FORGIVE A DEMOCRAT

IF…

If AS A CHRISTIAN you must engage in the politics of our country, and if you think that means you must stand with Republicans (and conservatives), and IF you do these things…

…THEN…

…take the lead and FORGIVE a Democrat.

Jesus is Lord.

This is the most fundamental thing in life.  Jesus is Lord, not Trump, not Hillary, not Obama, not Bush, not Reagan, not Abraham Lincoln, and not George Washington.

Just Jesus.

As a Christian, this is everything!  Jesus is Lord, and our Lord forgives.

So, “Church,” if you really must be in politics, FORGIVE!

I’m not against being political.  Forgiveness is a political thing.  Just look at President Biden forgiving debt right now!  This is a political move, a political gesture.  Some people claim he is “buying votes” with it.  I can’t argue otherwise.  In fact, I can only ask why the “Church” didn’t think of it first!

FORGIVE!  FORGIVE!!  FORGIVE!!!

It’s not the only political thing you can do, but it is one of the fundamental things as a Christian you absolutely MUST do.

DISMOUNT, AMERICAN “CHRISTIANITY,” AND DROP YOUR WEAPONS!

Calling all Jesus-lovers!

Yeah, “Church,” I mean you.

God, Almighty, is looking for a few good men (and women).  Will you be one of the few, the humble, the disciples?

Here’s your call:

Jesus is looking for forgivers to forgive.  This doesn’t fit well with very many other agendas.  But it is deadly important to the Jesus-Is-Lord campaign to save the world.  If you miss this, you miss it all.  It’s part of the whole Love-God-Love-Others commandments.  (Those are the top two, all the law and prophets hang off these.)

Oh… and by “Love Others,” that includes “enemies” included.

Oh… and by “Love,” that includes laying down your life.

Are we whittled down now like Gideon’s army to the “few” yet?

I think so.

Here’s whazzzzup, “Church.”  Jesus forgives.  Forgiveness is extremely essential to his agenda.  It doesn’t fit well with other agendas.  That whole God-and-country one is not really from God, and it won’t really benefit the country.  (Otherwise, a pretty good name for it!)  The fact is: it doesn’t play well with forgiveness.  (Keep your eye on the prize, ya’ll!)

I grew up in American “Christianity” too, and I used to fall for that one.  (Still do, when I ain’t bein’ very particular about it.)  American “Christianity” is built on “freedom of religion” an agenda put out by early pilgrims and puritans trying hard to escape the forgiveness agenda, the love and lay-down-your-life agenda.  (They were tired of being killed, and ready to return the favor.)  They found their ticket to “the new world” in America and brought their hell-fire and brimstone preaching with them.  It lacked a lot of forgiveness too.

But it all gave birth to American “Christianity” which has been confusing these things ever since.

I grew up thinking the Bible damned us all to hell for everything – even the most trivial stuff.  If I touched myself or had a “dirty thought,” I was committing damnable offenses.  That’s pretty steep stuff for a twelve-year-old kid to absorb.

I thought if I said “shit” I was deep in it.  And I must say, as a mature Christian today, those things have no place in the purity and holiness of God’s world order, but they are not singled out as so offensive God will hate you and burn you for eternity either.  On the contrary, Jesus forgives a whore caught in the act of touching someone and completing their dirty thoughts.

Let’s “get back to the Bible,” as we used to say.

In fact, the New Testament shortlist of such offenses is quite short!

Don’t blaspheme the Holy Spirit!  That’s a biggie!  You can blaspheme the Father and all other manner of blasphemies and find forgiveness, but if you blaspheme the Holy Spirit, there is no forgiveness.

Don’t cause a little one to stumble!  It will be better for the one who with a millstone tied to his neck to be thrown into the sea than for the person who does that.

Forgive others and you will be forgiven, fail to forgive and you won’t be.

Oh… and treat the poor and needy like the “least of these” are Jesus himself, or you can go with the goats into destruction.

That’s pretty much the list of truly damnable offenses in the New Testament.  Oh sure, other stuff is sinful, alright, but not singled out for special attention as damnable!  My guess is this observation comes as a bit of a surprise to American “Christianity.”  Our puritanical heritage gives us righteous indignation to wield in our hand while we mount up on our moral high horse and set out on patrols.  But that very agenda quickly puts us in trouble with the damnable shortlist!

