ABBA AS PAPA BEAR

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

You can see the earlier post from years ago here:

Homeless Boy Crying Abba

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

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

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

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

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

I could see it immediately. 

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

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

You can bet the selfish part of me is jealous. 

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

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

He nodded.

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

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

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

Hmmm…

A shadowy figure resurrected.

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

Yes.  I did.

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

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

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

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

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

Oh Wow!

I will take that!

Thank You, Jesus!!!

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

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

Funny how the Abbas all see it too.

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

Thanx for reading.

Thanx for caring.

Thanx for your prayers.

BETWEEN ROX AND HARD PLACES

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

Yeah.

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

Yeah.  That exasperatingly stupid position.

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

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

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

Is anyone still there?

Didn’t think so.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, DUH!

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

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

O BLOG THAT WILL NOT LET ME GO

A Model of Abundance

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suddenly, we are on Holy Ground.

Take off your shoes here!

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

Let us tremble with our shoes off!

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

Back to the Bible:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remarkable.  Don’t you think?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right?

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

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

Dig?

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

But what do you know?

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

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

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

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

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

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

And THAT’s how you do it!

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

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

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

I was riding in the back seat.

The back seat.

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

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

It was too easy an opportunity to miss.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In my case, I was proactively evil.

What about you?

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

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

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

God… and you.

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

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

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

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

Let’s talk…

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

HATE YOUR NEIGHBOR*

This just in:

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

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

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

Also, this just in too:

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

Happy World, y’all!

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

Thank You, Jesus!  Pass the ammunition.

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

I WAS HUNGRY, AND YOU FED ME

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.

Hospitality.

Hmmm….

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.

No.

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.

THE EVOLUTION OF GOD

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.

Wow!

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.

Hmmm…

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.

PERSISTENT, INTRACTABLE APOCALYPSE

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.

DEMOCRACY

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,

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

Democracy

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

Yesterday,

Democracy seemed here to stay.

But now that she has gone away,

I sing the blues and load my gun.