was enjoying it, you would most naturally be jealous.

And here’s the thing:

My friend Agent MDJ lives in a tiny pop-up camper behind the drive-in movie complex.  It is tiny.  It is humble.  It is tucked in behind the movie joint.  (It’s a galaxy far, far away from my neighborhood!)  Yet, DJ keeps two people in it with her.


Because she loves them.

And you know what?

I got jelly.

(I’m talking to God about it now in hopes to get this resolved before the Age to Come when I will be REALLY jelly of Agent MDJ.)


I’ve been blogging off and on for most of the last two decades.  I don’t follow some of the big-name blogs anymore like I once did (some you know, others are big fish from the small pond).  I recall from early times people like Ben Witherington or Scot McKnight occasionally would feature a post on blogging etiquette.  Being Christian leaders, I suppose that was appropriate that they would attempt to police the blog-O-sphere and administer rules of politeness and virtue for the rest of us.

(However, in my view, they’ve had little impact on the world overall – that despite thousands of devoted followers.)

Guess, I am in good company (except for the part about thousands of followers).  I have little impact too, but then I won’t try to police the blog-O-sphere though.

However, I do, from time to time, attempt to explain myself a bit.  This is not the first time I have noted such matters on this blog.  In fact, though I can’t think of the exact post right off, I am sure in recent weeks I addressed some of this.  But perhaps I should try to be more thorough.  

Consider this whole post to be something like the fine print of a contract you sign either way.  Nothing in it is binding on you, but hopefully will lay out guidelines I will do my best to adhere to along the way.

Let me provide a map for this post before I just dive into it.

  1. I agree with points 2, 5, & 12 rather strongly.  Point 15 illuminated something for me or even taught me something new.  Thus, I like your post.  However…
  2. I can’t FIX you, and so I won’t bother trying.  But I will tell you the truth.
  3. I don’t know it all!  However, I know quite a lot.  The problem, of course, is…
  4. Bonus small print (for those just insanely interested in things I write – or stockers)

Let’s just jump right into this.  No point dressing it up.  Just rip that scab!

1. I agree…

Sometimes I sense this is the most difficult point to make.  It is a little complex, but I think, really, it is just harder to accept than to understand once the issue rises to the surface where it must be dealt with (or ignored at the detriment of continued relations).

Normally when people write blogs, they try to make a point.  Usually, making a point involves making several supporting points along the way.  A few people keep it short, but most of the blogs I read require a blogger to make several assertions and sometimes defend all or some of them as part of a larger argument. 

There is complexity in life, and blogs are a place people go to discuss them and iron them out.

This means your post is likely to have several points along the way to making the big point.  Odds are good that I will agree with some or all of your post.  More likely some than all.  I recently found myself leaving a like and a comment on a blog which at first blush I thought I agreed with.  However, after thinking on it carefully, I decided I only agreed in the most narrow sense and that the blogger was attempting to buttress a larger worldview I don’t actually share.  It was a popular blog too, with lots of readers, likes, and comments.  

It occurred to me quickly that I was ripe for an argument I don’t really want.  Nevertheless, the blogger had made one or two points along the way I found important and which I agreed with strongly.  This was a more extreme case than I what I usually engage.  But it provides a good chance for me to demonstrate in THIS post that when I read your blog, I very likely agree with some of it, I might even be deeply impressed and learn something from it (this happens fairly frequently) and yet I would not necessarily endorse everything in it.  In fact, there might be some bits I would argue against.

This and I still LIKE your post.  

However, I am not apt to rush in and try to argue the points I differ with willy-nilly.  In fact, I tend to lay out the bits I would find confrontational on MY blog and invite the argument here.  But I would rather not get wolf-packed by all your ignorant friends with their support for your ignorance.  I generally try to weigh that risk before I jump in, and generally I don’t find it worthwhile.  So, I typically don’t go there.

But HEY!  If I liked something, take that as a compliment.  PLEASE!  I will support the bits I either agree with or which I find enhances my knowledge. 

The first time I read N.T. Wright, I thought he was nuts!  I reread the book two more times for a test I was taking in school, and still was not persuaded.  It was only after the test a few weeks later when I found myself suddenly appealing to something he said that I went back and read it again and began being won over to his argument.  So, let’s leave room for that here too… please.

2. Can’t FIX you.

I’m already brushing up against this point in the previous one, but it bears working out on its own, I think.  The fact of the matter is that I cannot fix you.  