Beware!

So, “Church,” when you come out of the woodwork to denounce the forgiveness of debt (something clearly commanded repeatedly throughout the Bible) for your lower political agendas, you are no longer representing Jesus who mounts a cross in self-denial and sacrifice, who forgives with his whole life and without regard to fairness.  You can’t pick up your cross and follow, be his disciple, AND wield your righteous indignation mounted on your moral high horse.

Dismount!  Drop your weapons.

Answer your call from God.

This country needs more forgiveness, not less.

HAPPY LORD’S DAY, EVERYBODY!

(Trying not to get too technical about this, since really every day is the Lord’s Day, but Sunday is generally better acknowledged as such.)

Today many of you will attend a worship service.  All of you doing so will be splitting up into your little enclaves, your denominations (or non-denominations), or your trendy coffee shop factions and so forth to do it, and that is already a deadly mistake.  But let’s make the most of it.  Jesus takes Herod’s temple seriously, even though he treats it as idolatrous if not redundant.  He shows up there!  Right?

Let’s presume the Lord shows up where you worship today too.

That is the most important part.  Is God in there?

And what do you do if he is?

… well …  you party!

Today is party day.

Worship is a party.  And like most parties, not all (of course, but most), partying means celebrating.  Today we celebrate.  Get your party shoes on, there will be dancing, music, food, laughter, and all that good stuff.

Jesus is the guest of honor at this party.  We gather to celebrate him, specifically.  It is a THANK YOU party, among other relational things.  It’s an I/we LOVE YOU party where we are thankful to Jesus for ruling over us and over our world.

We lay claim, as God’s people, to the prerogative God gives humanity way back at the beginning where he gives dominion and rule to those creatures bearing his image.  The male and female God makes to bear his image enjoys God’s good creation in the light of his love with no shame or guilt and rules over everything God creates.  We do this by bearing his image as Christ’s bride, coupled to him as God wills.

So, it’s a celebration of our marriage too!

Ever been to a wedding?  Well, today is like that.  The Lord’s Day celebration celebrates our wedding to Christ, our rule with him, and God’s image and rule given to us in him.  (It’s getting mysterious, I know, but all of this is packed up in this party.)

This party we attend and celebrate punches a hole in our otherwise secular – even ungodly – lives, our agendas, our schedules, and takes that time and space we give to this party reworking world order in the midst of the festivities.  Right in the middle of our celebrations, God is reworking world order starting in our hearts, going through the image we bear, and seeping into the imagination of the world around.

The manifold wisdom of God is expressed to the powers and principalities in the heavenly places through our worship celebration.  It is highly impactful and highly mysterious, and I cannot explain it all in such a way to iron out all the complexity or mystery.  But the simple gathering of worship and celebration puts world ordering forces opposed to God on notice and tells them that God is in fact in charge here.

When unlikely people like rich and poor, slave and free, male and female, Jew and Gentile, Cowboys and Indians, Truckers and Bikers, Old and Young, Black and White all come together in mutually submissive kindness and love, bearing one another’s burdens as we approach the party evermore as one people, it let’s all the dark forces of the universe know that God is in charge now, and they are not.

So, I hope you will worship today, hold the hand of whomever you sit next to, especially if you don’t know this person – even more if it’s someone you have a gripe with – while you pray, while you sing, while you partake of the Eucharist.  In this party, you are no better than them, and anonymity has no business being allowed there.  Whatever gripes you have in this place, just look up into the portal of glory and notice how small your gripe is by comparison.

Whatever little dark private sins, fears, and shames you have in your heart, offer them to God there on the altar.  Even confess them to someone if you can.  Get them out of you, and let Jesus have them.  Watch him tear down dividing walls between you and others as you open up to the light.

Learn to trust God in this place while you celebrate him.  For when this work is finally complete and the great consummation of all things is done, we will walk on water!  And you need to learn how to trust in order to do that!  And worship is a good place to practice for that day.

So, please, please, please, stop putting your faith in ballot boxes, Church, and in your factions whether in house or outhouse.  Focus on the party and the One we celebrate, and then party like it’s 199999.

Jesus is Lord!

If Jesus is Lord, then Trump is not.  If Jesus is Lord, Hillary is not.  If Jesus is Lord, Caesar is not.

Jesus is Lord!

Hallelujah!  Your God reigns.