OH YOU NEED FIXING!  I believe that whole-heartedly.  But I can’t do it.  Much as I might like to, I can’t.  Like Dirty Harry said, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”  Well, this is one of mine.  But that doesn’t mean you don’t need fixing.  You do.  


This old world is a mess.  This wonderful nation is a mess.  The greatest nation on earth!  That’s what we used to say before we started making it great AGAIN.  But that was probably propaganda, really.  The kind of thing that surely is the definition of bias.  But I digress.  It’s a mess.  And it can’t be that big a mess unless you need fixing.

(Okay, okay.  I need fixing too, but that is point 3.  So back off me a moment.  Just now we are talking about you, not me, and you are in bad shape.  Admit it – to yourself, of course.)

Right now it’s important that you – I DON’T CARE WHICH ONE OF YOU EITHER – you understand you need fixing.  You are part of the problem.  That is just a fact, and I ain’t so stupid to think otherwise, and I ain’t lying for ya neither.  You are a mess.  Your world is a mess.  That is part of the point of my whole blog. 

But if the futility of blogging has taught me anything, it’s that I can’t fix you.

But if you listen and pray on it, you might be part of the solution to your own fixing.

I will leave that to you and God.  

Meanwhile, I will do my best to show you some respect, and let you find fixing I don’t manipulate for you.  

3. Don’t know it all.

Yeah.  I am part of the problem too.  And this point is my own humility.  


I am not going to make it my practice to open each sentence and each point I ever make with qualifications like: “I don’t know it all” or “I don’t know what I am talking about” or “I might be wrong about this” or especially “my truth/your truth” or even “It seems to me….”  

Fact is that I don’t see myself as stupid at all.  I intend my assertions to be reasonable and correct.  But I am not infallible, and I know it.  I will make effort to qualify the assertions I recognize as more conjecture than settled fact.  And occasionally, such as with this post, I will own the fact that I don’t know it all, that in fact there are some bits in all the knowledge I in fact do have which are mistaken, and that part of that problem is that I don’t know which bits.  

So, I admit here and now my own need for humility and express it a bit too.  I further admit that I too am part of the problem, that I need fixing (probably not by you – and likely not the way you think).  Meanwhile, I am working on that.

4. Bonus material.

Here’s the thing:

I value the friendships I have online.  Some more than others, but if you engage with me often and especially over time, I come to sense neighborliness with you.  Over the years blogging, I have met people in person who live far, far away from me and others I have visited with by phone or even snail mail, email and the like.

I will never forget the missionary I met on the Navajo Rez on the blogs many years ago who lived out near Shiprock, NM.  After a couple of years, my mom got sick with cancer, and before she died, I made many frequent trips from Texas to her home in Southwestern Colorado which took me through Farmington and Shiprock.  So, I made an appointment and stopped in to meet the man and his family.

Part of the blessing of that meeting was that he was able to show me a shortcut through the desert that cut over half an hour off my trip!  That sure was handy information.  

But I have made other friends on the blogs who seem to be so very devoted to Jesus and to me, even to my mission – supportive with prayer and even financial care a couple of times (for my street friends, not me).  Some of these friendships seemed important to me, even though I never personally met them.  I still came to feel a sense of kindred spirit, to even rely on them to “be there” for me and the like.  

Yet, I am amazed at how these little friendships suddenly end.  It’s always a mystery to me why/how.  Always sad.  I figure it must be something I said, but I wasn’t confronted, and I have to guess.  I don’t get even a chance to make amends.  I’m sure I didn’t use “the N-word” or something heinous like that, but somewhere I must have stepped on some raw nerve I didn’t know about.

But that’s just examples of the really special relations coming to sad and sudden ends.  The fact is that blogging is ripe for misunderstanding anyway.  The less depth of relationship we have, the easier it is to just call it quits and move on over the slightest of slights.  Or to blow up and be ugly.

I’m currently observing a “conversation” between two other bloggers on the comment feed which, to my mind, demonstrates painful patience on the part of the one with the arrogance of the other.  This despite the fact that I LIKE (I did not click the button, though) the arguments of the arrogant one.  But here’s the real kicker, I disagree with him!  

Yeah, he’s both a jerk and wrong, BUT he challenges me to think more carefully than I am apt to do otherwise.  Meanwhile, the nice guy I agree with appears to be getting beat up in the “conversation” all while showing incredible (and admirable) charity and patience with the arrogant one.  

It’s ironic, but I like more of the argument I disagree with, and dread more of the one I side with.