HOSTING ANGELS UNAWARE

The Bible is mysterious.  You can know stuff and still be baffled at the same time.  I have been researching biblical hospitality for years, and yet I am still baffled by it.

I am Catholic, yet I am Protestant.  Turns out I am a mystery too.  I can say a lot about that which might satisfy as an explanation, but I don’t think it exhausts the mystery.

Do you believe in transubstantiation?  If you do, you can probably explain it, but I doubt very much you iron out the mystery.

In John 6:41 and 42, the Jews listening to Jesus dispute his claim to be the bread from heaven.  They say, “Isn’t this Jesus, son of Joseph?  We know his mom and dad!  We know where he came from.  How can he say he is the bread coming down from heaven?”  (This is part of the passage right at the heart of transubstantiation.)

“Be sure to show hospitality to strangers,” says the writer of Hebrews, “Some have entertained angels unaware doing that.”  And we know this passage echoes Genesis 18 where Abraham and Sarah host the Three Strangers completely unaware that they entertain God himself!

In Judges 13, Manoah attempts to feed God unaware, and then later when the Angel of the Lord is manifest to him, Manoah totally freaks out because he knows you aren’t supposed to see God and live.  Yet Manoah lives nonetheless, and he entertained the Angel unaware.

In Luke 24, the disciples on the road to Emmaus host the Risen Lord unaware until at the breaking of the bread their eyes are opened, and they see Jesus for who he really is.

But I want you to jump back to John 6 once again quickly before I mention Matthew 25.  Those Jews there know Jesus; they know Mary and Joe.  Jesus is a bum from Nazareth, a town from which nothing good comes (John 1:46).  This bum is not the bread from heaven, and his talk about eating flesh and drinking blood is repulsive.

These Jews are a biblical witness for us that Jesus is that bum from Nazareth.  They know his lineage.  They are not lying.  They are not wrong.  Yet, they surely are not right either.  You can trust that they know this bum, but you cannot trust that they therefore know he is not the bread from heaven.

How can this be?

We have a paradox.

Yet it’s the Bible.  It is a mystery.

Now go to Matthew 25:31-46.  It’s a famous passage.  Not every person knows it, but nearly all people with even a modicum of Bible knowledge recognize it.  If you have any experience in outreach ministry, you can’t avoid it.  If you are reading here, there is a very high likelihood you can quote it or paraphrase the whole passage quite closely without looking it up.

The king comes at the great judgment and divides the sheep from the goats.  Sheep for salvation and goats for destruction.  THIS IS A JUDGMENT PASSAGE!  You better get this one right.  In all the Bible this is one of those telling us how eternity hangs in the balance.

The king calls the sheep saying, “I was thirsty; and you gave me a drink; I was hungry, and you fed me; I was naked, you clothed me; I needed shelter; you took me in….”

“When did we see you in such need and do this for you?” the sheep ask.

The king says, “When you did it to the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.”

The converse of this scene is played out for the goats, and they too must ask, “When did we see you in such need and not offer our hospitality?”

“When you did not do it to the least of these brothers of mine, you did not do it to me.”

ARE YOU GETTING THIS?

If Jesus who identifies himself with bread from heaven also identifies himself with the least of his own brothers, we have a mystery here!  He’s not saying his brothers symbolize him, he says, “You did it to me.”

Us Protestant types overall (though not my particular group) tend to make a lot about “asking Jesus into your heart.”  But you cannot actually ask Jesus into your heart and leave the least of his brothers there on the curb unhosted in your home.  They need water, food, clothing, and shelter (among other things).

And just because you know that bum’s parents, where he came from, and all that, will not spare you getting this wrong.  That guy you knew since the third grade who grew up in that tar paper shack down on the dump road, IS JESUS.

You feel me yet?

The text doesn’t tell us he knows he is Jesus, it merely indicates that Jesus knows it.  And now you do too!

What do you want this least-of-these brothers (Jesus) to say at the coming judgment when there will be a trial, questions asked, answers given?

The prosecutor will ask poor little Jonesy/Jesus, “Did the defendant give you drink or not?  It’s a simple yes or no.”  And even if Jonesy doesn’t like you, he’s got to answer truthfully.

I think we need to sit with this mystery a bit more than we are apt to do.  If you are reading here, I invite you to think it through afresh today.

AGENT X TO CHIEF ARREDONDO

(This isn’t actually a private letter, and I don’t really expect Pete to read it.)

Suck it up, chief.  The buck stops with you.

There.  In a nutshell, that’s it.

But allow me to expand, because I nonetheless have words of grace for you too.

I worked in law enforcement myself, briefly, and though I never was a peace officer with the kind of responsibilities that go with most jobs in that field, I have a deep and abiding respect for those who “protect and serve.”  I always start my opinions in whatever news items giving officers the benefit of the doubt.  It’s only after the video clearly shows malice, indifference, or incompetence that I change that opinion.

I also am slow to second-guess peace officers who must act swiftly and make life-or-death judgment calls while balancing other tasks.  It’s not a fair job, it does put peace officers’ lives on the line, and so I am slow to call for punishment even when I find issues in the video.

Sir, I am there with you even now.  I don’t want you punished.

But we have had months to review what happened that terrible day in Uvalde.  The smoke is clearing, and the dust is settling.  And one of the main things coming to bear here is that for over two decades now, law enforcement across the nation has trained repeatedly to react differently from the way the shooter at Robb Elementary was handled.

If you lost your nerve, that is one thing.  But being in charge of security at that school, you had plenty of officers ready to face this gunman needing only your orders.  That is not defensible now.  Not as I see it.  And so, your 17-page letter is out of line.  You made mistakes that cost many lives.  It happened on your watch.  Suck it up and take your lumps.  Quit defending it.  There are ongoing wounds here more severe than your pride.  Do the honorable thing.  Step down.  Hush.

Sir, I am not indifferent to your pain in this.  The shooting was not your fault.  You didn’t unleash the disaster.  I am NOT one of those who thinks we should prosecute police (except in heinous cases like that of George Floyd).  Your work there that day probably did in fact save lives!  Thank you for your service, but you failed to uphold excellence, command, or even your basic training.  You proved unfit for the position, and cost lives too.

That means someone else needs to do it.  You have lost the faith of your community.  Even if, somehow, that is a mistaken fact, it is a fact and cannot be resisted by your protests.  You were the shepherd of the sheep.  You left the wolf in the sheepfold, classrooms 111 and 112, ravaging the sheep.  That was not your training, and your tactics failed to address this simple fact.

In addition to whatever lives you saved, you also cost lives with your tactics.  Own it.  You will be a better man for it.  I will respect it if you do.  That school shooting is a learning experience for all of us.  It shows despite all we have already learned, we need to learn it again and do things differently.  Please do not defend more of the same.

I have not read your 17-page letter.  I need to admit that.  And in case the bits I have heard about do not reflect the larger context – going so far as to violate it, I say this tentatively.  When I get the chance to read it, I will attempt to verify the particulars.  But just the fact that you haven’t yet resigned and sought the healing of the community that might aid, already has me upset.

Be a soldier now you failed to be on that day.  Lump it.  Work with it.  That battle is over now, but dealing with the aftermath is a battle you can still make headway in if you so choose.

I hope you will.

THE REPUBLICAN BIBLE (NEEDS IMPROVEMENT VERSION)

As a Bible-believing churchman, I get more and more disappointed with the Republican Party every day.  Don’t you?

The Republicans had me at Roe v Wade.  Killing innocent babies just cannot be the Jesus way.  Right?  Right.  It makes sense to me.

There’s just one problem.  The Bible doesn’t speak out against abortion per se.

Oh… I get it.  There’s a bit of theological, fancy-foot work to be done, but let’s be fair here.  Let’s be clear.  The Bible does not ever come out and say vote Republican and just say no to abortion.  It could, but it does not.  Sometimes I wish it did, but it does not.  On its best day, abortion is going to be biblically arguable.

Recent developments in the abortion issue have forced me to face some facts I never really had to face before.  Killing a baby does in fact sometimes save a mother’s life.  There are a handful of situations that do in fact arise with some frequency where abortion is the merciful option, where due to limitations in modern, medical miracles, it is still the more loving thing to do.

I am not convinced these cases excuse abortion on demand.  I think killing a baby over some regretful decisions made after a few too many drinks is a horrible way to order the world and is so crass it cannot possibly represent Christ.  And that opinion has had to be refined, but I still hold to it, and am grateful for every life saved.