I’m certainly searching for a different route to the same conclusion, because I find the standard one being all over the place with complex reasons, but never delivering the goods or the point that settles the matter (or brings it to a head).  I am weary with it.  

What can I say?

I have complications with my complications!  You might know what I mean, but you might not.  You might be having some heavy feelings about our exchange that I just don’t appreciate (or the other way round).

Actually, I have come to discipline my emotions quite a lot over the years with social media.  It’s amazing how worked up you can get over what seems to be a slight or some disagreement.  You can find yourself arguing in your sleep with a person you never met before, tossing and turning in the bed.  It’s just not really worth THAT.  You can build up quite a passion about the smallest things.

I’ve been running up against some of these things lately on the blogs.  I haven’t for a long time, but then suddenly in recent months… here we go.  I wrote up a massive post recently after a “misunderstanding” I got into on another blog.  The fellow commentator schooled me at length.  However, at the last minute before publishing, I left one more charitable comment which that fellow commentator reacted to saying perhaps he had misunderstood me.


That really deflated a lot of FEELINGS.  

I had written a whole post on my blog about that exchange.  I had changed the names to protect everyone, and I had tried to be even handed about it.  I considered how it MIGHT be nothing more than a simple misunderstanding, but it had inadvertently grown into something of a complex, erudite, intellectual insult.  This commentator really took me to task!  Tactfully and without indulging in crude name calling or the like, but I mean… Wow!

Fortunately, my charitable comeback elicited a change of tone and somewhat of a retraction from that fellow commentator, and I decided to let it rest.  I didn’t publish my post on it either.  It was almost miraculous and almost peace – what I got, and I just didn’t want to upset it again.

However, I still wonder why that exchange didn’t go the other way from the beginning.  I sensed a powerful kindred spirit there initially.  But then this ugly vibe interrupted it, and now I don’t want to stir up the sleeping dogs.  So, I am leaving it alone.

But you know what?

That’s blogging. 

I actually have a wife and family in the “real world” – friends too.  At least a few.  That is the more important part.

But the relationships I have here are important too.  Maybe not foundationally important, but I take joy and comfort in a few of them, and I value them.  

And so, some of this kind of stuff just needs to be said one way or another at least sometimes.  

A blog post is a great way to plant this flag and if need be come back to observe it when trouble arises.




And that brings me to the hidden track, bonus feature of this post.  The parts not alluded to above in any of the bold print.




Yeah.  Lean in close so I can whisper this part…






Okay.  That’s close enough.  Don’t make this weird.


I just want to say that if you are accused of a crime (whether you did it or not), DON’T TAKE THE POLYGRAPH TEST!!!

It’s not worth it.

I watch those true crime mysteries with my wife all the time, and man, I gotta say.  You have practically nothing to gain from taking that lie detector test, and everything to lose.  It’s not admissible in court anyway, and for good reason.  It’s not full proof.  It merely suggests whether you are honest or not, and I can do that just by looking in your eyes while we talk!  

IF, though, you pass, you might get the cops to ease up on you.  MIGHT.  But if you fail, they almost never do then.

IF you are truly guilty, this will only make it that much harder on you.  (Actually, I urge you to lawyer up, but then admit your crime and seek mercy.)  IF you are innocent, then not only is the crime investigation unsolved and barking up the wrong tree, but you are a second-tier victim too.


There, that last bit was truly just bonus…


There are more than a mere few verses in St. Paul’s letters which prove a bit puzzling to people (to me in particular).  Sometimes it’s a matter of complex rhetoric or argumentation; other times I find myself unfamiliar with the context, the social or historical stage upon which a statement is made.  (“Baptism for the dead,” anyone??? (I Cor. 15:29).)

The example I’m currently thinking of is Galatians 1:8, a “gospel other than the one we preached.”

Other gospels?


I was a life-long Christian (though still a young man) when I learned that the Greek word behind “gospel,” which means “good news” in a generic sense, was not always a “church word” as it comes across in modern, English usage.  Also, for that matter, even though the translation “good news” is a fair and neutral definition/translation, it says nothing about the content of said good news.

Consider this:

If I call my parents on the phone the night my first son is born and report to them that the baby is delivered successfully, healthy, and weighing in at… (fill in the gap), I am reporting “good news” to them, but that is not the good news St. Paul preached, nor is the good news he prohibits in Galatians 1:8.