But I don’t need a supreme court or a constitution which purposely cuts God out of the governing business to start lording it over the gentiles so I can finally be happy either.  I read my Bible, and I am clear there has to be another way.

But the Republicans HAD me at abortion.  HAD me.  This is no endorsement of Democrats and liberals to say this, but Republicans want me and my church to think I need them.  I don’t.  They are counting on me not in fact really reading my Bible.  I hear Republicans conveniently spout off Romans 13 about obeying the government when Republicans control it, but they manage to forget that passage when Democrats are in power.

Hmmm…  Fairweather Bible thumpers…

Then yesterday, Joe Biden forgives the debt.

Do you know that is biblical?  It’s right there in the Bible!  It’s on the lips of Jesus himself!  In fact, if you want to be forgiven, you must be a forgiver.  Forgiving debt is right at the heart of Jubilee!  This is foundational stuff!  Abortion doesn’t even get honorable mention, but debt forgiveness is HUGE in the Bible.

And who doesn’t like it?

Well according to the Bible the unforgiven don’t like it.  According to ABC News, Republicans don’t like it.  Republicans are sitting around saying Joe is bribing voters, that forgiving debt isn’t fair to tax payers or others who paid off their loans.   All these rationalizations, but they aren’t mentioning Jesus and the Word of God on this matter.  Hell no.  It doesn’t FIT THEIR AGENDA.

Hey CHURCH!  Stop blindly voting for the damned!  Stop putting your faith in the Republican’t Party.  It’s all a hoax!  Defund the church!  The same people who couldn’t put on a four-ounce mask to save a life in a pandemic are now saving lives with abortion laws and crying foul about forgiving debt.  That’s not love of others; it’s flagrant self-promotion and lording it over gentiles.

Go read your Bible.  The Republican Party is not your savior.  Democrats aren’t either, but then no one seems to be confusing them with a Bible in hand.

AFTER SCHOOL SPECIAL

Fall is in the social atmosphere!  Not quite in the air, yet, but close.  My kids are in transition again.  (Aren’t they always?)  Emerging a little more from pandemic hibernation every other week it seems, we are in school now!

This isn’t exactly the first schooling we ever did, but they were so very young, and it was so long ago since we enjoyed uninhibited schooling that it feels like the first time.

We’ve got two in class now, and a third one might be eligible later this semester.  It all comes with new school clothes, new school supplies, new friends, and new experiences.  It’s a rush.  And we seem to be making the transition very well.

It was just a few weeks ago when we went fishing the first time.  We got hooked.  Then the company picnic took us to the Joyland Amusement Park, and I rode the big roller coaster with my four-year-old who couldn’t get the smile off her face for a week!  Then an invitation to a birthday party at the Main Event party center where my kids played video games and tried bowling.

(It’s like a casino in there with all the neon flashing lights and sounds!  The sensory overload for my socially challenged kids was pretty intense, but we managed, and when it was done, they can’t stop talking about it.)

My little girl seems to enjoy school while she is there, but when I fetch her home, she has irrational, emotional outbursts and screams for about half an hour.  Transitions are necessary.  Transitions are even fun, but they aren’t easy.  She has some big feelings and doesn’t know how to express them.

When she calmed down later in the evening, I laid down next to her and asked if she made any new friends.  She pondered it a minute.  I said, “Sometimes, on the very first day of school in pre-K, you meet the person who will become your best-friend-forever.”

She liked that.  That thought gave her peace.

We have a new “family song” now too.  We discovered it making the rounds to the different schools meeting teachers at the open house functions.  I used to think it was Amazing Grace, and my little girl used to sing it.  God!  That was precious.  But that old standard is traded in now for our new family revision of Twisted Sister’s We’re Not Gonna Take It.

Yeah.  From Amazing Grace to We’re Not Gonna Take It.  What can I say?  Here at the Fat Beggars Home for Widows, Orphans, and Sojourners, we must be doing SOMETHING right.

You gotta try and imagine a car full of people.  Two adults, a six-year-old, a four-year-old, a three-year-old, one about to turn two and another about to turn one.  Every last one of us, except MAYBE Mama, has social, mental, and spiritual challenges.  Some of us on prescribed medication for it.  And the music request is We’re Not Gonna Take It, and even the almost two-year-old who has a vocabulary of about eight words, most of which are hard to decipher, chimes in with the rhythmic “NO” at just the right place in the song!

That’s how I know it’s our family song.

Well, Praise Jesus!  We are bonding.  My kindergartner and his little siblings aren’t “gonna take it anymore,” and I couldn’t be more happy for them.  I don’t know what it is they aren’t taking anymore, but I’ sure glad they are done taking it, and I wonder if they tromp into class at school singing that.

(I haven’t got a note from the teacher… yet…)

I’m thinking about decorating our front lawn with a giant “Naughty List” for Christmas this year.  Not sure yet which kid’s name should be at the very top, but I know the top five on the list.  Amazing grace: how sweet the sound of “We’re not gonna take it anymore.”

(Oh, yeah… and we all catch ourselves humming the opening intro to Deep Purple’s Smoke On The Water too.  That probably says something about something.)

Such is life in the House of God on 78th Street.  If Mary was here raising Baby Jesus, she would treasure these things in her heart.  Guess I will treasure them in mine this time.

“WHEN YOU’RE A STAR, THEY LET YOU DO IT.”

I am quite certain my wife wouldn’t “let you do it.”  I am quite certain my mom wouldn’t “let you do it.”  I am equally sure my daughter wouldn’t “let you do it.”  Not if you are a star, not if you are rich, not if you are famous.  Not even if you were president of the United States.

The “Bride of Christ,” though?

Hmmm….

Yeah.  She will let you do it.  If you are a star, she will let you do it.

What the….?

Okay, okay… okay!  Let’s get back to the start.  You think you know what I am talking about, and well… you do.  Except, you don’t.  So…  Here goes…

I got invited to church today!*

Does anyone else here remember when that used to be a thang?

.

.

.

.

(Crickets.)

.

Yeah.  It used to be a thang.  And when I was a little kid, I did it, and I brought new people into the church who then were led to be baptized and start a life of discipleship.

When I was teenager, that kind of thang lost it’s cool.  But some people still talked about it.

When I got into prophetic street ministry, almost two decades back now, I once brought 14 souls to church with me one Sunday.  It was my habit by then, but I managed FOURTEEN on one Sunday!  And you’d think, judging by the sound of crickets on this blog, that no one listens to me!  But I can teach you how to do it.  I know how to pack the house!  But I can’t get over your contempt for “the lost” and your love of “stars.”

(If I got Justin Bieber to come to church, you’d be impressed.  I could write and sell a lot of books.  But as it is, I can blog for the crickets.)

Anyway, I got invited to church today by a stranger I met in the marketplace.  A nice lady who was helpful and offered numerous blessings for me and my foster baby.  I was touched.  I felt warmed by her light, almost.

And then it hit me.

Wait.  Who do y’all worship at this church?  Jesus or Trump.  I don’t go to snake handling churches, never have.  Most people I know kinda draw the line there, if not sooner.  Before I blindly accept a warm invitation to a church by Americans, maybe I should ask a nosey question or two.

Is this a Trump supporter church?

Oh my!  The satisfied grin spreading across the nice lady’s let me know, but the speech coming out which didn’t let me get another word in edgewise hammered home the point.

See you there, Sunday?  She demanded to know as I walked away.

No.  Lady.  Sorry, but we worship Jesus, not Trump.

Dumbfounded, she protested, “Who do you think you are?”

“Ma’am, did Jesus ever grab you by the pussy?”

You’d think I had taken the Lord’s name in vain.  The gasp shut her up.

But Trump is a star!  So, you let him do it.  No thanks.  I don’t want him near my wife, mother, or children.  We will stay with Jesus.  But thanks for your invitation and your blessings.

Wow!

*This story is embellished for dramatic impact.

FOLLOW ME

You don’t know me.  But if I walked up to you after blowing in off the desert where I was going hungry for 40 days and I said, “Follow me,” would you do it?  Would you follow?  Me?

If you were busy with something else when I popped up there, say maybe working at the family business, or maybe working to make money for your family, would you drop everything and follow me?  Or would you call your secretary first, have her clear your calendar and then follow?  Or would you put me on your schedule for next Tuesday at 9 and then come follow me?

Tell you what.  Let’s make this super easy.

If I was blogging about Jesus, and I wrote a post on the call of his first disciples, men who become pillars of his church, and on my blog I say, “Follow me,” would you then click the follow button, and start following my blog?

Does following Jesus suddenly sound like it might be harder than you thought?