Paul is not specific about which competing gospel he opposes here, but it is clear he finds some of them in competition with the one he brings, and he opposes them.  It also is clear that Paul sees himself in competition with the gospel of Rome, a good news message announcing to the world, “Caesar is lord.”  I should give credit, at least in a general sense, to N.T. Wright for this understanding of the gospel.  He makes a compelling case that Rome set out to order the world according to Caesar’s terms, and that they considered that “good news” specifically – and that it competes with the gospel message which claims that Jesus is Lord.

I provide all of that survey of the term “gospel,” not to iron out St. Paul for you, but to set the stage for other thoughts I am having of late.  I have chosen to call this competing good news “The Gospel of Trump,” but that is an oversimplification to be honest.  In all reality, I was finding a closely related “gospel” in a slightly more generic sense years ago when President Bush waged war in Iraq as part of his program to “spread democracy.”  That too was an arrogant attempt at world order, but of course that is an order most of us Americans have some affinity with and aren’t apt to critique too harshly.

I have hitched it to the name Trump now only because of the intense media coverage and concern about the “threat to democracy” posed by Trump’s claims of election fraud – especially as coupled with the January 6 event.

As an American, I see “the logic(s)” of both sides.  On the one side, if we don’t trust our elections, we must overthrow them.  On the other side, we must trust our elections in order to have democracy.

Hmmm…  That strikes me as a conundrum, but everyone I know sees it one way OR the other.

I can’t help but point to the Revolutionary War which was itself something of a civil war, and THAT is how our “democracy” was started.  If you see that war in any way legitimating the “democracy” we have enjoyed since that time, then it stands to reason that war (even civil war) is a legitimate way of resolving our differences – maybe even a democratic way.  If you think that voting in elections is the only legitimate way of settling matters, well it seems that was the point of the Revolutionary War which legitimated our way of ordering life.

Six of one/half dozen of the other.  Heads I win/tails you lose!  I see a conundrum there.

Both sides of this divide appeal almost to the same original documents and history to come down in opposition, each one logical in its own rite as far as I can see.  But the kicker, for me, is how each side holds to those documents and the accompanying history with almost (did I say “almost”?) religious fervor and devotion.  Those storming the capital on January 6 see the place as sacred and their actions as liberating (also a sacred idea).  Those who oppose what happened see it as an insurrection, a thwarting of the rule of law and of democratic principles.  Each appealing with religious zeal to the Constitution for their actions and beliefs, but each opposed to one another diametrically.

From one source, two opposing destinations.

This is how Americans “order our world.”  It is a gospel, in a sense, since the principles of democracy are (or were) America’s alternative to Rome’s gospel ambitions for the world – which were in competition with the gospel preached by St. Paul.

It’s that religious devotion and fervor adherents to American democracy and/or Trump hold for their respective side which I think uniquely reveals this “other gospel” for what it is, and since the church in America is so lopsidedly devoted to Trump in particular, I call it the “Gospel of Trump” to appeal to those in the church especially to examine it closely and repent.  The Trump Gospel is only a slight variation, as I see it, on that “other gospel” Bush was spreading around the world, and thus essentially the same, but also in competition with that of Jesus.

Jesus does not NEED democracy or Trump or America at all in order to reign as Lord.  He reigned as Lord long before the Revolutionary War and any of the founding documents or rule of law we order our world with today.  You cannot quote constitution and treat it as God’s law.

You have a Second Amendment right?  Good for you.  It in no way represents Jesus.  Jesus never said, “Take up a weapon and follow me.”  On the contrary, he said, “Take up a cross….”  He doesn’t need your weapon.  That is your myth, not his gospel.

This is why the Christians need to get with the gospel of Jesus and leave the “other gospels” to the curse they are.  You do not stand with Jesus just because you really love an “other gospel,” on the contrary, you betray him.  You are the new Judas.  You dip in the bowl, but you sell him out for your greed and lust and gospel of power.

It appears the history and the documents the “founding fathers” gave us were, in the final analysis, full of demons ravaging us and pulling us apart.  Americans now oppose one another with violence “in the name of God” all the while missing Jesus by a country mile.

If I could convince my fellow Americans to have some humility and show some love for one another, for neighbors and enemies, then we would begin to represent Jesus even if we maintained some semblance of “democracy.”  But democracy is in no way necessary or sufficient to achieve the reign of God and the gospel of Jesus.  It is incidental on its best day, an “other gospel” any other.


I grew up (in addition to a nuclear age) in a TV, advertising, consumerist whims, magical world.  My parents’ generation might have been the first to get TVs in their homes, but mine might have been the first to be born into the TV world.