I have often thought about it.  Maybe not often enough, but I have.  Have you?

Let’s say it’s my day off from work, and I am really taking time to meditate on Scripture, something a good Christian might oughta do sometimes, and so I go to the park, sit under a tree by the playa lake and read the pertinent passages in Mark 1 and 2 about the call Jesus places on a few fishermen and a tax collector who drop what they are doing and run off to follow Jesus.

Got the scene?

Got it.

Good.

So, there I am contemplating this, and a strange man comes walking up by near me.  I glance over and notice he looks a bit rough.  He glances at me, and this happens right in mid-meditation.  It occurs to me that he could conceivably call me to follow him.  He hasn’t done it, not yet, and honestly, I don’t expect him to do so in modern day America, but I am in mid-meditation on this subject, so I take it seriously.  Right?

Right.

So, here I am now.  I imagine this man calling me to follow.  Will I drop my book, get up and go?

Or will I ask him for credentials?

Hey, man.  Who are you?  Why should I follow you?  Where are you going?

I’ve got questions, you see.  I don’t just drop everything and follow grungy looking strangers.

Do you?

Ever?

Would you?

What if it was Jesus?

Would you drop everything and follow?  Or would you have some questions first?

How do you know you should answer this call or not?

What if it was Ted Bundy saying, “My car won’t start, I need someone to stand here and hold the screwdriver to the battery while I crank it up, and then I’m good.  Will you follow me to my car just around the corner?”

Wow!

Did I just compare Jesus to Ted Bundy?  Or did you?  (Think about it.)

Why would you ever drop everything and follow someone?  Why would you ever drop anything and follow?

Either you would have to really know in your heart this was Jesus the Son of God who is worth everything, or you would have to know that what you are doing is worth NOTHING.  Maybe both, but if you say it’s the former, then let me ask you to read Mark carefully and tell me if these disciples have some great UNDERSTANDING of who exactly Jesus is.  Then explain 14:50 to me while you are at it.

Jesus calls the tax collector, and they go party back at his place.  This is almost beginning to make better sense to me.  I can almost get there to Levi’s party.  I have to swallow my Republican, IRS agent-hating pride, but once I’ve done that, I get close.  A party sounds nice.  I know that.

So, I’m sitting there meditating like this and the stranger who came near, whose glance met my glance, has now moved on, and honestly, I am relieved.  I didn’t really expect him to call me to follow, but I knew if he did, in this moment, there is an honesty I am having with God which tells him I wouldn’t follow.  But since the stranger moved on (AS EXPECTED), I feel a ton of relief that I was not actually tested.

God help me if he ever asked me to kill my own son.  (Abraham, anyone?)

But then it dawns on me that Jesus probably passes by a lot of people on the beach.  He calls the ones he thinks will faithfully answer the call and skips past those who wouldn’t.  I’m now watching that stranger walk away, and I realize, without saying a word, I failed the test.  I have better things to do with my life than follow some stranger I don’t really know.

This meditation is important, okay?  But I got work tomorrow, and I can’t drop some proverbial net and go follow a guy I met by the lakeside.  I got bills, mouths to feed, responsibilities to clients and so forth.  Jesus doesn’t want me shirking any of that.  I have an excuse from God not to follow!

Yeah.

That’s the spirit.  Not God’s, but it’s the spirit, alright.  Someone else’s spirit.

What if I was a homeless bum?

Do you think I might have an advantage here if I were a homeless bum?

The poor are rich in faith, says the good book (James 2:5).

Is this what James is talking about?

Well, I don’t really think so, but it does make sense of the Bible data better than anything else I have been thinking.  Not all homeless bums drop whatever they are doing and follow.  So, there’s that.  On the other hand, those first disciples were all employed and working the moment they answered the call.  So, there’s that too.

It may be that the homeless bum has an advantage, she literally knows she doesn’t have anything better to do.  She is stripped of pretense, and it’s almost easy at that point.  But of course, it was easy for Ted Bundy to attract multiple victims too.

Is there something else going on here?

I sit back down under the tree by the playa lake and continue meditating.

Way before Jesus blows in off the desert calling followers, God through Moses picks a fight with Pharaoh.  Think about this now: Moses blows in off the desert and says, “Let My people go!”

Go where?

Go a three day’s journey into the desert to party with God.

Wait what?