When I was four years old, I strayed away from home to be found by neighbors more than a block away who asked my name only to learn that I was “Mr. West,” the main character in The Wild, Wild West television series reruns.  It seemed cute, at the time.  The story of my disappearance was terrifying, of course, but tempered with the humor of my alter ego identity.

The humor is not lost on me today either, but the seriousness of my taking identity from a TV show is a rude awakening to my Christian sensitivities now that I am much older.

Some of my earliest memories aren’t real at all.  I remember that little chuckwagon racing through the house disappearing into the cupboard under the kitchen sink.  If I could think I was Jim West, and if I could blur fiction and reality so easily, what did I think about that little chuckwagon?

No doubt I was taught the difference between real life and “make believe.”  And surely Mister Roger’s Neighborhood helped (or did it hurt)?  By the time I was grown, I found the line between fiction on TV and reality to be purposely challenged in troubling ways with the “holodeck” on Star Trek: The Next Generation.  I was more than a little paranoid by Jim Carrey in The Truman Show.  But of course, The Matrix kicked all of that square in the jimmy and left me sweating reality as I drove home from the theater.

I watched Jaws from the front seat of a Pontiac TransAm while in the back my older cousin made out with the girl who drove it (which would have had my full attention, except that in the first grade, that shark had me terrified).  I went home that night tucked into my bed fearing that shark might swim around in the dark on the floor!  Of course, even at 6 or 7 years old, I knew a shark out of water was not realistic, and would be helpless, but the fear was overwhelming anyway.

How did I learn the difference?  When?  In fact, did I?  And to what extent?

After I was grown, I went to work in the psych unit where the TV talked to some of my patients some of the time.  I mean in that paranoid kind of personal experience sense of the word.  I remember one guy visualized swarms of roaches pouring out of the TV and attacking him, finally raiding his anus.  Wow!  That’s too much TV!

All I can say about that is: glad it wasn’t me!

Just where and when and to what extent does the TV impact me?

I have visceral connections to memories almost gone now, except if you can find them recorded on the internet.  I grew up repeatedly hearing messages like:

“There will be no wine before it’s time.”

“You got your chocolate in my peanut butter.”

“When you’re out of Schlitz, you’re out of beer.”

“Calgon, take me away… ancient Chinese secret.”

“Hey, Kool Aid!”

“I’d like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company.”

Most of these slogans and teasers aren’t even funny.  Not worth remembering.  Yet they fire neurons in my brain, sometimes haunting me from nowhere.  Most of these listed here are from my early childhood.  Nothing more than sheer nostalgia, or so it seems – a lot of good that crying “Indian” did on the side of the freeway looking at all that litter!

But when you think about it, I was a young man when I learned what was meant by “that not so fresh feeling.”  If I had grown up in my grandpa’s generation, that information might not have been available to me until I was grown with kids of my own.  As it was, I was repeatedly confronted with it watching “CHiPs” or Happy Days I reckon.  In fact, I learned about “gay men” and AIDS because even at 9 or 10 years old I became interested in Peter Jennings news.  At first it was “a mysterious disease affecting gay men;” Mom, what’s a gay man?  I also, therefore, learned about a host of digestion-related ailments.

“How do you spell relief?”

So, why am I writing about all this?

Because I have kids, young kids and I am amazed at all the exposure they find even without leaving the house.  No doubt plenty of it is purposeful, but the unintended stuff is a shock.

I try to offer guidance, of course, and I do it with humor as best I can.

When my kids find themselves fascinated by the Cologuard commercial with the white box that has arms, legs, and a face, walking around talking to people in various scenarios (as if it is perfectly normal to talk to a box or really anyone about your poop), I explained that it is a “poop box.”  That people poop in the box and then send it off in the mail.

Makes perfect sense, right?

To my kids, this is all perfectly natural and normal, but as these words come out of my mouth, I wonder if the TV isn’t influencing me in debilitating ways.  When my kids saw a “Du more with Dupixent” ad with children beating a pinata, they thought it reminded them of the “poop box” and suddenly in my family we became concerned about “poop pinata’s.”  That’s a pinata you beat the poop out of, which you should be wary of, not a game you want to win!

God, please help me raise these kids for Your glory in this TV world.

It’s enough to make me wish Madge had soaked her face in it.


“Bath 2021” was canceled due to COVID; it was extra special to get to the yearly bath this year!  I try to get one (at least) every year whether I need it or not.  Bathing is a luxury not everyone has access to or enjoys.  I haven’t enjoyed a bath like this year’s bath in many, many years.  I even went so far as to pump a couple squirts of Mrs. Agent X’s bath-foam bubbles in it.  I made it extra hot and stayed in it for a nice long soak.

I bet someone reading here knows what I mean.

This year’s bath was extra special – worth writing about.

It’s a cold day outside.  One of those “beef stew kinda days.” as Mom used to say.  I took the kids out to play in the freezing snow early, brought them in and ran them through the wash, all assembly-line like.  They got bubbles too.  And I was a little jealous.  Couldn’t remember my last bath.

Here’s the thing: I’m one of those (like a lot of you out here reading this, I bet) who almost always opts for the shower instead of the bath.  Our house has two full bathrooms, bathtubs fitted with shower nozzles too.  You can go almost anywhere in the world with the exception of the places where the top 5% of wealthy people bathe and shower, and you would think my house is luxurious.  But if you watch TV or visit the Jones’s house next door, you might think I am not quite keeping up.

My home has those water-saver measures and devices which preclude me getting the full effect from a bath.  Oh, I can get clean, but it’s a lot of hassle.  The older and fatter I get, the harder it is to sit down in that low bath and get out again for one thing.  It’s kinda tight quarters too.

When I was a kid, the bath seemed so big.

In fact, I might have been a teenager before my family lived in a home with a real shower.  In all my early memories, I got a bath, and taking a shower was almost adventurous – something we did in motels or sometimes at a friend’s home.

I see it the other way round now.

But the tub seemed so much bigger when I was so much smaller.  That might be attributed to a change in perception as I have grown up and grown older, but my granddad built an upholstery and antique business in the second half of his life, and for many years he owned a restored old Victorian house in the mountains of western Colorado.  (You gotta imagine how his ornate, old home looked like Santa’s joint around Christmas time with all the restored antique furniture in an old Vic with the little parlor and fireplace and all!)

But he had two bathrooms in that house too, and they both enjoyed giant bear claw bathtubs (not showers).  I thought they were big enough to go swimming in!  I am certain that when I sat in the bottom of those tubs as a kid, I could not see over the side down to the floor.  I bet the sides were two and a half feet tall at least.  I needed a step stool to climb in, and the length of the tub was probably more than five feet.

The tub I bathe in now is barely over four feet long across the bottom and tapered both vertically and horizontally to conserve water, meaning as I laid back and tried to sink into the water, my knees poked out like two mountain islands in a tiny, foamy sea.

Still, I forced myself into the sardinish squeeze to soak as best I could, and I relished the memory of Grandpa’s tub.  Nary a grain of bath salt would fit in it with me, but that’s okay.  I was in in poor-man’s heaven on earth.  I felt a little like Eli Wallach from The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly when he got a bath and shot a man for interrupting it.  Life was good.

I had time to think, time to pray, time to meditate in my baptism.  It occurred to me that God created the earth covered in so much water, it seems self-evident he wants people to bathe.  If the American “founding fathers” could find “unalienable rights” to be “self-evident,” surely this was even more obvious.

And while all of that seemed too easy, the part that surprised me was how nice the bath was in that cramped space.  A lot of work, alright?  I’m not gonna get another one tomorrow.  Okay?  But I really might not let it go two years before I do it again.  It was a warm comforting experience, even nostalgic.  It felt right, felt like self-care, felt like maybe God intended this.  Time slowed down.  I caught my breath.  I got clean.  My day got special.

If I could find that much joy and comfort in a fifteen-minute bath, something I overlook so often now the option almost vanishes from sight, just imagine how it would be for a homeless man (or woman!).

Do you have a humble bathtub in your home?

Consider inviting a needy person to come into your place just once this year to have a nice soak.  Maybe supply some bubbles and salts, some candles and soft music.  A simple gift of time, water, and soap to someone who might not get this opportunity everyday – ahem every year.

I bet you would impact that person’s life.  I bet that person would be grateful AND would discover gratitude in discovering the joy and comfort in that gift.  I bet most people on the streets don’t realize how bad they want a bath until they get one.  They have vague memory of wanting one a year ago, but so many urgent needs eclipse it that it vanishes as either a possibility or even a desire.

So, if you give such a gift to such a person, I think you will make a deep impact they will remember for years on end.

Maybe you could offer it again in a year.

It could be your yearly bath.