Yeah.  Israel has a job.  The Hebrews are actually on the clock in the brickyard when Moses makes this demand.  According to Egypt, Israel has something better to do than follow Moses.  Israel too groans about this.  It’s not like the Hebrews just really love this career choice, but how is this going to help anything?  Who does this Moses think he is?  And anyway… a three-day journey into the desert is a death sentence!  Party with God???  We will be dead by the time we get there.

Yeah.  If you really knew this Jesus calling you by the lakeside, you would know he intends to die.  Those boys dropping nets don’t see that.  Not yet.  Don’t believe me?  Then explain Mark 8:31-33 to me.  No.  The disciples have a severe misunderstanding of Jesus and what he is all about when they drop their nets and follow.

But at least there is that party at Levi’s.  I can roll with that!  All except the tax collector bit.  Right?

Sure.

Would you follow Jesus?  Would you a blog?  Why?  Don’t you literally have something better to do?

FAT BEGGARS SCHOOL OF PROPHETS, THE BEST KEPT SECRET ON THE INTERNET!

Did you miss me?

Nah…  Not really.  Both of you who read here didn’t, and I get it.  There’s monkey pox, elections, nuclear power plants, and the Chinese vs. Pelosi to keep you far too busy to think about Jesus and the homeless, especially on such a humble, brittle, almost cynical blog as this.

But… welcome back, anyway.

I’ve been working!

I have two writing projects (offline) in the works these days.  And I have been revising, revamping, trashing and rewriting.  I posted a small bit of my very first draft of the newest project several days ago (couple months?), and it is a chapter in my project which currently I find central to everything, a chapter that moves me to tears to write it.

So, of course I want to perfect it.  And that means sleeping on it.  It means rewriting, adding, subtracting… running it by critics, and more.  If you want to reread that bit of first draft so you get the feel for it again, here is a link:

BETRAYED WITH A FIST

The nurse I write about in this project is facing burnout after a string of child deaths in her unit.  She is struggling emotionally, mentally, and spiritually to cope.  One of the ways she works at it is by planting flowers and shrubs in our backyard Gethsemane.  In reality, the drought is killing some of it this year, which I expect compounds the pain.

Meanwhile, I have chosen to write about it.  I have chosen to try to FEEL the feelings and walk through it with her.

One of the ways I have been enhancing the experience is with music.  I have been looking for both pop and classical music, especially anything she likes, which deals with grief and loss.  I had to do some digging in storage, but I found this old CD with a song, not terribly famous, but once I listened to it afresh, I was overwhelmed with it.

The music makes the song, but the lyrics do too.  They go together in a special blend.  But I cannot reproduce the music for you.  All I can do is link it and hope you go check it out for yourself.

But the immersion into this song certainly takes me to the mysterious places of grief and wonder.  It’s not Christian in mindset at all, but grief is a celebration of loss and a sense of being lost.  The flower God puts in our world which this artist chose to sing about is ugly and beautiful at the same time.  It spreads on the wind, and as my nurse plants her flowers, I cannot help but think of this other one blowing through the garden with hers.  It has blown me through her backyard Gethsemane in a unique way.

So, I invite you to the garden too.

Perhaps pray while you are here.  My prayer is that in listening to this song, I can write and perfect the chapter illuminating this nurse’s grief in a way which validates her, so she feels connected to me and others.  And of course, I intend to grasp her hand and lead her to Jesus for his comfort as well.

Here are the lyrics:

Dandelion

by Ian Moore

Wind, pick up this dandelion flower

blow it far away from here where the world has never seen

the beauty that it knows. It lights softly where it goes

a meadow or a road.

Sun, turn this grass from green to brown.

The August son’s so cruel; it sets fire to the rules,

and I’m falling.

What you waiting for?  It’s time for you to rise.

Close my eyes and keep me safe from all I know,

til the life is dried and gone, and the ghosts have all moved on.

Brother, brother, keep me safe from all I know.

Where the dandelion goes, the dandelion goes…

Blow your wishes for the one thing I can’t give

the sacrifice you live, the blood that must be spilled.

Illuminate me now and show me what’s inside 

the places that you find, the secrets that you hide.

Burn the flower!  Let it die for what it knows, the ruthless truth it shows, the plan that it unfolds.

Brother, brother, keep me safe from all I know.

Where the dandelion goes, the dandelion goes…